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December 25, 2004

On Prejudice

The great trend this past holiday season was for some Christians to take great offense at the phrase “holiday season.” According to these bigots – who seem to number in the hundreds of thousands, if not millions – we all know it’s Christmas and it’s damn well about time the non-Christians came to grips with the fact that the United States of America is a Christian nation, and that’s that.

Before I go any further, let me share with you my number one definition of a bigot. Anybody who tries to ram their religion down any disbeliever’s throat is a bigot, and, invariably, a hypocrite. If you can’t comprehend this simple fact, stop reading now. You’re just not going to get it.

Ask one of these assholes why they feel the USofA is a Christian nation and they’ll tell you our founding fathers were Christians. Of course that’s not true – there were many polytheists, atheists, and non-Christian monotheists involved in that cabal. Many of the top founding fathers were Masons – Washington was inaugurated President in a Mason ceremony – and I know a hell of a lot of Christians who consider Masons to be evil. And if Benjamin Franklin, Tom Paine and Thomas Jefferson were examples of “good Christians,” then I’ve been boogying at the wrong covens.

Okay. Let’s assume for the purpose of conversation that all of our founding fathers were good Christians, in the sense that the phrase is used today. It’s not true, and it’s bigoted to think that way, but let’s go along with this nonsense for a couple of paragraphs. If our founding fathers were good Christians, then they must have been pretty damn fucking stupid. Here’s why.

In order to get our Constitution passed the delegates had to come up with the Bill of Rights which guaranteed that minorities would not be denied the same rights as the majority citizens. Well, except for women, Indians, blacks, Jews, homosexuals, non-property owners, and miscegenationists – but that was a matter of practice and not of law. We’ve paid somewhat more attention to the letter of the law since then, but I digress.

It is the Bill of Rights that made the United States of America unique. It is what makes Americans Americans. It is, in my opinion, the single greatest document ever written – even if it hasn’t been practiced fully, as written.

The very first article in the Bill of Rights is, and I quote: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Damn, that’s eloquent. It’s the greatest, most inspirational sentence ever written in any language, in my humble opinion. And nowhere does it say “but only for Christians.”

So if this is a Christian Nation and it was founded as such and intended to be as such, then our Christian founding fathers must have been pretty fucking stupid.

With all of the tens of millions of people raped, tortured, enslaved and/or slaughtered in the name of the Christian monogod, whomever that may be, please pause to think about it all.

I’ve had the privilege of working at and with quite a number of nice liberal organizations that could never confront their own bigotries. When I was editing at DC Comics, every time I tried to establish a page rate for a black writer or artist I was told that individual wasn’t reliable and I had to fight like the devil to get parity for that person – each and every time. And when I dared to hire a black man as a full editor, three of the editors on staff at the time (two were group editors) told me I shouldn’t hire him because he would have a difficult time working with white staffers and freelancers. My doing so actually ended one friendship that was a nearly decade strong. Go figure.

I spent quite some time working with a youth social service agency where, when I initially interviewed for the job, I was asked what political party I belonged to and how liberal my politics were. The woman who asked me this, the executive director, was also a bigwig in the local Conference of Christians and Jews type organization (Churches and Synagogues; whatever). I once asked her and her associates why they were discriminating against people who weren’t Christians or Jews. They promptly changed their name to be inclusive of Moslems, a rapidly growing population in the area. I responded “What about those people who don’t believe in your god? Hindus, Buddhists, Wiccans, polytheists, atheists… You know, the people who collectively constitute the majority of people on this planet?”

They looked at me as though I had two heads – and one of them was Hitler’s. They’re nice liberal people; surly, only a madman would criticize them. This woman was actually angry with me because I wouldn’t go see her church group perform Handel’s Messiah. She proved to be quite the back-stabber.

Nice, liberal bigots.

As the Bush Administration continues its fundamentalist holy mission, we’re going to hear a lot more about this Christian nation. Evolution is a theory – you know, like mathematics and nuclear physics. Homosexuals are an abomination. Hey, you know, the bible is cool with slavery! We must teach the monogod in our public schools or, barring that, give public funds to approved religious organizations that – as a matter of law – can discriminate in their hiring practices.

It’s a call to arms. For both sides. Armageddon isn’t going to happen in the middle east, it’s going to happen in Times Square. It’s already happening in our courts.

