On the Importance Of Christmas To The Culture And Our Nation : An Ethics Alarms Guide

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I don’t know what perverted instinct it is that has persuaded colleges and schools to make their campuses a Christmas-free experience. Nor can I get into the scrimy and misguided minds of people like Roselle Park New Jersey Councilwoman Charlene Storey, who resigned over the city council’s decision to call its Christmas tree lighting a Christmas Tree Lighting, pouting that this wasn’t “inclusive,” or the  CNN goon who dictated the bizarre policy that the Christmas Party shot up by the husband-wife Muslim terrorists had to be called a “Holiday Party.”  Christmas, as the cultural tradition it evolved to be, is about inclusion, and if someone feels excluded, they are excluding themselves.  Is it the name that is so forbidding? Well, too bad. That’s its name, not “holiday.” Arbor Day is a holiday. Christmas is a state of mind. [The Ethics Alarms Christmas posts are here.]

Many years ago, I lost a friend over a workplace dispute on this topic, when a colleague and fellow executive at a large Washington foundation threw a fit of indignation over the designation of the headquarters party as a Christmas party, and the gift exchange (yes, it was stupid) as “Christmas Elves.” Marcia was Jewish, and a militant unionist, pro-abortion, feminist, all-liberal all-the-time activist of considerable power and passion. She cowed our pusillanimous, spineless executive to re-name the party a “holiday party” and the gift giving “Holiday Pixies,” whatever the hell they are.

I told Marcia straight out that she was wrong, and that people like her were harming the culture. Christmas practiced in the workplace, streets, schools and the rest is a cultural holiday of immense value to everyone open enough to experience it, and I told her to read “A Christmas Carol” again. Dickens got it, Scrooge got it, and there was no reason that the time of year culturally assigned by tradition to re-establish our best instincts of love, kindness, gratitude, empathy, charity and generosity should be attacked, shunned or avoided as any kind of religious indoctrination or “government endorsement of religion.”  Jews, Muslims, atheists and Mayans who take part in a secular Christmas and all of its traditions—including the Christmas carols and the Christian traditions of the star, the manger and the rest, lose nothing, and gain a great deal. Christmas is supposed to bring everyone in a society together after the conflicts of the past years have pulled them apart, What could possibly be objectionable to that? What could be more important than that, especially in these especially divisive times? How could it possibly be responsible, sensible or ethical to try to sabotage such a benign, healing, joyful tradition and weaken it in our culture, when we need it most?

I liked and respected Marcia, but I deplore the negative and corrosive effect people like her have had on Christmas, and as a result, the strength of American community. I told her so too, and that was the end of that friendship. Killing America’s strong embrace of Christmas is a terrible, damaging, self-destructive activity, but it us well underway. I wrote about how the process was advancing here, and re-reading what I wrote, I can only see the phenomenon deepening, and hardening like Scrooge’s pre-ghost heart. Then I said…

Christmas just feels half-hearted, uncertain, unenthusiastic now. Forced. Dying.

It was a season culminating in a day in which a whole culture, or most of it, engaged in loving deeds, celebrated ethical values, thought the best of their neighbors and species, and tried to make each other happy and hopeful, and perhaps reverent and whimsical too.  I think it was a healthy phenomenon, and I think we will be the worse for its demise. All of us…even those who have worked so diligently and self-righteously to bring it to this diminished state.

Resuscitating and revitalizing Christmas in our nation’s heart will take more than three ghosts, and will require overcoming political correctness maniacs, victim-mongers and cultural bullies; a timid and dim-witted media, and spineless management everywhere. It is still worth fighting for.

More than five years ago, Ethics Alarms laid out a battle plan to resist the anti-Christmas crush, which this year is already underway. Nobody was reading the blog then; more are now. Here is the post:

Heeding the Christmas Season Ethics Alarms

Yes, it has come to this. The period between Thanksgiving and Christmas season is a pre-unethical condition, getting worse every year. (Pre-unethical conditions are situations that experience teaches us deserve early ethics alarms, since the stage is set for habitual bad conduct.) The financial stresses on the public and the business community in 2010 will only fuel the creeping tendency to ignore the moral and ethical values that are supposed to underlie the winter holidays—charity, gratitude, generosity, kindness, love, forgiveness, peace and hope—for the non-ethical considerations that traditionally battle them for supremacy: avarice, selfishness, greed, self-pity, and cynicism. Combine this with the ideological and political polarization in today’s America and the deterioration of mutual respect and civility, and the days approaching Christmas are likely to become an ethical nightmare…unless we work collectively to stop that from happening.

Retail stores set the standard, as they have for a couple of years now, by abandoning the Thanksgiving tradition of leaving one day for employees and the rest of the public to gather with their families in faith, gratitude, or just the spirit of love and fellowship. Millions of Americans were willing to chuck the symbolic values of Thanksgiving to be sure to get  bargain prices on wide-screen TV’s and videogames. Next came the line-jumpers, the fights over merchandise, and the near riots. People who had just arrived for a Black Friday Toys ‘R’ Us sale in Wisconsin charged ahead of a line that had waited hours, causing a stampede (Ethics tip: if you are going to hold such a sale, it is irresponsible bordering on criminal not to have crowd control measures in place outside the store).

Charity? As discussed here, various chains have decided to ban or severely limit seasonal charities’ on-premises solicitations, in accommodating customers who found them annoying. Those customers are the early troops of the large army of holiday spoilers, including the parents who threaten to sue schools who have students singing “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” or reading  “The Night Before Christmas,” and who regard “Merry Christmas!” as a politically incorrect greeting, as well as the Christmas warriors who are determined to make community governments miserable by fighting to have manger scenes in the town square.

Add to them the whimsy-challenged fun-vandals, often grade school teachers, who feel it is their mission in life to make sure no child over the age of four believes in Santa Claus, and the soul-dead radio programmers, who have collectively decided that traditional Christmas carols, some of the loveliest music in the Western canon, are controversial and should be dumped in favor of endless versions of “Santa Baby,” “Blue Christmas,” and “Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer.”

Our ethics alarms should be ringing as loud as sleigh bells. Every one of us, regardless of our religious beliefs, should remind ourselves that this time of year that causes so many people to succumb to despair, combativeness and selfishness is also an opportunity to embrace, re-establish and celebrate ethical values. Make a pledge to be cheerful and forgiving, even when we are provoked. Let’s not start arguments; let’s end them. Try to make others happy—not just those we want to impress or owe something to, but as many people as we can, strangers and friends alike. Use the season as an excuse to heal old grievances, and revive damaged friendships.

Sing!

Give something, anything, to someone in need. Show the mail carrier, the 7-11 clerk, and all those people you deal with throughout the year that they aren’t just faceless props to you, but a part of your life.

Read the Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol (you can find a link to it on Ethics Alarms), out loud if possible. Watch a “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” “A Christmas Story,” “It’s a Wonderful Life,” and “The Homecoming.” Listen to Nat, Gene, Dean and Burl. Hear Bing sing “White Christmas,”of course, and remember that the song was written by a Jew, Irving Berlin, who celebrated the holiday because of the virtues it symbolized, and because he wanted his children to share in the cultural experience.

Most of all, like Irving, try to find ways to make the holidays magical for children. One inspiring role model is Alek O. Komarnitsky, who combines a Christmas light display that can be controlled by visitors to his website with fundraising on behalf of Celiac disease research. [ NOTE: Alex retired his tradition 2014, sadly.]

It is hard, very hard, to think about doing the right thing every day, all year long. Having one season that focuses our attention, through music, stories, movies, literature, traditions and memories, on being the best we can be to everyone is a gift to civilization and the species. Let’s not let it slip away, and become an ugly time that brings out our basest instincts.

The ethics alarms are ringing.

That same year, I elaborated on the point that Christmas is an ethical holiday, and critical to the mission of creating and preserving an ethical society and culture. This post also bears re-publishing. Here it is:

Christmas: the Ethical Holiday

Benjamin Franklin recognized the importance of regularly focusing one’s attention on ethical conduct rather than the usual non-ethical goals, needs, desires and impulses that occupy the thoughts of even the most virtuous among us. He suggested that every morning an individual should challenge himself to do good during the day. In the 21st century psychologists call this “priming,” a form of beneficial self-brain-washing that plants the seeds of future choices.

The Christmas season operates as an effective form of mass population priming, using tradition, lore, music, poetry, ritual, literature, art and entertainment to celebrate basic ethical virtues and exemplary conduct toward other human beings. Kindness, love, forgiveness, empathy, generosity, charity, sacrifice, selflessness, respect, caring, peacefulness…all of these are part of the message of Christmas, which has become more universal and influential in its societal and behavioral importance than its religious origins could have ever accomplished alone. Secular and cultural contributions have greatly strengthened the ethical lessons of Christmas. “It’s A Wonderful Life” urges us to value our ability to enrich the lives of others, and to appreciate the way they enrich ours.  “A Christmas Story” reminds us to make childhood a magical time when wishes can come true. O. Henry’s story “The Gift of the Magi” proves that it is not the value of gifts, but the love that motivates them that truly matters. Most powerful of all, Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” teaches that the admirable conduct the spirit of the season can inspire need not be short-lived, and that if we use Christmas properly, as Ben Franklin used his morning exhortation to good conduct, it can make all of us better, happier, more virtuous human beings.

At this point in civilization, the religious context of Christmas almost does more harm than good. Though the day chosen to celebrate Jesus of Nazareth’s birthday has been spectacularly successful in promoting the ethical and moral ideals he taught, the idea that Christmas is indistinguishable from the religion he founded has made it the object of yearly controversy, as if celebrating Christmas is an affront to other faiths. This is a tragedy, because every human being, regardless of religious belief, can benefit from a culture-wide exhortation to be good and to do good. “Happy Holidays!”—the bland, generic greeting of those afraid to offend those who should not be offended—does nothing to spur us toward love, kindness, peace and empathy. “Merry Christmas!” does. This is not just a religious  holiday; it is the culture-wide ethical holiday, the time when everything should be aligned to remind us to take stock of our lives, think about everyone else who lives on earth with us, and to try to live for others as well as ourselves. Christians should be proud that their religion gave such a valuable gift to humanity, and non-Christians should be eager to accept it.

It is foolish and self-destructive for there to be a “war on Christmas.” Charles Dickens understood. There is hardly a word about religion anywhere in his story. Christmas is the ethical holiday. Christians can and should celebrate it as they choose, but whether they do or not, the Christmas season is more important than any one religion, even the one that gives the holiday its name.

It is important because it primes us to be good. There should be nothing controversial about that.

Maybe I’ll be able to report on a Christmas revival in a few years. If I can, I guarantee that we’ll have a happier, more ethical nation too.

 

134 thoughts on “On the Importance Of Christmas To The Culture And Our Nation : An Ethics Alarms Guide

  1. A lovely post. I agree. All our friends and neighbors (in my childhood, in the 60s) got together during the season, a group of Catholics, Greek Orthodox, Jews, and Protestants. No one gave a hoot what anybody else was, no one got ticked off if someone said Merry Christmas. I said a long time ago, when political correctness started to crank up in earnest, that it was actually making people overly conscious in the differences between us, and would make everybody hyper-sensitive and easily insulted, and here we are. It’s a sad and miserable way to spend the season.

    • It is sad. I’m quite fond of Hanukkah (as an observer, if not usually an active participant) and love everything about it. I can’t imagine what kind of person it would take to whine about seeing the word “Hanukkah” displayed in predominantly Jewish neighborhoods, or complain about being told “Happy Hanukkah” by a Jew, but that’s what people have taken to doing when it comes to Christmas.

      I also couldn’t fathom smartly informing a Jew that since I also enjoy presents and dreidels, Hanukkah is therefore a secular holiday and was never really Jewish anyway. But that’s an increasingly popular gnu-atheist tack when it comes to Christmas. I don’t know why they aren’t just satisfied with “Christmas is secular for ME,” but gnu-atheism these days is just looking like atheism without the rules of human decency. They can’t so much as acknowledge that any good thing came from a religion.

