Some Christians are offended when their dominance in western culture is questioned. American Atheists has paid to have a billboard in Times Square that emphasizes that the holiday this time of year is not the property of Christians.
Anyone with a modicum of understanding of ancient history is aware that the Winter Solstice has been celebrated long before 1 CE. For one example, Saturnalia, the Roman celebration, was based on the changing of the solar year.
In the clip below, American Atheists president David Silverman and Marius Forté debate this wholesale co-opting os the season for their own religion, and their reluctance to have this challenged in any way. In fact, the host of the show Spirited Debate, Lauren Green, begins by pointing out how offended she is by the message of the billboard—that Christ is unnecessary for the celebration of the season.
“In all honesty, I have to tell you truly I was a little offended by the billboard, you know. This is my best holiday. I really love this. I really love Christ in Christmas.”
“Then you should keep Christ in Christmas,” Silverman replied. “If you really love it there, keep it there. What we’re saying and putting out there is that Christmas is actually better without the Christ.”
The vast majority of nominal Christians, he said, are non-practicing except that they go to church at Christmas and Easter. All of the best parts of what we celebrate at Christmas either pre-date Christianity or have nothing to do with the Bible or Christianity.
Forté replied by holding up an iPad that had gone blank and asking if Silverman could read the news printed there. Silverman and Green both replied that they could not.
Then he asked if Silverman prays and goes to church, to which the American Atheists head bemusedly replied, “No, I’m an atheist. You know what that is, right?”
Forté went on to make a radio metaphor, saying that you can’t receive FM signals if you’re tuned to AM. Nor, he said, can you really understand the great German philosophers without reading them in German.
“It is impossible to receive God unless you invite him,” Forté continued. “God only comes when you invite him.”
“Oh, I thought he was all-powerful?” countered Silverman. “It’s impossible for me to receive God even if God wants me to receive him?”
Green tried to steer the conversation back to the billboard, which Forté called “highly offensive.” The Christian author reminded Silverman that the word “Christmas” comes from “Christ’s Mass.”
Silverman retorted, “So what time of year was Jesus born?”
He went on to detail how Christians appropriated pre-existing winter festivals to celebrate Christ’s birth, even though he was born in the spring, “when shepherds were tending their fields.”
The winter solstice, Silverman said, “came first. The winter solstice, with all the trappings and all the gift giving and all the celebration came long before your Christmas holiday.”
“This season is not the Christmas season,” he continued. “This season is the solstice season and it belongs to all of us, not just Christians.”
Forté goes with some dictionary definitions and emphasizes that common practice denotes ownership. Silverman, when he is finally allowed to talk explains some of the ways that Forté is wrong. He also points out several times that if you want to keep your religion in your celebrations, go ahead, just don’t force others to0 do the same.
It’s a little over 10 minutes long, but really points out the paucity of the arguments of some Christian apologists.