I was on the O’Reilly Factor this week and Bill asked me what I thought about the media’s lack of interest in what he thinks is a War on Christmas. I started out by saying even though I don’t celebrate Christmas, I don’t have a problem with people who say Merry Christmas, nor do I have a problem with businesses that require their workers to say Happy Holiday, if they think that’s the right business decision.
I went on to say that calling a Christmas tree a Holiday tree was really dumb. And I said that while putting the Baby Jesus in the Town Square wouldn’t bring down the Republic, there were, I thought, legitimate Constitutional issues involved.
No big deal, right? Fairly reasonable stuff, right? Wrong. I got an email just minutes after the segment aired from someone who identified himself as Doug, someone who was deeply worried about my mortal soul.
“Bernie, I’m a big fan of yours, and truly respect and mostly agree with your opinions.
“I was disappointed to hear you claim on O’reilly tonight that you don’t observe Christmas. I pray for you.
“Jesus is God on Earth. He is the only way to salvation. If you don’t believe this, then you must believe you are nothing more than a ‘random bag of atoms’?”
Here’s what I believe, Doug. I know you meant well, that you want me to be “saved.” But honestly, Doug, all I want right now is to be saved from the likes of you. And while I’ve never given much thought to whether I’m simply a “random bag of atoms” I’m pretty sure you’re a well-meaning random bag of sanctimony.
Don’t you get it Doug? No matter how you slice it, you’re saying, “Believe the way I do, Bernie, or you’re going to hell.” Well, Doug, here’s my response: Leave me the hell alone!
I wish you were the only one with a pipeline straight to the Almighty, but I know you’re not. I know there are millions and millions of people just like you – of all religions, all filled not so much with faith as with certainty – certainty about something no one can possibly be certain about.
But since the Muslim and Jewish fundamentalists don’t write to me – thank God for that! — of all the mail I do get, the most depressing is from people who see themselves as God-fearing Christians. Not all, of course. Many are truly nice people who have a live-and-let-live philosophy on life and who are embarrassed by the ones who write emails like the one Doug sent to me. But way too many true believers, as I’ve noted in this space more than once, think the Bible is a science book. They take every word in it literally. They believe God dictated chapter and verse long distance to his faithful scribes on the ground.
They believe the Earth is around 6,000 years old. They believe dinosaurs and man roamed the planet at the same time. They believe things that the dumbest kid in third grade wouldn’t believe. And they believe it because they’re not smart enough to think for themselves. Or they’re afraid to.
And while I don’t care what they or anyone else thinks when it comes to God and religion, they care a whole lot about what I think. If they want to believe in God, fine with me. If they want to believe Jesus is the Son of God and that he walked on water and all the rest, no problem here. If they even want to believe the nonsense that a Jewish boy who was killed in the Holocaust, or a Hindu man or woman who has spent his or her life helping the poor, doesn’t have a shot at heaven, but a serial killer who accepts Jesus right before the authorities stick a needle in his arm will sit at the right hand of God … that’s fine with me too. People have a right to believe any fairy-tale they want.
But as far as the true believers are concerned, everyone has to think the way they do.
So if I don’t celebrate Christmas, if Jesus is not my Lord and Savior, well then, poor Bernie, the random bag of atoms, is going to spend eternity in a very hot place with no hope of ever getting out, or even getting some cold lemonade or a little air conditioning. Here’s an idea: How about we let me worry about that.
During a discussion about raising taxes on the rich a year or so back – the Democrats were pushing for a tax hike just as they are now – Bill reminded me that the Bible says that it’s easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. I told Bill “I don’t care what the Bible says,” clearly referring to U.S. government policy on taxes.
I got about 10 gazillion emails on that one, many telling me that, “You better care what the Bible says.” Well, honestly … I don’t. Not on taxes anyway.
So as Monty Hall (who won’t be going to heaven either, i guess, because he’s also Jewish) used to say, Let’s make a deal: I’ll leave you alone, Doug and all the others. And you leave me alone. You believe whatever you want. Let me believe whatever I want. I won’t send you emails about your mortal soul and you won’t send me emails about mine.
And if you’re so inclined, have a Merry Christmas.
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