On Christmas

A friend on Facebook posted that he was glad the White House still called the tree that was erected this week a “Christmas Tree”. Chaos ensued as atheists attacked Christians, Muslims were called out as terrorists, liberals and conservatives were vilified, and, as all Internet comment threads will eventually lead to (see “Godwin’s Law”), Adolf Hitler’s name was invoked. Here are my two cents, for your amusement and consideration:

It doesn’t matter to me that it’s called a Christmas tree, just as it doesn’t matter to me that Christmas is named after Jesus Christ, that Thursday is named after the Norse god Thor, that the planet Jupiter is named after a Roman god, that July is named after Julius Caesar, or that Egyptians buried their dead with riches to accompany them into the afterlife. We have a lot of traditions that are derived from beliefs no longer considered significant by modern man.

I think the majority of people who consider themselves faithful understand that there’s nothing terribly wrong with working on a Sunday, eating shellfish, exposing women’s faces, killing cows, shaving beards, associating peacefully with people who don’t share our faith, or just about anything else that has been condemned at some point in our history by some holy book or another. That we are collectively not also smart enough to realize that our modern religions can be just as oppressive or ignorant as those we refer to as “mythology” is what bothers me.

Science, technology, literature, and even society have advanced considerably over the past few thousand years and as long as we don’t mire ourselves in the idea that ancient texts are somehow more applicable to our modern understanding of the world than more recent research, discoveries, and ideas, I couldn’t care less what people do on their own time, or to whom or what they attribute their good ideas. “Good” and “evil” are much broader concepts with more universal truths than any particular holy book proposes, and perhaps instead of just declaring one’s beliefs to be “more right” purely on the basis of popularity within one’s own community, we should be worrying about what will actually improve things. We certainly need to stop regurgitating our ancestors’ beliefs without injecting our own critical thought.

The same texts that started wars also ended them; the same texts that were used to defend slavery were used to abolish it. Look at the suffering that still exists in the world and you can see none of the great ideas or religions of the past have managed to eradicate our problems. Beyond that, our modern world is quite different than when the Bible, Quran, Torah, the Book of Mormon, the Constitution, and even Dianetics were written. I happen to believe we would all be better off without religion, but I’ll settle for whatever works. How about we quit worrying about which ancient traditions are more pure and take what we know to try to shape a better future for the world we actually live in?

Author: Matthew

U.S. Marine Corps officer living in North Carolina. The views expressed here are my own, and are in no way intended to represent the United States Marine Corps, Department of Defense or any of its components.

8 thoughts on “On Christmas”

  1. I would very much like for people to relate to each other as people, take them as we find them. Figure out what we have in common, what differences there are. Rejoice in the differences because that’s what makes life interesting: finding out about stuff you don’t know anything about yet. Learn. Grow.
    But once someone starts to brow-beat another with some ancient text or other… it’s a conversation stopper. Why use a text written by someone else instead of formulating your beliefs and ideas yourself?

    I don’t know what it is. Is it lethargy, laziness of thought? Is it too difficult to think about things and use the ideas and insights you develop to have conversations with others as opposed to hitting them over the head with talking points?
    I also believe that we don’t examine our own views often enough to realise if they are still a good fit with how we actually see the world. Our viewpoint changes as we go through life and at some stage we need to question the short hand we use to express ourselves. To quote texts written by others makes this process even more difficult. Why let someone else’s words speak for you, why not do another person the courtesy to give them your own words?
    And most of all listen to the other person express themselves too.

  2. This is a great post. If only more people could see it that way: “How about we quit worrying about which ancient traditions are more pure and take what we know to try to shape a better future for the world we actually live in?”. Unfortunately many, many people still have a hard time thinking like that…

  3. You are an amazing writer. You have described exactly how I have felt about religion since i was a child stuck in catechism. Wow. Thanks.

  4. Your posts have much sense for one so young ! ( well compared to me you are ) This “We certainly need to stop regurgitating our ancestors’ beliefs without injecting our own critical thought” is oh so true…I have much to say myself about Christmas and intend to write about it next week on my own blog… keep it coming..

  5. You seem to be a really really nice guy and I just can´t get it how you manage to have these almost pacifist and non judgmental and beautiful thoughts, while at the same time fighting in an army who’s leader (the president) has gone to war invoking religion – I am thinking about Bush to be more exact. Or at least suggesting that god instructed him to be the good one and fight the evil ones.

    Maybe it would be good if all military persons in the world thought more like you. Maybe conversation would be more frequent in solving conflicts than bullets?

    I just hope that your being there have saved lives (I don’t by that mean saving American lives by killing others) because maybe you would see killing as a definitely last resort.

    I am just confused because I agree that we are all people;
    one world, one people, one heart

  6. Our gods mature as we mature… unfortunately the human race rarely matures, and mostly regresses. A thoughtful, well-written post Matthew – I’m glad I chose to “follow” you.

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