I struggle, and this is what they say is to be expected

A good friend of mine recently wrote about something that had me upset, but not for reasons that I may have been upset a few years ago.

I disagreed with the points she was making, and the way in which she was making them. But here’s the problem. It was a post about religious-based holidays.

I’ve told you before that I side with the Christians. I have sided with the Christians. I’ve also been Baha’i, I’ve attended Jewish celebrations, I’ve gone to several Roman Catholic services, and I’ve had more than my fill of Sunday schools. I have lots of friends who are atheists, many friends who call themselves wiccans, or druids, or magicians, or ‘Native spiritualists’. I have friends who shrug and say “I don’t really care about that stuff” when the topic of religion comes up. And I think that’s great. I don’t care if you worship, how you worship, when you worship, who or what you worship, or where you worship. If you do worship, I’m often interested in why. If you don’t, I might ask you why not.

I have some pretty strong opinions on the matter of certain forms of worship (I think the holy rollers, snake handlers, speakers-in-tongues, and scientologists are fruitcakes), and I acknowledge that many of my friends consider me a fruitcake because I read tarot cards, I got baptised, I believe in channelling ghosts and spirits, and I believe in the healing powers of rocks. But I’m just one person. I know what I believe and why I believe it, regardless of whether it’s sexy, logical, sensical, or any of that. I don’t NEED anyone else’s acceptance of or blessing for what I choose to have faith in.

And I guess part of this is a response to my friend’s post, which I haven’t linked to because I’m just not sure I want to name names (although I’m sure she’d be fine with it). My guess is that she’ll comment with a link to her post, and that’s awesome. But I don’t want to be presumptuous and give the appearance that this is just some big extension of a flame war, because I don’t think that’s it at all.

Anyway, she doesn’t like Christmas. She is insulted by and feels, I think, oppressed by the prevalence of Christianity-based observances in our country. Canada cannot, and please forgive me if I put words in your mouth, complete the separation of church and state soon enough. I’d like to think that should mean “religion” and state, and not just church, but whatever. And I don’t disagree with that. But the fact remains that you can’t just stand up on a rock and say “the sky is green!” and expect everyone to just see things a different way from what they’ve been used to for several generations. I’m not saying we shouldn’t continue to advocate for religion to be removed from our country’s codified civil laws and observances (and yes, that also means the removal of tax-free benefits for all churches, synagogues, mosques, medicine circles, etc., etc., etc..), but rather that getting pissy that it’s not happening in fewer than twenty years (and really, I think we could probably make an argument that it’s really been in the last 20 years that these religious ties with civil law have been challenged) is a bit unfair. No, not unfair. A bit silly.

If you hate Christmas, then *don’t celebrate Christmas*. It’s really that easy. I hate Valentine’s Day, and so I don’t celebrate it. I hate New Year’s, and so I don’t celebrate it. If you hate Christians, then accept it when someone calls you a bigot. If you hate religion, **no one is forcing to you worship**. But it’s extremely disingenuous to then turn around and browbeat people who DO choose to worship for their choice. And/or for standing up for what they believe in.

I’ll tell you a secret: I’ve been really struggling with my faith for the past couple of years. Not for any major reason, not for anything stupid like “why would God let bad things happen to good people”, but for far more esoteric, far less identifiable reasons. But that doesn’t mean that I criticise, chastise, or denegrate those whose faith is strong, those who do still choose to worship. It doesn’t mean that I’m going to stop praying, or smudging, or dreaming. It means a lot of things, but choosing intolerance and disrespect are not among them.

Look, I don’t really give a rat’s patoot for the people who say “let’s put the CHRIST back in CHRISTMAS”. I mean, good on them. Hoody-hoo and all that. And if they’re serious about it, they’ll forego the tree, the turkey, buying gifts, and singing secular carols (yes, that includes Silver Bells, Jingle Bells, and White Christmas), and will go back to observing Christ’s Mass in church for seven days. It’s time everyone just accepted that “Christmas” means about as much as “Valentine’s Day” (which is honoured for a Catholic saint, by the way), “Victoria Day”, or any other statutory vacation. We don’t need to change the bloody name to “giftmas” or “festivuus” or “kwanzaa” or any of that malarky. I mean, if you want to, go ahead. But the point *IS*, we call it Christmas because that’s what we’ve called it for the past several hundred years in western society, and whether you like it or not, most of you are descended from people who’ve been a part of western society for at least three generations. It’s just a convention, like calling the third day of the week “Wednesday” instead of “Odin’s Day” (which is a RELIGIOUS TERM! Oh No! We’re going to have to rename all the days of the week, and several of the months of the year to get away from religious terminology! Because religious terminology harms puppies!).

