So, I found this today via the Friendly Atheist, and I really thought this was a parody. I simply cannot believe that real people, trying to make a real point, could be so unaware.
Wait, yes I can. But it hurts to think about it, because I really want to like our species, but find so many reasons not to.
So, a man admits his infidelity (his “adultery”) to his wife, with his accomplice at hand, and offers the argument that if she loves him, she has to love his adultery. And she accepts it, even so far as to write up some placards to support this publicly. Of course, the primary analogy is between accepting of the sin (of homosexuality/adultery) of the sinners we should love. You know, “love the sinner hate the sin” and other hilariously stupid ideas derived from the absurdity of Christian theology.
But also, this video is hilarious (unintentionally) while simultaneously frustrating. And, of course, the first thing I thought (when deciding whether it was a parody) was that this was a poly triad making a video mocking Christians. But since this seems legit I’m just going to have to pose the question of whether poly people should take offense at this video or not. I mean, this is clearly in the wheelhouse of the argument that homosexual marriage will lead to thing like group marriage, sex with alpacas, and whatever else Christians fantasize about when denying that their worldview is as crazy as a pack of rabid hyenas on coke. But are the Christians who made this even aware of the overt similarity to polyamory here in this video? Is it making fun of us?
This is the sort of video you would expect an LGBT group to make to mock Christians’ narrow-minded thinking on the subject… Instead, the Christians here went ahead and did the work for them. They’re proving to the world how badly they don’t get it.
They are mocking themselves, without being aware of it.
See, what a video like this does is exposes the lack of self-awareness of people who make it. Think of it this way; could we here at polyskeptic have made this exact video (with us in it, of course), and had it be a parody? Could we have written it much better to make the point of the absurdity of the conservative Christian worldview in relation to such issues as homosexuality? No, I don’t think so.
The nonchalance of the wife in this video, in reaction to her husband admitting adultery while holding hands with another woman is done for the sake of comedy. The tension here is between an obviously not-acceptable situation of direct, in-your-face cheating along side the subsequent calm acceptance, tolerance, and ultimate capitulation to it. Of course nobody is going to respond calmly to such a situation. Of course these things are sinful and wrong. Of course this is comedy gold. Just not for the reasons they intended.
The English idiom “of course” here is also telling. It implies following the expected (mainstream) set of behaviors. Except the “of course” used above is said mockingly, because that set of expectations only occurs within the rigid bounds of a monogamous (Christian, in this case) world. My hope is that the fact that this video misses the point about homosexuality and the standard tropes about monogamy are equally understood by people. I hope that this video is not just absurd because of the stupid analogy between “sins,” but because it teases itself where monogamy lies.
Because my worry is that for many people the calmness and acceptance of the quasi-polyamorous circumstance portrayed here will be missed. That the effect of the joke will be at being offended by the effectiveness of the analogy. The video is saying that just like the idea that your wife would calmly accept your “adultery” is absurd, so is the idea that we should accept homosexuality. And the problem is that, for many people, this will land. I am willing to bet that the producers of this video would be gobsmacked if they saw people who would accept what they would deem as “adultery” with calmness. Granted, the actual act in the video is not polyamory, but the tension of the joke is embedded in the idea that no woman (or man, especially in a patriarchal system) would accept their spouse having another lover. Without that “of course,” the joke cannot land, and we are left with the presentation of the equal acceptability of homosexuality and sexual non-exclusivity.
Sounds about right to me.
When I watched it all I saw was a hilarious pseudo-advertisement for polyamory via unintentional self-parody. I saw the absurdity of having an issue with homosexuality compared to the absurdity of jealousy, exclusiveness, and monogamy. And not only am I not offended but I have a wry and mischievous smile on my face. I love it when Christians do the work for me, I only wish they could understand it.
I was paying some admittedly shadenfreudal attention to the non-events of the last weekend. On Saturday, when Jesus was supposed to be coming back to judge the world in order to prepare us for the end of it all, I was enjoying a nice day with my beautiful girlfriend and enjoying a beer.
When nothing happened, as we expected, I was willing to just let it go. I knew most Christians did not take it seriously, and those that did were feeling bad enough, most-likely.
“On May 21 this last weekend…God again brought Judgment on the world…We didn’t feel any difference,” he says, “but we know that God brought Judgment” on the world. “The whole world is under Judgment.”
and then, minutes later:
“May 21 Was A Spiritual Coming, Where We Had Thought It Was a Spiritual Coming.”
