Category Archives: Christianity
See our similar article on the philosophy of The Dark Knight Rises, here.
Man of Steel is coming out to DVD today, and while we (the Conservative New Ager and The Snark Who Hunts Back) have talked about this before, a movie this philosophically powerful needs to be discussed again. But in addition to the deep philosophical material that needs to be dealt with this film has many an ignorant critic (you don’t like a movie, you don’t like a movie…but we have heard nothing so intelligent as ‘I just didn’t like it’…no, we get little more than fanboy bitching and complaints that the movie was too deep). So let’s look at the movie one more time (though I seriously doubt it will be the last time).
The American sentiment of Liberty
“I grew up in Kansas, General. I’m about as American as it gets.”
There isn’t much that’s more American than the ideal of Freedom.
The idea that we are free to make our own decisions, live our own lives, and make our own mistakes without some monolithic control structure giving us our instructions for the “greater good” of society.
That ideal is one of the main cornerstones of the plot of Man of Steel.
Why was Superman sent to Earth in the first place?
I mean, we all know the classic story. Krypton was about to explode, last of his race, blah blah blah.
In Man of Steel there is a new twist added into the story.
“This is a genesis chamber. All Kryptonians were conceived in chambers such as this. Every child was designed to perform a predetermined role in our society as a worker, a warrior, a leader, and so on. Your mother and I believed Krypton lost something precious: the element of choice, of chance. What if a child dreamed of becoming something other than what society had intended? What if a child aspired to something greater? You were the embodiment of that belief, Kal. Krypton’s first natural birth in centuries. That’s why we risked so much to save you. ”
Jor-El wanted his son to survive, but he also wanted Kal-El to have something he would have lacked on Krypton.
Luckily the ship landed in the heartland of the U.S.A. and not China or Soviet Russia…or worse, San Francisco.
This topic is something that is frequently misunderstood by both Zod and his followers. When it came to Zod, it is apparent that he and his followers believed that genetic and social stagnation was evolutionarily superior which is a clear misunderstanding of freedom and evolution.
Look at the examples of stagnant and tyrannical governments that were provided a couple of paragraphs ago. China, Soviet Russia, and how about we add North Korea as well. Social stagnation, and even evolutionary stagnation in China, put all of these on the path to ruin.
Evolution is freedom, so there was one time in the movie where Zod’s side was right. Evolution did win in the form of naturally born Clark, but they were wrong to assume that morality was a weakness. Freedom is not divorced from morality in a successful civilization. Neither can actual Evolution (as opposed to the eugenics proposed by Zod, which was not natural in any way) be divorced from the concepts of morality.
Jor-El: And if your forces prevail? You’ll be the leader of nothing!
General Zod: Then join me. Help me save our race. We’ll start anew. We’ll sever the degenerative bloodlines that led us to this state.
Jor-El: And who will decide which bloodlines survive, Zod? You?
General Zod: Don’t do this, El. The last thing I want is for us to be enemies.
Krypton died because they were stagnant. They lost the sense of freedom that led them to explore the universe and they grew so afraid of change that the idea of a natural birth was seen as “heresy” to Zod. Change and freedom also means that you will encounter risk, but in the end their reluctance to change their way of life and allow for chance and freedom in their populace was what destroyed their whole planet.
“No human thing is of serious importance.”—Plato, The Republic, Book X
And why was Krypton stagnant? Because Krypton followed the corrupt ideas of Plato’s Republic. And before anyone claims that I’m just reading too much into this keep in mind that in the middle of the movie, in the scene where young Clark is bullied, he is reading a copy of Plato’s Republic. Krypton was a perfect representation of The Republic and Snyder and Nolan wanted to hammer this point home so hard they made it impossible to claim otherwise by showing Clark reading this very book. So for those of you who have never read the Republic (or it’s just been a few too many years since that intro to philosophy course), what is Plato’s Republic and why is it so terrible?
