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Just in time for Advent - Another War on Christmas?

By Randy Sly
December 1st, 2010
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

American Atheists disagree with those who say this is a war against Christmas. "Rather," they say, "it's a war on intolerance and ignorance." In fact, they state that Christianity stole Christmas; we are the Grinch! No informed Christian debates the fact that Christmas was placed on the same date as other pagan festivals. The winter solstice, with the sun having an ever-increasing presence in the sky, stood for a re-birth; a new beginning in Christ the Light of the world.

WASHINGTON, DC (Catholic Online) - When cars exit the Lincoln Tunnel on the New Jersey side, they are now greeted by a new billboard that says, "You KNOW it's a Myth - This Season, Celebrate REASON!"

Showing a traditional nativity scene and the three wise men on their journey in silhouette against a blue starry sky, billboard also shows the star that guided the magi, this time shaped like the Star of David.

The billboard, which cost $20,000, is scheduled to remain throughout the holidays.

While the Grinch was only able to steal Christmas, King Herod in Holy Scripture, you may remember, wanted to kill it. The former was a Dr. Seuss story, the latter history. This is the battle ground for this current assault.

In the spirit of Herod, the organization American Atheists has launched this new campaign aimed at putting an end to Christianity - claiming our faith is built on myth, using the word in its most common form.

According to their website, the group has three reasons for this outdoor advertising strategy is three-fold:
1. To address those atheists who "go along to get along", and to encourage them to come out of their closets
2. To attack the myth that Christianity owns the solstice season
3. To raise the awareness of the organization and the movement.

American Atheists disagree with those who say this is a war against Christmas. "Rather," they say, "it's a war on intolerance and ignorance." In fact, they state that Christianity stole Christmas; we are the Grinch!

No informed Christian debates the fact that Christmas was placed on the same date as other pagan festivals. The winter solstice, with the sun now having an ever-increasing presence in the sky, always stood for a birth or re-birth; it was a time of new beginning. How fitting for our feast when we celebrate the Birth of the One who is the Light of the new world!

Pointing to the Yule log, the Christmas Tree and Santa Claus, American Atheists claim on their site these all predate Christianity. Of course, Christmas traditions in many countries have adopted or incorporated certain cultural customs and symbols. Yet, none of these have ever been viewed as integral to the Incarnation of God the Son and His Nativity, which we celebrate on Christmas.

Interesting, however, to also point to Santa Claus, which they state is Nordic, Germanic or Celtic. That "jolly old elf" actually has a beginning in history as Saint Nicholas, a fourth-century bishop from Asia Minor.

Our purpose here is not to refute each point of what they are attempting to say. The real irony of their campaign is found in setting our faith against reason. For the Catholic mind, reason does not lead you away from the manger but toward it.

As the Catechism states, "'Our holy mother, the Church, holds and teaches that God, the first principle and last end of all things, can be known with certainty from the created world by the natural light of human reason.' Without this capacity, man would not be able to welcome God's revelation. Man has this capacity because he is created "in the image of God." (CCC, 36)

Reason has been a strong part of the papal legacy of Pope Benedict XVI. Even some reporters from the secular media, most of whom spent of their time reporting on the reactions to a hyped misunderstanding of his address at Regensburg, couldn't miss his fundamental message.

Jeff Israely wrote in Time Magazine almost two years later, "Still, Regensburg had laid out, in forceful language, the keynote theme of Benedict's papacy: his belief that faith and reason can, and must, live side by side, within the individual and in society at large."

In a message he gave at the convent of Saint Scholastica in Subiaco, Italy, the day before Pope John Paul II died, he stated, "From the beginning, Christianity has understood itself as the religion of the 'Logos,' as the religion according to reason.

"In the first place, it has not identified its precursors in the other religions, but in that philosophical enlightenment which has cleared the path of traditions to turn to the search of the truth and towards the good, toward the one God who is above all gods."

"By natural reason man can know God with certainty, on the basis of his works. But there is another order of knowledge, which man cannot possibly arrive at by his own powers: the order of divine Revelation. Through an utterly free decision, God has revealed himself and given himself to man. This he does by revealing the mystery, his plan of loving goodness, formed from all eternity in Christ, for the benefit of all men. God has fully revealed this plan by sending us his beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit." (CCC, 50)

St. Paul describes it this way in Romans Chapter 1. "For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened."

"Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man-and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things. (Romans 1:20-23, NKJV)

The campaign from American Atheists is calling us to celebrate reason as though it was an end in itself, but it is not. The capacity for logical, rational, and analytic thought, which we call reason, is a means to an end. It is joined to the work of the Holy Spirit to bring about the grace of faith.

"What moves us to believe is not the fact that revealed truths appear as true and intelligible in the light of our natural reason: we believe 'because of the authority of God himself who reveals them, who can neither deceive nor be deceived.' So 'that the submission of our faith might nevertheless be in accordance with reason, God willed that external proofs of his Revelation should be joined to the internal helps of the Holy Spirit.' Thus the miracles of Christ and the saints, prophecies, the Church's growth and holiness, and her fruitfulness and stability 'are the most certain signs of divine Revelation, adapted to the intelligence of all'; they are 'motives of credibility' (motiva credibilitatis), which show that the assent of faith is 'by no means a blind impulse of the mind.'" (CCC, 156)

When reason is not allowed exposure to immediate truths and first principles that extend beyond the grasp of man's immediate knowledge alone, we have, as St. Thomas Aquinas would call it, "a defect of the intellect." In today's world of technology, we would describe it as insufficient data. The end result, according to Aquinas, is sin.

Celebrate reason? No thank you. Celebrate with reason? Absolutely! For an authentic quest will lead us to the One who is the Reason for the Season.

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Randy Sly is the Associate Editor of Catholic Online and the CEO/Associate Publisher for the Northern Virginia Local Edition of Catholic Online (http://virginia.catholic.org). He is a former Archbishop of the Charismatic Episcopal Church who laid aside that ministry to enter into the full communion of the Catholic Church.

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