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Putting the Christ back in Christmas December 8, 2012

Posted by shaunphilly in Skepticism and atheism.
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I do love DarkMatter2525’s videos, and this latest one is no exception.  This is sort of brilliant.

The Christian story is disgusting and, from my point of view, immoral.  And while I’m no fan of Christmas, it is greatly improved as an old Roman/Pagan holiday about the solstice, gift-giving, and merry-making.

Abolishing Resolution 58-10 (Winter displays in West Chester, PA) November 28, 2012

Posted by shaunphilly in Religion, Skepticism and atheism.
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Commissioner Terence Farrell

*edit*

There is a public meeting in West Chester tomorrow morning at 10:00 AM where people will be able to speak on behalf of abolishing Resolution 58-10.  Here’s the information:

313 W. Market St.
West Chester, 19380

6th floor

Margaret Downey has just sent out a request for help concerning the issue of displays, including the Tree of Knowledge, at the West Chester courthouse.  Here is her request:

We have one and a half days to flood the office of Commissioner Terence Farrell with messages asking him to abolish Resolution 58-10. He is voting on Thursday afternoon so we need people to immediately request that he allow other displays on the grounds of the Chester County Courthouse. We want the Commissioners to give us back our Free Speech Zone.

Here is the contact information for Commissioner Farrell who is the swing vote. Please contact Farrell’s office — no matter where you live. Say that if a Tree of Knowledge display was allowed back on the grounds, you would travel to West Chester to see it. This will bring money into the community and proves that the Commissioners understand the diversity of the community! Get passionate about your rights and freedom of expression. Please act now.

Commissioner Terence Farrell
313 West Market Street
Suite 6202
West Chester, PA  19380
610.344.6100
610.344.5995 (fax)
tfarrell@chesco.org

Carol Everhart Roper has an article up about this as well, which also links to  the petition (which is now closed).  Still, we have an opportunity to change some minds, if we act now.

Merry Christmas Pagans! (reprise) December 13, 2011

Posted by shaunphilly in Culture and Society.
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A couple of years ago I wrote this little brief history of Christmas which showed how the holiday was derived from Pagan traditions and had little to do with Jesus.  If you have not yet read it, take a look.

I was prompted to bring it up because I saw this video (H/T Hemant Mehta) just now and it touches a lot of the same points (Although my post covers more).

So, merry whatever everyone!

Holiday warfare November 27, 2011

Posted by shaunphilly in Culture and Society, Religion.
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Ugh, I really get annoyed by this time of year.  I’m referring to the time after Thanksgiving and right up until the New Year’s celebrations.  You know, the last month of Fall, when winter descends upon us, the days get shortest, and for some reason people do a lot of shopping?  You know…Christmas time.  Oh, do I mean the holidays? Yeah, whatever.

I get annoyed by the consumerism, the obligatory gift-giving that commences at the culmination of the season, and the false expectation of joy that permeates it all.  Yeah, I know, hum bug or someshit.

And now on top of it is the ideas of a war on Christmas.  You know, the cultural conversation about “holidays” rather than “Christmas.”  The privileged status of the Christian/secular Christmas becomes annoying to those of us who don’t like the tattered remains of the religious holiday (which is ultimately pagan anyway) nor the secular outgrowth of that tradition.  Many people, like myself (and my acquaintance Tom Flynn), just feel that the day or so holiday should not be stretched into a month.

But, then there are the parties.  Parties where people drink more eggnog than they should.  Parties where you get to sometimes see another side of your co-workers than you do the rest of the year.  Parties where friends and family who live far away some times come around.  Parties with cookies, candy, warm drinks and various levels of tacky holiday decorations which are both colorful, lively, and (at least to me) hideous.  It’s like the best and worst aspects of our culture become magnified.

No, I think that is precisely it.  Our culture begins to express itself more loudly and the imperfections and relative awesomeness becomes pronounced.  It’s like all the things that bubble under the surface become overt, taking life and becoming part of the common conversation.  Where differences and intimacies are usually subdued in the name of pragmatism and rote behavior, something about this time of year trips up the conventionality of every day life and both exposes our differences via the culture wars and allows us to act more warmly towards each other.  Perhaps its the opening up to each other which exposes those differences.  Either way, it is what happens.