The Republic is often viewed as Plato’s most important work. And it certainly is very important to understanding how philosophy, art, justice, the individual, to many of the core concepts of all philosophy. But just because it is one of the most important works in philosophy doesn’t mean that it’s correct. While Plato has many good points and conclusions that should be used, the Republic he envisions is an evil that should always be fought against. In the Republic all people are bred into one of three castes. Workers. Warriors. Philosophers-Kings. (Which we see on Krypton in the form of Scientists, Soldiers and Leaders.) The reason for this is Plato correctly saw that some people are not fit for some jobs. I may enjoy being a teacher and get a lot out it, but another may find it hell on Earth. You may enjoy public relations but it may it drudgery to others. But while in reality these differences are a mixture of aptitude and choice, Plato (and Krypton) believes that only aptitude should matter…and going a step further that you should be bred from birth to have the aptitudes that society needs from you. The individual and the soul are of no serious importance to societies like this. And this is confirmed not only repeatedly in The Republic but by Zod’s own words in Man of Steel, “I exist only to protect Krypton. That is the sole purpose for which I was born.” In The Republic and Krypton you exist only to perform the function you were born to perform. No choice. No liberty. Only the good of the state. India’s ancient castes system may have been based on a corruption of an idea in the Bhagavad Gita that originally encouraged free will but accepting that some people are not ready for some ideas or duties by choice and aptitude…but Plato starts his ideal government with no such idea—from the first your life is determined by your birth (the Genesis chambers on Krypton). And as you are born to only fulfill a function there is no place for a family, only for training from birth. Breeding and raising of children is held in common—no marriages, no families, no bonds beyond the bond to the state that raised you (you know kind of like a society that regards the natural birth of Kal-El as an “abomination,” as Zod put it). And the problem of a society like this is the very stagnation and decay that we see in the first few moments Man of Steel. Plato’s Republic was designed to create what in Plato’s vision was a perfect life and sustain that…of course there was no growth, no innovation, only stability…not even happiness of its citizens was regarded, only a warped vision of justice, order and harmony. But it is not the harmony of a great symphony, but rather the perfect tuned harmony of a single chord, played without end or variation. If you can think of a better image of Hell please tell me (fitting how the Republic as shown on Krypton ends in fires reminiscent of most visions of Hell). The “order” of The Republic we now realize would lead only to stagnation and decay because it was completely at odds with the soul which requires constant growth and improvement—just like Krypton. Without growth, without striving for the best within us, with the liberty to strive for those things, think as you choose, we are as good as dead and condemn our society to death. And this is because be it Plato’s Republic, the world of Anthem or Brave New World, Soviet Russia, or Krypton this kind of controlled society does not lead to harmony or order, but only a population that is nothing but slaves to the state.
Luckily, Man of Steel is under none of the delusions that Plato was under while he wrote The Republic. They show that whenever you breed a warrior class with all the power of the military, no matter how much Plato thought they would always bow to the power of the philosopher-kings, the lust for power will always take over and they will attempt to take power. This movie sees that anytime you attempt to control populations you begin to determine that some people, some professions, some ideas are more important than others and that this always degenerates into eugenics and the willingness for genocide, as seen through Zod’s willingness to cut out bloodlines of Krypton he saw as inferior or just wipe out the human race due to his belief that they were below him. Unlike Plato it shows that no civilization can be isolationist as a city-state unto itself (or even a planet unto itself in Krypton’s case), societies require growth and innovation, and merely attempting to preserve the status quo and stagnation will always lead to decay and destruction. And we see that the only way to break out of this horrible cycle is for a “a child dreamed of becoming something other than what society had intended.”
Also if you still have any doubts I would take a look at Zod. In all traditional stories of Superman and Zod, the symbols both both their families, emblazoned on their chests, looked like their names. An S on Superman and a Z on Zod. However this movie changes the symbol on Zod’s chest. Nolan and Snyder specifically changed the Zod’s symbol to the point where it doesn’t look anything like a Z. In fact it looks like a sickle. You know, as in the sickle and hammer, the symbol of a Plato like utopia where everyone tries to have common ownership and common control, but in reality turned out to be something as decayed and genocidal as Zod’s Krypton.
But if this film sets the groundwork of the upcoming D.C. movies (which rumors suggest there will be quite the extended universe—eat your heart out Marvel) but especially the Superman films we have been promised. My hope is that whereas Nolan crafted a perfect philosophical arc with the Dark Knight, he will do so again with Superman. And that while the first film did show the beginning of the ideals of liberty and freedom in Jor-El’s hope for his son they were not delved into on as much a degree as the flaws of tyranny and Plato. Now since the Plato played such a deep role in this movie, and since Nolan loves to work on deeply rooted symbolism, I suspect we will see at least two more philosophers serve as the basis for upcoming films. If I had to take a guess I would believe we will see the perverse theories of Nietzsche’s ubermensch (from which we derive the word Superman) ripped apart as we see two larger than life figures (with the addition of Batman) in the next film rise above any base view of the individual. And I sincerely hope that in the final film of the promise trilogy (rumored to be a Justice League movie) we will see the pinnacle of philosophy dealt with through references to Aristotle that are as subtle as the reference to Plato was in this film. And we are further convinced of this, as we have mentioned in a previous blog, the writing of the film seems to be heavily influenced by the essay Superheroes and Philosophy entitled “The Real Truth About Superman and the Rest of Us, Too.”by Superman writer Mark Waid which ties the story of Superman to Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs…which the lowest levels would be hurt by the tyranny of Platonism, the middle levels hurt by the rank egotism of Nietzsche, and the highest level only reachable through the virtue ethics of Aristotelianism. Overall this promises to be one of the deepest and most fulfilling movies series of all time.
Make a better world than ours, Kal.–Lara Lor-Van
Father Leone: Sometimes, you have to take a leap of faith first. The trust part comes later.
Neither of us are Biblical scholars, but we pride ourselves in our ability to see religious symbolism much better than the average movie viewer, especially given how little of the book that the average person is familiar with and that includes the religious.
After seeing Man of Steel several times, there were more than a few references to the story of Christ embedded in the writing.
We’ve all seen writing where that sort of symbolism was allowed to get heavy handed and annoying, but in Man of Steel it was subtle and it fit the story very well.
