In honor of the Feast Day of Nicholas, Bishop of Myra, 326 A.D., we are posting once again this commentary on the defender of faith against Arianism with an update on this year’s aggressive American Atheists’ attacks on Christmas.
The following article contains a section that originally appeared on the American Spectator in 2008, and is reproduced with permission.
It is Christmas, the holiday that dares not speak its name, that may alienate the American Atheists. But unlike the angry atheists, somehow hundreds of thousands of ordinary citizens who are not Christians, and may or may not have their own exclusive holidays to celebrate, manage to slog through the Christmas season with their feelings unscathed and even enjoying Christmas festivities along with their Christian neighbors!
This year’s attack comes in the form of telling people to skip church and calling the birth of Christ “fake news.” They also go after President Trump, naturally.
“When people are brought down to being just equal after occupying a position of privilege in the country, when they’re made to be equal or just another one of the multitude of religions, I can understand how they think it’s an attack,” the uber-defensive Nick Fish, National Program Director for the American Atheists, told Newsweek. “But it’s not. It’s equality. The government not giving special treatment to you is not an assault on your rights.” Wow! I can’t wait to see the billboard going after Muslims for “fake news” and telling Sharia-pushers that they do not deserve special treatment.
Newsweek said, “The organization is wary of increasingly partisan divides in the government — like Trump’s vow to end the “War on Christmas” during his term — but Fish said it made the group ‘even more excited to sound off’ this year.” Because of course there were no partisan divides in Obama’s administration.
The militant atheist groups — the ones that are really mad at God — have been at it for a while now. Here are some examples:
Christmas 2013: The non-believers launched a 40′ x 40′ digital billboard in New York’s Time Square on Tuesday, December 3, 2013, according to their press release. “Who Needs Christ During Christmas?” the billboard demands. Next, a hand appears and draws an “X” through Christ and the billboard purports to answer its own arrogant question, “Nobody.” Then the display advises, “Celebrate the true meaning of Xmas” and offers its own reasons for the season: charity, family, fun, lights, food, hot chocolate, snow, Rockettes, Chinese food.
The American Atheists seem to believe, as some non-liturgical Christians do, that “Xmas” is taking the “Christ” out of Christmas! In reality, the X in “Xmas” comes from the Greek letter Chi, the first letter in the Greek word Χριστός, or Christ. It is combined with P, the Greek letter Rho, as a symbol of Christ both in artistic treasures such as the Book of Kells as well as in the gold glitter-covered Styrofoam Chrismon ornaments for Christmas trees.
But before the Atheists were on billboards urging people not to go to church on Christmas, saying “you hate it, it’s boring; you probably only go because you feel guilty or obligated” (obviously the American Atheists have never visited my church!), the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) and the American Humanist Association were peppering the skies with secular tidings.
In the Christmas season of 2010, the FFRF, more recently known for its atheists “out of the closet” campaign, littered the greater Albuquerque area with such pithy sayings as Imagine No Religion, Praise Darwin, Reason’s Greetings, and Yes, Virginia, There is No God.
Wow! Albuquerque gets hammered with heresy a lot! This year’s American Atheists’ billboard design about skipping church and fake news appeared in the Albuquerque and Dallas “markets.”
In 2009, the American Humanist Association (AHA) launched a National Godless Holiday Campaign. Ads that ran in five major American cities (but not Albuquerque!) declared, “No God? No Problem!” AHA Executive Director Roy Speckhardt explained, “Religion does not have a monopoly on morality–millions of people are good without believing in God.”
The AHA has also maligned Santa. In mid-November 2008, ads began appearing on Washington, D.C. area Metro buses and ran through December. The ads featured a strange Santa-garbed person with Rastafarian braids. They also included the admonition from the familiar Christmas song “Here Comes Santa Claus” to be “good for goodness’ sake.” The American Humanist Association spokesman, Fred Edwards, said that there were “an awful lot of agnostics, atheists, and other types of non-theists who feel a little alone during the holidays because of its association with traditional religion.”
AHA’s second reason to deck the halls and Metro buses with posters of apostasy was to declare that “humanists have always understood that you don’t need a god to be good.” According to Roy Speckhardt, executive director of AHA, “Morality doesn’t come from religion. It’s a set of values embraced by individuals and society based on empathy, fairness, and experience.”
Morality definitely does not come from “religion.” In fact, sometimes immorality, downright evil, comes from religion. It all depends upon the object of worship. The Swiss philosopher/poet Henri Frederic Amiel confirmed this when he said, “The test of every religious, political, or educational system is the man which it forms. If a system injures the intelligence it is bad. If it injures the character it is vicious. If it injures the conscience it is criminal.”
Mr. Speckhardt did not explain from where the empathy and fairness originate. What is the source of that sense of fairness, the sense of right and wrong? Does it just spring from nowhere? C.S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity gives a reasonable answer to this question. It begins with a brilliant exposition on “Right and Wrong as a Clue to the Meaning of the Universe.” And Christian apologists such as Frank Turek follow in Lewis’ footsteps, debating regularly this moral conundrum, even with the likes of the late Christopher Hitchens.
So what would Santa think of AHA’s attempt to identify him with their Advent attack? Even the Santa portrayed in the lyrics of Gene Autry, who is not exactly remembered for his theological prowess, is said to “know that we are all God’s children.”
But would the real Santa Claus have a stronger reaction to AHA? (Yes, FFRF, there is a Santa Claus.) St. Nicholas was the Bishop of Myra, in 4th century Asia Minor, now Turkey. In addition to being remembered for his generosity and compassion to the poor and to children, Bishop Nicholas was the kind of “muscular Christian” that makes the folks at the National Council of Churches shudder. He was a staunch defender of Christian orthodoxy and would not be too pleased with the “Why believe in a god?” mentality.
During his tenure [as] bishop, he attended the first ecumenical council of the Church, which had been called to deal with the growing heresy of Arianism. Arianism, named after Arius, a North African priest who was its key proponent, denied the full deity of Jesus Christ and said that he was a created being. Nicholas struck a blow for orthodoxy, slapping Arius in the face after he spoke. My former colleague, Bart Gingerich, has written about this, as well.
Nicholas might well deal with the American Humanist Association in the same manner in which he dispatched poor Arius, but probably, being older and wiser, and “good, for goodness sake,” he would refrain from physical violence and just urge those who believe in God to assert their right to believe, and to flaunt their belief as publicly as AHA flaunts its unbelief. That’s good advice from St. Nick.