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The Christian War on Mithrasmas

December 16, 2013

It’s the most wonderful time of the year for rational people to enjoy a good laugh over fundamentalist Christians such as Sarah Palin and right wing Catholics such as Bill-O’Reilly hysterically inveighing against an alleged war on Christmas. Or at least it would be worth laughing over if the right-wingnuts weren’t so darned serious about Christians in America being persecuted because people, especially government officials, are saying the inclusive Happy Holidays or Seasons’ Greetings instead of Merry Christmas.

Their attitude shows that the Dominionists (aka The American Taliban) have definitely come out of the woodwork, to insist that their brand of Christianity must rule the thought, speech, conduct and governance of all Americans. Anything else is despised as political correctness that is ruining this nation because we are not all goosestepping to their drummer. After all, problems such as mass surveillance, endless wars and greedy banksters pale in comparison to not requiring prayers at high school graduations, or allowing same-sex couples to marry.

If the fundamentalists bothered to read the US Constitution and one of the Bible’s many versions—I, myself, find the King James version excellent as a piece of literature—they might learn a few things. Things that would suggest that a lot of what they spout is just plainly wrong by their own terms.

What does the Bible say about the birth of Jesus? It certainly does not give a precise date. But Luke 2: 7-11 says:

And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

And there were in the same country, shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were sore afraid.

And the angel said unto them, Fear not, for, behold, I bring you tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.

Now, just when would shepherds be “abiding in a field, watching their flock by night”? In the dead of winter, when one would expect the flock to be corralled near the shepherd’s home, or in the spring, during lambing season? Shepherds would keep especially close watch on the flock when there were newborn lambs about, lest ravenous wolves and other predators treat themselves to fresh lamb for dinner.

Tim Frank. who received a Bachelor of Theology (Biblical Studies) from the University of Auckland, New Zealand and a Master of Arts in Applied Anthropology (Archaeology) from Mississippi State University, publishes Imagining the Past: Archeology and the Bible. He says:

If the rams are put out to the ewes early, in June, lambs are born in November. Usually, shepherds prefer only a few early lambs. Often the rams are put to the ewes in August, so that the lambs are born in February or March. That allows the ewes to eat fresh, green grass when suckling the lambs.

So you have November, February or March for lambing season, not late December.

That Jesus was likely born nearer to the springtime is also indicated by astrological symbolism. Jesus is considered the avatar of the age of Pisces the fish. So it makes sense that he was born under that sign. People with Sun sign Pisces are born in February and March.

Astrology was important to ancient peoples and is referred to in Genesis 1:14 (KJV)

And God said: Let there be lights in the firmament of heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and for years.

So why was December 25th designated as the birthday of Christ? Christian leaders wanted to subsume certain Pagan holidays such as Yule (the Solistice), Saturnlia, and Die Sol Invictus (Day of the Unconquered Sun) or Dies Natalis Solis Invictus (Birthday of the Unconquered Sun) in the Christian Church calendar. This last holiday was December 25th itself and was observed by pagan Romans. Though the solstice was very carefully measured by certain structures around the world, most notably Stonehenge, the sun appeared to stand still–which is what the word “solstice” means–for several days. It was on the 25th when the sun appeared to once again move in the sky.

There are people today, and I am one of them, who celebrate the Solstice. This December 25th, I intend to go to dinner with a group of pagans of various traditions to celebrate Mithrasmas. December 25th is often connected with the birth of Mithras, although there is little proof that the date was special to ancients who worshipped this deity. But it is a day when a certain group of pagans in the San Francisco Bay Area will gather and celebrate the growing of the light, even as Christians gather for their celebrations.

And here is where the Constitution comes in. If you are a Christian who wants to celebrate the birthday of your deity on December 25th, go ahead. It is your Constitutional right to worship as you choose, even if it is not likely that Jesus Christ was born on that day. But leave alone the many other Americans who enjoy the same Constitutional right to worship or not worship as they choose. That’s the part you’re not getting. The idea that the only true Americans are the people who believe and behave as you do is an affront to the Founders and to the rest of us.