There are numerous Biblical references in this movie. The most obvious of which is Jor El sending his only son to Earth, of course his original purpose was not to save mankind, but he does end up uttering the lines “you can save all of them” to Clark, about halfway through the film. Also as Justin Craig at Fox News pointed out, Kal El had rather a “miraculous” birth himself, being as he was the first “natural birth” on Krypton in centuries.
Two of the next ones come as a pair if you really want to understand them. When Superman “surrenders” to mankind he references his age of 33 years (Scientist: “You might be carrying some alien pathogen.” Superman:” I’ve been living here for 33 years, I haven’t infected anyone yet.”) which was the number of years that Jesus was supposed to have lived. During that time on Earth, Clark traveled extensively and performed several “miracles” (or “acts of God” as one character calls them). He saves a bus load of school kids when he’s around 12 or 13 years old (I’m approximating, as the movie never states an age), saves men working on an oil rig that is about to explode, and saves Lois Lane’s life, among other things.
Then at the end of that he decides to “surrender” to mankind in order to save them from General Zod.
The only thing missing is that he didn’t have his 12 best friends travelling around with him on his world tour.
Clark’s age when he saved the school bus is approximately 12 or 13. We’re basing this on the age of the actors and the dialogue in the scene, but also based on the Biblical symbolism we see throughout the film. It’s at 12 that Jesus finds himself in the temple, talking to priests about his “father” and it is after this “miracle” that Jonathan Kent decides to reveal Clark’s own origins.
One of the final symbolic moments is that prior to Clark’s surrender to Zod he visits a church to speak to a priest about his doubts. Behind him is a stained glass window depicting what seems to be Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane, praying to his father about his own doubts. The priest tells Clark, who has doubts as to whether the people of Earth can be trusted anymore than Zod can, that “sometimes you have to take a leap of faith first, trust comes later” which helps Clark make his decision to work with mankind, rather than hiding from Zod.
This particular scene is interesting for the fact that, unlike other heavy handed iterations of the “this movie is a Biblical allegory” trope, this scene puts Clark firmly in the role of “savior” without putting him directly in the role of Christ. Clark is an all-American, farm raised, Christian boy who turns to the church and the guidance of a priest when he is questioning his faith and so the story manages to hold onto the allegorical underpinnings of the story without turning Superman into a placeholder for Christ. Christ managed to retain his importance as a savior as well. Whether that was the intention of the writer and the director will likely remain a mystery, but that’s what we are here for…to speculate.
Thankfully that’s about where the symbolism ends. They did not pull a “he’s in a coma for 3 days and then he wakes up!” moment, a la Superman Returns…which was painful to watch, but the symbolism they do use of Superman being a guiding force for good and a person who, ultimately, is trying to inspire good in people who “stumble and fall” in following him, was the right kind of religious symbolism.
As far as the science vs. religion dynamic that some reviewers saw in the film, it is unfortunate that some reviewers seemed to believe that morality and religion are tied to dogmatic following of tradition. Which made some of the reviews seem to almost side with Zod and his dogmatic need to carry out his one sole purpose in life, even at the expense of billions of lives, and that Clark turning away from this was some sort of anti-religious message. Which seems to us to be a view that shows that some people do not understand morality.
After all, the Bible says “Greater love hath no man than this that a man lay down his life for his friends.” Nowhere does it say “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man sacrifices billions to create his own world order where only those he deems to be pure will be allowed to exist.”
Though something shockingly similar might be found in Mein Kampf.
“There is only one way this ends, Kal, either you die or I do.”–Zod
Okay let’s deal with the consistent arguments against the film The first two I hear most often are ‘it’s too slow’ and ‘the battle was too much.’ Yes parts were slow. Now, go back, what original story movie isn’t a little slow at times. None. When you’re setting up a whole world it takes time. At least here we started out with Jor-El action hero and then go through Clark’s early life with as few scenes as possible (meanwhile idiotic fanboys were complaining that we didn’t see enough of Lana or him going quickly through college…you know what we watched that crap for 10 years on the horribly whinny show Smallville, no need to even bring that up. Ever.). As opposed to the battle being too over the top…it’s a conflict of super-powered beings. Go back and look say Superman II…if it isn’t over the top it looks campy and silly. Unless you have long lasting major conflict that leaves carnage in its wake it looks silly and like everyone is pulling their punches. And I think everyone seems to forget where this series is implicitly going…we started out with the major force up front, the next few films with Luthor (and I pray Darkseid) will be more battle of wits and less massive destruction.
Next of course comes the death toll and how it’s just horrible Superman let so many people die. This requires a truly bizarre understanding of ethics to make this claim. First off this comes from the fact this is because everyone is comparing this to The Avengers, and as much I enjoyed The Avengers, let’s be honest the Chitari were terrible fighters—all they seemed to do was shoot at the facades of buildings. That’s it. Whoop de doo. Not all that impressive. Zod however actually seemed serious about world domination in a way Loki really wasn’t. (Also if you really look at it, it appears that Zod’s attack on New York Metropolis goes on during a weekend so the business section of the city isn’t as packed as you would think…not to mention this is almost a full day after an alien has threatened the entire word, as we all saw in Independence Day, the first thing that would happen is the cities would empty…there were not as many people dying as you think, but a lot of structural damage).
