Monday, December 24, 2007

Defending Christianity and Christmas

Part of the reason I wrote Simon Peter is because a lot of atheists have this respect for the person of Jesus that I find bizarre. Even when they reject the supernaturalist claims of religion, they often think that Jesus is this wise man, or legitimate social reformer, or all these high sounding positions with all these lofty goals. In my reading of the Gospels, Jesus is just another fake as liar pretending to have supernatural powers to satisfy his ego, who (like most other "messiahs") committed suicide by challenging the state to a contest of wills. And when atheists and those opposed to the inevitable excesses of Christianity then turn around and support Jesus they're supporting Christianity.

Now, the same seems to be true with Christmas, too. If a person actually rejects Christianity, why do almost all atheists I know, usually without any real comment, celebrate the chief religious holiday of the Christian faith?

When pressed, the only even semi-good answer that is given is that Christmas is actually pretty secularized. (The answer that it is tradition is nonsense. At one time, for all atheists, all of religion was traditional, and there are lots of things that were traditional - slavery, monarchy, whatever - that we're better off without. The answer of "it's tradition" is, to me, deeply . . . ill-considered.) Of course, to some extent that is true. But it's like atheists who take Jesus "seriously". Sure, you can secularize the message of Jesus, claim he was a wise man social reformer against Jewish and Roman corruption who spoke in religious terms because that's the paradigm he existed in. And, yes, Christmas can be secularized to be about . . . whatever it's supposed to be about. Honestly. I can't take seriously that it's about anything other than greed once divested of religion.

But at the same time that we're secularlizing Christmas, Christians are using that as a justification to intrude their religion into public social spaces, for instance. Because Christmas is for "everyone" - because non-Christians have bought into it being "secular" - you have public nativity scenes, Christmas trees, a complete barrage of religious themed music that permeates every level of society, and a whole month where religious people are allowed to shove their faith down everyone's throat.

It seems to me that if atheists are serious about rejecting Christianity, they should be serious about not celebrating the primary religious holiday of the Christian faith. And I think that this is a no-brainer. I've even got some suggestions about the subject.

First, tell your friends and family about your disinterest in celebrating the holiday. Second, suggest an alternative. Say . . . New Year's. It's as celebrated as Christmas is, in the same season, all that.

Some people will argue that it's about "family". It's a time for family to get together. That's an argument of emotional blackmail, I think. And, let's not forget, that just a month earlier there was another family holiday in the US, Thanksgiving. And a week after Christmas there is another holiday that could easily be turned into a family holiday, that being New Year's. It would be trivially easy to make any one of another holidays about the same bonding issues that happen in Christmas, say Labor Day. I like Labor Day. People could get together in a spirit of solidarity with their friends and family to exchange gifts, emotionally bond, all that, in peace and harmony. There is no good reason, I think, for atheists to continue to celebrate this overtly religious holiday that, even when secularlized, gives Christians a justification to thrust their religion onto our public life and society with atheists aiding and abetting them.

Down with Christmas!


ThunderDragon said...

Thanksgiving, however, is a specifically American invention - no-one else in the rest of the world celebrates it [ie. almost everyone]. And, of course, a festival at this time of year long preceded Jesus or Christianity.

Religious freedom should mean that all religious festivals can be celebrated in public, no matter the religion.

I think that you are really, really overreacting. to Christmas.

Chris Bradley said...

Which is why I also brought up, repeatedly, New Year's. I was just saying that what happens on Christmas already happens at other times of the year, and could be expanded to do so even moreso on those occasions.

And who cares what happened 2000 years ago? Sheesh. I'm more concerned with what's happening *now*. I know that human religious are littered with religious holidays around the solstice. But . . . so? Right now, in the world I actually live in, it's Christmas I'm talking about.

But, no, religious freedom is not the right to publicly practice a given faith. Or, rather, it is not the right to use religion as a means to use public resources for the promotion of your faith, because in the US at least, that's also specifically illegal - but happens constantly with numerous religious paraphenalia sponsored on public grounds, trees and Nativities and the singing of religious music funded by the state, blah, blah, blah. Which is pretty clearly establishment of religion.

And maybe I am overreacting, but if Christmas isn't a big deal, then why put forth all this effort into it? The importance of Christmas sabotages your own argument, I think. It is important. If it's important enough to go through all the effort of doing, I think it's fair to say that effort is promoting a religion and that atheists should stop doing it.

handmaiden said...

Hi Chris. L>T here i don't know If I've commented on your blog since i've changed to my handmaiden blog. come & visit.

I agree with what you are saying & I'm guilty. For the last couple of years I have been dragged gripping & complaining into going along with the Christmas charade ... & I hate it.
You said, First, tell your friends and family about your disinterest in celebrating the holiday. I've done that. Unfortunately, the pressure comes from the family that I love & they would be very disappointed if i didn't go along with the celebration. so, there you go...I did come up with a bit of a solution here this year. It made me feel better anyway.

Down With Christmas!

Chris Bradley said...

I shall check it out!

And I'm less frustrated at atheists and people of our ilk who are emotionally blackmailed or go to Christmas celebrations under obligation or duress than those who actively praise the season. I mean, I dig that there are all these big family gatherings at Christmas and the like, and people have a lot of social reasons to attend them, but the downright praise for the holiday - the holy day - mystifies me.

CresceNet said...

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