William James

William James
We must get by on what truth we have today, and be willing to call it error tomorrow.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

On Controversy Over The Celebration Of Christmas

A poll asked the following questions:

"This is just pitiful. This is what makes me hate religion. (Also, what do you think of the Christmas Wars?) Rate Topic: 1 Votes Poll: Christmas Wars (50 member(s) have cast votes)
What do you think of the Christmas Controversy?
There are much better things to worry about. (13 votes [26.00%] - View)
Percentage of vote: 26.00%
Public areas are off-limits to explicitly religious decorations. But, there's no problem with private property. (12 votes [24.00%] - View)
Percentage of vote: 24.00%
Public property, and government buildings should be allowed to display any religious decorations. (20 votes [40.00%] - View)
Percentage of vote: 40.00%
Public property, and government buildings should be allowed to display only Christian decorations. This is, after all, a Christian Nation. (4 votes [8.00%] - View)
Percentage of vote: 8.00%
It doesn't matter that much, but this sort of behavior is uncalled for. (1 votes [2.00%] - View)"

To which I responded:

This poll should have been created with more options, including a catchall "other" option. I did not vote because none of the choices do justice to my views on the subject.

I personally find it refreshing when people say, "Merry Christmas" to me. On a certain level, it grates on me that the tradition of Christmas has become so commercialized. But it is the commercialization, rather than the secularization, which bothers me the most. For believing Christians, Christmas does and should have religious significance as a time for them to contemplate Christ and be grateful for him. But we must be very careful not to convert Christmas into an opportunity to make non-believers feel like outsiders by sort of conditioning their enjoyment on a subscription to our own religious views. Christmas has a place in secular morality because, even if one does not believe in Jesus as the divine savior of the world, Christmas stands for broad moral principles which are generally universally accepted throughout the world: charity, love, peace, tolerance, selflessness, generosity, etc. It is not right for us Chirstians to attempt to deprive non-believers of these positive aspects of Christmas by insisting that these principles only exist because of Jesus, or that failure to believe in Jesus as the divine savior necessarily implicates rejection of these true principles. Many good and selfless people still do not find it in their hearts to believe in Christianity, let alone even God. To these people, the best we can do is show our love and try to demonstrate how our beliefs help us to more fully live the good principles they believe in.

In terms of private versus public property and the use of religious symbols, etc., I think generally private property owners, who own premises which are not open to the general public, can do just about anything they want. Mall owners can also do a great deal, so long as there is not unfair discrimination. As for publicly owned property, the display of religious symbols is OK so long as it does not constitute an official endorsement of any particular religion or religion in general. In making that determination, weight should be given to whether the message includes generally accepted secular teachings: charity, love, peace, tolerance, selflessness, generosity, etc. Christmas in my opinion has developed such a strong secondary secular connotation that the term generally should not be shunned or censored, but at the same time, as mentioned before, care should be taken so as not to shut out non-believers.

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