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[P]
The Meaning of "Christmas"

By Erf in Culture
Sun Dec 03, 2000 at 04:19:56 PM EST
Tags: Culture (all tags)
Culture

"Christmas" has its origins as a Christian holiday (hence the name). To me (a Christian), this is still what it means. But this time of year means something special to many people of many religions, including atheism. I figure K5 has a pretty diverse group of people, so this seems like a good place to ask: what does this season mean to you?


Canada and the U.S. were founded on Christian ideas, and much of our culture comes from those roots, including Christmas. Most of the Christmas traditions are based on Christian symbolism, including the gift-giving (even if it's been blown a little out of proportion). Given my background, this is obviously the stuff I grok the best.

Many other religions celebrate some holiday around this time. The most well-known (to me) is, of course, Hanukkah, a (the?) Jewish festival of light. I know very little about that celebration or its meaning, sadly. I know even less about other celebrations going on around now under other religions. I beg for enlightenment...

What I really don't get, though, is what atheists are celebrating. What is "the spirit of Christmas" to those whose religion is disbelief -- that is, to those who don't believe in the event others say is responsible for all the hubbub?

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The Meaning of "Christmas" | 183 comments (146 topical, 37 editorial, 0 hidden)
"Christmas" has its origins as a Christi (3.95 / 23) (#1)
by titus-g on Sat Dec 02, 2000 at 02:42:37 PM EST

Umm not really, it was a conversion of a pagan celebration.

Christianity did a lot of that, any religeon that comes along and takes away your holidays isn't going to be very popular, but if you keep the holidays and translate the symbolism then people aren't too bothered.

The main reason behind these midwinter holidays is that, after a couple of months stuck inside with rationed food and nothing to do, you need to let go.

Trivia: there used to be 13 months, 13 is generally thought of as unlucky as a lot of people, animals etc would die that month...

--"Essentially madness is like charity, it begins at home" --

Re: conversion of celebrations (2.91 / 12) (#2)
by Erf on Sat Dec 02, 2000 at 02:47:23 PM EST

Good point. I seem to remember something about that; it was from a Winter Solstice celebration, wasn't it?

Any idea how much was changed during the conversion -- and how much has changed since?

-Erf.
...doin' the things a particle can...
[ Parent ]

Mithran celebration (4.71 / 14) (#10)
by Arkady on Sat Dec 02, 2000 at 03:06:30 PM EST

Christmas was taken over (in the 200s, if I remember correctly) from the cult of Mithras, which was very strong in the British Isles.

The Mithrans were a fairly typical solar cult, and the December 25th date celebrated the date that Mithras forced the sun god to bring light back into the world. The story (as it is known today) has the sun god withdrawing his light from the world, for reasons which I never fully understood. Mithras, a great hero of the time, stole the bulls of the sun god, took them deep into a cave and killed them. The sun god, in trying to find his cattle, had to bring light back into the world to search for them.

Apparantly, since the bulls were dead deep in a cave, he hasn't found them yet; at least, that's my assumption, since the light remains ... ;-)

In the early days, Christianity was just one fairly small cult among many and, being an exclusive monotheistic religion, had problems with the fact that many people considered it acceptible to participate in multiple cults. To combat this, they would identify matching elements between themselves and competing cults and place the matching feast day to compete with the others'. This prevented Christians from participating in another cult's celebrations.

Prior to establishing Christmass to block participation in the Mithran celebration, it had been considered revolting to celebrate the birth of Christ, as though he were merely a commoner (since the Mediterannean cultures celebrated the deaths of kings, but only commoners celebrated their births). Because of this, there weren't any guidelines concerning Christ's birth, since it was never considered, so they were free to place the date wherever on the calender they wished.

Over time, as the Christians found themselves in competition with a wider range of religions, Christmass continued to take on elements of other winter celebrations. Most of the modern elements (again, if I'm remembering correctly) come from various pre-German cults.

[I do computers now, but my degrees are actually in Anthropology and History ... ;-)]

Cheers,
-robin

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere Anarchy is loosed upon the world.


[ Parent ]
Excellent. (4.00 / 9) (#38)
by pb on Sat Dec 02, 2000 at 05:18:49 PM EST

My personal favorite stolen holiday is still Easter, which is around the Spring Equinox, and is still a fertility holiday, what with the bunnies and the eggs and all... :)

Christians have all the luck these days, thinking they started all these holidays and still not having to know about the Solstices, the Equinoxes, the cross-quarters... There's a lot of pretty good information here, too.
---
"See what the drooling, ravening, flesh-eating hordes^W^W^W^WKuro5hin.org readers have to say."
-- pwhysall
[ Parent ]

Ch Ch Ch Changes (4.20 / 10) (#14)
by titus-g on Sat Dec 02, 2000 at 03:08:56 PM EST

The 3rd link down (which should actually BE a link this time, gonna go have a bath after this, give my brain a chance to kick start) has a bit of info about this. But really the answer is not very much, In Europe there is still quite a lot of Paganism in Christianity, which is why you have things like some countries worshipping the virgin mary, more than god and christ... throwback to old goddess religion. Well worth reading up on anyway, it's interesting stuff :)

--"Essentially madness is like charity, it begins at home" --
[ Parent ]

rough approximation (3.87 / 8) (#16)
by mikpos on Sat Dec 02, 2000 at 03:13:55 PM EST

I believe Christmas was a celebration of nature (from pre-Christian northern Europe), hence the Christmas tree. Not a whole lot has changed since then, except a few people here and there like to celebrate the birth of Jesus at the same time (though I'm not sure why; I would think they'd want to celebrate his birth somewhere around his birthday, which would be in the autumn). The yule log, mistletoe and the wreath date back to pagan celebrations in Britain and northern Europe. Santa Claus is kind of a combination of various Norse gods and Saint Nicholas; the modern Santa Claus is a creation of the Coca-Cola company. Christmas cards were created in 19th century America as a means to increase revenues during the winter season. There are a couple of things (carolers, and, obviously, the nativity scene) come entirely from Christians, though.

[ Parent ]
Right, and... (3.83 / 6) (#6)
by Refrag on Sat Dec 02, 2000 at 03:01:34 PM EST

supposedly Jesus was born at a different time of the year, but since all of the Pagans were celbrating their Winter's Solstice instead of the Christians' holidays the Christians moved Christmas to December 25th.

I may have this all wrong, I really don't study religion much.

Refrag

Kuro5hin: ...and culture, from the trenches
[ Parent ]

Re: Bibliography (2.50 / 6) (#9)
by YesNoCancel on Sat Dec 02, 2000 at 03:05:52 PM EST

Jesus said: "Thou shalt preview before posting."

Besides, check your spelling. It's bibliography, not bibleography. :)



[ Parent ]

well... (3.12 / 8) (#18)
by titus-g on Sat Dec 02, 2000 at 03:16:40 PM EST

actually BIBLEography was a cunning pun on the subject, honest guv :P. not previewing = bad habit picked up from the /. bug that wrecked links if you previewed first, not posting there much anymore so hopefully kick the habit now...

--"Essentially madness is like charity, it begins at home" --
[ Parent ]

What I heard the "true" birthdate of Jes (3.60 / 5) (#53)
by theboz on Sat Dec 02, 2000 at 06:49:12 PM EST

Well, drumroll please...

September 11th, 3BC

Yes, I know, that sounds lame but I read some books dealing with why it was that date. I don't remember all the details, however I do know that one particular thing is dealing with the alignment of the stars and planets. There was Juputer, which they considered to be the "king star", along with either Mercury or Venus (whichever the one is that is brighter in the morning usually) and they were in a certain constellation and such... Also, as a more credible source, the things that took place (eg. Mary and David supposedly going to do a census in their home town) so they also researched the historical records they could find of the Romans as well. The wise men supposedly were zoroastrians, so the alignment of the stars was determined by looking into historical beliefs of them, and there were a whole lot of other things put into it. I think it is a very interesting subject, and very convincing. However, I'm not Christian so I still think the whole thing is a bunch of coincidences that were made to look like "god" had planned it...which I will leave to the readers to believe or not.

Stuff.
[ Parent ]

not likely to be in the fall (3.80 / 5) (#80)
by Arkady on Sat Dec 02, 2000 at 09:45:35 PM EST

I don't remember the exact wording, but you know the bit that's in there about shepherds guarding their flocks by night? The only time of the year when that's necessary is the spring lambing, when you have to make sure the birthing ewes are safe and be available for dealing with complicated births.

The rest of the year there's no real point in staying up, at least not as a normal procedure. If you're having a wolf outbreak or something, maybe, but the only time of year you'd normally find shephards guarding their flocks by night is the spring.

Trust me on this one; I grew up on a sheep ranch in Colorado. ;-)

-robin

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere Anarchy is loosed upon the world.


[ Parent ]
13 Months? (4.00 / 3) (#89)
by Luke Francl on Sun Dec 03, 2000 at 12:13:05 AM EST

It is true that there are 13 lunar months, but over time the lunar months drift off of the true season (as if it were summer in December <-- Northern Hemisphere!).

However, the date system we use is primarily based on the Julian calendar, dreamed up by none other than Julius Caesar. The Romans had 10 months. He added 2 more, one for himself (July). His successor, Augustus, renamed the other one to what we now know as August.

I think it's awesome how much influnence a culture that's 2000 years old has on our current language and traditions. I hope that 2000 years from now, our society is having the same impact.

Yeah, I studied Latin in high school. What do you expect? I'm a nerd.

[ Parent ]
Tradition (4.31 / 16) (#3)
by Defect on Sat Dec 02, 2000 at 02:54:39 PM EST

What I really don't get, though, is what atheists are celebrating. What is "the spirit of Christmas" to those whose religion is disbelief

An atheists religion is not disbelief. That implies that the beliefs of an atheist are solely the opposite of other organized religions. An agnostic is as close as you can get to being a "disbeliever," just someone who doesn't agree with anything out there but whose mind is open to alternate explanations. Atheists in fact have a very strong belief, that there is no being higher than human that has attributed to the evolution of mankind.

As for celebrating christmas, there are two traditional celebrations. Celebrating the Spirit of Christ, and celebrating the season of giving. It's just a matter of what tradition you adhere to. Just because i don't believe in a christianity doesn't mean i can't volunteer my services to charity, have a nice couple days with my friends, and sit in front of a fire eating dinner with my family. It's nice to have a day off from work on one of the shortest days of the year to compose feelings and memories.

It's kind of depressing to get the impression that a season generally understood as being filled with kind thoughts and nice gestures should only be celebrated by those who follow a certain set of beliefs.
defect - jso - joseth || a link
Re: Tradition (3.44 / 9) (#12)
by guffin on Sat Dec 02, 2000 at 03:08:07 PM EST

I disagree with your statement about what atheism is. I call myself an atheist, simply because i don't believe in any specific god, higher power, etc. Your implication that atheists do not have minds open to alternate explanations is an overgeneralization. atheism is just that, a theos (no god).

[ Parent ]
Don't take this the wrong way, but (3.80 / 5) (#119)
by ZanThrax on Sun Dec 03, 2000 at 04:40:50 PM EST

Atheism is not an absence of a specific faith, it is the belief that there is no God. Agnosticism can be seen as the belief that we can never know the nature of God, or even the existence of such a being. Of the two, I'd say that not believing in anything specific is closer to agnosticism; which is why I, with beliefs similar to what you've described, consider myself agnostic. Imo, atheists are just as religous as any other person with specific beliefs, and can be just as tiresome with their preaching...

Before flying off the handle over the suggestion that your a cocksucker, be sure that you do not, in fact, have a cock in your mouth.
[ Parent ]

Potatoes, potatoes... (3.80 / 5) (#123)
by 0xdeadbeef on Sun Dec 03, 2000 at 06:36:39 PM EST

Like the word "hacker", atheism and agnosticism are words that are so loaded with preconceptions that they never have the same definition between people from different backgrounds.

I call myself an atheist for much the same reason as guffin. Agnostic is such a wishy-washy word, in its popular connotation. When some people hear the word "agnostic", they think you're sitting on a fence, or trying to cover all bases. It's like you've got a big box over your head with a check mark next to the word "undecided", and that's like a magnet for some of the most annoying people in the world.

And agnostic has other problems, too, such as the belief in the unknowable nature of the existence of God. That is a statement of faith, which is the whole thing I'm trying to avoid. After all, like in that John Denver movie, God might just happen to show up one day, smoking cigars and making all kinds of wry observations. I can't discount that possibility.

So we go back to the word atheist. True, a lot of people like to make that out to be a religion in itself. They say "How can you claim there is no God? That is a statement of faith. You're no better than the fundamentalists you deride!" Ok. So why don't they think it is significant that I don't believe in fairies, leprechauns, little green men on Mars, the gods on Mount Olympus, etc. etc.? Since when did absurdity only become a valid criterion for dismissing beliefs when those beliefs are unpopular? That isn't the product of faith, it is the product of reason.

I don't see there being any evidence for any sort of metaphysics, from the highest religion to lowest superstition. And because there is no evidence, my working assumption that it is all bunk. I understand that the lack of evidence is not proof (which some rather illogical people think is some kind of logical coup), but that lack of evidence is evidence in itself, an indictation that the premise that requires it is probably flawed.

As with all my models of the world, as long as it fits my past experience, it will continue to be my working assumption. If I see evidence to change that assumption, I change it, and go on from there. That is what I mean when I say there is no God, and why I call myself an atheist.

[ Parent ]

Agreed. (3.00 / 3) (#133)
by ZanThrax on Mon Dec 04, 2000 at 02:07:14 AM EST

It's pure semantics. I'm pretty much going to go with the assumption that there isn't anything supernatural in the world either, simply because there's nothing to convince me otherwise. However, I call myself agnostic rather than atheist because I think that better describes my viewpoint.

Before flying off the handle over the suggestion that your a cocksucker, be sure that you do not, in fact, have a cock in your mouth.
[ Parent ]

Re: Don't take this the wrong way, but (2.00 / 1) (#175)
by phliar on Tue Dec 05, 2000 at 02:27:54 AM EST

Atheism is not an absence of a specific faith, it is the belief that there is no God.
Sez you!

I am an atheist. I deny the irrational belief in supernatural deities. I am without god(s).

a- without.
theos god.
That's what I am, without god. I am without belief in every god. I am an equal opportunity unbeliever. (I am also without scurvy, gangrene, syphillis, gonorrhea, and elephants, among other things.) I lack a belief that there's a planet outside the orbit of Pluto. I don't believe that Pluto is the outermost planet.

Jesus Christ, man! It's one thing to misuse perfectly good words in casual conversation, but something else entirely to step into a discussion about the meaning of a word and loudly [so to speak] and unilaterally assert that your mistaken belief is the One True One! I recommend the Oxford English Dictionary.


Faster, faster, until the thrill of...
[ Parent ]

Atheist=No God. Agnostic=No Knowledge. (3.75 / 12) (#23)
by Speare on Sat Dec 02, 2000 at 03:26:43 PM EST

An atheist says, "I believe there's no God."

