Merry Myth-mas

Messy-SantaJust what I wanted!

Well, it’s that time of year again, when Christians begin to whine that atheists are trying to steal Christmas from them. Even Jerry Falwell has been quoted as saying, “There’s been a concerted effort to steal Christmas.” Of course, they are right to be worried, just as a cheating husband or wife is worried that their spouse is having an affair. The thought being, if I did it, then they must be doing it too. After all Christians stole the holiday we now know as Christmas from several different places. Let’s begin with the myth within the myth, Santa Claus.


The legend of Santa Claus is somewhat like that party game where you whisper a sentence to one person and they whisper it to the next person and so on down the line until the last person tells it back to you and it now only has a remote resemblance to the original sentence. The origin begins with an actual person, a Greek bishop named Nicholas who had a reputation for secret gift-giving, such as putting coins in the shoes of those who left them out for him. Or was it Basil of Caesarea, another Greek who was a  theologian and monk who was born into wealth and gave all his possessions to underprivileged children? Actually, Santa Claus is a combination of both Basil and Nicholas with a sprinkle of fairy dust to make him, not just generous, but magical.

But Christmas is the day we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, our lord and savior, I hear the Christians argue. The legend of Jesus was also appropriated from several places.

But Jesus was the only one of them to be flesh and bone and actually walk on earth, those others were figures from mythology, say the Christians. Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that Jesus did exist. Do you actually think he’d be thrilled about the way you choose to celebrate his birthday? This was a man who, by all accounts, hated commercialism. His teachings and sermons were all very anti-money. Then there was that little temper tantrum he had in the temple with the money changers  As for the other gods being figures from mythology, let’s look at the meaning of the word myth for a moment, shall we? The dictionary defines myth as “a traditional or legendary story, usually concerning some being or hero or event, with or without a determinable basis of fact or a natural explanation, especially one that is concerned with deities or demigods and explains some practice, rite, or phenomenon of nature.” Great Christly Jesus, that sure sounds like the bio of the Christian son of god to me.

saturnaliaToday marks the first day of Saturnalia. Lo Saturnalia!

Winter festivals have been around far longer than Christianity. For instance Saturnalia was an ancient Roman festival that consisted of a public banquet followed by private gift giving (Christmas dinner and presents) and merriment among other festivities. Then there was Yule, the festival we associate with the Christmas tree. While it’s true that the festival of Yule gave us the decorated and lighted tree, the idea of bringing the tree inside is much older than that. According to the encyclopedia Britannica, “The use of evergreen trees, wreaths, and garlands to symbolize eternal life was a custom of the ancient Egyptians, Chinese, and Hebrews. Tree worship was common among the pagan Europeans and survived their conversion to Christianity in the Scandinavian customs of decorating the house and barn with evergreens at the New Year to scare away the devil and of setting up a tree for the birds during Christmastime.” Oh, let’s not forget Yalda, the winter festival honouring the birth of Mithra, the Persian version of Jesus which celebrates the victory of light and goodness over darkness and evil. (naughty and nice anyone?) The one major thing that these festivals (and many others) have in common is that they all occur at or near the time of the winter solstice.

We humans sure do love to spin a good yarn, the sad part is that we’re so good with the tall tale-telling that we actually believe our own bullshit. If I’m going to buy into a myth every winter, I prefer it to be the story of Sandy Paws, the little kitten who melted the heart of even the cruelest of men by just being as cute as he could be. At least that story is original and isn’t nearly as hard to swallow as all of the others floating around this time of year.


People with Gods

Each day on Twitter, I post my quote of the day tweet. The other day, the quote I posted was, “Gods don’t kill people. People with Gods kill people.” – David Viaene. One of the responses I got to this quote was, “people without Gods hold it down in the killing dept just as well. It’s a human problem.”

While I take no issue with the fact that there have been many killings done at the hands of people without Gods, the problem I have with the above statement is with the phrase, “just as well”. I decided to do a little research on the subject and here is what I came up with.

While there is really no way to tally the amount of individual murders committed by individual atheists, there are some numbers to be found when one looks at State Atheism, for instance in Mexico, under President Plutarco Elias Calles, there were at least 40 priests killed between the years 1926 and 1934. In the Soviet Union, Marxism-Leninism ideology sought to eliminate religion from the state entirely. In the period between 1922 and 1926, 28 Russian Orthodox Bishops and more than 1200 priests were killed. In Cambodia, under the Khmer Rouge, the estimated death toll is between 740,000 and 3 million. In the Mongolian People’s Republic, the Soviets launched a full-scale attack on Buddhism in 1936 where between 30,000 and 35,000 lives were lost. In North Korea, in the late 1940’s 166 priests and religious were killed or kidnapped. Using the high estimates, the total adds up to 3,036,434 deaths. Which, is a very substantial number.

On the side of people with Gods, I am only including the tally of one  mass killing.  The Holocaust, which took place between 1938 and 1945. Christians like to tell you that Hitler was an atheist, but, by all accounts, Hitler was a Catholic raised, Christian who espoused his belief in Jesus Christ (albeit an Aryan Jesus Christ), which makes him a man with a God. “As a Christian I have no duty to allow myself to be cheated, but I have the duty to be a fighter for truth and justice.”- Aldof Hitler  There were 5.9 million Jews, between 2 and 3 million Soviet POWs, 1.8 to 2 million Poles, between 220,000 and 1.5 million Romani, 200,000 to 250,000 disabled people, 80,000 Freemasons, between 20,000 and 25,000 Slovenes,  5,000 to 15,000 homosexuals, and between 2,500 and 5,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses killed in the Holocaust. Even using the low estimates, the death toll is 10,227,500 or more than 3.3 times the number killed by Atheist States in 5 different instances.

The reason to only include the Holocaust on the side of men with Gods was because, all of the Atheist State examples I used were from the 20th century and I didn’t want anyone crying unfair if I used examples like the Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, the Thirty years War or the French Wars of Religion, which all took place in  different eras, when people were not as enlightened as they were in the last century.

I do agree that killing is part of human nature, and I am positive that, even without a belief in any sort of deity, people would find something to fight about on a mass scale. My point here is that belief in a god seems to be a pretty popular reason to kill people. Here’s a question to think on… is God the reason, or the excuse?