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Thread: Religion, Christmas And The U.s.a.

  1. #1
    j2k4's Avatar en(un)lightened
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    I recently read a column by someone I try to catch as often as I can, Paul Craig Roberts.

    It sums up quite accurately how I feel about a couple of things; and in a way that is, frankly, a bit beyond my ability to coalesce, thought-wise.

    Not that anyone should give a rats-ass what I think, but he did a rather nice job of explaining these things, in my opinion.

    Here it is:


    THE GREATEST GIFT FOR ALL

    Christmas is a time of traditions. If you have found time in the rush before Christmas to decorate a tree, you are sharing in a relatively new tradition. Although the Christmas tree has ancient roots, at the beginning of the 20th century only one in five American families put up a tree. It was 1920 before the Christmas tree became the hallmark of the season. Calvin Coolidge was the first president to light a national Christmas tree on the White House lawn.

    Gifts are another shared custom. This tradition comes from the wise men, or three kings, who brought gifts to baby Jesus. When I was a kid, gifts were more modest than they are now, but even then people were complaining about the commercialization of Christmas. We have grown accustomed to the commercialization. Christmas sales are the backbone of many businesses. Gift-giving causes us to remember others and to take time from our harried lives to give them thought.

    The decorations and gifts of Christmas are one of our connections to a Christian culture that has held Western civilization together for 2,000 years.

    In our culture, the individual counts. This permits an individual person to put his or her foot down, to take a stand on principle, to become a reformer and to take on injustice.

    This empowerment of the individual is unique to Western civilization. It has made the individual a citizen equal in rights to all other citizens, protected from tyrannical government by the rule of law and free speech. These achievements are the products of centuries of struggle, but they all flow from the teaching that God so values the individual's soul that he sent his son to die so we might live. By so elevating the individual, Christianity gave him a voice.

    Formerly only those with power had a voice. But in Western civilization, people with integrity have a voice. So do people with a sense of justice, of honor, of duty, of fair play. Reformers can reform, investors can invest, and entrepreneurs can create commercial enterprises, new products and new occupations.

    The result was a land of opportunity. The United States attracted immigrants who shared our values and reflected them in their own lives. Our culture was absorbed by a diverse people who became one.

    In recent decades, we have begun losing sight of the historic achievement that empowered the individual. The religious, legal and political roots of this great achievement are no longer reverently taught in high schools, colleges and universities. The voices that reach us through the millennia and connect us to our culture are being silenced by "political correctness." Prayer has been driven from schools and religious symbols from public life. Georgetown University, a Jesuit institution, is too fearful of offending diversity to display the crucifix.

    There is plenty of room for cultural diversity in the world, but not within a single country. A Tower of Babel has no culture. A person cannot be a Christian one day, a pagan the next and a Muslim the day after. A hodgepodge of cultural and religious values provides no basis for law -- except the raw power of the pre-Christian past.

    All Americans have a huge stake in Christianity. Whether or not we are individually believers in Christ, we are beneficiaries of the moral doctrine that has curbed power and protected the weak. Power is the horse ridden by evil. In the 20th century, the horse was ridden hard. One hundred million people were exterminated by National Socialists in Germany and by Soviet and Chinese communists simply because they were members of a race or class that had been demonized by intellectuals and political authority.

    Power that is secularized and cut free of civilizing traditions is not limited by moral and religious scruples. V.I. Lenin made this clear when he defined the meaning of his dictatorship as "unlimited power, resting directly on force, not limited by anything."

    Christianity's emphasis on the worth of the individual makes such power as Lenin claimed unthinkable. Be we religious or be we not, our celebration of Christ's birthday celebrates a religion that made us masters of our souls and of our political life on Earth. Such a religion as this is worth holding on to even by atheists.

    “Think about how stupid the average person is, and then realize that half of 'em are stupider than that.” -George Carlin

  2. The Drawing Room   -   #2
    You can teach the message just fine without the christian overtones/dogma and anyway much of christianity's doctrine has been influenced by early greek philosophers notably Aristotle and Plato.

    This empowerment of the individual is unique to Western civilization. It has made the individual a citizen equal in rights to all other citizens, protected from tyrannical government by the rule of law and free speech. These achievements are the products of centuries of struggle, but they all flow from the teaching that God so values the individual's soul that he sent his son to die so we might live. By so elevating the individual, Christianity gave him a voice.
    Any evidence for the bit in bold because i think thats completely wrong. In terms of philosophy (ie its teachings) Christianity has imo been simply a carrier, it neither created nor developed the philosophical message. In fact teaching that it just comes from god stops people from actually thinking about the justification and reasoning for it.

