by George Kane
Thanksgiving, we all learned in school, was created as a national exercise in piety and acknowledgement of the beneficence of God. This year we awoke on Thanksgiving Day to news of acts of extreme evil which religious fanaticism has made so familiar. It began nearly three days of coordinated terrorist attacks in the Indian financial center of Mumbai that killed nearly 200 and injured nearly 300. At this writing, no group has claimed responsibility, but Indian and American intelligence sources blame Lashkar-i-Taiba, a Pakistani Islamist group. Concerning this group, Wikipedia reports: "The Lashkar's agenda, as outlined in a pamphlet titled ‘Why are we waging jihad,' includes the restoration of Islamic rule over all parts of South Asia, Russia and even China. Further, the outfit is based on a sort of Islamist fundamentalism preached by its mentor, the JuD. It seeks to bring about a union of all Muslim majority regions in countries that surround Pakistan." While terrorist groups vary in their location and specific nationalistic ambitions, Islamic supremacy and Shariah law inspire religious fervor wherever Muslims take arms against secular governments.
The assault by Islam against secular government continues on the diplomatic front, too. I have previously reported on the Declaration on Combating Defamation of Religion, which the Organization of the Islamic Conference has been promoting in the United Nations Human Rights Council. Based on the Cairo Declaration, that declares Shariah law to be the source of all human rights, the Declaration on Combating Defamation of Religion proposes to criminalize blasphemy in all member nations. It will be coming to a vote in the General Assembly by the end of this year. We should credit lobbying by human rights organizations, including the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU), for perhaps having an effect. For the first time, the vote in the Human Rights Council carried with fewer votes in favor than the total of votes against and abstentions.
‘Tis the season again. Atheists, free thinkers, and other assorted non-Christians purposely sit out the most over-blown religious holiday of the year. Some are passionate in their non-participation; others simply watch the procession from the sidelines. While some have pointed out the incongruity of an ostensibly secular government proclaiming Christ's birth a national holiday, others have countered that such observations constitute a war on Christmas. When we consider the drain on the environment and checkbook that is Christmas, coupled with the overt religious themes, it's easy to see how those who reject the Christian god likewise reject his followers' biggest party.
In this way, I am an anomaly. I grew up in a devoutly religious household. We believed in Jesus. Yet, we never celebrated Christmas. That Christian version of Hanukkah was just another day. My sister and I did get to stay home from school, and my parents had the day off of work, but this was not our choice. If Christmas fell on a Sunday, Tuesday, or Thursday, we participated in our routine religious meetings, like we did every Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday. If Christmas arrived on a Saturday, we did what we did every Saturday: we went dashing through the snow and knocked on doors passing out bible literature. When I became an adult, the day became convenient for catching a movie or getting together with friends who, like me, had the day off from work and nothing to do.
It's sadly ironic that the same election that gave America its first black president is the same election that denied equal treatment for gays and lesbians in three states. A Nov. 16 Star Tribune article mentioned that representatives from "Join the Impact," who organized several rallies across the United States, including one in Minneapolis, asked protesters to refrain from targeting faith groups that supported the marriage ban.
But it seems to me that that's exactly who should be targeted. It's shameful, but not surprising, that churches and faith groups continue to use their influence and money for efforts that deny civil liberties and equal treatment for certain minority groups. Progress and religion have been incompatible throughout history, and it's not healthy for our naturally progressive democracy to be so easily influenced by religions that follow archaic dogma.
by James Zimmerman
On November 22nd, the Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, reported that the Church has decided to forgive John Lennon for statements he made forty-two years ago. If this seems a long time to hold a grudge, compare this to the 359 years it took the Vatican to make peace with Galileo.
Lennon's offending words were spoken during a March 1966 interview: "Christianity will go. It will vanish and shrink... We're more popular than Jesus now; I don't know which will go first-rock 'n' roll or Christianity. Jesus was all right but his disciples were thick and ordinary. It's them twisting it that ruins it for me." This comment, typical of Lennon for its sarcasm and honesty, touched off a mini-crusade, particularly in (where else?) the bible belt, where piles of Beatles albums and memorabilia were publicly burned and Christian leaders exhorted their flocks to shun Lennon and his blasphemy. Radio stations banned his music, and some concert bookings were cancelled.
This statement appeared on the fortieth anniversary of the release of the Beatles' White Album; fitting, considering the White Album is to the Beatles catalogue as Catholicism is to Christianity: the biggest, most self-indulgent, most violent in the collection.
I am one Atheist who is absolutely not involved in any kind of war on Christmas. I personally enjoy the holiday season very much and am very involved in spreading holiday joy!
Why do I love Christmas even though I consider myself a militant atheist? Most of all, I'd say it's because the glow of loving all humans is such a great feeling, and around the holiday season there seems to be so much of this. I do my part to get and give that glow at all times of the year. It seems like such a waste when people are only giving and loving during the holidays.
I don't really believe the war on Christmas exists. Even if it did, we would never be able to win the battle; it would be as futile as the war on drugs. I think certain religious groups, who somehow feel threatened by the idea that there may be other notions of the holidays or what they mean, have invented the war on Christmas as part of their great persecution myth.