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atheism and holidays

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Chris OConnor

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Re: atheism and holidays

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Very well written as usual, Naddia. And you share my feelings on this subject perfectly.Chris
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Re: atheism and holidays

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Dude! You make my brain itch.I'm still chewing on your last questions.I have wondered about how our holidays influence us, even before you posed the questions in your first post. I've wondered if there could be holidays that served a greater purpose than the ones we already have. One thing I concluded is that holidays can be useful. Useful as tools for cultivating a better society. So that's made me wonder what holidays I would choose, which of the current holidays would I eliminate or transform.
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Interbane

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Re: atheism and holidays

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Most religious holidays are divorced of their religion in my head. The only meaning they have is of sharing and being with family. Every now and then I hear of people going to church on Christmas eve at midnight and wonder why... then smack my forehead... they actually believe in the origins of the holiday! Sheesh, I'll be home in bed waiting on Santa.
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Re: atheism and holidays

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I suppose a lot depends on how you think religious content is expressed and transferred. Proclamations of belief are, to me, dubious markers of religious content. I'd say that practice is a more apt guide, and in particular, ceremonial practice is a way of communicating the content of religion, even if it doesn't always express belief in that content.Thus, when we decorate a Christmas tree, we're both performing and communicating the content of a particular religious tradition -- even though practically no-one really believes that content any more, or, at least, not expressly. In a very real sense, those who decorate Christmas trees do believe in some part of the religious content that goes along with it. They think it's efficacious in at least some degree, else they wouldn't continue to do it year after year, right? For most people, it contributes to some sort of family stability, or the evocation of a particular "spirit of the season", or a particular view of beauty. And I'm not entirely sure any of those are formulated in strictly secular terms near as much as the posts in this thread would seem to suggest.As for family, a great deal of my reading of anthropology, sociology and history of religion has pointed me to the conclusion that the traditional family unit -- at least as continuous social organism -- is itself the product of religion. Most forms of social organization are just that, and to my mind it stands to reason that the continuance of those social forms has at least the side-effect of communicating a latent religious content. Think of it this way: if the holidays are in any way instrumental to your conception of family, then it makes sense to view the holidays as a ritual geared towards the renewal of a social form that would not necessarily hold the same form -- or even any marginally continuous form -- if left to its own devices.I don't see why we should feel at all inclined to divorce that fact from its religious origins. If the relationship is as I've expressed it -- that the holidays provide a set of rituals that renew social bonds that might otherwise vulcanize and mutate, or otherwise dissipate, under other pressures -- and we all agree that the rituals and the very observance of the holiday season were initiated under the auspices of religion, then I hardly see how we could avoid the conclusion that the social forms guaranteed by holiday rituals are the expression of some religious content of the sort I've described above.
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Re: atheism and holidays

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We're forgetting that few holidays have religious significance. January 1 - most businesses have this day off to avoid wasted time due to hangovers.Presidents day - celebrate certain U.S. PresidentsM. L. King day - although he was a minister, he worked for civil rights.Memorial day - Remember those who died in battle.July 4 - Celebrate independence from England.Labor day - give the comman man an extra day of rest.Columbus day - celebrate when Europeans discovered San Salvador, a long time after native Americans and Scandanavians discovered America.Veteran's day - honor veterans, also associated with the end of WWI.Thanksgiving - give thanks for what you have.I don't see why participation by atheists in these holidays would be questioned...
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Re: atheism and holidays

