Monday, December 25, 2006

Christmas??? Back to the Reasons for the Season

As regular readers of A Better Nation know, I am an atheist. As a teenager and up until I was about 36, I was a downright demonstrative atheist. But then I came to see righteousness of any sort as a weapon that all too easily backfired. Nothing entrenches fundamentalists more than opposing fundamentalists, what many call "the enemy". So to acknowledge and function surrounded by the irrational superstitions of our species, I softened my tone and even my thinking. I gradually began (and it has taken years) to live a more virtuous life of acceptance, tolerance and compassion. Believe you me, some humility and self-depricating humor go a long, long way toward where I think most of us want to go, even that big one, Peace On Earth. So no demagoguery from me, though the journey toward virtue is an ongoing journey.

In that vein, then, don't we need a bit of a head's up here?

Whether religious or materialistic, and even as they protest the need to get back to the meaning of the holiday season, Americans have become fundamentalists of the "do unto others before they do unto you" sort, and what a perversion of the golden rule that is. That outlaw Jesus guy, he turned the other cheek, not that such radical forgiveness is letting someone off the hook. Turning thusly means that we acknowledge wrongs, but we don't prolong punishment, and we certainly don't escalate or glorify punishment.

So lordy lordy, not for heaven's sake but for our sakes, let's get back to basics. This sort of Christmas conversation and even conversion is what it's all about. For pagans and muslims and atheists and for born-agains alike.

The golden rule is: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. To achieve this, we must more often imagine ourselves in horrible circumstances, without resources, protections or health, without even the ability to help ourselves. We do unto others best when we take for granted not ability but frailty, not help but helplessness, not life day to day but death.

Our time is precious. And moments and days of goodness are as good as it gets.

Praise be to humans who exude such goodness.


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