Funny thing about email…

I’m sure at some point or another most of us out there have received one of those emails playing up the “War on Christmas” rhetoric and saying bad things only happen in this country because we don’t have “prayer in schools.” I honestly can’t take it anymore, so I’m going to respond to it right here, right now. Line by line. My commentary is italicized.

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The White House referred to Christmas Trees as Holiday Trees for the first time this year which prompted CBS presenter, Ben Stein, to present this piece which I would like to share with you. I think it applies just as much to many countries as it does to America .

The following was written by Ben Stein and recited by him on CBS Sunday Morning Commentary.

You can check out the various incarnations here on Snopes. Some of the content may not be from Ben Stein.

My confession:

I am a Jew, and every single one of my ancestors was Jewish. And it does not bother me even a little bit when people call those beautiful lit up, bejeweled trees, Christmas trees. I don’t feel threatened. I don’t feel discriminated against. That’s what they are, Christmas trees.

I’m all for calling a Christmas Tree a Christmas Tree. Unless you’re hanging a bunch of holiday symbols like Menorahs, Kinaras, and Nativity Scenes on the same tree (which probably does more to disrespect the individual holidays than it does to show unity), calling it a “Holiday Tree” doesn’t make much sense.

It doesn’t bother me a bit when people say, ‘Merry Christmas’ to me. I don’t think they are slighting me or getting ready to put me in a ghetto. In fact, I kind of likeit.It shows that we are all brothers and sisters celebrating this happy time of year. It doesn’t bother me at all that there is a manger scene on display at a key intersection near my beach house in Malibu . If people want a creche, it’s just as fine with me as is the Menorah a few hundred yards away.

It doesn’t bother me personally when people say “Merry Christmas” to me either, but we do live in a pluralistic society and not everyone celebrates Christmas, so saying it to everyone, without knowing their religious faith or lack thereof is erasure. I don’t think people are saying  “Merry Christmas” with malicious intent, but it shows a lack of regard for others when you don’t even take into consideration that they may not share your faith. “Happy Holidays” is just the better way to go when you’re greeting someone you don’t know well enough to know their religious beliefs.

I don’t like getting pushed around for being a Jew, and I don’t think Christians like getting pushed around for being Christians. I think people who believe in God are sick and tired of getting pushed around, period. I have no idea where the concept came from, that America is an explicitly atheist country. I can’t find it in the Constitution and I don’t like it being shoved down my throat.

Wait… what? No one likes being pushed around… I also think he’s a bit confused as to who has been doing a lot of the pushing lately. Where did anyone say that America is explicitly atheist? We are free to believe or not believe as we see fit. We have freedom of religion and freedom from religion. It’s in the 1st Amendment to the Constitution in case you missed it:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

No one is pushing religious people around just for believing (unless you’re a Muslim in America… then all bets are off apparently). People just don’t want the government endorsing/enforcing a particular religion.

Or maybe I can put it another way: where did the idea come from that we should worship celebrities and we aren’t allowed to worship God ? I guess that’s a sign that I’m getting old, too. But there are a lot of us who are wondering where these celebrities came from and where the America we knew went to.

I don’t worship celebrities or god. You are free to do either, neither, or both. That is our civil right. The government won’t arrest you for praying just like they won’t arrest you for religiously reading tabloids… regardless of the merit of either activity.

In light of the many jokes we send to one another for a laugh, this is a little different: This is not intended to be a joke; it’s not funny, it’s intended to get you thinking.

Billy Graham’s daughter was interviewed on the Early Show and Jane Clayson asked her ‘How could God let something like this happen?’ (regarding Hurricane Katrina).. Anne Graham gave an extremely profound and insightful response. She said, ‘I believe God is deeply saddened by this, just as we are, but for years we’ve been telling God to get out of our schools, to get out of our government and to get out of our lives. And being the gentleman He is, I believe He has calmly backed out. How can we expect God to give us His blessing and His protection if we demand He leave us alone?’

Right. Because nothing bad ever happens to people who believe in god… I guess they forgot about most of the Old Testament in the Bible they’re so fond of.

Bad things happening is an unfortunate fact of life. Bad things will happen no matter what you do or don’t believe in. Good things happen too. Feel free to lean on your faith to get through hard times, I won’t begrudge you that, but don’t use it as an excuse not to solve problems. Hurricanes happen because of factors in the climate, not divine punishment. Katrina was as bad as it was because there were failures in preparation, maintenance of the levees, and governmental response. Worry about fixing the problems that lead to the devastation and helping those affected instead of shifting the blame.