The number one character trait of religious bigots: if you publicly disagree with them, then they say you are denying them their religious freedom and, therefore, YOU are the bigot. I don’t want my tax dollars spent in promoting your religion, mine, or anybody else's. And the place to start is with taxing the churches. Anything else is illegal.

Io Saturnalia. And stop slaughtering our trees.

I’ll bet you I get at least one death threat from this.

Posted by Mike Gold at December 25, 2004 01:10 PM

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May you be ever wrong on that last bet...but I fear that's one bet neither of us will ever get to celebrate my thereby taking your money.


Posted by: Dwight Williams at December 25, 2004 05:09 PM

Thanks, Dwight.

Posted by: Mike Gold at December 25, 2004 07:36 PM

> The number one character trait of religious
> bigots: if you publicly disagree with them,
> then they say you are denying them their
> religious freedom and, therefore, YOU are
> the bigot.

Oh, do you have that right. I am so tired of hearing charges of religious bigotry for opposing oppressive political agendas.

Posted by: David K. M. Klaus at December 26, 2004 01:14 AM

Man, Mike, our worldviews are eerily similar... to an almost scary degree.

I hope you don't get any threats over this. I can't say that I haven't experienced similar, though. I have had a coworker threaten to report me to the HR department on three occasions, twice over political comment (this includes mentioning the mere fact that I had seen FAHRENHEIT 9/11) and once over noting the ridiculous fact that a local Christian school's athletic teams were called "the Lions" -- I had mentioned the historical fact that Christians user to be FED to lions. Let it also be noted that in all three of these cases, I wasn't even speaking to her, she was listening in to my conversations uninvited.

Luckily, my bosses see her for the crackpot she is. My boss's boss is a strict Republican, too, but not unyielding, and she'll actually joke with me about politics.

Posted by: Julio Diaz at December 26, 2004 02:35 PM

The way Faux News has decided that they are going to be the ones to Save Christmas has been an object of fascination to me. It's a perfect way of showing how they have figured out the way to get cheap heat (to use a pro wrasslin term):

-Create a fake crisis with a couple of isolated stories or simply lying
-Tell people you will solve the problem
-At the last minute, declare the problem solved, all while still safely behind your microphone without even leaving your studio.

Which is why those of us worried about actual problems seem to lose...we actually work toward solutions, which are slow, messy and take time and money.

After this year, however, I am very tempted to just say "You guys want Giftmas? You can have it. I won't buy gifts, trees, tinsel or the like. I won't show up at celebrations, and I'll treat it like a day off and not get stressed, while saving hundreds of dollars. Besides, since I'm not a Christian, I'm not SUPPOSED to celebrate it, right?"

On a side note, I laugh myself sick when Bill O'Reilly calls Christmas a holiday to celebrate the "Philosopher" Jesus. Does that mean I can declare holidays for Socrates, Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell?

Posted by: CoryStrode at December 27, 2004 11:28 AM


Personally, I'm somewhat offended by the cheapening of the holiday by wishing people a "Happy Holiday" or "Seasons Greetings." I'm a Christian, but if my Jewish friends wish to send me a card and wish me a Happy Hanukah, I am not offended. If my friend from Morocco wishes me a Happy Ramadan, again, I'm flattered, not bothered. So, I fail to see the problem in wishing someone a Merry Christmas, even if they don't celebrate it.

When you are speaking to a mass audience, say the nightly news on TV, I would prefer them to say "Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukah, Happy Kwanza, Joyeaux Noel, and a Happy New Year to everyone." Than to have them say "Happy Holidays." My 4-year-old is pretty fascinated by the notion that people don't all celebrate Christmas, and has taken to asking people, "What Holiday do *you* celebrate?" And is very interested in the difference when people give different answers. No one he has asked has seemed uncomfortable. In fact, they all seem pleasantly shocked by it.

So, while I agree with you it's wrong to force-feed anyone your religion, I think it's just as wrong to cheapen it by ignoring it. I think people need to stop apologizing for being Christian, or Jewish, or Muslim, or whatever, and simply wish each other a blessed whatever. In nearly 100% of the cases, it's meant as a compliment, or at least, as a blessing. We need to start taking it that way.

Posted by: Londo at December 28, 2004 11:53 AM

just a couple things:

Everyone faces prejudice: i've faced it both for supporting African american candidates for a job, and as the only straight man in a predominantly gay company. (you've never been messed with until your messed with by some mean queens) Every group evolves its own irrational hatred of the 'other.' Liberal/conservative labels are horseshit, as i've never met anyone who makes a perfect fit to either.