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LanDroid: We're forgetting that few holidays have religious significance.Look back through the thread. I've tried to deal with the secular holidays at length, and so far no one has really raised an objection to my argument that such holidays are rarely really observed.As for the specific examples you've mentioned a few require specific comment.January 1 - most businesses have this day off to avoid wasted time due to hangovers.By simply calling it January first you can almost ignore the fact that it's "New Year's Day", and is associated explicitly with the celebration of the New Year, which is a rite descended from explicitly religious practice.July 4 - Celebrate independence from England.I would say that this is the one good example of a predominantly secular holiday that is actually celebrated, provided of course that you don't lay too much emphasis on the quasi-religious derivation of the concept of nation or on the values cited in such celebrations, most of which can be traced to religious and quasi-religious origins.Thanksgiving - give thanks for what you have.Despite being a municipally designated holiday, Thanksgiving does have a number of religious ties that make it questionable as a purely secular holiday.I don't see why participation by atheists in these holidays would be questioned...I don't question most of them, mostly because they are so rarely actually celebrated. Taking a day off is not the same as celebrating a holiday, and it can be considered observance only from the viewpoint of the business that allows its employees time off. Most of the time, the employees are hardly even aware of why they're given time off. There are groups in particular who actually celebrate these days -- veterans are apt to celebrate Veteran's Day, and many minority groups are apt to celebrate MLK day (though, notably, with church attendence). But for the most part these "holidays" are kept holy only by the particular groups who have benefitted acutely and memorably from the events that precipitated the holiday. Most people in a purely secular context are more apt to celebrate Superbowl Sunday than they are to celebrate Labor Day, Columbus Day or President's Day -- you could call Superbowl Sunday a holiday, but that wouldn't make it quite the same order of event as, say, Halloween. (Then again, perhaps you could -- I've suggested before that all sports have religious origins, and that religious symbolism can be traced in the more arcane and seemingly arbitrary aspects of sport.)But more generally, the objection is that the actual celebration of a holiday is almost invariably through a ritual of the sort that has more to do with the religious than the logical frame of mind. When I ask why an Enlightenment-supporting atheist should celebrate a holiday, a large part of what I'm asking is, what in the dictates of reason would suggest to you that it is logical or reasonable to venerate a particular principle, eg. the celebration of reason during HumanLight, by eating too much, dancing, detonating fireworks, etc.? Even something as seemingly innocuous as taking a day off in obervance of President's Day -- how is that reasonable? What about that particular day -- which celebrates the birth of two presidents, even through the day falls on neither's actual birthday -- points to the idea of not working and offering furniture and electronics at a discount? To the extent that it halts the practice of business, it actually would seem to be more unreasonable than anything else.If you demand the exercise of reason in so many other things, why would you suspend that exercise for the sake of a holiday?
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Re: atheism and holidays

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MadHere is the simple answer, the holiday rituals are fun, many are pagan anyway, and we do not have to believe in God to have fun with those that do.Later
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Does the same answer apply all around? If human sacrafice is fun, does that justify its practice? Or take a more subtle example -- if Baptism is fun, does that justify its practice? And if its demonstrated that the practice of such a ritual contributes to religious modes of thought, even in those who do not believe the doctrines of the religion -- would you still find the non-religious practice of religious rituals acceptable? -----------------"Ain't got a name, just a current address."
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Re: atheism and holidays

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I already find the practice of religious rituals acceptable. The religious mode of thought is there anyway if a person asks enough of the right questions they will turn away on their own, I really don't care one way or the other. As long as no one is hurt or their rights violated its ok by me.
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Re: atheism and holidays

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Allow me to expand on my previous post.Fun: If I am having fun be it "sinful" (premarital sex) or religious (Christmas) I do not care, it is irrelevant to me. To expand on your baptism example, I love to go swimming so I like the water, I am however uncomfortable being dunked by some guy who has sexual repression issues. If I was into that kind of thing the religious part really means nothing to me. I would still go to be baptized... often.If there was a festival of Zeus that was fun to celebrate, and no one was hurt or had their rights violated by the ritual, I would be right there drinking wine and having fun, singing praise to Zeus. Again the belief behind it is irrelevant to me.I am not Irish But I have fun on St Patrick's Day. I am not German But I celebrate October fest, I have fun during Sinco Demyo (? spelling) I am not Spanish, I am not a pirate but Gasparilla is a blast. I think you get the picture.I think that atheists involve themselves in these rituals because they are harmless and fun, they may not believe in the origin of the ritual but so what? We are not breaking any atheist rule, or going against some atheist agenda. We are each individuals with our own standards and world views. Most atheists do not have an plan to convert the world. We live our lives as we see fit, but still need that escape from pressure, work and tedium, just like any other human. We do however want to be left to pursue our passions without interference from the religious finger pointers. After all Christians "sin" to have fun, so a better question might be why would a Christian go against the word of God just for fun/pleasure? I appreciate Christian music, art, and ritual, I just do not believe in God. Later
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