  2. I had an argument with my daughter (not a spiteful thing, just a back-and-forth between two stubborn people who think a lot) about Holidays vs. Christmas conflict a couple days ago. Being 14 and out as a lesbian, she’s up to her eyeballs in progressivism in school and almost everywhere else — except at home, where I do my best to temper those squishy ideas in the crucible of logic and libertarian (i.e., classically liberal) thought.

    Anyway, the crux of my position, which I tried to impart to her, is this: December and early January comprise a long series of holidays, and just about everyone will celebrate one or another of them, so saying “happy holidays” and having holiday parties is fine — as is having a Christmas party, Hanukkah party, or…whatever.

    But I’m not opposed to the Happy Holidays thing in itself. Being inclusive of the variety of cultural and religious holidays this time of year doesn’t hurt anyone, and besides, as far as I’m concerned, “happy holidays” and “merry Christmas” mean almost the same thing. Why wouldn’t they? Christmas is the most popular holiday in America; if you assumed that anyone who said “happy holidays” meant Christmas at this time of year, you’d be right 99.9% of the time.

    But what burns my biscuit is the legion of killjoys who now insist that saying Merry Christmas is a Bad and Wrong thing. Really? Who in their right mind would take issue with an occasion that makes someone want to wish you joy? I have a little more forbearance for people who get all up in your face about Christmas as if saying “happy holidays” makes the Baby Jesus cry (at least it’s an understandable reaction to being told that your holiday and your religion are bad and wrong).

    People who get upset and throw tantrums about the way someone wishes them happiness aren’t sensitive souls in need of solace; they’re emotionally manipulative, small-minded, mean-spirited assholes who should probably be punched in the face. (See what I mean? Here it is Christmas and I’m thinking about punching people in the face. These people need to be stopped.)

    Bottom line: express your own holiday cheer in the way you like best. Don’t worry about who’s doing it wrong, just be glad that people are doing it at all. (I really hope that’s what my daughter got out of our conversation…I’m going to have to check with her on that tomorrow.)

  3. I’m atheist – but Christmas never was a “Christian” holiday, except the thin, joyless version practiced in Cromwellian England, like a funeral but less mirthful.

    It’s a time of peace on Earth, Goodwill to all. An excuse for giving presents to Children (as is Hannukah). Tis the season to be jolly, whether halls are decked with Druidical holly and other pagan symbols or not.

    Whether the apparel you don is fabulously Gay, or utterly Straight like mine.

    Merry Christmas, everyone.

      • Of course Christmas was never a Christian holiday

        .

        Saturnalia / Mithra’s birthday rebadged, with Druidic, Norse and purely commercial trimmings.

        See http://www.history.com/topics/christmas/history-of-christmas

        In the early years of Christianity, Easter was the main holiday; the birth of Jesus was not celebrated. In the fourth century, church officials decided to institute the birth of Jesus as a holiday. Unfortunately, the Bible does not mention date for his birth (a fact Puritans later pointed out in order to deny the legitimacy of the celebration). Although some evidence suggests that his birth may have occurred in the spring (why would shepherds be herding in the middle of winter?), Pope Julius I chose December 25. It is commonly believed that the church chose this date in an effort to adopt and absorb the traditions of the pagan Saturnalia festival.
        ..
        By holding Christmas at the same time as traditional winter solstice festivals, church leaders increased the chances that Christmas would be popularly embraced, but gave up the ability to dictate how it was celebrated….

        In the early 17th century, a wave of religious reform changed the way Christmas was celebrated in Europe. When Oliver Cromwell and his Puritan forces took over England in 1645, they vowed to rid England of decadence and, as part of their effort, cancelled Christmas. By popular demand, Charles II was restored to the throne and, with him, came the return of the popular holiday.

        The pilgrims, English separatists that came to America in 1620, were even more orthodox in their Puritan beliefs than Cromwell. As a result, Christmas was not a holiday in early America. From 1659 to 1681, the celebration of Christmas was actually outlawed in Boston. Anyone exhibiting the Christmas spirit was fined five shillings.

        After the American Revolution, English customs fell out of favor, including Christmas. In fact, Christmas wasn’t declared a federal holiday until June 26, 1870.

        It wasn’t until the 19th century that Americans began to embrace Christmas. Americans re-invented Christmas, and changed it from a raucous carnival holiday into a family-centered day of peace and nostalgia.

        • “Saturnalia / Mithra’s birthday rebadged, with Druidic, Norse and purely commercial trimmings.”

          That is a very creative view of Christmas, but wrong.

          To even mention Saturnalia/Mithra is fundamentally wrongheaded, because those celebrations are not Christmas, only vastly different holidays that predated Christmas on roughly the same date. By your reasoning, if I tear down a jail and build a house on the same land, I’m really living in “rebadged” jail. Stupid logic.

          Saturnalia was a time for rioting, mobs of drunken screaming people, extra-violent gladiatorial death-matches (all December long!), animal sacrifices, orgies, cosplay, pranking people, gambling, and total insanity. And also candles and gift-giving. Just like Christmas! Misunderstanding history.

          The accurate statement “Elements of some traditions of various secular festivals have found their way into Christmas festivities” cannot be transmuted to “Christmas was never a Christian holiday.” Just plain dishonest.

          People have cultures, and cultures create traditions. Christmas is a Christian religious tradition celebrated continuously (and not exclusively on December 25) by the Eastern and Western churches for at least the last 1,650 years. Everyone knows that Jesus’ birthday was not actually December 25th, and that Christmas wasn’t mandated by Jesus or the Bible. Irrelevant information that does nothing to prove your outlandish point.

          Most modern Christmas traditions came from all over Europe, and many date back to the Middle Ages, with a host of others coming in after the Reformation. Most of these traditions were family/church centered, peaceful, and nostalgic, like the Christmas tree, which dates back to Renaissance Germany. There was even complaining in the Medieval period that Christmas was losing its meaning and becoming more like the ancient pagan Solstice festivals, when many started partying too hard at Christmas.

          But you actually said (or quoted from some website) “Americans re-invented Christmas, and changed it from a raucous carnival holiday into a family-centered day of peace and nostalgia.” Trolling the internet for (wrong) information that supports you, in place of actual research.

          St. Nicholas, a pretty big part of the modern Christmas tradition, is based on a kindly Christian bishop from Eastern Europe who lived 1,700 years ago. Dickens’ book, the codifier of modern Christmas imagery, was from 1840’s England. But sure, AMERICANS turned Christmas into a Dickensian day of peace and nostalgia. Yup. Christmas was just all wild drunken revelry straight from paganism until Coca-Cola invented Santa Claus. And we’ve always been at war with Eastasia.

          Christmas was widely celebrated by Americans since the colonial days, and only became less popular (but still celebrated) after the Revolution, for political reasons (too British!) It went right back to being popular again by the 1820’s, so that means there was a 45-year gap in popularity of Christmas in America. But you said, “It wasn’t until the 19th century that Americans began to embrace Christmas.” That’s just lying.

          Look, we all have biases. But there’s no justifying saying something as bizarrely wrong as “Christmas never was a “Christian” holiday, except the thin, joyless version practiced in Cromwellian England.” Were I you, I would question what sort of worldview compels me to reinterpret history to fit my biases, rather than simply try to understand history based on, you know, reality.

          • I remember that you said that you had to write on iPads or iPhones in order to thwart a tendency to write convolutedly (or in the manner, whatever it is, that I had been criticized for), yet this post is I think a very good one. I don’t have much to say about it, since it was only a corrective of ZoeBrain’s presentation of facts.

            The more interesting thing though, and the thing that interests me, is I think to attempt to penetrate and analyze a general tendency among the intellectual class to send up these Declarations, these organisations of data, or those rather cynical spins on history, which have the function of undermining a cultural relationship to ‘our traditions’. When I say ‘our traditions’ I mean the understandings, traditions, and also (the word is not too popular on this blog I don’t think) the metaphysics that underlies it, or undergirds it.

            I am inclined to focus on ‘intention’ and ‘function’ when I read people’s descriptions of what is ‘real’ and what is not. There is a ‘function’ in Zoe’s presentation, and certainly in her own personal organization of data (to support and explain an atheistic platform), and yet it is the same, or a similar, ‘conceptual tool’ that is employed massively, by really large groups of people in the West, through which they employ idea to sever themselves away from tradition, or traditional understanding, but moreover to the essences that operate in Christian metaphysics. I am interested in this tendency, which I think is universal and general, because I understand it as ‘destructive’ and undermining. I am not sure if it is fully conscious, and therefor I am not sure if it could be called genuinely rational. It seems at times to cover an irrational destructive tendency, an undermining tendency.

            Obviously, I am not very adept at arriving at a way to describe what I see, but here you have some suggestions of it. I tend to think that the thing that we end up destroying, aside from a proud appreciation of our culture and a proud will to defend it, is our own self-identity. It seems to me that if we destroy – and I would use the word ‘metaphysics’ again, as in ‘metaphysically’ – our relationship to the matrix of our culture and to the understandings of that culture (spiritually, existentially) that has a ‘1,650’ year history, that we are consciously or unconsciously committing a rather grave act against our own SELF. I would further suggest that what ends up happening is that the very self begins to disintegrate, and then can easily fracture. I think we can see and describe evidence of this disintegration and fracturing, and many people notice it and write about it, yet I don’t have the sense that it is understood what is really happening and why it is happening.

            You have responded to other things I wrote, somewhat on these themes (this is sort of my main theme), and have misunderstood my own relationship to these issues. I desire to clarify a problem as ‘factually’ as I can. I am not sure what the solution is yet the problem is agonizing.

            I would also suggest that, in Zoe’s case and others like her, that these ‘destructive’ and ‘undermining’ tendencies (as ideas, and also as sentiments) have a relationship to Critical Theory, to Marxist doctrines and reductions, and to destructive ideological elements that have ‘infected’ the West, and the intellectual class, through the ‘Frankfurt School’. (It is one of those terms which is used far too generally, almost symbolically, and I am not completely sure it is a fair term therefor, but there you have it).

      • I will find the world’s ugliest sweater, and wear it thinking about you!

        Find … or be given? If it’s given with love, then the world’s ugliest sweater is finer than coronation regalia.

  4. From Wiki: ‘The True Meaning of Christmas’:

    “The “true meaning of Christmas” is a phrase with a long history in American pop culture. It first appears in the mid-19th century, and is often given vaguely religious overtones, suggesting that the “true meaning of Christmas” is the celebration of the Nativity of Christ. But in pop culture usage, overt religious references are mostly avoided, and the “true meaning” is taken to be a sort of introspective and benevolent attitude as opposed to the commercialization of Christmas which has been lamented since at least the 1850s. The poem A Visit From St. Nicholas (1822) helped popularize the tradition of exchanging gifts, and seasonal Christmas shopping began to assume economic importance. Harriet Beecher Stowe criticizes the commercialization of Christmas in her story “Christmas; or, the Good Fairy”. An early expression of this sentiment using the phrase of “the true meaning” is found in The American magazine, vol. 28 (1889):

    “To give up one’s very self — to think only of others — how to bring the greatest happiness to others — that is the true meaning of Christmas”
    The phrase is especially associated with Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol (1843), in which an old miser is taught the true meaning of Christmas by three ghostly visitors who review his past and foretell his future.

    “The topic was taken up by satirists such as Stan Freberg and Tom Lehrer during the 1950s and eventually by the influential TV special A Charlie Brown Christmas, first aired in 1965 and repeated every year since. Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (1957) also illustrates the topos, and was very influential in the form of an animated TV special produced in 1966. The phrase and the associated morale became used as a trope in numerous Christmas films since the 1960s.

