Friday, December 25, 2015

Christmas not just for Christians

An Atheist Celebrates Christmas - Marco den Ouden, The Jolly Libertarian:

December 16, 2015 - "I was raised in a fairly religious Christian family. We dutifully went to Sunday school each week, but after attending confirmation classes at around age 12 or 13, I declined to be confirmed.... To their credit, my parents agreed....

"It wasn't until I discovered Ayn Rand in university that my atheism became explicit. I came to understand and respect 'that religion is an early form of philosophy'. Rand says 'that the first attempts to explain the universe, to give a coherent frame of reference to man's life and a code of moral values, were made by religion, before men graduated or developed enough to have philosophy. And, as philosophies, some religions have very valuable moral points.' But their ultimate problem is they are based on faith, not reason.

"So while disagreeing with the supernatural aspect of religion, I find much of value in religious teachings, and much to learn from....

"For myself, there is just one ritual that has great meaning. And that is Christmas. I love Christmas. Our whole family loves Christmas. Christmas means good will, family get togethers and family dinners, colorful lights, and joyful music. I love to hear Christmas music. Even the religious carols are full of joy, hope and optimism.

"Again Ayn Rand puts it much better than I can.
The secular meaning of the Christmas holiday is wider than the tenets of any particular religion: it is good will toward men - a frame of mind which is not the exclusive property of the Christian religion.... The charming aspect of Christmas is the fact that it expresses good will in a cheerful, happy, benevolent, non-sacrificial way. One says: 'Merry Christmas' - not 'Weep and Repent.' And the good will is expressed in a material, earthly form - by giving presents to one's friends, or by sending them cards in token of remembrance....
And while many decry the 'commercialism' of Christmas, Rand finds this one of its best features. 'The gift-buying stimulates an enormous outpouring of ingenuity in the creation of products devoted to a single purpose: to give men pleasure.' 'One would have to be terribly depressed,' she goes on, 'to resist the wonderful gaiety of that spectacle' (of lights, colors and decorations)....

 "For our family, Christmas has always been special. And we have traditions, rituals as it were, that we follow year in and year out. Decorating the tree (my daughter always places the tree topper), opening one gift on Christmas eve, everyone gathered around the tree on Christmas morning as I, sporting a Santa hat, hand out the gifts, the hugs and appreciation all around, the big turkey dinner, games and other fun activities, and so on....

"And we love the Christmas movies. Although we have seen them all many times, every year my wife and I watch four in particular in the weeks leading up to Christmas - Christmas Vacation, White Christmas, Miracle on 34th Street and It's a Wonderful Life. There are a few others we watch occasionally, but those are our favourites.

"The essence of Christmas is the greeting we often see on Christmas Cards - Peace on earth and good will towards all men! Even in wartime, combatants usually call a one day truce on Christmas Day. One wonders why, if they can stop fighting for a day at the drop of a hat, why they can't stop fighting altogether. Peace on earth. This is, as I have written in a previous blog, the very essence of libertarian philosophy. Another reason Christmas is a special time."

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