The Imagined Culture War around Christmas

It’s Christmas time again, and that means the Christians will be celebrating the birth of Christ, whom they see as the son of God himself, sent to die on the cross for our sins, specifically the Original Sin of Adam and Eve which God cursed all of humanity with since He created us 6,000 years ago.

There is also a secular aspect to Christmas of course, where a different kind of Almighty reigns over us all; The Almighty Dollar. Christmas is big business for Corporate America and it starts in earnest on Black Friday when retailers tease the drooling shopper with sale prices and special deals.

What Christmas also does is bring out the imagined culture war between believers and non-believers. I say imagined because I believe most people just go about their lives and do whatever it is they do with their families and friends in the Holiday Season. But the “Powers that Be” see a larger battle to be fought; a battle for the hearts and minds of the people.

The Catholic League, unconcerned about the Constitutional separation of Church and State, has sent Nativity Scenes to all 50 Governors asking that they display them in the Capital Rotunda of their respective states. The American Atheists started a billboard war with a Nativity Scene and the caption “You KNOW it’s a Myth. This season, celebrate reason!”

In this age of relative enlightenment, it would appear the religious need to step up their game to try to hang on to their accustomed position of authority. As science has opened the eyes of humanity with the wonders of the natural world, religious apologists try to fill the gaps in our knowledge with God. The gaps continue to get smaller as more and more evidence surfaces to show that the stories of the Bible on which the Judeo-Christian religions are based are not true. The grand story of Exodus, of God delivering the Jews out of slavery in Egypt, led by Moses across the desert to the foot of Mt Sinai is now considered completely fictitious. Israeli archeologists have failed to produce any evidence to support such a trek across the wilderness. Reasonable people would have to admit that the parting of the Red Sea by Moses to allow the Jews to walk across was a rather far-fetched tale.

Today, I read this telling article where the Bishop of the Church of Wales attacks the “aggressive atheist lobby” for taking the position that the foundation of religious belief, i.e. the Bible, is “all made up.” While it’s true that books written in the last few years by Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris and others have been more assertive in tearing down religion than we’ve seen in the past, I’d hardly consider that an aggressive lobbying effort. If anyone should recognize an aggressive lobbying effort, the Christian religious authority should! What I found most interesting about the article were these quotes from the Bishop:

  • “If one version of a particular story varies from another, we should not be bothered or concerned.”
  • “If, in a strict sense, the stories are deemed not to be historically true in each and every detail, it does not mean that they do not convey truth, the most profound truth.”

This is what I mean by trying to hang on to their accustomed position of authority. It feels rather desperate to me to go ahead and admit that the stories on which their powerful and far-reaching religions are based aren’t exactly true, but then claim in the same breath that they are. In fact, they’re more than just true; they convey the most profound truth. Anyone who is willing to use their faculties of critical thinking will shake their heads sadly at this grasping of straws.

Christmas is a time of giving, of thoughtful consideration of your fellow man and woman. However this tradition came about, it is this central theme that anyone can embrace. Giving to others is a distinctly moral and virtuous thing. It fills the heart and mind with positive energy, making us feel good about ourselves and our part in the living world. However you choose to spend the season, my sincere hope is you can spend it happily and at peace.

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