    “The phrase found its way into the 2003 Urbi et Orbi address of Pope John Paul II, “The crib and the tree: precious symbols, which hand down in time the true meaning of Christmas!”
    _____________________

    “God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it? There has never been a greater deed; and whosoever shall be born after us – for the sake of this deed he shall be part of a higher history than all history hitherto.

    —Nietzsche, The Gay Science, Section 125
    ______________________

    “Here the madman fell silent and again regarded his listeners; and they too were silent and stared at him in astonishment. At last he threw his lantern to the ground, and it broke and went out. “I have come too early,” he said then; “my time has not come yet. The tremendous event is still on its way, still travelling – it has not yet reached the ears of men. Lightning and thunder require time, the light of the stars requires time, deeds require time even after they are done, before they can be seen and heard. This deed is still more distant from them than the distant stars – and yet they have done it themselves.”

    —Nietzsche, The Gay Science, Section 125
    ______________________

    “New Struggles. After Buddha was dead people showed his shadow for centuries afterwards in a cave – an immense frightful shadow. God is dead: – but as the human race is constituted, there will perhaps be caves for millenniums yet, in which people will show his shadow. And we, we have still to overcome his shadow!

    —Nietzsche, The Gay Science, Section 108
    ______________________

    I’m just now baking anti-terrorist Christmas cookies so kind of pressed for time.

    However, if enough people petition me, I will happily elaborate on What Precisely Has Happened That Has Destroyed Christmas as a Metaphysical Possibility. I will even call up a “Ghostly visitor” or two who can explain even better than I.

  5. I am an atheist and have been for as long as I can remember. In discussions, I often call myself a “Christian Atheist.” Yes – a rather bizarre connection, but one I personally consider appropriate. We have traditions in this country that I may not agree with, but I will not insult those that believe in the importance of holiday traditions.

    I am not offended by trees, ornaments, creche, saying “Merry Christmas” or any of the myriad of connections to the verbal or static displays of this time of year to religion or non-religion. The fact is there is a small segment of atheists who display bad manners and lack of respect on a routine basis and apparently revel in their iconoclastic nature. I do not.

    If I am at a religious ceremony I will show the utmost respect – the same as standing for the national anthem in a foreign country.

    I certainly have areas on which I will stand firm – so maybe call me a “selective atheist?” I have even given “blessings” for a dinner when asked.Of course, there is no mention of any deity or offspring of such.

    • That just makes you a decent human being. I’m an atheist too, but I gladly celebrate my friends’ and extended family’s religious celebrations. I also have a house fully decked out for Christmas, including multiple trees. I might not have angels on my trees, but I love everything about this time of year.

      To counter Jack’s point though, there is nothing wrong with calling it a holiday party as opposed to a Xmas party. Quick example — I’m in charge of my first grader’s holiday party at school. I was asked to bring in snacks and lead the class in a holiday-themed craft. It is totally up to me. I know that one of the students (there are only 15) is Jewish, so my craft involves making a snowman. Snowmen still give you all the holiday joy, but they aren’t associated with Christianity. This way, the Jewish girl in the class won’t feel uncomfortable (and neither will her parents) as she might have if I had chosen a Santa, Christmas tree, or ornament-themed craft.

      Maybe we just need to rename the whole event Saturnalia? That way everyone can put up a tree.

      • I didn’t say there was anything wrong with calling it a holiday party, especially if it IS a holiday party. There’s nothing wrong with calling it a ham sandwich, either. I said there was nothing wrong with calling a Christmas Party a Christmas Party, and that the word Christmas wasn’t the equivalent of “FUCK” or “Washington Redskins” that it had to be censored. What is wrong is imposing a mandatory “holiday” label to avoid the manufactured offense.

        We used to hold an annual holiday party between Christmas and News Years, and called it that. Once it was after New Years.

        • I think you are missing the point though. If you have a small but religiously diverse group of students and you KNOW that some of them have different holiday traditions, calling it a Christmas party does make some of them feel excluded, or at a minimum uncomfortable. At colleges and universities, I don’t care — you’re talking about a large group of students and there are enough of them that you can have multiple parties, and if they are open to all, that’s even better. But a work event or a primary school event where the guest list is tiny? Calling it a Christmas party, or a Kwanza party, or a Hannukah party isn’t necessarily wrong, but a generic “holiday party” title is better.

          • This is living by someone else’s hurt feelings though. The goal isn’t to be inclusive, the goal is to celebrate Christmas. Whatever that means to you. I don’t believe, and I don’t begrudge…. Because I can wear the world’s ugliest sweater, give out swag and eat too much food regardless of my belief. Someone crippled into tearful agony at the idea that the people around them are happy with religious connotations need to be slapped upside the head and given some fucking eggnog. I’m absolutely sick of people thinking that they think they can shame everyone around them into being as utterly miserable and joyless as they are.

            • “Living by someone else’s hurt feelings.” Sounds about right, but I’d go a step farther and call it “weaponizing hurt feelings.” Maybe it’s mainly about intent, but when a minority of people can change the theme of an event or shut it down altogether, at the risk of bruising someone’s feelings, then that group has become one of weenies. When a school reduces the chorus’ repertory to Disney and popular tunes and axes everything even remotely sacred, when a town quietly discontinues a veterans’ parade, when sometimes even whole holidays like Columbus day are wiped off the calendar because a minority makes a lot of noise, then everyone needs to look over their shoulder and be reminded they have a spine.

            • So what if the school replaced the annual Chrismas party with a Hannukah party? I think a lot of parents would be annoyed (for the record, I wouldn’t be one of them). It’s not about hurt feelings, it’s more about respect for other belief systems.

              I like the idea of a generic holiday party where multiple traditions can be honored.

              • If it were in a few towns I can think of, where the majority is Jewish, I would be neither annoyed nor surprised. Changing for one of fifteen is a little different. Respect doesn’t mean hiding or being unspecific.

                  • Eh …. he wrote it for money. Great song, but it makes for a lousy example. He also married a Catholic, so my guess is that they celebrated Christmas in some form at home.

                    • Actually, he wrote it for art and sentiment. His infant son died on Christmas, which he and his wife had celebrated, but after that the couple left the two daughters with relatives on Christmas Day as they mourned and went to the gravesite. The song was a wistful outpouring of a happy time shadowed forever, but after he wrote it, he told his transcriber, “This is the best song I have ever written, and the best song anyone has written.”

                      And it is, in fact, the best selling single of all time.

                    • I think you are proving my point. His family celebrated Christmas, not Hannukah.

                      Berlin is a fascinating guy — and he lived to be a century old. That is amazing for a poor child born in 19th C. Russia.

                    • Hannukah’s a minor Jewish holiday elevated, like the phony holiday Kwanza, to compete with Christmas and make sure Jewish kids got to receive gifts without embracing the Santa tradition. It is not an equivalent, values based, culture-wide event, and shouldn’t be: so the oil burned 8 days. Big whoop. Talk about a minor miracle. I once made a pot of Borscht last 16 days without freezing it, and it never spoiled!

                    • Excellent point too. One I never put tons of thought to. As I understand, isn’t Passover the key holiday? Interestingly enough, I think Christian groups are increasingly interested in the full Passover Seder at Easter time. Our church certainly does.

                    • Agreed with your analysis re Hannukah and Kwanza — then again, Christmas was created to compete with Saturnalia.

                    • Hanukkah has been elevated, true, but it’s about more than just the miracle of the lights. If I asked you to name a key battle in history you’d probably say Yorktown or Gettysburg, and you’d be right, but the Battle of Emmaus, which is what led to the reclaiming of the temple and the legend of the miracle of the lights, is probably equally significant. If the Seleucid Greeks had won that day, it might have been the end of, or at least a great change to, Judaism, and who’s to say whether its outgrowth, Christianity, would have come to be? Kwanzaa is crap, it’s a synthesized holiday created by Ron Karenga. and based on the same principles as the Symbionese Liberation Army.

                  • Umm, White Christmas WAS the best-selling single until 1997, when it was surpassed by Elton John’s “Candle In the Wind” as rewritten for the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales.

              • Call it Christian privilege, but it seems that if Christmas was the oldest and most widely celebrated holiday that espoused the values Jack extols above and therefore became the most Americanized version of such holidays, one would default to maintaining, not replacing. Therefore invalidating your “just replace it” argument.

                • Every family has different Christmas traditions, including decorations, gift giving, food, songs, church, no church, etc. I’m not sure anyone could come up with the definitive “American” Christmas.

                  And, given that it is a family/friends holiday, it doesn’t need to be in the schools at all. If we are going to have it in the schools, I like to see multiple traditions honored. For e.g., I have no problem with schools (even public schools) singing Christian-themed Christmas songs, but they should also include some Jewish songs as well. Celebrate everyone — in my mind, that is what America is about.

          • Also depends on the institution. If it’s a Catholic school, then it should be obvious what the flavor is. The same goes for a law firm comprised mainly of Jewish attorneys, where you probably also get the high holy days off, even if you’re not Jewish (worked at such a place once). I also remember another law firm I worked at where there were no people of color not giving MLK day off, and, when someone asked why, one of the partners simply shrugging and saying “no black employees,” and another firm I interviewed with that offered very few holidays at all (New Years, Memorial Day, July 4, Labor Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas), and if one of the ones they DID give off for fell on a Saturday or a Sunday, you did not get Friday or Monday. The reasoning was that if you were black and wanted MLK Day off, or Italian and wanted Columbus Day off, or Christian and wanted Good Friday or more time at Christmas, or if you were Jewish and wanted the High Holy Days, that was your business and you could tap your vacation (10 days AFTER your first year, with one additional day for every complete year over five) for them. Needless to say there was no party at all at that office, Christmas, holiday or otherwise.

          • some of us are as open-minded as the best of the rest of ya.
            but it is the generic-alization of all traditional events and words and worrying about ‘hurt feelings’ that are pressed on children more than experienced naturally by children that creates the problem – more of a forced-victimization-imposed on the younger clearer mind.

            yes, I too have attended gatherings of different-then-I-am-accustomed-to religions, customs, cultures, etc. and joined in gladly as invited, assimiliating temporarily to what was done and honored then and there. No need to bring in my own versions of what is good-right-best-True-Better-than and all that self-grandiosing that is labeled as “telling them where I come from, not same as their ways !”

            Christmas is a word commercialized more and more into meaning buy-consume-buy-give-buy-more rather than a gift selected out of caring to share. Unfortunately for people, good for profits. The Christ part is also variable under the word “christian’ meaning very different practices, sermons, Truths [only 1 ea allowed].

            And the time frame that was placed too close to pagan seasonal celebrations seems clearly a way to over-take and superimpose one celebration with a limited [Christ] idol over others’. It is not who was there first but the frequent practices of Christianity to build upon sacred sites of other religions and impose their symbols over and “above” others’ sacred ways too.

            Since we are all here now, not there in his-story with various versions of True and Right claimed, as revelations and selections are revised and occasionally newly made, all we know is that Now, we can use some common christmassy symbols and give them meaning and share generously without a trade required or a social rule imposed.

            why not just return to any kind of Christ-mass each wants to celebrate and honor all others without worry about their ‘hurt feelings’ that is usually a careful imposition rather than a need or even checked-out if so.

            Can happiness and joy and sharing stuff and eating goodies be made easier than all the imposing of “how it Must Be!” ?

  6. Interesting to read opinions where bloggers intentionally try to belittle Christmas and directly and indirectly disrespect the core beliefs of Christians with their anti-Christmas rhetoric.

    I don’t care if Atheists choose not to celebrate Christmas for what it truly is, that’s their choice, but Atheists belittling talk about what they believe Christmas was shows a deeply rooted lack of respect for the beliefs of Christians and what Christmas truly IS. Atheists’ lack of belief and personal character drives them to intentionally belittle what Christmas truly IS in efforts to destroy the root beliefs of Christians and that shows an intentional disrespect towards the root beliefs of others.

