Saturday, January 17, 2009

I Don't Want What's In Your Head

A rant has been brewing since mid-December, and I think it's crystallising.

It all started with this exchange, quoted verbatim but redacted slightly:

Person #1: "one of the kids in the neighbor hood was telling another friend.that they dont say "Merry Christmas", because of so many Religions beliefs and their holidays. In school its "Happy Holidays" is this true. I dont know."

Person #2: " it will always be " MERRY CHRISTMAS" TO ME. Say what is in your heart, We can't give into the minority that is trying to take God away from us."

I have rarely come across such a hateful, narrow-minded, ethnocentric, ignorant expression of the repudiation of one of my core beliefs. I bit my tongue (or more literally, sat on my fingers), because this was in a forum completely unrelated to this topic, and I had no interest in even engaging with wilful blindness.

I'm not a religious person, though like many I had an upbringing filled with religious ritual (though little explicit spirituality) which pretty much revolved around food and family. I like the food and family part, but quite frankly the spiritual trappings of faith, and the notion of faith itself leave me at best unmoved, and generally make me want to run away, screaming. 

Me. For myself. 

I don't want it and can't subscribe to it.

However I absolutely support the right of anyone anywhere to believe in anything and practise the same as long as it does not involve their prescribing or proscribing my behaviour, except insofar as my behaviour infringes on their behaviour which may infringe on mine - but let me skip to the conclusion which is that I believe we should all treat each other's belief systems (not to mention cultural backgrounds and so on and so forth to quote - completely out of context - someone more amusing than I) with respect, and allow everyone to act upon their belief systems unless it hurts someone else.

Except for a couple of years in graduate school, I've always lived in countries in which the majority cultural belief system was not mine, and quite frankly, it very quickly gets very old having the majority continually make wrong assumptions about one just because they are too lazy and too narrow to consider the fact that majority homogeneity does not translate to individual homogeneity, and that a small adjustment in interactions with others, without altering one's internal status, can really go a long way in maintaining harmonious relations among disparate groups.

In other words, wishing strangers or at least non-intimates about whom one may not know the particulars of their traditions the inclusive "Happy Holidays" rather than the specific "Merry Christmas" is in my view more loving, more generous and more in the spirit touted by those for whom "Merry Christmas" is an accurate indication of their belief system or at least their culture.

I'm willing to step away from the possibility that December may not be holiday time for some around here, and that even wishing someone "Happy Holidays" is making unwarranted lifestyle assumptions, since at least in North America there are public holidays exempting most from work, so I'll grant you that "Happy Holidays" is not exclusionary by this minimal standard, though I'll admit that there's a part of me that wonders if even this is valid.

I am stunned and outraged by the notion that a warmly inclusive wish translates into a "minority that is trying to take God away from us"; so completely at odds with my preferred world view and personal behaviour guidelines (I'm not perfect. I'm sure I've expressed things injudiciously more than once).

The assumption that the non-Christmas-celebrating minority is either godless or proselytisingly godless is ludicrous, not to mention offensive, and in my mind is analogous to the vitriolic homophobic ravings of terrified homosexuals in denial. 

Clearly this person is unaware of other faiths practised by Jews, Moslems, Hindus, Jains, Baha'is, Sikhs, Buddhists, and Wiccans, to name a few, none of which is godless, although the individual views of deities may differ from both each other as well as the Christian view. One thing I do know is that none of the adherents of the above-mentioned faiths have any desire to "take God away" from anyone else. In fact, I know of few non-extreme atheists who either want this, or are likely to do anything more heinous that which the earnest young men in white dress shirts who knock on your door at inconvenient times want to do, and which is regarded as a contractual obligation of their faith, obnoxious as it may be to others trying to get some sleep on the weekend.

I know I'm going to sound like a beauty pageant contestant, but how on earth will we ever achieve world peace if views like this are propagated?

Hatefulness is awfully disheartening.

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