This is just to wish all the American readers of this blog a happy 4th July. I hope you have a great day, and enjoy the celebrations.
Archive for the ‘Seasonal Greetings’ Category
This is just to wish everyone reading my blog a very happy Easter. Whether you’re a Christian or not, I hope you and your family and friends are having a great weekend, and will go back to work on Tuesday renewed and refreshed. Or just that bit less worn out and hassled than usual.
Okay, this is just to everyone know that I’m off for the weekend, and won’t be around till Tuesday. So, if you want to debate something or raise a question, wait til then. I hope everyone has a great weekend, and look forward to coming back to this on Tuesday.
Well, the old year has finally gone, and the new year has arrived, welcomed in, I must say, with the usual massive rejoicing. In the streets around my own home there was the customary cheering, shouting and hollering, along with the banging of pots, pans and such like. Someone was also letting off fireworks: very festive, even if it did sound at times like a missile exchange was going on just outside my window. It’s all very quiet around here at the moment. Presunably all the revellers are inside recovering from the wild jubilation of last night.
Anyway, regardless of whether people were out celebrating last night, or had a quiet night in, I’d like to present my very best wishes to all the readers of my blog. Happy New Year to you and all you love and care for. May you enjoy peace, prosperity and happiness in the coming twelve months.
And if you’re worried about the way time seems to speed up as you get older – ‘Don’t the years fly by’, as the lyric in Fiddler on the Roof has it – just remember the Dave Allen joke: ‘I used to worry about getting older until I remembered the alternative.’ Possibly that quip’s best told in a smoke-cured voice while sitting on a bar stool with a good malt in front of you. Anyway, a very happy New Year to all of you!
Hi guys! Well, it’s Christmas Day, so I’m wishing everyone who visits this blog a very happy Christmas if you’re a Christian, or other seasonal festival if you have a different faith or none. I hope you got the presents you wanted, even if after a certain age they tend to be ties, aftershave and socks if you’re a bloke. May you enjoy peace and goodwill with your families and friends this Christmas, and look forward to a peaceful, prosperous and successful New Year.
Take care and best wishes for the New Year.
One of the books reviewed in this month’s Fortean Times is a pamphlet from the British National Secular Society entitled How the Christians Stole Christmas. The Fortean Times covered it with the brief comment ‘for Grinches everywhere’ before moving on to the next book about the weird, wonderful and academically disreputable. Not having read the pamphlet, I can’t say for sure, but it looks like the National Secular Society are recycling the old arguments that Christmas was really an ancient Pagan feast that the Christians took over and rebranded. The arguments have been tackled and refuted before, but unfortunately they still reappear.
Now this pamphlet seems to mark a slight change of tactic amongst militant secularists towards Christmas. A few years ago they tried to have Christmas banned or secularised using a far more direct approach by arguing that it unfairly privileged Christianity and was offensive to people from non-Christian backgrounds. The kind of tactics used by militant American secularists and atheists in their campaigns against the festival and other kinds of public religious observance or symbolism. Possibly having realised that attacking the holiday itself makes them look like complete killjoys, they’ve changed their tactic to alleging that Christmas really isn’t a Christian festival at all, with the implication that they’re going to be the good guys for reclaiming it from Christianity.
Well the old tactic – of a direct attack on Christmas – did leave some of them looking rather foolish in public indeed. 10 years ago Howard Jacobson in his column in the British newspaper, The Independent, commented on the campaign by an elderly lady to have the public celebration of Christmas banned because, as an active member of one of the country’s main atheist or secularist societies, she considered that the state celebration of Christmas deprived her and others like her of her human rights. From what I remember of Jacobson’s article, she also had a sideline in blasphemous anti-Christmas cards. So despite viewing her action as a blow for tolerance, it’s very moot whether she was actually very tolerant herself.
Jacobson wasn’t impressed, and argued in his column that action by the state to outlaw the public celebration of religious festivals was an infringement of the freedom of conscience of those who did want to celebrate their faith publicly. This provoked an angry response from the lady in question. She naturally wasn’t amused by the way he presented her and her campaign, and accused him of the same intolerance she felt was being exhibited towards her and her fellow atheists by the British state. Indeed, she even went as far as to call him a Nazi.
Not a good idea: Jacobson is very, very far from being a Nazi. Indeed, he’s the very type of person they did their best to wipe out.
Although Jacobson didn’t mention it in his next column replying to the lady’s angry rebuttal of his first piece, Jacobson himself is Jewish. Indeed, I got the impression that the contemporary Jewish experience was a strong feature of his novels, though the other impression I had of them is that they were largely about sexual angst and the kind of pre- and extra-marital shenanigans that would definitely have headmasters around the world taking a dim view of them should one of their pupils be caught reading one. It’s also a good question how religious Jacobson actually is. Back in 1992 he published a novel, The Very Model of a Man, about Cain taking up residence in Babel to build the notorious tower. It was hardly a faithful retelling of the Biblical story, parodying the Biblical narrative and including some incidents which would shock some Jews and Christians, such as the Lord becoming infatuated with Eve and attempted angelic rape. As this was the time when the campaigns against Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses was at highest, Private Eye ended its review of The Very Model of a Man by hoping that, if Orthodox Judaism reacted towards the book like Islam had towards Rushdie, Jacobson had booked his place at the same remote hotel with a couple of bodyguards from Special Branch. It actually says something about British Judaism and Christianity that Jews and Christians didn’t react with outrage. I don’t know what kind of letters Jacobson got about the book, but if there were massed crowds marching up and down demanding his execution and burning copies of the book, I must have missed them. Perhaps it all happened during a commercial break, or had to be called off because the football was on instead.
So, Jacobson isn’t a Christian, and may not even be religious. He certainly wasn’t averse to parodying religion. It does seem very much that when he wrote defending the public celebration of Christmas, he was sincerely acting from his stated belief that by trying to ban it, the secularists were infringing other people’s human rights by forcing their antipathy to religious festivals on others. His article made this last point very clear. He was suspicious of such people who insisted on their human rights in these instances, as they took no notice of other people’s.
Well, Christmas is upon us and already there are the seasonal arguments over the public celebration of Christmas in a multicultural society. Now it seems that Trevor Philips, the chief of the Council for Racial Equality, a British governmental body responsible for tackling racism, has expressed his opinion. According to an article I read in today’s <i> Metro </i>, a free paper stocked on British buses, Philips has expressed his own approval of schools performing traditional Christmas plays.
Unlike America, Britain has no constitutional separation of Church and State, and religious education is a mandatory part of the school curriculum. It’s traditional for British primary schools to put on Nativity plays at Christmas, where adoring parents can come to see their children acting out the Christmas story. According to the paper, some schools have stopped staging such places in case they offend some minorities. Philips, however, has stated that he does not support this policy, and was quoted as saying that Christ is the reason we have Christmas, and that it’s okay to put the Nativity plays on.
Now this should be simple commonsense. I’ve atheist friends who have told me about the joy they’ve had watching their children appear on stage in the school Nativity play, despite their lack of faith. While I can understand that some schools may not feel that a Nativity play is appropriate when they have significant numbers of pupils of other, non-Christian backgrounds, it’s largely the case that very few people from non-Christian minorities object to the public celebration of Christmas.
I therefore hope that schools take on board Trevor Philip’s comments, and that parents can enjoy their kids on stage this year being Joseph, Mary, innkeepers, and assorted shepherds and angels without interference from authorities fearing offending someone with a traditional, Christian play.