Sunday, December 23, 2007

Some Atheist Spirituality For Christmas

I saw this over at the Newsweek/Washington Post online "On Faith" forum, and was blown away. Entitled "An Atheist Chooses Jesus Over Santa" by Andre Comte-Sponville, who, we are informed, is the author of the forthcoming book The Little Book of Atheist Spirituality. I urge all of you to go read the whole thing. Here are a few highlights:
Just look at Santa Claus, bearded and pot-bellied, entertaining the passersby on the sidewalk. The man who dresses as Santa gets paid to do it. I can excuse him for this – one has to earn a living – but I cannot excuse his employer. In fact, I’m surprised that our churches don’t criticize this. The belief in Santa Claus is worse than heresy, which at least has good faith in itself. Santa is just a superstition for children, a lie for adults, and a generally stupid concept.


And what is the opposite of Santa Claus? A child rather than an old man. Poor rather than rich. Hidden rather than exposed. He who has nothing to sell, nothing to give, nothing more than his life and his love. The opposite of Santa Claus is Jesus Christ: the naked infant between the bull and the donkey, the innocent victim between two thieves, the crib and Calvary. These two images, in their extremes, are the most famous of the beautiful nativity story. They demonstrate the essence of this God, who is the weakest of all gods, the most human, and for all that, the most earthshaking.


What does Jesus symbolize? The primacy of love, even when weak, defeated, humbled, and tortured. Easter marks his victory, his omnipotence, his divinity. Christmas marks his weakness, his fragility, his humanity. This is why Christmas has more significance to me. It’s not the victory that I like, it’s the love. Not the power, but the justice. Not divinity, but humanity.

This is why I am an atheist, while remaining faithful – as best as I can – to the spirit of Christ, who represents justice and charity. That is the true spirit of Christmas – the basic opposite of which is the spirit of Santa Claus (if he has a spirit at all), and beyond that it is the spirit of his zealous fans, big and small, who embody selfishness and consumption.

Can I get an "Amen"?

Virtual Tin Cup

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