Stupid Ideas from Talk Radio

I listen to the local conservative talk radio station sometimes. I don’t listen too much in the afternoons, because I find the afternoon host a tad annoying. He’s a nice guy, and generally correct on many political issues. I simply don’t care that much about some of his pet issues. He’s also very upfront about his Christianity and at times it leads him to make asinine statements.

I caught part of yesterday’s topic. This was the rant about how Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Christ and liberals are taking religion out of the public sphere. This is not groundbreaking information or commentary, so I was half-listening. Then he threw out the bizarre comment that if you’re an atheist, you shouldn’t take Christmas off. Huh?

Let’s get real here. Nobody asked me what dates my company would pick as holidays. I wasn’t consulted in the slightest, so my religious beliefs are pretty much irrelevant to company policy. So if I get a paid vacation day for some holiday that I personally don’t care about, am I supposed to stand up and say “No, I’ll be working that day. I don’t believe in Left Handed Anabaptist Day.”? Is that the idea? Nice try, but no. I’m taking the day off, just like everybody else here. Those of us that don’t have particular observances and rituals for the holiday in question can simply enjoy the day off. It’s not like I’m compromising some deep principle by not showing up to work. The reasons behind the company’s decision are irrelevant to me, both in principle and in practice. The holiday may be meaningless to me, but the time off from work is its own reward.

Now let’s imagine that Super-Atheist runs his own company. He does not discriminate on the basis of religion in hiring, since that’s illegal. He wants to give his employees Madalyn Murray O’Hair’s birthday off as a paid vacation day instead of Christmas. (April 13th, if you were wondering.) What happens? His employees complain. Why? Because they are die-hard evangelical Christians who devoutly want to celebrate the birth of Jesus? No, you dolt. They want Christmas off because everybody else they know has Christmas off. Holidays have a network effect. The perceived importance of a holiday depends in part on how many other people in your immediate social circle have it off. Since damn near everybody in this country gets Christmas off, its perceived value is very high. Once again, religious belief has little to do with the issue.

Let's face facts. At some point in the history of modern America, the holiday season became an end unto itself. We all take Christmas off because that’s what we, as Americans, do. Your particular brand (or lack) of religious faith is irrelevant. Christmas has become a secular holiday to worship consumerism. You may argue that the true meaning of Christmas lies elsewhere. So what? In practical terms, it is what it is.

I could also get all historical on the issue and point out that as near as anyone can tell, Christ wasn’t born in December. The early church co-opted pagan holidays like Yule and the Feast of Sol Invictus to appeal to the locals. However, that’s not necessary. Dumb comments don’t need a research thesis to prove the idiocy.


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