In this age of overt commercialization of the holiday season—where no sooner have children returned from trick-or-treating than Christmas music is pumped through convenience store aisles on loop—Americans have become accustomed to the omnipresence of seasonal cheer. But, as Laurie Goodstein noted in The New York Times this past week, there is a new band of interest groups wrangling for the holiday spotlight:
Just in time for the holiday season, Americans are about to be hit with a spate of advertisements promoting the joy and wisdom of atheism.
Four separate and competing national organizations representing various streams of atheists, humanists and freethinkers will soon be spreading their gospel through advertisements on billboards, buses and trains, and in newspapers and magazines.
But, as conservative pundits like Fox’s Bill O’Reilly have argued fervently every December over the past decade, there already exists in this country a large secular community bent on waging a “War on Christmas.” What catalyzed the more visible development this year? As Goodstein notes, thanks to “the largess of a few wealthy atheists,” this previously (and some would find, curiously) underfunded segment of Americans can now air an all-out media blitz on Christmas.
Mark Silk, founder of the Greenberg Center for the Study of Religion in Public Life at Trinity College, noted to Goodstein that these now well-endowed groups are likely more visible and active because they are seeking to corner the market of atheists, agnostics, and the liberal religious. “[T]hey’re grabbing for all the constituents they can get,” he said.
Whether the movement will catch on is difficult to tell. As 15 percent of the country is now avowedly non-religious, all sings point to yes. But perhaps a more important question to pose is, What will the Christian Right do about it? Up until now, most in the media have dismissed the notion of a “War on Christmas” as the fanciful delusions of an over-reactive conservative punditry. Does this change either our perception of that “war” or the very reality of it?
Even if some of these pro-atheist groups do cultivate a following, one thing is for certain: this year Fox’s primetime cast will be recounting, louder than ever, the renewed hostilities targeting December 25th. Yet, unlike times past, it looks like this year they may have a point.