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L. Neil Smith's
Number 541, October 18, 2009

"There is no genuinly forward-looking
science fiction left in mainstream America."

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the word *freedom* in cuneiform
The word Freedom in Cuneiform

Christmas in Cuneiform
by L. Neil Smith

Attribute to The Libertarian Enterprise

This afternoon I got a message from an individual whp frequently sends me interesting, thought-provoking material. In this one, he was making a complaint one often hears from conservatives whenever their notion that this is a "Christian country" is challenged, usually by liberals.

It seems he has an artist friend accustomed to sending handmade ornaments to Washington for the White House Christmas tree. This year, she was notified that there will be no White House Christmas tree. Instead, reflecting the current "politically correct" interpretation of the First Amendment, it will be referred to as the "holiday tree". Ornaments that even hint at the religiosity of the season will not be accepted.

I suppose I need to add that my correspondent is one of several who frequently send me material that is highly anti-Arab, anti-Muslim, and anti-Iranian. As I've testified often, I've known many Arabs, many Moslems, and more than a few Iranians, and found most of them to be extremely likeable, if not downright admirable people. What I see in my e-mail is an obvious product of ignorance and prejudice, and even worse, it fuels the evil machinations of the murderous warmongers in government.

Accordingly (with a few later additions), I wrote back to my correspondent:

We'll all do better at getting rid of this administration if we face the truth, even if some of us find it unpleasant. This is not a Christian nation, nor was it ever intended to be. It was founded by a coalition of various Christians and deists (which is what atheists and agnostics back in the 18th century called themselves to avoid getting burned at the stake). It was bankrolled by a Jew, Haim Solomon. Look him up. None of this information is secret. It's freely available to anybody who possesses the courage and integrity to click on Google or Wikipedia.

The deal between all of them is that religion would be separate from politics, that we would not make public policy on the basis of our mystical beliefs. Christians are trying to break that deal now, which is too bad. People in other nations, historically, have murdered each other over theological disputes. We have not, but we might start, if the Christians won't stop welching on the bargain their ancestors made.

While we're at it, let's lay off the Muslims. If we Americans were judged by the actions and attitudes of a few dogwhistles like Jerry Falwell and Donald Wildmon, we would resent the hell out of it—most of us would, anyway—and yet we're supposed to judge a billion and a half individuals by the actions and attitudes of the very worst among them?

How Christian is that?

Islam is at the same stage in its history—their current year is 1430—as our culture was during the Inquisition. Everybody who is not insanely religious over there (a vast majority) is afraid of those who are. What westerners need to do is encourage the development of a secular culture in the middle east, one that we can get along with. Dropping bombs on people, killing pregnant widows and ten-year-old goat herds, cutting millions of kids off with embargos on food and medicine, and destroying whole villages in order to save them is not a good way to accomplish that. Getting out of their faces will work much better.

I agree with you that trying to remove religion from the holiday season is evil, stupid, and insane. I've been an atheist all my life, and yet I love the season. I like Christmas and I always have. To me it celebrates the wonders of capitalism and the accomplishments of the unfettered individual. Still, I don't mind hearing about Jesus (poor kid's birthday was on Christmas)) in a manager, any more than I mind hearing about Santa Claus, Scrooge, Rudolph, Frosty, Scott Calvin, or Martin Riggs.

But the winter holiday does not belong exclusively to Christians. They've simply appropriated it from those who came before them. Jesus was born, I hear, in another part of the year, but people have always needed a big, noisy, colorful party in the middle of a dreary winter. There's also Chanukah and Saturnalia. The earliest such celebration I can find any trace of is Zagmuk, rejoicing by the Mesopotamians over the victory of the Babylonian god-king Marduk against the forces of Chaos.

I'd say we could use a little of that right now, wouldn't you?

So although it's a bit premature, Happy Zagmuk, and a rational New Year

Four-time Prometheus Award-winner L. Neil Smith has been called one of the world's foremost authorities on the ethics of self-defense. He is the author of more than 25 books, including The American Zone, Forge of the Elders, Pallas, The Probability Broach, Hope (with Aaron Zelman), and his collected articles and speeches, Lever Action, all of which may be purchased through his website "The Webley Page" at

Ceres, an exciting sequel to Neil's 1993 Ngu family novel Pallas is currently running as a free weekly serial at

Neil is presently at work on Ares, the middle volume of the epic Ngu Family Cycle, and on Where We Stand: Libertarian Policy in a Time of Crisis with his daughter, Rylla.

See stunning full-color graphic-novelizations of The Probability Broach and Roswell, Texas which feature the art of Scott Bieser at Dead-tree versions may be had through the publisher, or at where you will also find Phoenix Pick editions of some of Neil's earlier novels. Links to Neil's books at are on his website


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