An agnostic says, "I believe we can never know if there's a God or not."

a - the - ism
a -: no
theos: god
- ism: trait

a - gnostic - ism
a -: no
gnosis: knowledge
- ism: trait
[ e d @ h a l l e y . c c ]
[ Parent ]

precise definitions (4.50 / 10) (#28)
by Arkady on Sat Dec 02, 2000 at 03:53:55 PM EST

Since I don't agree with how you're defining agnosticism there, I checked an online dictionary for some "official" definitions:

  • atheism
    • 1.
      • a. Disbelief in or denial of the existence of God or gods.
      • b. The doctrine that there is no God or gods.
    • 2. Godlessness; immorality.
  • agnosticism
    • 1. The doctrine that certainty about first principles or absolute truth is unattainable and that only perceptual phenomena are objects of exact knowledge.
    • 2. The belief that there can be no proof either that God exists or that God does not exist.

Denotation 2 from agnosticism is in line with how I'd always understood these two: atheism is a belief in the non-existence of gods, while agnosticism is a refusal to believe any of it. I think the distinction between a belief, albeit a belief in non-existence, and the refusal to believe is significant.

There is no more proof that there are no gods than there is proof that there are. Nor is there proof to support denotation 1 of agnosticism (that there cannot be proof).

Cheers,
-robin


Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere Anarchy is loosed upon the world.


[ Parent ]
Another definition of agnosticism (3.00 / 5) (#31)
by sugarman on Sat Dec 02, 2000 at 04:22:02 PM EST

can be found here

Basically, how agnosticism is defined may depend on how the speaker is defining God at that moment, and their stance may change relative to which form of God is being discussed.

How much of that I believe is something else entirely.

--sugarman--
[ Parent ]

Huh. (3.57 / 7) (#32)
by rusty on Sat Dec 02, 2000 at 04:27:17 PM EST

I guess that would make me agnostic after all, then. I was always under the impression that agnostics were sort of "the undecideds"; which I guess would still be the case, but not in the way I thought. Typically, it's decribed as "you're agnostic if you don't know either way", which sounds like it means that you just haven't made up your mind whether you believe or not. If agnosticism is actually the belief that first principles are unknowable, then count me in!

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]
Right... (3.25 / 4) (#40)
by pb on Sat Dec 02, 2000 at 05:27:31 PM EST

I tell people I'm an Atheist because that is the popular perception of Agnosticism; however, if someone came up with proof of (whatever religion) then I'd look at it, and heck, maybe I'd sign up, since the rest of you who didn't see the proof would *obviously* be suffering forever in eternal torment with the rest of the sinners.... ;) Basically, I believe that if you, personally, have enough proof to believe in something, then go right ahead. I can't rule out the existence of ghosts, for example, because my Aunt has a picture of one. Most religions that are simply faith-based, however, I can disregard pretty quickly; they don't even have much overlap between their doctrines and actual, day-to-day life anymore. Therefore, they really don't apply; they exist just to be religions.
---
"See what the drooling, ravening, flesh-eating hordes^W^W^W^WKuro5hin.org readers have to say."
-- pwhysall
[ Parent ]
agnosticism (3.40 / 5) (#60)
by Delirium on Sat Dec 02, 2000 at 07:26:18 PM EST

You seem to be misinterpreting definition #2 of agnosticism as saying that an agnostic is someone who doesn't know if there is a God or not because of lack of proof. However, it says there can be no proof. In other words, agnosticism says that it's impossible to know, not just that we currently don't know. This is very similar to definition #1, just phrased differently.

[ Parent ]
oopsie (2.66 / 3) (#78)
by Arkady on Sat Dec 02, 2000 at 09:38:14 PM EST

You're right; I dropped a word out when I was typing it. I'd thought I was saying that denotation 2 is _more_ in line with how I'd understood the term.

I do not agree that any fundamental principles have been demonstrated to be unknowable; my personal approach is simply a refusal to believe. You're right to point out that this isn't accurately described by the two definitions of agnosticism I quoted.

I wonder if there is a term for that? I can't be the first person to take that position.

-robin

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere Anarchy is loosed upon the world.


[ Parent ]
agnostics and atheists (3.50 / 4) (#85)
by Delirium on Sat Dec 02, 2000 at 10:26:46 PM EST

Well, different people seem to use the terms differently. Many people do use agnosticism as you were, but when Thomas Huxley coined the term, he meant it to mean what the definition you quoted said, as he considered these sorts of questions to be fundamentally unanswerable.

I've heard the phrase "weak agnostic" used to describe one who is undecided about the existence of God but doesn't go as far as Huxley did in saying that they're undecided because it is impossible to know. Alternately, the phrase "weak atheist" is often used to describe one who doesn't believe God exists, but at the same time doesn't believe that God doesn't exist. This is sort of saying "I'm atheist because I don't believe in God, but I don't go so far as to make a positive claim that God does not exist." A strong atheist, of course, makes such a claim.

[ Parent ]

"skeptic" (4.16 / 6) (#115)
by Arkady on Sun Dec 03, 2000 at 03:45:50 PM EST

I looked around the Net for discussions of Agnosticism to see what other terms are in use around that philosophy and it seems that probably the best to describe my attitude is "skeptic".

Though not normally an option in religious-orientation polls (even in those sufficiently liberal as to include Agnosticism or Athieism as options), I think it's safe to say that I'm just basically skeptical about the whole thing. "Skeptic" is usually applied to people who contest the data underlying an assertion, so I'll go with that.

"Weak Agnostic" just feels a bit offensive; it seems to imply that one's opinions aren't strongly held and that one could have a change of opinion on weak grounds. So, I'll switch to "skeptic", thanks. ;-)

-robin

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere Anarchy is loosed upon the world.


[ Parent ]
atheism != belief (3.00 / 3) (#94)
by bjrubble on Sun Dec 03, 2000 at 06:22:23 AM EST

Technically, I guess I'm an agnostic. There can be no proof either for or against the existence of God.

But I call myself an atheist because that's my measure of how probable I think it is. I'm not going to swear upon my life that there's no God, but I don't see any as necessary and I find the arguments offered to be sadly inadequate. So I'll venture an opinion that none exist.

What I really reject about 'agnostic' is the implication that the question must remain inviolate until proven some way. There are any number of questions in the same realm of unanswerability, virtually any question with the words "why" "should" or "exists" for starters. Just because you'll never be sure doesn't mean you can't have an opinion.

[ Parent ]
Definition 1 is most important (none / 0) (#179)
by weirdling on Tue Dec 05, 2000 at 01:45:59 PM EST

Philosophically, definition one is more important than two. To a Christian or atheist, the central argument is whether there is a god. To an agnostic, the central argument is whether there is an external morality. See, Christians derive their external morality from god and atheists derive it from the collective moralism of humanity, but agnostics say that the thing is not external. There is no external truth to hang morality on. There is nothing but what we can see and feel and touch and taste or otherwise prove exists. Definition two is incidental to this, but quite immaterial to the continuing existence.
Agnostics are often amoral, too. There is a large difference between amoral and immoral. An amoral person insists that morality cannot be determined any more than truth or first principles or god, but an immoral person is in violation of morality, so an amorl person may only be immoral in someone else's eyes.
Anyway, I'm amazed that a dictionary definition could so succinctly come to the heart of a philosophical matter. It's like a dictionary being correct about a computer term...

I'm not doing this again; last time no one believed it.
[ Parent ]
gah. (2.00 / 3) (#96)
by ksandstr on Sun Dec 03, 2000 at 08:56:48 AM EST

Some people just don't seem to realize how little the dictionaries actually know about the words they are explaining. Or did you think you could explain to an atheist that "no, actually, you're denying that god exists, because it says so here in my handy dictionary" and not get laughed at?

Seriously, the dictionary is no substitute for real life.


Fin.
[ Parent ]
Atheist=No God. Agnostic=No Knowledge. (none / 0) (#174)
by phliar on Tue Dec 05, 2000 at 02:08:14 AM EST

An atheist says, "I believe there's no God."

a - the - ism
a -:
no
theos:
god
- ism:
trait

Do you see the difference between "I believe there's no God" and "I don't believe there's a God"? That's a crucial difference. There are lots of people who will say the former and lots others who say the latter. Yet both groups of people will be called atheists.


Faster, faster, until the thrill of...
[ Parent ]

Does Christmas have to be Christian? (3.94 / 19) (#7)
by MoxFulder on Sat Dec 02, 2000 at 03:03:04 PM EST

I would gladly give this story a +1, but I'm afraid it's gonna be flamebait since so many readers are definitely atheists ...

I personally am not Christian ... I'm Jewish, but my dad grew up Christian. When I was little, my family would always go visit my dad's parents for winter break. We'd even get a tree and have stockings for Santa and sing Christmas songs and stuff. My grandma always had a little nativity scene that she would put on top of the piano and I would play with the shepherds and animals like they were action figures or something. Until I was ten or so, I doubt I even realized that there was all that much religious meaning to Christmas ...

But nonetheless Christmas always seemed like a very special time of year to me. I got to see my grandparents and usually my cousins too, and we had time to relax and build snowmen and drink hot cocoa and all that good stuff. I get this tingly feeling just thinking about it!

Christmas time still feels special to me, with everybody a little bit more generous, all the holiday lights, the crowds at the mall, etc. But it's not nearly as cool as it was when I went to see my grandparents and cousins.

What I'm trying to say is that the Christmas spirit, at least for me, doesn't have much to do with religion. It's all about family and relaxation and wintry weather. Some friends from Australia told me that they usually have beach parties and barbecues for Christmas. I think Christmas in summer would be a lot more alien to me than Christmas without angels or Jesus ...

(By the way, since you mentioned Chanukah, I'll tell you a bit about it: it's not at all an important holiday, religiously speaking. I can only think of one prayer that is specifically for Chanukah. Chanukah commemorates the Jews' driving the Greeks and Syrians out of Judaea around 250-300 BC. When the temple in Jerusalem was liberated, the Jews relit the menorah, the Eternal Flame, and there was a miracle associated with it. So that's how it became the Festival of Lights.)

"If good things lasted forever, would we realize how special they are?"
--Calvin and Hobbes


Solstice... (4.11 / 26) (#8)
by Speare on Sat Dec 02, 2000 at 03:03:04 PM EST

Long before there was a Christ, there was a Solstice. The winter solstice (22 December on the Gregorian calendar, in the northern hemisphere) has been a point of interest in every star-observant culture there has ever been.

As "old" as the Christian religion is, it's still a relative newcomer to the world. Nothing wrong with that, in and of itself: if God visited His flock in carnate form, and if He made a spectacle of martyrdom some 30 years later, that's fine and good and worth a celebration. However, two thousand years later, people are still misunderstanding Jesus' messages of tolerance, good will, aid and humility. Maybe the term "Christmas" is just a yearly attempt at getting back to some positive personal values.

I'm not strictly Pagan, not strictly Christian, not strictly Taoist nor Muslim nor Jew. I'm not athiest, as I can't disprove higher powers either, nor do I really want to. I am frustrated by how fractious fundamentalists of any religion can be. As an example, Christians (as a whole) disdain the whole idea of multitheistic beliefs, feeling it breaks the second commandment, etc. This in turn breeds resentment and elitist intolerance when faced with other culture's beliefs: I'm right, you're wrong.

Allah is God is Gaia is Zeus ... and any day is just as good as any other day to celebrate it. If you want to celebrate something specifically at this time of year, and don't feel particularly Christian, just sip some wine and enjoy the longest night of the year.


[ e d @ h a l l e y . c c ]
Misguided fundamentalism... (3.14 / 7) (#46)
by Miniluv on Sat Dec 02, 2000 at 06:17:38 PM EST

I tend to agree with your disdain of fundamentalist beliefs, however I also apply it to every faith system. Fundamentalism and fervor make a dangerous combination, and not just in Christianity.
Also, the second commandment only says that a person is not to worship any gods before God with a particular emphasis on capitalization. Christianity is an odd cross between polytheism and monotheism in that they worship the many faces of a single God. This is not dissimilar to portions of other religions where there is a demarcation between lesser and greater gods, with some gods being facets of others.

"Its like someone opened my mouth and stuck a fistful of herbs in it." - Tamio Kageyama, Iron Chef 'Battle Eggplant'
[ Parent ]
Definitely. (3.75 / 4) (#105)
by Speare on Sun Dec 03, 2000 at 01:14:11 PM EST

My example from Christian fundamentalism was only intended as one example. Look at so-called "hard-line" leaders of Islam (such as the Taliban), or the fundamentalist Jews, or the bickering in Ireland between Catholic and Protestant groups for more examples of spirituality-gone-awry. Mainstream Islam and Judaism and Christianity are fine; they don't follow violence or intolerance as do the extremist few.

I also generally agree with your interpretation of Moses' delivered Second Commandment: thou shalt have no gods before me. Now, if you consider the head honcho god of each of the religions as being really the same spiritual entity, this becomes almost a mere truism: 'the top dog must be the top dog'. The only thing holding it back from being a truism is if you hold something else, say, money, as being more important than the main God.


[ e d @ h a l l e y . c c ]
[ Parent ]
Semi-nitpick (4.00 / 4) (#132)
by jethro on Mon Dec 04, 2000 at 01:34:47 AM EST

> I also generally agree with your interpretation of
> Moses' delivered Second Commandment: thou shalt have
> no gods before me.

I hate to nitpick. I'm seriously not religious, but one of my pet peeves is the mistranslation of the bible (or old testament) into English.

It is horribly mistranslated. I have no idea how some of those translations happened.

It is the first commandment that specifies no other gods, and in the original Hebrew it definetly means "Other than me". Not before.

Other than that, I agree with you (:

--
In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is kinky.
[ Parent ]
Chrismas origins (4.06 / 15) (#13)
by fluffy grue on Sat Dec 02, 2000 at 03:08:07 PM EST

Saturnalia explained
--
"Is not a quine" is not a quine.
I have a master's degree in science!

[ Hug Your Trikuare ]

Terrible cartoon (2.00 / 2) (#39)
by squigly on Sat Dec 02, 2000 at 05:26:49 PM EST

Good punchline.

It just took too long to get to it.

--
People who sig other people have nothing intelligent to say for themselves - anonimouse
[ Parent ]
Purposefully bad (2.33 / 3) (#51)
by fluffy grue on Sat Dec 02, 2000 at 06:42:52 PM EST

The whole thing is in the style of Jack Chick, paranoid bible-thumper extraordinaire. e-sheep's artwork is usually MUCH better than that. ;)
--
"Is not a quine" is not a quine.
I have a master's degree in science!

[ Hug Your Trikuare ]
[ Parent ]

Hannukah (4.11 / 18) (#17)
by Nimster on Sat Dec 02, 2000 at 03:15:19 PM EST

Heya,
Let me clear up the fog you have as for Hannukah.
Hannukah is a holiday about miracles, basically. The "Holiday of light" as you refer to, is one of the most famous miracles, the miracle of the oil can. The story tells that the Menorah (the holy symbol of the jews) in Beit Hamikdash (The house of god) had to be lighted, but due to a siege on Israel, there was only one can of oil left, so small that it merely allowed for one day, yet, as god gave his spirit onto the canister, it lasted for 7 days. That's why the jews light the Hannukiah in that holiday - one candle for each of the 7 days of the holiday. The events for which we celebrate Hannukah, btw, happened about 700 years before Christ was born, IIRC. There's some more to it, but that's the basics. It's the most festive holiday of the jews, although some argue Purim - our Halloween equivilent is even merrier. There's lots of Doughnuts, toys, gifts, and holiday songs involved, and this holiday the whole family usually gathers together, very much like Christmess.
-Nimster
Hannukah (3.33 / 6) (#48)
by CyberQuog on Sat Dec 02, 2000 at 06:42:06 PM EST

As I said in another post, the thing about Hannakuh is that it is an extremly minor holiday. Purim on the other hand is a pretty major holiday and a great excuse to party (your actually required to get drunk).


