Angels are everywhere at this time of year. The Christmas stories of the gospels of Matthew and Luke have made them an indelible part of the tradition. It’s not unusual for entirely secular individuals to be decorating with them and they are generally without controversy in public displays of holiday spirit. A colleague once asked me why Americans were so credulous when it comes to a belief in angels—the numbers of believers are quite high, statistically. I wonder if it’s because we need them. Considering that the Republican Party is the Evangelical’s party, it’s no small wonder that even atheists embrace angels. We all could use a little help from on high. This time of year, such hope can be disguised behind tinsel and bows.
America must seem a strange country to those who immigrate (or had immigrated, when that was possible). We wear our religiosity—and this is not the same thing as true religion—not only on our Christmas trees, but even on billboards by decidedly secular highways. It’s as if even all the things America stands for, such as love of money, guns, and automobiles, only hold together with the saccharine glue of a sickly sweet religion. A Bible-believing nation that has no idea what the Bible actually says and lauds a president who breaks at least a commandment a day and gains no reprimands. We have shown our red neck to the rest of the world and yee-haw we are proud of it. And we got the Good Book to prove it.
After all this shakes out we’ll be needing some angels, I suspect. My colleague felt that sophisticates, big city skeptics, ought to be more willing to dismiss unenlightened beliefs such as those in spiritual beings. The thing is, spiritual beings serve a very useful purpose. They keep us honest—and I don’t mean in an Evangelical way; I’ve seen Evangelical honesty and it’s as corrupt as the Devil. No, I mean that angels are important to show that we have hope. Maybe they are secular angels—even the Bible doesn’t give any description of them at all, so how can you tell a secular from a religious angel? That lack of pedigree doesn’t mean we don’t want them watching over us. Belief is an important part of being human, secular or not. The billboard space tends to go to those who want your money, and that applies to the ones that appear to be religious as well. If this is the way the religious behave, we’d better hope there are angels everywhere.