It just…it’s bordering on ridiculous. Actually, it’s crossed that border. Just…just…I guess…if you don’t like it, change it. And if you can’t change it, change the way it affects you. YOU have the power to do that.

I’m really sorry if it’s offensive to you that all of the western hemisphere goes batshit over spending stupid amounts of money on crap nobody needs in the name of a god you don’t worship or believe in. But I really don’t think that’s the fault of God, churches, or unbigoted, thinking religious people. I think it’s the fault of consumerism. Hey. Anything to sell fifty more units, right?

cenobyte
cenobyte is a writer, editor, blogger, and super genius from Saskatchewan, Canada.

33 Comments

  1. My question would be then say you had a good friend who told you they were thinking about becoming a Scientologist, or to use an even more extreme example say they wanted to join a cult and live on a commune giving up all of their worldly possessions. Would you say anything to them or would you respect their beliefs? In the same vein say that through a gross abuse of democracy Tom Cruise became both President and Prime Minister and changed all of our laws so that our state reflected the values of Scientology. I would imagine that you would wish these laws to be repealed as soon as possible even if people really became used to and comfortable with them.

    I completely agree but I often wonder what makes religions like the Scientologists “fruitcakes”. Is it just that they have less numbers, and are newer than established religions because it certainly can’t be because they’re wrong. If one faith is valid than all must be, and personally I would think the extremity of their beliefs would make them much more “religious” than conventional institutions.

    1. Mmm. Those’re really good questions.

      I guess if one of my close friends wanted to become a scientologist, I would probably do what my atheist friends did when I decided to be baptised – they said, “Well, I don’t support your decision, but I support you.” And most of them showed up in church for the service. It was awesome.

      I actually do have friends who’ve given up all of their worldly possessions and chose to live on a commune. I do respect their beliefs. But it’s not religiously motivated…well…actually, it is; it’s a worship of nature and whole and natural living. In fact, I’d kind of love to do that myself

      And yeah, I agree that the separation of religion and state can’t come soon enough.

      And I don’t know. I did a post a while back about scientology and fruitcakedness, but at the end of it, all I could come up with is that by the view of people who are not religious, I also, am a fruitcake for having spiritual and religious beliefs.

      For me, I just find the *tenets* of Scientology unfathomably ridiculous. Partly because they’re bad science (whereas most religions don’t claim to be science at all) and partly because the founder of the religion said that he was going to set out to found a religion. But I can’t put my finger on why Scientology is so weird, without agreeing that ALL religion is pretty weird.

      Is there some kind of Venn diagram that outlines what makes some religions “acceptible” and others not? To those who don’t mind the idea of religion? That’d be awesome.

  2. So I have a few comments about this, because it’s one of the things I like talking about. And often there will be those times when I offend people in what I say about religion, not because I intend too, but because I look at it as merely another topic of discussion. And if someone can’t stand someone being ignorant about their religion, then I don’t think it’s worth worrying if I’ve hurt their feelings.

    I’ve got a fairly strong opinion on religion as a whole, and I think that religions in todays world are seperate from what I believe religion to be. I think religion is a personal choice in what /you/ have faith in. Religions are if I’m correct merely groups or organizations created from a group of people’s beliefs. To say that one religion is wrong where another is not goes against the principle of faith in my eyes. I believe that faith is a personal choice that no other can govern over, because it is merely one’s belief in something. Be it a God, an entity, or even fate.

    People can say that christianity is based upon ancient ideals, but in truth is based upon words, and thoughts of people, who are in truth, not without fault. Religions state that they save people, and I have no doubt that there are indeed people who draw personal strength from their belief in something. Religions have also started wars, caused pain and grief, and have in certain aspects done more harm then good.

    Most people I’ve talked to on teh subject believe in a religion because it’s what they have been taught to believe in, and very few of them could tell me why they beleive in said religion without using textbook responses. Certainly there are some who believe in said religion because it’s what they truly believe in, but in truth /I/ think they are merely believing in someone else’s pre-constructed dream.I just feel it’s wrong to believe in a religion thats based on other people’s conceptions. It should be based on your own.

