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Xmas is OK

Entry 1135, on 2009-12-26 at 18:58:57 (Rating 2, Religion)

I am often accused of being hypocritical when I celebrate Christmas when it is well known that I am an atheist and have little respect for Christian dogma and tradition. Yes, its true, I try to avoid taking part in any religious activities (and that's not just Christian) but I don't really see Christmas as being a Christian event any more.

Despite the name Christmas really isn't a religious celebration. At least its not here in New Zealand (which is not a particularly religious country). I haven't gone out of my way to look for religious aspects of Christmas but I haven't tried to avoid them either. The only mentions of this I have seen are a facetious reference to the "reason for the season" being eating, drinking and buying lots of stuff, a short newspaper article describing church attendance, and a few traditional Christmas songs.

I did try at one point to wish people a "happy solstice" or "happy holidays" but I have since decided that "merry Christmas" is OK because very few people really see that as having any religious significance any more.

Another significant point is that its silly to deny that Christianity was (and still is to a lesser extent) an important part of our society. This says nothing about how true it is or even how relevant it is today but it certainly was the most important aspect of life in the western world in the past and that has significantly shaped our lives today. Trying to deny or ignore this fact just makes you look like an idiot!

So Xmas is OK with me. Any excuse to have a holiday from work, eat lots of nice stuff and drink lots of alcohol is good. And living in the southern hemisphere means I also get to enjoy summer (at least theoretically because the New Zealand weather is so unpredictable).

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Comment 1 (2575) by SBFL on 2010-01-13 at 08:12:30: (view recent only)

Certainly I don't expect Christmas to be religious for you but it is for Christians. I would avoid trying to lump the two together and declaring it no longer a Christian event. Putting the shoe on the other foot, as a republican I have no interest in celebrating Queen's Birthday, but I am sure it is important for....well I am not sure who, a band of fervent monarchists, maybe?

Happy new year.

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Comment 2 (2577) by OJB on 2010-01-13 at 09:42:09:

I was trying to represent the opinion of the majority of people (or the country as a whole, if that's possible), not necessarily everyone. Clearly there will always be a variety of opinions, especially amongst minority groups.

Tell me, did you and your Christian friends go along with all the pagan rituals? Christmas trees, gifts, etc? Maybe even a "traditional" Christmas isn't really so Christian after all!

In the same way I would say that overall we don't really celebrate the Queen's birthday on that day either, apart from a few real traditionalists, so I would simplify that to say that Queens Birthday has lost its traditional meaning overall, just like Christmas has.

The reason for the season: axial tilt!

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Comment 3 (2578) by SBFL on 2010-01-14 at 08:59:38:

I think it's arguable that the majority do not see Christmas as no longer a Christian festival. In fact on the contrary, I would say the vast majority - Christian and non-Christian alike - would say it is indeed a Christian festival.

Yes I am aware that there are elements of the season that aren't solely Christian based. What's your point? How very inclusive I would say!! By the way, gifts represent the gifts from the biblical Magi.

Like I said, I don't expect Christmas to have retained its traditional meaning for you, also the slackers and the spiteful, but the spirit is very much alive today. Sorry about that.

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Comment 4 (2579) by OJB on 2010-01-14 at 17:29:27:

While many people might say that the origin of Christmas is Christian most would no longer see that as being very important. That is the finding of a survey I remember reading (sorry I don't have the source right now). I also pointed out that I hadn't been exposed to many "Christian elements" of Christmas during that period of time.

The Magi story itself was borrowed from other mythologies (along with practically every other element of Christianity). I agree that its easy to read too much into one mythology borrowing from another because nothing is ever really original (well I suppose something must be!)

The spirit is very much alive? I guess gross consumerism is the true spirit of Christmas then!

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Comment 5 (2580) by SBFL on 2010-01-15 at 09:48:24:

Well you are entitled to your opinions, but I know you always look to take a pot shot against Christianity, so they come as no surprise.

Heh, I do at least agree that with Christmas comes gross consumerism. Certainly it is this aspect that always bugs me, but what can be done about the nature of mankind's greed?!

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Comment 6 (2582) by OJB on 2010-01-15 at 10:26:06:

I agree I do take a bit of a hard line against Christianity and its not really because of the more reasonable elements such as yourself. Maybe I just spend too much time debating/arguing with the crazies like creationists!

You would say that the strongest theme of Christmas is consumerism. Considering Christ's teachings (at least one of the more common interpretations of them) I would say that is not a very Christian theme, right? So Christmas is no longer primarily Christian.

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Comment 7 (2584) by SBFL on 2010-01-19 at 10:03:51:

Interesting logic.
"You would say.." - don't you mean "I would say", or "One would say"??
For me it is an annoying aspect that for some people can at times detract from the purpose of giving. It isn't the be all and end all.

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Comment 8 (2586) by OJB on 2010-01-20 at 12:03:57:

Looking back I have to admit that *you* didn't actually say that consumerism is the strongest theme of Christmas, although you did say Christmas involves "gross consumerism" and I think I could make a case to show that it is now the most obvious theme of Christmas, so the argument still stands.

