Tag Archives: solstice

My First Atheist Podcast – The Imaginary Friends Show Episode 162: Apostasy, Science Journals, and Christmas

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Thanks to Australian blogger Martin Pribble, I was invited by the host of The Imaginary Friends Podcast Jake (if the iTunes link does not work the web link to the podcast is here). Together with Tim Farley (of the James Randi Foundation) we had a serious and tongue in cheek look at some key stories we had all picked out. My fear of not being hot on Australian politics was mitigated when comparing the words of Tim Wilson, self styled government department head of newly renamed “Freedom Commission” to The Dark Knight dialogue. Not as easy as it sounds.

So for a discussion about apostasy (where I should have added that Jehovah’s Witnesses shun apostates also to stop the spreading of rival ideas to Governing Body teaching), luxury science journals and the rise of open access journals, the winter solstice as the festive celebration for one and all (as if we needed a reason in December to make Merry), sexuality as a continuum and the death of the fraud “end is nigh” bill board man Harold Camping.

In the next podcast we discuss Martin’s Slate article which caused a stir, on him leaving the online atheist community. Which, even with the hell edited out of his original post by Slate, has taken a life beyond his intention let alone words. Essentially Martin was saying “I am not beating my head against a brick wall arguing with a fundamentalist theist to feel superior anymore – I want to get past that and actually do something with more constructive engagement.”

Probably, like most of the thousand comments on Slate, even I am misrepresenting what Martin means. Occupational hazard – when saying everyone from antiquity to now celebrates festivities in December so let us use the solstice and if possible Christmas to have a universal marking of time and the season was misunderstood by some in comments on Harry’s Place as:

Don’t celebrate Christmas if you are not a Christian/You should only celebrate the solstice

So however you were planning on celebrating December 25, have a Merry Christmas. But might I encourage you, and those that never celebrate Christmas Day, to consider this Saturday what happens on earth to all and how humanity has marked the passing of time.

No one should do anything “pagan” for Christmas

The Romans during this festive time had slaves the equal with masters. This is the time to remember that whether as Children of Creation, or citizens, we are in equal need of the milk of human kindness. Stripped bare we need the same fundamentals to survive. If anything is sacrilegious, people dying due to lack of food, water and shelter on this earth is. A baby born in this world should be celebrated as a messiah – wherever and whenever it takes place.

Using symbols of nature to brighten up the home as a reminder that life carries on, whether bearing fruit on the holly or with a kiss under the mistletoe in the hope that unrequited love just might be reciprocated to kindle a romance to warm cold winter nights.

Christmas needs a make over/needs to adapt

Not really as I state “Especially given majority of people do not celebrate December with Christ’s birth in mind.” My point is a universal coming together that transcends religious dogma, claim to monopoly – the solstice as a natural event fits the bill perfectly as a separate event. I have already made clear plan Christmas however you want – though I do show a weakness for finding the perfect gift for someone that shows you have been attentive to them through the year.

If you can do that with Christmas great, but if for whatever reason you cannot then:

may be [my dream can be] embraced by all as a universal festival for a shared human spirit. Like all dreamers I am not the only one. Perhaps an interfaith approach of celebrating a religious festival as it is, with all the trimmings and inclusive, may work for those that do faith and feel comfortable celebrating another faith. However, I am calling for something that is not religious – though it may borrow (or reclaim) from them – but an observance of the season, marking time, and celebrating life with each other. Something for everyone.

Which makes the Winter Solstice and Christmas the platform to build on.

I must have high functioning Aspergers/no need to mark the solstice

I mention how some will be dead against the idea – but frankly who cares if people want to mark the solstice? Why should that worry you that some may find more meaning in celebrating that way than on Christmas Day? As I say it is up to you to celebrate as you want, when you want, how you want. Do not listen to anyone who says do not do this or that regarding being genuinely festive.

My point: there is no right or wrong way to celebrate December – just some of us do not consider being plonked down in front of the television as celebrating life, nature, community and passage of time. Just like twitter is a pale substitute for actually talking to people, being in each other’s company.

In short, and this maybe blasphemy, but there is more to December than Doctor Who.