    I completely agree that it’s all about ‘PR’ in the current society. Groups and organizations use religion as a basis for control, and wether we like it or not, that means that they are used for personal gain.

    Just my thoughts on religion.

  3. Just to be clear (and yes, the poster in question is me), my problem isn’t with other people having religion in their lives, as ridiculous as I might think that is, it is with others pushing religion and their celebrations on those around them. The main issue of my post (and there are some clarifications I am going to make in the comments) was that, in this country, Christianity as a whole (and when I used “you” and “Your” I meant the general “You” and “Your”) feels the need to not only push the holiday on all of those around them, but seem to refuse to even recognize that there is anything beyond them. And that pisses. me. off. A lot.

    I celebrate the damn holiday in a secular way because it isn’t worth the fight with my family. Because it has been too many years of celebrating it to stop now. Because my children are going to go to school and hear about the boy who got an XBox for their holiday that we used to celebrate but now mom’s too much of a hag to let us do that anymore, even though they shouldn’t feel that way because I give my children what they need and beyond anyway. I celebrate because I can’t choose for them or for my husband who I would prefer not to lose over a religious holiday borrowed by a religion we don’t take part in.

    This in no way diminishes my right to be pissed off about what I see happening around me which I actually have very little control over beyond blogging and ranting and perhaps in doing so, raising awareness that there are people outside the christian bubble. And that those people are just fine the way they are.

    I don’t give a flying fuck if someone wants to worship the flying spaghetti monster…just stop pushing on everyone else. If some secular person isn’t celebrating your holiday, then keep your mouth shut about whether or not they have their places of business open on your holy day. (again, the general you, not the personal you.) My point was that the world doesn’t need to stop just because Christians or Muslims or Baha’is or, Wiccans, or Buddhists, or Taoists, or Zororastrians, or Hare Krishnas have a holy day. It is not EVERYONE’s holy day.

        1. Well, trying to take ME out of the question, I really don’t see a lot of people trying to push religion (regardless of its flavour) on folks. But maybe I don’t see it because I don’t like it and so I choose to not pay attention to it if it does happen.

            1. I mean, if someone comes up to me and asks me if I’ve heard about Jesus, I usually answer “sure! Who hasn’t!?” and walk away. Or I come up with some smartass reply that usually gets me in trouble.

              Just like if someone comes up to me and says “you must believe there is no God!”, I generally say, “okay”, and walk away. Or come up with some smartass reply that gets me in trouble.

              1. OK….so it may be physically directed at you but since you to a certain extent include yourself among the faithful don’t emotionally take it as directed at you. There’s a difference.

                1. I don’t think there is. I really don’t. It drives me (and lots of religious people) batty to see their religious observances commercialised to the point where the meaning, should we wish to observe them, is lost. It’s happened with Hallowe’en, with Valentine’s Day, with Easter, and with Christmas. The original Oester pagan celebrations have lost their meaning just as the religious ones have.

                  And so when someone tries to tell me how to (or that I oughtn’t) worship or pray, it’s insulting.

                  I mean, that’s kind of like saying that I don’t have the right or the ability to get upset when someone says that gays should be killed. I’m not gay, but does that mean I accept intolerant or insulting messages? No.

                  1. You get to be upset but you are not the target. I, as a person without God, have more at stake when someone challenges my lack of belief than you do when someone assumes you don’t believe.

                    1. I think that’s bee ess. Insensitive, intolerant actions are no more tolerable if you’re in the majority or in the minority.

                      It’s *just* as insulting, f’rinstance, to hear someone called a ‘prairie nigger’ whether I’m in the minority (being a ‘prairie nigger’) or in the majority (being a ‘white woman’).

                    2. But you see what I am saying works. For example, I live a heterosexual lifestyle (even though I swing both ways). What I experience in terms of homophobia is no where near as severe as someone who is actually all the way gay and living their life as gay people. Yes, I still find the homophobia insulting but it doesn’t affect me nearly as strongly as it affects my gay friends and to even presume that I do is insulting to them. There is no way I can understand what they are going through nor the severity of what they face every day. Just as you would find it easier to ignore those who are intolerant from a Christian perspective. Yes, it is annoying but you can’t feel that effect nearly as strongly as someone who it is actually directed at.