-...-
[ Parent ]
OT: Hanukah (3.83 / 6) (#100)
by moshez on Sun Dec 03, 2000 at 09:58:58 AM EST

OK, there was enough bullshit going around on Jewish holidays here, and just thought that as someone who grew up on the stories I'd clear everything up. Judaism has 3 major holidays: Sukot, Pesakh and Shavuot. Those were the holidays which in ancient times, you went to the temple in Jerusalem to pray in. (OK, I'm simplifing here a bit. Sue me). All three, while they have historical roots, are basically farming based events. Over the years the Jews have grown a holiday for every Jewish month except for the
summer months (the two last one in the Jewish calendar -- I'm talking about Israeli winter here, of course, since that's where Judaism originated). Oh, and of course Heshvan, which is called Marheshvan (or bitter heshvan) because of that. All the other holidays are considered much less holy: for example, there are very few restrictions on what you can do.

About Hanukah: what's that shit about celebrating a miracle? A lot of Jewish holidays celebrate a miracle. What we celebrate is oil. That's why we light candles (originally, those were oil lamps). And if you ever wandered into a Jewish home during Hanuka and wondered why the hell do these people eat so much oil-saturated foods during this holiday, that's why.

Purim, for anyone who saw posts which discuss this holiday, is just as minor as Hanukah. What makes Purim unique is that it truly presents religious Jews with a moral/theological dilemma. It's the holiday in which what is celebrated is actually a cruel revenge upon people, and Judaism is basically against revenge.

[T]he k5 troll HOWTO has been updated ... This update is dedicated to moshez, and other bitter anti-trolls.
[ Parent ]
a positive comment ;) (2.66 / 15) (#19)
by gregholmes on Sat Dec 02, 2000 at 03:19:00 PM EST

Time to post a positive comment before you are voted down in flames :p

Christmas to me means a celebration of the birth of Christ. I'm not even very religious, but I am quite reality and truth oriented. That is what it means. You don't have to agree, believe in it, celebrate it, or anything, but that is what it means, whether one likes it or not.

It's amusing this time of year to mentally substitute "Christmas" for "holiday" in commercials, and see how often you have to do it. Everyone have fun checking your "holiday" lists and getting your "holiday" trees up! :)

Merry "holiday" everybody!



sorry to bust your bubble but you're wrong (3.25 / 4) (#71)
by boxed on Sat Dec 02, 2000 at 09:04:53 PM EST

Christmas isn't about the birth of christ really. I base this assumption of these facts:
  • Christmas has pagan names in at least a few countries. (For example Swedens "jul").
  • Christmas' central figure is Santa Claus not Jesus. (By a strange coincidence the popular way Santa is pictured is the invention of a Swede in cooperation with the Coca-cola company. The basis for the figure is a (semi-)pagan belief of a gnome-like being in Sweden. The saint he is named after in most of the world has nothing to do with how he is portaid.)
  • Christmas is not a christian-only thing.
  • Christmas isn't even local to historically christian areas. It has become a global tradition spreading across practically every cultural and religious border. (Yey! we can't get enough of these things.)
I love christmas because of the last point there: it is something that unites practically all of humanity. By celebrating christmas I celebrate the coming together of humanity (I don't care if it's just a dream).

[ Parent ]
Christmass is intrinsically Christian (3.50 / 6) (#82)
by Arkady on Sat Dec 02, 2000 at 09:54:13 PM EST

It's kinda' hard to see how you could think otherwise, it's in the actual word: "Christ"-"Mass", the annual Mass of Christ.

Now, Christmass was not the first holiday to celebrate on that day, and definitely only one of many to be celebrated near it. Many holidays share that week, or even that date, but Christmass itself? That's Christian.

As it is observed today as a secular (commercial) holiday, it's still a Christian tradition. It was commercialized beginning in the late 1800s and continues to become less and less connected to the Christian holy day whose name it's taking over, that is true.

Anything named "Christmas" (or any of several other spellings) cannot help but be the Christian holiday, or a derivation thereof. You may celebrate whatever you like at that time or on that day, but to call anything other than the Christian holiday Christmas is an insult to the Christians.

Cheers,
-robin

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere Anarchy is loosed upon the world.


[ Parent ]
The One-ness of all faiths. (3.66 / 3) (#99)
by boxed on Sun Dec 03, 2000 at 09:36:13 AM EST

You didn't read what I wrote obviously. I clearly state that in at least some countries the festivities you call "christmas" retains its pagan name. As a swede I celebrate "jul" not "kristmässa". The missionaries never managed to destroy the pagan name, just as they could not destroy our tradition of celebrating the summer solstice (this celebrations have no christian parts in it and a whole lot of pagan symbolism). The priests finally gave up and decided that "if you can't beat them, join them" so they let it be like that and started fighting it. Extremely few swedes celebrate "jul" as the christian holidays. This is not very surprising considering that:
  1. the name itself is pagan here.
  2. what you call "Santa Clause" is in fact the nordic myth of a being called "tomte". We retain that name.
  3. swedes are the second most atheistic country in the world.
  4. our (protestantic) church itself is actually agnostic!
I believe the Swedish church to be one of the most sane churches in the world. It does not exclude any type of christians, nor does it exclude jews, muslims, buddhists, hindus, humanist, agnostics or any other type of belief. It is the belief of the church that all faiths, whether you believe in humanity or God, are deep down the same. All faiths celebrate the same principle but we do it differently and we call it by different names. (I call it "the void" if I am forced to give it a name.) This is a road to peace and I hope that we can all join in behind our similaraties and our differences and cherish them.

[ Parent ]
oneness==false (3.20 / 5) (#102)
by gregholmes on Sun Dec 03, 2000 at 12:08:12 PM EST

There is so much wrong here it is hard to tell where to even begin.

The world's faiths do not all teach the same things or share the same beliefs, deep down or otherwise. For example, the extinguishment of desire and ending the cycle of reincarnation is completely different from letting Jesus bear the burden of your sins so you can have eternal salvation, which is itself different from keeping to ancient laws to please a deity. These beliefs are not the same, and some simply cannot be reconciled with others.

A church that "excludes" nobody is a mall, not a church. It is also very convenient; if everything is true and everyone is right, then whatever I choose to do must be right! How easy. And as a bonus, I get to feel superior and self-righteous about how "inclusive" I am!



[ Parent ]
you speak the words of murderers (2.00 / 5) (#103)
by boxed on Sun Dec 03, 2000 at 01:00:35 PM EST

Buddhism aims to save all beings from suffering. Christianity wants the same they only disagree as to the methods. If you do not see common ground in judaism, christianity, islam, buddhism, hinduism and a few other religions you have a very shallow understanding of these faiths. All major religions teach compassion, tolerance and love. This is all that matters.

[ Parent ]
what an odd subject line (2.50 / 4) (#108)
by gregholmes on Sun Dec 03, 2000 at 01:36:11 PM EST

So much for reasoned discussion :)

I find the many different faiths genuinely fascinating, because they are different. To see them as items on a menu is what is shallow.



[ Parent ]
Common Ground != Identical (3.25 / 4) (#112)
by Captain Derivative on Sun Dec 03, 2000 at 02:39:51 PM EST

Just because they're some common ground between pretty much all the big religions doesn't mean they're all the same. Just because Jews, Christians, and Muslims all worship the same God doesn't mean that Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are identical or "one". And Buddhism can offer insights for proper living even if its fundamental beliefs conflict with the core beliefs of other religions. But regions of common ground don't mean that they're all the same.

You seem to be assuming that this is an all-or-nothing thing -- either they're equal or they're diametrically opposed to each other. That's completely wrong. You can't possibly quantize something as immense and complex as religion. Saying that the common ground "is all that matters" shows your shallow understanding of these faiths.

P.S. May I suggest that if you reply to this you use a non-flamebait subject line? Especially if it has nothing to do with your message?


--
Hey! Why aren't you all dead yet?! Oh, that's right, it's only Tuesday. -- Zorak


[ Parent ]
subject-line that says nothing :P (3.33 / 3) (#116)
by boxed on Sun Dec 03, 2000 at 03:51:25 PM EST

I believe that the things that are common are the things that matter. The things that tear a rift between humans I call evil.

[ Parent ]
Re: you speak the words of murderers (none / 0) (#173)
by phliar on Tue Dec 05, 2000 at 01:38:22 AM EST

Buddhism aims to save all beings from suffering. Christianity wants the same they only disagree as to the methods.
You mean that christians want to save the heathens by killing them so God can sort them out (cf. the Crusades), and buddhists say if you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him.

The buddhist philosophy is that there is no creed; it says what the causes of suffering are, and then says how you can avoid suffering. There is no heaven (or hell) after you die; you follow those precepts so that they will reduce the suffering in your life. Most buddhists are not theists; there is no notion of a personal supernatural entity who will listen to prayers and intercede in worldly matters on your behalf. Most buddhists will say things like "don't believe or do anything I say just because I say it, only believe (or do) things that help you." (That is why if you meet the Buddha you should kill him. Buddha [or the Buddha] was just a person. Don't ascribe any special qualities to him.)


Faster, faster, until the thrill of...
[ Parent ]

Easter is intrinsically Pagan (4.33 / 3) (#107)
by zakalwe on Sun Dec 03, 2000 at 01:30:52 PM EST

It's kinda' hard to see how you could think otherwise, it's from the actual word: "Oestre / Estre", the Anglo-Saxon Goddess of Spring, Fertility and New Life.

Now, Estre was not the last holiday to celebrate on that day, and definitely only one of many to be celebrated near it. Many holidays share that week, or even that date, but Estre itself? That's pagan.

As it is observed today as a christian ( religious ) holiday, it's still a Pagan tradition. The name was borrowed by christianity and continues to become less and less connected to the Pagan holy day whose name it's taking over, that is true.

Anything named "Easter" (or any of several other spellings) cannot help but be the Pagan holiday, or a derivation thereof. You may celebrate whatever you like at that time or on that day, but to call anything other than the Pagan holiday Easter is an insult to the Pagans.

My point? - be careful what you say about 'owning' a religion - Christianity has borrowed numerous pagan rituals, names and ceremonys in various cultures in order to ease conversion ( In some cases even for reasons of public health eg. Fish on a Friday).

In fact, it's actually pretty hard to identify any Christian traits in the modern celebration. Most of the traditions that we associate are pagan in origin, though often a thin veneer has been added by Christianity in order to cover this. ( Eg. Santa -> Saint Nicholas )

[ Parent ]

nice parody; bad argument ;-) (3.66 / 3) (#110)
by Arkady on Sun Dec 03, 2000 at 02:25:49 PM EST

First, Easter as a word is multiply derived, since the Indo-European languages all had similar words for fertility; the "Oestre" you cite is actually closest to the Latin "oestrus". You're certainly correct that it's an odd word for Christians to be using for their celebration of rebirth, but that's not sufficient to make it a pagan event. Also, since Christmass has no similar confusion with pagan terminology, it doesn't directly apply here.

The problem with your argument is that there is no continuous pagan tradition to connect modern paganism to pre-Christian use of the term. Modern "paganism" is not a continuation, it is a revival of a dead tradition (and is just as subjectively derived from the desires of its practitioners as Wicca is).

I wouldn't argue with you that the majority of Christian holy days are placed at the same points of the calendar as other prior and current religions have holy days, nor that much (if not most) of the Christian holiday attributes are derived from non-Christian sources. That, I should think, is obvious. The point, though, is that if you celebrate anything called Christmass then you are celebrating a Christian holy day. If you celebrate something else at the same time, then you are not.

As you point out, the case with Easter is more difficult, since the term has wider application than Christmass. I would argue, however, that since there are no other continuous traditions (that I can think of; please correct me if you can come up with one) which use the term, Easter is also intrinsically Christian, though it wouldn't have been 1500 years ago.

Cheers,
-robin

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere Anarchy is loosed upon the world.


[ Parent ]
The term has been hijacked by mass culture (3.50 / 2) (#148)
by zakalwe on Mon Dec 04, 2000 at 10:17:49 AM EST

The problem with your argument is that there is no continuous pagan tradition to connect modern paganism to pre-Christian use of the term. Modern "paganism" is not a continuation, it is a revival of a dead tradition (and is just as subjectively derived from the desires of its practitioners as Wicca is).
But does it really matter that there is no continuous tradition? If the origin of the word is pagan ( though admittedly, that's arguable), what right does Christianity have to use it as a Christian event? And why can't others use Christian names in the same way?

I suppose I'm maybe just playing devil's advocate a little here, since I agree that Christmas should technically refer to the Christian celebration. These days though, it doesn't. It's usually refers to "That time around 25th December when we give presents/spend time with the family.", and I have to admit that I'm guilty using the term in this way too.

I'm an atheist, but I will generally refer to taking "Christmas Holidays", and most people will know that that means that I'll be taking time off around the end of December, rather than that I'll actually be celebrating the birth of Christ, or any other event. Really this usage is inevitable - Christianity is so prevalent in Western society that Christmas has become part of the general culture, rather than remaining specific to Christianity.

[ Parent ]

sorry, no.... (1.75 / 4) (#130)
by cryon on Mon Dec 04, 2000 at 12:10:49 AM EST

You said: " Christmas to me means a celebration of the birth of Christ."
Nope. There was no Christ, or probably, dozens of them. See:
"http://www.truthbeknown.com/origins.htm
Enjoy....
HTGS75OBEY21IRTYG54564ACCEPT64AUTHORITY41V KKJWQKHD23CONSUME78GJHGYTMNQYRTY74SLEEP38H TYTR32CONFORM12GNIYIPWG64VOTER4APATHY42JLQ TYFGB64MONEY3IS4YOUR7GOD62MGTSB21CONFORM34 SDF53MARRY6AND2REPRODUCE534TYWHJZKJ34OBEY6

[ Parent ]
Get a better link to propagate here, eh? ;-) (2.00 / 1) (#137)
by Arkady on Mon Dec 04, 2000 at 03:36:08 AM EST

This is the third time I'll point this out: it's broken. The other two are here and here. ;-)

Cheers,
-robin </p

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere Anarchy is loosed upon the world.


[ Parent ]
You're crazy! That link works. (1.66 / 3) (#141)
by cryon on Mon Dec 04, 2000 at 08:21:04 AM EST

http://www.truthbeknown.com/origins.htm
HTGS75OBEY21IRTYG54564ACCEPT64AUTHORITY41V KKJWQKHD23CONSUME78GJHGYTMNQYRTY74SLEEP38H TYTR32CONFORM12GNIYIPWG64VOTER4APATHY42JLQ TYFGB64MONEY3IS4YOUR7GOD62MGTSB21CONFORM34 SDF53MARRY6AND2REPRODUCE534TYWHJZKJ34OBEY6

[ Parent ]
The DNS is down (3.00 / 3) (#154)
by priestess on Mon Dec 04, 2000 at 01:37:36 PM EST

The link isn't broken, but the DNS that serves the site is. I guess that the IP is cached on your nameserver so it works for you. Google's <A HREF="http://www.google.com/search?q=cache:www.truthbeknown.com/origins.htm>cache still works.
----
My Mobile Phone Comic-books business
Robots!
[ Parent ]
Bah humbug. (2.24 / 29) (#21)
by buzzbomb on Sat Dec 02, 2000 at 03:25:01 PM EST

It's just a time of year for stores to make more money on the unsuspecting public who buys into this shit. It's also time for people that are total cocksuckers 11 months out of the year to be nice to each other. Christmas has nothing to do with Christ anymore. The money is what matters...

