Wednesday, December 10, 2008

God! This Shit Just Tires Me Out.

...he said with the faintest whiff of irony.

I rarely do serious because, frankly, I don't do it all that well. I tend to ramble. I'm waaaay too lazy to do a bunch of research. I'm keenly aware that I'm just one more schmuck on the internet and why should anybody give a shit what I think?

Today, I'm doing serious. Well, my version anyway.

Those of you who know me, know that I grew up in an observant Jewish home and I still self-identify as Jewish, but of the utterly unobservant variety. I'm not Atheist and I don't think I'm Agnostic. I'm fairly certain I believe there's a God. Here's a short (incomplete) list of some things I believe about God.

-He's the same God everybody else believes in regardless of what they call him
-His ego doesn't require that I praise him. He's really secure like that.
-He's got enough people asking him for crap all the time. He won't miss it if I don't join in.
-He doesn't really care if I have cheese on a burger or think shrimp is totally yummy. (O.K. he might care, but shrimp is really really delicious so, hopefully he'll give me a pass on that one.)
-He's so Almighty, he was capable of Intelligently Designing a world where Evolution is just how shit works.
-He may have been a Details Guy once upon a time, but now he just checks in every once in a while and lets us sink or swim on our own. (That whole Noah and the Flood thing was sort of like a kid growing bored with how the ants were tunneling in their ant farm. Hey! Let's shake this sucker up and see what they come up with if they have to start over again.)
-He doesn't really care whether or not I believe in him. (See item 2)
-He doesn't give a rat's ass who wins any sporting event (except when the Red Sox are playing, but even then he's got a rule against interfering).
-There may or may not be a Heaven. People who live their lives solely for the sake of going there really piss him off.

So that's the short list. And what, pray tell, prompts me to bother you with this? Only the annual You stole Christmas-I want a Menorah-Look at my Yule Log-Pagans did it first-Name your offended sensibility Season. Yesterday, Jeri threw out a little post about the annual controversy and a display put up by the Freedom From Religion Foundation. I don't plan to talk about that one specifically. Go read it there.

No, I want to talk about how every year, a bunch of rude, self-important assholes of every variety seem to make it their goal in life to fuck up everybody elses' December. It turns into taking what should be a really enjoyable part of the year and doing everything they can think of to fill it with angst and anxiety and confrontation. How did we get here?

Let's start with a common assertion that is wrong, wrong, Wrong, WRONG, WRONG! Regardless of which religious argument taking place, there are a bunch of people who start out with the assertion that this is a Christian Nation and somehow, they're just letting the rest of us live in it. Well, it's not a Christian Nation. Christianity is certainly the dominant faith in our society, but the Founding Fathers went out of their way to set things up in a fashion that prevents Christians from lording it over the rest of us. (Note: Anyone who steps in from the cold to argue that point with me will not get an argument from me. You're just wrong. You're as wrong as you'd be if you tried to tell me I won't get wet if I stand in the rain. You're as wrong as you'd be if you tried to tell me I can breath on the moon. Get it? You're just wrong. Stop saying that.)

Anyway, despite what the Founding Fathers set up, Christians basically lorded it over the rest of us for the first 170 or so years of our history in an unofficial sort of way. Then, during the Cold War, in an effort to differentiate ourselves from Godless Communists, God started showing up in all sorts of official places like our National Motto and the Pledge of Allegiance, etc. etc. A few spoil-sport Athiests started complaining almost immediately, but in a fairly quiet sort of way, cause, ya'know, they may have been Godless, but they sure as hell didn't want to be called Communists. And besides that, nobody was listening to them because...well, they're Godless!

Now all along, every Town Hall and Court Bldg. and you name it, had been blithely going along putting up their Christmas decorations every year and, for the most part, nobody complained becuase....well, just because. That's the way things had always been.

Eventually ( and I don't know when---remember that lack of research thing?), somebody did complain. I have no idea who complained first or when. Coulda been some Jew. Maybe the Atheists. Possibly Space-Wiccans from the Planet Solstice. Doesn't matter. Let the court cases fly!

Now, the (incomprehensible) rules are that if anybody gets to put up their decorations, everybody gets to put up their decorations. But all of the decorations have to be some generic non-blatantly-religious celebration of the season and it can't offend anyone elses' beliefs and it can't push your own beliefs and yadda, yadda, fucking yadda.

A little aside here: This seems to be something of a four-horse race here. Christians, of course have Christmas. Jews have Channuka, which, truth be told, is a really really minor Festival, but just happens to fall at the same time of year. Wiccans and Pagans and I guess some other people have the Winter Solstice. And Athiests don't have anything in particular except an aversion to having any of that other shit forced down their throats. (I have no idea what a Ramadan display looks like, but I'd be interested in seeing what would happen if a bunch of Muslims showed up at City Hall with a few decorations at the end of next summer. On second thought, one shitstorm a year is enough.)