    Respect is a powerful thing and its part of our core Virtues, Values, and Duties . Atheists are all for respect when others view their lack of belief but they do not show respect for the beliefs of others.

    RESPECT, including:
    • Civility
    • Courtesy
    • Decency
    • Dignity
    • Tolerance
    • Acceptance
    • Autonomy

    Atheist demand that Christians respect their beliefs or lack thereof, but I don’t recall in my lifetime where Christians have gone out of their way to disrespect Atheists lack of belief but Atheists are constantly disrespecting the beliefs of Christians. The outward disrespect shown by Atheists towards Christians is a choice made by Atheist and it’s a window to their inward morally bankrupt soul.

    If Atheists what continued respect for their lack of beliefs then I suggest that Atheists stop being so damned hypocritical and start actually respecting the beliefs of others.

    • I have no problem with anyone believing or not believing, that’s their own damned affair, but when they start insulting, belittling and trying to silence the beliefs of others, that’s a BIG problem. Witness the recent TORRENT of anti-religious and outright hateful, sometimes even foul-mouthed responses to benign “thoughts and prayers” posts and tweets in response to San Bernardino. It would be one thing to say “that’s nice, but what else can we actually DO about this?” to launch a discussion but to say “fuck your prayers” or “pray for the death of everyone in the NRA” isn’t discussion, it’s simply spewing hate. The fact that hateful stuff like that gets a lot of “likes” and retweets rather than being condemned as the hate it is should tell you something.

      I know Jack himself is not a believer, and he hasn’t hesitated to condemn stupidity and hypocrisy or wrong behavior on the part of religious people or in the name of religion (and EVERY faith has come in for it). One thing he has never been, however, is a religion-basher or faith-hater. We can have legitimate discussions about faith-based values, use and misuse of faith, and the role faith plays or should play in society. However, when you reduce faith to a simplistic bumper-sticker or target to hate, what the hell good does that do anyone?

      Before it was pulled I was on the facebook page of Craig Hicks, the militant atheist and rage-a-holic who killed three Muslim students in Chapel Hill, and I was recently on the page of a relative of an in-law who embraced similar views, and it was meme after meme and post after post hating on faith, and calling all believers three different kinds of stupid, five different kinds of closed-minded, eight different kinds of hateful, and ten different kinds of ignorant. I submit to you that people who think like that, talk like that, and act like that aren’t mere atheists, who are simply people who don’t believe. They are no different than someone who posts meme after meme mocking this or that race, or writes tweet after tweet bashing gay people. They may cloak it in the rhetoric of reason, or science, or evidence, but there’s one word for them: HATER. They should be treated as such.

        • Half of me wants to advocate responding in kind, and if someone pushes you too hard, to let him have it, the though being that if enough obnoxious people have somebody hit them in the mouth and break their jaw, or enough poison-pen writers get their brains beaten out, they’ll tone it down. However, we can’t do that.

          • Steve-O-in-NJ,
            With online discussions, everyone has their breaking point as to how much verbal abuse they will tolerate, but I think we should try our best to respond in a way that reflects our own character NOT theirs. That said; there are certainly times where we must set aside appearances and do what needs to be done regardless of the consequences.

            I’m all about trying to set aside emotional responses and trying to do what is right, and sometimes what’s right might be to eat a bit of crow rather than to take something to a much worse place than it already is; it’s NOT being a pacifist, it’s choosing your battles – choosing to fight those battles based on your own terms – and making the choice when to end the battle and move on to peace negotiations.

            A poisonous viper looks foolish striking at empty space.

      • The crazy thing about the anti-“thoughts and prayers” groupthink is that EVERY Democrat has also offered “thoughts and prayers,” Obama included. It’s the most selectively applied outrage one can have.

        When someone loses a loved one, you CAN’T bring them back. No action you can take will bring them back. Therefore “thoughts and prayers,” though cliche, are offered because they are the best one can do. Sure, you can say, “I’m giving you money to help with the funeral costs,” but that’s not something that would be classy to announce publicly. Just like “there are no words I can say” is cliche but indispensable, such are “thoughts and prayers.”

  7. It’s simple, Jack. For years now there has in fact been, if not a “war on Christmas” a creeping stealth campaign against it coupled with the recent rise of leftism which was described in another article as a “revival.” While this is not a coordinated campaign, there are several players who have become very strong in recent years.

    Among them are non-practicing “cultural” Jews who oppose overtly Christian celebrations that they are not part of, militant gays who fight anything Christian because they view Christianity as the enemy, and Muslims (who ceaselessly push minority rights while they are the minority, then abolish them when they become the majority.

    Above all, however, are militant atheists like those who comprise the Freedom From Religion Foundation, who I believe should be more accurately titled the Hatred Of Religion Foundation, who travel the country seeking out local plaintiffs to object to crosses on war monuments, non-sectarian invocations at municipal meetings, phrases on courthouse walls and so on, to give them opportunities to file lawsuits and forward their agenda. Sometimes they have won (the Rhode Island prayer banner case), other times (the Woonsocket cross) they have had to give up because no one local wanted to come forward and put their name on a complaint, other times (the Mt. Soledad cross) they have been legally outmaneuvered, still others they have outright lost (the Ground Zero cross). Even in the cases where they have lost, however, it has usually been after a great expenditure of money, time, and energy.

    For the latter, Christmas represents a “target-rich environment,” where every company, every municipality, every public institution, has to tread very carefully, lest some hyper-sensitive non-believer or alternative believer (or, more cynically, some employee or local or student looking to make a quick buck, get their fifteen minutes of fame, or push an agenda) grab onto a discussion of the Christmas story or the literature with religious elements, a party that has too much red and green, a display that has too much manger and not enough Santa, or a musical program that includes non-secular tunes, and bring a lawsuit looking not just to eliminate the offending celebration, but for attorneys’ fees and punitive damages. Even if the defenders win, they have to have in-house counsel expend time when they should be expending it on other things or pay outside counsel $400/hour. It’s frankly easier and cheaper to change the celebration or just eliminate it altogether and tell everyone to celebrate in their own way, privately, than to risk that.

    • Hence the Duty to Confront, which obviously colleges do not have the courage and character to keep.
      If something is worth having, it’s worth fighting for, and if nobody cares enough or has the guts to fight, then that’s their fault. Christmas is worth fighting for. I noted, reading the comments from 2010, that tgt, our most vocal resident atheist on Ethics Alarms while he was active, celebrated Christmas as a cultural holiday.

      Your overview is quite accurate.

      • Damn straight. I wish it were not, and I am sorry if I sound a little strident, but, well, you can look at my other post here to see why. As a practicing though not perfect Catholic, as well as a college graduate and a law school graduate who thinks of himself as reasonably intelligent, I really can’t stand being called stupid, ignorant and worse for believing.

  8. _____________________

    Jack wrote:

    “Nah, I want to make readers write in and explain WHY they like or don’t like something.”

    _____________________

    My ideas are, no doubt, a bit odd, and yet I am trying to grasp the essence of things. I’d like to believe that ‘truth’ is real, and that we can define it. At times I have severe doubts …

    I do not see why ‘Christmas is worth fighting for’ unless one is a believer. If one is not a believer (in the event of birth of divinity into the world and the truth of salvific promise), it simply holds no meaning. On might politely respect another’s celebrations yet if one does not grasp the spiritual implication one’s respect would be, in a sense, a sham.

    The celebration of Christmas IS the celebration of the salvific promise made real.

    ‘Belief’ in the Christian/Platonic sense (meaning: a Story, a narrative, projected onto the screen of our consciousness), has been shattered. When once there really was an understanding of the essence of the thing, is now an empty shell. People want to believe, they try to believe, and they can’t. Why? The Story no longer convinces and they cannot ‘connect’ on an inner level even when they wish to. The mind overrules in this sense the spirit or the soul.

    We know everything there is to know about the world. We uncovered every secret in nature. There is no limit to our penetrating understanding. And we penetrated the Christian Story and find it false. No descent of ‘God’, no re-ascencion. No coming back from the dead, no mystic transformations. The Nietzschean irony is that we pursued Truth as we were told to do, and telling the truth we overturned the content of the Story. The truth turned out to be … a lie. And no one of us can sustain the belief in a lie, as it leads to ‘cognitive dissonance’. So, it is far easier, and a psychological relief of sorts, to stop believing any of those platonic truths.

    And so there comes to the fore a double-irony: We followed truth to its limits and we discovered that the Truth we were telling ourselves was a lie, and with that we killed God all over again. In this sense ‘God has died’ and yet his image is still projected onto the walls of caves and will be for hundreds of years more.

    The implications of a sheer and absolute atheism are realisations that have not yet really hit home.

    As I see things Christians who have the inner relationship and the inner link – which is non-communicable! – actually get the opportunity to become Christians in a realer sense when confronted with a non-believing and in that sense a dead and even demonic population and nation.

    Because that is what the implications are. Surrender or have destroyed in you the possibility of relationship to ‘higher metaphysic’ and destroy the possibility of defined meaning. Meaning will become meaningless. I swear by the Spirit of Christmas Future that this is the case and this is why it is so frightening, and why it is worthwhile not to face it: Meaning is being and will be destroyed and what is left is ‘mechanism’. The demonic then is the robot, the computerized mechanical system being constructed that will SUPPLANT meaning.

    That’s my basic idea: What gave birth to meaning, when that is destroyed, the meaning must also be destroyed. We then end up living in a sort of false-theatre of sham meanings which, in fact, mean nothing.

      • You might not wish for elaboration but if I knew what part I was not successfully communicating I would do better.

        What interests me is the essences of things.

        I have thought of giving up – here at least.

        • I would try writing shorter paragraphs (and shorter posts in general) and limiting posts to a discrete thought or two. It often comes across like a philosophy textbook.

          When I started writing professionally as an attorney, I had to throw everything I knew about writing out the window. Even if I was writing about dense sections of obscure legal code, I had to write every sentence as if a kindergartner could understand it. If you keep that thought foremost in your mind, your writing will become more palpable to 90% of readers and will encourage thoughtful debate.

          • And then – you for example? – will take one idea from the post and write some of your own thoughts on it? Because all you have done is critique the packaging. You have done no work in responding to the content. I will take you up on your critique though.

            I have often found that when people do not like the ideas, or even the pretentiousness or precociousness of attempts to get to the center of things, that they feel intimidated somehow. And they attack the presentation.

            I am nevertheless – turgidity aside (a defect that can be cured) – making every effort that I can to educate myself, to gain understanding. I want to be able to talk well about important things.

          • https://readability-score.com/

            Alizia: I ran your original post through readability and it came out to 66.6 – no comments, please, on that 666. But that grading system averages out to a 8.7-grade level. So using that as a benchmark you are in the same category as an Obama speech, a mainstream newspaper and most blogs.

            That is the construct only as one can toss out various three and four syllable words and accomplish a remarkable score. Conveying the idea is an entirely separate category.

      • I’ve always labored under the suspicion that Alizia’s flurries of posts seem to occur at regular intervals. As though a Philosophy 201 professor has assigned his/her students to be active on a discussion group.

        I think she probably has interesting things to say, but if I have to reread a sentence 4 times I usually quit.

        Her writing reminds me of when I was trying to bluster my way through a sociology class during my 2nd year at A&M.

        All I know is, if you write like she does, either you are TOO intelligent for even the modestly intelligent to understand you, or you really aren’t that smart and you just don’t know it. Either way, what good is knowledgr if no one can understand you.

        • It could be astrological, Tex. Maybe my destiny is controlled by an unseen comet? Perhaps its as a result of an invisible tide that I come here?

          I wrote a numbered post (below I think) with the main things that interest me.