Consumers, not Christiansi (3.50 / 2) (#131)
by blair on Mon Dec 04, 2000 at 12:27:03 AM EST

I agree, although perhaps with slightly different language.

I was raised as a Christian (as one of the many flavors of Protestantism) in a rural are of the Midwest. This area can definitely be considered "God Country". From my experience, however, those that claim to be the most religious (in the Christian sense) are those who celebrate x-mas in the most consumeristic fashion. While this is a generalization, what occurred was that one would go to a church service either on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. The rest of the time would be spent eating, offering a token prayer before the meal, receiving the fruits of a consumer society (that is, far too many presents), etc. While there may be Christian iconography around, and these people may consider themselves Christians, go to church at least once a week, pray at least daily, etc., Christmas is effectively celebrated as a consumer holiday.



[ Parent ]
As a rabid athiest... (4.07 / 13) (#24)
by daystar on Sat Dec 02, 2000 at 03:33:05 PM EST

I still kinda like christmas.

The fact is, most cultures have celebrations around this time of year. I think there's something in human nature that likes a good party in the dead of winter. I don't see any rational REASON for it, but I don't understand a lot of things. Doesn't mean there isn't a phenomenon there.

On the other hand, there was a time when christmas depressed the hell out of me, because it was so cold and dreary, so I moved to Phoenix, and now life is warm and bright.

--
There is no God, and I am his prophet.
I'm also an atheist... (3.33 / 6) (#35)
by Captain_Tenille on Sat Dec 02, 2000 at 04:54:02 PM EST

... but I still do stuff for Christmas. For me, at least, the holiday is totally devoid of any spiritual meaning, but it's a time to humor my Mormon parents and spend a little time with them and have fun with my friends who don't leave town for the holiday.

There must still be something about it for me though, because I spent last Christmas alone and broke, and it was one of the worst times in my life.
----
/* You are not expected to understand this. */

Man Vs. Nature: The Road to Victory!
[ Parent ]

Hey... you stole that .sig (3.33 / 3) (#122)
by spectatorion on Sun Dec 03, 2000 at 05:55:13 PM EST

Maybe you didn't think anyone else would know this little bit of trivia, but your .sig was actually used to describe the great physicist Paul A. M. Dirac. He was such an outspoken athiest that people who knew him were known to say "There is no God and Dirac is his prophet." Then again, maybe you just forgot to cite the origin of this quotation. Either way , credit where credit is due, man.

[ Parent ]
Ideals of Christmas. (3.16 / 18) (#36)
by CheSera on Sat Dec 02, 2000 at 05:14:02 PM EST

Every Christmas I have this debate with one of my friends who is christian. First a disclaimer. I am an athiest. I also celebrate christmas. I do NOT celebrate christ's birth. I don't rationalize it by claiming I celebrate anything else like the winter solace. I celebrate it becasue my society celebrates it. Because my family celebrates it. And because I would do them harm by not celebrating it with them. I celebrate my family and the love I have. Thats it.

Now on to the claim that Christmas is a Christian Holliday. Boy do I LOVE this arguement. Question. What does a large man in a red suit have to do with Christ's birth? Anyone? GUESS WHAT. It has nothing to do with it. Its a hangover from a pagan holliday celebrated near the end of the harvest in the winter. Right near the winter solace. The christian missionaries needed to convert en mass all these pagans across the world. So they changed the harvest celebration into the celebration for christ's birth. Ain't that convinent.

Here's another. What's up with the pine tree? Can anyone guess? Guess who else used pine trees. Another quick thought. There wernt' a hell of a lot of pine trees around the area where christ was born. THEY WERE USED TO CELEBRATE THE WINTER SOLLACE. Thats it.

While we're at it, lets examine another popular christian holliday. Easter. Great timing on that one too. Another popular heathen holliday there. The planting celebration. Spring planting. Proof? Well the bunny's a good one. What, did christ have bunnys around him when he rose from the dead? Nope. He had nothing to do with it. Bunnys are for a sesonal representation of the pagan hollidays. So are the eggs they drop off for that matter. Just remember that next time you grab a couple out of your easter basket.

Finally I'd just like to appoligize for any ire that might have been in this article. I just find it funny that Hollidays that were originally hijacked from Pagans are now well supported as purely christian hollidays. So next time you ask me why I celebrate christmas, I just might ask you the same.


============
**TATDOMAW**
============

Re: (3.75 / 4) (#41)
by oleandrin on Sat Dec 02, 2000 at 05:33:52 PM EST

Your ideas are correct, but the manner in which you divulge them is decidedly mean-spirited.

[ Parent ]
Angry (2.85 / 7) (#44)
by CheSera on Sat Dec 02, 2000 at 06:14:14 PM EST

I agree in retrospect that my tone of voice was overly accusative, but I get piqued when I confront this kind of religious position. Asking why I celebrate christmas is equlivant to asking why I live in a country that he claims was founded on christian ideals (another argument for another day). Religion doesn't bring out the best in me I guess.


============
**TATDOMAW**
============

[ Parent ]
Not harvest (4.20 / 5) (#43)
by Arkady on Sat Dec 02, 2000 at 06:08:01 PM EST

There are very few parts of the world, and none in Northern Europe (where Christmass and the majority of its iconography originate), where a harvest can be held in December. The harvest festivals are carried into the modern world in the fall holidays, like the Oktoberfests.

The mid-winter festivals are from a markedly different root than harvest festivals and are tied to the Solstice, when the days begin to lengthen and the temperatures rise again. Mid-winter holdays tend to focus, not on the bounty of the Earth, but on the joy that once again the sun is returning to bring spring back to the Earth. Think of the Greek Persephone myth; the birth of the (to be) reborn Christ (and the deeds of Mithras from which the Christan holiday takes it's date) are recapitulations of this basic celebration that the season is changing and bringing back life itself.

It's a minor nit to pick, of course, but if you're condsidering this from the social scientist's perspective the distinction between harvest and mid-winter festivals is quite significant.

Cheers,
-robin

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere Anarchy is loosed upon the world.


[ Parent ]
the origins of Santa (3.66 / 3) (#67)
by boxed on Sat Dec 02, 2000 at 08:49:21 PM EST

Santa actually is in his current form a twisted version of the Swedish "tomte". This was a small (knee-high) person who was believed to live around the farm. He was also quite vengeful so you had to be nice to him. This later changed into a tradition of men dressing up as the "tomte" to give presents during christmas. At that time we also had a person dressed as a goat who was the evil counterpart to santa. The current view of the slightly overweight man with the red and white attire is actually the invention of a Swedish artist hired by the Coca-Cola company. Yes you heard me right. Those pictures you see in Coke-commercials with santa holding a coke bottle are the images that created the modern view of Santa Claus (actually it's not Claus at all but the Swedish tomte, but Coca-Cola and christianity have made these two figures one and the same).

[ Parent ]
I always thought ... (3.50 / 2) (#144)
by StrontiumDog on Mon Dec 04, 2000 at 09:17:01 AM EST

... Santa Claus was the modern variant of Saint Nicholas of Patara (in what is now modern day Turkey), a wealthy man well known for his acts of charity. The History Channel says this of Santa Claus:

St. Nicholas made his first inroads into American popular culture towards the end of the eighteenth century. In December 1773, and again in 1774, a New York newspaper reported that groups of Dutch families had gathered to honor the anniversary of his death. The name Santa Claus evolved from Nick's Dutch nickname, Sinter Klaas, a shortened form of Sint Nikolaas (Dutch for Saint Nicholas). In 1804, John Pintard, a member of the New York Historical Society, distributed woodcuts of St. Nicholas at the society's annual meeting. The background of the engraving contains now-familiar Santa images including stockings filled with toys and fruit hung over a fireplace. In 1809, Washington Irving helped to popularize the Sinter Klaas stories when he referred to St. Nicholas as the patron saint of New York in his book, The History of New York. As his prominence grew, Sinter Klaas was described as everything from a "rascal" with a blue three-cornered hat, red waistcoat, and yellow stockings to a man wearing a broad-brimmed hat and a "huge pair of Flemish trunk hose."

[ Parent ]

You're prooving my point (3.00 / 2) (#155)
by boxed on Mon Dec 04, 2000 at 03:19:41 PM EST

Santa Claus (the modern version) carries the name of the saint you talk about, but he carries exactly zero of his attributes. All the attributes of santa that were not made up/altered by the artist, are taken from the Swedish "tomte"-myth. This is very natural since he was a swede.

[ Parent ]
oh, and about the eggs (3.25 / 4) (#68)
by boxed on Sat Dec 02, 2000 at 08:51:11 PM EST

The eggs are as you say a pagan tradition, however the tradition of painting eggs is a christian idea. Strange how these things blend into eachother after a few generations...

[ Parent ]
oh, and about the eggs (2.75 / 4) (#95)
by anewc2 on Sun Dec 03, 2000 at 06:54:26 AM EST

> the tradition of painting eggs is a christian idea

Really? I find this hard to believe. Can you provide a reference?

The world's biggest fool can say the sun is shining, but that doesn't make it dark out. -- Robert Pirsig
[ Parent ]
atheists (3.38 / 13) (#37)
by enterfornone on Sat Dec 02, 2000 at 05:14:19 PM EST

I'm an atheist, and most of my family are atheist or agnostic to various degrees. Yes I celebrate Christmas, it's a four day long weekend and it's traditional in western culture to use that time to get together with your family.

Take a look around, I can go to any shopping centre or down any city street and see Santa and reindeer and snowmen (odd, it being the middle of summer) but do you see anything remotely Christian related outside of the churches - not where I live.

Like Mother's Day and Halloween lots of people celebrate Christmas without paying a lot of attention to it's origins (I'll let someone else mention the pagan festival stuff).

The reason Christmas is so important isn't due to Christians. It's due to to unionism and good marketing.

--
efn 26/m/syd
Will sponsor new accounts for porn.
Why I celebrate Xmas (4.15 / 13) (#42)
by SIGFPE on Sat Dec 02, 2000 at 05:49:34 PM EST

I'm atheistic and celebrate Xmas because I need some days off work and it's convenient if I take time off at the same time as other people. It's fun. Could you explain just what it is that you don't get? Do you celebrate birthdays?

PS I take issue with your "religion is disbelief" phrase. I believe plenty of things and disbelieve plenty of others. The existence of God just happens to be one of the latter. So why do you choose to call an atheist's entire belief system a 'religion of disbelief'? I also don't believe in fairies but people don't use that to characterise me as a 'disbeliever'. Maybe I should say that your religion is one of disbelief as you probably don't believe in the possibility of matter (without soul) being intelligent (among many other things). Or did I misread you because you simply mean "religion of disbelief" as an abbreviation for "religion of disbelief in the beliefs of Christianity" (although this is hardly a better characterisation)?
SIGFPE
Re: Why I celebrate Xmas (2.75 / 4) (#61)
by Erf on Sat Dec 02, 2000 at 07:33:07 PM EST

Again, I'm sorry for the wording. I didn't mean to say atheists had no business celebrating Christmas. To Christians, this is the celebration of a specific event. Ditto for Hanukkah, and for Winter Solstice, and for birthdays, and (I think) for Thanksgiving. There are holidays which don't celebrate particular events or ideas, but those tend not to have so much meaning or "spirit" attached.

Obviously, everyone who's celebrating Christmas is celebrating something. I was just wondering what. Spending time with family, and just taking a break in the middle of winter, seem to be some of the more common "meanings" people are citing.

(The other intent of this story was to find out what other holidays are celebrated around this time. I'm only aware of Christmas and Hanukkah, and Winter Solstice, but I know there are others.)

As for "religion of disbelief": Atheism is the assertion that there is no deity. Since there can be no proof for or against this assertion, this is a faith, ie. a religion. (Well, I may be using the word "religion" wrong in this context, but I thought it was pretty much the same as "spiritual belief system", which atheism is.)

I'm not sure if belief in the lack of fairies would be a religion or not. But I do feel that what you believe against (ie. what you "disbelieve") is just as important to your religion as what you do believe in. As I understand it, atheism is the disbelief of spirituality (or is it just the disbelief of deities? or what?); hence the phrasing. So yes, you misread me (or I miswrote; probably the latter).

No disrespect intended or implied.

-Erf.
...doin' the things a particle can...
[ Parent ]

I don't like this word 'atheism'. (3.00 / 2) (#156)
by SIGFPE on Mon Dec 04, 2000 at 03:25:31 PM EST

Since there can be no proof for or against this assertion
In making this claim you are already making quite a few philosophical assumptions so that when you say "atheism...is a faith" you are actually saying quite a bit about yourself as well as about atheism. I don't think atheism is a religion but I guess there's not much point discussing this point much further as you'd disagree :-)

In addition I still don't think you can characterise atheism as a belief system - spiritual or not. Atheists believe lots of different things that all share a feature - a belief in the non-existence of a deity. Some people belief that coffee is a nice drink and some don't and you could call the dislikers acaffeinists but acaffeinists don't have a belief system called 'acaffeinism'. It might still make sense to say something like 'in the last year coffee production has decreased and acaffeinism has increased' - but if you think about what this sentence means it does not imply acaffeinism is a belief system - acaffeinism is merely an abstract noun representing just the belief (on its own and with no implied 'system') that coffee isn't a good drink.
SIGFPE
[ Parent ]
'Atheism' and 'Acaffeinism' (4.00 / 1) (#158)
by Parity on Mon Dec 04, 2000 at 06:13:01 PM EST

Uhmmm; Atheism is the characterization of a person's religious beliefs. 'Acaffeinism' would be a characterization of a person's consumption habits, and akin to 'teetotaler' or 'vegetarian', not to 'Atheist'. Atheism -is- the disbelief in god(s), but it obviously isn't a religion (nobody gathers together to affirm their faith in the non-existence of something) ... but it's useful to categorize people as 'atheist' sometimes because phrases like 'non-religious' cover too much ground (an atheist is distinct from an agnostic is distinct from a person with definite spiritual beliefs but no organized religion).

'Atheist' as a term is not meant to entirely describe anyone, but to describe a subset of the personality; it doesn't help matters any, imo, to cloud the issue by confusing religious beliefs, empirical beliefs, ethical beliefs, etc. Anyway.

(Fwiw, I'm neoPagan, not atheist or christian, so I'm not on either 'side' here; though I do agree that I dislike the characterization 'non-believer' since it divides the world into christians and atheists, excluding the possibilities of agnostics ('maybe-believer'?) and other religions ('different-believer'?) but I think that atheist/agnostic/christian/muslim/jewish/etc do a pretty good job of grouping people, at least in western culture.)