It's been suggested (and I mostly agree), that none of these religious displays belong on public property especially if they're paid for with public funds. I mean honestly, aren't there enough Churches and Synagogues and private homes around that get decorated? I light a Menorah for Channuka and it doesn't offend my girlfriend. (It doesn't have any deeply religious meaning for me; it's just kind of festive and homey.) We also usually hang a fairly big wreath over the front door and I don't feel the least bit oppressed by it. (We don't put any lights on it, but that's only because there isn't a convenient outlet to plug them into.)

Stores and businesses are free to decorate any way they want to, although if they choose to cater to one religion to the exclusion of all others, they shouldn't be surprised if those they ignore choose to ignore them right back.

So where the hell am I going with all this? This is my impassioned plea to everyone to just grow a little thicker skin and Shut The Fuck Up about it all already. As much as I'd like to see all of it eliminated from public property, that's just not going to happen any time soon. There's a reasonably fair balance now and just how the hell does it hurt or coerce me if there's a fucking tree in front of City Hall. Hell, I grew up when Nativity Scenes were the norm at public buildings and while I think it's apprpriate that they've toned that down, I also have no memory of Baby Jeses ever leaping out of the manger and going all Chucky on my ass.

And I don't really have a problem with different towns and neighborhoods putting up lights and wintery decorations and the like. Hey, I'm bummed enough that it gets dark ten minutes after my second cup of coffee. Go ahead and cheer up the joint a little.

The way I see it, every time one of us starts hollering about what should or shouldn't be included, we're simultaneously depriving someone else of their cherished traditions. Does it really hurt so badly to have a cashier say Merry Christmas to you even if you don't celebrate the holiday? She's just being nice and friendly to you. Get over it.

The guy who owns one of the Delis in my neighborhood is Muslim. He knows damned well I'm Jewish. If I walk in there on December 25th, he's going to wish me a Merry Christmas and offer me a shot of brandy, just like he does every year. How dare he trample my rights like that, the evil fuck?

19 comments:

vince said...

Gee, a rant. How shocking. But I agree. It's like the gay marriage thing. It may be against your religious belief, but this is not a theocracy (not that there aren't those who think it should be).

So celebrate (or don't celebrate) whatever you want however you want as long as you don't try to demand I play follow the leader.

"Can't we all just shut the fuck up?"

Janiece Murphy said...

Oh, Nathan.

You're my new celebrity boyfriend.

(Not really, Anon GF. But I do love him in a purely platonic, ironic, you made me laugh out loud and I love this blog post kind of way.)

I'm totally going to use your "...Baby Jeses ever leaping out of the manger and going all Chucky on my ass" line, with full credit to you.

And tell you Muslim neighbor to straighten up and fly right, will you? How dare a Muslim extend a hand in friendship to a Jew! Clearly he's been taken off the distribution list, and needs a refresher.

Tania said...

Nathan, you are awesome.

As a non-believer I reserve the right to celebrate all the holidays because I can and it makes me happy.

Which is why I'm working on perfecting latkes...

neurondoc said...

1. My brother-in-law (not really since Prop 8 passed, but that's how I think of him) wrote the Chucky movies, and he'll love that line.

2. My neighbors are Muslim, and obviously received an enormous wreath as a gift (!) shortly after they moved in a few years ago. Not having any desire to hang it up, they kindly gave it to their neighbors -- my husband and me. 2 Jews with no desire to do the decoration thing. I though it was ironically funny.

3. In my mind "Merry Christmas" really means "Happy Holidays", and I happily take it as such.

neurondoc said...

Mmmm. Latkes. Perfect them? Why bother? Just use the Manishewitz mix...

Nathan said...

Neurondoc,

Your BIL wrote the Chucky movies? Holy Crap.

No offense, but that totally beats the crap out of getting hits from your .gov IP (which I love). (I also get all jello-ish over hits from that NASA.gov IP. I just think that's so cool.)

You've outdone yourself.

Tania said...

I've never tried the mix, I'm one of those nutbars that likes to make things from scratch. But...if you recommend it I'll give it a try!

Jeri said...

Nathan, I too am now crushing on you. I could have just skipped writing my little silly blog post if you'd just written this one to begin with, dammit..

Nicely ranted. Wonderfully acerbic. Can I have some of what you're drinking?

kimby said...

