OK, now that Thanksgiving’s over, we’re entering loony time.
Each year during the Christmas season, I have to face my atheistic conscience. The truth is: I think Christmas is a huge hoot. I love shopping in crowds for presents, singing and listening to carols, ooh-ing and ahh-ing at the lights, boozing it up with good company, and gorging on excessive sweets. If you take Jesus out of the mix, the rest of it is fun.
Philosophically, I find the idea of Santa Claus revolting; it’s like adding training wheels to the broken-down bicycle of Christianity. But, honestly? I can’t resist smiling when I overhear little kids talking about what they hope he’ll bring them. They’ll soon grow out of that belief, at least, so what’s the harm, really? Children – as opposed to adults – are supposed to have a little fantasy in their lives.
I adore Dickens, and I take great pleasure in rereading A Christmas Carol every year. It’s not a religious story; it’s a parable about greed and mean-spiritedness. No one accuses Scrooge of being a miserable person because he doesn’t go to church; they accuse him of being a miserable person because he doesn’t know how to enjoy the life that he has, doesn’t understand that it takes very little to enhance the lives of those around him. It’s a good, if sappy, lesson for all of us. Yes, the very last line is Tiny Tim’s “God bless Us, Every One,” but so what? The author doesn’t claim that a heavenly miracle is going to cure the kid’s lameness; Scrooge’s money and trained doctors will take care of that.
I don’t even mind if salespeople wish me “Merry Christmas.” It’s how they do it that does or doesn’t piss me off. If it’s said in an offhand manner, just a pleasant kind of mantra, I might even say it right back. But if there’s a meaningful something slogging home the word “Christmas,” I always reply, as condescendingly as I can, “Well, I’m not Christian, myself, but do enjoy your little holiday.”
On the other hand ...
I don’t want to be forced to pay for a public nativity scene or decorated tree. I don’t want to have to detour around the main street in my town during its holiday parade funded by taxpayer dollars. I don’t want the baby Jesus rammed down my throat by proselytizing strangers when I go to buy my groceries. I don’t want United States postage stamps to be emblazoned with religious iconography. I don’t want casual acquaintances and distant relatives sending me biblical verses through the mail. I don’t want my hypocritical elected officials talking about “Christ’s message of peace.” I don’t want to be reminded every damn time I turn on the TV or open a newspaper or read a magazine or surf the Internet of what a petty, materialistic, greedy society we are. I don't want to hear theocrats spouting off about "the real meaning of Christmas" while they obliterate the real meaning of the Constitution. I don’t want to watch my fellow Americans substituting ersatz holiday cheer for the profound joy of freedom that we’re slowly being robbed of.
And most of all, I don’t want to be bopped on the head with Christmas, Christmas, Christmas, Christmas every waking hour of every fucking day between now and December 25.