Religion is stupid and pretending your own is more ‘authentic’ just because it predates Christianity is moronic/The entire discussion is a waste of time. Do what you want, let other people be, end of story

I was arguing against anyone claiming authenticity – pointing out December has always been a month stretching back in time for festivities. I agree people should be able to do what they want but alas:

Such a festival is one I would like to invite all to celebrate together at this time of year. In a world where Ahmadi Muslims can be arrested for celebrating Islamic festivals in Pakistan, puritanical Christian sects ban Christmas inspired frivolity for followers or Christians seeing my suggestion as a secular war on Christmas, this might be a big ask.

I should have added a big celebration of Christmas in the Middle East could be a death sentence – Tom Holland makes that point for me here.

I was saying people are not allowed sometimes to do what they want.

In fairness other people did also get what I was saying:

      “The Solstice is experienced by all, those noon time shadows are the longest with the low arc of the Sun in the Northern Hemisphere, as the shortest day approaches on Saturday December 21 2013.”

‘And three days later the sun is ‘reborn’, the cycle is renewed and we celebrate the return of the sun and longer days. Nice post by Mr Sargeant. A happy Winter Soltice/Saturnalia and salutations to all, including those who celebrate various Faith (or Victorian) based events at this time of year.’

———

      ‘Seeing this [post], I took advantage of our rather patchy sun and went out to admire my tall shadow riding on enormous wheels’

        ‘Agreed with a rider to the effect that the Winter Soltice is a real event.’

So no worries Martin, being misunderstood happens to us all in blogosphere.

Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog

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Merry Christmas! But I’m Dreaming Of A Solstice For All

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Let me quickly tell you my dream – a “Christmas” for all that is not sectarian, nor dogmatic but life celebrating and all encompassing. Some Christians will say you need the Christ in Christmas. Some atheists may deride this as religion without the supernatural, and with two thirds of humanity not being Christian, many may be concerned I am choosing one particular religious festival to writ large for all. Especially given majority of people do not celebrate December with Christ’s birth in mind.

Yet this dream may be embraced by all as a universal festival for a shared human spirit. Like all dreamers I am not the only one. Perhaps an interfaith approach of celebrating a religious festival as it is, with all the trimmings and inclusive, may work for those that do faith and feel comfortable celebrating another faith. However, I am calling for something that is not religious – though it may borrow (or reclaim) from them – but an observance of the season, marking time, and celebrating life with each other. Something for everyone.

Which makes the Winter Solstice and Christmas the platform to build on.

Not Biblical But Pagan

Christmas was seen by puritans as celebrating a non commemorated event by the apostles, in the style of a modern day pagan Roman worshipping Saturn in December, where his festival:

“Saturnalia was famous for copious feasting, excessive boozing, light-hearted pranks, big gatherings of family and friends, and the exchange of gifts.” [Greg Jenner – read more on his history of Christmas here]

The merrymaking in December is one that transcends the Christian calendar. Even today some Christian sects (like Jehovah’s Witnesses) prohibit followers celebrating Christmas because of the God Saturn.

As coincidence would have it, the Solstice falls on Saturn’s day of the week – Saturday 21 December.

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Commercial intoxication

Most activity this month involves the ringing of tills over bells of joy. Wringing purses to celebrate the presence together of humanity in a crowded mall purchasing the latest must have presents. Later gathering for an orgy of food to gorge and getting the booze in, training in preparation for the following week to vomit out the old year seeing in a new one through blood shot eyes.

So while some American Christians get narked at bill boards with atheists saying you don’t need Christ for Christmas, there is perhaps another way of seeing the Solstice that might include everyone of goodwill. With more to it then getting plastered and deeper in debt, but less to do with a divine baby being born to be crucified as the greatest human sacrifice of all time.

Narrative Beyond Nativity

Humanism is finding a universal idea which recognises cultural festivities as stressing the human needs and wants which all can relate to. Invoking a good life while having a good time.

Religion and traditions get this by invigorating us with celebratory festivals. The traditional over the theological for popular customs enhances the cultural aspect – for example it was St Francis of Assisi who popularised the barn animals at the birth of Jesus. Not biblically accurate, but an excuse to have a child dressed as the back end of a cow at the local school nativity play. A community sharing a common experience that is timeless through generations via a common narrative of storytelling that stretches back towards antiquity.

The Solstice is experienced by all, those noon time shadows are the longest with the low arc of the Sun in the Northern Hemisphere, as the shortest day approaches on Saturday December 21 2013. The marking of it goes even further in human history.