          If with that I do not succeed in getting my sense of things across, I will likely call to my Star to take me away …

          ::: grin :::

          • An unseen comet, clearly sent by some superior intelligence to obliterate what is left of Earth? What? Just when I thought it was safe to relax and enjoy the holiday season, now I have to worry about THAT, too? Is there no end to such devilry?

            Sheesh! On a lighter note, since we are doomed anyway, I guess I don’t have to buy that Christmas gift my wife wants.

            jvb

        • I have a tendency to write that way too. Maybe it’s neurological or something; I’m sure not going to go to a professional to find out.

          I work around it online by using an iPad or phone for most of my posts. it forces me to be brief.

    • “We know everything there is to know about the world. We uncovered every secret in nature. There is no limit to our penetrating understanding. And we penetrated the Christian Story and find it false.”

      Do you seriously mean this?

      • There is one school of science/philosophy that understands ‘the world’ as being – eventually – intelligible. There is another pole that understands that there is a limit to what we can know.

        I was exaggerating, except I was not exaggerating in saying that ‘we penetrated the Christian Story and [found] it false’.

        Our science and our material understanding is divorced from our spiritual or metaphysical understanding. Please don’t get mad at me for referring to these ideas, I do not wish to annoy or bother you or anyone. Because this is my area of interest I read in this area. We have no ‘unified’ theory which has a way to speak about or to define ‘God’.

        This represents a large and insoluble problem, and one that has many ramifications. (Though I assume it will not affect you getting Christmas presents this year).

        ::: laughs :::

        • If think you have penetrated the Christian story and found it false you have done something that a lot of people profess to have done, but lack the knowledge to prove. The Christian story (I’m using your term, but maybe not your definition) won’t be penetrated until all knowledge has been penetrated. It’s what you don’t know that will trip you up every time.

        • This is called “begging off.” First you claim to have evidence falsifying the Christmas story. Then, instead of providing the evidence, you move the goalpost and appeal to the “problem” that we have no unifying theory about ‘God’ and by extension, I assume you mean, no evidence for the Christmas story either. (As it happens, we don’t have a unifying theory for the universe either.)

          Hence, we have not “found it false;” we have failed to prove it, just as we have failed to prove that Shakespeare wrote Shakespeare’s plays.

          The lack of falsifiability of ‘God’ via the scientific method does not preclude God existing (for which there is logical and circumstantial evidence) nor His revealing Himself to individuals. The Nativity, if it happened, would be an historical event, not a scientific principle. And speaking of principles, laws of logic also have no basis in material understanding, but without them we could not do science.

          • :::: sigh ::::

            This is really not so complex. I am not myself claiming to have, nor to present, ‘evidence falsifying’ the Christian story. I said that beginning in about the 17th century the platform of the story began to be undermined. The scientific truth-seekers did that. Or, their investigations have led to the shattering of the metaphysical model upon which the Christian narrative has been constructed.

            This happened in the 17th and 18th centuries. I did not do this. I am describing it.

            See Basil Willey, Seventeenth Century Background. https://archive.org/details/seventeenthcentuwill

            By undermining the fundamental story, and the description of the world known as ‘The Great Chain of Being’ (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_chain_of_being) ‘we’ destroyed a conceptual order upon which an entire cosmology had been constructed.

            When Nietzsche writes about God Dying, this is one of the main things he is referring to: an entire conceptual order that has ceased to function.

            In order for the Nativity to be considered real in our ‘climate’ of thought, it would have to be describable through scientific principle. And that is sort of the point I hoped to make: these are incompatible epistemes. But the first 6 pages of Willey will indicate the nature and depth of the problem.

            It is not easy material though.

            • Nietzsche is just about the most discredited-yet-still-somehow-revered-in-universities thinker outside of Freud. It’s not particularly relevant to you or me what he means when he says anything.

              …”By undermining the fundamental story, and the description of the world known as ‘The Great Chain of Being’ ‘we’ destroyed a conceptual order upon which an entire cosmology had been constructed.”…

              The “entire cosmology” had been constructed around Ptolemy, Aristotle, and the Greeks, until it was proven wrong by a bunch of Christians. I have no idea what you’re going on about.

              “In order for the Nativity to be considered real in our ‘climate’ of thought, it would have to be describable through scientific principle.”

              Non-sequitur bullocks. Not even the universe itself is describable through scientific principle, but it’s generally considered “real.” Laws of logic are not describable through scientific principle, but they are also considered “real.” Gravity is not doesn’t reconcile with scientific principle, but we know quite a bit about it anyway. 90% of the universe is literally made of who-the-hell-knows.

              “These are incompatible epistemes.” Not in the slightest. The Nativity isn’t presented as a scientifically repeatable event. It is presented as a miracle, which by definition must be non-repeatable and defy scientific principle, or else it’s just a parlor trick. If there is a possibility that God exists who is responsible for the laws and constants of what we observe with science, then miracles pose no problem, other than that they are unlikely, which is kind of the point.

              Your Nietzschean cant about killing God is out of date anyway. The nihilism of the post-Nietzsche Nazi era didn’t last; religion exploded in the 1950’s, and the advance of science has not followed Nietzsche’s predictions. Just 23 years ago the COBE satellite’s confirmation of the Biblically-sound Big Bang Theory over the Solid State Theory led to proclamations like these:

              “These findings, now available, make the idea that God created the universe a more respectable hypothesis today than at any time in the last 100 years.” -Frederick Burnham, science historian (L.A. Times, May 2, 1992)
              “Astronomy leads us to a unique event- a universe which was created
              out of nothing, one with the very delicate balance needed to provide exactly the conditions required to permit life, and one which has an underlying -one might say ‘supernatural’- plan.”
              -Arno Penzias, Nobel Prize-winning physicist
              “It seems to me that when confronted with the marvels of life and the universe, one must ask why and not just how. The only possible answers are religious…”
              -Arthur Schawlow, Stanford Professor of Physics and Nobel Prize winner
              (Cosmos, Bios, and Theos, 1992)

              • Esteemed Isaac:

                I liked your critique of Zoe’s piece yet I like this one less. It is filled more with some of your own tendentious ideas about Nietzsche, etc., than it is a commentary on what I wrote or what I think. I said in a comment to your post, above, that you misunderstand me: I am only attempting to define a problem, to describe it accurately, I do not know what the solution to the problem is. Nietzsche is only relevant to me – and I have no grand opinion of him and have only read perhaps 3 of his works and only Genealogy of Morals closely (and numerous times). I have it as a goal to read Zarathustra again and to read it while simultaneously reading ‘Nietzsche’s Teaching’ by Laurence Lampert. In any case, I do not defend Nietzsche, nor is he my guru, nor do I claim to understand his overall work. But I know what he has meant to me. Therefor, I don’t give a flying f**k if he has been dismissed or christened by the Academy, nor even if you have dismissed him. I tend to desire to be as independent as possible. We live in a LYING and a DECEITFUL world (is my cynical view) and everyone, everywhere, is sending up lies and distortions and telling us ‘This is true!’ and ‘This is a fact!’ And it is confused and lost people who are doing this. Being psychologically and metaphysically lost is, therefor, in my view, a condition of our present.

                So, with that, I simply wipe away your first paragraph with an imperious gesture …

                ::: malicious grin :::

                ______________________

                You said:

                “The “entire cosmology” had been constructed around Ptolemy, Aristotle, and the Greeks, until it was proven wrong by a bunch of Christians. I have no idea what you’re going on about.”
                ______________________

                The Great Chain of Being, in the sense that I understand it, and mean it, is an entire cosmological relationship to the world, the universe, to the soul and to God, which Giant Idea operated in and through all planes of understanding and being. It represent(ed) a cosmic and conceptual order by which life, and death, doing and achievement, and also the opposite: sin and destructiveness, all made sense and fit together into a unified Whole. The Great Chain of Being linked man to the world, to the angelical world, to plants and their properties. Lovejoy’s ‘The Great Chain of Being’ is terribly hard to read (transcription of talks given) but interesting if one can penetrate it. (There is of course a wonderful example of a description of Cosmic Order in Ulysses’ speech in Troilus and Cressida:

                “The heavens themselves, the planets and this centre
                Observe degree, priority and place,
                Insisture, course, proportion, season, form,
                Office and custom, in all line of order;
                And therefore is the glorious planet Sol
                In noble eminence enthroned and sphered
                Amidst the other; whose medicinable eye
                Corrects the ill aspects of planets evil,
                And posts, like the commandment of a king,
                Sans cheque to good and bad:”

                Who ‘proved it wrong’ is of course all very interesting, and in fact I am finding it necessary to better understand not so much that it was ‘proved wrong’ (remember when you said that I was ‘begging off’?), but what has HAPPENED as a result of it being proved wrong. A relationship to an intelligible cosmos is undermined … and there are bound to be secondary effects! (In any case, haltingly, this is the area that most interests me. I have a sense that, at least, you might be able to somewhat understand where I desire to explore).

                I also stand by my statement – my understanding – that the scientific and so-called ‘materialist’ description of the world, and the Christian understanding of the world and a Christian’s place in his world, are ‘incompatible epistemes’. ‘Non-overlapping magisteria’ is the term used by Gould. It is a marvellously pretentious term and therefor one I wish to include in my vocabulary.

                Additionally, and while it is true that religions like Evangelical Christianity and also Islam have exploded, they have exploded among populations which we might describe as ‘third world’ (Africa, the Middle East, South America), but ‘belief’ in the classic forms of Christianity (what most interests me) is in decline among the intellectual class. And this is part of another problem: The mind and the trained intellect go in one direction, and ‘belief’ which might in fact be superstitiousness, and unsupported and even fanatical belief (say for example Pentecostalism: I cannot imagine you there, writhing and barking the Glory of God) go in another. This is schizm as a result of fragmentation and fracturing. I suggest it is dangerous.

                Now the Declarative Statement: We no longer have a Unified and holistic means to understand and to visualize ourselves within a Cosmos where it all fits together and makes sense. We live in a (Nietzschean!) fragmentation of Reality and within ‘shadows’ and ‘likenesses’.

                Etc. etc. etc. (Did you read this all as if spoken by a robot? If not, start at the beginning …. or ask Siri to read it back to you. She is more metaphysically connected than you think …)

                ::: wink :::

  9. Our Jewish family has enjoyed wonderful traditions with the Lutheran church across the street for more than three decades – sharing each others special celebrations, tragedies and changes. During that time, they have always made our house the first stop as they carol around the neighborhood. At first, our eldest joined them on the journey because she loved singing and knew all the 2nd verses. Now, we greet them with platters of hot homemade potato latkes. We love the music and the joy they share – especially when they sing O Holy Night.
    For about the same number of years, we have hosted countless Passover Seders with their congregation – they do the cooking while we conduct a joint service with their pastor. Their church folk were the first to show up at our door after a family death and have joined us for Bat Mitzvahs and our eldest’s wedding. We’ve joined them in celebrations as old pastors retired and new pastors were welcomed. NEVER has there been an attempt to “convert” us or belittle our beliefs. While we’ve had many serious religious discussions, we always end up celebrating and appreciating what we have in common without diminishing our respective faiths. They say “Merry Christmas” we say “Thank You!” No angst, no offense taken. It seems so simple…

    • When our Jewish family moved to very Lutheran northwestern Wisconsin, my kid came home from school that first December with every handmade Christmas craft known to man. I complimented him on the lovely job he did. I then wrote the teacher and asked if I might send in little Chanukah gifts for my child’s classmates (dreidels and gelt). The teacher was thrilled! Sure enough, I received in return hand written thank you notes from some of the parents for sharing our holiday with their children. Yes, it was simple enough.

  10. Well, I burned the Christmas cookies writing this out again. I dedicate tis to Beth and Steve-in-NJ to whom I seem to make the least sense.
    _____________________

    1) Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Christ. Christ offers salvation. The reason for joy at Christmas is because of the gift of salvation. One is joyful because this gift was given, and received.