‘hey we just killed thousands of aliens, let’s not have any feelings about that and hey let’s not worry about Coulson’s corpse either, let’s go have shwarma…of course Tony’s killed a lot of people (including a father figure) and never seems that broken up about it—at least Superman has the humanity to break down and scream in agony when forced to kill someone.
Why do I compare atheists to giant babies? It’s simple, they take everything so personally and they try to force people to change their personal thoughts to make them more palatable for Atheists.
They are also wimps. I have heard them complain about how “bad” someone’s opinion of Atheism makes them “feel” and I can’t help laughing.
How thin is your skin? Not everyone is going to like you, especially when you constantly attack their religion and beliefs.
Someone is going to get pissed off because of that title, just watch.
There will probably be spoilers for Man of Steel in this post. I warned you.
I’m not the most religious person in the world. I classify myself as a Deist, half because I think it’s a rational view of things and it fits with my own spirituality and half because I’m just really lazy about religion.
But I do know my Bible (won first prize in Bible trivia at my Christian school, 2 years in a row…in elementary school) and while I may not be a Biblical scholar, I do pride myself in recognizing Biblical references a lot more often than your average schmuck in a movie theater. Especially after seeing how little my peers (even the religious ones) knew about Biblical symbolism when reading The Scarlet Letter.
So upon my 3rd viewing of Man of Steel last night, I noticed a few things. (Yes, I’ve seen it 3 times and yes I’m aware it’s only been out for 3.5 days).
Professor At State University Pressures Students to Stomp on Paper with “Mohammed” Written on it, White House Expresses Outrage at this “Horrible Assault of First Amendment”
A Muslim student in a class at a state university was horribly perturbed when, last week, one of his professor’s gave an assignment to his class that involved writing the name of Mohammed on a sheet of paper in large letters. The professor then requested that they put the paper on the floor and stomp on it.
The student refused to take part in the assignment and lodged a complaint with the school against the professor.
The professor, who has claimed that the assignment was only being used as an exercise in critical thinking and was not intended to be offensive toward Muslim students, has been place on administrative leave until the case can be looked at further and a formal apology on the behalf of the University has been given to the student who lodged the complaint.
The leader of the organization CAIR (The Council for Islamic-American Relations) has filed a lawsuit against the university and openly called them out for hiring such a blatantly Islamophobic professor.
Meanwhile the President and Secretary of State personally called the student in question to apologize for their 1st Amendment rights being so horribly violated and swore that they would “get” the person who published this horrible lesson plan that was so disrespectful to Islam.
Burning of the American flag has gone up in the Middle East and many fear that more riots will be occur in the Middle East as result of this culturally insensitive action taken by a professor.
Oh wait, no…that’s not the actual story. The actual story is that a Christian student was almost thrown out of his university for refusing to take part in a lesson that involved writing “JESUS” on a sheet of paper and then stomping on it.
The professor hasn’t been punished, the incident hasn’t been investigated, there has CERTAINLY not been any calls made to the student from the President or the Secretary of State (they save that kind of time for people like Sandra Fluke and blaming youtube videos for inciting riots) and the student was only recently allowed to come back to school because of several lawyers offering to take the case pro bono and the extreme amount of public outrage on the issue.
The scenario I laid out would be realistic if the professor had chosen Islam as his example for a lesson on “critical thinking”, but when it happens to Christianity the person who files the complaint nearly gets kicked out of school.
Yeah, that’s some equality we got here.
Spoiler alert: Don’t Read This if You Believe in Santa Claus (AKA if you are a member of American Atheists, turn around now)
I wasn’t home last night, and even when I am I rarely turn on Fox News for anything other than The Five or Red Eye, but when I got in it was to hear from my dad that Hannity had been talking to the President of American Atheists on his show, about a billboard they have put in in Times Square.
Apparently atheists are operating under the idea that Santa is a real person or something.
Technically I suppose they were trying to be witty and reference how the secular trappings of Christmas are a-okay with them, but cut out the religion right this very minute because they can’t stand one myth being talked about…but the other myth of the jolly fat man in a red suit is perfectly fine.
Can we just take a moment to recognize how utterly ridiculous this is?
No really, does American Atheist understand how stupid they are for implying that only one of those images is a myth?
Santa and Rudolph and the sleigh with all the toys are a myth. They know that right?
Last year I wrote a post about Nativity scenes on public property and this was part of it.
So why is it that a holiday that is based on some fictional account of a baby being born in a barn, is so offensive to an Athiest or Liberal’s sensibilities?
I know that Star Wars is just a story, completely fictional. However there is an entire religion based on The Force. There are huge groups of a devoted fan base that worship The Force and even those that don’t follow the religion still collect relics, dress in odd clothing, and attend huge gatherings to, essentially, worship the films. Do I ask that Star Wars conventions be shut down? No, absolutely not, because while I’m not a Star Wars fan (I’m a Trekkie okay) I know that it’s just a story, that some people enjoy and maybe put a little too much of their lives into.
