Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas, Charlie Mitchell!

Yes, the title is definitely an homage to the great work of the talented and wise secular humanist, Charles M. Schultz, and his wonderfully traditional Christmastime show featuring the entire Peanuts crew sharing hope, love and caring with their good friend Charlie Brown.

Of course, the world is still filled with its scrooges, grinches and curmudgeons who promote selfishness and their own myopic cravings wrapped in the facade of piety while hoping to steal a bit of joy from all others.

Northerners ("Yankees" to the cultivated Southerner), have their own surly representative found in the famed Garrison Keillor via his latest beloved sermon to the choir found over at The Chicago Tribune:

But, as sweet as Keillor's hemlock tea is to the faithful masses, the latest Mississippi humbug (apparently receiving the same church bulletin) comes from The Vicksburg Post.

Columnist and Executive Editor, Charlie Mitchell wants everyone to know that celebration, family gatherings, generosity and love is conditional and only his kind can have it ~

Mr. Mitchell even presents his own anecdotal "evidence" by conflating a free speech, church/state case to support the false notion that Christian words, deeds, symbols and rituals are being ejected from "mainstream life".

Nothing could be further from the truth, of course, but no warrior for any God worth worshiping ever let something like that stand in the way of a good fire and brimstone speech to motivate the soldiers.

Well, I think I can clear up a couple of things for Mitchell who, obviously, is a great fan of hyperbole.

First, this season of love, sharing and celebration has been observed in many societies for thousands of years and pre-date the co-opting of ancient Saturnalia by Christian authority figures who did a bit of "ejecting" of traditions and cultures themselves throughout history.

Further, most theologians know and will publicly state that there is no identified "birthday" of Jesus, that Easter is a pagan fertility rite and that Halloween is a pre-Christian Celtic memorial of the dead.

So, that said, Christmas in its religious form is a Christian holiday, but it is also a secular and pagan holiday as well.

Non-believers in the religious aspect of Christmas (virgin birth, talking serpent, original sin, human sacrifice, resurrection, etc.) are still human beings with heartfelt traditions and can fully celebrate it as a secular tradition complete with fun and imaginative tales, a jolly old gift giving elf, flying reindeer, songs, family gatherings, feasts and an abundant generosity to others.

Besides, we all know that this same Christian community will be out in the streets of Biloxi, New Orleans and other cities in a few more weeks reveling side by side with the pagan gods of old capturing the spirit of wine and wealth in abundance.

No ideology or religion "owns" such natural celebrations/observations and our entire human family can fully share in the joys of living in many different ways without attempts to dominate others through any government representation that favors one over all others.
Second, Mr. Mitchell presents both a weary ad hominem and false dichotomy by opining that his kind of atheists "content to live and let live" have been replaced by "evangelists" waging war on religion.

Of course, this is not correct and paints with the broad brush of xenophobia that is so common from the bully pulpit.

Atheists are not of a single mind on the topic on how to approach world religions and their respective adherents (liberal and/or extremist) because atheism is only the non-belief in the existence of God(s)ess(es) due to a distinct lack of evidence for the many and varied assertions of religious adherents.

Atheism is not an ideology with additional creeds, commandments or dogma that requires fealty to criticizing religion at all.

Some atheists simply choose not to comment on religion until it begins to affect their own lives, some simply find it irrelevant, ignore it as best they can and get on with their lives.

Many others have begun to speak up with more assertiveness and some rather agressively, I admit, but most often only when one dominant religion tries to legislate human liberty with interpretive religious decrees through the power of government by men claiming to be the special conduits to the desires of a divine being, such as in the Middle East and, at times, in western countries like our own.

What our society needs is not isolation and separation within our own diverse society as Mitchell and Keillor (and others) seem dedicated to promote.

We need more free and open discussion from everyone, atheists and theists even if it happens to be a good, hard critical analysis of all claims regarding life, love, the universe and everything in the open marketplace of ideas.

Merry Christmas, one and all, have a wonderful season of celebration and a happy and safe new year!

Steve Schlicht
Biloxi MS

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