Of course, there are still people who quietly endure under the threat of this exposure.  Men and women, boys and girls, who sit at dinner with family and quietly disbelieve in the grace or sermon being recited.  Polite smiles despite sitting a few feet from a family member, co-worker, or religious leader who is hated, feared, or perhaps merely tolerated.  There are emotions of desperation which come closer to the surface, felt more severely due to the presence of people and rituals which cause false intimacy and bring together the people who you usually do not associate with.

But for many others it becomes a time to enumerate, elucidate, and explore the differences, disagreements, and values which either adhere or rip apart our society.  It becomes a time to expose the privilege of religious majority, to become closer to those with whom we share values and history, and to quite literally gather for warmth created by both said intimacy and the friction of those differences.

It is a powderkeg of our culture, bring closer to the surface all of our various interactions with each other.  It exposes the cracks in our culture or, for some, heals some of those cracks.  It is a strange brew on inauthentic pretending and rubbing together of wounds and scabs which leads to a meta-level authenticity which is so rare in our culture.

It is a thing worth more study.

I sort of like this time of year.

Merry Christmas, pagans! December 21, 2009

Posted by shaunphilly in religion, atheism, polyamory, culture.
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Some say Mrs. Claus is with him because he's hung....

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.

Jesus Christ!

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)

Bill Donohue is going to sue me...

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?


Saturn’s Alias

Saturnalia

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?

Not quite.

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….

Sol Invictus

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.

Bishop Nicholas of Myra

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;

etc.

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.

1931 image of Santa Claus from a Coca-Cola ad.

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.

A Jimmy Willing rendition of a cut and decorated tree

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.

I wish you all a good day, whatever day it is.

For more detail about the history of Christmas, check this out.

What do atheists do for Christmas? December 21, 2009

Posted by shaunphilly in religion, atheism, polyamory, culture.
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Happy Solstice everyone!

I know, I’m not a pagan, but I do sort of like the idea of celebrating astronomically-inspired holidays.  They are so much more preferable to those holidays that copied off of the pagan ones.  You now, like Christmas.

So, what do atheists do on December 25th? Well, that all depends.  Many, probably most, celebrate Christmas with their families.  Christmas has become, after all, a secular holiday here in the United States, so why shouldn’t they if that’s what they enjoy?

Some do the old Jewish tradition of eating Chinese food, catch a movie, or just relax with a day off.  I have done this myself with some Jewish friends in the past.

Some atheists work on this day so that their Christian co-workers can have the day off.  That’s nice of them.  Plus they might get paid extra for working on a holiday.  Bonus!

So, what do I do? Well, I have traditionally spent Christmas with my family, but I have never really liked the holiday that much.  I am not a fan of the consumerism, awkward family gatherings, and I am certainly not Christian.  I’m not even convinced that Jesus was a historical figure, let alone believing the mythology about his birth.

So Christmas is not a big deal for me, and I stopped celebrating some years back. I insisted that people don’t give me gifts either, because I felt hypocritical taking gifts on a holiday that I didn’t want to celebrate.  My parents still do get me something, but to a lesser extent than they did when I was younger.

But this year, I will be participating in something new.  My girlfriend and I will be be going to my friend Brian Sapient‘s house to celebrate the annual ChristMyAss festivities.  Yes, that’s right folks, that’s Sapient of the Rational Response Squad.

Since I moved out of the Philadelphia area, I have not been able to see Brian or many others from my home town, but come the holidays I will be back in Philly.  And while I am there, I’ll be live on webcam (no, not that kind of live on webcam, pervs…) for your viewing and listening pleasure.

The details of the webcast are as follows.

Place: http://www.rationalresponders.com/rrs_webcam_room (stickam.com)

Date: December 25th, 2009 (AKA Christmas)

Time:

Chat etc: 2:00 PM

Live on Webcam: 6:00-9:00

Stop by early for some chat, music, and introductions, and stay later for the same.  Brian, Seana, and I will be on from 6-9, then we will commit ourselves to a few drinks and hanging out.  I wonder if bars will be open in his area.  It will be Friday night….

I hope to see you there.  What else do you have to do on a Friday evening in late December?

