A defense of secular Christmas

❝There are two Christmases in America.

There’s the Christmas of an ethereal nativity scene featuring a sweet baby Jesus nestled in his manger, the north star shining bright over him, Mary, Joseph, the three wise men, angels, a shepherd, and animals in awe of the miracle of life.

There’s also the Christmas of Secret Santa, mistletoe, egg nog, ugly sweaters, the Great Holiday Baking Show, and the exchange of expensive Lego sets to your dearest loved ones.

❝In America, both Christmases are completely OK. They coexist, often within the same household. In fact, 91 percent of all people in the United States celebrate Christmas, including 81 percent of non-Christians in the U.S. who hang the stockings and trim the tree. Even higher is the proportion of non-theists who don all the gay apparel at 87 percent, according to the Pew Research Center…

❝Maybe this is because celebrating around this time of year is part of the human condition. The ancient Romans marked the end of autumn with parties and gifts during Saturnalia. Centuries later came Yule, a pagan ritual celebrating the beginning of winter and rebirth of the sun in the northern hemisphere (modern Wiccans and Druids are still getting their Yule on in 2015). And let’s not forget some of our most beloved songs of the season were written by brilliant Jews.

“There are those who are more evangelical in their beliefs, or staunchly religious, who say, ‘Why are you bothering? This is the holiday for Jesus Christ,’” Roy Speckhardt said. “But those who have a good knowledge of history know that it’s the Christians who stole Christmas from the pagans, and it’s a celebration that people have had around the winter solstice, really. Christians adopted it to make Christianity more palatable to early believers.”

❝In the US, however, is a growing contingent of those who don’t believe anything, known as the “nones.”

According to a Gallup poll released Christmas Eve, the percentage of Americans who identify as Christian has gone down 5 percentage points since 2008 (down to 75.2 percent this year), while the percentage of nones have gone up 5 percentage points (now at 19.6 percent). Religious non-Christians have remained around 5 percent. Meanwhile, a third of those 18-29 have no religious affiliation, as well as 26 percent of those 30-34…

❝No one is denying the religious nature of Christmas. “Most non-theist would not care either, if [Christmas activities and songs] were a little religious in nature,” Speckhardt said. “‘Silent Night’ is quite a pretty song, and I think people can appreciate it just for what it is: it’s good art. The main thing about the season is that it really brings people together. It’s about friendship, and family, and gift giving, as opposed to worrying about receiving.” And who doesn’t like that?

I’ll second that emotion.

Kiwis lead in religious liberty — Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster OK’d for marriages

Pastafarians, rejoice! New Zealand has now granted the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster the legal right to perform marriage ceremonies — and just in time for ChriFSMas!

…The Church of FSM came into its own in 2005 as a response to the proposal that the fundamentalist Christian theory of Intelligent Design be taught alongside evolution and natural selection in Kansas public schools. Adherents to the church, known as “Pastafarians,” are sometimes seen sporting their religious head coverings — colanders — in passport and official identification photos from countries around the world. While many insist that the Church of FSM cannot possibly be a serious institution, the church’s official website offers this rebuttal:

“The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, after having existed in secrecy for hundreds of years, came into the mainstream just a few years…Some claim that the church is purely a thought experiment or satire, illustrating that Intelligent Design is not a science, just a pseudoscience manufactured by Christians to push Creationism into public schools. These people are mistaken — The Church of FSM is legit, and backed by hard science. Anything that comes across as humor or satire is purely coincidental.”

New Zealand Registrar-General, Jeff Montgomery, explained the decision to grant Pastafarians the right to officiate marriages to stuff.co.nz:

“In considering the matter, I have referred to the Objects of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, reviewed material available online about this organization and considered other organizations already being able to nominate marriage celebrants.

“A review of media and the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster’s international website show a consistent presentation of their philosophies. While some claim this is a ‘parody organization,’ members have rebutted this on a number of occasions.

“As registrar-general, it is my role to apply relevant legislation . . .”

Congratulations to Pastafarians everywhere!