Sorry another long and serious one. If that’s not for you kitty pics are here:
A number of people are posting a poster on Faceboom “That time of year where Christians and Atheists suspend their belief systems to celebrate paganism.’ And it is annoying me in its inaccuracy. I ignored the first few, but I really need to respond, especially as they are also the people who post ‘Co-exist’ posts. And yes, I know 600 word replies on Facebook are the height of idiocy.
While many of the traditions established around Christmas, and to a lesser extent Easter, are co-opted from pre-Christian Germanic culture and religious rites, they have been re-purposed to represent Christian ideas and ideals, and so no longer have their original meanings.
For instance the Christmas tree was introduced to Britain by Prince Albert, and is an old Germanic custom. In its translation to Victorian Britain, it lost what ever remnants of the old meanings it had in Dark Age Germany. It was then exported around the world via the British Empire, already stripped of any pre-Christian meaning
To state that Christians are becoming involved in worship on non-Christian entities is misleading at best, and more likely disingenuous- the Christmas rituals that copy non-Christian have acquired a meaning of their own, so the original ideas have been forgotten. Take for instance eating horse meat. Why do they eat horse in France, yet to find it in mince in Britain is considered disgusting? Because British tribes sacrificed horses to their gods, and thus the practice was suppressed by the Church to stop people keeping the association with the ‘Old Gods’. In France and Belgium this did not need to happen, so horse meat continued to be an acceptable food: in fact a French chef will tell you the real crime of Findus was to ruin it by putting it into lasagne. (In a reverse example very few people know the actual reason the Bride wears white to her wedding- instead it has acquired a mythos that was not present.)
Incidentally ‘pagan’ means ‘person who does not follow an Abrahamic religion’, and thus includes Hindus and Sikhs – the word has been co-opted by those who think it is all about druids and stuff like that, or whatever. It only means pentagrams etc because THEY have changed the meaning (sound familiar). Following rituals that Christianity co-opted from other religions does not mean the person is not practicing their Christian beliefs, it means they attach their belief system to those actions, and the actual roots have become unimportant. They are not following paganism, in the same way the ritual of ‘warming the pot’ is no longer needed, but still carried out by some, unaware of its root.
Likewise I am asked how an atheist can celebrate Christmas. To start I find the word ‘atheist’ misleading – people don’t use the word ‘afairyist’. Atheism is not a belief in no gods, it is no belief in any gods. We don’t describe children as becoming “asantaists” – they don’t go round actively not believing in Father Christmas. You can call me a Humanist – Humans definitely exist, I just wish they would do better. Why celebrate? Why not? As I wrote a week ago it is a European tradition, because nights are long and days are cold (maybe not this year!) You gather with friends and family to share time, and reaffirm our basic humanity. Self harm in prisons increases this time of year. They have access to religion, they don’t spend much time with loved ones. If it was about the religion than the family it wouldn’t be a problem.
I’ve been to church weddings – nobody assumes I am a Christian because of that.
Celebrating whatever you celebrate this time of year using symbols that may (or may not) have originated with a different culture 3000 years ago doesn’t stop you being whatever you think you are. So please stop trying to claim other people’s actions unrelated to your beliefs as some sort of victory.