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Zebra
Skeptic Friend

USA
354 Posts

Posted - 12/23/2006 :  04:58:17  Show Profile Send Zebra a Private Message
Since it's fast approaching - a couple of cranky thoughts on Christmas.

(1) Isn't the U.S. government running afoul of its own Constitution (Amendment #1) by having Christmas be a federal holiday? ("Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion...")

(2) How do Christians convince themselves that "Christmas" should be in late December (or early January, for Orthodox)? Their own instruction manual says, in Luke 2, that the shepherds were "living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night" at the time of the blessed event. It seems to be widely acknowledged that this pretty much rules out December or January as the month of the nativity described in that chapter, since those are the wettest and coldest months in the Middle East.

(3) It's interesting how so many different themes have gotten rolled into "Christmas", from different sources...in a way that people seem to be able to accomodate without experiencing a sense of dissonance. Just picture a nativity scene complete with a Christmas tree, Santa Claus, reindeer, mistletoe, and poinsettas to get a sense of this. Add in the menorah, because Mary, Joseph, and the innkeeper could have been celebrating Hanukah if baby J. really was born in December...ahhh, that should blow Bill O'Reilly's gasket!

Happy Secular Winter Holiday to you all!


I think, you know, freedom means freedom for everyone* -Dick Cheney

*some restrictions may apply

pleco
SFN Addict

USA
2996 Posts

Posted - 12/23/2006 :  05:56:51   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit pleco's Homepage Send pleco a Private Message
The answer to all is "tradition"

by Filthy
The neo-con methane machine will soon be running at full fart.
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ConsequentAtheist
SFN Regular

641 Posts

Posted - 12/23/2006 :  06:54:02   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send ConsequentAtheist a Private Message
A belated Happy Hanukkah.

For the philosophical naturalist, the rejection of supernaturalism is a case of "death by a thousand cuts." -- Barbara Forrest, Ph.D.
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marfknox
SFN Die Hard

USA
3739 Posts

Posted - 12/23/2006 :  08:32:02   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit marfknox's Homepage  Send marfknox an AOL message Send marfknox a Private Message
Zebra wrote:
quote:
(1) Isn't the U.S. government running afoul of its own Constitution (Amendment #1) by having Christmas be a federal holiday? ("Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion...")
While this is technically true, I think a very strong argument could be made nowadays that there is such a thing as generic Christmas, and that by and large, the holidays season is a secular, as well as Christian tradition, embraced by the mainstream of American culture.

quote:
(2) How do Christians convince themselves that "Christmas" should be in late December (or early January, for Orthodox)? Their own instruction manual says, in Luke 2, that the shepherds were "living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night" at the time of the blessed event. It seems to be widely acknowledged that this pretty much rules out December or January as the month of the nativity described in that chapter, since those are the wettest and coldest months in the Middle East.
From the start, the date of Jesus's birth was never intended to be the true date of his birth. Since no one knows the true exact date, an arbitrary one could be decided on for the purpose of celebrating the coming of the savior. Early Christian leaders decided on Dec. 25th because that was the celebrated birthday of Mithra, another popular god at the time, and they wanted to replace the Pagan theology with Christian theology. It worked really really well and was a damn smart move on the part of the early Christian leadership.

I have never met a Christian who firmly believed that Jesus was born on Dec. 25th. Anybody who bothers to think seriously about it and do the most minor bit of research knows that is not the case. Criticizing Christians for this misconception is like criticizes the creators of Kwanzaa for the misconception that Kwanzaa is a holiday with African roots. The inventors never claimed that in the first place and so can't be blamed for other peoples' ignorant assumptions.

quote:
(3) It's interesting how so many different themes have gotten rolled into "Christmas", from different sources...in a way that people seem to be able to accomodate without experiencing a sense of dissonance. Just picture a nativity scene complete with a Christmas tree, Santa Claus, reindeer, mistletoe, and poinsettas to get a sense of this. Add in the menorah, because Mary, Joseph, and the innkeeper could have been celebrating Hanukah if baby J. really was born in December...ahhh, that should blow Bill O'Reilly's gasket!
Traditions around the Winter Solstice go back to far before Christianity was conceived. One can take a cynical or mocking view of how these traditions have been embraced by various modern groups, including Christians, to have symbolic meaning which applied to their own beliefs, or you can take the perspective that it is just a perfectly normal and common characteristic of cultural evolution.

I guess what I'm saying is that points 1, 2, and 3 are pointing out the obvious. Nearly everyone in the educated world realizes this, but there is more to the holiday season than the obvious.

