Atheist Austin Cline continues to insist
that a misguided appeal to "tradition" is the only justification for the opposition to Target's decision to kick the Salvation Army off its premises.
And once again, he's wrong. Austin charges that no one has "directly addressed the question of fairness and explained how it is that unfairness and favoritism are compatible with the Christmas season." So here it is, one more time, for the record:
Christmas -- like it or not, Austin -- is a Christian holiday. It doesn't celebrate the winter solstice, or the wedding of an ice queen, or anything but the birth of Jesus Christ, whom Christians believe to be the Son of God and the Saviour.
The Salvation Army is a Christian charity, whose mission -- of caring for the lost and the least, over and over again -- is uniquely associated with the meaning of Christmas.
Christmas is associated with gift giving.
Gift giving is the reason that Target makes a huge percentage of its yearly profit during the period between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
It is therefore remarkably ungrateful, tone deaf, greedy, classless and WRONG for Target to evict the charity that best symbolizes the holiday is responsible for a large part of its profits.
That, Austin, is "how the religious nature of Christmas can be used to justify treating the Salvation Army in a favored manner, granting it privileges unavailable to anyone else in any other circumstances . . .."
Austin wants to give Target the benefit of the doubt -- that Target only wants its soliciting opportunities to be "fair and consistent." That may or may not be true, but he conveniently omits Target's other, less disinterested stated justification -- its desire to protect its customers from the potential discomfort of being asked for donations, so as to promote a "distraction free shopping experience."
Finally, there's one paragraph that just begs for a little reality check:
One of the major complaints of conservative evangelicals is that so many "traditional" expressions of favoritism and privilege for Christians have been removed from public and private institutions. There was a time when conservative Protestantism constituted a major background assumption of much of the public activity in America — everyone else has to accept that their perspectives were accorded a lesser status. Today, however, that is changing. In more and more situations conservative, evangelical Christianity is not treated as any more the "default" or "background" than Hinduism, Islam, or atheism. Christians are in the same position that everyone else used to be . . .."
Yes, well, that's what many would like Americans to believe. And don't get me wrong -- people of every
faith, or of none, are entitled to our respect and consideration, not just in a formal, governmental sense, but in a social and interpersonal one.
But to argue that religion in general -- or Christianity in particular -- is now just one "choice" among many other equally popular ones, and that this fact justifies its complete excision from our common civic life, is simply at odds with the facts.
The salient facts are contained in this
article by Harvard professor Samuel Huntington, which appeared in The Wall Street Journal
on June 16, 2004:
* When asked in 2003 simply whether they believed in God or not, 92% [of Americans] said yes. In a series of 2002-03 polls, 57% to 65% of Americans said religion was very important in their lives, 23% to 27% said fairly important, and 12% to 18% said not very important.
* While the balance between Protestants and Catholics shifted over the years, the proportion of Americans identifying themselves as Christian has remained relatively constant. In three surveys between 1989 and 1996, 84% to 88% of Americans said they were Christians.
* Only about 10% of Americans, however, espouse atheism. Even fewer are of the Jewish, Muslim or Hindu faiths.
* According to [the International Social Survey Program questionnaire in 1991], Americans are more deeply religious than even the people of countries like Ireland and Poland, where religion has been the core of national identity differentiating them from their traditional British, German and Russian antagonists.
As Professor Huntington concludes, atheists -- and rightly so -- are not required to "engage in any religiously tainted practice of which they disapprove. They also, however, do not have the right to impose their atheism on all those Americans whose beliefs now and historically have defined America as a religious nation."
That's it exactly. And it goes for those who "flooded" Target with solicitation requests specifically in order to drive out the Salvation Army -- along with those who insist that every aspect of Christmas must be divorced from its religious roots in order to achieve an "inclusive" society.