Blogger just ate my rant:(

Nathan, I am so using your Chucky quote in Religion and Culture class today, where we are going to try once again to talk about the holiday season and the rights of public display. We tried last week, but tempers heated quickly....(I will give you full credit for the quote of course...maybe I will show the whole rant..)

Konstantin said...

I love when people say Merry Christmas to me.

I once had a person who knew I was a jew wished me A Happy Hanukkah, which was a bit uncomfortable, with my eye brows doing a "Ah, Ok dude, thnx but that's not how it is really".

Anyway good rant. Solid, with spit and foaming at the mouth.

I love Christmas, the reason being that I have a chance driving my little girl around the suburbs showing her all of the lights and decorations.

mattw said...

I agree, people around this time of the year need to relax and enjoy what they have. Everyone should have to take a chill pill this big *holds hands far apart*. Better yet, make it a suppository so that next year they'll think twice about getting upity. Otherwise they'll need another dose.

Nathan said...

Kimby,

I soooo want to be a fly on the wall if you show this post to a "Religion and Culture" class. It's not exactly one that you could clean up.

GF--Self imposed F-Bomb moratorium begins.............Now!

Ilya said...

I'm just going to say, "Amen, Nathan".

In a completely non-religious way, mind you.

neurondoc said...

I've never tried the mix, I'm one of those nutbars that likes to make things from scratch. But...if you recommend it I'll give it a try!

My aunt who writes cookbooks uses a mix. I must admit my eyes popped out of my head when she told me, but it is true. I am no cook, so you take her recommendation... With enough sour cream or applesauce, it doesn't matter anyway. :-)

Yes, Nathan, my BiL wrote the Chucky movies. I have even slept in a room with Chucky and Tiffany dolls used in the movies without them killing me. Chucky is nice to me, because I am his "aunt". We used that logic successfully with my daughter when we visited my bro and BiL in October --> "Chucky is a mean doll, but since Uncle Donny made him up, he likes you."

Hey, does this count as a hijack???

Nathan said...

Hey, does this count as a hijack???

Not really. I invited the Chucky part. And the latkes? Sorry, I'm so disorganized that it's really hard to go so far afield that you're considered off topic.

Try harder.

neurondoc said...

Crap. I'll keep trying.

Carol Elaine said...

Nathan, here's your nasa.gov hit for today...

Neurondoc, you slept in the same room as the Chucky and Tiffany dolls and survived? You're made of tougher stuff than me.

(I've only seen Seed of Chucky and that only because Nicholas Rowe had a bit part in it, which was, of course, near the end of the movie. *sigh* The things I watch for the actors I like.)

Nathan, I agree with you re: your beliefs about God. However, I am one of those folks who get a little het up about the utter preponderance of Christian stuff all over the place because, frankly, it's the fundy Christians that piss me off to no end. Christians who actually practice the teachings of Jesus? Y'all are cool. I respect you. "Christians" who get in my face, try to sell me on the "Word of God" and preach hate? Get the fuck out of my face before I kick yours. Admittedly, my skin is a bit on the thin side and I just don't see that changing any time soon.

(Disclosure: I was raised Christian, though not in a devout household. Oddly enough, I was the only person in my family who went to church with any kind of regularity when I was a kid, mainly because I got to learn new stuff. I loved learning new stuff.)

Also, Nathan: "Baby Jeses ever leaping out of the manger and going all Chucky on my ass."

Best. Line. Ever.

neurondoc said...

Neurondoc, you slept in the same room as the Chucky and Tiffany dolls and survived? You're made of tougher stuff than me.

(I've only seen Seed of Chucky and that only because Nicholas Rowe had a bit part in it, which was, of course, near the end of the movie. *sigh* The things I watch for the actors I like.)


Yup, I lived.

I got to go to the premiere of Seed of Chucky. It was truly a highlight of my life, even though I am a nonviolent person by nature and HATE horror movies. A total blast. I might even have met Nicholas Rowe, although I was so jet-lagged, I have no idea who I met or talked to.

Coolest moment was my brother introducing me to Jennifer Tilly and having her know who I was. Her: "You're the doctor in Washington, right?" Me: "Um... er... yes. And whatever my brother told you, I didn't do it..." :-)

Carol Elaine said...

If you had met Nicholas Rowe, I would probably die of envy. I had a HUGE crush on him when he starred in Young Sherlock Holmes and I still think he's pretty damned cute, even if it is hard to see his work on this side of the pond.

(His role was so tiny it's doubtful he would have come to the U.S. for the premiere. Still, Nicholas Rowe... *swoon*)

And yeah, that is pretty cool about Jennifer Tilly. I'm excited that Mike Farrell actually knows me by name now. We've met enough times over the years and we have mutual friends so it's not surprising. But it's still exciting!