Parity Even


[ Parent ]
But that's not what I'm criticising (none / 0) (#161)
by SIGFPE on Mon Dec 04, 2000 at 07:02:28 PM EST

but it's useful to categorize people as 'atheist' sometimes
Absolutely. There is nothing wrong with the word 'atheist' - my point is that there is no creed 'atheism'. I think that there has been a tendency to assume that the existence of the word X-ist implies the existence of a creed X-ism.
SIGFPE
[ Parent ]
Re: Why I celebrate Xmas (none / 0) (#172)
by phliar on Tue Dec 05, 2000 at 01:18:32 AM EST

Atheism is the assertion that there is no deity.
I tried so hard to not fly into a rage and flame the living daylights out of Erf.

There are no assertions in atheism!

Atheism comes from the Greek: a- means without, and theos is god. That would make an atheist one who is without god (or, if you prefer, godless). One who lacks a belief in any god - whether Jupiter, Zeus, Yahweh, Santa Claus, Mithra, or The Invisible Pink Unicorn Who Runs Inside Our Walls (Peace Be Upon Her). There is no assertion that is a necessary part of being atheist.

As I understand it, atheism is the disbelief of spirituality (or is it just the disbelief of deities? or what?)
What is spirituality? It's another one of those words that means different things to different people. Here's what Einstein said:
"It was, of course, a lie what you read about my religous convictions, a lie which is being systematically repeated. I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly. If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it."
Would you say that Einstein was spiritual?

As for what atheists don't believe in: well, there's no Certifying Authority for Atheism. You can't really characterise people by something that they lack. Do you think that people who don't believe in the tooth fairy have anything in common (besides being under the age of 10)? Is "not believing in the tooth fairy" a religion?


Faster, faster, until the thrill of...
[ Parent ]

Hannakah (3.60 / 10) (#47)
by CyberQuog on Sat Dec 02, 2000 at 06:34:34 PM EST

It's funny, but Hannakah (no it doesn't matter how it's spelled in english) is a very minor holiday in Judeaism. It is not referenced to at all in the Torah and was only created later on by Rabis. You could stretch it and say the gift giving on Hannakah came from spinning the dreidal (a form of gambling), but basically the gift giving is taken from Christianity.
So, Hannakah doesn't mean much in a spiritual sense to me, but I do enjoy this time of year because people do seem to act nicer and be in better spirits.


-...-
There are transliterations which don't work (3.50 / 4) (#54)
by fluffy grue on Sat Dec 02, 2000 at 06:50:52 PM EST

Although the hard h can be denoted as 'h' or 'ch', and the k can be denoted as 'k' or 'kk', and the a at the end can be 'a' or 'ah', there are certain things which just plain don't work. Specifically, the second vowel really should be a 'u'.

Anyway. Yes, it's well-known and accepted that Hanukkah isn't a major holiday, it just happens to be at the right time of the year to "compete" with Christmas, and has only actually been celebrated within the last century, if even that long. Now, just because the holiday isn't referenced in the Torah doesn't mean it isn't legit, but it's taken on a much greater signifigance recently due to the commercialization of Christmas (what with all the Christian kids getting presents and such - rabbis didn't want Jews celebrating a Christianization of a Pagan holiday). I don't think anyone [sane] has ever tried to ascribe any spirituality to Hanukkah, in any case.

And yes, I'm Jewish (by heritage). My personal religion is something like apathetic atheism - I believe what is observable, but I don't force this on others (I only talk about my beliefs if someone else is inflicting their beliefs on me).


--
"Is not a quine" is not a quine.
I have a master's degree in science!

[ Hug Your Trikuare ]
[ Parent ]

NO (3.94 / 17) (#52)
by SbooX on Sat Dec 02, 2000 at 06:44:03 PM EST

Christmas does not have its roots as a Christian holiday. Costantine created the holiday in an attempt to bring the Roman Empire together. December 25 is the the Pagan new year. He chose it so that all could celbrate it together. We do not know when the real birthday of Jesus is. Most scholars belive that Jesus was born (if he existed at all) in late august or september.

---

god is silly. MGL 272:36

Newyear??? (4.50 / 2) (#142)
by Chakotay on Mon Dec 04, 2000 at 09:05:42 AM EST

Excuse me? December 25 is the Pagan newyear???

The Roman newyear is March 1. That's why February has only 28 days - it was the last month of the year, so it got the short end of the stick. That's also why September, October and November are the 9th, 10th and 11th months respectively, despite their names indicating that they're the 7th, 8th and 9th months respectively.

The Celtic newyear is at Samhain, the date of which varies somewhat each year, but is generally around 31st of October or the 1st of November.

So, um, which Pagans were you talking about anyway? The Romans? The Greeks? Egyptians? Celts? Germans? Teutones? Norsemen? Batavians? Gaulles? Hunnes?

--
Linux like wigwam. No windows, no gates, Apache inside.

[ Parent ]

Are you sure? (3.50 / 2) (#153)
by zakalwe on Mon Dec 04, 2000 at 01:32:18 PM EST

I thought Saturnalia was the roman new year celebration. There have been different dates for new years day in various cultures ( Up until the mid 18th Century, Britain's new year was at the end of march, and the financial year still starts in April ), but I think it was a celebration of the year being reborn as the years lengthened ( ie the Persephone myth). I could be wrong here though.

The reason for September, November and December being offset two months is nothing to do with the new year though - Two extra months ( July and August ) were added by the Julius and Augustus Caesar respecively.

[ Parent ]

I'm pretty sure. (none / 0) (#162)
by Chakotay on Mon Dec 04, 2000 at 07:07:55 PM EST

I'm absolutely sure that Celtic newyear is at Samhain, around September 31, because that's the date used by my own religion :)

I'm also pretty sure Roman newyear was the 1st of March, because that's what we learned in Latin class. February was the last month, that's why it's the oddball. The Roman newyear was pulled to months ahaid because it was a pretty imperfect calendar that ran a bit slow. Instead of pulling the entire calender around so newyear was actually where it was supposed to be again, they chose to just pull newyear two months forward. Undecember mensem (the 11th month), which comes after december mensem (the 10th month) was renamed januari mensem (the first month, or literally, the "doorway month"), and duodecember mensem (the 12th month) became februari mensem (don't remember what it means month). I've read an original Latin text in which they actually mention "duodecember mensem", which is actually what spawned this whole calender discussion in class.

--
Linux like wigwam. No windows, no gates, Apache inside.

[ Parent ]

what is "Atheism"; what is "Christi (3.80 / 15) (#59)
by Potatoswatter on Sat Dec 02, 2000 at 07:21:11 PM EST

The most glaring flaw I see in this article is that s/he [from now on "he"... this is why I normally write in the second person, but this is gonna be a little harsh...] refers to himself as a "Christian" and certain other people as "atheists". Now, most people I see on the Internet who call themselves "christian" are Fundamentalists who are trying to exclude other groups from being called Christian, or who want to emphasize their love of Christ over any sectional division...

Christians are a very diverse bunch, and the religious aspect of the spirit of Christmas has forms just as diverse. There are even many people who call themselves Christians but don't believe in a god, saying that the important thing that defines a Christian is to Love Thy Neighbor.

Which brings me to my second point: what is an "atheist"? Atheism is the nonbelief in any gods. It makes no rules or qualifications beyond that, it's merely the set of religions that have no gods. Saying, "I'm an Athiest" (with the capital 'A') is like saying "I'm a Monotheist" or "I'm a Polytheist". Monotheism is not a religion, it's religious qualification which is met by [many] Christians, Jews, Moslems, and many a personality-cult follower :v) .

So, I'm voting -1 for a generally irritating insensitivity to the attitude that as a "Christian" he's asking the "athiests" out there what they think. Religion doesn't need to be brought into this one bit.

Also, by the way, celebrating Christmas is common more to Americans than to Christians. In Spanish-speaking countries, for example, children enjoy getting gifts for "Three Kings", a holiday which is a little after the new year; I can't remember when. The point is, religious alignment has nothing to do with celebrating Christmas, and it's glaringly obvious how people enjoy giving gifts to people and getting together without religious "symbolism" to justify it, especially in a consumerist society like ours.

BTW, I'm an athiest who tends to agree with Buddhist values. Most of my friends are vaguely atheistic Christians.

myQuotient = myDividend/*myDivisorPtr; For multiple languages in the same function, see Upper/Mute in my diary! */;

"Christian" does not mean "Fundamen (3.00 / 7) (#63)
by Erf on Sat Dec 02, 2000 at 07:48:17 PM EST

The sole reason for stating my religious orientation (Catholic, BTW, not Fundamentalist) is to state what point of view the article was written from -- it's an expression of my interperetation of this holiday.

And why shouldn't religion be brought into this? To a lot of people, that's the reason this holiday is celebrated. Part of the reason for this article was that, when I wrote it, I had a hard time seeing what non-religious reasons there were for the holiday; not that I didn't think there were any, just that I didn't know what they were. (I, for one, have been enlightened. :) Everybody has their own reasons for celebrating, and I thought it might be valuable to discuss those. For some (not all; perhaps not most), those reasons are religious, so religion enters into the discussion.

-Erf.
...doin' the things a particle can...
[ Parent ]

typing lots of "quotes" "clips" (2.75 / 4) (#64)
by Potatoswatter on Sat Dec 02, 2000 at 08:01:04 PM EST

I didn't mean to imply that you're a Fundamentalist, just to bring out the ambiguity in the word "Christian", and how it's best to avoid applying it to people (especially yourself).

It's fine to bring religion into things (and of course this is all MHO), just not in such a sectional way. Asking a question to the "athiests" as a group will tend to garner replies from people who consider themselves to belong to the group that is Athiests. Athiesm is a religion, or at least a religious affiliation, in that sense.

If you address people by their sectional identity, only the most sectional will respond.

myQuotient = myDividend/*myDivisorPtr; For multiple languages in the same function, see Upper/Mute in my diary! */;
[ Parent ]

-1 (3.57 / 21) (#62)
by skim123 on Sat Dec 02, 2000 at 07:38:12 PM EST

Your article seems a bit bigoted. I don't think you were trying to come off as offensive, but, IMHO, you did re: your comments about atheism.

What I really don't get, though, is what atheists are celebrating. What is "the spirit of Christmas" to those whose religion is disbelief

"Religion of disbelief?" How about "Religion of not believing some silly stories you were told to believe when you were too young to question their meaning and relevance." Or how about we drop the term "religion" when talking about atheists and atheism.

Sorry, but you touched a bit of a nerve. Growing up in a small Midwestern town, you hear a lot of shit like this. I am not an atheist myself, but detest organized religion, especially Christianity. (A little of topic here, but...) I've got nothing against the belief-system of Christians, I just find it offensive that they feel it is their duty to try to convert others and bring them into the flock. I don't try to tell you what to believe, so don't fucking tell me what to believe. (I know your post wasn't insinuating any of this, just got off on a bit of a rant...)

Money is in some respects like fire; it is a very excellent servant but a terrible master.
PT Barnum


Couldn't be more wrong.. (2.71 / 7) (#75)
by Sheepdot on Sat Dec 02, 2000 at 09:24:14 PM EST

Not all christians are fundamentalists. If we were, you'd see a lot more people trying to "convert the heathens" (AKA snub them).

The problem is that religions are slowly turning to the point in which it is required as part of that religion to shun others in order to get to heaven.

I, along with many others, do not feel this way.


[ Parent ]
Christianity versus Christians (5.00 / 1) (#168)
by paulerdos on Mon Dec 04, 2000 at 11:49:55 PM EST

A couple comments. You state that atheism is a "religion of not believing some silly stories you were told to believe when you were too young to question their meaning and relevance." That is, you're characterizing Christianity as "believing in silly stories." I wonder how you would have reacted if a Christian had characterized atheism as "believing in a lie" ? I'm sure you see my point that making such statements is not conducive to a good discussion.

Secondly, I wanted to point out a distinction between "Christianity" and "Christians." Specifically, any person claiming to be a Christian does not define Christianity. Consider an example with "hacker": if I claim to be a "hacker," but actually go around AOL chat rooms asking people for their credit care numbers, does that make me a hacker? No. And, would it be fair for someone to look at me, and conclude "Hackers are really stupid people who waste their time asking random people for their credit care numbers" ? No.

Christianity is, simply, the belief that Jesus Christ was the Son of God and, through him, one can find redemption. That's it. Specifically, it does NOT entail "fucking telling you what to believe." If you've met Christians who told you what to believe, then I would characterize your experience as being similar to the "hacker" experience above.

You may be thinking, "But didn't Jesus tell his followers to go out and share the gospel? Doesn't that mean Christianity by definition means telling people what to believe?" No. I think you'd agree with me that "sharing" your belief with somebody, and "telling" somebody what to believe, are two completely different things. Just as I am now sharing with you my thoughts on this, and NOT telling you what to believe, the gospel is meant to be spread that way.

I hope some of what I said makes sense, and that you won't make the mistake of defining Christianity itself by those who claim to be Christians. Like the hacker example, that would be unfair and unfortunate - both for Christians and for yourself.



[ Parent ]
Re: Christianity versus Christians (none / 0) (#171)
by phliar on Tue Dec 05, 2000 at 12:50:45 AM EST

I wonder how you would have reacted if a Christian had characterized atheism as "believing in a lie" ?
Vast numbers of atheists (of which I am one) simply lack a belief in any form of supernatural entities - whether gods, fairies, ghosts, angels or unicorns; we're very similar to rational positivists whose philosophy is that only the directly observable is real. The best analogy I've come across (I forget where I picked it up) is "calling atheism a religion or belief is like calling good health a disease." Well, I suppose it could be considered offensive to compare atheism to good health and religion to disease, but the analogy is sound.

Christianity is, simply, the belief that Jesus Christ was the Son of God and, through him, one can find redemption. That's it. Specifically, it does NOT entail "fucking telling you what to believe."
Unfortunately there are large numbers of christians who do go around "fucking telling you what to believe." There are those who are very entertaining - Brother Jed, Sister Cindy, Pat Robertson, Oral Roberts, Chick Comics; but there are others who are dangerous, e.g. community leaders (priests, elders, teachers) in small communities who will make life a living hell for anyone who dares to be different - atheists, gays, pagans, possibly even hackers. A kid who's growing up and realising that he or she is different just doesn't have the resources and safety-nets that kids in larger communities do - they have no choice but to hide in the closet of shame and self-loathing.

I hope some of what I said makes sense, and that you won't make the mistake of defining Christianity itself by those who claim to be Christians.
We have no other choice; just as we use the failure of the Soviet Union as an example of how communism is fatally flawed. People don't have the time to read all the scriptures of superstition X and then decide whether person (or country) Y is a "True"[TM] X-ian or not. If they say they're a Last Tuesdayite, then by Jove that's good enough for us!


Faster, faster, until the thrill of...
[ Parent ]

A little offtopic... (3.46 / 13) (#65)
by ragabr on Sat Dec 02, 2000 at 08:18:55 PM EST

Has anyone seen the commercial.. it's a credit card using "The Grinch" for it's base. And it quotes the Seuss about how the Grinch realizes that Christmas isn't just about stores and presents and then it says, "but just in case he was wrong..." and I was soo offended by this aggregious (sp) perversion of the Seuss' words. Just my .02

-------
And my tongue would be made of chocolate. Mmmmm. Chocolate.
-rusty
"Christmas" (4.47 / 21) (#66)
by boxed on Sat Dec 02, 2000 at 08:36:36 PM EST

In Sweden it's not called "christmas" (or the appropriate translation) but "jul". This comes from the ancient german word "yule", the pagan name for the "midvinterblot" celebrations.

