Just felt like sharing...

berlandk's picture
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Just felt like sharing...

I just posted a new blog up on MySpace. Since no one reads those, I figured I'd post it here too.

Well, Christmas is almost here again, so I have to explain myself both to my Christian friends who don't understand why I can't simply have "the Christmas Spirit" in me or why I truly do get offended when someone wishes me a "Merry Christmas" or to "have a blessed day" as well as to my fellow Atheists who can't fathom why I still do the tree, the gifts, and yes, those annoying annual family update letters. Let me start out by pointing out the obvious. Christmas, as everyone bemoans every year, is not really a religious holiday, but rather an excuse to go out and be a good Capitalist, racking up debt to pay for things for people who don't really need them, so you can get stuff you don't really need in return. It's also an excuse to string lights, take a living tree out of the wild and into your home for a few weeks, and often get the family together for some eggnog and bonding before you remember why you only get together once a year. Despite this, I would feel like a total Nazi for denying my children the experience of a tree and some thoughtful, educational, but rarely expensive gifts. So, each year, I put a big red bow on my front door, string a few lights around my windows, watch "A Charlie Brown Christmas," and get a real tree. (We also do the whole Hannukah Menorah thing, until we either run out of candles or forget on like the fourth night.)

I do my best to keep it real by explaining the real story of Christmas to my kids, put in a historical context. I explain who Jesus was, what he preached, and how his followers evolved into modern-day Christians. That's not an easy task, because so many Christians today don't even live by Jesus' actual teachings - he was all about the political issues of his day: oppression of the poor and needless bloodshed against neighboring states. I think if Jesus were around today he'd be offended by the way this country has consistently and disproportionately used up the world's resources, leaving millions in third-world countries completely destitute (even more so), and not doing enough to remedy the harm we've caused and continue to cause.

One of my Jewish-studies professors in undergrad once cautioned the class to not "throw out the baby with the bathwater". I've always tried to heed her advice and find the value in religion that's there after you sort through the nonsense. By "nonsense" I'm talking about the believers in "Creationism", or the ones who think you must adhere to the Bible's admonition against gays, but not stoning an adulterer to death, or the rest of the unintelligent masses who blindly accept the religious views they've been spoonfed since infancy, but who haven't once raised their fists to Heaven and attempt to discover the hard truths that come from questioning the easy answers they get in church.

In any event, I'm finding it harder and harder to defend a "middle ground" of religious tolerance. As Sam Harris, atheist author of The End of Faith and Letter to a Christian Nation, pointed out in yesterday's New York Times, "it isn't 'intolerant' or 'fundamentalist' to point out that there is no good reason to believe that one of our books [the Bible] was dictated by an omniscient deity. Half of the American population believes that the universe is 6,000 years old. They are wrong about this. Declaring them so is not 'irreligious intolerance.' It is intellectual honesty." Here's a lovely little chart demonstrating yet one more reason why the rest of the civilized world thinks the United States is a country full of of morons.

Even though ancient Indian astronomers wrote of a heliocentric galaxy as early as the 8th or 9th century, Galileo was still put on trial for heresy some 800 or so years later (in 1633) for saying the Earth orbited the sun. It took another 200 years for the Church to finally relent on its position and concede that Galileo and his predecessors had been correct. My point? Progress is slow, but it will come. The next big step will be for the church to acknowledge evolution instead of creationism. Eventually the notion of the god of Abraham, the god of Isaac, and the god of Jacob will be relegated to an advanced mythology class at university, and people will think it's oh-so-cute that back in the 21st century people still believed that. What I don't understand is why we need to wait?

It makes no sense to continue to blindly argue a point (creationism) that has no scientific basis. It makes no sense to argue that the Books of Moses were actually written my Moses, when scholarly experts agree there were four distinct authors, not one of them likely him. And heck, if you don't believe me or the experts, read through the first five books of the old testament yourself, and you'll see distinct writing styles, and for most narratives, usually two versions that have been carefully edited and woven together to resemble one coherent work of literature. And to step back a minute, does it really matter? This goes back to "not throwing the baby out with the bath water". So what if the world wasn't created by God in a week? So what if God didn't dictate the Bible word for word to Moses at his typewriter? So what if Jesus was a mortal man and not the divine offspring of God? So what if there is no God? Take the valuable teachings from the Bible (e.g. loving your neighbor, doing good deeds, not coveting your neighbor's ass) and let go of the rest that were part of the political or cultural scheme of the day that don't have a place in today's world. It's time to move past our childish beliefs into the realm of intellectual honesty.

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I just wanted to give you a

I just wanted to give you a heads up that you get a free blog here too: http://www.rationalresponders.com/node/add/blog

But posting it here was fine. Smiling (sorry I didn't have time to read your whole post now)

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Yes, by all means, create a

Yes, by all means, create a blog here, great to see new posters!