    2) If one does not believe in this truth, one has no good reason to believe in Christmas. And the celebration of it, including all the decorations and symbols, hold no meaning. One might respect another’s celebrations but if one cannot grasp the essence of the reasons, one’s respect is – in a sense – a sham respect.

    3) Yet if one is adamantly opposed to the belief, or any belief, and if one understands it as destructive, one is ethically bound to express oneself. So, if one does not believe in the essence of Christmas – the salvific promise – one has no relationship to the content. If one understands the content as false, one is duty-bound to say so.

    4) But the essence of Christian belief, originally, is belief in something that is NOT held by others. One is alone with one’s belief and understanding, and can only celebrate those meanings in the company of others who believe. If the whole nation becomes non-Christian or even anti-Christian, this is, in a very real sense, the perfect circumstance for a believing Christian. She can make her faith totally real and can even, if that were to happen, suffer for her belief.

    5) There is a connection between Christian belief and Platonic Myth. Christianity is in many senses a re-elaboration of Platonic ideas. The idea of Plato is that of a ‘cave’ and a fire that produces images which one stares at and believes in. But in the Platonic philosophy what one is seeing is not ‘Reality’. It is just a projection of an effect (of a Truth which cannot be known through conventional means). So: Christianity as a Story is, by many people, and by increasing numbers of people, no longer believed in. What is projected on the screen (of the mind) no longer convinces. And to believe in it produced ‘cognitive dissonance’. Therefor: what produced dissonance is done away with. Better, and easier, to believe in nothing, or to abandon all such belief, than to believe something you cannot rationally defend. That is the essence of a vast problem we of the West suffer: the collapse of an entire belief-system, and one that has produced our culture and in many senses ‘our world’. Our grasp of reality. But this has COLLAPSED. Yet, the full implications have not hit us, not really. We still refer to the ‘ghostly form’, and the ghostly visitors, and the antique image projected onto the wall (of our minds) in a ‘cave’.

    6) Because in the 17th century our pioneers of the physical sciences questioned belief, they overturned the possibility of believing in the beliefs. The came forward in the Spirit of Truth, and truth-seeking, and it could be said that they embodied the saying ‘And the truth shall set you free’. But what happened is that – seeing and explaining the truth – they destroyed a belief-system. Now, we witness the collapse of the possibility of belief. We can NO LONGER believe, or we cannot believe rationally. Hence we approach the terrible irony of our age: the collapse of meaning.

    So: “And so there comes to the fore a double-irony: We followed truth to its limits and we discovered that the Truth we were telling ourselves was a lie, and with that we killed God all over again. In this sense ‘God has died’ and yet his image is still projected onto the walls of caves and will be for hundreds of years more.”

    In the Story, God was put to death by men. Yet men believed in that dying and resurrected God. And that believe gave them ‘life’ (in greater measure, etc.) But, following truth, they ended up killing God all over again (essentially in processes begun in the 17th century). And once again we have God’s blood on our hands, but in an ironical way. We no longer have a way to describe or to talk about God.

    7) We have yet to fully face, and we may not even be able to fully face, the implications of a ‘sheer atheism’. That will mean that we can only define biological entity, or mechanical entity. All ‘meaning’ comes out of higher mind and higher metaphysic, and if the access to that is destroyed, one is left alone in a purely biological and mechanical world. This mechanical world is showing itself as the robotic, computer world. More and more, this ‘world’, and this structure of rulership and control, becomes more and more present and entrenched. Man begins to imitate the machine and not the other way around. The machine asks man to stop being man and to act like a good, sensible machine. This IS an implication of movements begun in the 17th century. It CAN be described.

    So: “The implications of a sheer and absolute atheism are realisations that have not yet really hit home.”

    8) Christians still have, or so they feel, a ‘link’ to their creator or to their God. They had better do all that they can to make that link real and more real than ever. Because in this sense ‘the World’, and the world of the machine, the world of mechanical control of man (meaning ‘the spirit’ or the ‘soul’) is essentially taking over. This means that the essence of ‘Christian meanings’ cannot be talked about, cannot be shared. But you can, at least to some extent, share the ‘sham’ meanings: the superficial trappings, a red and green Christmas stocking, or some hot spiced wine.

    I could go on, naturally, and going on would be to go into some of the most difficult territories we can face (in my view), and some difficult and divisive conversations. Because the issues are divisive, and we don’t want to ruin the Holiday spirit, it is best … to go silent. (But no one wishes to go silent and so they tend to keep piping up).

    • I quit after paragraph 4, so that’s something.

      It seems you don’t think that Christmas *as it’s developed* doesn’t get to be celebrated because some people don’t believe in its origins? Regardless of it’s Christian roots celebrating the Incarnation, even early on, because of the promise of Salvation and Christ’s earthly ethical teachings, it does ALSO celebrate benevolence, gratitude, charity, generosity, and the like.

      But I guess non-Christians don’t get to celebrate THAT if they aren’t also celebrating Christ Himself?

      My recommendation is to put down the nietzchean crack-pipe. I think his philosophy and its offshoots have led to more misery in pursuit of some rigorous intellectual purity. A good pursuit, but his way? Leave it.

        • Ah ha, but if you knew your logic, you’d know the statement “I quit after paragraph 4” doesn’t tell you anything about where I *exactly* quit, just merely that it occurred *after* paragraph 4…so with certainty, you know I also quit after paragraphs 1, 2, and 3. You’d be merely guessing that I *didn’t* suffer through paragraphs 5 and 6…

    • Editing critique — numbering paragraphs does not affect writing style Alizia. Now on to substance.

      Christmas may be celebrated as the birth of Christ (and I support people who do so) but it didn’t start out that way. It was first Saturnalia and the Church picked that day to celebrate the birth of Christ to try and co-opt a popular pagan holiday. There was no Christmas tree in the manger. In fact, it is widely believed by Christian scholars that Jesus was born sometime in the Spring. So starting out your essay that way makes no sense to me. Even most die-hard Christians recognize the pagan precursors.

      Further, I take issue with point 2. “If one does not believe in this truth, one has no good reason to believe in Christmas. And the celebration of it, including all the decorations and symbols, hold no meaning. One might respect another’s celebrations but if one cannot grasp the essence of the reasons, one’s respect is – in a sense – a sham respect.”

      Christmas can have enormous meaning to atheists. Even if we don’t believe in Christ, it doesn’t mean that our respect for others is a “sham” respect. Indeed, many atheists have struggled with lack of faith in their journey to calling themselves “atheist,” so we understand the deep meaning that Christians have for this holiday, and in some respects, wish that we could feel that way too. But for me at least, Christmas is all about family.

      I’ll end it there, because the rest of your essay seems to rely on if/then arguments when I think your initial premise is thawed.

      I think you have a lot of useful things to say actually, but — assuming you are still in school (my guess is that you are) — I highly recommend a critical writing class.

    • Just as a drive-thru bit of fact-checking:
      -The pioneers of science did NOT question belief. Who are you talking about here? Bacon? Newton? Galileo? Kelvin? Babbage? Kepler? Boyle? Pasteur? Surely not any of those guys, who were pretty much motivated BY belief.
      -I think what you mean to say is that the 18th-century philosophers of the Enlightenment questioned belief. They came after the Scientific Revolution, and I and many others would argue that if anything, their movement slowed down the empirical science boom.
      -The theory that Christianity was derivative of Plato has been pretty thoroughly debunked. Every possibly-Platonic idea in the New Testament can be traced back to Hebrew writings from centuries before Plato.
      -If one understands “any belief” to be destructive, then one must have proof that it is destructive on balance. Otherwise, one does not “understand” this, but rather, believes it, and “any belief” is destructive, right? The problem with trying to “prove” Christianity to be destructive is in the facts of history. One will be reduced to cherry-picking destructive actions with a religious element (Crusades! Inquisition!) and ignoring things like the abolition of slavery worldwide, Universities, and the concepts of charity, all of which got off the ground due to religious fervor.
      -The “warfare thesis” that science and religion can’t coexist, is a fiction, if only because leading scientists continue to coexist personally, and very well, with religion.

      • I’d say that their investigations established the platforms of understanding which has led to the disruption of the possibility of belief (in the religious sense). You are right though to point out that most of those men were men with a strong faith. Yet they put in motion investigations and inquiries which had very different ramifications (that is my understanding anyway).

        I did not say, and do not think, that ‘Christianity derives from Plato’. My understanding is that Greek ideas, and a Greek philosophical mindset, infuses Christian doctrine. I base my understanding on Edwin Hatch’s ‘The Influence of Greek Ideas and Usages on the Christian Church’, Dean Inge in many of his essays, ‘The Christian Platonists of Alexandria’ by Charles Bigg, and other material.

        ‘Pretty thoroughly debunked’ is a claim that raises a red-flag, for me anyway. It claims a great deal. I think I understand what you mean though: The NT is not a Greek creation. Some take issue by pointing to Galilee as a mixed cultural area.

        But it seems inarguable that early Christianity is soaked with Greek ideas and concepts.

        I do have a sense of what is ‘destructive’, but I am not sure what you mean in your post when you start speaking of Christianity as ‘destructive’. I would not describe it like that. Again, I think you make a mistake – because I try to describe an objective situation, a general situation – of attributing it to me, as if I am speaking about my own understandings.

        I tend to see the ‘liberal’ side of Christianity as ‘destructive’ in numerous ways, so there is an additional twist for you!

      • Actually, from what I can tell, she’s arguing more that in order for “real” Christianity to survive, it must *reject* the various social and intellectual trends that started gaining steam from the 17th century onwards. Basically, you mistake her for being some sort of Marxist progressive, when her arguments are really more inline with what some might call “Christian reactionaries”.

        • No, I couldn’t say that. That will not work. My understanding is that the ‘non-compatable magisteria’ of Christian doctrine and metaphysic, and the description of the tangible world (science basically), have severed away from each other. The division is inevitable. It is also tragic. It may be ‘psychotic’.

          ‘Real Christianity’, eh? I suggest that, nowadays, you will be very hard-pressed to find any person who can describe to you what that is, and what it means. This is more evidence, in my view, that the breach is un-bridgable. At least until the Magisteria can be joined anew. That will happen in another era, I suppose, and how odd it is to speculate about that!

          You are right that I am taken as Progressive and possibly a Marxist one. I have made a genuine effort, with readings and note-takings and listening to Chomsky and others in youtube lectures, to gain a sense of what that is and what they are. Now there is an Edifice.

          But ‘Christian reactionary’, no, not really. What I have to defend though is the Occident, and Occidental self, and in this I feel emotionally and sentimentally linked to the alt-right discourses. At that point I do not define myself as Christian universalist and, as it happens, one is forced to revision Christ and Advent in a very different way. (Chamberlain pulls this off by severing JC from his Jewish root. He was rejected by ‘the Jews’ because, in fine, he was not ‘of the Jews’).

          You do not have to comment on this stuff. But thanks for noticing! That shows good discernment.

  11. _____________________

    Tex wrote: “My recommendation is to put down the nietzchean crack-pipe. I think his philosophy and its offshoots have led to more misery in pursuit of some rigorous intellectual purity. A good pursuit, but his way? Leave it.
    _____________________

    That is a meaningless comment. You’d have to begin to explain what ‘philosophy’ you’d favor. All you have done is ad hominemed him.

    I have the sense that you might not be able to pursue ideas toward conclusions. Perhaps you are mentally lazy?

    “Regardless of it’s Christian roots celebrating the Incarnation, even early on, because of the promise of Salvation and Christ’s earthly ethical teachings, it does ALSO celebrate benevolence, gratitude, charity, generosity, and the like.”

    It is a sham and a largely empty ‘celebration’. If you lose the inner content, the outer form will eventually fall away, too.

