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.

Montana trio applies for wedding license

A Montana man said…that he was inspired by the U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing gay marriage to apply for a marriage license so that he can legally wed his second wife.

Nathan Collier and his wives Victoria and Christine applied at the Yellowstone County Courthouse in Billings…in an attempt to legitimize their polygamous marriage. Montana, like all 50 states, outlaws bigamy — holding multiple marriage licenses — but Collier said he plans to sue if the application is denied.

County clerk officials initially denied Collier’s application, then said they would consult with the county attorney’s office before giving him a final answer, Collier said…

The county attorney copped out by saying he wouldn’t second-guess the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court’s ruling…made gay marriages legal nationwide. Chief Justice John Roberts said in his dissent that people in polygamous relationships could make the same legal argument that not having the opportunity to marry disrespects and subordinates them…

Collier said he is a former Mormon who was excommunicated for polygamy and now belongs to no religious organization. He said he and his wives hid their relationship for years, but became tired of hiding and went public by appearing on the reality cable television show “Sister Wives.”

The three have seven children of their own and from previous relationships.

“My second wife Christine, who I’m not legally married to, she’s put up with my crap for a lot of years. She deserves legitimacy,” he said…

Anne Wilde, a co-founder of the polygamy advocacy organization Principle Voices located in Utah, said Collier’s application is the first she’s heard of in the nation, and that most polygamous families in Utah are not seeking the right to have multiple marriage licenses.

“Ninety percent or more of the fundamentalist Mormons don’t want it legalized, they want it decriminalized,” Wilde said.

A federal judge struck down parts of Utah’s anti-polygamy law two years ago, saying the law violated religious freedom by prohibiting cohabitation. Bigamy is still illegal.

My friends used to tease me, saying I must believe firmly in marriage – otherwise I wouldn’t do it so often. Still, that describes – to me, anyways – how difficult it is to find really deep compatibility in our society. I don’t know that it’s so different from the past, just that freedom and opportunity are more widely accepted among educated folks.

And, yes, I’d say that’s a benefit – not a problem. My wife and I found each other just over 23 years ago and we get happier the more we know about each other – the more we learn about life and the world together.

Nathan and Victoria and Christine appear to be happy together. They’re not trying to harm anyone or steal from anyone. I don’t think they need to be classified as criminals.

Thanks, Ursarodinia

Religious folks who bring guns and flags to demonstrate their hatred

Some of the hundreds of protesters arriving at a Phoenix mosque on Friday evening to demonstrate their first amendment protections carried firearms, American flags and shouted expletives.

As the protesters arrived, they were met by hundreds of members of various religious and community groups, who had already gathered along the sidewalk opposite the entrance to the Islamic Community Center of Phoenix.

“I think this is the real story, not the bigotry,” said community center president Usama Shami, of those who offered support. “They’re standing against bigotry.”

Phoenix police had blocked off most streets in the residential area near the center, where the protest, its two sides separated by a two-way street lined with officers in riot gear, lasted nearly four hours…

“I understand the fears and I understand the hostility,” said pastor Bob Hake of the nearby Orangewood Nazarene Church, on Friday. “I think there’s a better way to resolve those fears than intimidation and weapons and fear.”

The hatred organizer, Jon Ritzheimer wore a bulletproof vest underneath a black T-shirt bearing the phrase “fuck Islam”…Hake said, Ritzheimer had chosen the wrong weapons when he encouraged his protesters to bring firearms on the event’s Facebook page.

This is not a battlefield, this a neighborhood,” Hake said.

Yes, there also were the kind of Christians and non-Christians I wouldn’t mind as next-door neighbors. They came to stand up in opposition to bigotry.

Guess who’s picking up the tab for the wedding of Mr. Burger & Ms. King

burger&king

Burger King is paying the expenses and providing gifts for the wedding of an Illinois couple with an interesting connection to the fast food restaurant chain. Joel Burger and Ashley King accepted the company’s proposal…

The couple has been known as Burger-King since they were in the fifth grade together, in New Berlin near Springfield.

The couple announced their engagement this spring with a photo next to the sign at a local Burger King restaurant. Although a woman’s name usually comes first in an engagement announcement, they decided to flip their names.

A Burger King spokesman says the company felt an overwhelming urge to help the happy couple celebrate their upcoming marriage.

Har.

What do you celebrate?

In our geek household, we celebrate holidays when We get days off from work. That’s irrelevant for me since I’m retired; but, all the more important because my honey and I get an extra weekday together – instead of only the evening through to morning. Make sense?

We celebrate New Year’s Eve and Valentine’s Day because the first is my wife’s birthday, the second is mine. We celebrate MLK Day. Memorial Day in its original form – remembering the Civil War. Independence Day, Labor Day. Veterans Day is Armistice Day in our home. Again, we’re celebrating the original.

Thanksgiving is a perfectly reasonable holiday; but, remember to reflect on the lot of First Nation folks who didn’t exactly invite us in – and were brutally shoved aside. I used to belong to a sport club named for Metacomet who damned near wiped out all those original English colonists.

Lots of folks get their knickers bunched over what should be a special December event – whether it be Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or Festivus. Essentially, we celebrate the winter solstice. There are Druids on both sides of our relationship and neither of us is religious. My wife is a student of Buddhist philosophy [among others] and I’m a philosophical materialist, dialectician, existential and atheist. Wandering the roadways and footpaths of our small bosque community with Sheila the dog – is plenty of celebration.

What are we thankful for? Well, today we celebrated our 254th Lunaversary. We take time to express our thanks to each other for another wonderful month since we were married here in the courtyard at Lot 4. We celebrate the regular anniversaries, too. Of course. But, we consider ourselves exceptionally fortunate to have found each other…and celebrate that every month.

Have a mellow holiday, folks. We send you our love and respect.

Wearable tech, Japanese style: Smart bra unlocks for true love

In one of the more absurd examples of wearable technology we’ve seen lately, a Japanese firm has created a high-tech bra called the True Love Tester that literally snaps open only when it senses that the woman is in love.

Lingerie maker Ravijour developed the bra as part of a campaign to celebrate the company’s 10th anniversary. Featuring embedded sensors and a high-tech clasp, the True Love Tester bra connects to a smartphone app via Bluetooth. Sensors monitor the woman’s heart rate and the app analyzes the received data to figure out whether the woman is in the grip of true love.

The designers point out that the type of excitement a woman feels when she’s in love is distinguishable from other types of excitement. Presumably that spares the wearer from her bra dropping off at the sight of her favorite snack…

The bra’s makers do seem to take measuring true love quite seriously, though. There’s a graph in the promotional video that plots the woman’s heart rate alongside shopping, jogging, watching horror movies, flirting, getting a surprise gift and eating spicy food. The bra’s clasp comes undone automatically, but only when the “true love rate” exceeds a particular value…

Seems only fair and reasonable to make a companion piece. Say, a zipper for men’s jeans.