“It won’t be a five-month terrible difficulty…that we have learned,” said Camping. Instead, he says, the world will end quickly on Oct. 21 without any build up.
The Media is summing this up in this way: The real end will be October 21st (like he’s been saying all along), but Saturday was a “spiritual judgment.” He said the same thing last night about 1994, in fact, which should tell you something in itself. The bottom line is that we have been judged, but we feel no different. It’s sort of like how having no soul feels like having a spiritual soul.
Spiritual and Nonexistent
A couple of years ago, on one of may favorite atheist productions out there, Tracie Harris made a comparison between 3 jars.
In the first, there were dice. She talks about how we can demonstrate that they exist by seeing them, hearing hem, etc. In the other two jars, no contents were visible, audible, or otherwise detectable. A second one was referred to as filled with transcendent, supernatural dice, and ththird one as filled with nonexistent dice. The point being that since there is no detectable difference between supernatural things and nonexistent things, there is no actual difference.
Harold Camping’s “spiritual” judgment is just like these transcendent and supernatural dice; we can’t tell the difference, and so it is the same as if it had not happened. Camping has to demonstrate 1) That here is some being or force that could judge us and 2) that there is any way to determine that this has occurred. So far, all I have seen are baseless assertions.
I think the time is well passed that we ignore Harold Camping. Perhaps we should have done so before, but it is clear that he is either dishonest and therefore repugnant, or he is delusional and incapable of discerning truth from fiction. In either case, this reinterpretation of October 21st as the real end is just becoming embarrassing, and any one who believes it really needs to reconsider their theological and epistemological bases for thinking so. Anyone who still believes Harold Camping is long out of excuses
Please, can’t we just abandon this rapture concept, specifically dated or not, already? Can’t we just realize that this project of Christianity has given up the ghost, and Christians are just necrophiliacs for the corpse of a doctrine that was, at best, a Frankenstein-esque monstrosity of a religion?
The reason for the season? If you ask many a Christian this week about what the reason for all of these lights, decorated trees, Mistletoe, gift-giving and merriment is, they will inevitably say that Jesus is the reason for the season. After all, that is what this coming holiday is all about, right? Jesus’ birthday (did you remember to get him a gift?)
But the history of this holiday is much murkier than that. Today, I want to trace some of the influences on how we celebrate Christmas by taking a quick glance of the obvious pagan roots of the holiday while noticing how little it fits in with a conservative image of Christianity (more about that here). Heck, it may not even fit in well with most liberal ones.
Briefly, Christmas is the result of the Church, for hundreds of years, trying to incorporate pagan traditions into their own in order to more easily bring pagans into Christianity. By melding pagan traditions with stories about Jesus Christ, not only did it calm the pagans down by allowing them to keep their traditions, it subsequently created the Christmas we celebrate today, with little of it deriving from the Bible.
The New Testament is all about Jesus. Jesus did this, that, and some other things and some people wrote about them. One of those things was being born (supposedly). And in this being born some people came, bringing gifts, and then years of apparent nothing before he was much older and wiser (and, apparently, he was God)
But when did this happen? The bottom line is that we do not know. What we do know is that it did not happen on the date December 25th (or any corollary date of another calendar), not even likely that time of year. Scholars simply do not know, because the records that we have are not clear about when this event would have happened, if it ever did happen. Most guesses seem to think that the Spring was much more likely, and some dates such as March 28th, May 20th, and even September 11th exist as guesses.
Concerning what year Jesus was born, we are not clear either . The Catholic Church is even clear that the date probably did not happen in the year 1 AD (or the year 0, for that matter). The bottom line is that nobody is sure of what Jesus’ birthday is, let alone how old he is exactly. I guess it really doesn’t matter. The idea is that we set a day aside (sorry, a month aside) to celebrate this event. The important thing is that we have a time of year where we can celebrate good Christian things, right?
Back in Roman days, they had their own festivals. For a week at the end of the year, starting on December 17th, the Empire would start their Saturnalia festivities. During this week, and among other activities, Romans would choose an “enemy of the Roman people,” whom they would feed, pleasure, and generally fatten them up…for the kill. Literally! They would murder them at the end of the festivities as the representation of evil or the “Lord of Misrule.” It was sort of like the old scapegoat idea from the ancient Jews. Now we are starting to see how it connects to Jesus, right?