Not also that Jesus wasn't born on, or anywhere near, Christmas day. He was born in the summer time. As I've understood it christmas was rescheduled to the current time to compete with the strong pagan celebrations at the time.

On a side note: In Sweden we have an extremely old (1500 years or more) tradition of celebrating the summer solstice. The central event in these celebrations is the raising of the "midsommarstång". The symbolism is simple: the pole is a somewhat abstract penis that you raise as a symbol of the fertilization of mother earth. The point is that practically no Swedes ever stop and think about why they uphold this crazy tradition, which means very few know of the symbolism. The same goes for christmas if not so extreme.

Same thing. (3.16 / 6) (#97)
by ksandstr on Sun Dec 03, 2000 at 09:10:58 AM EST

Same thing in Finland, only it's "joulu". Sounds a lot like "jul", "yul" and "joulu" have the same base word, doesn't it?


Fin.
[ Parent ]
Nowadays it doesnt matter (3.30 / 10) (#69)
by maketo on Sat Dec 02, 2000 at 08:51:38 PM EST

Or as your favourite corporation would say "buy your loved one a present for this season". That is what is left of any holiday. I refuse to be a part of it.
agents, bugs, nanites....see the connection?
Merry Newtonmas (3.70 / 17) (#77)
by illustir on Sat Dec 02, 2000 at 09:37:30 PM EST

Christmas is verifiably the birthday of Sir Isaac Newton.

So instead of celebrating a day on which allegedly a person was born whose very existence is questionable, why not celebrate the birthday of a man who has meant so much to science?


-- 
One thing I'll teach the wereld, willens nillens:
There is tremendous poetry in killings.
     --Risjaar, Ten Oorlog III

Existence (3.28 / 7) (#106)
by komisch on Sun Dec 03, 2000 at 01:25:40 PM EST

I actually do not think Jesus' existence is in question. The veracity of the Bible when taken simply as a historical document is amazing. As I have read in many articles and books, the historical accuracyof the collection of documents that make up the Bible is far greater than any other documents from that time. By that I mean, the number of documents that come from secular sources that verify what the Bible says is far greater than for any other document. I do not have the numbers in front of me but it is simply amazing.
"You are repose and gentle peace, You are longing and what stills it..." Friedrich Ruckert
[ Parent ]
Um... (3.50 / 2) (#167)
by paulerdos on Mon Dec 04, 2000 at 11:26:42 PM EST

What makes Christ's existence questionable and Newton's existence certain?

I've met neither of them. Everything I know about the them comes from testimonies of others. And I believe Christ existed as a person, just as Newton existed, based on these testimonies. Just as I believe Ben Franklin existed. Whoever.

Now if you said you don't believe Christ is the Son of God, that's one thing, but to doubt his existence altogether, I'm not sure I understand the logic behind it. If I'm missing something, please, explain your reasoning so I may understand why Christ may not have existed any more than any other historical figure.



[ Parent ]
He's come to kill you 'cause you're Jewish, Kyle! (3.76 / 13) (#87)
by 0xdeadbeef on Sat Dec 02, 2000 at 11:17:40 PM EST

What is "the spirit of Christmas" to those whose religion is disbelief -- that is, to those who don't believe in the event others say is responsible for all the hubbub?

The smug superiority one feels while observing all this hypocritical nonsense with a cynical eye.

Btw, there is no such thing as a religion of disbelief. That is, unless of course you belong to the Church of the Denial of the Dancing Leprechaun. And actually, I do believe in the winter solstice, I just don't attribute any significance to it.

-1 (2.40 / 15) (#88)
by lucas on Sat Dec 02, 2000 at 11:45:17 PM EST

While I have done graduate work in Byzantine Religious History (e.g., Eastern Orthodox Christianity), I really do *not* like hearing this sort of common discussion about religion because it appeals to emotion and not to a proper, scholarly context... and it is painful for me to have to read people's ignorant comments about it (on both sides).

This is, for those of us who have studied Theology, similar to having to listen to people who know nothing about programming argue about which language is better... or a Linux vs. FreeBSD battle by people who mainly use Windows.

Indeed, this type of article belongs on Slashdot.

If any atheists or fundamentalists here took the time out to learn how to read the New Testament in its original Greek (or the Septuagint, the Greek Old Testament) and wrote an intelligent article on Christmas or other religious traditions, I would consider this interesting...

Otherwise, it is, in theological terms, more FUD and flaming worded as an innocent question.

lucas
lwagner@spindl3top.org.nospam

Ah, religion should be reserved for the experts? (3.75 / 8) (#111)
by Arkady on Sun Dec 03, 2000 at 02:35:32 PM EST

That's an argument most of the world hasn't seem much of in the past 500 years; it's nice to see it revived. ;-)

Seriously, if you have expertise in the subject, you should be contributing, not whining that the uneducated are trespassing on the rarified preserves of the professionals. If an inexperienced discussion on the merits of Linux vs. *BSD were to begin here, it would only be reasonable for folks with greater experience to chime in; the same applies to religion and religious history.

It's marvelous that there's someone on K5 with experience in the acedemic study of Christianity. So, if you see someone posting information which you can argue is false or misinformed, step in. Otherwise, a comment like this serves no real purpose except to insult _everyone_ involved.

-robin

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere Anarchy is loosed upon the world.


[ Parent ]
I hope I wasn't this conceited (3.40 / 5) (#113)
by weirdling on Sun Dec 03, 2000 at 03:24:08 PM EST

I was a theology major for two years and felt pretty superior, too. Of course one day, I realised that the whole mess didn't make any sense and became an agnostic and have been much more tolerant of other people being happy.
I'm not doing this again; last time no one believed it.
[ Parent ]
Augh! (3.66 / 3) (#128)
by kubalaa on Sun Dec 03, 2000 at 11:49:50 PM EST

I'm too incensed at this nonsense to even muster a well-reasoned reply. Did you read the topic? It was "What does this season mean to you?" Last I checked, a doctorate was not necessary to expound my views on a holiday which I celebrate. Your analogies are invalid because holidays and religion are cultural phenomenae which are even know in the process of evolving under the control of the "common" people you deride. Academia has taken it upon itself to analyze and disect the historical development, but the fact remains that nobody is a more qualified theologian/sociologist/anthropoligist than a person native to the culture in question.

Okay, I'm calm now. I'm hoping you weren't trolling intentionally, so please consider next time whether your comments actually add anything constructive to the discussion.

[ Parent ]

what do you think of this URL? (2.33 / 3) (#129)
by cryon on Sun Dec 03, 2000 at 11:51:55 PM EST

http://www.truthbeknown.com/origins.htm
Some criticism please....
HTGS75OBEY21IRTYG54564ACCEPT64AUTHORITY41V KKJWQKHD23CONSUME78GJHGYTMNQYRTY74SLEEP38H TYTR32CONFORM12GNIYIPWG64VOTER4APATHY42JLQ TYFGB64MONEY3IS4YOUR7GOD62MGTSB21CONFORM34 SDF53MARRY6AND2REPRODUCE534TYWHJZKJ34OBEY6

[ Parent ]
I think it's broken (none / 0) (#136)
by Arkady on Mon Dec 04, 2000 at 03:30:50 AM EST

Bur I've mentioned that in an earlier response to one of your comments. ;-)

Cheers,
-robin


Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere Anarchy is loosed upon the world.


[ Parent ]
Site down (3.00 / 2) (#152)
by priestess on Mon Dec 04, 2000 at 01:11:25 PM EST

The site's DNS seems to be down, but google's cache is still working

I haven't really got time to read it all, it's fairly long, but I've skimmed the thing. Seems to me that it's presenting a lot of 'evidence' that something didn't exist - tricky to do. There isn't much doubt that much of the story of Jesus' life is taken from other mythologies - the timing of Christmas itself being so close to the winter solstice can't just be coincidence.

Basically, I think it's almost impossible to talk inteligently about events that happened (or didn't) about two thousand years ago. I find it hard enough to reconstruct the events of last week, and everyone from 2000 years ago is dead and has a couple of hundred generations of lies and mistakes piled on top of no doubt biased and distorted views to begin with.

Pre.....

----
My Mobile Phone Comic-books business
Robots!
[ Parent ]
Not coincidence (none / 0) (#163)
by pw201 on Mon Dec 04, 2000 at 07:08:04 PM EST

There isn't much doubt that much of the story of Jesus' life is taken from other mythologies - the timing of Christmas itself being so close to the winter solstice can't just be coincidence.

It's not coincidence. The church chose the date at some point to, erm, appropriate the pagan celebrations that happen at around that time. No educated Christian thinks Jesus was really born on 25th December: shepherds watch their flocks by night during the spring lambing season.

This little bit of appropriation has the unfortunate effect that every year, at least one American fundamentalist loony will post to Christian newsgroups telling off the Christians there for celebrating Christmas because it is a "pagan" holiday. They don't seem to get the idea that the holiday is about different things to different people.

[ Parent ]

Criticism (3.00 / 1) (#159)
by pw201 on Mon Dec 04, 2000 at 06:47:08 PM EST

Well, you did ask. My bias here is that I'm a Christian.

The site is attempting to prove a negative, namely, that there was no Jesus in 1st century Israel. Reasoning from the absence of certain things allows the site's author to prove anything they like. Allow me to play a similar game:

Paul hardly mentions historical stories about Jesus. The author is obviously wrong about the reasons for being that Paul didn't know about the historical stories. The real reason must be that Paul's readers already knew the stories, so therefore Paul doesn't have to teach them again. What Paul is concerned with is to show new churches how to live and believe as Christians in a Pagan world.

Of course, I don't know that what I've just said is true, but it is just as plausible as the site's explanation. The site is wrong, anyway: that Paul does quote Jesus's words at the Last Supper. This occurs in the letter to the Corinthians. I'm not aware of scholars who think that these letters were not written by Paul: I believe the doubts are over the Pastoral epistles. If you believe, as the site's author appears to, that those references which do exist are "demonstrably interpolations", I'd be interested to know how this can be demonstrated.

The whole thing goes on by assuming that words and myths which sound the same have a common ancestry. Perhaps they do, but I'm almost suspicious that there are so many links between religions given on the site: the inventors of Christianity must have been well travelled and well versed in practically every religion available. There's no attempt to present a chronology of these influences on the site, or to acknowledge the Jewish influence on Christianity. It maybe that the books the site quotes are better researched, but the site itself is not up to much.



[ Parent ]

er.. yeah, let me rephrase that... (2.50 / 2) (#145)
by lucas on Mon Dec 04, 2000 at 09:33:48 AM EST

I probably should not have posted that because it sounded more arrogant than it actually was.

I was just saying that it is often tiresome to listen to religious battles... particularly because, time and time again, they are often started by someone asking an innocent question like what was in the article.

Someone mentioned that I should use what I studied to argue the point, but that misses what I was saying. I find it interesting and inspiring, but not enough to ATTACK people over... and, as I predicted, this article's commentary degraded into just that.

Someone mentioned about how my comment wasn't being constructive -- indeed, it was constructive. I was arguing that this sort of article doesn't belong on a board that is dedicated to tech/geek topics.

If you mean constructive in the sense of contributing to the discussion of whether or not God exists and under whose terms God exists, well, if you're looking to Kuro5hin to figure *that* out....

[ Parent ]
Why not use your knowledge then? (2.00 / 1) (#160)
by pw201 on Mon Dec 04, 2000 at 06:58:46 PM EST

Someone mentioned that I should use what I studied to argue the point, but that misses what I was saying. I find it interesting and inspiring, but not enough to ATTACK people over... and, as I predicted, this article's commentary degraded into just that.

Perhaps I've not read enough of the responses, but I've not seen much of people attacking each other. Attacking is different from disagreeing, of course, but the discussion here seems to be pretty good natured, so I don't see why you should not join in. I'd be interested to see what you think of that history of Christianity link that keeps getting spammed everywhere, for example.



[ Parent ]

Nice try on a neat subject (3.20 / 10) (#90)
by Fjord on Sun Dec 03, 2000 at 12:42:14 AM EST

Erf, i can see where you're coming from. Yes, you are condesending. I'm sure you didn't mean to, but you are. For all those who feel like telling friend Erf that, please remember this is most likely just an honest mistake, for which he has taken a good amount of slack.

I find it interesting the amount of people who feel that Christmas/Winter Solctice (sorry for the butchered spelling) is special. It does make sense, i mean, modern culture loves X-mas out the yin-yang and there's no way to get out of watching "It's a Wonderful Life" at least once.

Personally, i like to celabrate Christmas as the birth of Christ (even though it may not be), and a time to be around family. Yes, this is not a "factual, scholarly method," but i'm not dealing with a purely rational environment. I have emotions. Anywho, that's my .02

--
No one can force an OS down your throat, you ultimately have to pay for it, one way or another. - rednecktek
xmas in America today... (3.91 / 12) (#93)
by DeepDarkSky on Sun Dec 03, 2000 at 01:53:57 AM EST

I believe that the Christmas in America today was founded by the religion of money and capitalism. Of course, the commercial interests (large global corporations and small mom-and-pop shops alike) use targeted marketing campaigns to maximize revenue.

For example, for Christians (since there was such a large majority), it is labeled as the birth of Christ, a very compelling reason to celebrate and following the traditions and conform.

Hannukah for the Jews, another "large" group. Great way to sell menorahs and candles, and even the electric ones for those who are lazier. Not as glamorous as the Christian's campaign, but a significant one.

Of course, the Yule tide has been celebrated in Northen Europe, with the likes of Saint Nicholas, etc. Some bearded fellow giving gifts and such. Giving something to the Scandanavians is important to help them celebrate something that they have so much abundance of already - winter.

Then there's some kind of pagan holiday and/or winter solstice thingy, which also happens on the same day, and somehow that must be celebrated and mst be distinguished. Because after all, the pagans can't let the Christians take credit for it after all the defamatory influence that the Christians had on the word "pagan" and to continue to libel/slander them as "heathens", or so the marketers would have them believe.

Kwanzaa - for the African Americans who felt that Christmas has been a "white man's" holiday and felt left out. I mean, for heaven's sake, even the godless "pagans" had their say. Created under the guise of an African American in the 20th Century, it was designed to exploit the new market founded by the new generations of black people after they've finally started to even things out a bit after the slavery and segregation disasters.

Just as a blanket coverage for all the rest of the group, including the atheistic heathens that believes only in money, what better way to guarantee a spending glut of hard earned bonus money year after year than to launch an all out campaign to tell people that it is the season of giving, target the children (and indirectly, their parents) that somehow, Christmas = presents. As a way to ensure that parents are guilt-tripped into buying and giving presents to their children (thereby securing the childrens apparel and toys industries), Santa Claus, borrowed from Scandanavian folklore, is created as a way to explain why there are presents, disguised under to agenda to award good children.

Christmas is the most clever and widely conspiratorial marketing campaign of the religion of capitalism ever devised, and certainly the most successful and well-timed. The multi-target effort could not have been pulled off without the cooperation of the commercial interests. Such cooperation and sharing of resources to achieve such goals is not seen at this scale anywhere else. Christmas is indeed a well crafted commercial holiday.

