The thing about Christmas is that it's become more of a cultural celebration than a Christian one. Easter is the most important holiday on the Christian calendar. Even Hanukkah's more of a secular holiday. There are many, many people who consider themselves Christian and don't go to church, or only go on Chirstmas Eve, and sometimes Easter, the same way many Jews only go on Yom Kippur. The whole "attack on Christmas thing" isn't seen so much as an attack on Chirstianity as it is an attack on tradition. People remember the old, intolerant days before the media became PC with fondness. It's just much simpler if you're able to assume people are Christian. That doesn't make it right; it's just people resisting change because the old traditions were easier, but I'm just saying it's not a wholly religious thing.
And I'd like to say when religion enters politics, and not just culture, it's not that different from how people group things in the ideals of "right-wing" versus "left-wing" or "liberal" versus "conservative." I've always hated the ideas of "right" and "left," but it took a book (The Unbearable Lightness of Being
by Milan Kundera) for me to understand why, and that "liberal" and "conservative" are just as ill-defined.
The idea is based upon the concept of kitsch
. After speaking about the idea that everyone shits, but we all try to hide it and act as if it never happens (it's more complicated than that, though), he goes on to say (translated from Czech):
It follows then, that the aesthetic ideal of the categorical agreement with being is a world in which shit is denied and everyone acts as though it did not exist. This aesthetic ideal is called kitsch.
Kitsch is a German word born from middle of the sentimental nineteenth century, and from German it entered all Western languages. Repeated use, however, has obliterated its original metaphysical meaning: kitsch is the absolute denial of shit, in both the literal and figurative senses of the word; kitsch excludes everything from its purview which is essentially unacceptable in human existence.
Kitsch is the idea that we ignore what we believe is bad in certain ideas, so that we can believe those ideas to be right. It's a defense mechanism, and we all do it. Don't think you're above it, because no one is. For example, when discussing some cultural differences between America and Ireland with a guy I know from Ireland, he mentioned how when he came to America, people seemed to be more reluctant to give others rides. Where he came from, it was assumed that it was no problem to drive an hour out of the way to drop someone off, but over here, people were more reluctant to give others a ride if it wasn't on the way. This didn't fit with my idea of Californians generally being nice, accommodating people. I was thinking that, as I was doing right then, the difference was that most people would give a ride if asked, but those asking would be more reluctant to make the driver go out of the way. So I asked him about it, and he originally lived in New York, then came out to California. I was able to satisfy my ideals by grouping this issue under differences between the West Coast and East Coast, and assuming that people in New York had spoiled his view of Americans in this sense. But it left a bad taste in my mouth to do so.
I realized that what I was doing, was fitting new, incongruous data into an old model (sterotype) that probably wasn't accurate. This is the idea of kitsch. You modify every incoming piece of data so that it fits with your current view of the world. This is how KKK members meet intelligent black people, yet rationalize, "black people are still bad; one-on-one they don't show it, but when you get a group together, you see the ugliness come out." Taking in images of race riots gone bad to complete the picture, completely ignoring all-white events (such as cross-burnings) where white people act the same way in groups, assuming white people were justified in some way.
But, to apply this to the current discussion, it's kitsch when people try to mix government and religion. It goes back to what people are taught as children in school. No matter how intelligent you are, the first things you hear are the things you compare everything else to. Fundamentalist Christian children grow up hearing "America's good" and "Christianity's good." And so, everything that fits those ideas is easier to believe. The Republican party has picked up on this group of people and mixed it with conservatism. "America, and Christianity are good, and let's do everything we can to keep it that way." So they use issues like abortion to prove that they're part of this Republican kitsch, and then tell the people that issues such as tax breaks for the rich and massive defense spending fit this kitsch as well. That's the reason for religion in politics today.
I was raised in the liberal leftist kitsch, and in a nonfundamental Christian kitsch. I can't shake the inborn feeling that racism is wrong, and volunteer work is good. Kitsch isn't necessarily bad, but it makes it hard sometimes to keep an open mind and makes it easier to pass judgment on people. Kitsch is the reason for stereotypes and a lot of intolerance. You can think about it as the context of "good" vs "bad" and "right" vs "wrong." (So it would take acceptance of some kitsch to declare kitsch bad.)