See, the problem is that when, in the 4th century, the Roman Empire officially accepted and then adopted Christianity as the religion of Rome, not everyone was happy about it. See, in addition to the fattening up and killing of some (probably) innocent person, there was also sexual license (sometimes meaning rape) and other merriment going on that week of Saturnalia which people seemed to like.
Thus, it was decided that in order to keep the (pagan) people happy, Christians were permitted to continue celebrating Saturnalia and to make the last day of the festival, December 25th, as the birthday of Jesus. Never mind that Mithra already had a birthday on that date, and that it looked like Jesus had already stolen a bunch of things from this older pagan god (such as being the mediator between god and man, being the way to obtain immortality, came to save humanity from evil, etc), because Jesus Christ was trendy while Mithra was sooo 6th century BC.
Get with the times, man!
Is the Sun invincible?
Speaking of Mithra….
See, those pagans, with their silly beliefs, had this idea that around the end of December the days suddenly started getting longer. Many stories likened this to the sun dying throughout the year, and for a few days it just seemed to be that the days stopped getting shorter and then, in turn, longer again. This was seen as a cause for celebration that the sun will not die and the next year will come after all. That’s a good thing, according to ancient pagans.
Mithra has many stories associated with him. His association with the sun is well-known, especially by the ancient pagans (who might be around still, since Mithra was supposed to provide immortality as well as save them from evil). So one of the important days for those that followed the Mithraic rituals was December 25th, the dies natalis solis invicti, or ‘the birthday of the invincible sun.’ Due to the existing pagan holiday and the Church’s desire to incorporate pagan people into the Christian world, Jesus’ birthday was associated with this date during the 4th century.
Santa knows if you have been naughty or Nicaea
The 4th century was a pivotal time for the development of Christianity. In 325 CE, after Constantine solidified his control of the Roman Empire at the battle of Milvian Bridge (313 CE), Constantine wanted to make sure that his Empire would have a central and official Church that could be a solidifying force for the people throughout. To do so, he would have to settle the various disputes between the churches. Thus he convened the Council of Nicaea in 325.
Besides voting on which books to include into the canonical Bible, the council created the Nicene Creed, which defined the orthodox teachings about who Jesus was, what happened to him, etc. Up for grabs was whether Jesus was a man, the son of God, or God himself. Athanasius’ view won out over others, such as Arius who was considered a heretic afterward. But we are straying from the point.
One of the senior Bishops who attended this council was the Bishop of Myra, who was born Nicholas of Parara, Turkey (270-346 CE). He was a popular and influential Bishop who had followers for many centuries after his death. In the 11th century his bones, considered holy relics, were moved to Bari, Italy. During this time the relics, as well as Nicholas’ image and persona, was associated with a pagan goddess called Pasqua Epiphania, who was known for leaving gifts in children’s stockings according to legend.
Eventually, people would start to give gifts to each other on January 6th, which was the date of Nicholas’ death. This tradition spread to the Germanic and Celtic people later, who further associated the image of Bishop Nicholas with their god Wodon (where we get the word ‘Wednesday’). Wodon had a long white beard and rode a horse through the heavens in autumn, according to the mythology.
Eventually the Catholic Church, in its continued attempts to integrate pagans into the Church, adopted the Nicholas cult into official Catholic tradition. They changed the date of the traditions of gift-giving and so forth to December 25th to coincide with the changed accepted date of Jesus’ birth.
During the 19th century Nicholas became Saint Nicholas. The imagery of the god Wodon with Saint Nick had already taken root throughout much of Europe. But in 1809, with Washington Irving’s Knicherbocker History, we see (satirically) a reference to this image of Saint Nicholas as the Wodon-like, flying-horse riding, white-bearded man who was referred to as Santa Claus, which was the Dutch name of this derived image.
In 1822, Dr. Clement Moore wrote a poem, partially based upon Irving’s book, called A visit from St. Nicholas which goes something like this:
‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;
It was here that we see the image of Santa Clause appear, with his blending of images from Wodon, Pasqua Epiphania, and other images such as the replacement of Wodon’s horse with eight flying reindeer. This is a poem we still listen to this time of year, but very few of us know where the images come from.
Later, with the drawings of Thomas Nast, who invented the ideas of elves, the North Pole, and his list of naughty and nice children, the image comes closer to our own. It was not until 1931, when Coca Cola developed the red suit (to match their red labels), that the Santa we know today come to be.
The evolution from influential Bishop to red-suited jolly man with elves came over 1500 years. And it was the efforts of the secular marketing industry that sealed it for us. Thus, the images of Santa, the central image of Christmas today in many ways, is entirely based upon mixed pagan folklore and consumerist imagery.