Think about all the disarray in how most cities or towns are planned, or all the inconsistencies in a language. People don't just sit down and plan cultural characteristics. Well, they have tried, and those contrived attempts usually end up being laughed at, criticized for being derivative, short-lived, and/or marginalized (think of the new calendar and holidays created after the French Revolution, Kwanzaa, or the new secular holidays of HumanLight and Agnostica.) Only if they last the test of time are they taken seriously, and rightly so, because if they don't last, it was because they were not able to touch people on an emotional level. Cultural traditions evolve based on emotional reactions. And despite the idea that "tradition" means doing the same thing time after time, traditions do always change over time. Today, Christmas is visibly changing from a strictly Christian holiday to a mainstream secular holiday which different religious minorities (including traditional Christians) celebrate in their own unique way. In other words, if there is a "war on Christmas", the secularists are winning.

"Too much certainty and clarity could lead to cruel intolerance" -Karen Armstrong

Check out my art store: http://www.marfknox.etsy.com

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Dave W.
Info Junkie

USA
26009 Posts

Posted - 12/23/2006 :  19:21:51   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Dave W.'s Homepage Send Dave W. a Private Message
The argument has been made that so many people would be taking Christmas day off anyway that turning it into a Federal holiday just made things easier for everyone concerned. And I believe it would only truly be unconstitutional if only Christians got the day as a paid holiday, but the law applies to everyone regardless of creed or lack thereof.

- Dave W. (Private Msg, EMail)
Evidently, I rock!
Why not question something for a change?
Visit Dave's Psoriasis Info, too.
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Dude
SFN Die Hard

USA
6891 Posts

Posted - 12/23/2006 :  22:34:37   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Dude a Private Message
quote:
Early Christian leaders decided on Dec. 25th because that was the celebrated birthday of Mithra, another popular god at the time,


Don't forget the winter solstice, which was widely considered to be the start of the new year in many cultures.

Between 300-400AD many pagan holidays just got absorbed by the early christians.

You can't stop them from celebrating? Well, throw your own party on the same day and make it BIGGER!


Ignorance is preferable to error; and he is less remote from the truth who believes nothing, than he who believes what is wrong.
-- Thomas Jefferson

"god :: the last refuge of a man with no answers and no argument." - G. Carlin

Hope, n.
The handmaiden of desperation; the opiate of despair; the illegible signpost on the road to perdition. ~~ da filth
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HalfMooner
Dingaling

Philippines
15831 Posts

Posted - 12/24/2006 :  00:26:24   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send HalfMooner a Private Message
Me, I don't expect to go to Humanist Hell for the heretical presumption of saying Merry Christmas. Or Happy Hanukkah, Merry Pagan Yule, Pleasant But Irrelevant Winter Solstice, Cynic's Bitter Boycott Day, Lively Zombie Fest, or Jolly Humanlight. But I'll now wish 'em to everyone who cares to hear any one or all of them.

Whatever words I may use, I mean them simply as personally wishing you the very best, and hope you will be with dear family or friends. Have a fine "holiday," one and all!


Biology is just physics that has begun to smell bad.” —HalfMooner
Here's a link to Moonscape News, and one to its Archive.
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Gorgo
SFN Die Hard

USA
5310 Posts

Posted - 12/24/2006 :  04:44:41   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Gorgo a Private Message
Screw Christmas. I hope ever day is a good one for you, not just one.

I know the rent is in arrears
The dog has not been fed in years
It's even worse than it appears
But it's alright-
Jerry Garcia
Robert Hunter



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Siberia
SFN Addict

Brazil
2322 Posts

Posted - 12/24/2006 :  04:45:03   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Siberia's Homepage  Send Siberia an AOL message  Send Siberia a Yahoo! Message Send Siberia a Private Message
quote:
Originally posted by Dude

quote:
Early Christian leaders decided on Dec. 25th because that was the celebrated birthday of Mithra, another popular god at the time,


Don't forget the winter solstice, which was widely considered to be the start of the new year in many cultures.

Between 300-400AD many pagan holidays just got absorbed by the early christians.

You can't stop them from celebrating? Well, throw your own party on the same day and make it BIGGER!


I second that motion and wish to be invited!

"Why are you afraid of something you're not even sure exists?"
- The Kovenant, Via Negativa

"People who don't like their beliefs being laughed at shouldn't have such funny beliefs."
-- unknown
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marfknox
SFN Die Hard

USA
3739 Posts

Posted - 12/25/2006 :  11:31:28   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit marfknox's Homepage  Send marfknox an AOL message Send marfknox a Private Message
Half wrote:
quote:
Whatever words I may use, I mean them simply as personally wishing you the very best, and hope you will be with dear family or friends. Have a fine "holiday," one and all!
Thanks, Half, and back at ya!

"Too much certainty and clarity could lead to cruel intolerance" -Karen Armstrong

Check out my art store: http://www.marfknox.etsy.com

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