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In just under two months’ time, we’ll be celebrating another Christmas? Or will we?
It’s that time of year when certain sections of the press look for news stories about how bureaucracy is suppressing the the true meaning of Christmas on the grounds of anti-discrimination. I would argue that the real problem is the cheapening of Christmas by those who don’t even believe in Christ.
This post has come out of conversations on Twitter over the last two days with a number of atheists. I have found it particularly interesting that even though they don’t believe in God or Christ, they are quite happy to use the name ‘Christmas’ for whatever celebrations they have.
Now, I don’t have a problem with them celebrating an essentially pagan festival. I just believe that they are being dishonest when they say celebrate the mass of Christ (Christmas). Since they don’t believe in him, it’s like going to a birthday party and ignoring the birthday boy.
This dishonesty in faith is something I have seen all my life. I was born into a Hindu family. (By that, I mean that, at the time of my birth, my parents professed to be Hindus – my mum has since become Christian.) But, living in a European country, we always ‘celebrated’ Christmas. As a child, what did this mean? It meant the Christmas tree, lights, decorations, presents under the tree, Father Christmas, crackers, Roast Turkey and so on. And yes, as a child, this all sounds great. But as I became older, I became less enamoured by these festivities.
I knew all about the Christmas story, about God and Jesus and the (three) wise men. It was a nice story but I couldn’t see what was so special about Christmas that warranted the decorations and the presents and turkey. I became even more disillusioned when I learnt that the party atmosphere of Christmas actually pre-dates the birth of Christ from a Roman festival called Saturnalia and a Celtic festival called Yule. The general messages of peace on earth and goodwill towards men seemed like an all-year-round theme.
It was only when I became a Christian and understood why God came to Earth as a human baby that I realised why we celebrate Christmas. It took me thirty years to figure out that Christmas meant nothing without Christ. (This was my experience.) I also realised that one cannot celebrate a festival called ‘Christmas’ without celebrating Christ and one can’t celebrate Christ without believing in him.
But this post is about more than the true meaning of Christmas. It is about understanding the reason why we do certain things in the name of faith. Coming from a Hindu background, I realise that many professing Hindus are in fact cultural Hindus. They do the rituals because they have always been done, but they don’t know why they are doing it. Cultural religion is not unique to Hinduism. I would suggest that the atheists of Twitter I debated with this week were cultural Christians. They didn’t believe in the theology but, for whatever reason, they found some form of comfort in the practice, which is why they kicked up a fuss when I suggested that they should call their festivities something else.
I can’t agree with everything that Bertrand Russel says in this quote but why is it that atheist philosophers have much to say to Christians?
Is it me or has Renée A. Schuls-Jacobson managed to make pencil care sound sexy? Pencil sharpening not so much a science, more of porn film…or sex education lesson.
In 5th grade, Mr. Zych lectured all of his students about how to properly sharpen a pencil. He wasn’t messing around. His speech was not short, and he covered everything from how to properly grip the pencil to the cranking motion – how it should be smooth and continuous, not jerky. He even discussed the perils of over-sharpening, which could lead to premature tip-breakage. Mr. Zych turned pencil sharpening into a science.” Read More
Most Fridays, I attend an academic group at university that discusses the philosophical foundations of law and finance. Yesterday, we looked at why people believe they experience the paranormal or supernatural. One of the things that the lecturer in charge talked about was how, after the second world war, anthropologists went off to remote islands to study the indigenous people and found them worshipping the remains of aircraft (so called ‘cargo cults’). Apparently, the thinking was that these people saw something fall out of the air to the ground and, quite reasonably, concluded that if it has happened once, it can happen again. The whole belief system was premised on the idea that something would happen in the future because it happened in the past. To me, that sounded very much like science – we observe things happening in the past and develop a theory that say that those things will happen in the future.
So, when I stumbled upon this critique of the dominant climate change science narrative by activist teacher Denis G Rancourt, I was already in the frame of mind to read objectively.
via COTO Report
Now, I have always believed in the importance of protecting our environment and I am not ready to given up my membership of the climate change camp. Indeed, to a science worshipper like myself, Rancourt would probably a heretic. But he does highlight a particular problem in the way that science is presented.
Up to 500 years ago, the Bible was published in Latin. Unfortunately, the masses could not understand Latin, so they had to rely on experts (priests) to read the Bible and interpret it for them. Similarly today, scientific papers are published in a their own scientific language – which can be understood by other scientists – but not by the masses. It then requires several levels of interpretation for us to understand. I am not suggesting there is anything sinister in this. (On top of that, much scientific findings cannot be afforded by ordinary people.)
As a result of the translation of the Bible from Latin into the languages of the people in the Reformation, anyone could read and understand God’s Word. Of course, the experts and other people are still needed as quality control, but basically one does not need to have studied theology. Yet, if I wanted to read, for example, a paper on climate science, it would read like gobbledygook (sic), as my scientific education stopped at GCSE. Of course, I read the articles in the newspapers and watch the engaging documentaries on TV but all this is second-, third-, even fourth hand.
Now, I am not suggesting that there is necessarily any hidden agenda on the part of certain interests to hide the truth. But we were clearly meant to understand how the world worked. Yet scientific papers seem to write in their own version of Latin.
The same criticism could be made of academia in general. I could go to Waterstones and pick up a popular book on philosophy, but it is quite difficult to get hold of the original material (or at least English translations of the original material). I had never even heard of Hegel until after I started my PhD, now I think he is the greatest guy in the world. Yes, his work can be difficult to read, but I am slowly getting to grips with his philosophy directly. And it makes a big difference to reading it firsthand. But I daresay that I would even be in this position if I wasn’t at university.
Coming back to climate science, everyone throws around this figure of 2 degrees as some kind of target. And I have no reason to doubt what they say. But I get the feeling that there is all this focus on numbers and data, as if somehow not staying within the limit is the answer to the world’s problems.
Ok, I don’t really what the point of this post is. I don’t have a conclusion. Perhaps someone can provide one for me.