(Ok, so it needs a little polish, but I think I got my point across)

Re: xmas in America today... (none / 0) (#170)
by phliar on Tue Dec 05, 2000 at 12:23:03 AM EST

For example, for Christians (since there was such a large majority), it is labeled as the birth of Christ, a very compelling reason to celebrate and following the traditions and conform.
Let's not forget though, that for about the first three hundred years of Christianity, there was no Christmas. Pope Liberius proclaimed Dec. 25 as "the day of the Nativity". Then in the early part of this century companies like Coca-Cola, Hallmark etc. made Christmas the triumph of rampant consumerism that it is today.

Then there's some kind of pagan holiday and/or winter solstice thingy, which also happens on the same day, and somehow that must be celebrated and mst be distinguished.
In "western civilisation" i.e. the Greco-Roman derived cultures, that would be the Saturnalia, a celebration of the god Saturn - usually from Dec. 17 to Dec. 24. The end of the Saturnalia was the festival of Sigillaria, where [presumably drunk] Romans would give presents to children, have great feasts and decorate their houses with green trees.

By declaring the Saturnalia (and Sigillaria) the day of the Nativity, Pope Liberius could generate some publicity for the new religion, and gain converts. (Canceling a week-long festival of feasting and drinking would be suicidal for a new religion!)

It could thus be argued that even when Christmas first started, it was a clever marketing ploy.


Faster, faster, until the thrill of...
[ Parent ]

What X-Mas means to me (3.44 / 9) (#98)
by X-Phile on Sun Dec 03, 2000 at 09:23:53 AM EST

Present day X-Mas was born from capitolism (as already mentioned in an earlier comment), but more specifically from the Coca-Cola Corp. (this is another story unto itself).

Personally, I draw from many religions to make up my beliefs, which basically boils down to "Be nice to people, and don't kick puppies".

X-Mas to me is the spirit of giving. I get a kick out giving someone a present, whether it be someone I know, or someone I don't know. I like the feeling I get when I dump a handful of change (which, thanks to the Canadian Loonies and Toonies, could be $10 - $12 without even realizing it) into the bucket sitting in from of the Salvation Army member, and following that with a cheery "Merry X-Mas!".

This kind of activity doesn't just happen once a year. It is just more noticable and "in your face" at X-Mas time.

And +1 for generating some interesting reading at this time of year =)

Odd, that's similar to my basic beliefs... (2.75 / 4) (#121)
by ZanThrax on Sun Dec 03, 2000 at 04:52:31 PM EST

Be nice to puppies, and don't kick people.

Before flying off the handle over the suggestion that your a cocksucker, be sure that you do not, in fact, have a cock in your mouth.
[ Parent ]

Coca-Cola did not invent Santa Claus! (3.50 / 2) (#150)
by robinw on Mon Dec 04, 2000 at 11:56:34 AM EST

The idea that the coca-cola company invented Santa Claus is absolutely false. It's a documented Urban Legend, check out the Urban Legend Archive.

Now, in your defense, you don't specifically credit the Coca-Cola company with the creation of Santa Claus, you credit them with the capitalism of Christmas.

I think that's quite a claim - that ONE company is responsible for the captialism of Christmas. I believe that _ALL_ stores and product manufactures throughout North America's history are responsible for that. I mean, if you can give people an excuse to buy your product, wouldn't you?

-RW

[ Parent ]

Re: Coca-Cola did not invent Santa Claus! (none / 0) (#169)
by phliar on Tue Dec 05, 2000 at 12:01:01 AM EST

The idea that the coca-cola company invented Santa Claus is absolutely false. It's a documented Urban Legend, check out the Urban Legend Archive.
i) That page only debunks the myth that Santa Claus wears red and white because those are colours of Coca-Cola;
ii) The claim is that the present-day Santa Claus, a rather fat, jolly man with white whiskers and rosy cheeks, is a creation of the Coca Cola company; they endowed the ancestral St. Nicholas with his present appearance and personality.

In 1931, Coca-Cola hired a man called Sundblom to produce a series of advertisements featuring Santa Claus based on the 1822 poem by Clement Moore "A Visit From St. Nicholas". Sundblom based the figure on a friend. Santa just happens to be enjoying the pause that refreshes.


Faster, faster, until the thrill of...
[ Parent ]

To me .. (3.50 / 10) (#101)
by aderuwe on Sun Dec 03, 2000 at 12:01:00 PM EST

As an atheist, it's a time of the year that is spend with family.
Sadly, the essence of Christmas in a broader perspective has been commercialised.

one minor correction... (3.57 / 7) (#109)
by cronio on Sun Dec 03, 2000 at 01:40:21 PM EST

The oil lasted 8 days, not 7. That's why Hannukias (Menorah's are not used for Hannuka) have 9 branches (8 for the 8 days, the 9th is the Shamash, which is used to light the rest).

Me and Christmas (2.70 / 10) (#125)
by antizeus on Sun Dec 03, 2000 at 08:33:48 PM EST

Hi. I am an atheist by the real definition -- I lack belief in the existence of god(s). I am not an atheist according to the popular misperception of atheism (promoted by editors of low-quality dictionaries) which is a claim that god(s) does/do not exist. I am not sure if I am an agnostic (I haven't thought much about what it would take to prove the existence of god(s)). Sometimes I act as if certain gods exist, but without the actual belief.

That said, I do not celebrate Christmas. When someone wants me to be involved in a Christmas-related activity, I try to cast it as a Winter Solstice thing, but that's mostly because I'm a smartass and not because I assign any great significance to the shortest day of the year. I will participate in these activities because they are an excuse to do something with friends and family. Beyond that I don't care about any particular day. Christmas, New Year, Halloween, Labor Day, Mothers' Day, Saddam Hussein's birthday -- none of that matters to me, but if there's a party going on involving people that I like, then I'm there.
-- $SIGNATURE

One more thing (3.42 / 7) (#126)
by antizeus on Sun Dec 03, 2000 at 07:49:59 PM EST

I disagree with your (article poster's) belief that the US and Canada were founded on "Christian" ideas. Well, I don't know about Canada, but the US has a pretty secular foundation. Some people like to point to references to "Nature's God" in the Declaration of Independence as some sort of official US endorsement of Jesus, but there's nothing in the founding documents of the republic which is inconsistent with a sort of "watchmaker" creator deity that has little to do with what's in the Bible. In fact many of the founders subscribed to that sort of religious belief system.
-- $SIGNATURE
[ Parent ]
Please substantiate your definition (3.00 / 1) (#134)
by Arkady on Mon Dec 04, 2000 at 03:21:36 AM EST

The definitions several of us have cited below are well supported in the history of free thought; read, for example Bertrand Russell's essays on this topic. The definitions he uses for both Atheism and Agnosticism are quite close those provided by the dictionary links I gave, and he is arguably the most respected chronicler of philosophical thought in the 20th century. His "History of Western Philosophy" has been a standard text in universities since it first went into print.

The word "atheist:, regardless of your personal feelings on the matter, is held by the most respected philosophers of the age to mean (roughly) "a person who believes in the non-existence of gods", not merely "a person who does not believe in gods".

If you would like to promote an alternative definition of the word, by all means do so, but the burden of demonstrating that your new definition is correct does lie with you. Since you don't like the dictionaries already cited, perhaps you could post the OED entries for "athiest" and "angostic"? I haven't got either a copy of the print version or a subscription to the online one or I'd have done it already.

Cheers,
-robin

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere Anarchy is loosed upon the world.


[ Parent ]
Re: Please substantiate your definition (none / 0) (#166)
by phliar on Mon Dec 04, 2000 at 11:24:10 PM EST

... the most respected philosophers of the age...
Argument by assertion, eh?
...perhaps you could post the OED entries for "athiest" and "angostic"?
First, I am going to assume that by "athiest" you meant "atheist" rather than the superlative form of the adjective "athy"; and by "angostic" you similarly mean "agnostic".

I do have an OED. Here are the definitions:

atheist 1. one who denies or disbelieves the existence of a God. 2. one who practically denies the existence of a God by disregard of moral obligations to Him; a godless man.

agnostic one who holds that the existence of anything beyond and behind material phenomena is unknown and (so far as can be judged) unknowable, and especially that a First Cause and an unseen world are subjects of which we know nothing.

When you consider the etymology (atheism: from Greek, a- + theos or without god; agnostic: from Greek, a- + gnostic or without knowledge [cf. gnostic]) it all becomes clear, eh?

I happen to fit both definitions of atheist, as well as that of agnostic. I am without belief (or deny the existence of) God; I certainly have no moral obligations to any sort of God; and anything outside the observable world is unknowable, just meaningless conjecture or fantasy. Ockham's Razor applies.

The whole notion of "god" is so vaguely stated that it becomes, almost by definition, a non-falsifiable (if not outright self-contradictory and meaningless) thesis.


Faster, faster, until the thrill of...
[ Parent ]

Definition (2.00 / 2) (#178)
by antizeus on Tue Dec 05, 2000 at 11:57:59 AM EST

If you would like to promote an alternative definition of the word, by all means do so, but the burden of demonstrating that your new definition is correct does lie with you.

The definition I use is hardly "new". I suggest that you take a look at the following links. I'm not trying to commit the fallacy of appealing to authority, but there is some interesting content to consider, some of which I may not agree with.

OK that's enough for now.
-- $SIGNATURE
[ Parent ]
Christ predates christianity (3.00 / 3) (#127)
by cryon on Sun Dec 03, 2000 at 11:47:05 PM EST

You said: "Christmas" has its origins as a Christian holiday (hence the name). " Ah no, the word "christ" had religious meaning for people in some parts of asia, africa and europe long before the christian religion came along; in fact christianity was based on those earlier religions;even the name Christ was prechristian. See: http://www.truthbeknown.com/origins.htm Enjoy.....
HTGS75OBEY21IRTYG54564ACCEPT64AUTHORITY41V KKJWQKHD23CONSUME78GJHGYTMNQYRTY74SLEEP38H TYTR32CONFORM12GNIYIPWG64VOTER4APATHY42JLQ TYFGB64MONEY3IS4YOUR7GOD62MGTSB21CONFORM34 SDF53MARRY6AND2REPRODUCE534TYWHJZKJ34OBEY6

your link? (none / 0) (#135)
by Arkady on Mon Dec 04, 2000 at 03:27:20 AM EST

That link wasn't much use:

/home0/krystal% nslookup www.truthbeknown.com
Server: va.eff.org
Address: 204.253.162.10

*** va.eff.org can't find www.truthbeknown.com: Non-existent host/domain
/home0/krystal%

Perhaps you mistyped it?

I'd particularly like to see it, since "christ" was adopted from the Greek and I'd like to see how it could have had meaning in most parts of Europe or any part of Africa or Asia prior to that.

We all know Christianity was influenced by earlier (and contemporary) religions. Even the most rabid American fundamentalist will admit that (in the Bible) Joseph and Mary are Jews ... ;-)

Cheers,
-robin

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere Anarchy is loosed upon the world.


[ Parent ]
try it again: (3.00 / 1) (#140)
by cryon on Mon Dec 04, 2000 at 08:17:57 AM EST

No, it's not my link, but the link of a very interesting researcher into the "origins of christianity" (type that phrase into Google and first hit is her page).Try the link again(the server must have been down):
http://www.truthbeknown.com/origins.htm
HTGS75OBEY21IRTYG54564ACCEPT64AUTHORITY41V KKJWQKHD23CONSUME78GJHGYTMNQYRTY74SLEEP38H TYTR32CONFORM12GNIYIPWG64VOTER4APATHY42JLQ TYFGB64MONEY3IS4YOUR7GOD62MGTSB21CONFORM34 SDF53MARRY6AND2REPRODUCE534TYWHJZKJ34OBEY6

[ Parent ]
the Yule season... (3.80 / 5) (#138)
by Chakotay on Mon Dec 04, 2000 at 06:39:59 AM EST

To me, this season has four important dates:

December 5: Sinterklaasavond - St. Nicholas Eve. On the night of the 5th of December, St. Nicholas travels around the world with his black servants, delivering presents to all good children, and a bundle of twigs to all bad children. He might even take the really bad children back to Spain with him! When none of the children believe in Sinterklaas (the affetionate name for St. Nicholas, pronounced almost like Santaclaus), St. Nick's Eve changes into an evening of family togetherness, giving eachother presents that are either packaged in totally outrageous ways or that are accompanied by short or long poems that may or may not lay bare any or all of the funny or embarrassing things that have happened that year. Usually, for convenience, we celebrate it on the weekend closest to the 5th of December, so we did that last weekend. It was a huge success, especially for my girlfriend, who had never celebrated it that way before (well duh, she's from Africa :)

December 21: Yule - Winter Solstice. On this day the God is reborn of the Goddess, refilling the void He leaves when He dies on Samhain (October 31). It is the celebration of the rebirth of God, of the rebirth of Nature, the celebration of the surety that spring will return. Evergreens and mistletoe are symbolic of this time of year in ancient Pagan lore. The ancient Germans and Norsemen would actually light an evergreen on fire, other ancient European traditions include decorating a ceremonial evergreen or taking an evergreen home. All this is ofcourse combined in the current secular stuff surrounding Christmas, in which people take an evergreen home, decorate and light it.

December 25/26: Christmas. I have virtually no religious associations with these dates at all - that's all been taken care of on the 21st already :) ... Christmas is a time for yet another family get-together, involving lots of feasting, and drinking gluhwein, Irish coffee and hot chocolate underneath a Yule tr... uhh, Christm... uhhh, lit up decorated indoor evergreen.

December 31: Oudjaarsavond - New Year's Eve, or actually, literally it's Old Year's Eve. Yet another get-together, yet with a wider scope than Sinterklaas or Christmas. Personally, I celebrate Sinterklaas and Christmas with the family at my parents', but Oudejaarsavond is spent at home on campus. It involves lots of drinking and having fun, and ofcourse watching the Oudejaarsconference. That's a Dutch custom from the TV era. On New Year's Eve, at nine thirty pee em, a comedian will give a show in Carre in Amsterdam, which is televised live across the country. They will ofcourse stay within their own style, but they'll throw in lots of jokes and comments about the past year. Dutch comedy is very different from American stand-up comedy though - it's much more of a theatre thing. The Oudejaarsconference is definitely something I wouldn't miss for the world.

Well, there it is. By the way, Christmas is obviously borrowed from ancient Pagan traditions. :)

--
Linux like wigwam. No windows, no gates, Apache inside.

I hate to be pedantic, but. (2.50 / 2) (#139)
by garethwi on Mon Dec 04, 2000 at 07:22:59 AM EST

Where you have written 'Eve' you actually should have written Evening. 'Eve' actually means the day before, so St. Nicholas Eve would be 4th December, and not 5th. The same applies to Oudjaarsavond. Sorry to correct a dutchman on his Dutch (or the English translation thereof), but I couldn't resist, for clarity's sake.