    1. I’ll get behind anybody celebrating anything and being right out there with it; no problem, as far as I am concerned. But I agree with you that Christians need to lay off businesses that choose to be open on Sundays and other Christian holidays. Who do they think they are? People are crying for work, which store-openings on Sundays and holidays provide to employees who want more hours than they’re getting. The public wants goods adn services on Sundays and holidays. We don’t all go to church and insist that no one else work on the Christian sabbath, etc. Christians need to live and let live, which is something that most leaders of that religion, and its followers, have never, ever been able to do.

  4. I’m sorry Jill, but we aren’t the ones saying “the sky is green.” We are saying that the sky is blue for a reason, but that reason is not the man with the beard in the puffy clouds.

    Change is hard, and like you say we should not expect people to put aside beliefs that have made them comfortable and happy if it contradicts their religion. Which is precisely the same argument used by churches to oppose gay marriage. Which, just like their “keep the Christ in Christmas” campaigns, are also funded by a tax-free parasitic existence.

    And I’m sorry but I can’t abide the “boo-hoo poor us” bullshit about how mainstream majority Christians are somehow the victim of us grinchy non-christians not wanting to gargle Christmas balls all season. Awww poor insanely powerful and rich church, did we make your holy day less fun? Better drown your sorrows by buying off some more politicians so that they can make sure the government uses foreign policy money to make sure that Canada doesn’t advocate abortion in developing countries.

    But then what good is being the majority if you don’t use it to ram your opinions down the throats of others.

    But you are right, there is not much even relating the Christian holiday and the modern consumerist juggernaut that is X-mas (keep the X in Xmas I always say). We as a family celebrate everything but the mythical man. We buy the tree, the presents and the stockings but discard the rest, just like the church did when they incorporated those things into their mythology. I know the reason for the season, and it is money. I do agree that people should keep religion personal, it’s just that most religions actively don’t.

    1. Fine. You can’t just stand up on a rock and say “the sky is blue and it’s blue for a reason” when for three generations, people haven’t cared what colour the sky is, and expect everyone to change their minds and their legislation and whatnot overnight.

      I find it offensive, just like you do, when people try to shove *anything* down my throat, whether it’s anti-bullying bee ess, religion, atheism, breast cancer support, starving children, gay pride, *anything*. I think it’s terribly silly to blame the message rather than the messenger, though.

      And I also think that Christian folks who’re saying “boo hoo poor us” are ridiculous. That totally wasn’t my point. My point is that there’s nothing wrong with people wanting to celebrate holy days, if they choose religious worship. I don’t advocate for “putting the Christ back in Christmas”. It’s to late for that, and people aren’t interested anyway. That’s why I say the word “Christmas” has become meaningless.

      Do you really think that people who identify as “Christian” are the majority in Canada? That surprises me.

      1. Why shouldn’t I expect that? Because it is unrealistic, because it is unfair to those that don’t want change? Again these are the same arguments used time and time again to hold up social change. That argument was used to combat every single minority rights increase, and the only way that these things ever change is by people standing up and saying “enough”. Not very many civil rights were ever granted to the silent minority who stayed in their place.

        As for Canadians identifying as Christian:
        “The 2001 Canadian census reported that 77% of Canadians claim adherence to Christianity, followed by no religion at 16%, and Islam at 2%” -Stats Canada

        I do agree that there needs to be some degree of common sense in these things. Plus a lot of people want the pendulum to swing their way instead of just wanting the pendulum to stop, and therein lies the problem, it is more about selfishness than anything. As is the Rea$on for the $ea$on. If I were a religious person I might care more about the commercialization of my “holy day”, but I ain’t so I’ll leave that responsibility top those that need religion in their life. I mean it isn’t like the sad oil swilling monster of consumerism hasn’t grabbed onto anything it can in order to satisfy it’s pointless profits.

        Anyway I re-read your original post and there are things I reacted incorrectly to. Sorry about that. I like many find it easy to rant… (and the tax free church is a favorite of mine)

  5. Funnily enough, I posted on the same subject on (thing)mas Eve. Loads of religions have an observance on or about the solstice, because it’s a big obvious astronomical event when the Sun bounces off the southern tropic line and even primitive dinks notice that sort of thing. My bottom line is that if you’re being merry, trying to treat people with kindness, and generally undermining the efforts of the planet’s tilt to make everyone in the northern hemisphere feel suicidal, I don’t really care what you call the event or your reason for observing it. Merry Bodhi Day, if you prefer!

