I couldn't agree more.
I've just been reading a news report about some American atheists who have been trying to get a public Christmas nativity scene removed because they say it makes them feel excluded and intimidated and offended ... can't you just feel the emotional trauma these poor people must be suffering? No, me neither ... this is what happens when atheism meets political correctness.
as an atheist myself, I can't help but feel horribly tainted by association. And believe me I'm as atheist as it's possible to be. I think religion is utter nonsense, and I claim the right to criticise, ridicule, and insult it as much as I like. But not the right to stamp out harmless aspects of it, which is why I'm a secularist, and not a totalitarian.
I have a copy of the bible in my house, because it's part of my cultural heritage. Not because I think the bible is true, any more than I think that Shakespeare's plays are true, but I wouldn't be without them either. I like churches, especially the sound of church bells, and I don't want to see them bulldozed. But I do want to see the power of the church, not only bulldozed, but ground into a fine dust, and buried in the deepest part of the deepest ocean on the furthest planet it's possible to find.
Religion needs to be kept in check when it tries to step on people, or when it tries to elbow its way into their lives uninvited. The nativity doesn't do this. It doesn't even come close. It's part and parcel of the Christmas furniture. It's part and parcel of the culture that I and most people in the Western world were born and raised in, and it only excludes people who want to be excluded.
And yes, we all know that the story itself is ridiculous. The entire tableau is utterly barmy and worthy of open mockery and ridicule. But to claim that it sends a message of intimidation and exclusion, and therefore must be banned, is both infantile and sinister ... Yes, some people may choose to be offended, but some people are offended by anything, and frankly, they can go to hell.
Condell goes on to highlight some truly ridiculous research from Simon Fraser University in Canada, which The Telegraph covered on the 20th of December:
Michael Schmitt, a social psychologist behind the research, decided to carry out the study after controversy over whether Christmas should be celebrated in public in case it offends non-Christians.I'm sure Condell is right when he suggests that "if all the social psychologists on the planet were to disappear in a puff of smoke, nobody would be worse off".
He said: "Simply having this 12-inch Christmas tree in the room with them made them feel less included in the university as a whole, which to me is a pretty powerful effect from one 12-inch Christmas tree in one psychology lab.
"I don't think it's really going to undermine anyone's experience of Christmas to tone it down.
"We're not suggesting 'no Christmas' or 'no Christmas displays at all,' but in contexts where we really do value respecting and including diversity in terms of religion, the safest option is not to have these kinds of displays.
"I understand why it might feel threatening to people.
"But I think if people do care about making a whole range of different kinds of people feel included and respected, then we can make some small changes that would go a long way toward creating a more multicultural or inclusive society."
The researchers published their results in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.
Returning to the original story about the nativity scene (covered by the Daily Mail), I should add that while I share Condell's contempt for those who cry 'intimidation' and 'exclusion', I don't think it's appropriate for public funds or public property to be used for religious displays — or indeed for any other purpose beyond their essential function. There's a huge difference between resenting inappropriate public expenditure and calling for displays on private property to be banned. It's unfortunate, and perhaps disingenuous, for Condell to conflate the two issues.
But a nativity scene on a courthouse lawn is such a minor abuse of taxpayers' resources, compared to the US government's multi-trillion dollar profligacy, that anyone taking offence at it can scarcely claim the banner of Reason.