[ Parent ]
I hate to be more pedantic, but. (3.00 / 1) (#176)
by ambrosen on Tue Dec 05, 2000 at 08:51:18 AM EST

5th December (today) is the eve of St. Nicholas's day. 6th is the festival. A

--
Procrastination does not make you cool. Being cool makes you procrastinate. DesiredUsername.
[ Parent ]
Are you sure. (none / 0) (#182)
by garethwi on Wed Dec 06, 2000 at 02:07:28 AM EST

Are you totally sure about that. We have just finished celebrating with the kids yesterday evening (it is now the 6th). If you are right, then I apologise for this mistake, but only for Sinterklaas, and not for New Years Eve.

I just checked, and the feast day is indeed December 6th, so I do apologise for that part of the comment. The other half still stands, though. Perhaps that's why it's celebrated on 6th in Belgium, then.

[ Parent ]
Small quibble ... (3.66 / 3) (#143)
by StrontiumDog on Mon Dec 04, 2000 at 09:08:35 AM EST

, St. Nicholas travels around the world with his black servants

His servants aren't black. They're caucasian chimney sweeps. The black bits are supposed to be from soot. (Just learned this recently :-)

[ Parent ]

Zwarte Piet (4.00 / 2) (#146)
by Chakotay on Mon Dec 04, 2000 at 09:57:39 AM EST

There's always a big controvercy as to where Zwarte Piet (Black Peter) comes from. One story is indeed that they're caucasian, turned black by the soot from climbing up and down chimnies. But there are also other things to consider. They're also said to be Moorish, however, the Moors (how do you write that in English anyway?) are arabs, not negros, and the clothes worn by the Zwarte Pieten are carricatural ancient southern Spanish clothes. St. Nicholas himself was the archbisshop of Myra, which is in Turkey. It's all rather confusing, and nobody knows just who the Zwarte Pieten are. Yet every year again a discussion rises whether the Zwarte Pieten should be abolished because they're discriminatory, because they're generally portrayed as being rather stupid, but imho that is just bullshit. Not one child will confuse a Zwarte Piet with a negroid person.

Disclaimer: "negro" and "negroid" above are not meant in any derogatory way, just like "caucasian". Heck, I've got a black girlfriend, so cut it out already!

PS.: I really hate having to write that disclaimer, because I hate political correctness, but otherwise I'll just get flamed anyway.

PPS.: Nonetheless, I'm now wearing my asbestous underwear.

--
Linux like wigwam. No windows, no gates, Apache inside.

[ Parent ]

Zwarte Piet (3.00 / 2) (#149)
by StrontiumDog on Mon Dec 04, 2000 at 11:09:05 AM EST

They're also said to be Moorish

The Moors are indeed of Arab descent; however as I understand it the Zwarte Pieten are chimney sweeps because they carry brooms (de roe) which they use to clean out chimneys, and chastize naughty children (and maybe do other fun things with, as I have seen on some X-rated sites :-P ).

Disclaimer: "negro" and "negroid" above are not meant in any derogatory way, just like "caucasian". Heck, I've got a black girlfriend, so cut it out already!

No offence intended or taken.

[ Parent ]

My Christmas (3.00 / 5) (#147)
by Beorn on Mon Dec 04, 2000 at 10:02:10 AM EST

Christmas is a great tradition, a reinforcement of social bonds with heavy doses of emotional and religious power. Hollywood has never been able to capture what christmas really is, every attempt seems to turn into extreme sentimentality. (The natural reaction to this is cynicism, which doesn't capture christmas very well either.)

In my norwegian family we celebrate December 24th, (while the 25th is a day of resting, sort of a special sunday.) My parents being christian, we still sing christmas songs, (while walking slowly around the tree), and read the Christmas story from the Gospel of Luke. December 24th is the only day of the year I go to church, partly out of respect for my family, partly out of respect for who I used to be.

We also have a less formal christmas celebration just after new years eve with the larger family, which is almost the only occasion on which I meet some of my uncles and cousins. (Christmas is the only major family-oriented holiday in Norway.)

- Beorn

[ Threepwood '01 ]

Meaning of Christmas (3.80 / 5) (#151)
by aphrael on Mon Dec 04, 2000 at 01:03:42 PM EST

To me, Christmas isn't about Christianity, or even really about Christ --- and I say this despite the fact that i'll often go to midnight mass on Christmas eve. (This is a lot of fun in my hometown; the mass is conducted alternatingly in both spanish and english :))

First off, the season between Thanksgiving and New Years, encompassing Christmas, is the dominant holiday season in my country. It is the season when you are supposed to stop thinking about yourself for a while and think about other people; I love looking for, and finding, christmas presents for people which both indicate who I think they are and who I am; this is hard work, but it's so much fun to see people be happy when I get them things. :)

In a more spiritual sense, Christmas is the season when we are supposed to stop and recognize how beautiful the universe is, and how happy we are to be a part of it. This is something that everyone, regardless of their religious affiliation, needs to do from time to time; and while the form is specific to Christianity, the intent is general to all religions, and touches on a deep-seated human need.

Christmas is also the season when we are supposed to gather with the people that we love and express our closeness to them (again, this isn't limited to Christianity). This is stressful for a lot of people, but that says more about their relationships with the people they love, and that love them, than it does about the intrinsic nature of the holiday season.

I am aware that Christians celebrate at this time of year because they wish to celebrate the birth of their Savior. But, in so doing, they created a holiday which was dedicated to what is, in my view, the better half of Christianity --- the half that loves the neighbor rather than judging him; the half that says to the world "love one another, and be loved by me". These are good ideas, and a holiday which in effect is a celebration of those ideas is worth celebrating, regardless of whether you believe that a particular man born two thousand years ago was the son of God.

Re: Meaning of Christmas (3.50 / 2) (#165)
by phliar on Mon Dec 04, 2000 at 10:42:17 PM EST

[Christians] created a holiday which was dedicated to what is, in my view, the better half of Christianity --- the half that loves the neighbor rather than judging him; the half that says to the world "love one another, and be loved by me".
First, Christmas was not created by the christians; most religions and cultures worldwide have some sort of winter solstice festival. And most religions/societies that grow more powerful have a habit of co-opting festivals of the waning culture. Halloween is another good example of a present-day US holiday that was co-opted.

Not just that, but christians don't even have a monopoly on loving neighbours or judging them or any other tradition or rule that is based on mutual respect, compassion etc. (Neither do they have a monopoly on brutally cruel oppression of anyone not one of the sect.)

It is the season when you are supposed to stop thinking about yourself for a while and think about other people; I love looking for, and finding, christmas presents for people which both indicate who I think they are and who I am;
A cynic would say that Christmas is the week when people behave toward one another the way they're supposed to all year.

Why wait for this "holiday season" to think about others? Why only look for presents on this day? That's the most harmful thing about this whole Christmas hysteria. Just full of all kinds of expectations and political intrigues because so-and-so didn't send such-and-such a present (or card, or whatever). Why is the population of this country (the US, I can't speak for others) so sheeplike that they must be told by giant corporations when they're supposed to be selfless and considerate? Why not try this: all year, just go around with your eyes open. If you see something that makes you think "Hey! I bet Jim would like that!" - well, just get the thing and send it to Jim! When you think of a friend that you haven't talked to in a couple of months, send him or her a card! Why wait for this Christmas crap?

So what does Christmas mean to this atheist? As far as I'm concerned, the chief feature of Christmas (or any holiday) is that it's a time when most people don't have to work; therefore it's an opportunity to renew friendships and strengthen family contacts. If the national holiday were on April 30 (the day Claude E. Shannon was born) that would be just as good (except the skiing generally sucks).

Note: what is an atheist? It is someone lacking a belief in any supernatural entities like gods, fairies, angels etc. An atheist does not necessarily declaim "God does not exist!" The existence of supernatural beings is, by definition, a non-falsifiable matter. As far as I am concerned, the whole matter of religion, gods or other superstitions is totally trivial and with absolutely no bearing on my life. If so many people around me didn't have this strange and irrational belief I'd be amazed that anyone could get excited about these sorts of notions.

Interesting fact: most people don't know that the American "Santa Claus" is less than a hundred years old and is a product of the Coca Cola Corporation. It all started with one of the World's Fairs around 1912 or so. They came up with the jolly, fat old man who flies about in a sleigh pulled by reindeer delivering presents to all the world's children - and happens to love the refreshing taste of Coca Cola. (I forget the exact year.)


Faster, faster, until the thrill of...
[ Parent ]

Beautiful struggle (2.00 / 1) (#180)
by aphrael on Tue Dec 05, 2000 at 06:54:38 PM EST

First, Christmas was not created by the christians; most religions and cultures worldwide have some sort of winter solstice festival.

OK, sure, i'll grant you that. But there are things specific to the Christmas festival that don't exist in the Yule festival (for example); and, as far as can be discerned by the average person who hasn't studied either history or esoteric religions, Christianity appears to have been invented by the Christians.

Not just that, but christians don't even have a monopoly on loving neighbours or judging them or any other tradition or rule that is based on mutual respect, compassion etc.

Sure ... but they are the only major religion that makes that concept a central philisophical tenet of their theology. Buddhism, Taoism, Judaism, and Islam certainly don't.

Why wait for this "holiday season" to think about others? Why only look for presents on this day?

Fair enough. I'll happily buy people things and give them to them at all times of the year; but it's not reasonable to use that as an excuse for not celebrating the holiday devoted to that concept.

Just full of all kinds of expectations and political intrigues because so-and-so didn't send such-and-such a present (or card, or whatever).

Do people really care about this b******t? I get my friends presents because I love them, and can take the time to find them things; they get me presents for the same reason. I don't expect them to do so, and neither do they expect it of me --- hell, one year I did zero Christmas shopping, and nobody complained.

Why wait for this Christmas crap?

Why are you hostile to Christmas? I can imagine not caring, but your tone is one of active dislike; is it the hypocrisy you're responding to? If so ... I see it less as hypocrisy but failure; Christmas is when people actively try harder to live up to the ideals they have set for themselves but usually can't live up to. It's a beautiful struggle to make themselves better rather than a reprehensible abandonment of their core beliefs.

therefore it's an opportunity to renew friendships and strengthen family contacts

Fair enough

As far as I am concerned, the whole matter of religion, gods or other superstitions is totally trivial and with absolutely no bearing on my life

I think you are wrong, but you are certainly free to believe that, and I understand the perspective. Note that i wasn't trying to approach Christmas from an atheistic perspective, but from a religious non-Christian perspective; they're guaranteed to be different.

[ Parent ]

The Essential Unity of All Religions? (none / 0) (#181)
by phliar on Tue Dec 05, 2000 at 07:45:23 PM EST

there are things specific to the Christmas festival that don't exist in the Yule festival (for example); and, as far as can be discerned by the average person who hasn't studied either history or esoteric religions, Christianity appears to have been invented by the Christians.
Certainly I'll agree that to people who have not studied history, or other cultures/religions (i.e. most Americans!) Christmas seems to have been invented by the christians. That doesn't make it true though. Yes, Christmas has attributes that are not in Jul; Christmas is a synthesis or amalgam of many European winter festivals. The Roman Saturnalia and Sigillaria provided a very large number of things now considered Christmasy.

Why are you hostile to Christmas?
Actually, I'm not hostile to Christmas qua Christmas; I'm sickened and disgusted by the hypocrisy and the excesses of consumerism that are attached to it.

[Christianity is] the only major religion that makes [traditions or rules based on mutual respect, compassion etc.] a central philisophical tenet of their theology. Buddhism, Taoism, Judaism, and Islam certainly don't.
I am astounded by this claim!!!

You haven't read anything about Buddhism, Taoism, Judaism, or Islam, have you? Are you aware that, for instance, the Old Testament and New Testament are holy books in Islam, and that it differs only in the most trivial details from Christianity? And to say that Buddhism does not have mutual respect and compassion as a central tenet... it just blows me away. (Taoism is more a philosophy than a religion so I won't discuss that.)

Ok, please believe this: the Ten Commandments are just as sacred in Islam as they are in Judaism or Christianity. And muslims are just as good at only paying lip service to the commandments as christians or jews, i.e. quote scripture with a holier-than-thou attitude while ignoring all of it when it's not convenient to "love thy neighbor as thyself."

You should really read more about Buddhism also: I recommend the Introduction to Buddhism highly. It will explain how and why compassion is essential. (Of course, real world buddhists often ignore the Eightfold Path...)


Faster, faster, until the thrill of...
[ Parent ]

Center v. Periphery (none / 0) (#183)
by aphrael on Wed Dec 06, 2000 at 09:06:22 PM EST

That doesn't make it true though

For the purposes of my original post, three up or so, perception is more important than truth. :)

I think the fundamental source of our disagreement is a minor linguistic one: i'm drawing a distinction between simply *believing* in the concept of "love thy neighbor as thyself", and making it the central philisophical tenet of your belief system.

From what i've seen of Buddhism --- and, admittedly, i'm more interested in taoism so my readings on the subject have come from a comparative slant --- this isn't central to their worldview. You can argue, and I would agree with this, that truly *understanding* something makes it impossible not to love it --- but in what sense does that make love central? If the goal of Buddhism is to provide a way to bring an end to suffering through enlightement, and that said enlightenment implies understanding of the concept that we are all one with the universe and that our individual egos get in the way, rather than helping, how is that even in the same plane of discussion as "love thy neighbor as thyself"? The two religions seem, to me, to be answers to completely different questions.

As for Islam --- the impression i've gotten is that the central tenet of Islam is submission to the will of God. Now, sure, God may will that you love your neighbor; but, again, it's not the loving per se which is central, it's submission.

All of this brings up a question --- to what extent is "love thy neighbor as thyself" the central tenet of Christianity? If i'm wrong in the post above, I think it's in that --- perhaps if I apply the same analysis to Christianity that I do to other religions, I will see that it isn't central there, either. But the advertising I see for the religion, at the very least, claims that it is.

[ Parent ]

Didn't see a link to this (2.20 / 5) (#157)
by el_guapo on Mon Dec 04, 2000 at 04:04:02 PM EST

http://www.religioustolerance.com/ check it out...
mas cerveza, por favor mirrors, manifestos, etc.
Jul (2.75 / 4) (#164)
by caine on Mon Dec 04, 2000 at 08:14:58 PM EST

Well as the rest of Sweden, I'm not celebrating christmas, but Jul. Jul is as some people below pointed out from the word "Yule" and is part of the old winter celebrations. Since I, myself vaugely follows "forn seden" or Asatro, if you like, it's rather important for me. Then if some guy down in the south went and was born at the same time, making everyone else celebrate with me, well that's just good. :)

--

Always remember... (3.00 / 5) (#177)
by eann on Tue Dec 05, 2000 at 10:00:53 AM EST

Axial tilt is the reason for the season.

Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men. —MLK

$email =~ s/0/o/; # The K5 cabal is out to get you.


Christmas is about family, friends ... and gifts (none / 0) (#184)
by Bluesun on Mon Dec 11, 2000 at 08:32:20 AM EST

Christmas is the best time of Year irrelevant of your religion or celebrations ... I am not baptised and consider myself as an atheist ... but, I enjoy the Christmas period all the same or all the best ... This is one time in the year when people are given the opportunity to think of others, peace and ... drink, eat as much as you can then on the 1st January start a new year from scratch ... when you think about it, it looks like the catholic absolution (sin and be forgiven!) A bon entendeur salut!

The Meaning of "Christmas" | 183 comments (146 topical, 37 editorial, 0 hidden)
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