So if I don’t demand that Star Wars conventions be shut down (which are both more physically and olfactory offensive than Christmas and probably much less healthy for the convention attendees) why is it that a bunch of plaster fictional characters on a lawn can invoke such irrationality?
Atheists reject one myth, because it’s more popular or believed by more people, but completely accept another myth as socially and politically acceptable in the public forum, simply because they believe it’s secular.
I have news for you. Nothing about Christmas, from it’s name right down to the elements of the celebration, is based on secular ideas.
Okay, possibly Frosty the Snowman and Rudolph are purely secular and capitalistic creations, but the core traditions are religious, whether they are Christian or not.
Let’s break this down shall we. What are some of the key ‘secular’ parts of Christmas.
Christmas Trees: Extreme pagan and Christian religious symbolism.
The use of evergreen trees, wreaths, and garlands to symbolize eternal life was a custom of the ancient Egyptians, Chinese, and Hebrews. Tree worship was common among the pagan Europeans and survived their conversion to Christianity in the Scandinavian customs of decorating the house and barn with evergreens at the New Year to scare away the devil and of setting up a tree for the birds during Christmastime.
The modern Christmas tree, though, originated in western Germany. The main prop of a popular medieval play about Adam and Eve was a “paradise tree,” a fir tree hung with apples, that represented the Garden of Eden. The Germans set up a paradise tree in their homes on December 24, the religious feast day of Adam and Eve. They hung wafers on it (symbolizing the host, the Christian sign of redemption); in a later tradition the wafers were replaced by cookies of various shapes.
Lights: Lights on the tree and elsewhere came from a Christian practice, as well as pagan practices.
Candles, symbolic of Christ, were often added [to the Christmas tree].
The Celtic fire festival of Yule was a time of renewal and rebirth, celebrated by lighting fires to welcome back the lengthening days. The remnants of this practice may be found in the charming tradition of the Yule log, still enjoyed by many people at Christmas even today.
The lighting of candles and modern Christmas lights is also a relic of this ancient need to bring light to the darkest time of the year, and even in this era of electric lights that dispel the gloom all year round, many people still enjoy the warming feeling of seeing a beautifully lit tree or an array of lighted candles.
The circle of the Yule or Christmas wreath represents the pagan “Wheel of the Year” or “Circle of Life” that marks the annual changes in the seasons at the Festivals celebrated at the solstices and equinoxes.The Germans set up a paradise tree in their homes on December 24, the religious feast day of Adam and Eve. They hung wafers on it (symbolizing the host, the Christian sign of redemption); in a later tradition the wafers were replaced by cookies of various shapes.
Jolly Ol’ Saint Nick: Literally a Catholic saint and the basis for the modern Santa Claus that was so wittily placed on a billboard mocking Christianity. Brilliant move American Atheists!
Santa Claus, legendary figure who is the traditional patron of Christmas in the United States and other countries, bringing gifts to children. His popular image is based on traditions associated with Saint Nicholas, a 4th-century Christian saint. Father Christmas fills the role in many European countries.
“The giving of presents at the midwinter feast almost certainly began as a magical more than as merely a social custom. Saturnalia presents included wax dolls, given to children. A charming custom, no doubt, by times of record, but with a macabre past: even contemporaries thought this probably a vestige of human sacrifice, of children, to aid the sowing.”
- History Today
We have many recorded events in history that show the giving and receiving of gifts dates back at least to the 4th century. St. Nicholas, a Christian Bishop, was known for his generosity in giving to those less fortunate than he, as well as giving to children of all backgrounds simply because he felt they needed to savor their childrood, and have joyous times to remember.
These really aren’t that secular after all then. So I guess what your real problem is, is that Christianity is involved (in which case, no Santa for you either, he’s a Catholic Saint).
If you have a problem with religion in general, then keep in mind that those lights you are hanging, that tree you are decorating while singing secular x-mas carols, and those gifts you are giving out, all have religious connotations.
So you should probably ask your job if you can come in on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, to let other non-Scrooges enjoy a day with their family, since you can’t stand any religions at all. Since you totally reject all religions that believe in “magical sky daddy’s” or whatever mocking phrase atheists are referring to god by these days.
Fresh from her high school prayer banner victory, Jessica Ahlquist throws her hat into another ring.
I would like to start this post by saying two things.
First, I absolutely hate the cruel and violent words that have been used against Jessica Ahlquist. You will not find me on friendly terms with anyone who I find have insulted her.
Secondly, I would like to note that I have read her blog and it reads like the blog I kept at the age of 16.* I was also a very adamant atheist at the age of 16 and I believed I would never change my mind on the subject. I regularly sought out Christians to argue with and reading over the old posts I offered in arguments with Christians is actually an embarrassment to myself. I give age and overabundance of zeal, though not knowledge, as an excuse for my words at the time.** I did not remain in my atheism, not that I claim Ahlquist will change her mind on that, and my ignorance and need to change other people’s minds or even to police the public expressions of religion.
