Regardless of how anti-religion you may be, you have to admit that it does have some advantages.
Christmas, for example. A few days off work for many people across the country to enjoy the company of family and friends you seldom see; to indulge in a festive food and drink feast; to make the most of a rare opportunity to learn the names of neighbours you never speak to as you receive their annual card through the letterbox.
However opposed you may be to religion, without it, there would be no Christmas and we’d probably have to make do with a solitary day off during the New Year’s Day bank holiday.
But while there might not be much wrong with simply taking advantage of an opportunity to hand out gifts and have a good party or two, is it not a bit strange that so many anti-religious folks up and down the country would even want to join in with a time of year that has long been associated with a celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ? Especially when bearing in mind that those very people don’t believe in Jesus in the first place?
Christians are often referred to by their most ardent opponents as being people who believe in an imaginary being.
If that’s the case, then it’s a rather weird situation to find so many countries around the world joining in to celebrate the birth of an imaginary being.
And if you believe in the existence of Jesus, but not that he was the Son of God, then have you ever stopped to consider just why his birth was unique enough to warrant a worldwide celebration?
Surely there can’t be just one man in the history of the world who deserves to be singled out and celebrated?
What about Gandhi? Or Mother Teresa? I’d bet that the overwhelming majority of people wouldn’t know the date that either of those inspirational figures were born, nor even the year.
Christians believe that Jesus is God’s son, who came to earth to show us how to live. Non-believers often try to disprove the existence of God, and much of society believes that the answers to life can be found elsewhere – and that we’ve “moved on” from needing God.
Just where we’ve moved on to exactly, and whether it’s for better or for worse is open to debate. Yes, there have been developments over history that have had a positive impact on humanity. The abolition of slavery, for example.
But what about the rapidly increasing culture of individualism and human rights? Not so much in the sense of genuine fairness, but rather in the sense that a person may demand the right both to free speech, and also the right not to be offended – two contradictory views which are demanded by the same person, and at the same time. It’s about them, and them only.
And what of materialism and the pursuit of wealth, which is often considered the ultimate goal for the majority. Life is about achieving a good job with an ever-increasing income, followed by a long prosperous retirement with a nice fat pension. That’s the dream; that’s what is to be aspired to, right?
These are two of the more selfish characteristics of modern Britain, but are values which youngsters are being raised to adopt in a more and more competitive society.
During his time on earth, Jesus taught about loving others, and putting them first. It’s a completely contradictory set of values to those we’re given by our modern society.
Maybe that’s the kind of thing which convinced enough people that he was special enough that his birth be universally celebrated, and for time itself to be marked by his birth.
CS Lewis, an atheist who tried to disprove Christianity and ultimately found too much evidence in support of it actually being true, claimed that Jesus could only have been one of the following three things:
1. a liar who made a claim that he was the Son of God – when he knew full well that he was not
2. a lunatic, who genuinely believed that he was the Son of God, when he actually was not
3. the Son of God, ie he was exactly who he said he was.
A fourth option, some might add, is that he didn’t exist in the first place. History clearly proves that theory wrong. That leaves one of the other options as the only ones that can have any credibility.
So, as you sit down to eat your turkey this Christmas, ask yourself this question: Will you be celebrating the birth of a random historical figure who was either a mad man or a liar? Or will you be celebrating the birth of the most inspirational man in history, a man who was the Son of God?
When it comes to other religious celebrations, I don’t personally join in with key moments in the Islamic or Hindi calendars.
Nor do I hold parties to celebrate the birth of invisible men who didn’t exist. I’d consider it rather strange if I did.
In an increasingly competitive world, Christian values are becoming less and less fashionable in modern society. But to me and to countless millions of other people around the world, Christianity and its values still make sense.
And certainly more sense than joining other non-believers around the country in celebrating the birth of a historical person who we don’t even believe in.