With the magical holiday approaching, I thought I would give some historical background to the most popular Christmas traditions.
The Christmas Tree:
Christians put pine trees in their houses because that was the type of wood on which Jesus was nailed. The Romans were not frivolous, and chose to use the wood that they could get at the best price. Conifers were very common in Israel during Biblical times. The choice of pine trees by Christians is in homage to their savior and his death. The early Christians also decorated the tree with artificial aerosol snow, plastic garland, and electric lights which they received in trade from China for figs and myrrh. They placed their “Black Friday” gifts underneath the tree.
The advent of Black Friday was in Israel in Biblical times. The early Christians would send the darker skinned of the gentiles out to buy their gifts. Acknowledging the Jewish roots of early Christians, the ebony “helpers” were instructed to seek deep discounts from retail. This is how it became known as “Black Friday”.
The reason that Christians hang mistletoe in their houses during the holiday season is in homage to Judas Iscariot. When Judas betrayed the Son of Man, Jesus happened to be standing under some mistletoe. He delivered the kiss that changed history. If Judas had not betrayed the lord Jesus, the Son of Man would have lived to old age as a carpenter moonlighting as a charlatan, collecting his pension and filling his prescription for horny goat weed so that he could still occasionally give it to his wife, Mary Magdalene. This would not have made for a very interesting religion. Thus, Christians pay homage to their hero, Judas Iscariot and his famous kiss.
Christmas and Candy:
The main reason that Christians share candy during the holiday season is the little known fact that Jesus had a sweet tooth. In fact, Jesus was morbidly obese when he died. The story about Jesus cursing the fig tree stems from his massive appetite. He frequently was stricken by tantrums if his daily 12,000 calorie intake was not met. While it is generally accepted that Jesus was nailed to wood, historians have speculated that the cross must have been approximately 4 feet in diameter to support his holy corpse. In addition to dozens of pounds of figs, fish, and bread, he also consumed many pounds of chocolate and candy canes daily. While modern pictures depict Jesus as being fit, this is simply a result of the Vogue culture of modern Christians. It is not only considered a miracle that Jesus managed to leave the tomb, but also a miracle that they got him into it in the first place. In honor of Jesus’ massive appetite, modern Christians give gifts of candy, the Son of Man’s favorite food.
The book of objective morality tells us that rape has a price that must be paid. The price of rape is paid in silver, which also has a price which is traded on the commodities market. The price of rape is directly proportional to the price of silver.
There are those that argue that the Bible should be the source for our morality and the basis of the laws of society. In this scenario, rape is a crime befitting of not imprisonment, but civil debt. In this scenario, silver and rape are interchangeable commodities traded by investment bankers. If after reading the Bible, you think that it is a source of morality, you have misinterpreted the term entirely. There are no apologies that can be made for words placed in an order such as those above.
The English language does not contain nearly enough adjectives in the positive for a man that mastered it. Christopher Hitchens owned the English language in such a way that mastery is an unfitting term. Not only did he always point his intellectual compass toward truth and his morals toward the improvement of the human condition, he conveyed his ideas in such a way as to inspire us to greatness. The man may have died, but the ideas, the writings, and the spoken words will live long after.
A polemicist like no other, he hated the consensus. He taught us to challenge strongly held beliefs and ideals. He made us cherish the human race and the solidarity that binds us together, E Pluribus Unum. He fought against evil and never backed down from a challenge. He slaughtered sacred cows in the presence of their owners. He looked death in the face and was never afraid even without the comforts of religion. He told us that religion poisons everything. His ideas are an antidote that we should prescribe to a society that cherishes the poison that he lamented.”The Hitch” gave us so many remarkable quotes:
“That can be asserted without proof can be dismissed without proof.”
“Princess Diana is the perfect metaphor for a land mine: easily laid, difficult and expensive to get rid of.” -out of context
“If he was given an enema, he could be buried in a matchbox.” -About Jerry Falwell’s death
“Don’t go loving my enemies, go love your own. My enemies are the theocratic fascists and I want them destroyed.”
