Language shapes how we think. It changes our mindsets. Not only George Orwell acknowledged this with his novel Nineteen Eighty Four, where MiniTru – the Ministry of Truth – rewrites newspaper articles and manipulates recorded history.
I am an atheist, alright? I’m not at all bothered by the term Christmas or the term God or even the name Jesus, not even when you append a Christ to it. Okay, I might get bothered if you stick it right to my face and try to proselytize me all the time. I’ll also get offended when you try to use your ancient book to make or justify legislation that affects me. But that’s a whole different quality. Just like I don’t get offended by someone’s hairstyle or sexual orientation, I also pretty much don’t care about someone’s religious beliefs – as long as they consider it a private matter.
And no: Merry Christmas to me means nothing more than Frohe Weihnachten (the German counterpart of the phrase). “Weihnachten” roughly means “hallowed night”. The German phrase doesn’t include the connotation of Jesus Christ having been born. When wishing you a Merry Christmas, I’m merely using a phrase that makes sense in your lingual and cultural context. And I certainly mean no harm by it.
I’ll gladly give and receive presents for Christmas and I’d do so for Hannukah if I had relatives or close friends celebrating that. Heck, I’ll even take the days around that time off. And as long as you don’t get into really unappetizing traditions such as sacrificing goats for some ancient deity or sacrificing humans out of identification with Aztecs or Mayas or because your deity commands it, I’ll probably partake in your traditions and be merry along with you.
The point is, try to be a little less offended by what others say and think. Assume good faith, even when no religious faith is involved. What’s the problem if you’re a Jew and someone wishes you Merry Christmas because he didn’t know better? Some German Rabbi once stated that the only major thing Christians and Jews disagree about is whether the next coming of the Messiah will be his first or second. And he quipped: “let’s ask him when he arrives.”
It appears that the right of freedom of speech has been subverted by each individual’s right to feel offended. I’m not even the first to notice either. George Carlin, one of your great comedians, America, also noticed it. And he played with that fact masterfully. Check out some of his standups on Youtube or get yourself a copy.
So Merry Christmas to the lot of you!