Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Tyranny of Religion and the "War on Christmas"

I posted about this briefly on Ravelry today, and realized that I had so much more to say that I really ought to just post it to the blog. It comes not just from the Ravelry thread, but also things I've been seeing in the presidential race. Basically, there's just been a perfect shitstorm of religious hypocrisy that sets me off.

The thread on Ravelry had to do with celebrating Christmas, and specifically whether it was really any big deal that people, governments, corporations, what have you, wish you a Merry Christmas, rather than a Happy Holiday. After all, it is postulated, what's the problem with people wishing you well? Is Christmas a secular holiday, a religious holiday, or an appropriated pagan holiday and does it make a difference?

To start with, let me say that I come from a Jewish background, but I am an agnostic, and I am also definitely anti-religion. That is to say, whether or not I believe in some sort of deity, I do NOT believe that any organized Religion currently being praticed has any truth, relevance, or place in this world. I capitalized Religion in order to differentiate what I call mass-market, organized religion from more individualistic ways that people revere whatever principle they hold dear. As far as I'm concerned, capital-R Religion does nothing but create artificial divisions between people; engendering an "us v. them" attitude that causes wars: literal, cultural, and familial.

In general, I think that people out in the world who do not know me (read: checkout counter workers, Target employees, etc.) who wish me Merry Christmas are not evil religion pushers. Even people who do know me who still send me religious themed holiday cards are generally given a pass. Most of the people in this country do, after all, count themselves as part of some christian denomination, and it is not often readily apparent who is or who isn't christian. "Merry Christmas" is being said with good cheer and not with evangelical intent. Usually.

What pisses me off no end are the people who insist that there's a "war on Christmas" that liberals, atheists, and other evil non-Christians are perpetrating to corrupt the country and the souls of little Christian children everywhere. "This is a Christian country!" they proclaim. There should be manger scenes in town squares, and boo to anyone else who wants the holiday that they celebrate at this time of year to be represented in the town square as well. These same people (who generally ARE of evangelical bent) boycott stores that have the dastardly pratice of wishing their customers a "Happy Holiday" instead of a "Merry Christmas."

Well, guess what. This is NOT a Christian country. This is a country founded on religious liberty and freedom from established religion. There is no reason not to respect that others may not share your beliefs. Nothing is stopping anyone from celebrating Christmas in whatever way they want. They are free to celebrate with their families, their friends, and their churches as much or as little as they want. Whether the checkout person at Target says "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Holidays" has NO effect on your beliefs whatsoever.

At base, the problem here is that there is a very vocal faction that wants to establish religion in this country. In the guise of "religious freedoms" for Christians, they chip away at religious freedoms for everyone. The current administration, for example, routinely uses religious beliefs and tenets over scientifically established evidence to formulate and enact its policies. That, too, is an establishment of religion and I object.

Moreover, I object to the way religiousity has become a prerequisite for elected office. The ridiculously named "values voters" (i.e. the evangelical voters) played such a big role in electing Shrub that current presidential candidates, Democrat and Republican, are falling all over themselve to prove they're religious, Church-going, God-fearing folk. I firmly believe that, at this point in our country's history, an atheist or agnostic could not be elected President. You know what? I don't care whether my leaders go to church, temple, mosque, or whatever, as long as they are thoughtful -- and realistic -- about the problems that face the country, and are willing to be open-minded and reasonable in their approach to solutions. There are so many issues facing this country right now that voting based on a candidate's stand on one or two incredibly narrow issues (e.g. abortion, gay marriage)* is just plain ignorant. What about other values? Do we value all of our children enough not to ignore poverty? Is torture a Christian value?

* For the record, I believe abortion should be safe, legal, and rare. I also believe that people of the same sex who want to make a lifetime commitment to each other should absolutely be able to do so. Their love and commitment is no threat to my marriage, or to marriage as an institution.

OK. Rant over. Soon I'll be back with some nice, soothing knitting content.

1 comment:

Scott T. said...

1. Amen, you fucking heathen.
2. I think in the 4th paragraph you meant that "people out in the world . . . who wish me Merry Christmas are NOT evil religion pushers." Did you leave out the not?
3. Merry Christmas
4. What am I getting for Hanukah?
5. I honestly don't think the "prove your religious bona fides" thing is new in politics. I think it was always there. Before we were old enough to realize it certainly was a given, I suspect. But yeah, it's complete and utter crap (except for Romney...fucking Morman freak...and he's named "Mitt" for god's sake, what the hell kind of name is that? Not a presidential one, that's for sure).
6. I was seriously thinking of doing a post on my blog about the conflict between being an atheist and christmas (and how, being a good post-modern existentialist, I get over it ;-)