Saturday, November 15, 2008

Be Good For Goodness' Sake.

You know we've officially entered the Holiday Season when "conservative" talk radio starts its annual ranting about the supposed "War on Christmas". The tip-off for me came yesterday when local host Fred Honsberger started bitching about a new ad that's been appearing on public buses. Apparently it reads "Why believe in God? Be good for goodness' sake". It's a fairly innocuous message as far as I'm concerned, but it's reportedly quite offensive to a segment of fragile Christians. Honsberger is rolling out the lamentations about what he perceives as "attacks" on Christianity. He wants to know why folks would want to pick on these God-faring citizens. He's challenged the audience to come up with examples where Christians have harassed non-believers*.

Only a complete wingnut would try to make the case that Christians are persecuted in this country. Despite the protections of the 1st Amendment, people of "faith" are continually trying to get government to adopt their beliefs and language. It's obvious to me that religion has a much better chance of encroaching upon our public life than it has of being repressed by our leaders (or marketers). I'm fine with giving the flock a wide berth. They should be able to do anything they want (within the bounds of the law) in their places of worship. I don't even mind the occasional reference to "God" in political speeches. But I don't want anybody forcing their doctrine on me. I was raised as a Christian, and I've had plenty of time to either embrace or reject it on my own.

I don't understand how a secular humanist reminder to value good for it's own sake is particularly threatening to anyone in society. Not everyone is going to accept your own personal savior. And if you study the holy books, you find out pretty quick that the God they speak of wanted humans to make their own choices. It's not that impressive to commit to fate. If your salvation or damnation was decided for you at birth, then it really wouldn't matter how you behaved in life. I would think that this is an essential argument used quite often in the push for conversion. I know for a fact that it's an important underlying premise for those practicing within evangelical sects.

So what happens to "the lost"? There will always be a certain proportion of people that refuse to be "saved". What is to be done with those that recognize no divine parameters? If they aren't concerned with avoiding sin, or with the consequence of eternal suffering as a punishment for ignoring "The Word", what could we possibly do to influence their moral decisions? Surely we need to socialize them somehow. On what foundation can we build our ethical edifice? Fortunately we have the preserved writings of plenty of artists, writers, and philosophers that have grappled with these issues without relying on God for their authority. There is a wide range of approaches that can lead to the desired outcomes. There is no single path, as far as I'm concerned.

Honsberger claims that the aforementioned advertisement (which is illustrated with a Santa Clause character) somehow denigrates his beliefs. We can only assume from his reaction that he is convinced that his is the only way. He considers December 25th the birth date of the the only son of God, and therefore one of the two most sacred days of the year. I can respect that, but I disagree that the appropriation of the Santa Claus iconography for this ad cheapens anyone's faith. There is a long tradition of consumer manipulation based around this fat jolly guy dressed in red. What he has to do with the historical figure that died on a cross completely eludes my grasp.

When Walmart offers you a Merry Christmas next month, they won't be concerned with sharing the love of Christ with you. They are more interested in sustaining a marketing mythology that they have determined is helpful in reaching their sales objectives. Fred Honsberger would be better served confronting that whole mess, rather than a small secular group that is trying to promote cooperation and civility.

* I'll leave this task to the readers of Serendipity. I feel no need to insult your intelligence or historical awareness.

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Blogger Warm Apple Pie said...

Nope. Nothing comes to mind; when have Christmastians (not a misspelling) attacked the non-believers. Nada. Zilch. No blood spilled in the name of the Cross, you betcha.

But remember when the Jews killed Jesus???? Bastards.

8:03 PM  
Blogger Merge Divide said...

"But remember when the Jews killed Jesus????"

Huh? I thought Mel Gibson killed Jesus.

9:25 PM  
Anonymous Steve said...

"Why believe in God? Be good for goodness' sake".

Groups other than Christians believe in God. I'm willing to bet had it been a Muslim, Jew, Hindu, or any other minority group who found that phrase offensive, then the typical liberal dogma would have been spewed forth. I'm pretty sure it would not be "fairly innocuous" if that was the case.

I agree it is a totally harmless statement. But I also know that liberals only base something's offensiveness on who is actually offended.

12:44 AM  

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