These are a few favorites among a volume that could fill a bookshelf. He made a living by thinking up the contrary. In most cases the “Au Contraire” opinion was the one better reasoned. He made the religious and the credulous his enemy and befriended those who fought for reason, science, and better life. He never cared whether offense was taken, as taking offense is not an argument. When Christopher Hitchens had an argument with you, you were made to look a fool. Let us pour a glass of Johnnie Walker Black (accept no substitutes) and toast a man that represents the best of human thinking. People may die, but ideas live on. Especially the best of them.
We find ourselves in a remote corner of our universe in a beautiful yet mediocre galaxy. Perched atop a rocky sphere, with two other pebbles in orbit between us and a violent ball of gas, we tenuously enjoy our existence. We occupy the only form of primate body that can possibly wish to know what it all means and why it has worked out reasonably well for us. Considering our isolation and how “lucky” we appear to be, the monkey masses developed a hypothesis: All of this was done just for us.
With the laws of physics perfectly in place to form the elements, the Big Bang gave us the fuel that would later accrete by the God-given gravity. Stars were formed. Their death by explosion created our heavier elements and scattered them across the “heavens”, only to be once again accreted for the purpose of our occupance. This is the story of the manufacture of our home. Or is it? If God created the universe and our habitable planet, it took him a hell of a lot longer than 6 days.
The argument of divine design is a basal product of the credulous mind sloshing in the skull of the ignorant. Superstition, as history has borne out, is the fallback answer to any question to which an answer cannot be immediately settled by our reason. In the infancy of civilization, the answers were few and the invocation of the supernatural to fill the gaps held by stupidity or ignorance was rife. This is why we have so many religions and myths, originating simultaneously in virtually every culture.
The simple truth is that just because we appear to be alone, it doesn’t mean that we are. In fact, it seems highly unlikely. Considering the estimated 14 trillion billion star systems, even if one were to postulate that a planet sitting just the correct distance from it’s star with just the correct orbit to produce an average temperature that would not destroy organic life was a 1 in 1 trillion chance, there should still be about 14 billion planets with some form of life. Some of these might harbor life forms more advanced than humans. Perhaps they are so advanced that they don’t even have religion. Sounds like a great star system on which to retire!
What if the above odds actually turn out to be 1 in 14 trillion billion? What if we are alone? Even then, God is simply not the answer. We can do better than just giving up, which is what constitutes a supernatural answer to a question that can, should, and does have natural answers. Even in the case that we find ourselves to be the only life in the universe, it may then be asserted, and dismissed, that it was all a grand design. It’s always tempting to point to the supernatural explanation when a seemingly rare, nigh impossible event occurs. An example offered by Richard Dawkins in his book, “The Magic of Reality”:
Take a deck of cards, shuffle them, and deal them out to your self and 3 others. Did each of you receive 13 cards of all the same suit? If you did, you have encountered an extremely rare event. In fact, your odds of dealing this hand would be in the octillions (10 to the 27th power). The simple truth is that dealing out four hands of completely suited cards has the same odds of dealing out any other particular combination of cards. What makes this example stand out is that we are pattern seeking creatures, and patterns are incorporated in many card games. If you’re playing spades, and you get 13 spades, it’s the best hand you could have. If you’re playing 5 card draw and you get 13 spades, then the dealer is piss drunk and it’s time to call it a night.
The earliest period of our planet, in which many scientists believe organic replicating molecules were formed (perhaps descended from inorganic replicating crystals), was not a hospitable place for the aerobic life that now constitutes higher life forms. In fact, it would be Hell on Earth. There was most likely little or no oxygen. Oxygen became more prevalent as photosynthesis evolved because it was a byproduct (waste). From that time forward, life evolved as conditions on the planet changed, and it evolved to thrive in them via natural selection. Life made the planet habitable for other life, and so nature keeps rolling forward. Life will continue to evolve as conditions change, as long as the planet does not get too hot or cold (or irradiated, or destroyed by asteroids, etc) and life-critical proteins aren’t denatured by the extremes.
Any conscious creature that finds itself in the appropriate environment for its existence and ability to ponder its origins would be tempted to draw the conclusion that the universe was designed with them in mind. However, it’s a fallacy. If you’re reading this, you by definition must be encapsulated in one of the aforementioned environments, regardless of the rarity of this occurrence. One could never disprove that the universe was not designed for you and your windbag Christian neighbor, but reality works without that assumption.