Night Owl Mk. II

Return to "Religion" essay

Back to Philosophy page

Please feel free to E-mail me with your own comments on this issue or on anything else included in my Philosophy of Life section. Debate is good!

Please report any problems with this page to the Webmaster!


Boldfaced statements are parts of the original essay (or a subsequent reply) to which the respondent has directed his comments.

Italicized/emphasized comments
prefaced by (R) are those of the respondent and are presented unedited.

My replies appear under the respondent's comments in blue text and are prefaced by my initials (MB).

This is the fourth of a four-part reply.

Amazing! All those words and not one of them even begins to answer the questions I asked. I'll assume that you must agree with parents allowing their religion to supplant their children's science education.
(R) I feel that in a free society, parents must be allowed to make their own choices in this matter.
(MB) Nice waffle. Can't you directly answer the question of whether or not these parents are doing their children any favors in the course of "making their own choices"? Before you answer, consider that there is legal precedent for bringing child abuse charges against parents who "make their own choice" and refuse to allow their children to be educated in English.

(R) As soon as such things are dictated based on the ideas of any individual or group, regardless of their intent or philosophical persuasion, society is no longer free.
(MB) How come you can't apply the same reasoning to the issue of the ratings systems we were just discussing? Or, does religion once again impose two different sets of standards?

(R) My opinion or your opinion on such choices by parents are pointless.
(MB) Not if they are formed from decent reasoning and point out attempts by one group to enforce its morality over others who don't share it.

(R) However, let me say, I wouldn't do such a thing myself.
(MB) That's good to hear and I certainly applaud you for it.

"Multiculturalism" doesn't change any of the things I mentioned. Schools still have Christmas observances, but don't teach the true history of Christmas. They still take Easter breaks, but don't observe or teach about Ramazan. They're anxious to teach or respect different cultures, languages, and ethnic heritage's, but non-Christian religions need not apply.
(R) Why do you think the schools don't teach the history of Christmas, true or otherwise? Could it be the separation of church and state? Duh!
(MB) It's hardly a simplistic "Duh". The history of Christmas can easily be taught as a secular subject. However, that would entail instructing children in a lot of facts that are unpleasant for a lot of Christians to face. For example, how many religious parents would want their children to be taught that Jesus wasn't born anywhere near the 25th of December and that this date was chosen over 300 years after the fact for the expressed purpose of competing with popular and important pagan holidays observed at that time of year? How many would want them to know that the early Christians didn't even care about what day (or even what year) he was born? How many would want them to know that many Christian countries (including the United States) have actually *banned* Christmas at some point in their histories? How many would want them to know that many standard Christmas practices are actually derived from pagan worship and fertility rites and have nothing at all to do with Jesus?
    I suspect that many local parents would riot if their public schools were to teach their children the whole truth about Christmas. Since those schools can't promote the religious perspective on Christmas, they take the easy road and avoid teaching about it at all.

(R) And who's definition of true, anyway?
(MB) History's definition of true. That should be obvious.

(R) I can't think of a school I've even been associated with which hasn't at least mentioned Hanukkah during the holiday season.
(MB) But, how many give students time off for that Jewish observance in addition to (or instead of) Christmas? How many actually tell their students why it is observed in the first place? Most students think it's some sort of Jewish substitute for Christmas and have no conception of what it's really about.

(R) There's also an African-American holiday (it's name escapes me at the moment) which is currently much in vogue. These various holiday's are celebrated simultaneously in many schools.
(MB) That holiday is called Kwanzaa and is not a religious observance. It is a celebration of Black African history, heritage and culture.

(R) Surely you're not saying Christmas, which for the most part is celebrated secularly (and somewhat materialistically, I might add) in most of the country, including the schools, is a religious holiday?
(MB) The secular observance is layered on top of Christmas' religious significance. The materialistic giving of gifts is symbolic of the Biblical story of the Three Wise Men presenting gifts to the baby Jesus.
    How can you even begin to suggest that Christmas is not a religious holiday when even its very name comes from the religion it promotes?