The war on Christmas is just that - a very small group telling a large group what to do. This is both good and bad. History is always a reason to feel angry or slighted, but most people wishing me a merry christmas aren't Torquemadas men, and really do mean well. So more power to them. Anybody can wish me anything and I'm good with that, as long as thier religion doesn't preach killing me. THAT I am not good with. I completely understand your natural fear of the religious. Particularly with middle-Eastern religions, it always seems to be the religious students who come out to do the killing.

Religion is the worlds second oldest profession and along with government is the number one cause of death for people in human history. The crimes of religion predate the monotheistic religions by a good bit. in fact, the first monothiestic religion Zoarastrianism can be seen as a response to the prior practices. Religions have brought a lot of good, and a lot bad. In order to prevent the bad, we need to maintain constant vigilance, without which there is no liberty. But by being 100% intolerant of them, we can also become the oppressor. I look at it as a process, not a result. A median of liberty and intolerance towards those who preach hate.

Posted by: JR Judt at December 28, 2004 03:18 PM

Londo, first off the information you have shared about your son made me smile. I think he is an example of the type of attitude this nation should take towards diversity.
On the other hand, I disagree with you on the cheapening of the Christmas holiday. While it would be nice to say ""Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukah, Happy Kwanza, Joyeaux Noel, and a Happy New Year to everyone" during the hilday season, it simply is not practical. By saying "Happy Holidays" you are making an effort to include everyone and exclude no one. It doesn't cheapen the holiday, it makes it warmer by sharing your sentiments with far more people.
When speaking on a one-on-one basis with people, the rules are different. I do my best to wish my Jewish friends a Happy Hanukah (or whatever is appropriate) and do what I can to honor their traditions. At the very least I ask them what IS appropriate.
I am reminded at this moment of your son, and I will conclude by wishing you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Posted by: Alex at January 3, 2005 02:11 AM

Alex, it's not even a cheapening of Christmas, I think it's a cheapening act to all the holidays. I've spent time as a neogotiator, and frequently, compromise is the worst of all worlds. Compromise is the only situation in which *no one* gets what they want. Perhaps you're right, saying 'Happy Holidays' allows us to not offend any Druids by leaving them out, but you can quickly wish people the top 4 holidays (Ramadan, Christmas, Hannukah and Kwanzaa) in about 8 seconds. If you consider that to be impractical, that seems a little silly. If you think covering 99.5% of the audience is too exclusive, then, I'll disagree with you, but I understand your spirit.

I kind of like the idea of asking people what holiday they celebrate, and then wishing them a happy one. It seems a lot more personal than wishing them a happy non-denominational holiday.

Posted by: Londo at January 3, 2005 09:11 AM

What's amazing is that the use of "Happy Holidays" to replace "Merry Christmas" is not a leftist conspiracy. The people who use the more generic phrase are most likely to be capitalists -- department stores and other enterprises that don't want to offend or exclude potential customers.

So these poor, persecuted Christians should complain about the greed of big business.


Posted by: Martha Thomases at January 3, 2005 04:36 PM

You are a true master with words, as always, Mike. Way to sum up the hypocrisy.
We've been discussing this A LOT lately, especially since my Wife's Uncle brought up the "Founding Fathers never meant for prayer to be kept out of school" argument while we were visiting. He didn't seem to realize that Thomas Jefferson had edited his own version of the Bible, or even have any idea what a Deist was.
You might like my wife's blog entry on the subject after a discussion on a message board deteriorated.



Posted by: Joe Frietze at January 3, 2005 05:37 PM

If Jefferson had publicly shared his religious preference (something he stated more than once he didn't think was appropriate – noting that a person's faith was a private matter), it's likely that he would've been a Unitarian. In at least one correspondence, he is known to have noted that the religion – which promotes reason over faith – was the only one to make any sense to him. And while the Unitarianism of his day was more focused on Christianity than the more broadly reaching religion of today, it is not a Christianity that I suspect the "save Xmas" types would want to recognize. . .

Posted by: Bill Sherman at January 4, 2005 09:46 AM

The textbook definition of Unitarianism is: "a social club for agnostics."

