political correctness encourages essentialism and artificial dichotomies in the area of religion

iwbiek's picture


christmas is for christians. hanukkah is for jews. diwali is for hindus. ramadan is for muslims.

except only at the dawn of the millennium have things become so deliciously (read: alarmingly) simple. political correctness, at least in this instance, is a perfect example of western cultural imperialism, in the form of essentialism. for those of you who don't know, essentialism is basically the idea that any construct--religion, culture, nationality, political ideology, etc.--has some sort of core or "essence" that makes it what it is. so, in this case, christmas, with all its attendent traditions, including santa claus, is, in essence, a christian holiday. ergo, a christian is someone who celebrates christmas, and a christmas celebration will always be at odds with the values of anyone who is not a christian.

the logical problems with essentialism should be obvious to anyone. beyond the inherent logical problems, once a person begins to look at the historical details of how religions have interacted, the essentialist view falls apart quickly. to preserve it, one has to look at religions in a vacuum, apart from their historical contexts, in which case we're looking at religions that literally no one follows.

in the case of holidays, throughout human history, and even today, people of various religions have celebrated each other's holidays, observed each other's customs, and even made offerings to each other's gods. in 20th century america, the rule for most middle-class jewish families was to celebrate christmas, even having a christmas tree in their homes. of course, religiously, they were not celebrating the birth of christ, and that is yet another essentialist view of christmas: christmas is a holiday celebrating the birth of christ. so it has always been, so it shall remain. yet for so many people, including secular atheists, it isn't. essentialists can protest till they're blue in the mouth that these malcontents aren't "really" celebrating christmas, yet anyone with a modicum of experience in the field of linguistics will tell you that, on a very real level, if someone tells you they're celebrating christmas, that's precisely what they're doing, and "how" they're doing it is irrelevant.

recently, i was having several beers with my doctoral advisor in bratislava, and we began discussing hindu/muslim interaction in maharashtra. this is his field of expertise, and he has a hindu marathi wife. he spoke of one marathi muslim family he knows, and said while the young son in the family wears the muslim skullcap, goes to mosque faithfully and reads the quran in arabic, you would never be able to tell the father apart from any other marathi, hindu or muslim. traditionally in india, both hindus and muslims have visited each other's shrines, and even a pious muslim shopkeeper might keep a shrine to lakshmi or ganesha, just to keep his bases covered. hindus will visit the tombs of muslim pirs who are said to have had exceptional powers, and vice-versa.

to the politically correct, this kind of messiness is anathema. muslims believe in one god and one god alone, and we must respect that by making sure they are never confronted with even a hint of any other god. not only do the politically correct believe this, so do the radical islamists and the muslim politicians, whose agendas are served by an essentialist view of both islam and hinduism. the "this they are" and "this they are not" of the politically correct becomes the "this we are" and "this we are not" of the radicals. thus, while a muslim marathi father is indistinguishable from his hindu compatriots, perhaps even stopping at a temple to perform a few circumambulations on his way to or from mosque, his son, under pressure from radicals who want an orderly world, rejects all things that are not "really" muslim.

and so, bringing us to our news story, we have a concerned, politically correct mother in california (i agree with her that her jewishness is irrelevant) who believes christmas in any form, even openly pagan (remember, many evangelical christians have a horror of santa claus as well), should not be observed in a public institution because it is "part" of only one religion. it is textbook religious essentialism, and it opens the door to partisanship and even radicalism. the message she is sending her child, and the other nonchristian children, is "this is not you, and you should never have to endure it." the child has not yet had a chance to develop an opinion on the matter.

may the jewish and hindu children sit on santa's lap. may the christians of the world keep a shrine to lakshmi. may the hindus sing hymns to jesus (they already do). and may the atheist children go to jesus camp and eat the prasad of rama. hail chaos. hail messiness. hail syncretism. hail cherrypicking. it may be our only hope.

