(Above: a holiday card taken from the Amanita muscaria – Holiday Cards gallery)
Christmas is always a good time of year for ontological terrorism. For example, “The psychedelic secrets of Santa Claus” by Dana Larsen from Cannabis Culture Magazine is one of my favorite links to spread around Christmas time. Larsen makes the case that though Santa Claus is now a symbol of our annual collective consumer-orgy, he may originally have been inspired by amanita muscaria mushroom eating shamans. That the very same politicians that enforce and promote the war on drugs tend to also whole heartily endorse a religious figure birthed of ancient drug culture amuses me to no end. Larsen’s idea, apparently taken from Jonathan Ott, might not pass skeptics’ muster. But most, if not all, of Christmas traditions stem from pagan practices.
Another of my favorite Christmas links is Patrick Farley‘s Chick tract parody about the pagan roots of Christmas. But Chick himself is all too aware of the Christianizing of pagan practices and publishes tracts warning Christians against paganism. In Are Roman Catholics Christians?, Chick portrays Roman Catholicism as a pagan religion. In The Death Cookie he compares communion with various pagan traditions, and in Fairy Tales a kid goes on a murder spree when he learns that there is no Santa.
What you’ll never see acknowledged in the Chick tracts is that it’s not just Santa with pagan origins: the real “reason for the season” has pagan roots as well. What better holiday gift can you give your Christian loved ones this holiday season than an e-mail with a link to jesusneverexisted.com? In addition to covering the lack of historical evidence that Jesus ever existed, they take a look at pagan sources of “son of god” myths and Christ’s various predecessors such as Osiris, Apollo, Hercules, and Odin.
Alas, even the staunchest of atheists, like Dawkins and Sam Harris celebrate Christmas with their families, according to the New York Times. And despite my misgivings about consumer-binging and hazardous winter travel, I too find myself celebrating Christmas every year. Astronomer Carolyn Porco has argued in favor of creating science rituals and customs to replace religion:
Imagine a Church of Latter Day Scientists where believers could gather. Imagine congregations raising their voices in tribute to gravity, the force that binds us all to the Earth, and the Earth to the Sun, and the Sun to the Milky Way. Or others rejoicing in the nuclear force that makes possible the sunlight of our star and the starlight of distant suns. And can’t you just hear the hymns sung to the antiquity of the universe, its abiding laws, and the heaven above that ‘we’ will all one day inhabit, together, commingled, spread out like a nebula against a diamond sky?.
And in a recent Reason Magazine column Greg Beato has made the case for an increase in atheist or secular humanist merchandise, along the insane lines of Christian merchandising. Neither one of these things has much appeal to me. As Beato says, “One virtue of non-belief is that not every aspect of your life has to be yoked to some clingy deity who feels totally left out if you don’t include Him in everything you do.”
Yet, I’ve come up with an idea for a “secular humanist” celebration for December 25th, for anyone dying for something to celebrate. In Divine Horseman, Maya Deren describes the loa Ghede Nimbo as the first human who ever lived (page 38). Michael Bertiaux’s hypersyncretic Voudon Gnostic Workbook describes Baron Legbha-Nibbho as a Christ figure (page 48) and says that his death is to be recognized on Fridays. This gave me the idea of celebrating the 25th as the birth of the very first human. Not as a Voudon loa, but as a secular humanist celebration of the origin of our species.