I'm still waiting for all the righteous Christians to overthrow the evil Walmarts of the world that make their wage slaves work on the sabbath. If the lord can smite all those heathens with a terrifying tidal wave, why can't he smite at least one Walton for us?

Posted by: Rick Oliver at January 4, 2005 11:15 AM

I think there are a number of Waltons that would need smiting in order to free this planet of their disease. Hmmm... I wonder. Since I won't go into the place, does anybody know if Wal*Mart sells flame throwers?

Posted by: Mike Gold at January 4, 2005 02:54 PM

Mike tried to hire more than one black editor. I actually turned him down the first time, but said yes when he graciously asked me to reconsider. He may or may not have been referring to me, as I'm sure most other black comics editors (and, there have been so many) could also be painted with the same brush. But, just in case those staffers' concerns were indeed addressed to me--

"So, Priest, when did you stop beating your wife?"

"Problems working with white editors?" I'd been at Marvel for 8 years. Other than Larry Hama, there were nothing BUT white editors. And the problems I had with some of them had nothing to do with the fact that they were white but the fact they were morons. Ascribing racial motives to stuff like that is intellectual cowardice at its worst. If I was a chimp, as I've admitted on my own website, then please dislike me because I was a chimp and did chimp things. Don’t give me a free ride because I'm black and don’t run around saying I was mean to you because you were white. No, chances were, I was mean to you because I was a chimp in those days (or being directed to be a chimp by my boss, as the case often was). Race had nothing to do with it. I never, and I mean never, once picked a fight with an editor because he or she was white. Tom DeFalco was my best friend, Shooter was my mentor. I had a wicked crush on Ann Nocenti and I practically lived in Mark Gruenwald's and Ralph Macchio's offices.

DC staffers (some of whom were Marvel transplants) who thought that way about me were likely mirroring their own prejudice in some way. I simply had no race-motivated prejudices against Marvel editors. If I had a problem with you, it was because I was fighting for my books just like you were fighting for yours.

It amazes me, there were plenty of white editors who had difference of opinion with one another. But, whenever *I* did, I got this race crap tossed at me. It's that liberal guilt, I suppose. But, arguing about changing the Human Torch's hair-- what the heck did race have to do with THAT?

I deal with this issue in some depth here:

Happy New Year, Mike. and thanks for the many opportunities and great work experience. Let's do that again sometime!

Christopher Priest

Posted by: priest [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 5, 2005 02:26 PM

This is only tagentially related to prejudice, but it's kind of funny in a pathetic way...

I worked on a "young adult" book series for a while. I'm legally not allowed to divulge the name of the series, but the main characters' names rhymed with "Hank and Moe Nardy."

Anyway, the editor thought the series lacked ethnic diversity; so they told me to add a black character. So I did. The first draft of the manuscript came back with notes from the editors to the effect that I couldn't refer to the new character as "black" or "African-American".

The second draft came back with notes to the effect that I couldn't refer to his skin color or ethnicity in even an oblique manner. So I removed all references that might even provide the remotest hint that the character was non-white -- but I assured the editors that he was still black. That seemed to satisfy them.

Posted by: Rick Oliver at January 5, 2005 05:19 PM

Yes, Mr. Priest. "And there have been so many."

If you completely do not care about a person's race, then you are not a bigot, and you are not a liberal. You are a fucking revolutionary. Even in 2005. But to be fair to the issue of liberal guilt, there is this teensy tiny space between acting out of liberal guilt and being patronizing, and sometimes it's tough to steer into that spot.

I'd love to work with you again, pal. These guys have no idea how to tap into your strengths -- or even how to leave you alone to do it yourself!

But here's a flash. I've done a hell of a lot of professional writing, but damn little in comics -- at least, in comic book story writing. Don't like competing with "my" writers. But of the half-dozen or so stories I've written, you edited but one, and I learned more from working with you than I did everybody else in comics combined, times seven.

Posted by: Mike Gold at January 5, 2005 08:32 PM

Dear Lord, that's flattering. Mike-- I'm going to have to tear down all of my "Kill Whiety" posters now. :-)

Be well, pal and thanks for the story. Usually, when I discuss stuff like this, I get the eye roll and "yeah, right." Sadly, it takes white pros to validate some of my experiences (as the word of black pros only gets more eye rolling).

But, white guys they believe. So, thanks!


Posted by: priest [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 6, 2005 02:50 AM

Good site, good blog, thank

Posted by: Devid at April 27, 2006 02:36 PM

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