Saturday, December 23, 2006

But I've Never Seen Mommy Kissing Jesus

The Christians have hijacked Christmas.

Many atheists, I among them, would argue that Krissmuhs is the most secular of holidays, a celebration of human excesses. In the primeval parts of our brains, we are pleased once again that the sun has decided not to disappear; it’s definitely rebounding, if ever so slowly, from the solstice. Not being a god any more, our very own star, rising in the east, does not—and cannot—give a goddamn about what we eat, drink, smoke, say, or do during our week-long hedonistic extravaganza.

Up until recently, I had no trouble wishing friends and acquaintances a Merry Krissmuhs or a Happy Holiday. I used the phrases interchangeably, occasionally throwing in a Chanukah greeting to keep things kosher with those who are practicing Jews. Now, however, some Christians, mostly clerks in stores, feel compelled to correct me when I say “Happy Holiday,” carefully enunciating their “Merry Christmas” in a school-marmish tone, as if reprimanding a child. How dare I forget that it’s their fairy godfather’s birthday.

Still, I continue to think that Yule is cool—although I’m becoming increasingly uncomfortable about Santa Claus. Clearly, he’s a watered down, albeit bulked up, substitute for god. Belief in him is practice for a lifetime of unreason. Get your kids swallowing unquestioningly the existence of a magical being, and faith in a supernatural meddler will smoothly follow.

The similarities are everywhere, and segueing from one to another is child’s play. Santa gives lovely presents; god gives his loving presence (which, as any youngster or heathen can tell you, is clearly no substitute for something you can actually see, touch, and play with). Santa has elves for helpers; god has angels and evangelicals. If Santa gets pissed off at you, he leaves coal in your stocking; if god gets pissed off at you, he sends you to hell for eternity—not anywhere near as awful a tragedy as not getting the toy you wanted.

Obviously, both guys have beards, although Santa’s is better groomed. They are similarly fixated on baked goods: Santa likes to eat cookies when he visits you; Jesus likes to convert bread into pieces of his body and have you eat them when you visit him. Each one cares inordinately about whether a person has been good or bad. For Santa, good and bad are fairly easy to define. God, on the other hand (the one that does not have the whole world in it), is a little more arbitrary. For instance, it might, in some circumstances, be a righteous act to pull your little sister’s hair or talk back to your teacher. The children of Israel, soldiers of Christ, and disciples of Allah have been free—even urged—to commit far worse atrocities in god’s name and for his dishonorable honor. Whether you’re naughty or nice depends upon the criteria set forth by the particular witch doctor you’ve chosen, who passes along the judgmental word from on high.

To be fair to Santa, though, he actually seems to enjoy his job; god’s not having any fun at all. Santa would dig into a Krissmuhs feast with raucous good cheer; Jesus, his homemade wine notwithstanding, would be a drag to have as a holiday guest. Santa asks no quid pro quo for his gifts; god insists that you worship him or you get zip. And most importantly, Santa would never dream of giving you his sleigh with which to commit mischief, while god has no compunction whatsoever about offering his believers airplanes and missiles to perpetrate whatever evils they desire.

Which of these characters is more likely to represent peace on Earth and goodwill toward men? With Santa in mind, despite my reservations about him, I wish my readers a Merry Krissmuhs. To the adults who have chosen the far more unpleasant myth, I say: Get your hands off my happy holiday.

3 comments:

BlackSun said...

Good post. Great comparison.

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