Friday, December 19, 2008

Day 6: Bah! Humbug!!

So, Tom Flynn of the Council for Secular Humanism thinks that humanists shouldn't celebrate Christmas. Not even under alternate guise as Solstice or Yule or Newtonmas (no word on what he thinks of Happy Monkey). By which he means: no tree, no lights, no gifts (I think you're allowed to eat and drink. Maybe even in excess. Just don't enjoy it.)

Flynn's reason for this Scroogism? Basically, he's trying to make a political statement: that Christmas (notwithstanding its pagan roots and modern commercial accretions) is an irredeemably Christian holiday, and celebrating it sanctions the right-wing Christian assumption of cultural dominance. Not celebrating it makes the statement that there is nothing special about this day; that you have neither interest in nor respect for the myth behind it.

Meh. I see Flynn's point, but methinks he takes himself way too seriously. I assert that there is no unique or unambiguous "meaning" to holidays, especially one as heavily syncretized as Christmas. It means whatever you use it for; there is no other ultimate authority or source of "meaning".

I find his point that Christians, seeing you putting up a tree and exchanging gifts, will assume you are also a Christian, rather weak. In the more secular parts of the world this would be a very foolish inference, and anyway so what if they did? People will always make assumptions (and often they will be wrong) about you based on what you do. It's silly to let other people's hypothetical opinions about you have that much influence on your life -- to do so is to open yourself to the Tyranny of the Busybodies. The fable of The Man, the Boy and the Donkey seems relevant here.

But I think my single biggest source of resistance to Flynn's proposal is this: I refuse to subject all my pleasures and entertainments to some sort of ideological purity test. In fact, that's exactly what I recall fundamentalists doing: Should I see this movie, or is it too immoral? What about dancing? Playing D&D? Don't go to bars -- what if one of your non-Christian friends sees you, and gets the wrong impression of you or Christians? I ditched that whole attitude when I gave up fundamentalism, over 20 years ago. Why the hell would I, as a freethinker, go back there now?

Not that we're actually planning any big celebration this year: about the best I can say is we will not deliberately refrain from celebrating Christmas -- "not bother much" would probably come closest to our holiday plans. I decided several years ago that putting up lights was too much work (like, freezing my fingers while risking my neck up a ladder at what has to be the worst time of year to be up a ladder?). Ditto a Christmas tree (and anyways, the cats would eat it, to their mutual detriment). We've got no plans to go anywhere or see any one, except my older son + GF are coming in for a few days after Christmas. We've got a couple of family birthdays next week, so gifts will change hands in various directions. I booked the next two weeks off work -- which I plan to spend cleaning up the basement and catching up on projects.

And getting that crap done gives me all the good cheer I need!

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