Why I think Christmas as a Religious Festival is still important in the West.

Among the multi anti-religious discourses of the last 20 years none has been as vocal as the atheist lobby with spokespersons as diverse as the late Christopher Hitchens, the somewhat discredited anti-theologian and evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, along with many purveyors of advanced capitalism who through the propaganda of advertising seduce consumers with the creed that more of anything will make one feel better and that greed is good. The more you buy and spend at Christmas time-the happier and merrier you’ll be!

American atheists have spent an undisclosed sum of money erecting a bill board in Times Square which  reads “Keep the Merry!” next to a picture of Santa Claus, and “Dump the Myth!” next to a picture of the crucified Jesus Christ.  It’s an odd paradox the atheists have created for themselves because despite Hollywood’s attempt to find the real Santa Claus and create the fable of Kris Kringle and the original Santa Claus there’s no historical evidence that such a figure has ever existed in human history. Moreover, there’s little merriment in the atheist message which attacks, not only the faith and religious belief of over a billion people on the planet, but also the historical evidence which supports the life and death of Jesus of Nazareth. The subtext of their billboard is one of fear and hate. Fear that their own disbelief may be found wanting-after all if one has faith in the certainty that God doesn’t exist why spend ten of thousands of dollars trying to convince others of that conviction -what’s the point? Hatred of difference too is the subtext in their billboard; “if we don’t believe in Jesus Christ, no-one else should”

Leaving aside two thousand years of disputed doctrinal and theological argument (yes I know it’s not an easy thing to do!) there’s sufficient historical evidence that Jesus was a holy man who lived and died, and that he proved unpopular with the establishment because he attempted to lead people to a greater awareness and understanding of themselves. Most historical scholars of antiquity agree that Jesus existed and that he was born between 7 and 2 BC and that he died around 30-35 AD. These scholars also agree that he was baptized by John and that the Governor of Galilee, Pontius Pilate assented to his death. The references to Jesus by the 1st century Roman Historians Josephus and Tacitus are considered authentic too.

Despite my scholarly research into Santa Claus I could not find any historical evidence that he ever existed except along with the tooth fairy, goblins, wizards, demons, vampires and elves and other imaginings of J.K.Rowling, Stephenie Meyer, Hans Christian Anderson, along with various atheist groups and the like. It seems to me the atheists are conflicted both in their beliefs and historical understanding of human history.

It is the institutionalization of religion which has undermined its very purpose-to give meaning to an individual’s life through shared communal belief and understanding; and nearly all of the bloody religious internecine struggles throughout human history have been about enforcing one belief over another. Nothing has really changed today and that is why the Christmas message of hope is so urgent. The birth of Jesus as my favorite Christmas carol, ‘Oh Holy Night’ reminds me, enables the soul to find its way. By that I mean it reassures my intuitive nature that we are not alone, alienated or lost in a world devoid of meaning as some would have us believe.

Christmas reminds me of a man who gave us some very clear directions on how to be better human beings and how to care for and understand one another. “I am the Way, the truth and the life” Jesus said; the idea being that he modeled a way of life based on care, forgiveness, compassion, love, tolerance and understanding of difference. He challenged human corruption and complacency.  Through living each of the values he espoused we find our way, our truth and our life. Similarly, “seek first the kingdom of God and all things will be added to you”. The message is similar to the Buddha, nothing outside of ourselves will give us meaning, we must look inside ourselves, prioritize what’s important based on his message, and there we will find God. Jesus’ message was about human consciousness and states and levels of awareness we can grow into as human beings. We can create a better life for ourselves and others by listening to our hearts and minds and touching that intuitive part of ourselves which “lets our light shine before all humanity and so they may see our good works”. There’s nothing in the myths of atheism or the mass produced fantasies of popular fiction and Hollywood that offer a more compelling alternative. Have a blessed and happy Christmas.

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