In light of recent events… terrorists attack, school shootings, etc. I think it started when Madeleine Murray O’Hare (she was murdered, her body found a few years ago) complained she didn’t want prayer in our schools, and we said OK. Then someone said you better not read the Bible in school. The Bible says thou shalt not kill; thou shalt not steal, and love your neighbor as yourself. And we said OK.

If you need a book with the threat of eternal damnation to tell you that you shouldn’t murder or steal, you have dubious morals to begin with. Also, plenty of people throughout history have murdered in the name of their god. I don’t know the circumstances of that woman’s murder, but it was wrong outright, and I know that even without a Bible telling me so.

Then Dr. Benjamin Spock said we shouldn’t spank our children when they misbehave, because their little personalities would be warped and we might damage their self-esteem (Dr. Spock’s son committed suicide). We said an expert should know what he’s talking about. And we said okay.

Apparently no spanked/abused child has ever committed or attempted suicide either… right? 

Now we’re asking ourselves why our children have no conscience, why they don’t know right from wrong, and why it doesn’t bother them to kill strangers, their classmates, and themselves.

Probably, if we think about it long and hard enough, we can figure it out. I think it has a great deal to do with ‘WE REAP WHAT WE SOW.’

I don’t know whose children he’s referring to, but I don’t think we can reduce an entire generation to conscienceless killers. As a member of this generation (parts of this were originally written in 2005) I disagree and I’m offended by that insinuation. We do reap what we sow, but I don’t think the problems he mentioned are caused by a lack of prayer. That attitude ignores all of the systemic issues that contribute to a culture of violence and intolerance and doesn’t pose real solutions to making things better.

Funny how simple it is for people to trash God and then wonder why the world’s going to hell. Funny how we believe what the newspapers say, but question what the Bible says. Funny how you can send ‘jokes’ through e-mail and they spread like wildfire, but when you start sending messages regarding the Lord, people think twice about sharing. Funny how lewd, crude, vulgar and obscene articles pass freely through cyberspace, but public discussion of God is suppressed in the school and workplace.

A lot of the people who trash god don’t believe in hell either, so that statement doesn’t make much sense. Also, people believe what news media says because you can fact-check and you can hold people accountable when they lie. I can’t determine the journalistic integrity of your prophets or all the people who have edited and re-edited the Bible (or any religious text) over millenia, so it would get taken with a grain of salt. 

 Those people who think twice about sharing are what I like to call “decent” and “considerate.” Complete disregard for your friends and acquaintances’ personal beliefs in an effort to promote your own, isn’t something to be proud of. Know (and respect) your audience. 

Many people who write/send emails like this have no interest in “discussion,” just proselytizing. If your idea of a “discussion” is “let me tell you all about my religion and how you’re evil for not believing in the exact same way” we’re going to have a problem. School is for learning and work is for working (and learning). I fondly remember discussion of world religions in school and learning about others different from me. If your discussion is based on a genuine interest in learning about others without judgment or if someone wants to learn about you, that is awesome… but if someone doesn’t want to discuss your god, you should respect that. Treat others how you would want to be treated.

Are you laughing yet?

I would be if I found religious propaganda funny.

Funny how when you forward this message, you will not send it to many on your address list because you’re not sure what they believe, or what they will think of you for sending it.

I’m sure the person who sent this to me meant well, even though I’m not sure I’ve met her yet. I think she has strongly held beliefs, and I respect them, I just wish she respected me (and everyone else on the list that she may not know well) enough to learn my beliefs before sending something out that predicates my morality on whether or not I share her beliefs.

Funny how we can be more worried about what other people think of us than what God thinks of us.

I don’t worry about either.

Pass it on if you think it has merit.

If not, then just discard it…. no one will know you did. But, if you discard this thought process, don’t sit back and complain about what bad shape the world is in.

Does he not get the irony of stating that you can’t complain about the “shape the world is in” if you don’t forward an email entirely complaining about the “shape the world is in?” Hopefully this is one of the added parts.

My Best Regards, Honestly and respectfully,

Ben Stein

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tl;dr version: if your email ends in something like “You don’t really love God if you don’t send this to everyone right now!!!” don’t send it to me.

~ by hirandnow on December 9, 2011.

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