"I have never felt comfortable around people who talk about their feelings for Jesus, or any other deity for that matter, because they are usually none too bright. . . . Or maybe 'stupid' is a better way of saying it; but I have never seen much point in getting heavy with either stupid people or Jesus freaks, just as long as they don't bother me. In a world as weird and cruel as this one we have made for ourselves, I figure anybody who can find peace and personal happiness without ripping off somebody else deserves to be left alone. They will not inherit the earth, but then neither will I. . . . And I have learned to live, as it were, with the idea that I will never find peace and happiness, either. But as long as I know there's a pretty good chance I can get my hands on either one of them every once in a while, I do the best I can between high spots."
--Hunter S. Thompson

digitalbeachbum's picture

I have formed your opinion

I have formed your opinion but never expressed in such a way. Your ability to bring forth ideas in to words is always beyond my skill set.

iwbiek's picture

thanks. ever'body gots a

thanks. ever'body gots a talent some place, hoss. Sticking out tongue

Brian37's picture

 "at odds", yep that is the

 "at odds", yep that is the problem with the human invented idea called "religion". Once you buy  fantasy club as if it is literally you anything that is "at odds" you falsely percive as a threat to your existence.  And that is what makes religion posion. It makes comic book excuses as to good vs evil and creates clubs and spreads these memes to a political/global scale to the point of different groups being "at odds".

The worst idea humans needlessly self inflict themselves with that puts them "at odds" is the concept of being a favored group by a deity or a "chosen people". Gets really nasty in history when those sense of entitlement lead people to get political and use weapons to defend that idea.



"We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus -- and nonbelievers."Obama
Check out my poetry here on Rational Responders Like my poetry thread on Facebook under BrianJames Rational Poet also on twitter under Brianrrs37

Brian37's picture

 Religions are not

 Religions are not origional, they are human inventions that compete and change over time. Religion is a man made artifical construct. For an individual or a group of people to start a new one, they draw from surrounding and or prior claims. There is nothing new under the sun. Religion exists like Coke and Pepsi compete, unfortunately it isn't a peaceful competition, and it never will be as long as people cling to the idea of being special on a 4 billion year old planet.

I find it absurd when Christians claim to own one calender day, knowing other dieties claimed had birthdays on the same day, and also knowing the names of the days of the week and even months are all names of mythological gods. But it is no different in Islam say in Morocco, there is no outright ban on eating or smoking during Ramadan, but just like Christians do with "Keep Christ in Christmas", their laws do allow for known muslims to be fined and jailed for breaking that tradition. NO, we don't have laws like that here, but have had rediculous blue laws and some still exist in dry counties in the US. There was a law at one time banning the sale of kitchen appliances on Sunday in much of the country. 



http://www.moroccoworldnews.com/2013/07/99404/eating-in-public-during-ramadan-the-moroccan-schizophrenia/ Hindus don't get a pass either....... http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/05/world/asia/hindu-mob-kills-another-indian-muslim-accused-of-harming-cows.html?_r=0 Jews don't get a pass either......... http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/groups-of-ultra-orthodox-jewish-men-keep-delaying-flights-by-refusing-to-sit-next-to-women...

Buddhists don't get a pass either..... https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2014/01/29/sril-j29.html  


This was about holidays, but in general this is what religion does to human logic. It allows absurdities to lead to stupid superstitions to the point of harming others. No you cant force it out of existence, but political correctness is not the way to mitigate religion to reduce the harm bad logic can do. In a free society we overlap and share and there is no one right way to celebrate a holiday. In a free society you can even refrain from celebrate.

"We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus -- and nonbelievers."Obama
Check out my poetry here on Rational Responders Like my poetry thread on Facebook under BrianJames Rational Poet also on twitter under Brianrrs37

Vastet's picture

Good post iwbiek. Too bad

Good post iwbiek. Too bad Brian had to shit all over the place with his ignorant stupidity.

Proud Canadian, Enlightened Atheist, Gaming God.