Salon readers insist that they don't have a vendetta against Christmas and say that Bill O'Reilly and others should just chill.

Published December 18, 2004 10:21PM (EST)

[Read "The Grinch Who Saved Christmas," by Eric Boehlert.]

I overheard a conversation in the gym the other day in which approval was expressed for a local radio commercial admonishing listeners to the "keep the Christ in Christmas." I support all of my Christian neighbors' desire to keep the Christ in Christmas and to celebrate this most important holiday in whatever way their tradition dictates. But if you're going to keep Christ in Christmas, you had also better keep Christmas the same place I keep Bodhi Day, Muslims keep Ramadan and Hindus keep Divali -- at home, in church, with family, in private. Nowhere in our Constitution does it say that the majority religion gets special rights to public property for its displays or time in public schools for its celebrations.

As it is, many non-Christians are extremely torn about how to behave this time of year. Do we join in the fun because, hey, it's just a secularized day to give gifts (demonstrated by the Christmas tree in our town square signaling the nonreligious nature of the holiday -- supposedly)? Or do we treat it as a Christian holiday that we have no business celebrating? Do we send cards? Give gifts? Inform people of our religion so they don't give us gifts? Get cranky when the 300th person wishes us a Merry Christmas? Or just smile and nod? It's exhausting. As if fighting the crowds at Target when I just want to buy some kitty litter wasn't enough.

-- Cressida Magaro

Bill O'Reilly has taken it upon himself to "save Christmas"? How nice.

Is it too much to ask that everyone -- and I do mean everyone -- just chill out? Church and state are meant to be separate in this country. That means (among many other far more important things) no overtly religious imagery on government property. So no baby Jesus in school or at City Hall. But hey, you know what? That Christmas tree is pretty. And pagan. It's not like Jim Caviezel is nailed to it, suffering. Let it go.

I went to a secular private high school that was probably about 70 percent Jewish, maybe more. We did Secret Santas, and nobody ever demanded a change to Hiding Chanukah Harry. We were celebrating a secular winter-holiday mishmash, and what could be more American than that? I'd rather hear "Silent Night" than "I Have a Little Dreidl" any day. There's no good Chanukah music because Chanukah isn't traditionally an "important" holiday. Pretty much every religion in the world has a holiday that acts as an excuse to light lights during the darkest part of the year. Christians chose to make this their holiest day, but the idea of Chanukah as "the Jewish Christmas" is purely an accident of the calendar and the secularization of both holidays. Of course I love my eight nights of presents, but that's not really what it's about. Nor should that be what Christmas is about.

O'Reilly and his band seem to be defending the trappings of Christmas more than anything else. What's more important, a high school production of Dickens or going to church to reflect on the birth of your supposed Lord? Jerry Falwell goes after the "radical secularists and school board do-gooders determined to 'bring about their own Godless version of this nation,'" but hasn't that already happened? I think it's safe to say that for most of us, religion is all but gone from Chrismahanukwanzakah.

Nobody I know wants to ban Christmas or Christianity. I don't want a Nativity scene on government property, or children in public school being forced to sing "O Little Town of Bethlehem," but is anybody really complaining about trees and lights and pretty things wishing goodwill toward men? I think both sides need to get over it and remember the true spirit of the season.

-- Adam Grosswirth

What a tricky set of issues. On the one hand, an overwhelming majority of Americans are Christians, and Christian faith and traditions have played a vital role in shaping U.S. culture. On the other hand, we want to respect minorities and foster diversity. How to reconcile these considerations?

Hey, why don't we all solemnly agree to some basic principles? Like how about: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."

That means the state (including schools and government agencies) doesn't promote Christmas (which would be "establishing" Christianity) with crèches or religious symbols, but anyone else who wants to can do so.

There, that wasn't so hard. Or was it? For the right-wing media establishment, energized by the fact that its favored candidate got 51 percent of the presidential vote, apparently it is. What is it that makes right-wingers so contemptuous of traditional values, such as those found in the U.S. Constitution?

-- Ben Cohen

Eric Boehlert's piece about the right's fear of an anti-Christmas jihad got it absolutely right in the last paragraph. There is a systematic assault against Christmas -- and it's by companies. The holiday has increasingly become a secular event that celebrates the meaning of materialism. How much of a typical retailer's profits is tied to the Christmas season's sales? They can't live without it. When I talk to friends and family about Christmas, there's talk about lights and gifts and holiday parties -- but not about the birth of Christ. Only a very few of my friends bother with Christmas Mass anymore.

Hey, I'm not one to tell anyone how to celebrate whatever they want to celebrate, but let's at least point fingers in the right direction. When O'Reilly gets up onstage and starts yelling at Wal-Mart, Sears and the rest of the retailers out there hawking their meaningless, secular junk on what is supposed to be a religious holiday, then I'll get behind this jihad charge. Until then, O'Reilly (as usual) is just blowing hot air.

-- Frank LaFone

Remind me to send Bill O'Reilly one of those little loofah things for Xmas.

-- Richard Edwards

Don Feder, who is quoted in the excellent story on the right's latest mock controversy, states that the U.S. military is predominantly Christian and one should "count the number of crosses in Arlington National Cemetery (on federal property, no less) [and] add the Stars of David."

It wouldn't take very long to count the crosses, however, since aside from special monuments, there are no crosses or Stars of David in Arlington National Cemetery. The individual headstones there are simple marble slabs. I lived a couple of blocks from the cemetery. I've been there many times. Apparently, Feder hasn't.

-- Jack Martin

By Salon Staff

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