How to annoy an atheist

It's amazingly easily. Just say you want to, and he'll do the rest. Really, some of these no-godders are caricatures of themselves. This week, in possession of some tickets I couldn't use, I fired off a note to a couple of hundred people in our Backbone Americans group on Facebook. The subject line was "Annoy an atheist, attend the Christmas parade." The tone was jocular and ironic, with no edge to it, and concluding with the historical-cultural truism, "Christ is born in Bethlehem. Deal with it, everyone!" (See full text below.)

Well, Facebook worked again, in terms of both useful networking and screwball connections. I not only heard back from some of my favorite young families, one of whom was able to attend the parade. I also smoked out a couple of humorless atheists who apparently can't deal with the Bethlehem thing.

A guy in Arizona wrote me directly: "The Christmas thing is a divide-and-conquer. I don't want anything to do with it. Freedom doesn't use religion as a weapon. I have unjoined your group." In a comment posted on the Backbone Americans page, he added: "I'm a free man in a free country and I don't need your permission or your approval to observe the holiday season differently than you do, and I don't care to debate about it either."

Touchy, touchy. Checking out this fellow's Facebook profile (he and I weren't linked as "friends" and obviously shouldn't be), I found that his political identification is "Individualist Anarchism," and under religious affiliation he asserts, "Organized religion is dangerous." At least to your own blood pressure, amigo.

Also finding the holiday season stressful is another Facebooker in Denver, again someone who had joined Backbone Americans without our knowing each other personally at all, who wrote on the groups page, "Is this a Ted Haggard fan club in disguise?" Huh? Who said anything about Ted Haggard?

On the web profile, this cheerful soul tagged himself politically as a libertarian and religiously (oops, I guess that's an oxymoron) as an atheist. One assumes he wouldn't have joined the Backbone Americans group to start with if he had noticed our dedication to America's founding principles -- which extend atheists toleration but not a veto power over theists' free expression.

When I wrote the original message, I expected the non-believers to send either no reply at all, or good-natured banter and shrugs of the sort I got from Ross Kaminsky, who styled himself "your favorite atheist, whom you can't annoy with a Christmas parade because I think people can believe anything they want as long as they don't try to make me submit to their beliefs."

We need to prescribe some of Rossputin's happy pills for my other overwrought correspondents. Until then, I will try to remember not to incite a panicked rush to the exits by yelling "Christmas" in a crowded Ayn Rand seminar.

Here's the offending Facebook note that started this whole tempest in a Wassail bowl:

    Denver area, first come... two adult & one child reserved seats for the renowned Channel 9 Parade of Lights, 8pm Friday. Excellent view of the "Merry Christmas" banner that Hickenlooper tried to 86. See the shocking Nativity float and jolly elf Santa himself at parade climax. We can't use these tickets, let me know if you can.

    Outside Denver, start a thread on the Backbone Americans page with what you are doing - or your wildest fantasy - to annoy the atheist grinches in your town.

    "Christ is born in Bethlehem." Deal with it, everyone!