Two things seem odd about the increasingly vocal atheists among us and their strident attacks against religion in general and Christmas in particular.
One is that they are obsessed with undermining the faith of others. If, as they posted in Washington state's Statehouse with enthusiastic support from its Democratic Gov. Christine Gregoire, atheists believe that religion is mere mythology, then why, foaming at the mouth, do they expend so much time and energy assailing and persecuting those who believe in what atheists call a non-existent God?
The second is that so many atheists — who regard themselves as too “bright” to believe in God — are eager and willing to invest their full faith in Santa Claus, in the purported magical power of the state to tax and spend us into prosperity, and to repeal the law of supply and demand.
They embrace Marxist-socialist ideology's historically-discredited faith that government can regulate and coerce humankind back into Eden, to a glorious utopian society free from sin, greed, war, and inequality.
What do we call those who reject left-wing utopianism and pseudoscience (e.g., Marxism, enviro-paganism, the cult of global warming) as ardently as atheists reject God? We call them realists and free individuals.
Many so-called atheists are liars or self-deluded. They are more dogmatically “religious” than those they criticize, but lack the honesty or insight to recognize that Marxism, radical environmentalism, and other popular left-wing beliefs are also religions and cults trying to overthrow rival faiths and convert their children by using the power of the state.
But this is not the only pagan threat to the Western faiths of Abraham and Jesus.
An old friend of mine on her Web site wrote that we should call Christmas trees by this traditional name, not succumb to the political correctness that renames them “holiday bushes.”
For those of you nodding approval, can you tell me where in Christian scripture Jesus tells people to put up a tree and decorate it to celebrate his birthday?
The Bible discusses such trees, but in a way that would surprise many Christians who read little scripture. In Jeremiah 10:2-5, this prophet warns: “Thus saith the Lord, Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them.
"For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe. They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not . . .”
This describes not a Christmas tree but an item of pagan worship, what Jeremiah called “the way of the heathen,” whose tree idols he likened to scarecrows in a cucumber field.
The origins of our Christmas tree come not from Jesus and the Bible, but from bloody rituals around the decorated pine trees of ancient Rome's pagan priests at the time of Saturnalia, a great celebration around Dec.r 25 during which Romans exchanged gifts.
Dec. 25 on the ancient Roman calendar was also in the pagan cult of Mithras, popular with soldiers, the day of Sol Invictus, the victorious Sun. Each year the days after June 21 get shorter until the winter solstice, around Dec. 21, when the Sun reverses direction and each day brings an additional minute of warming sunlight.
When one religion replaces another, it often happens that temples of the new faith are built on the same spot and with the stones of the old faith's torn-down temple.
Christianity set its celebration of Jesus' birth on this popular Roman holiday, thereby facilitating the replacement of worship of the sun with worship of the son. (We can be pretty sure Dec. 25 was not Jesus' birthday because, as the familiar Bible story says, on that night shepherds were watching their flocks by night. December nights in ancient Israel are cold, and 2,000 years ago shepherds routinely moved their sheep into enclosures by October to make far-flung flock watching unnecessary.)
But now, with paganism resurgent, Christianity has over centuries seen Christmas and Easter freighted down with very un-Christian trimmings.
In addition to the pagan “Christmas tree” made popular in the 19th Century by Great Britain's Queen Victoria and her husband Prince Albert, we have the ritual of kissing under the mistletoe. The Bible says nothing about mistletoe, but it was sacred to Europe's pagan Druidic priests, who cut it for their rituals during the full moon using golden sickles.
In New York City the most popular TV show in recent years on Christmas Day has been the fire, a daylong cheery video of a cracking blaze with which apartment dwellers can turn their television sets into fireplaces for a day to warm their hearts and memories.
Such fire appears in Christian scripture only in reference to hellfire. But in northern Europe yule logs were burned to honor a pagan deity and celebrate the sun's reversal of direction. And then there is Santa, whose name could be an acronym for Satan.
This “jolly old elf” smokes, wears fur, exploits reindeer, encourages materialism, sets a terrible example for children by being obese, and — in his worst violation of liberal political correctness — dispenses his favors not equally but judgmentally, according to whether individuals have been naughty or nice. Who does this old guy think he is — the secretary of the Treasury dispensing trillions in bailouts?
Although the early Christian church apparently had a fourth century Saint Nicholas, today's Santa Claus is modeled at least in part on the pagan Norse god Odin, who like Santa, rode through the skies with help from a magical animal.
For advertisers, and hence for those whose minds are shaped by advertisers, Santa and his materialism long ago replaced Jesus as the symbol and center of Christmas.
May this Christmas light and warm your heart with a truth vastly deeper than atheist or materialist paganism. Happy holy day.
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