Now I want to address what this post is actually about.
Jessica Ahlquist and her fellow atheists who are extremely talented at making mountains out of molehills.
I will admit that, constitutionally, she had a case when it came to the school prayer at her school in Rhode Island. This isn’t about that.
I can empathize with some of what Atheist’s do, especially when it comes to say…the Ten Commandments being placed on courthouses. After all, I’m not a Christian and I don’t want to be judged by the Ten Commandments in court, neither does anyone else of other religions in this country.
But then there are things like this. Where atheists, who Jessica Ahlquist has thrown her hat in with, are protesting the existence of a WWI/WWII memorial in Woonsocket, R.I. which has a cross on top of it.
As previously reported, the Christian cross, which was built in Woonsocket back in 1921, is causing a great deal of angst among secularists who stand firmly opposed to its presence on public property. Taking on even more significance beyond WWI, the monument was re-dedicated back in 1952 to honor three fallen WWII soldiers who lived in the area and has since been a public statement of remembrance.
In a April 13 letter sent from the FFRF to Leo Fontaine, the city’s mayor, FFRF staff attorney Rebecca Markert called the presence of the cross “unconstitutional” and claimed that a concerned citizen made the group aware of its presence.
- The Blaze
Jessica threw in her hat by tweeting, recently, that she supported the removal.
My question is…why?
Sure it’s on public property.
Sure, it’s a war memorial.
But it’s not like they are using current tax money to put the memorial up.*** In fact, I’m quite sure that if the issue was that the state was using tax money for upkeep of the statue, that the more than 1,000 people who have gathered to support it would be willing to pay for the cleaning and upkeep of the memorial.
But that isn’t what the Atheist organizations want. They want the monument gone.
Is it causing them undue emotional distress to even see a cross or walk past one? In which case, why aren’t they trying to sue every church they walk past for pain and suffering?
Is it uncomfortable for them to have to explain what that strange T shaped object on top of that stone is to their children?
Does the idea of Christianity just offend them so much that historical monuments and memorials to our service men just have to go?
There are crosses and religious symbols on many of the historic monuments in this country. Should we tear down every single one of those as well, because atheist just can’t handle the stress.
I’m sorry, but I don’t believe that cross on a historic monument is creating a situation where you can’t live comfortably. Nor do I think it is making you a second class citizen, nor do I honestly believe it is constitutionally wrong.
There are many issues in this country that you could be starting useful fights about, but this is not one of them.
Jessica, I fully believe that, no matter what your religious beliefs in the future, you will regret getting involved in this fight at such a young age. No matter how mature you think you are, or you actually are, you will not keep the same 16 year old beliefs, all your life.
*No, I can’t show it to you. I cleaned out the old posts on my old blog a long time ago…because most of them, quite frankly, embarrassed me.
**Though I must admit that the Christians I debated often had an overabundance of zeal and an underabundance of knowledge on their side.
***In which case I would understand their upset and even support their case.
(This is the first, in what may be 2 or 3 posts on this issue. This is a general response, next I will respond to the rest of his speech, and perhaps another post to deal with some of the responses that liberals have had to the completely justified outrage that conservatives are feeling about this.)
I spent most of the day, yesterday, trying to figure out how to start this post.
I’m usually quite witty (if I do say so myself), but I’m honestly just very angry about this. Wit has deserted me in favor of mental equivalent of “HULK SMASH!”
Now let me preface this with something that I don’t talk about often.
I am not a Christian. Let’s get that out of the way so that I won’t be categorized as a “religious bigot”, “butthurt Christian”, “conservative fundie”, or any of the other terribly tolerant language that the liberal blogs have been categorizing anyone who takes issue with Savage’s language as.
Yes, that’s right, I’m personally pro-life and extremely conservative in most other ways…but I don’t believe that Jesus Christ rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, ate the last supper with the 12 apostles, or died on a cross and rose again 3 days later.
I do believe that the Bible has some good stories and some good lessons to teach, just as I believe about many religions. I believe that it shows a unique look at a society (or a religious history, for the Jewish people, if you are looking at the Old Testament) and it must be read in the context of its time, as a form of history. (Something even my mother who, unlike my father, can be a bit of a Biblical literalist, freely admitted in a conversation with me last night).
The Bible, similar to most other philosophies and religions, has some bad parts as well. The large portion of the Old Testament is history and some truly awful shit has gone down in every society/religion at some point.
Now, having said that.
What Dan Savage said in his rant (yes, that’s what I categorize it as. Lot’s of anger, no real substance) just made him a bully and destroyed his credibility as a promoter of “anti-bullying” views.
Yes, calling a holy book, or part of it’s contents, “bullshit” is sometimes accurate (I often say similar words about things that about the Q’ran) however, saying the things he said in a pre-planned speech, to a group of high school students, was bullying. This wasn’t said in the heat of the moment, when he was angry at someone coming after him personally, this was pre-meditated and there is no way he did not know that many students and teachers in that crowd would be Christians. That would be a statistical improbability.