To wish someone Happy Holidays or Season’s Greetings is not to kick Christ out of Christmas, but to acknowledge that the United States is a nation whose citizens are of a variety of faiths or no faith at all. It is a way of saying, “I don’t know who you are or what you believe but I want to wish you well.” Say Merry Christmas to the people who you know are Christians and say Happy Holidays (or nothing at all) to the rest of us.

Why is that so terrible? A generic greeting is politeness, not political correctness. It is a way of not presuming that everyone is a Christian, or that everyone even celebrates a religious holiday this time of year. There is the African-American cultural festival of Kwanza, and some atheists are celebrating the Seinfeld-inspired Festivus – the holiday for the rest of us. And, of course, there is the civil New Year. Honoring diversity does not weaken America. To the fundmentalists I say, God made diversity. Man made bigotry. Who do you trust?

The real war on Christmas was waged by Puritans in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. According to a website dedicated to the history of Massachusetts:

On May 11, 1659, the Massachusetts Bay Colony legislature even went so far as to officially ban Christmas and gave anyone found celebrating it a fine of five shillings. The legislature stated the ban was needed “For preventing disorders arising in severall places within this jurisdiceon, by reason of some still observing such ffestivalls as were superstitiously kept in other countrys, to the great dishonnor of God & offence of others, it is therefore ordered … that whosoever shall be found observing any such day as Christmas or the like, either by for-bearing of labour, feasting, or any other way, upon any such account as aforesaid, every such person so offending shall pay for every such offence five shillings, as a fine to the county.”

The ban remained in place for 22 years until it was repealed after a new surge of European immigrants brought a demand for the holiday in the late 1600s. Even though the ban was lifted, Christmas was not warmly embraced by the Puritans and it remained a dull and muted holiday over two centuries later.

So to Sarah, Bill, and all you uptight Dominionists who want the United States to be an officially Christian nation, I suggest you check out Matthew 7:1-5 (KJV)

Judge not, that ye be not judged.

For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged, and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.

And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?

Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye, and behold, a beam is in thine own eye?

Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then thou shalt see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.

Axial tilt is the reason for the season.

Merry Christmas!


About the author: Kellia Ramares-Watson is an independent journalist in the San Francisco Bay Area. She is the author of the e-book Eating Poison: Food, Drugs and Health. Her next major project will be an e-book called Demonetization: Ending the Cult of Commodity. She can be reached at theendofmoney[at]gmail.com.


5 Responses to The Christian War on Mithrasmas

  1. politicaljunkie on December 29, 2013 at 9:15 pm

    It’s religious imperialism. A lot, but not all, Christians still feel a sense of entitlement about forcing their religion on others. This is especially true of rightwing zealots who see non-believers as something to be eradicated in the name of goodness.

  2. E.Brock on December 24, 2013 at 5:21 pm

    I wonder what Palin and O’Reilly would do if they knew the holiday/Christmas tree had been linked to the ancient Druids — used in Winter Solstice rituals along with mistletoe. Would they insist we call it the Druid Tree?

  3. Kellia on December 24, 2013 at 3:23 pm

    At the moment….

  4. jamese on December 24, 2013 at 1:35 pm

    The Solstice celebration goes back many thousands of years before Christianity (and no one is certain just how far back it goes) and was co-opted by Christianity. Zealous, fundamentalist Christians have a long history of imposing their religion on others, often by force and violence. They’re still struggling with the last vestiges of that long, unvenerable tradition.

  5. chomskygirl on December 17, 2013 at 11:44 pm

    Palin, O’Reilly, et al. will likely remain ignorant of the actual history of the December holiday they call Christmas. Resurrecting this pseudo controversy every year is how they get attention. Since they have nothing constructive to contribute to society, they fan the flames of the culture war. It’s idiotic, but consider their intellectual limitations and their obvious need for publicity. They are the would-be American Mutaween (Islamic religious police). Fortunately, they have no state power at the moment to create more mischief.

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