Tuesday, December 12, 2006


Celebrate! Celebrate! Dance to the music!

We're approaching the time of year when people of many different beliefs celebrate things. Jews celebrate a miracle that kept the Eternal Light burning in the temple for eight days, despite its having only one day's worth of oil. Christians celebrate the traditional birthday of a central figure of their religion. Others celebrate the birth of Mithra, the feast of Saturn, or simply the arrival of the winter solstice. Children celebrate the receipt of gifts, and atheists... we celebrate a couple of days off work and a happy time with friends.

Peace on Earth, say some at this time. Good will toward men.

At least, good will toward men who believe as I do, and, well, to hell with the others. See, this is also the time of year when the US is full of complaints from one group or another that the celebratory symbols of others are highlighted above theirs, or are somehow infringing upon their celebrations. Some Jews complain of Christmas trees in public places. Add a menorah and Christians may now complain, or other groups may say that their celebration is left out. In fact some Christians complain about Christmas trees, because they're really pagan symbols that, they say, take away from the Christian aspect of the holiday. Accomodating everyone is impossible.

Accepting that impossibility, Seattle-Tacoma Airport has removed its Christmas trees in response to a complaint from a rabbi, rather than trying to add menorahs and deity-knows what else. The rabbi who complained says he's disappointed that the trees were removed, that he only meant to add to the seasonal symbols. But that's the trouble with complaints like this: they divide us, and it's often easy to eviscerate the whole thing than to try to make everyone happy.

And in Chappaqua, NY, near here — famous, now, as home to the Clintons — there's controversy about some seasonal flags that've been placed on lampposts in the downtown area (sorry; I saw it on TV, and I can't find an online reference). The flags have a blue background with white snowflakes, and a white side-panel with the word "WELCOME" in blue from top to bottom. Well, it seems that some are complaining that blue and white are colours traditionally associated with Chanukah, that the hole in the center of the six-sided snowflakes forms a six-pointed Star of David, and that the word "WELCOME" is printed in a "Hebrew style block font".

WTF? Are we absolutely insane? Has political correctness turned into complete intolerance, complete idiocy? The flags in Chappaqua were done in a sincere attempt to be completely secular and inclusive, but that's actually besice the point.

Because the point is that it's a celebration, people! I am deity-free, personally, yet none of these symbols and celebrations, whether Jewish, Christian, pagan, or secular are the slightest bit offensive to me. I grew up in a Jewish family, yet I accept that most people in this country prefer to celebrate Christmas. No one celebrating will see me trying to stop his celebration because I don't agree with him, or because he doesn't include my celebration with his. No one singing a pleasant song will have me squelching him because his song promotes a religion I don't follow. And no one wishing me well will find me telling him to drop dead because he wished me well "the wrong way".

Whether you hold a star of David or a star of Bethlehem, or something else entirely, you have my wish for peace, health, and prosperity now and at every other time of year. And if you say, "Merry Christmas," I'll respond, cheerfully and sincerely, "The same to you, and happy new year!"

And here, not because I believe in it, but because it's a pretty song:

Adeste fideles,
Laeti triumphantes,
Venite, venite in Bethlehem.
Natum videte,
Regem angelorum,
Venite adoremus,
Venite adoremus,
Venite adoremus, Dominum.
(Now just keep that awful Paul McCartney song away from me!)


Maggie said...

Happy Decemberween!

It seems to be much easier for atheists in general to remain unoffended by other people's religions because we see them as all the same thing. Many religious people don't have that perspective -- they see theirs as the one true belief, and everything else is blasphemy. So they are offended.

We had, at one time in our town, a very hideous display with a creche, a menora, some painted signs (I can't remember what they said, "Seasons Greetings," maybe, among other things), and the most hideous, gigantic Santa Claus towering above it all (a nod to commerce, I guess).

Your flags sound really lovely, just seasonal -- aren't blue and white the colors of winter? Good grief, people can be so ridiculous. You can't have a six-sided snowflake because that's the same number of sides as a Star of David?

I get very frustrated by people who are clearly just trying to be offended. Please get a life. Or a crisis. Get something real to worry about, or thank your lucky stars you have nothing better to complain about and do some charity work. Grrr. I think I had posted it on my blog -- we need predators to pull us together as a race. If people were worried about being eaten by zombies or aliens or something else monstrous every time they walked out their door, I don't think they'd be complaining about flags.

Barry Leiba said...

«It seems to be much easier for atheists in general to remain unoffended by other people's religions [...]. Many religious people [...] see theirs as the one true belief, and everything else is blasphemy. So they are offended.»

Mm, a very good point, which I hadn't really considered.

And actually, a co-worker pointed this out to me in response to my outrage about the Jewish guy in Florida who's suing because he has to vote in a church. I figured that the church is just like any other building, for this purpose, but my co-worker pointed out that some people consider it "forbidden" to enter a place of worship that's not their own.

scouter573 said...

Blue and white are Mary's colors (the mother of Jesus, for those keeping track at home). I'm sure blue and white have significance in many religions and cultures - which would be the point (inclusion). And they are just pretty colors displayed together. As maggie pointed out, some people are clearly just trying to be offended.