Season’s Greetings!

It’s that time of year when the sun approaches its southernmost track across the northern hemisphere’s sky and people of various religious persuasions celebrate the winter solstice without actually knowing that that’s what they’re doing. Predictably, some of the Christian commentators who make their living defiling the airwaves and manipulating public opinion are doing their damnedest to ramp up paranoia about a wholly hallucinated “war on Xmas.” Crèches on public property and holiday greetings at retail outlets are being shoved to the forefront of national attention in the midst of an existential crisis that’s never even mentioned because that’s something only “liberals” talk about. It’s comic and tiresome simultaneously. If the promises of the Enlightenment held any water, you’d think that by now western civilization would have grown beyond that kind of thing.
 

By the time this post goes public I’ll have undergone cataract surgery and will probably have a great deal of vision restored to me. I thank science for that. For all the early 21st century’s horrors, I’m glad to be living in a time when the healing arts reflect the scientific understanding of the human body, not the shamanistic one. A surgeon armed with lasers and an artificial lens is going to do for me what Jesus of Nazareth is reputed to have done with a little clay on which he spat.

 

The prospect of that restored vision has me in an expansive mood, and I guess it’s for that reason that I want to couch this post as a kind of seasonal greeting to Christians – not that I think any of them will read it here. (But if anyone who does read it finds merit in the thought experiment I propose, please feel free to appropriate it and use it as you like. Who knows: in some rare cases, it might have an effect.)

 

I probably should say that as I write the following, I very much have certain members of my family in mind. This is the letter that I will not write to them because I know what kind of reception it would get and how much rancor would ensue. I’ve tried something like it before and learned my lesson. For whatever it’s worth, and for the benefit of whomever, here’s my letter:

 

Dear Christians:
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An Atheist Expresses Gratitude

An Atheist Gives Thanks Expresses Gratitude

(To whom, exactly, would an atheist “give thanks?”)

Earth King Goza!

There are four calendric events – the equinoxes and solstices – that have meaning for me because of what they reveal about our planet’s relationship to the star it orbits and of what they meant to the ancients. On those occasions I always spend some time thinking about the Earth’s axial tilt and Newton’s laws of planetary motion; I usually take the time to look at some diagrams of the solar system while meandering through some photos of Stonehenge and other ancient calendars.

 

There are also national holidays that I hold in high regard, Labor Day and Martin Luther King Jr. Day foremost among them. To me, those holidays speak of justice formerly denied my brothers and sisters but later hard-won by courageous men and women who laid their lives on the line; of a country wise enough for all its failings to recognize value in the struggle for fairness and to commemorate it. Those days occasion my watching of Matewan and reading of Letter from Birmingham Jail respectively.

 

There are national and religious holidays for which I have mixed feelings yet observe nevertheless in a way that lends them meaning; these include Independence Day (which for me involves the reading of the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights), Veterans’ Day (when I read the poetry of Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon), and the Christian holiday Good Friday – an occasion for auditing J.S. Bach’s Matthäus-Passion. The holiday we are about to confront (celebrate? enjoy? endure?) in our various ways is another; I speak, of course, of that holiday known colloquially as Turkey Day, when I usually make a list.

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Bi Weekly Blasphemy 8: The Black Friday Blues

Another year has come to a close with the black bells ringing in the merry holidays of the one true god, the all mighty US Dollar. Deafilosophy weighs in on the loss of character for what, to him, is simply the loss of a holiday season consisting of family, good food, and relaxation. Somewhere that was replaced with raging first world shopping fits and camping outside in the cold… Even Atheists can miss the peaceful snowy days of winter… Without the guilt of course.