Gifts of Kindness

 

Buying a well thought out gift to someone shows you have been paying attention to them as a unique person. It makes the “better to give then to receive” adage come true. In the harshness of winter this is a time for family, friends, even strangers to come together as one. To celebrate life, as short cold day gives way to harsh long night, and renewal as after the Solstice the night begins to gradually fade.

The Romans during this festive time had slaves the equal with masters. This is the time to remember that whether as Children of Creation, or citizens, we are in equal need of the milk of human kindness. Striped bare we need the same fundamentals to survive. If anything is sacrilegious, people dying due to lack of food, water and shelter on this earth is. A baby born in this world should be celebrated as a messiah – wherever and whenever it takes place.

Using symbols of nature to brighten up the home as a reminder that life carries on, whether bearing fruit on the holly or with a kiss under the mistletoe in the hope that unrequited love just might be reciprocated to kindle a romance to warm cold winter nights.

My Dream

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This photo theme comes from publicising a Winter Solstice event at Liverpool Cathedral marking the world’s traditions across cultures and centuries.

Being festive is tackling the somber atmosphere of rain, wind and snow. We try to romanticise the bitter weather – a “White Christmas” becomes the perfect setting. Irving Berlin with that song, despite having lost a child on Christmas Day and not being a Christian himself, could get that. To commemorate not just the season, but life, hoping to do so with joy and kindness despite the highs and lows.

Such a festival is one I would like to invite all to celebrate together at this time of year. In a world where Ahmadi Muslims can be arrested for celebrating Islamic festivals in Pakistan, puritanical Christian sects ban Christmas inspired frivolity for followers or Christians seeing my suggestion as a secular war on Christmas, this might be a big ask.

Still I dream – celebrating life, hope of renew and kindness while making merry in December.

So however you were planning on celebrating December 25, have a Merry Christmas. But might I encourage you, and those that never celebrate Christmas Day, to consider this Saturday what happens on earth to all and how humanity has marked the passing of time.

So this Saturday 21 December when the Solstice takes place, see if you can live the dream I have outlined here too.

Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog

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World Humanist Day

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A time to reflect on summer solstice, of coming out of the shadows of the infancy of our species to this, the longest day in the Northern Hemisphere. Whilst people dance at stonehenge channeling the sprits of our ancestors, being a pagan at least for the day, or an excuse to party under the auspices of an ancient heritage, there is something else to say.

Today is world humanist day – the timing could not have been better chosen. Because here in the north the days will become shorter, whilst in the Southern Hemisphere the days will become lighter. The perspectives on humanism, depending on where you are situated philosophically speaking see humanism either as an ethical movement of thought and action, or as a godless attempt at morality destined to fail without acknowledging the need to recognise the divine. One reaches out to science as best hope of improving conditions for humanity, the other that the ultimate goal is to be one with God. We are either a means for a greater eternity that awaits, or this really is your one and only shot at life and consciousness.

Thus today is an opportunity for humanism to showcase that the light of the enlightenment burns brightly still, that there are people who care for their communities and beyond them without hope of reward in the next life, or out of fear of a revengeful deity. That the duties we owe to each other are based on the bonds of shared experience of human desires and needs – we are not free to be as we will but rather social beings in need of an existence that provides for the welfare for all to thrive as this allows us to prosper in turn. Only by living in such a society can we achieve a sense of freedom.

The God concept goes against this notion of freedom. Rather, it is used by people who claim to know directly, or to understand those that did once know, how you should and should not behave. What you should eat, whether medical treatment is permissible, what should turn you on – they will continue to insist on these things based on opinions and assertions by people who did not understand nutrition, human biology and sexuality as we now do.

In their arrogance to speak for the divine they would make us ignorant of the advances of science and human thought that have happened. The enemies of reason will even suggest that science threatens the natural order, and will open the floodgates to immorality – destroying civilisation.

History shows that argument has played over the centuries. We are imperfect, falling short of the ideals we can develop. The answer though is not to consider ourselves as wretched sinful creatures needful of redemption and grace. It is to strive to be better than we are to learn more, not because we will ever be perfect, but because by doing so we are making the world we live in better. Thus a sense of purpose and meaning exists for humanists.

However you are celebrating or marking today, may you be good for goodness sake as you continually look to lead the good life.

More information on World Humanist Day can be found from the International Humanist and Ethical Union site (where the above banner comes from).

Previous blog post: What is humanism?

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Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog

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