    I was reading a book on philosophy yesterday

  3. The Drawing Room   -   #3
    j2k4's Avatar en(un)lightened
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    Originally posted by ilw@6 January 2004 - 06:49
    In terms of philosophy (ie its teachings) Christianity has imo been simply a carrier, it neither created nor developed the philosophical message. In fact teaching that it just comes from god stops people from actually thinking about the justification and reasoning for it.

    I was reading a book on philosophy yesterday 
    HUH?

    People seek the origins of moral lessons continuously, ilw, and always have. If Christianity is not responsible for the message, then what?

    Perhaps you believe this to be just an example of "barstool philosophy" profferred by an early patron of the Bethlehem Bar and Grill?

    Better read a little more of that book.
    “Think about how stupid the average person is, and then realize that half of 'em are stupider than that.” -George Carlin

  4. The Drawing Room   -   #4
    clocker's Avatar Shovel Ready
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    This empowerment of the individual is unique to Western civilization. It has made the individual a citizen equal in rights to all other citizens, protected from tyrannical government by the rule of law and free speech. These achievements are the products of centuries of struggle, but they all flow from the teaching that God so values the individual's soul that he sent his son to die so we might live. By so elevating the individual, Christianity gave him a voice.
    Galileo would probably disagree with the assertion that Christianity has any interest in "elevating the individual" or giving him a voice.
    In fact, it seems to me that for most of it's history, organized Christianity has striven to achieve just the opposite.
    "I am the one who knocks."- Heisenberg

  5. The Drawing Room   -   #5
    j2k4's Avatar en(un)lightened
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    Originally posted by clocker@6 January 2004 - 12:07
    This empowerment of the individual is unique to Western civilization. It has made the individual a citizen equal in rights to all other citizens, protected from tyrannical government by the rule of law and free speech. These achievements are the products of centuries of struggle, but they all flow from the teaching that God so values the individual's soul that he sent his son to die so we might live. By so elevating the individual, Christianity gave him a voice.
    Galileo would probably disagree with the assertion that Christianity has any interest in "elevating the individual" or giving him a voice.
    In fact, it seems to me that for most of it's history, organized Christianity has striven to achieve just the opposite.
    So, then, you believe that which we call America is nothing more or less than a manifestation of Christianity?

    That Christianity and any human philosophy which springs therefrom is suspect and tainted?

    That the founding documents are to be disregarded because they are the thought-product of God-fearing men?

    That the ideal of current western civilization is now and always has been repression of thought and deed?

    Are you not free, Clocker?

    Have you been silenced?

    What do you desire by way of freedom that you do not now possess?

    Are you still coming to visit?

    I promise not to muzzle you or imprison you for your intolerance of my views.
    “Think about how stupid the average person is, and then realize that half of 'em are stupider than that.” -George Carlin

  6. The Drawing Room   -   #6
    Originally posted by Paul Craig Roberts
    The result was a land of opportunity. The United States attracted immigrants who shared our values and reflected them in their own lives. Our culture was absorbed by a diverse people who became one.
    Revisionist bullshit.



    Mr Roberts need to read up on American history and put a little more effort into making his theories match the facts.

  7. The Drawing Room   -   #7
    clocker's Avatar Shovel Ready
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    What I think j2, is that this article makes sweeping claims re: the historical benefits of Christianity that are simply unsupportable.
    Power that is secularized and cut free of civilizing traditions is not limited by moral and religious scruples. V.I. Lenin made this clear when he defined the meaning of his dictatorship as "unlimited power, resting directly on force, not limited by anything."

    Christianity's emphasis on the worth of the individual makes such power as Lenin claimed unthinkable. Be we religious or be we not, our celebration of Christ's birthday celebrates a religion that made us masters of our souls and of our political life on Earth. Such a religion as this is worth holding on to even by atheists.
    I'll bet the indiginous peoples of the Americas have a slightly different take on Christianity's willingness to cede us mastery of the soul and "political life on Earth".
    For centuries, Lenin's definition of his dictatorship was equally applicable to the Roman Catholic Church.
    "I am the one who knocks."- Heisenberg

  8. The Drawing Room   -   #8
    j2k4's Avatar en(un)lightened
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    Originally posted by leftism+6 January 2004 - 12:50--></div><table border='0' align='center' width='95%' cellpadding='3' cellspacing='1'><tr><td>QUOTE (leftism &#064; 6 January 2004 - 12:50)</td></tr><tr><td id='QUOTE'><!--QuoteBegin-Paul Craig Roberts
    The result was a land of opportunity. The United States attracted immigrants who shared our values and reflected them in their own lives. Our culture was absorbed by a diverse people who became one.
    Revisionist bullshit.