Then, of course, he took it a step further and called those who did the mature and walked out (rather than I would have done, even as a non-Christian, which would have been stand up and take him to task…or possibly pop him in the mouth…depending on my mood) “pansy assed”. Which, unless I’m wrong, is a pejorative used to refer to effeminate gay men.
Oh the irony inherent in a man who hates the bullying of gay people, using a gay slur to insult others.
Maybe he should have just called them faggots and gotten it over with.
I have an intense problem with hypocrisy. It is the one thing that will automatically make me lose all respect for you.
I may not like the views of certain groups (PETA, liberals in general, the Taliban, etc) but if you can remain consistent in your views and actions, I can at least respect that you know your own mind…even if I can’t stand the way your mind works.
It is the hypocrisy of Dan Savage’s views that kills me.
You cannot truly know yourself or your beliefs if you believe that bullying of one group is wrong, but bullying of some other group is fine…because you don’t like them.
You can’t be believed or respected if you say “It Gets Better” from one side of your mouth, while the other side says that you wish an entire political group was “just fucking dead”.*
You can’t demand respect for gay people, while using gay slurs to categorize those that you don”t like.
You can’t demand change and respect from people, when your actions against those who disagree with you is to make up vile uses for their name.
Not only has he shown his hypocrisy, but Savage has once again shown his sheer lack of intelligence (Yes, I think you are unintelligent if you can’t hold consistent beliefs, it isn’t hard to do) and his immaturity.
Is this really the person the gay community wants to represent the great future that is in store for young GLBT people?
How can life “get better” if the role model for a better life is so filled with anger, so bitter and hurtful to others?
You can’t fight fire with fire Mr. Savage. Perhaps it was your intent to live up to your name, but you are doing a great disservice to those you claim to be trying to help.
As Perez Hilton said** “Can’t we just be good and kind to each other? Isn’t faith in love and honesty and kindness all any of us really need?”
That is what will get our world where it needs to be, not divisive language and anger towards anyone who doesn’t fall in line with your ideal.
*As a gay conservative/Republican I would like to know what that means for me. Should I just die to make Savage happy? Or does life get better for me too, since I’m gay?
**Yes, I was shocked that he was one of the people to speak out about this.
Ah Christmas, the time for family to gather together and…get into arguments about whether Nativity scenes can be placed on public property?
What? You’re family doesn’t do that? Mine does, or at least my brother and I do…sometimes my parents come along for the ride, but my brother and I are the most vocal about it and it doesn’t look like either of our opinions are going to change any time soon.
However our argument made me think about something and so I decided to devote and entire post to discussing just what I put in the title.*
I certainly don’t claim that Christmas doesn’t mean different things to different people and, as this is a free country, you may celebrate the winter holidays in any way that you choose. You may even call it Christmas and be completely secular and atheist.
That, however, is not what this post is about. This is about legal definitions and whether Nativity scenes on public property, such as a courthouse, is legal according to the First Amendment.
The United States of America there are 11 Federal Holidays, usually these are a chance for businesses to close, banks to shut down, and for people to have a day off…or to get paid time and a half if they do work.
Most of these, such as President’s Day and the Fourth of July and New Year’s Day, are completely secular and related to historical or political or cultural norms.
However there is one very different holiday on the Federal books.
What is Christmas?
Well here are a few definitions.
A Christian feast on December 25 or among some Eastern Orthodox Christians on January 7 that commemorates the birth of Christ and is usually observed as a legal holiday
Christmas, Christian festival celebrating the birth of Jesus. The English term Christmas (“mass on Christ’s day”) is of fairly recent origin. The earlier term Yule may have derived from the Germanic jōl or the Anglo-Saxon geōl, which referred to the feast of the winter solstice. The corresponding terms in other languages—Navidad in Spanish, Natale in Italian, Noël in French—all probably denote nativity. The German word Weihnachten denotes “hallowed night.” Since the early 20th century, Christmas has also been a secular family holiday, observed by Christians and non-Christians alike, devoid of Christian elements, and marked by an increasingly elaborate exchange of gifts. In this secular Christmas celebration, a mythical figure named Santa Claus plays the pivotal role.
Christmas or Christmas Day (Old English: Crīstesmæsse, literally “Christ’s mass”) is an annual commemoration of the birth of Jesus Christ, celebrated generally on December 25 as a religious and cultural holiday by billions of people around the world. A feast central to the Christian liturgical year, it closes the Advent season and initiates the twelve days of Christmastide. Christmas is a civil holiday in many of the world’s nations, is celebrated by an increasing number of non-Christians, and is an integral part of the Christmas and holiday season.
Two of these 3 definitions do address what I mentioned earlier, that any number of secular of pagan traditions have become part of the traditional celebration of Christmas and many secular and non-Christian people still celebrate “Christmas” as a gift giving holiday in mid-winter, however all three have something in common.