  6. Another good friend, a hoopy frood, if you will, points out the difference between atheism and anti-theism. Telling someone they MUST or SHOULD worship is just as awful as telling someone they OUGHTN’T or SHOULDN’T worship. Choosing not to believe in something you cannot prove is a very loose and most likely insulting definition of atheism. The Greeks would say that a literal definition of “atheism” is without God.

    Anti-theism, then, would be opposed to God.

    But in this case, all I’m saying is that if I support someone’s right not to worship, who will support my right *to* worship?

    1. Most people support your right to worship. Even most Atheists. Especially all other people of faith which make up the majority of the world at this point. Atheism and the Atheists that would have you stop worshiping make up so tiny a percentage of the population as to not even be remotely significant.

      1. That’s sure not how it feels to a religious person who has atheist friends sometimes.

        Yours Truly has awesome friends, and very rarely has to endure the whole “you’re a moron for believing in God” argument.

        I don’t feel persecuted. But when I do feel pressured, I tend to leave the room. Does that make me complicit? I don’t know.

        1. But don’t you see? You sit in the majority. Sure it makes one uncomfortable to have their beliefs challenged but you have the entire world behind you, whereas an Atheist who has their lack of God challenged has very few neighbours in support of their position. Everywhere you turn there is someone who holds similar beliefs to you. That is not so much the case for someone like me. I can’t walk out of the room because the room is everywhere.

          1. First of all, the entire world is not religious. Secondly, yes, atheists are “in the minority”. But does that then make it okay for an atheist to be (and I’m not saying you are being) intolerant of religion just because they’re atheist? I don’t think so. And I don’t think most atheists are anti-theists.

            I don’t think that’s what you’re saying.

            I don’t know many religious people who would try to convince an atheist to change their belief, or non-belief, as it were. Even the priests I know would most likely not do such a thing (with one notable exception).

            1. Ummm, but most of the world is religious, every culture has one (if not 30 or 40) and there is only an estimated 16% of world population that is a “non-believer” (according to global stats groups).

              Religions in general do push their beliefs on people, whether by indoctrinating the young, missionary work, or by ringing your doorbell and asking whether you want to talk about God. Not saying that I have friends that ever do this to me, but that says more about my choice in friends than anything.

              I personally don’t care what someone believes, as long as the system is fair and it doesn’t affect tax load. If the church would keep their nose out of politics (and by extension my tax dollars) then I would have considerably less of a beef with them.

              I certainly don’t think someone is stupid for believing, but I do wonder about how someone can accept leaps of faith that I simply cannot. We want the people we like to share opinions with us, as it validates our own positions. But I also just know that people are different and accept that.

              1. Ditto on your third paragraph.

                I had no idea religious worship/belief was still so prevalent. I just assumed that most of the world was going hardcore secular/atheist/agnostic.

                As for wanting to share opinions, I do see your point. I don’t think anyone ever presented that argument before, and it does make sense. Your wonder at people able to accept leaps of faith is very similar to the wonder that people who do believe in something feel when faced with those who do not.

                I’m so lucky to have the friends I do. Y’all totally rock!

              2. So how would you respond if someone said they wanted gay activist groups to stay out of politics? Or women’s activist groups? Or firearms activists? Or tax-payer activists? I assume you’d like to see all those groups keep their nose and agendas out of politics as well?

                1. I actually am not in favour of any degree of lobbying. I would prefer if the politicians represented their constituents, and not the people throwing money at them.

                  Those groups all pay taxes though, so I have less of a problem with them. Even the one I strongly disagree with (firearms activists).

  7. I meet a lot of people in my everyday busy life and very few, if any, *push* their religion/faith system on me. Quite frankly, I don’t even know what many of my close friends even believe as a religion, if anything. Certainly, I can’t recall anyone pushing Christmas on me and telling me I have to observe and honour their version/colour/flavour of God in thier way.

    The celebration is a big social event in our culture because so many of us here in Canada come from the same Judeo-Christian tradition. *How* you celebrate or ignore that fact is entirely up to you. As an adult, you have the freedom to make those choices. Myself, I probably wouldn’t demean it though, because I wouldn’t demean anyone’s cultural celebrations. Each to their own. That’s just the way I roll.

i make squee noises when you tell me stuff.

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