    Mr Roberts need to read up on American history and put a little more effort into making his theories match the facts.[/b][/quote]
    You forgot all the pictures of similar lynchings of Italians, Jews and Irishmen.

    One could argue the slaves were not, per se, immigrants, insofar as they might have chosen to stay where they were, had not the practice of slavery been so insidious and prevalent.

    However, leftism, Mr. Roberts is neither a racist nor a revisionist, he merely chooses to focus on what he sees as the positive aspects of religion and the U.S., without taking the time and space you and your like demand for the requisite apology and mea culpa that you deem necessary whenever someone gives thanks for what they have.

    Should whitey suffer pangs of guilt on your say-so?

    You are a guilt-mongerer who refuses to arise from the seat upon which lies the tack irritating your buttocks.

    Get over it.

    Clocker-

    You are, as ever, correct.

    You might consider continuing this banter with Mr. leftism; I am going to leave it alone now.
    “Think about how stupid the average person is, and then realize that half of 'em are stupider than that.” -George Carlin

  9. The Drawing Room   -   #9
    Originally posted by j2k4+--></div><table border='0' align='center' width='95%' cellpadding='3' cellspacing='1'><tr><td>QUOTE (j2k4)</td></tr><tr><td id='QUOTE'>Mr. Roberts is neither a racist nor a revisionist, he merely chooses to focus on what he sees as the positive aspects of religion and the U.S., without taking the time and space you and your like demand for the requisite apology and mea culpa that you deem necessary whenever someone gives thanks for what they have[/b]


    I demand no apology. I am white and feel no responsibility for what my ancestors may or may not have done.

    I merely like to see peoples theories match the facts.

    If the dominance of Christianity in America "made the individual a citizen equal in rights to all other citizens", then how do you explain American history? How do you explain the fact that as the influence of Christianity in the US has decreased, the level of equal rights has increased?

    You cant. So you avoid the issue.

    btw allow me to translate for you...

    <!--QuoteBegin-j2k4

    Mr. Roberts is neither a racist nor a revisionist, he is an advocate for the dominance of Christianity in the US over all other religions.* He merely ignores the negative aspects of religion and the U.S., because he will never be able to square his arguments with the facts. If anyone does bring up any of these facts they are to be labelled as "guilt-mongerers" in order to avert attention away from the dissonance between his theories and the facts. [/quote]

    If you are going to offer these illogical "theories" in public then you should be prepared to defend them without sulking.

  10. The Drawing Room   -   #10
    Biggles's Avatar Looking for loopholes
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    Talking as a mild Pagan who rather enjoys both Yule and Christmas i have no problem with someone celebrating their religious cultural background.

    Although, as I said, somewhat unorthodox in my views I happily send Christmas cards and receive them equally happily. I was delighted to receive one from a close Hindu friend whose wedding I attended recently. My own personal experience is that the idea that other religions are offended by the religious trappings of another faith is over-played (well, ok I cede I know a couple of Protestants who would rather slit their own throats than enter a Catholic chapel but this is the West of Scotland). I am not sure who is running around offended but I have luckily avoided bumping into them so far - if they really exist outside the heads of a handful of troublemakers.

    The piece that J2 quoted had some interesting points to make about faith and a time of giving and contemplation. It would have done better without the geo-political embellishments which rather hobble it in both time and place. Whilst it might be rather fun to consider that the US (possibly in some previous incarnation) was the culmination of all God has ever tried to achieve; it lacks a certain humility that does not sit easily with aesthetic simplicity of the words spoken 2000 years ago.

    The truth is that the history of religion, rather than faith, is the history of the State and Power. To question the Church in say the 16th century was to sign your death warrant (and usually a pretty grisly death at that). The empowerment of the individual in 1820s America was only a reality for certain groups of people not the slaves, Native Americans nor poor Jewish immigrants - in fact the Irish and Poles had a pretty rough time of it initially too.

    Nevertheless, I am not going to be a curmudgeon over this. It is good to observe seasons and this is an appropriate time to obseve goodwill to all men. For the Pagans it is the time to celebrate the new born sun and the promise of life - the parallels are obvious which is why the early Church chose this time to celebrate the birth of Christ (his actual birth date being unknown).
    Cogito cogito ergo cogito sum


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