The War on Christmas December 1, 2009

Posted by shaunphilly in religion, atheism, polyamory, culture.
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Over the last few years I have noticed, every time Thanksgiving comes around, this issue arise.  It arises in different places, with slightly different issues, but it arises nonetheless.  For those of you that don’t know what I’m talking about, allow me to induct you into some crazy:

Now, I do not wish to hold up Bill O’Reilly as the standard here, but this is a fight he picks and he speaks for a fair amount of people.  O’Reilly and others on that side (pdf) of this issue seem to think that those of us on the other side want to take away people’s holidays. Why would we want to do that?

Let’s use a couple of recent examples.

In West Chester, PA, there is some trouble getting a “Tree of Knowledge” erected next to the courthouse.  They city could not legally prevent the Freethought Society of Greater Philadelphia from putting it up, so they had to capitulate, although reluctantly.  Thank the FSM for the law forcing people to be fair.  We’ll see what happens next, as the last I heard a creche was put in the only spot the tree easily fit.  Updates to come….

In Chambersburg PA, right in the center of town, is a little public space.  Carl Silverman, a man I have met several times, is a member of PA Nonbelievers (PAN), an organization I have worked with several times, but am not a member of myself.  Chambersburg seems to understand that if they can allow something like a Christmas decoration–say a creche–to be displayed on public ground then another group can put up a display of their own.  There are a bunch of details (and if you wan them you can find them here, here, and here (don’t forget the comments from those loving Christians on that last one).  The bottom line is that the city didn’t just reject the display from PAN, knowing that would be egregiously illegal (it is good that they were aware enough for that), but instead said that no display from anyone would be allowed.  Whether PAN will sue due to viewpoint discrimination or not is to be seen.

But I don’t want to dig into these particular issues any more, while I did want to mention then because they are timely and relevant.  What I wish to explore is the issue itself in the larger view.  Why are Christians so touchy about other displays going up (and not all are, certainly), and why do other people wish to put up their other displays when it is Christmas time?

Well, that’s it right there; it is not Christmas time.  As I write this, it is barely December, let alone December 25th.  And during the next several weeks we will see many holidays.  There will be that Jewish one, that one based upon African traditions, and then there is that one on the 25th, you know, Mithras’ birthday.  Oh, right, Jesus’ birthday too (although even Christians should know that it is likely not his real birthday, if he ever had one).  I get Jesus and Mithra mixed up all the time.

So, this is not the Christmas season, then; at least not wholly.  It is the end of the Fall season (here above the equator anyway), and it is a time when, symbolically, the world dies and, for a few days, there is a transition from the days getting shorter to the days getting longer.  That is, the return of light into the world, the coming of the Son (I meant to type the ‘sun’, of course) into the world, which has been celebrated by many cultures for millennia as a time of year of transition with the various mythologies that accompany the seasonal changes. Christianity is no different.

This time of year is for mythologies of the returning light into the world, and thus a good time of year to have holidays, celebrations, and so forth to keep up our spirits (or a time to find ways to increase the appropriate hormones and neurotransmitters to make us feel happy) in the colder and darker time of year.  For this primarily Christian culture (notice how I didn’t say ‘nation’?) it would then be expected that part of our traditional practice would be to do things like put up nativity scenes, Santas, or Christmas trees, despite what Jeremiah says:

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.

Now, whether or not this is actually saying to not have decorated trees to celebrate Christmas is open to interpretation, especially since Jeremiah wrote before Jesus was ever thought up and thus before O’Reilly and his cohorts started their ramblings.  Personally, I don’t care if that is what the character “God” is saying in the Bible or not, because I don’t think he is a real thing.  But if Christians are trying to be consistent…

Just sayin’

The bottom line here is that I understand why the tradition became to emphasize (to the point of exclusivity, it seems) Christmas during the time between Thanksgiving and New Years in the United States.  The cultural tradition of the United States has been predominantly Christian, and this religious identification has informed the secular traditions as time marched on.  The image of Santa Clause, derived from an historical character from Christianity, eventually became a secular symbol of gift-giving and all of that.  That is, it’s derived from Christian traditions and became something secular.  Just like this season as a whole.

But in the meantime, with the influx of Jews, neo-Pagans, etc as well as the increase in secular communities, Christians-in-name-only, and even atheists, the culture became more diverse than it’s origin.   As a result this time of year includes holidays for many people of various faiths and even celebrations for people with non at all (such as Human Light).  It has become a time of year that includes multitudes of attitudes, a variety of piety, and a party of parties.

