Friday, November 30, 2012

Atheist Christmas

An old friend of my wife has fretted publicly on Facebook last year and this about the largely secular nature of Christmas for many people who still use the names and traditions that are rooted more in the religious history of Catholics and Protestants. She seems to think that if the winter holiday is going to divorce itself from the religious one, it should at least have a different name from the one that is supposed to celebrate the birth of the Christ, the Redeemer of Mankind.

I'm surprised by the vehemence of her (I think) agnostic grumblings about the contamination of a religious holiday by non-religious, and admittedly commercial attitudes. For me, though, there is no cognitive dissonance in the secularization of a religious tradition. Christmas can be different for everyone, even if we all call it the same name.

For you, it may be a deeply felt religious experience during which you contemplate the grace of God in sending a piece of His divine Self to earth in order to live in a flawed human body, to give his Son the opportunity to choose to live and suffer and die, to subject Him to fear and pain and selfishness and doubt, thus letting His ultimate rejection of those in favor of self-sacrifice and the fathomless depth of His love redeem humanity from its sinful nature.

Wow, that was kind of a convoluted sentence.

For me, it may be about spending time with well-loved family and friends and contemplating the idea that we are all connected, we humans. It is a time to to remember that we can let go of petty disagreements, selfish considerations, and all of the other things that separate us and push us to be cruel and narrow in our focus.

But we can all still call it Christmas, can't we? We can all still listen to songs that are sometimes about Santa and the hopeful, anticipatory joy of children and sometimes about the reverence for the divine love rained down upon us by a loving and forgiving Creator. We can think about what gifts or kindnesses we can give to those that matter to us most as well as the gifts or kindnesses we can give to those that we have never met.

Anyway. Happy Winter Solstice. Or Merry Christmas. Or, you know, any of a long list of names and celebrations that we as humans have stuck here in the middle of winter, which is admittedly not such a harsh and unforgiving time here in Central Texas. I wish you and yours and all of us love and joy. Let me know if you need anything. 'ppreciate 'cha!


She Said said...

You are definitely more open-minded than I am about the religious part of Christmas. Go you! My intense and often crazy (speaking in tongues, anyone?) religious experiences have jaded me I guess.

I, Rodius said...

You're the 2nd person I know who was affected that way by a "speaking in tongues" experience. Good thing all of my religion was just plain old boring suburban Protestants with no particular passion at all.

She Said said...

Oh, it's bigger than just that experience for me. To sum up: presbyterian preschool, catholic school for K-6, baptized Methodist, southern baptist school for 7-8, then on to the "non-denominational" baptism and tongue speaking (I even won an award). Yeah, I'm definitely jaded.

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