All three note that the origin of the Christmas holiday is Christian in origin and it is a religious celebration at it’s core. I, as a non-Christian though not an atheist, have no problem with this. I listen to religious Christmas carols and listen to the story of the Nativity every year before I open presents with my family. These aspects are not particularly important to my enjoyment (well the carols are, I prefer them to most secular carols), but they certainly don’t offend me or make me feel marginalized or an outsider in my own family. It’s part of Christmas, always has been, always will be. If I chose to celebrate solstice the situation would be different, but I don’t, I choose to celebrate the Federal and religious holiday that is Christmas.
Now that we have established the Christmas is both a Federal and religious holiday, we can talk about how ridiculous it is for people to demand that nativity scenes be removed from Public Property.
First, as Pat Condell said, it does not actually physically or emotionally harm anyone to see a Nativity scene. If it does cause you emotional harm…well I hate to be rude, but stop being a wimp and grow the fuck up. It’s a plaster and plastic cast of shepherds, sheep, Wisemen, parents, and a baby in a manger. Even if certain church or denomination has hurt you grievously in the past and caused to irreparable emotional scarring, I highly doubt the nativity is going to be the object that brings back debilitating flashbacks of horror.
Second, should there be secular displays and displays of other religions as well as the Nativity? If the display is maintained by a public organization, such as the city or state government, then absolutely. If taxes are going to maintain it, then we should put up displays that show the belief systems of the other holidays that are celebrated at this time of the year. This is not because those are Federal holidays, which Hanukkah and Kwanzaa and Solstice are not, but because we are a country that has many diverse religions and traditions and we should show that proudly. However, if the display is paid for and maintained by a private entity, which many are even when they are placed on public property, then that entity is under no obligation to put up other displays to represent any other faith.
Third, is it a violation of church and state? No, it is not. ‘Huh?’ you say, ‘but isn’t a Nativity scene favoring one religion over another?’ Well, yes, I guess you can put it that way, if the only display is the Nativity. However it isn’t really, because it is a Christmas decoration and Christmas is the Federal Holiday so the display is honoring a specific holiday. The Nativity is just as much a Christmas decoration as a Jolly Old Saint Nick or a Red Nosed Reindeer and tiny little elves and snow flakes.
The actual question you should be asking is. Is Christmas as a federal holiday a violation of church state separation? Possibly, but do you really want to take Christmas out as a Holiday? Is it really hurting you so much to be surrounded by holiday cheer and Angels singing on high and peace on earth, goodwill toward men? If so, then I have one thing to say to you. Hello there, Scrooge, I hope you get a few visits from some ghosts on Christmas Eve.
Fourth. I know quite a few atheists, or did once upon a time when I considered myself an atheist as well. Now I basically just know my brother. However one of the key things that I heard a lot of things about how the Bible was really just a fictional story that (depending on the person) was very poorly written, very well written, interesting, boring, morally reprehensible, had a few good things to teach about morality. Just a story. So why is it that a holiday that is based on some fictional account of a baby being born in a barn, is so offensive to an Athiest or Liberal’s sensibilities?
I know that Star Wars is just a story, completely fictional. However there is an entire religion based on The Force. There are huge groups of a devoted fan base that worship The Force and even those that don’t follow the religion still collect relics, dress in odd clothing, and attend huge gatherings to, essentially, worship the films. Do I ask that Star Wars conventions be shut down? No, absolutely not, because while I’m not a Star Wars fan (I’m a Trekky okay) I know that it’s just a story, that some people enjoy and maybe put a little too much of their lives into.
So if I don’t demand that Star Wars conventions be shut down (which are both more physically and olfactory offensive than Christmas and probably much less healthy for the convention attendees) why is it that a bunch of plaster fictional characters on a lawn can invoke such irrationality?
Sure, almost all religions have their problems and almost all have done bad and harmful things to society at one time or another and I fully support stopping harm done to society by religion, but how is Christmas and Mary, Joseph and Baby Jesus hurting society? I’d say the story of Christmas, redemption and hope, are one of the best things imparted by Christianity.
I just don’t get it.
*Mostly because the presents are wrapped already, baking is in the oven, my family (minus the brother) are all at Christmas Eve services, and I still have several hours before I can start unwrapping the ones with my name on them.
How is it that this guy manages to have basically all the same views as myself? It’s almost eery.
I think my Christmas wish this year is that, somehow, I will be able to meet him in person and get drunk with him and discuss politics. That would be the most amazing thing ever.
Even if the name “War on Christmas” is a bit silly, it still happens. I blame Progressive and “politically correct” liberals, Atheist and Theist alike.
I’m not Christian, but there are definitely some beautiful religious Christmas songs out there that I really love to listen to at this time of year.
#1. O Holy Night
#2. Oh Little Town of Bethlehem
#3. Got Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
#4. The First Noel
#5. Silent Night
and in German, the language it was composed in and that I have also sang it in.
#6. Angels We Have Heard On High
#7. Come All Ye Faithful
#8. What Child Is This
You know, I used to know how to play this song on the Psaltry…
#9. It Came Upon A Midnight Clear
And these last two are precisely Christmas, but they are religious and related to Christmas and I do love them both.
#10. Mary Did You Know
#11. Sing Mary Sing – Jennifer Knapp
A song by one of my favorite musicians, top ten for sure.