Jews and Christmas
Jews did not start celebrating Hanukkah as a major holiday until relatively recently. This was probably due, at least in part, to the fact that they had no Christmas to celebrate and wanted a party of their own. And they beat out the Roman’s week long celebration of Saturnalia by upping the ante to eight days. Competitive and innovative, the Jewish people can be quite often.
But Christmas has not always been a time for Jews to have a nice day off to do whatever they do on December 25th now. In the past, Jews were often harassed, humiliated, their property destroyed, and in some cases they were even killed.
In 1466, Pope Paul II made the Jews run naked through the town. In the 18th and 19th centuries many forms of anti-Jewish sentiment prevailed. In 1881 in Warsaw, Poland 12 Jews were killed, many more maimed, and property destroyed. Christmas was a time for fear throughout much of Europe for Jews. Anti-Jewishness runs deep in Christian history, and a lot of it was expressed during Christmas time.
In a post-NAZI era, we often forget that the hate of Jews was rampant in the Christian world. We forget that ghettos, stereotypes, and false ideas about Jews killing and eating Christian babies were common. And with heightened emotions, pressures, and so forth that still exist around this time of year someone had to be blamed. It was often the Jews who felt the brunt of that.
So, what about the Trees and such?
Decorating trees was also a part of pagan tradition. The Ashiera cult was known for decorating, painting, and otherwise displaying trees as part of their worship. This was even known to that ancient prophet Jeremiah, who wrote thus about it:
10:1 Hear ye the word which the LORD speaketh unto you, O house of Israel:
10:2 Thus saith the LORD, Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them.
10:3 For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe.
10:4 They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not.
10:5 They are upright as the palm tree, but speak not: they must needs be borne, because they cannot go. Be not afraid of them; for they cannot do evil, neither also is it in them to do good.
But in a further attempt to placate the Germanic pagans, this tradition was largely adopted by Christians and has become part of our celebrations. Some Christians are aware of the verses from Jeremiah quoted above, but most either don’t care or claim that Jeremiah is not actually talking about Christmas trees. Well, technically he wasn’t, but he was talking about a similar pagan tradition that did ultimately inspire Christmas trees. A few Christians don’t put up Christmas trees for this reason.
Some Christians, due to the pagan influenced nature of the holiday, don’t celebrate Christmas at all. In Massachusetts, from 1659-1681 for example, Christmas was banned by the Puritans. So much for the traditional American holiday being part of what America is all about. I guess the Puritans didn’t know anything about traditional America. Of course many Christians celebrated anyway, despite Puritanical views. Thus, our traditional holiday is still strong.
So, the next time you are under some Mistletoe, (derived from the pagan story of Baldar, who was killed by Hoder with a Mistletoe arrow while fighting over some apparently hot chick named Nanna), remember that we kiss under it because of the sexual license of the old Roman Saturnalia. But, remember also that Mistletoe was a sacrificial poison used by Druids in order to perform human sacrifices. I know that makes me want to do some kissing!
It’s just a fun tradition!
I know. I get that it is no longer about these old pagan traditions, at least not for most people. I also know that for most people it is not about Jesus. This should make sense since it’s association with Jesus is shaky anyway.
I know people like pretty trees, lights (not to mention Yule logs), and good food with people they love. All of this is great, and I would not ask anyone to stop celebrating. I love to celebrate. My personal view is that there is little of meaning in the holiday itself that I want to be a part of. I am all about getting together, eating good food, etc., and so I like the parties and gatherings that happen this time of year.
But I don’t say “merry Christmas” because it is not the holiday I am celebrating but rather life in general. It is not the day that makes me want to do these things, it is just my nature that does.
Nor do I write “X-mas.” The reason is that the “X” is not supposed to take Christ out and make it secular. The “X” is one of the oldest symbols of Christ. The ancient Christians would write the “X”, which is how the Greeks wrote the letter “chi” which Christ starts with in Greek, to symbolize their Christianity. The common symbol of Jesus from early on, which is still used, is the Chi-Rho symbol, which is an expansion of the simple “X” first used.
Thus X-mas is not an atheist or generally secular creation to get Christ out of Christmas. It is a reference to an ancient Christian symbol, and is thus more likely to take the pagan Santa out of Christmas. But either way, Pagan or Christian, Christmas does not suit me. I prefer not to participate in the rituals and so forth. You do what you like, and enjoy however you do it.