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?