Saturday, November 22, 2008

Daniel Henninger and the War on Christmas

 I normally find the Wall Street Journal to be an enjoyable read.  I'm fiscally conservative and WSJ really has some great writers.  However, Daniel Henninger, deputy editor of the editorial page, has written a piece of absolute tripe that I hope WSJ at least regrets publishing.  In this piece, Mr. Henninger (can I call you Danny? Thanks) makes two completely unsubstantiated claims.  First, that there is a wholesale movement away from the use of "Merry Christmas" as a midwinter greeting (ostensibly to "Happy Holidays" since he doesn't actually state what he thinks people are saying), and this trend is due to actions by the atheist community. Second, there is a connection between this and the current financial crisis.

It has been my view that the steady secularizing and insistent effort at dereligioning America has been dangerous. That danger flashed red in the fall into subprime personal behavior by borrowers and bankers, who after all are just people. Northerners and atheists who vilify Southern evangelicals are throwing out nurturers of useful virtue with the bathwater of obnoxious political opinions.

The point for a healthy society of commerce and politics is not that religion saves, but that it keeps most of the players inside the chalk lines. We are erasing the chalk lines.

The stupid, it burns.

Seriously?  I don't know very many people who avoid saying merry christmas.  I still say merry christmas and I'm an atheist.  So do most of my non-religious and jewish friends.  The truth is, Danny, most atheist don't give a rat's ass whether you say merry christmas, happy holidays, happy chanukah, merry solstice or happy kwanza.  It just doesn't make a huge difference in our lives. (Now, if you want to put a nativity scene up at your local city hall we might take issue, but for other reasons entirely.)  Businesses might choose to use happy holidays in their advertisements because, well, they're run by businesspeople who realize that they probably have both christian and jewish patrons.  For example,


"We also use the word 'holiday' in our outreach to customers, as many of our store displays and other marketing efforts cover more than one holiday from Thanksgiving to New Year's and stay in place throughout the entire holiday season from November through January," Home Depot spokesman Ron DeFeo wrote in a statement to AFA.  (source)

It’s just easier to say one thing than to try and address all winter holidays separately.  Note that Mr. DeFeo didn't mention any concern for the atheist opinion, because the vast majority of companies don't even consider what we want when crafting marketing strategies.  

So I think the first point is weak at best.  Sure my conclusion is based on a small sampling, but you can do a little research for yourself and see how many of your friends and colleagues still say merry christmas.  Christmas is not under attack.    Feel free to use whatever phrase you like.  We promise not to pay any attention.

That leaves the second point. In order for the argument to stand, point one must be valid.  So let me grant point one as true.  Where to begin regarding point two then?  To say that this is a strawman is to insult scarecrows around the globe.  It is completely unsupported by any data or evidence in the article.  If Danny had bothered to look, there is plenty of evidence that the more secular of the developed democracies exhibit substantial “moral” behavior.  In fact, there have been entire books written on that very subject.  Take Phil Zuckerman’s “Society Without God: What the least Religious Nations Can Tell Us About Contentment for example.  In this book, Zuckerman explores morality in the Scandinavian nations of Norway and Sweden where the vast majority of the population exhibit at most a “gentle agnosticism”.  The last time I checked, these countries were not the ones who allowed the construction of a financial house of cards based on poor management by powerful mortgage and insurance firms.  That was the US, the most christian nation on the planet.  Some of these countries did jump on the bandwagon (Iceland being a prime example), but they didn’t start this mess.  We did.

If you want to examine a worldview that might lead one to taking on a mortgage that one knows is too large, let’s look at “prosperity theology.”  The wiki entry for this topic lists more than 25 tele-evangelists who espouse this morally bankrupt concept, including Kenneth Copeland, Creflo Dollar, and Joel Osteen.  These charlatans have followings in the tens of thousands, many in the economic brackets that are most affected by the current crisis.  I’m not going to describe this theology in any detail, but I think anyone who believes that their piety entitles them to a big house or a fancy car is a poor moral example.  And don’t get me started on The Secret.  What a barrel of bollocks.  Oprah, baby, what the fuck are you thinking?

So I think it’s safe to say that being more rational and educated isn’t the cause for making poor financial choices.  Those who believe that god will take care of them regardless of their poor choices will continue to get exactly what they deserve.

Be well,



Shawn Michel de Montaigne said...

Oprah also gives major kudos to Eckhart Tolle, whose worldview and philosophy are, in my opinion, scary.

There have been studies commissioned on the link between "moral behavior" and religion. Seems the link is negative: so-called "Northern atheists" have fewer babies out of wedlock, have fewer divorces, commit fewer murders. There you go.

Best to you today--

Branden said...

Your second to last paragraph is delicious

ScottE said...

I would write a whole post just on Oprah, but I'm afraid of her flying monkeys.

CodewordConduit said...

Yeah I wonder how that prosperity theology is working for the devout in the developing world.