Most every religion ever “discovered” by humanoids has “unearthed” some really wonderful stories in which godliness comes to visit us in what is too often a vain attempt to get us to shun our evil ways and tame our animal natures. (It is also true that every religion has also come up with some doozies to scare the unholy crap out of those of us who do not stay on the designated path—be it trying other faiths, failing to color within the prescribed lines, or forgetting to show enough respect to the persons, most often men, who run the local show.)
I cannot and would not deny that the good things that religions have gifted us with can be wonderfully warm, fuzzy and a great help in directing our feet—especially when the days are more night than day—i.e., Winter in our hemisphere. Who on earth, in his/her right mind, would argue with Good Tidings, Joy to the World, Good Will to All (wo)men, and “Here’s a little token of my love for you, Dad, a brand new Audi so you can stop stealing mine every time you come to visit.”
Notwithstanding the fact that my sainted mother accused me of ruining Christmas in Bainbridge, Maryland in 1944—-I was 4 and my older sister and brother inveigled me into sneaking downstairs and reporting back to them what was under the tree. They then blew my cover and for the next 20 or so years, my sainted mom reminded me that I had ruined Christmas in 1944—I still love the holiday. I’d love Chanukah too if I had ever known it existed before 1956. Same for Kwanza which came even later. Not because I believe the wonderful miracle of the virgin birth (I have no idea why so many religions fell in love with virgin births—I suppose because everyone had decided that “down there” on men and women was too icky for godhead. “The God of Love has pitched his tent in the place of excrement”.)
As a non believer I have no problem singing Christmas Carols because they are filled with Good News and happy feelings about us all. I may not be religious but I am, much to my occasional disappointment, an inveterate optimist and each year while my friends and I are smiling at each other and promising to stop doing bad things in the next year, I get swept away in the few days/weeks of “Hello there, Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Happy New Year” and The Little Drummer Boy, Walking in the Air, Hark the Herald Angels Sing.” A wonderful infusion of good feelings.
We secularists are at a distinct disadvantage because we don’t have any neato stories which have been around for centuries and keep getting illustrated by the best artists of all time and given musical form by everyone from Bach to Jay Livingston and Ray Evans (“Silver Bells”). Those of us who seem to be defined by what we don’t believe in have a hard time because all we have is the golden rule which predates all the most popular religions. Singing about Rules and Regulations could turn people into psychotic abusers because we hate being told what not to do and what to do. And we don’t even have a Golden Ruler with lights shining out his nose or wings or any of the fun visual stuff. We have no visuals at all. Our iconography is best described as non-existent. (Suggestions welcome)
So, I’ll travel along and sing with great gusto when “Silent Night” comes by because it’s a beautiful song and it brings back all the best memories except the time in 1944 in Bainbridge, Maryland. Does that me a hypocrite?
I doubt it.