    • As a matter of fact, as I stated it, that list is part of the “inner” content. So celebrating that makes it NOT an empty celebration according to your usage.

      Now an argument can be made after that, that taking Christ out of Christmas, you ultimately take ethics derived from Christianity out of the culture itself. And you could then argue that the other values derived directly from that would eventually fall away from the culture as well.

      Now that would make sense.

      • You could argue that, but it would be wrong. Ideas and values survive and flourish independently of their advocates and originators, and sometimes, are better off. That’s the genius of Dickens—his story focused on the values as good for their own sake. Tiny Tim alludes to Christ once, but that’s it.

  12. I suppose one could take that tack, Beth, and understand Christmas as a pagan celebratory holiday. If that were true one could just as well call it a Saturnalia Office Party. Yet it is inarguable that for 1000 years and more Christmas has been an event connected to a Christian understanding of things.

    I gather that – as a non-Christian – you will likely have no connection to that specific meaning, which makes good sense. Yet to change the core and cultural meaning, even if Christmas as a Church custom was constructed on another and older custom, is disingenuous. I am attempting to articulate a larger event: the incapacity of people to ‘believe’. It is my view that this is a profound problem of modernity with all sorts of different manifestations in our present.

    I suggest it is doubtful that you would be able to understand, which is also to say interested in understanding quite possibly the entirety of the area that interests me philosophically, and I would also suggest that it is not that what I write is so hard to understand (though I can improve and your critique does not fall on deaf ears), but rather that you are quite simply not interested in what interests me. So, while you may say ‘You are not doing enough to bring your ideas to me in a way that I can understand’, and you suggest learning to write as if communicating with 5 year-olds, I suggest that you can also do work in constructing an ideological bridge to what I write. That is my critique then to you: Understand more, understand better. Seems fair anyway.
    _________________

    I wrote:

    “If one does not believe in this truth, one has no good reason to believe in Christmas. And the celebration of it, including all the decorations and symbols, hold no meaning. One might respect another’s celebrations but if one cannot grasp the essence of the reasons, one’s respect is – in a sense – a sham respect.”

    Beth responded:

    “Christmas can have enormous meaning to atheists. Even if we don’t believe in Christ, it doesn’t mean that our respect for others is a “sham” respect. Indeed, many atheists have struggled with lack of faith in their journey to calling themselves “atheist,” so we understand the deep meaning that Christians have for this holiday, and in some respects, wish that we could feel that way too. But for me at least, Christmas is all about family.”
    __________________

    Yet the evidence seems to suggest, in fact, that as the inner spirit, or the spiritual belief that informs the celebrations and the symbols, are no longer viable or real for people, that it becomes ever more devoid of real meaning and substance. Put another way, the Christmas season, and perhaps an inner and spiritual sense about it, is not increasing.

    And I did not say that you have a ‘sham’ respect, and I did not mean that. What I meant is that in our present each hitherto very meaningful religious and cultural celebration has been drained of meaning because, perhaps, they all have to appear on the same stage together. Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanzaa, etc. To an atheist, obviously, each one does not have and cannot have the content nor the meaning that the believer finds in it. It might have ‘enormous meaning’ but not the metaphysical meaning. I think that the loss of that metaphysical meaning is a very big deal, though I can respect that, perhaps, you do not feel that way.

    Finally, I do not at all appreciate the recommendation to take a critical writing class. I don’t mind condescension at all and take it in stride. But may I say the following? I have read many of your posts and, yes, you write clearly: about total irrelevancies. There is no impact, no conflict, no wide searching in what I have read so far. So, if you can tell me to take a critical writing class, I can tell you to get yourself involved with ideas that really matter. And were you to stumble over your words in getting to that, I’d not hold it against you …

    • I wasn’t trying to be condescending at all Alizia — it was meant as constructive criticism only. Every good writer I know had to be taught to write.

      And you are right — I often talk about frivolities here — for good reason. This site leans conservative, and I lean heavily to the left. If I engaged at the level that many do here on topics that are meaningful to me it wouldn’t change a thing. (More and more research is showing that our brains are hard-wired to be left or right and the same is true for faith or lack of faith.) And, in any event, I’d probably be fired from my job because I do not have that kind of time! So, something like a Christmas post is right up my alley because I can be in and out without additional ethics alarms battle scars.

      One nit-pick about your quote that Christmas has been celebrated for over 1000 years. That’s true obviously, but the modern understanding of Christmas (and the traditions that surround it) didn’t come about until the 19th century.

      I apologize again for the apparent insult.

      • I’ll take it constructively then.

        I have learned – it has not come easy given certain features of my personality – to take a few jabs back when jabs are brought against me. But I take nothing really personally.

        It may (and it may not) interest you to know that I am attempting to define a political, existential and also religious platform that looks at ‘conservatism’ from the Right. I want to be able to soundly defeat the entire edifice of Leftism and so-called Progressivism. Hyper-liberalism, radical liberalism.

        In order to pull this off I have to 1) be familiar with Leftist ideas and I think I have made this effort pretty substantially, and 2) I have to attempt to understand what are the ‘forbidden’ zones of the Right. The zones of the Right that the Right denies, just as the Left denies the Maoist and Stalinist realities: the most destructive regimes that have ever existed in the history of the world.

        I would also suggest that the ‘conservatives’ here, and the so-called conservative platform generally, is really a branch of the Left. The Left runs the show now, at least in ideological terms. Our institutions have been infected with Marxist ideas and I do not think this is at all an exaggeration. How to counter that, and how to define in this strange present, a countervaling position, is not easy.

        The terms ‘right’ and ‘left’ are misleading polarities in numerous ways, and to disentangle that it difficult in itself, but to define a ‘rightwing’ position, or a radical right position, or a ‘true conservative’ position, is to involve oneself in thought criminality. One has to be willing to think about things that no one is allowed to think about, things that can get you fired from your job and ostracised by your community.

        It might be helpful to know that I am an ex-Jew from a quite rigid Sephardic background and as it happened, ‘escaped’ along with my sister who married a European man who is a somewhat known exponent of European rightist/traditionalist views. If I pipe up some on Christian themes it is because I have spent almost 2 years reading in this area. Old stuff, Medieval stuff.

          • I think you are a time-waster Tex. You seem to prefer the inanity of banter and needling over the discussion of ideas. I make every effort to avoid people like you. One gets nowhere with that modus operandi. That is your choice naturally. I made some effort to respond to your stupidities with substance. You didn’t and likely won’t respond. So I suggest we bring this to a close.

            • I know it may bother you when someone shows a capacity for serious discussion (as you would know the bulk of my arguments to be, would you but bother to actually read the discussions here as opposed to droning on about whatever you most recently read from the Philosophy 201 reading list…) and then turns around capable of lighthearted jabs and playful banter smattered with the occasional snark.

              I would think someone as astutely learned and deepeningly introspective as yourself would make a silly claim such as this: That is your choice naturally. Come on, you should know by now how little choice we have in nature.

              • I am cynical and suspicious, and I am cynical and suspicious of you, and ‘people like you’, and because of this I say – and I say it openly and directly: I don’t believe you. I cannot say I have spent very long on these forums, just a few years so far, but what I find more often than not is confused, even malevolent people, with half-baked notions about ‘truth’ and ‘what is right’. They are filled with opinion – filled to the brim.

                Or maybe, as I see here, they are bickering people who focus on all the wrong things in order to denigrate people who, perhaps, come with good-faith. You suggest that I have something to learn from you and that you are ‘serious’. But let’s look at what you write here.

                You begin with insults and your whole approach (to me) has taken shape through insult. Not a ‘desire to help’, and thereof not good faith. But ugly, and yet vain and meaningless, insults. You say that what I write is ‘droning’ from a Philosophy 201 course. You’ve made many other characterizations like that. You have fashioned a mean-spirited distortion. You mis-characterize what I attempt here for your own bitter, or perhaps only childish, purposes. (I don’t really care why).

                But no part of what I write, and no part of what interests me and concerns me, is ‘droning’. It is what concerns me and is important to me. What right do you have to speak to someone like that, a**hole? What gives you that right? You don’t HAVE that right.

                You are disordered. Get back within your proper boundaries.

                But then, I suppose, you will hide your intentions (not so nice in fact) behind this term ‘snark’. ‘Some occasional snark’. It is not occasional. Your basic approach is through ‘snark’. So, you lie – to yourself I guess – about your own activity. (‘Playful banter’ etc. is more of the same bull**it)

                You then continue in the inappropriate, insulting vein by mocking me, by establishing a characterization which some of your forum-pals also pick up on. I make no claim at all to ‘introspection’ nor to ‘deep learning’ (I actually say that I don’t understand a great deal, but am working to do so), but I do have ideas and concerns that are important to me.

                Finally, you end on a really weird note:

                “Come on, you should know by now how little choice we have in nature”.

                This is mind f**k. What in the heck are you saying?

                If we have no choice ‘in nature’ then what in the heck are you doing on an ethics forum? Which presupposes conscious choice and purposive will? Are you admitting that you have no capacity for choice? But that is a good reason to reject anything you have to say. You attempt to collude with me as if I *should* know that we are just playing out unconscious, mechanical patterns. If you are, then say so. But I do not want to participate in your characterization. If we do not have significant choice, it is all quite valueless. If this is your philosophical or existential (or ethical) position, fine. But it is not mine.

                So, what I have tried to do here is to show you WHY I don’t believe you, and why I do not find you a good example to follow, and therefor doubt that I will choose to be influenced by you.

                • “I cannot say I have spent very long on these forums, just a few years so far”

                  Really? As a reader or under a different screen name?

                  “Or maybe, as I see here, they are bickering people who focus on all the wrong things in order to denigrate people who, perhaps, come with good-faith.”

                  You could also consider those people as believing strongly in what they believe and bringing every argument to the table…I’m not sure that’s a bad thing.

                  “You suggest that I have something to learn from you and that you are ‘serious’. But let’s look at what you write here. You begin with insults and your whole approach (to me) has taken shape through insult. Not a ‘desire to help’, and thereof not good faith.”

                  A quick perusal of the entire site, including several discussions the two of us have had fairly well undermines this opening and it’s follow on assertions.

                  “You say that what I write is ‘droning’ from a Philosophy 201 course. You’ve made many other characterizations like that.”

                  I am sorry that was insulting, but your method of dialogue does sound like I characterized it…

                  “You have fashioned a mean-spirited distortion. You mis-characterize what I attempt here for your own bitter, or perhaps only childish, purposes. (I don’t really care why).”

                  I could always reiterate the times I’ve said your commentary is interesting and probably reveals solid intelligence.

                  “What right do you have to speak to someone like that, a**hole? What gives you that right? You don’t HAVE that right.”

                  This is a public forum where everyone’s opinions and methods are subject to scrutiny, is it not?

                  “You are disordered. Get back within your proper boundaries.”

                  What?

                  “I make no claim at all to ‘introspection’ nor to ‘deep learning’ (I actually say that I don’t understand a great deal, but am working to do so), but I do have ideas and concerns that are important to me.”

                  That’s unfortunate, given that I had mentioned before you seem to have some pretty interesting and deep thoughts.

                  “Finally, you end on a really weird note:

                  “Come on, you should know by now how little choice we have in nature”.

                  This is mind f**k. What in the heck are you saying?

                  If we have no choice ‘in nature’ then what in the heck are you doing on an ethics forum? Which presupposes conscious choice and purposive will? Are you admitting that you have no capacity for choice? But that is a good reason to reject anything you have to say. You attempt to collude with me as if I *should* know that we are just playing out unconscious, mechanical patterns. If you are, then say so. But I do not want to participate in your characterization. If we do not have significant choice, it is all quite valueless. If this is your philosophical or existential (or ethical) position, fine. But it is not mine.”

