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Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Secular Holy Days: A Contradiction?

This seems a bit of a contradiction: secularist holidays.

We get our word "holiday" from the old English hālig and dæg, or "holy day."

But according to the Washington Times, atheists want their own "holy days."

Matt Cherry, executive director of the Institute for Humanist Studies, said his group is trying to expand options and alternatives for secular holidays.

A secular holy day? Contradiction in terms?

Secularist Cherry doesn't believe so:
"Some religious holidays are about culture and tradition, not theology," he says. "Even people who go to church only on Christmas or to synagogue on the High Holidays do so out of cultural heritage, not because they believe the religious doctrines associated with it."

He has a point. However, the sad reality that some people don't honor the significance of the holiday doesn't in any way change the fact that they holy day was set aside for a specific honor--and that many still do honor it.

Some of the holy days that secularists would like to see include Darwin Day and one called Festivus:
The site also breaks down the customs of Festivus, the holiday popularized by Jerry Stiller on "Seinfeld." In that episode, a Festivus pole is plain aluminum, made to contrast with the ornate Christmas trees; the official greeting is "Happy Festivus"; and each person complains to family and friends how they have disappointed the complainer in the past year.

I think it's a hilarious idea. It also serves to contrast the difference between secularism and Christianity: a stark, bare metal pole versus the full and festive air of the celebration of the birth of Christ.

Really, I think atheists are just jealous. To me, it boils down to one simple conclusion: secularists want to have their cake and eat it, too.

But what else is new? Secularists want to enjoy the fruits that a society of moral, objective-values-oriented people produce--the United States is the prime example--but without the restraint of those objective values.

When you start basing your morality on subjective values, the logical endgame is that the people with the most power get to define what's right and what's wrong.

Are you ready to live in that kind of world? You might think you are, but consider: what if someone else with more power and influence than you decides they don't agree with your definition of what's right and what's wrong? You may quickly find yourself on the outside looking in...and it may be pretty cold and unfriendly out there...


1 comments:

Seculi said...

The nonreligious are people, too - why can't we have things to celebrate just like the religious? Religious skepticism and doubt have a long history (might I even call it a tradition?) extending further back than Christianity and with more than a few moral victories itself - from being the earliest group in the United States to promote the abolition of slaves and women's rights to Confucius' moral teachings, John Locke's articulation of universal human rights and, of course, secular democracy. Aren't these things to celebrate?

Ellis claims that objective values are only possible through religious belief, but is he aware of the diversity in the teachings of the various religious moral systems in the world? More to the point, American Christians haven't even been able to reach anything resembling a consensus on such issues as right-to-die, abortion and gender roles in society - not surprising, since the Bible doesn't even mention abortion (the closest scholars have found is a verse in the Old Testament that prescribed a fine for men who beat a pregnant woman, causing a miscarriage) and has no specific statement regarding a person's right to die.

In any case, modern democracies with nontheistic majorities don't seem to be suffering from their lack of religion: on the contrary, the less religious the society, the better it tends to rank on every quantifiable measure of societal health. Ellis wants to claim that the United States is an example of the the moral products of religious belief, and, indeed, we can see it: the U.S. ranks the lowest on virtually every objective measure of societal health, especially when compared to the less religious nations in the developed world.

That's not necessarily proof that religious belief endangers society, but it certainly is proof that it isn't something we need to have a healthy, functioning society.

 
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