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Atheism advances

DALLAS (BP)–Early in December, I visited my daughter at college. Spread across her floor was a project she was working on for an elementary education class.

The assignment was to prepare a holiday unit for the public school classroom. The project was supposed to include room decorations, a game, songs and stories. And in order to “fit into” the public school requirements, religious references — including references to Christmas — were forbidden.

I was proud of her exquisite, sparkling work, featuring snowflakes and icicles in shades of silver, white and blue. But there was something very sad about it. It seemed cold and empty compared to the cheery reds, greens and golds of Christmas. The songs were unfamiliar to me. Even “Frosty the Snowman” was taboo — I guess because it mentions Christmas. Perhaps I should not be surprised at the way things have progressed. The religious aspects of Christmas have been taboo for awhile. Now even the childhood fun of the Christmas celebration is being stripped from the nation’s public schools.

Yes, Christmas is over. But it’s worth one last look at what has become an annual legal and political battle against Christianity that actually takes place throughout the year.

Legally, the acknowledgement and discussion of Christmas is not forbidden in schools or the public square. But city officials and school administrators across the country downplayed it for fear of being sued by the ACLU and their “offended” clients. Christmas vacation is now universally referred to as “winter break.” The Christmas program is now the “winter concert.”

The courts pretty much agree that, in public schools and on government property, manger scenes are required to be combined with secular symbols like reindeer and Christmas trees, or Santas and Frostys. Christians have kind of come to grips with that. But the secularizers are not satisfied. In recent years, even the non-religious but traditional aspects of Christmas are being challenged.

Town officials are finding themselves in the peculiar position of having to decide whether Christmas — I mean “holiday” — parades can include the presence of Santa Claus. This year, in Fort Collins, Colo., there was a fight over red and green Christmas lights. A city-appointed task force, which included a member of the Northern Colorado ACLU, proposed the colors be banned. (An overwhelming outcry by citizens convinced the city council not to “mess with tradition.”)

This year, the Seattle airport took its Christmas trees down, and, after a chorus of disapproval, put the trees back up. In the name of inclusiveness, symbols that have nothing to do with the Christian aspects of Christmas are banned from the public square. You have to wonder, do people other than ACLU lawyers really want these changes? The answer to that question appeared last month in the form of a survey released by Rasmussen Reports. One thousand adults were polled and 67 percent said they preferred that retailers use the words “Merry Christmas” to “Happy Holidays” in their seasonal advertising. Most people are weary of this politically correct nonsense.

As if it were not depressing enough to observe the secularization of Christmas, we also get to live through another attempt by atheist Michael Newdow to strip God from the Pledge of Allegiance. Newdow was back in federal court in early December, demanding “under God” be removed from the Pledge of Allegiance and the currency. The case is the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, the same court that affirmed Newdow’s challenge to the pledge in 2002.

Hollywood is cooperating with the outright promotion of atheism to kids. Just in time for the Christmas movie-going season was the epic fantasy film, “The Golden Compass.” The film has the look of the Chronicles of Narnia movie that was so successful a couple of years ago. But it’s the anti-Narnia. The Golden Compass is based on the first in the “His Dark Materials” book trilogy written by British atheist Philip Pullman. At the end of the trilogy, God dies.

Several recent bestselling books by atheists have become weapons in this secular war on Christians and their beliefs. Conservative author Dinesh D’Souza describes the struggle and counters their arguments in his new book, “What’s So Great About Christianity?” He argues that atheists have developed a strategy to win the minds of the next generation. Involved, believing parents are the counter to this and the atheists know it. Atheist Richard Dawkins, author of “The God Delusion,” calls faith a mental illness, and raises the question as to whether or not parents should “be free to impose their beliefs on their children.” Atheist Christopher Hitchens, author of “God is Not Great,” asks. “How can we ever know how many children had their psychological and physical lives irreparably maimed by the compulsory inculcation of faith?”

Free nations should welcome religion, specifically Christianity, because it preserves freedom. Totalitarian regimes benefit when the culture is stripped of religion, or religious celebrations. In the former Soviet Union, Communists feared Christianity and gradually secularized the Christmas holiday. They wrote Jesus out of Christmas carols, banned St. Nicholas, and banned Christmas trees. Not willing to let go, the people moved these traditions to New Years.

Our nation is still overwhelmingly Christian. We pride ourselves on our tolerance of all religions — or no religion. But Christians should remain vigilant and winsomely seek to remain the primary drivers and influencers of culture in America.
Penna Dexter is a board of trustee member with the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, a conservative activist and an announcer on the syndicated radio program “Life on the Line” (information available at www.lifeontheline.com). She currently serves as a consultant for KMA Direct Communications in Plano, Texas, and as a co-host of “Jerry Johnson Live,” a production of Criswell Communications. She formerly was a co-host of Marlin Maddoux’s “Point of View” syndicated radio program.

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  • Penna Dexter