POLITICS

Battles over religion increase in the holiday season

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Debates and even lawsuits over the separation of church and state have gotten more serious and tumultuous in recent years, especially at the holiday season.

Christians say they are under attack--from the skeleton Santa crucified on the Loudoun County Courthouse lawn this week to the current Metro bus ads: "Don't believe in a god? Join the club."

Critics, skeptics and non-believers are speaking up.

"Our numbers are increasing," says Rick Wingrove of NOVA Atheists. "We're in every town. We're the fastest-growing--I guess you could call it 'religious segment'--in 50 states."

While 76 percent of Americans still say they're Christian, that's down 10 percent from 1990, partly because of the rise of Islam.

But 15 percent have no religious preference or don't believe in God at all, close to double what it was a decade ago.

And while many say political correctness has run amok, and churches worry about declining attendance, others are keeping the faith.

"People have been trying to do this since the very beginning," says Father William Byrne, pastor of St. Peter's Church. "Herod himself 2.000 years ago tried to stop the first Christmas. And it didn't work. And it never will work, because truth and love will always win."

But atheists say they're the ones who have been discriminated against for all these years. And now they are speaking up.

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