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Comment 9 (2588) by SBFL on 2010-01-26 at 06:20:30:

You should try to understand the intent of my previous comments, rather than try to turn comments against me, invariably taking them out of context. Petty, really.

Initially your mention of cousumerism at Christmas was merely a final passing comment. I acknowledged it existed (and annoyed me) and then all of a sudden it's the main thrust of your argument. You really do lose credibility when you do this.

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Comment 10 (2589) by OJB on 2010-01-26 at 08:28:30:

Well I'm not deliberately trying to distort what you are saying. From my perspective the major theme of Christmas is based around consumerism but you just think "gross consumerism" exists. Presumably you think there is a greater theme: maybe the (alleged) birth of Christ. I don't see that but I don't go out of my way to either encounter or avoid religious experiences so maybe it does exist and I'm just missing it.

I found a few relevant links on the subject: like this one from 2006, and this from 2008, but there's not much real data.

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Comment 11 (2590) by SBFL on 2010-01-26 at 09:41:50:

Indeed it probably is a major theme for some people, but I doubt many would say it has supplanted the birth of Christ as the overriding meaning, but that is just my view. Indeed those polls are consistent with less people in NZ identifying with Christianity, as the census figures have suggested.

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Comment 12 (2591) by OJB on 2010-01-26 at 11:09:41:

Well I guess it gets back to what we really mean by "the meaning". If it means "what is the main activity for you" then the answer would be buying gifts (consumerism), holidays, etc for the majority. If it means "why was the day originally created" it would be the (alleged) birth of Christ (most people would be unaware that it was borrowed by Christians and is really a solstice celebration).

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Comment 13 (2592) by SBFL on 2010-01-28 at 11:16:47:

Well I don't disagree with that comment. But going back to my originally comment I guess, what is important for me is what it means for me. And I am sure the same approach applies to others. Regardless of what people do on the day, or what is important to them at the time, I think the original and key meaning behind Christmas cannot be denied. For example, I have no interest in the British royalty whatsoever but I do recognise the meaning of that day (though I think we could do better with this public holiday by acknowledging something closer to home - another day for this though). Similarly I don't have a whole heap of linkage with ANZAC day either, but I understand the sacrifice that that day recognises.

By the way, you can dispense with the silly "alleged" and "supposed" terms. When discussing with me, I am fully aware of your beliefs (or non-beliefs if you prefer) and I can assure you I would never be so pedantic as to pull you up on any such technical "slip o' the tongue". You don't have to cover yourself with me, I at least respect your views and know fully well what you mean when you are referring to religious terms in your writing.

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Comment 14 (2593) by OJB on 2010-01-28 at 11:54:33:

OK, maybe we're just debating over semantics here. Let's just say that everyone (probably) is aware of the Christian origin of Christmas (even though it was "borrowed"). I don't think many people would deny the link with Jesus' (alleged - oops sorry!) birth but that isn't the primary reason people enjoy the day today.

According to the surveys and my own experience, most people would say its importance to them is for the gifts, the time off work, the getting together with family, summer holidays, etc, as opposed to spending time in church or reflecting deeply on the (real) meaning of Jesus' teaching (whether he existed or not).

So if the "meaning" is the original reason the holiday was adopted by most western countries then I would say, yes, its because of the Christian origin. If "meaning" means what the significance is today then I would say its more prosaic and not religious at all (to most).

Regarding your point with "alleged": its just a habit I've got into. It really annoys the fundies! They cannot even comprehend the possibility of denying the non-historicity of Jesus, yet the evidence for his existence is remarkably weak.

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Comment 15 (2594) by SBFL on 2010-01-28 at 12:13:02:

I never said nor implied that recognising Christmas as a Christian festival meant "spending time in church or reflecting deeply on the (real) meaning of Jesus' teaching".. This is good practice for Christians all during the year, all during their lives, but not a specific trait for Christmas, let alone for NZers as a whole. In fact putting aside the history and heritage of Christmas, is arguable that some of the things you mentioned are entirely within with the meaning of Christmas - "the gifts, the time off work, the getting together with family, summer holidays, etc,". Much of this behaviour is entirely consistent with the Christmas spirit and I mean in a Christian sense. In fact, it is this type of realisation of Christian ideals that leads me to oppose any changes to the Easter trading laws. Not for of any religious observance reasons, but because it stifles the practice of the ideals said faith promotes. Now many non-Christians won't recognise this as Christian behaviour - and rightly so because it isn't in any way unique to Christianity - but for me it is the practice that is more important, not the appearance.

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Comment 16 (2595) by OJB on 2010-01-28 at 20:42:54:

Oh fine, so that makes it east then: Christianity is all about doing the sorts of things people want to do anyway and being a nice person, not about what Jesus says in the Bible: "If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple." (Luke 14:26)

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Comment 17 (2596) by SBFL on 2010-01-29 at 12:25:05:

And so the tangential OJB strikes again!!

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Comment 18 (2597) by OJB on 2010-01-29 at 14:11:22:

I just like to make smart comments like that when people state (or imply) that everything about Christianity is so happy and nice! Maybe, to make Christmas a more Christian festival, we should go around telling our family how much we hate them. Its what Jesus would do! :) Please note the smiley, which I have included this time!

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