In my own unique way, I’ve a Christmas message for you. It’s likely to be the oddest Christmas message you’ve ever read.
First, to get something out of the way: as an atheist, I loath the typical atheist political activism and am happy I’ve observed it to be less prevalent this year. Good; people are maybe finally getting a life, realizing that a manger scene in the public square is truly not a sign of the end of rational civilization. Second, as an American, having grown up in the Christian tradition, I celebrate Christmas, not some generic, one-size-fits-all, nebulous and non-specific "Holiday."
The Christ story, whether you take it literally or metaphorically, is obviously quite a powerful one. I happen to take it in the latter. Those who take it literally or historically miss the whole boat. It’s not a question of whether he really existed or not, or, if he did, in the way it has been recorded; or, if he was really the son of a mythological supernatural being. The importance of the Jesus story is in the ideas. Those, truly, are eternal. Those are what were created and resurrected, if you will, and exist as if he had roamed the Earth yesterday. Thus, the core problem with fundamentalism (in all faiths) is that the ideas, by being set in a literal context, are disconnected from the current, real context of life. So, instead of grasping an opportunity to ponder and perhaps learn from the moral teachings of Jesus, one is left in a concrete-bound, seemingly irrelevant melange of mostly historical context that bears little relevance to a modern human life. Fundamentalists idiotically exchange literalism for meaning.
And literalism breeds legalism, intolerance, and irreconcilable divisiveness, as we see increasingly on all religious fronts. And it will remain irreconcilable.
Now, I certainly don’t buy all of the moral teachings of Jesus, not by a long shot. On the other hand, I am awed by the power of an idea. Moreover, the fact that this core idea resonates as it does is something not to be ignored. This suggests to me that the Jesus message of peace on Earth and goodwill to men is a core human value and we ought to find ways in this modern world to take it to heart and to celebrate it.
But the political process is no way to achieve that. Not in the slightest. Not ever. Not a little bit. The state is no way to either impose or even encourage spiritual values, because the state is force and force is the antithesis of humanity. The state is concerned with the literal and its consequent legalisms. Why do you think it is that the fundamentalists the world over are primarily concerned with political action? It’s because they are literalistic and legalistic. They go hand-in-hand with the state and its power to oppress.
This is why I am both atheist and anarchist. It’s because I’m spiritual, but I draw my spirituality from metaphor, from "deeper" meaning, and not from literalism or statute. Fundamental religion and the state are enemies of the human spirit, of morality, of meaning, of truth, of love, of beauty.
The state captured, imprisoned, tortured, convicted, and executed Jesus and has been trying to co-opt the ideas ever since. The state never creates or produces anything of value. It only steals that which has already been created and produced, just as it has been doing with Jesus, the metaphor, for centuries.
Here’s a story of how his fabled birth would pretty much go down if it happened today.
Merry Christmas, and especially: peace and goodwill.