Let me say first that I am a pacifist insofar as the War on Christmas is concerned. Like all intelligent atheists, and I am sufficiently arrogant to count myself amongst that number, I believe that the “War on Christmas” is grossly overdone. My personal view is that, if it wasn’t started by Bill O’Reilly of the odious Fox News Network, the flames of the War on Christmas were most certainly fanned by him and his Faux News cohorts.
I find it passing strange that Craig Savage acknowledges that Jesus was not born on December 25 and that most of the trappings of Christmas have their origins in paganism, not secularism as the pastor stated, and yet I am compelled to ask why is it known as Christ’s Mass, and why is it celebrated on December 25. It is also rather strange that the pastor, in his column writes that “the party (i.e. turning water into wine), wasn’t about him, but nobody remembers whose wedding that was.” Little wonder there; only Jesus and his mother get a mention in John 2, with an oblique mention of the anonymous bridegroom at the end of verse 9.
A comment on an atheist website to which I subscribe puts the whole Christmas season, including the Winter Solstice, into a succinct and prosaically rational perspective: Axial inclination is the real reason for the season!
As everyone who read my Rational View series of columns during the first half of 2013 will know, I was raised in the High (Anglo-Catholic) Church of England. My first “encounter” with the real Catholic Church, rather than Henry VIII’s version, was during my military service in Italy. A few colleagues and I took a Christmas skiing vacation at Cortina d’Ampezzo in 1948, the future site of the 1956 Winter Olympics. On Christmas Eve we all went to midnight mass at the Church of San Giacomo – none of us was Catholic, but we all enjoyed the “exotic” ambiance of a real Italian church – the sounds, the smells, everything that appealed to the senses. When I returned to England and lived in London, my apartment was one half-mile from Westminster Abbey and the same distance, in the opposite direction, from Westminster Cathedral the Roman Catholic cathedral. I rarely went into the Abbey, but every Christmas Eve, if I was off-duty, I attended midnight mass at the Cathedral, not as a communicant but as a spectator.
I rationalised my admittedly odd behaviour by comparing it to my love of military ceremonies. I have always thought of war as an abomination, but I never missed The Trooping of the Colour nor a military tattoo or parade whenever I could see one. In the same way, I could insulate myself from the emotional appeal of religion and enjoy the spectacle of ceremony. I attended my last midnight mass at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Calgary about 20/25 years ago, many years after atheism had become my worldview. I don’t think I attended midnight mass very often after the celebration of the mass in the vernacular was approved by Vatican II. I had learned Latin at school, had loved it and can still recite passages of Virgil’s “The Aenid” in Latin.
Big deal, you may say, but I am what I am and I love my life in the certain knowledge that, when I “shuffle off this mortal coil” (Hamlet-speak for dying), nothing will follow.