                  No, I was diverting this to what seems to be your cup-o-tea, foundational philosophical topics. And yes, freewill vs determinism is foundational. But no, I don’t think I’ll go down that route anymore.

                  See you in later discussions!

                    • Awwwww…

                      That’s so sweet.

                      Our little Ms Tyler has blown a fuse.

                      Ms Tyler, You sit there in your little world spewing your nonsense analysis of others comments but you can’t take the heat when someone accurately analyzes your words. Wearing a double standard on your forehead for all the world to see is and spewing sophomoric comments when your backed into a corner is quite juvenile Ms Tyler.

                      Grow up Ms Tyler.

                    • RT:

                      You misunderstand. Nothing anyone says or can say upsets me. The only thing that has any lasting importance are the ideas themselves. I have learned to push back against people in a similar ‘mood’ at which they come at me. You can say anything you like and I will never complain THAT you say it. But I will certainly feel very free to respond ‘in kind’.

                      ‘Our Little Miss Tyler’, eh? Well, I am actually up to 105 lbs these days but – for you – I shall be weighing in at 11 tons. You are now in my sights. I may have to crucify you, and resurrect you, and crucify you, and resurrect you many times.

                      I would also appreciate it if you would call me Señorina Alizia in honor of my Sephardic roots.

                      😉

                    • I will stuff you into a Cyber Stocking and hang you on the Hearth of a third-party imagination in honor of Satunalia. I might even bake you in a Xmas pie. So watch it …

                      ::: meek genuine loving smile :::

                    • Ooo foreign invective. Well done.

                      By the by, I don’t recall telling you what your cup o tea is. I do recall saying what *seemed* to be your cup o tea.

                      But now that I’ve seen your lightening up I’d submit a small part of my job is done.

        • “The terms ‘right’ and ‘left’ are misleading polarities in numerous ways, and to disentangle that it difficult in itself, but to define a ‘rightwing’ position, or a radical right position, or a ‘true conservative’ position, is to involve oneself in thought criminality. One has to be willing to think about things that no one is allowed to think about, things that can get you fired from your job and ostracised (sic) by your community.”

          Where do you work and live? Most leftists would embrace your effort to deconstruct conservatism. (if you were saying what I think you’re saying) Most places where people live and work are leftist; you should be safe there. Are you still living within the Sephardic community?

          Alizia,
          I’m going to tap out on replying to your comments because I really don’t care that much about reexamining philosophies I’ve read and rejected as meaningful to me. And, it exhausts me to re-engage in conversations I had and was passionate about when I was in my 20’s. Granny syndrome.

          I’m currently interested in ethics and the manifestations of ethics in daily life. This blog fills that interest. I’m sure I’m engaging in several ethics violations here. I would be glad to hear about that.

          • If I read correctly you have asked some question and made some comments but then indicated that you’d rather not talk about them? Fair enough.

            I think that grandmothers have rights and privileges that others do not have.

            Ostracise, with an ‘s’, is an acceptable variant spelling 😉

            I am also really interested in ethics, and because I am interested in Traditionalism I am interested in exploring the roots of things. I am in something like a spiral backwards. I’ve lost my ground in a conventional or quotidian ethics but have not been able to situate myself in a different – a better? – ethical bedrock. Yet I regard ‘the present’ (in an ethical sense) as a sort of mire: a territory of stark confusion and self-deception: hypocrisy, lying, and manipulation.

            It might be (if I were to listen to Beth and Tex I’d have to see it that way) that I am a flawed person who can’t think straight (I do not of course agree), but what I have found is that when you start to head into the very cores of ideas, and attempt to bring out of them their important essence, and to begin to talk about that, that it creates all sort of different reactions in people. I have wondered if, as in our PC Culture where people have been trained and also participate in training themselves NOT to think independently, an independent thinker is and must be attacked? It has been very hard for me as a rather meek person to overcome my reactions and to act more aggressively. I was trained to be passive overall. I always try to respond through ideas and with ideas.

            The people that I hang around with – many are European and all are in the ‘alt-right’ community, or traditionalists, and anti-liberals (and anti- so many different things!) – are people who are engaged in exploring the cores of things, the cores of ideas. That is what I want to do, too. Ethics is really the base of it.

            • Breaking my own rule here:
              Of course you are a flawed person. We all are.
              You probably think straighter than you express your thoughts.
              Simpler is better, if you can express a thought simply you display that you understand it.
              One idea at a time.
              You make me want to give you a hug and tell you to relax.
              You also make me happy, because I think it’s important to explore our beliefs.
              If you are a troll you’re a very skillful one, and isn’t a little sad commentary on social media that I think you might be one.

              • I find it to be an interesting day indeed when Tex, Wyogranny, and I are all on the same page. My thoughts exactly Wyogranny.

                I think I will go buy a lottery ticket now ….

                • You are obviously an optimist, Beth. What you are not considering is that such a synchronization of oddity might presage something like the birth of the Antichrist, like in Rosemary’s Baby.

                  Anyway, now I know you are degenerate liberals, all this talk of hugs and such.

                  (Just kidding).

                  Wyogranny:

                  Much better a skilful troll than a blundering, incompetent one!

                  Troll Lives Matter!

                  While I do not know what you mean by ‘troll’ (people use that term to describe people they don’t like and ideas they don’t like), I am genuinely interested in all the things I write about.

                  • INTERNET TROLL: A troll is a person who sows discord on the Internet by starting arguments or upsetting people, by posting inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community (such as a newsgroup, forum, chat room, or blog) with the deliberate intent of provoking readers into an emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion, often for their own amusement.

                    Stand up, take a look in a mirror, and see if you fit the definition of an intentional troll; only you can know for sure what your true intentions are. Fellow bloggers just look at what you write and see the results of your words; the result of the words you choose, are all we have to base our description of you so you are dealing with individual perceptions of you based on your words, if you don’t like those perceptions, then maybe it’s time to change your words to better project how you want to be perceived.

                    • I certainly know what my ‘intentions’ are: they are to understand better the world that we live in, and very certainly to understand ethics and how we come to make ethical choices.

                      If anything I say, think, propose, even if it is totally incommensurate with what you say think and propose, bothers you, I suggest that you examine why it is that you participate in a blog where the most important things that one can think about are discussed.

                      If I am to be held responsible for ‘your-plural’ reactions to what I say, think and propose, it is there that the mistake is made. Your entire comment is related to a terrifying and false understanding that runs like this: I feel upset. He or she is saying something that upsets me. Therefore he or she is to blame for my upset.

                      In the world of ideas you have to be willing to put childishness of that sort aside. Get a thicker skin.

                      This entire lecture from Beth, Tex, and now you is B******T.

                      This is a sick – A SICK – statement:

                      “…if you don’t like those perceptions, then maybe it’s time to change your words to better project how you want to be perceived.”

                      I suggest that you ‘stand up, look in the mirror’ and see how really deranged your comment is.

                      Good Heavens.

                    • Ms. Tyler,
                      You questioned the use of the word troll, I provided some information on the usage. I wasn’t pushing your buttons, I was trying to help you; it will never happen again with you.

                      Your idiotic reply is that of an immature person lashing out in vengeance at someone that was NOT attacking you. Your choices, your consequences.

                      Grow up Ms. Tyler.

          • The thing is, a lot of what Alizia is saying is stuff, which in far more straight-forward form, you can find on alt-right sites comprised of intelligent people who are nonetheless sympathetic to groups like the British National Party and France’s National Front.

            • You have discerned nicely, Julian Hung. It is appreciated. My sister’s husband is a somewhat known figure in the European ‘alt-right’. But I do not wish to be seen, and I do not see myself, as allied with them or with anyone. I will pursue my own idea in my own way.

              I can’t find your other comment, but yes, I struggle to define a sort of Christian essentialism. My ‘strategy’ is sort of a Johannine manoeuvre: to understand Christian doctrine as an expression of a giant, and a living, metaphysic, and to understand the Form as just a form. After all: if one can speak in real terms of the salvific event as a real thing, it had to be real forever and eternally, here and in all possible worlds. The specific ‘story’ is just the way the imagination takes it in.

              Therefore, the only way that I can see to *save* the Christian religion from being consumed by its own truth-seeking tendency and imperative, is to take it all at a very different level. That manoeuvre allows one to hold to all the content of meaning, but not have to be locked into untenable story-lines and antiquated narratives.

              [Additionally, I am exploring the farthest reaches of so-called right wing ideas as philosophical positions. One of the most radical discourses I have encountered so far is Jonathan Bowden lecturing on Savitri Devi. I came across her book Lightening in the Sun 3 years ago or so and it appalled me, it literally appalled me (because I was born and raised Jewish). But then, well various things happened, but I decided to investigate antisemitism. It is the thing that can’t be talked about, right? Just as race and racism can’t be talked about. I discovered Houston Chamberlain who spells out in an astounding depth and with a Germanistic intensity, an anti Jewish platform. Now I understand it at least! But few really do understand it. And antisemitism only means that people resent a Jew owning a shopping center or something like that.

              (As you may guess it is hard for me to have much to do with the alt right BECAUSE I am Jewish). But at the very least I have now, after a year or so, begun to understand their antizionist position.

              To understand our present, one has to take all the covering and all the lids OFF, and one has to put everything on the table for examination. My definition of ‘PC’ is thought-control and thought interception: What rises up, from inside of us, to inhibit those thoughts from forming. I start from the assumption that people CANNOT think freely. They have to prove otherwise …

  13. ____________________

    Texagg04 wrote:

    “My recommendation is to put down the nietzchean crack-pipe. I think his philosophy and its offshoots have led to more misery in pursuit of some rigorous intellectual purity. A good pursuit, but his way? Leave it.
    ___________________

    Thinking this over, I would suggest that – and if you mean misery as death and such – that Marx has been far more fatal. I would also suggest that you have not understood so well the Nietzschean thesis, which is perhaps understandable insofar as it is not one but many different things in one.

    Is it is waste of time to think about these things? Is it a waste of time to think about the collapse of meaning? And can you honestly say that doing so is comparable to a crack-addiction? How wrong you are, and how boldly condescending you are. Really, I do not mind as long as you don’t mind if I tell you exactly what I think, too.

    I have spent some months off and on on this blog, and I have gotten no clear sense at all where you (plural) stand on things. One might imagine that this is a ‘conservative’ site. It seems to be that at times (though many who write here are not ‘conservative’). But from my angle, what I see, and what I feel I guess I’d have to say, is that I am reading the writing of people who are floundering ethically and philosophically. It seems like chitter-chatter and jibber-jabber but without getting to the root of things.

    I encounter people all the time who seem philosophically ideologically and intellectually lost. Being lost is the condition of our present.

    OK. I am apparently ‘a failure’, you’ve called me out on this. But I am acutely engaged in trying to arrive at solid and communicable MEANINGS. To say that a major philosopher who has had and still is having a great deal of effect among those who seek to organise their understanding of the present, is quite simply condemnable. That is not intellectual work, it is trashtalk.

    YOU are going to tell ME about what leads to misery and what does not? You have this figured out I take it?

    ‘Leave it’ you say (when Nietzsche is one among NUMEROUS reference points for me), and involve myself … in WHAT exactly?

    You have the floor. Articulate what it is you mean. Those who know have no difficulty in making it plain.

    ::: smiles :::

  14. I have not really looked into A Christmas Tale, but now that you bring it up Jack I think I will. I did see it once and it was really pretty profound. It is a form of literary terrorism.

    Yet it seems to me that even though it is an imagined tale, and one that requires an imaginary voyage, it is a tale about a visitation by demons, or a demonic vision brought to a man by an angelic force that converts him. It touches quite profound spiritual territory, and I suppose that it seems to me that its power is there. In that, it is in its way very much a religious story, about a religious event. I’d imagine that – even for Dickens – the spirit that stands behind the conversion of Scrooge is far more than ‘idea’.

    But I am going to look into it more…

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