So, when people started saying “happy holidays” rather than “merry Christmas,” it was a natural progression of culture.  It does not make sense to say “merry Christmas” to someone, especially if you don’t know them, because you don’t know what holiday they celebrate (or if they celebrate any at all).  It is not a means of removing Christmas, but a courtesy in a culture that recognizes that Christmas is not the only game in town.  Bill O’Reilly says that saying “happy holidays” is offensive, while he’s missing the point that saying “merry Christmas” to some people is offensive.  He just does not get it.

Christmas is the reason for the season, but only in a very narrow and historical way, a way that already is colored in secular images even before the other religious traditions stepped in.  This ‘Christian’ culture is what is dominantly responsible for how Americans celebrate during this time of year.  But most of the season is pure consumerism (and the economy says thankya) and belongs to snowmen, Santa, and some reindeer.  I guess they were Jesus’ pets of something.

Those who wish to celebrate Christmas in their personal and religious manner, can.  I nor any other defender of the wall of separation between church and state (which, while not in the Constitution is implied in the Bill of Rights, and even if it were not it is still a fair and wise idea for both religious and non-religious) will take away your ability to worship or celebrate as you wish.  All we ask is that when you bring your celebration into the public squares of our towns, you either allow others to join in or step back respectfully.

So Christians, nominal or not, this is not your time of year.  You can have it along with all of us, but you cannot own it.  You do not get special privileges simply because you are the majority.  You cannot say that we are taking away anything from you while you are, in the same breath, taking something away from others.  You cannot demand to put up your creche while demanding that atheists, Pagans, etc take away their displays.  There will be no double standard here, if you wish to be fair.

And if you do not wish to be fair because you believe that it is your season and that your holiday is more special because it is the truth, well then you are an imbecile.  You are allowed your idiocy, but you are not allowed to demand that it is simply accepted in the public realm.

This is not your country nor your time of year.  Space and time belong to all of us, so carve out yours and practice as you wish.  But when you come out of your homes, churches, etc and demand that the space we cohabit follows your rules, you are overstepping your boundaries as if you were to tell other people how to dress (like many Muslims do to women).  The false idea of the United States being a Christian nation is being stretched into a view that this time of the year is a Christian time of year.

It is not.

A war on Christmas is not a war, it is a public admittance that Christianity is not the only game in town.  And some people don’t like this particular competition.  They have grown up with emotional ties to the images of Santa, Jesus, and trees decorated with lights and other things.  They are comfortable with that images which are with them from childhood.

Putting up something different, especially if it is derived from people who may not even be Christian, is scary because is disrupts the tradition and interrupts their obliviousness to the harshness of the world for many people  They wish to bury their head in the sands of tradition, and when reality pulls it out, they look like reindeer-in-headlights as they try to adjust to the fact that their illusion of cultural exclusivity of this space and time is just that; an illusion.  And they don’t like it.  It feels like their joy, their childhood, and their identity is being taken away.  When in reality space and time for other views is simply being made along side theirs.

What they do not understand is that this new display is meaningful to other people, and that their creche and their tree may be disliked by others in the same way that they new sign may bother them.  And because we, the non-Christians, are the minority we have just gotten used to shutting up about it and just dealing with it.  You, spoiled and rotten traditionalists that you are, have had your way all this time and have not had to deal with seeing things you disagree with in your town and so now you whine.

Grow up.   You can’t have it all your way.

Our culture has changed and your old myth about the Christian nation and Christian time of year is dying.  You are like children that, for the first time, are beginning to realize that you can’t have everything you want.  You are beginning to realize that your demands and tantrums will not be heeded to by strangers on the street.  You have left the comforting home of believing the world is yours, and are realizing that your traditionalist and conservative worldview are in a public square with others, and that you are only whining for the competition to go away so you can have what you are used to.

Well, guess what; I’m used to something else, she’s used to something even different, and that other guys thinks that all of us are crazy.  Tradition is relative, my friend.  Yours is not special any longer.  Now share the world or go home to mommy and daddy (or to your church) where you don’t have to share, and live in your imaginary world of Christian dominance of space and time.

Happy Holidays