Tuesday, December 25, 2007

What does Xmas mean?

Xmas is a celebration of what is guessed to be the approximate birth date of Jesus Christ. It is an important occasion in almost all civilised societies for both Christians and Non-Christians alike.

In Australia the number of people who describe themselves as Christians has fallen from 71% of the population to only 64% in the 10 years to 2006. I have been a non-believer for my entire adult life so I am gradually acquiring more companions. As Kevin Rudd said recently, Christianity faces the prospect of being a minority belief - part of the 'counter-culture' - in Australian society. But Christianity remains by-in-large an important positive force in our society and Xmas remain important to many of us - both the secular and the religious.

I lack empathy with multi-culturalists and those from other religions who see the widespread respect paid to Xmas as something offensive to atheists and non-Christians. Given my early Christian upbringing I still feel comfortable celebrating the message of hope, forgiveness, friendship and kindness that Xmas brings to us. I have a long-standing respect for the values that the man Jesus Christ espoused. Most of all, the birth of a baby indicates the hoped-for possibility of living in a better world. The materialism associated with Xmas does make me reflect - but most of us enjoy giving and receiving gifts. One can be too puritanical about such matters. Most of us enjoy some of the incidentals of Christmas - carols being sung, food and wine being imbibed and homes being brightly decorated. At the very least these are a valued part of our cultural traditions.

The idea of hope associated with Xmas and the belief that the world can be a better place because of the birth of a boy is a beautiful parable. I do not believe that to appreciate the beauty of this notion that one, in fact, needs to accept the idea that the young boy is the 'son of God' or our 'saviour'. It is enough to think about our prospects for renewal and for trying to live a life that reflects Christian values of kindness and forgiveness even if not of Christian theology.

No religion - Christianity included - should ever be seen as having the last word on anything. One of the great advantages of living in Australia is its openness and the freedom of choice it offers with respect to religion. But the wisdom of many religions, freed from their bigotry, can guide us towards living happier, more fulfilled lives. Whether you are thinking about what job you should take, what partner you should live with or how you should deal with the neighbours and with outsiders, the message of Christianity has something to teach us all. God might be irrelevant in all this - we are after all human beings - but the core message of Christians and the hope of Xmas is not.


TJW said...

Lovely post.

Anonymous said...

Yea, nice post Harry.

Is everyone in academia an atheist?

hc said...

No, obviously not everyone in academia is an atheist. I don't know the figures.

Anonymous said...

I can't imagine, anyone in academia ever getting along unless they were atheists. It's the closest thing to a job requirment.

I think it springs from a history of a strong anti-catholic bent in academia.

These days with the near callapse of organized Protestant churches we ended up with atheism battling catholicism.

kipwatson said...

Christians often resent the extravagence and silliness of Christmas -- and have done for centuries.

But it's worth remembering that Christmas is the most accessible of all Christian festivals -- the one when children and non-believers often first feel the presence of the Holy Spirit.

Bring Back CL's blog said...

if the basic tenets of christianty are correct that Jesus did exist, he was God in human form and this was shown by the he rose from the dead and of course he took the punishment for our sins then all other religions are false.

If he iehter didn't exist or didn't rise from the dead then christianity is false

hc said...

I have made my judgments about the points you raise Homer and, yes, I don't believe the claims.

Still I do not believe the falsity of these claims denies the value of Christianity or of rituals associated with it such as Xmas.

Kip makes an astute observation about the high degree of accessibility of Christianity at Xmas and it is true. Non-believers are moved by the events of Xmas as is my young son who urges me to be a better person.

I don't believe this is the 'holy spirit' but I generally see it as a positive.

Bring Back CL's blog said...

you espouse the values of someone you believe is either a liar or a lunatic to quote C S Lewis.

hc said...

Well Homer your view is that Christ was either delusional or a liar. Given the number of intelligent people who have followed his teachings that is a strong position. Your argument presumably also applies to his followers - or perhaps to you they are just fools.

One of the politicians I most admire is a committed Christian Tony Blair - he definitely has his feet on the ground, is no fool and I don't believe he is a liar.

That doesn't mean at all that I accept his religious faith - I don't - but it seems to me ridiculous to put him in an extreme box. Moreover, I respect the values he has.

Anonymous said...

Harry, I think you are misinterpreting Homer's argument.

Homer believes that Jesus existed, claimed to be and was the son of God and rose from the dead. According to the C S Lewis argument there are only three possible options:

1. Jesus was telling falsehoods and knew it, and so he was a liar.
2. Jesus was telling falsehoods but believed he was telling the truth, and so he was insane.
3. Jesus was telling the truth, and so he was divine.

Where this falls down is that it assumes everything in the Bible is literally true rather than being an embellished story about a human Jesus's life.

This makes your position, contrary to Homer's argument, completely tenable.

BTW, I hope you had a merry Xmas and best wishes for 2008.

Anonymous said...

Xmas - Real meaning? It's not an abbreviation. The non believers are "crossing out" Christ, GET IT, "X". It's an atheist thing not a Christian thing. Christians call it CHRISTMAS!

Jamiesa 15 years old said...

All this is stupid what kind of person doesn't believe in god, who do you think create you, how do you think you got here? I know that everyone is intitle to their own opinion but some times you have to think about more clearly. I have a question, do all atheist people believe that we were create using science. Last question, why did atheist take a Christian holiday and change it to Xmas? None of you had no right to interfere with an holiday that Christian love so much, it was the birthday of the person that gave their gave their life for all of us!! Please stay away from our holiday, thats just wasn't nice, you all were making a mockery of something that we care about. Would you all like for someone to criticize you? THINK ABOUT?

hc said...

People hold different beliefs Jamiesa. I don't think anyone here was criticising Xmas. But people see the egvent in different ways.

Anonymous said...

Then why is Los Angles International Airport called, "LAX?" Is it because the christians don't like something about this airport?

Anonymous said...

Well said, I couldnt have written it better myself..... My Faith brought many Catholics to Australia last year. Many Aussies wanted to learn more it was an awesome experience.