This is a cross-post from the Think Atheist site from around a week ago

Just moved to West Virginia. Among the standard frustrations of moving, I chose the occasion to read the local paper (thankfully online), and ran across this gem in the Letters to the Editor section: Jesus is the reason for a Christmas celebration.


Having a strong desire to make friends in my new neighborhood, I thought I'd start by fostering some goodwill - in the form of a rebuttal, which was sent in as a Letter to the Editor submission yesterday. It may never be published, so I thought I'd share with you (and I'll be adding it to the comments of the original post if it's rejected):



This is in response to the letter from Mrs. Mahoney on December 2nd, in which she argues that "Jesus is the reason for a Christmas celebration."


Mrs. Mahoney is quite right. Christmas is a Christian holiday celebrating the alleged birth of Jesus some 2000+ years ago.


Unfortunately, Mrs. Mahoney is also being less than charitable, to say the least. Since she seems so fond of statistics, perhaps the following will help her to see her error and apologize to those of us celebrating other, non-Christian holidays in December (or no holiday at all):

  1. On December 5th, 1.5 billion Muslims have an opportunity to celebrate Ashura, an Islamic holiday commemorating the martyrdom of the Prophet's grandson.
  2. On December 8th, 91 million Japanese will have an opportunity to celebrate Rohatsu, the annual observance of the enlightenment of the Buddha.
  3. From December 20th - 28th, 14 million Jews (believing and non-believing alike) have an opportunity to celebrate Chanukah, originally commemorating the dedication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem ca. 165 BCE.
  4. On December 21st, 1.1 billion people of a secular, non-theistic mindset and 1 million people of a neo-pagan mindset will have an opportunity to celebrate Yule, also known as the Winter Solstice.
  5. On December 23rd, 1.1 billion people of a secular, non-theistic mindset will have an opportunity to celebrate HumanLight, or the tongue-in-cheek Festivus.
  6. On December 25th, some Christians, recognizing the pagan origins of Christmas, will NOT be celebrating Jesus' birth. Many non-Christians will also be working, ensuring that the world economy keeps moving while Mrs. Mahoney celebrates, and giving her the option of having a holiday dinner out if she wishes.
  7. On December 26th, 39 million African-Americans have an opportunity to celebrate Kwanzaa, a uniquely American holiday honoring African-American culture and heritage.


All told, there are 2.7 billion people in the world having something else to celebrate (not counting births, birthdays, etc.), not to mention the other 2.1 billion people in the world with no holidays in the month of December. Surely, Mrs. Mahoney is not saying that none of these other 4.8 billion people matter, or that Christians matter more?


As an alternative, maybe Mrs. Mahoney (and Christians of a similar mind) should try to remember that the month of December doesn't belong to Christians, and that - like it or not - we live in a country that honors freedom of religion in its founding documents.


Being someone who has spent nearly half his life supporting and defending the Constitution, I support Mrs. Mahoney's right to worship and celebrate as she wishes this holiday season. But I also support everyone else's right to worship (or not) and celebrate (or not) in whatever way seems best to them. And as you can see, I've also signed my name to this letter. Not in order to make a show of how strong my belief is, but because I believe in confronting intolerant behavior face-to-face.


Happy holidays to everyone!


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Comment by Jeffrey Samuelson on May 9, 2012 at 2:17pm

Yes it was printed. I think I was supposed to update this blog to say so, but never did. Ooops!

Here's a link:

Comment by Jennifer Kaufman on May 9, 2012 at 2:05pm

was it printed?   You should re-send it every year,  sorta like the Yes, Virginia, there is a...

Comment by Jeffrey Samuelson on December 11, 2011 at 12:43am

Just noticed that my cross-posting of this didn't carry the link along with it to the original letter I was responding to (i.e., Mrs. Mahoney's letter). Here is that link:

Loren, I'll do that and post a link. :)

Comment by Loren Miller on December 10, 2011 at 10:21pm

Far out, Jeff!  If they DO, how about scanning it and posting it here, then letting us know about any feedback you get.

Comment by Jeffrey Samuelson on December 10, 2011 at 7:14pm

Phil Smith, never been to Yorkshire, but being a former Methodist myself I have to say they're pretty mild as denominations go, at least here in the U.S. Or at least, more inclined to try to be polite.

And yes, there is hope, actually! Note that there are, according to, 1.1 billion secularists in the world. We are a part of the world's 3rd largest religious identification.

Loren Miller, they might, actually. We were of the same opinion, but on Friday they called me. Apparently they call to verify submissions with the authors (I submitted online) before publishing. The lady didn't say my letter would be published, but at least now I know it wasn't discarded out-of-hand when it was received.

Sentient Biped, thanks! :)

Comment by Phil Smith on December 10, 2011 at 5:20pm

Second thought.  Gods own neck of the woods is, apparently, Yorkshire ( U.K ). My home soil.  Apart from the methodists, a pretty tame and stunningly beautiful place to contemplate the essential verities.

Comment by Phil Smith on December 10, 2011 at 5:14pm

Only 2.1 billion bible bashers! there  is hope for us yet!  

Comment by Loren Miller on December 10, 2011 at 8:20am

Five will get you 50 that the editors / publishers of that newspaper won't have the cojones to print it, but you can be reasonably sure that one or more of 'em SAW it ... and who knows?  Maybe your missive woke 'em up just a little bit!

Comment by Jeffrey Samuelson on December 10, 2011 at 7:57am

Thanks, Loren! You're right, of course, but to be honest I wasn't thinking about science when I wrote that. I was just fuming about the blatant privilege on display, and felt like slapping it down. :)

Comment by Loren Miller on December 10, 2011 at 7:53am

Excellent!  You might also have thrown in that little matter of the 23.5 degree tilt in the Earth's axis of rotation, relative to the sun, as the reason why we have seasons at all (!), but what you have there works pretty well as it is!

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