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Inclusion and Christmas

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays

In a recent column at The Washington Post Kate Cohen talked about "Merry Christmas" vs "Happy Holidays" in terms of exclusion vs inclusion.
I think she's got a great point.

Long ago Christmas was my favourite season. I still have very warm memories of walking through snow to a midnight service at church on Christmas Eve when I was 12. Then waiting for morning to arrive was exquisite agony.
Not long after I was baptised I lost my belief in God when I was 14. I kept quiet about that for a long time.
But then I was living across the country among people who paid no attention to religion and started to feel that saying Merry Christmas was a bit hypocritical and started saying Happy Holidays instead.

Cohen brings this out in the context of a so-called "war on christmas".
The first I saw of a war on christmas was years ago when people were saying that setting up Christmas displays like creches in public buildings like legislatures, courts and city halls was a violation of the separation of church and state.
It was a symbolic declaration that America (and Canada too) is a Christian nation when in fact that was not true. America has always been a secular nations where many faiths could live in peace.

I've read a bit of the history. Early on the many faiths were all Christan faiths and their secularism was not favoring any one over the others. Early Americans and the example of religious wars in Europe vividly before them.
The settlers ended up putting themselves in a silo that didn't much care about the thoughts or spiritual practices of the slaves or indigenous people upon whom they depended and ended up thinking that their practices were normal.

Fast forward a couple of hundred years. The settlers were still in their silo but the demographics of the country had changed. The thing about demographic change is that in a democracy that has political implications. Other demographic groups start asserting power.
The settlers looked outside their silo and where aghast and horrified. We've been invaded!!!

So we come to the present. In Cohen's article people showed up in force to a town council meeting to protest the town allowing an inclusive solstice event that the organizer said was meant
'"for everyone to enjoy this time of year that is winter's solstice and also an awareness of the origins of this holiday season."
"Opponents declared it, rather, "a sort of twisted anti-Christmas celebration" that threatened the city and the children. Speaker after speaker denounced the festival as a perversion of a holiday that was supposed to honor Jesus Christ, not the devilish Krampus."'

The protesters were upset because any presentation of spiritual ideas that didn't fit their idea as normal as an attack. And they may be right but tough. Daniel Dennett advocates teaching religion in school as a major part of the curriculum. His idea is to give all children a fairly in depth understanding of all the world's religions.
I love the idea because I see how corrosive that would be to religious faith.
Religious people hate the idea for the same reason.

We might have been inclusionary in terms of associating religious symbols with state institutions. So rather than exclude Christian symbols we might have invited other groups to show their own symbols.

As other demographic groups push in a democracy a sense of conflict arises and conflicting sides take an adversarial stance towards each other. I don't know how to avoid that - when people have different ideas then it seems natural to compete.
We need to find approaches that let people talk together to find ways of getting along.
Now it seems we all live in the same sort of silo that I spoke of in the context of settlers. The silos jostle each other. What we need is a meme to inject into all the silos that is something like "Let's find ways to get along".

My own Christmas routine for decades has been to do a personal retreat. I fill my fridge with food I like and immerse myself in a project and leave all my friends celebrating Christmas alone. I don't want to be a wet blanket.

And if people say Merry Christmas I say Merry Christmas back. It's the thought that counts.

What do you think?

Star I present regular philosophy discussions in a virtual reality called Second Life. I set a topic and people come as avatars and sit around a virtual table to discuss it. Each week I write a short essay to set the topic. I show a selection of them here.

I've been thinking and reading about philosophy for a long time but I'm mostly self taught. That is I've had the good fortune to read what interests me rather than follow a course of study. That has it's limits of course but advantages. It doesn't cost as much and is fun too.

My interests are things like evolution and cognition and social issues and economics and science in general.