There’s nothing quite like a cheery atheist billboard to get the festive Christmas spirit flowing and this year’s no exception. “This Season, Celebrate Reason!” urges one of 55 drive-Christ-out-of-Christmas billboards in Sacramento, California. That snappy slogan is part of a broader ad campaign called “Out of the Closet,” which hopes to make lonely atheists feel that they’ve got company. It’s news to me that they haven’t but that aside, if only life were as easy as the billboard atheists suggest.
Imagine, with “This Season, Celebrate Reason!” ringing in our minds, we could cozily warm our secularist toes by the fire, all the while merrily unwrapping treatises on number theory by Bertrand Russell, and that’s before the jolly feast of roast tofu loaf that’s basting away in the oven. So much more reasonable than patriarchal superstition about Virgin births, miraculous stars and wandering astrologers; to say nothing of what Marx called the “bourgeois claptrap” of a traditional family—a husband, wife and children gathered around a decorated tree to celebrate God becoming Man. Get rid of this primitive nonsense, say the disbelieving marketeers of the curiously named ad campaign and replace it with something sensible, like reason.
As a culture, we’ve certainly been trying to do just that, plowing the furrow of Godless reason since at least the 18th Century, and look where it’s got us; nowhere very reasonable. For example, we’re told, mantra-like, by economists in our financial establishment and the government, that the more we spend the richer we’ll be. You never know, say it enough and maybe someday it’ll become true, all through the miracle of the digital printing press and the magic of “reason.” Likewise, we’re informed daily, with a kind of deadpan earnestness, that homosexual marriage is a normal and reasonable choice. Well, have a look at the next “Pride” parade and ask yourself if rational is the first adjective that comes to mind.
More seriously, the same advocates of “reason” tell us that killing our babies in the multi-million dollar abortion mills of Planned Parenthood will make women happy and free. In the meanwhile, the basic building block of civilization, the family, has all but broken down and we wonder why dislocated children open fire on their classmates. Don’t blame the guns; blame the thinking of the social engineers who are fast creating a society fit only for the soulless apes they claim us to be.
The problem, of course, is that apes aren’t known for their rational power and so perhaps it’s no accident that their advocates in the reason department tend to produce the exact reverse of their advertised result. Debt, oddly enough, makes for poverty; gay marriage kills productive marriage by defining it out of existence; killing their babies makes women miserable; and the breakdown of the family has disastrous results, especially for the lives of children. Is it just possible that human reason on its own isn’t capable of rising to the challenge of creating a society which meets the criterion for human flourishing and true wellbeing? Judge for yourselves. It seems to me, to put it bluntly, that our brave experiment in celebrating reason at the expense of God isn’t working out and “reason,” left to itself, becomes strangely irrational at best, nihilist at worst.
As Christians, we know why. We understand, through the revealed Word of God, that humanity, while created good, is flawed and broken through sin. Because of this, even our best laid plans are frustrated by an inherent tendency to wickedness. We are, unfortunately, sinful creatures and no amount of attempting to explain this out of existence is going to work. It is, as even the most optimistic of Sacramento-style atheists are starting to admit, a fact of life. Their increasingly despairing antidote is more of the same failed medicine; we have a more radical cure.
We believe that God decisively broke into human history, uniting our nature to Himself in the person of the infant Christ, setting in motion the whole drama of redemption, in which humanity is taken up and united to the Godhead and made whole, made holy. More than this, we believe, as catholics, that the saving mystery of the Incarnation, of the Word made Flesh, is made present to us here and now in the Body of Christ, our holy Mother, the Church. Through membership in this we are redeemed and healed through the transcendent Word’s living presence; grace, say the theologians, perfects nature, even our reason, and so it does, beginning with the Nativity of Christ.
With all the heavenly choirs, let’s celebrate that this Christmas, atheistical billboards notwithstanding, and welcome Jesus, as one new-born, into our lives.
Fr. Michael Heidt, Editor