A Transhumanist View of Christmas
As I get ready to tidy up the house in preparation for Christmas with my own family, I just thought I'd write a quick post and share some stream of consciousness musings about the holidays.
Though I was raised religious in my childhood, I'm certainly not now. If you ask me for my thoughts on religion, I will tell you there is good and bad in all faiths and that there's a place for institutionalized religion in the world.
I will be the first to point out the darkest days of Christianity - from the Crusades to the Spanish Inquisition to the Salem Witch Trials to the persecution of homosexuals and the forced conversion of native populations by pilgrim believing in manifest destiny. However, I will also be the first to point out the good - how Christianity has come a long way since then to become a much more moderate, tolerant, and peaceful religion more in touch with its original roots of compassion, non-violence, and a live-and-let-live attitude.
As with so many things, I hold a fairly nuanced view of Christianity. I don't buy into the Savior narrative or the idea that human beings need to worship Jesus to form a meaningful relationship with the Spirit. Indeed, Christ's own teachings would suggest otherwise:
Jhn 10:34 - Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your law, ‘I said, “You are gods” '?"
Mat 19:17 - So He said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.”
Luk 12:10 - “And anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but to him who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven."
Christ's first lesson to his disciples in Mark was the art of divination. In learning how to read the subtle signs given by the universe, by the Spirit, by God, on how one ought to conduct themselves in order to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. Even within the Gospels themselves, there are more passages in which Jesus pleads his own humanity than there are of him professing to be something the rest of us are not.
It's possible Christ may have been a unique being, but he seemed to believe we all had the potential to become like him through a direct connection to the Spirit that didn't necessarily include him.
As I said, I hold multiple views of Christianity simultaneously.
To me, the most probable theory is that the Gospels were Roman propaganda created to pacify a group of rebellious Messianic Jews living in Judea at the time. That this narrative later merged with the pagan sun cults of Mithra and others:
To me, that's the most likely explanation. That Jesus was a myth.
Short of that, the next most likely theory is that he was a working-class bastard raised by a worldly father who didn't want him (at least at first), possibly because his mother was an adulteress. Or else Joseph knocked Mary up out of wedlock and this would have been seen as a social disgrace in their society. Something along those lines.
A very harsh childhood for Jesus either way, growing up as a day-laborer and a farmer, in a typical rural Jewish household before going on to become a spiritual teacher and healer. Indeed, the story of the hero's tale inspires us because it reminds us that light and goodness can often come from the darkest of places.
One theory suggests he may have been born at an earlier time and was the student of Rabbi Hillel the Elder, or at least having studied in the same oral and / or written tradition. Others claim he spent his middling years traveling to the east to study Buddhism.
The historical man may have been real enough, as evidenced by the so-called Jesus family tombs, and then other parts of the aforementioned solar cults simply got merged with his mortal saga to produce a pseudo-historical hybrid much like King Arthur or the battle of Troy.
Whether real or fake, there are few who'd dispute that the teachings of Christ at least serve as useful moral allegories.
Even as I've grown older and distanced myself from organized religion, I still maintain a connection with the Spirit, forever transcending my old self in favor of someone newer and better than I was. Real or not, the character of Jesus was still a hugely influential figure in my life.
Christmas was always great for me. I come from a big family, so some of the happiest times of my life, some of my happiest childhood memories, are of the whole gang coming together under one roof for the holidays, gathering around the dinner table, sharing stories, talking philosophy, history, politics, etc.
I learned sarcasm from my uncles. 38D
Even as I write this, secular Christmas is still something I look forward to every year; though being a working adult, I don't get to enjoy it nearly as much as when I was a kid, and some of the magic is gone as well in realizing you can just go on Amazon at anytime and just buy whatever you need (like my new book, which just came out).
Decorating's still fun, as is listening to Christmas music, watching Christmas movies, making Christmas cookies - I'm not even exaggerating when I say there were some years in which we baked over ten-thousand of them - and it's looking like New Jersey will be in for a magically snowy Christmas this year which always warms the cockles of my heart!
As I've grown older, I've seen my family that I love grow more distant, moving to different parts of the world, getting married and spending holidays with the families of their significant others, or just not showing up out of petty, passive aggressive partisanship.
That part's obviously not so fun.
As science, technology, secularism, and globalism continue to take hold in our world, it seems as though something is lost in the process. As the world gets smaller, we grow further apart, divided by distance, separated by screens, and isolated by ideological differences. The richness and magic of culture and tradition would appear to be the real sacrifices made upon the altars of political correctness. A season of consumerism rather than custom.
Part of me has no problem with consumerism and secularist holidays. I love fun and frivolity and don't get particularly choked up by nativity scenes. Jesus isn't the reason for the season, despite what your priest might tell you. On the other hand, some of my favorite Christmas songs are deeply religious. I still get chills listening to Josh Groban's O Holy Night or Whitney Houston's Do You Hear What I Hear?, for instance.
You could call it a sort of religious experience. I see it more as a gentle reminder from the Spirit of my own fragile existence and the need to remain humble before the powers that be.
There's a lot of political correctness over the issue of Christmas with people getting offended over merely expressing well wishes in a form they just don't happen to like because it didn't use the right words, thereby creating a perception of exclusivity.
How dumb is that, honestly?
I could see if, like the Christians of old, the ideology was being forced upon you against your will and you were made to participate in it as much as a child who's dragged to church. You'd have good reason to complain in that scenario; but it's the current year and no one does that anymore. You're perfectly free to recuse yourself from the fun if you don't wanna be a part of it, but the thing about people who say "Merry Christmas" is they want you to be a part of the fun!
It's an invitation to join them and is meant to be highly inclusive.
Likewise, no one's saying you can't celebrate your own personal holidays either just because someone else is celebrating Christmas. The fact that some people put up nativity scenes and go to mass doesn't mean I have to, doesn't mean I can't still celebrate secular Christmas on my own.
You can still celebrate Chanukah, Kwanzaa, Diwali, Eid, and Yule, and you won't see Christians (or even people like me) getting offended by you doing so.
And if they do, I'll agree with you those people are assholes.
People feel excluded because their town is putting up Christmas decorations, and the one lone Jewish or atheist family doesn't like it, even though it's representative of the majority of the citizens in that town. Even though you still have to have Pride Parades to avoid being called homophobic despite there rarely ever being a majority of LGBTs in a given city or town.
Can I give you some advice if you're one of those people that feels that way?
If you want your culture represented, then go out and make it happen. Be proactive about it. Organize like-minded people to pool together the resources and labor needed to erect your own decorations and put on your parades and your plays and what-not. That's what the Christians do with Christmas and they get their way because enough of them willed it into existence.
But if you can't do that, or aren't willing to do that, then don't complain. You can persuade and build and rally, but the one thing you can't do is force other people to do things they don't wanna do. If they're actively blocking you from equal expression, that's one thing and I'd agree with you, but more often than not, it's just that people are lazy and whining about wanting to be a part of the fun, it's just not in the right form and thus, they tend to assume the worst motives in people.
During this season of comfort and joy, take comfort and joy in recognizing that when someone wishes you a "Merry Christmas," it's coming from a good place and they mean well. The correct response is to say, "Thank you, and you too."
After all, you'd expect the same from them if you wished them "Happy [whatever you celebrate]," right?
As I said, I'm not religious, but I still enjoy secular Christmas. I think there's something about it that is highly inclusive, even for non-Christians like me. In a way, it transcends religious ideology and becomes a sort of unifying force of love and peace and joy that expresses all of our ideals about how humans are supposed to be.
So to you, dear reader, I wish you a: