Sunday, December 23, 2012

A Sincere Merry Christmas From Your Agnostic Buddy

As you may know I don't think we're being cosmically supervised. I call myself an agnostic (If you want to be an atheist there's a quota of angry YouTube videos you have to make, and I don't have the time).

But I love Christmas. Honestly I do. I like the overeating and the suburban dads trying to outdo each other with their light displays, and the creepy Rankin/Bass shows, and Rat Pack songs that always sound a little suggestive and boozy. I get a kick out of the carols. I'm astounded by the beauty of Handel's Messiah. And I especially like the goodwill toward men. I love the love. I can see the flaws, the darkness, of course. But as with springtime, Joe Biden and the work of Thomas Dolby - there is just so much to celebrate.

This, I believe, is the secret to decoding the day: Christmas is the great Rorschach test of the Christian world. Theologically it's a light sauce - Jesus wasn't actually born on the day, and it's not nearly as important as Lent and Easter. And at the same time, its lock on our culture and economy means you're going to see those decorations in every store and street corner. So each Christian faces a choice: How should I celebrate this vaguely-defined ubiquitous quasi-pagan thing with its elves and yule logs and red-suited reverse-burglar, and in the center a manger scene that just jabs right into your heart, because who could deny the sacredness of a baby? Their choices are a big, bright blinking display of what they really believe.

I've written before about the terrifying Cthulhu/Christ that Fox News prays to. But that's not the only one out there. In fact, I am surrounded by people who worship the guy who wants you to love others and respect people of all religions and try to make the world a better, grander, saner place. Their faith inspires them to do this - I know that for a fact. I think they take Jesus even more seriously than Bill O'Reilly does, shocking though that may seem. At Christmastime they are more joyous than usual. They are their better selves. Though I don't share their beliefs I am with them in so many things that I have to be happy when they are happy. I have to celebrate their celebration.

I wish you a very merry Christmas, people of faith and decency. We will have some huge challenges next year trying to get this country to respect women and gay people and keep science in schools. Maybe we can even make it so not have everyone will be wandering the streets armed with assault rifles like they're in some kind of video game.

For now I hope the season is a blessing to you. I'll probably see you at the parties, and we'll talk about it. I promise to get you drunk and say something offensive.


  1. This is the space where someone somewhere will write a five-point argument about how I am really an atheist. And then we'll get into an argument about the nature of certainty and also language to define philosophical viewpoints. And that will be exhausting. So... I may just let your comments sit there, because I have stuff to do.

    1. Why you are really a great writer:

      1) Your prose is clear and uncluttered, but still manages to be poetic when necessary.
      2) You are regularly laugh out loud funny
      3) You are surprising in both your subject matter and your approach to that matter
      4) You have honed the pathetic fallacy into a deadly weapon
      5) Your fundamental decency shines through

      Happy Saturnalia!

    2. You too! Thanks much. That made my whole day.

  2. May the Flying Spaghetti Monster touch you and your family with his noodley appendage. Oh. And have a Happy New Year too.

  3. You too! Since we're a family of Christians and agnostics, we've incorporated the traditional colander display into our manger scene.

  4. And a very merry Christmas to you, sir.

  5. This is the inside of my Christmashishthing cards next year. Thank you. I will credit you and hopefully people will click links.

    1. Thank you so much. That's wonderful to know.


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