(R) There are numerous Christian sects which don't even recognize Christmas.
(MB) More members of small, minority sects, right? If not, please inform us of any major sect of Christianity which does not recognize or celebrate Christmas.

(R) And what about Thanksgiving?
(MB) The original Thanksgiving was not a religious observance. The modern version instituted by Abraham Lincoln was meant to encourage the Union to give thanks for battlefield victories and the impending end of the Civil War. While it may have encouraged prayer, it was not meant to be a religious observance, either. I do not consider Thanksgiving to be a religious holiday although there will certainly be many to whom "giving thanks" will involve prayer or worship of some sort. I have no problem with that.

(R) Or Halloween? Does the fact that schools encourage kids to dress up like ghosts and witches at Halloween mean there is state support for Satanism in the school systems?
(MB) Halloween has nothing to do with Satanism. It, too, is a non-religious holiday derived from pagan traditions. Therefore, there's no problem with schools promoting it or the customs associated with it.

(R) I've never been anywhere where spring break was referred to as Easter Break -- certainly not in official communication to parents regarding it. Guaranteed lawsuit, there.
(MB) What it might "officially" be called and what it actually is are two different things. If the break is not associated with Easter, then what is it associated with? And, don't say "spring" because the Vernal Equinox occurs at the same time each year while the break does not. The break follows Easter and cycles along with the six-week window in which Easter can fall. (BTW, in my high school, it *was* called "Easter break").

(R) I've never known Good Friday to be a day off, except perhaps in conjunction with another.
(MB) Good Friday isn't even a religious holiday. Easter is the real celebratory event in Christianity.

(R) Easter is surely the least celebrated of holidays in the schools. My own experience in grade school was that we made jack-o-lanterns out of construction paper for Halloween, and turkeys at Thanksgiving, and Santa Claus at Christmas, but we did absolutely nothing for Easter. We certainly didn't cut out Crucifixes!
(MB) No Easter egg painting? No egg rolls? No exchanging of goodie baskets? Gee, what a fun school you must have attended...

(R) It may have escaped your attention, but Christmas is a Federal holiday.
(MB) So are about a dozen other days. But, Christmas is not limited to the United States. Christians all over the world celebrate the same event for the same basic reason on the same day every year. The same can not be said, for example, for the Federal holidays of Labor Day, Veterans Day, Memorial Day, Presidents' Day, or Independence Day. Any day can be made a "Federal holiday" by appropriate legislation for any reason -- or for no reason. That designation does not remove the religious basis from Christmas and turn it into a purely secular observance.

(R) Perhaps other nations, like Saudi Arabia for instance, have their own official holidays.
(MB) I know of no nation that does not have its own holidays. What's your point?

(R) Perhaps if enough Muslims immigrate to America, they will get some of their holidays added to the calendar.
(MB) Perhaps, if they gain enough political power, that might happen. Again, what's your point?

(R) Until then, unless the Saudis start taking a day off for Washington's birthday, I don't think we should worry about making Sheik Abdul Aziz (former Saudi king) Day a Federal holiday.
(MB) What does this possibly have to do with the question of whether or not Christmas is a religious holiday?

It [the Crusades] was probably sterilized of its true purposes and presented as nothing more than another series of wars.
(R) In which case, it wasn't taught from the perspective of cleansing the Holy Land, was it?
(MB) Which means it wasn't taught in the proper historical context.

I think you're confusing some of the minor wars fought between papal contenders in the 13th century with the Crusades that were fought exclusively over Muslim control of the Holy Land. Muslims never occupied more of the Iberian peninsula than the southern half of Spain and Portugal (part of the Dominions of the Almoravids).
(R) And you're obviously very poorly informed about what we're talking about. In 712, an Arab army marched to Lyons before withdrawing back to Spain. And in 732, another was defeated at the Battle of Poitiers by an army under Charles Martel, representing the high-water mark in the Arab advance into western Europe. The pressure on Europe didn't end at Poitiers -- there were still several centuries of fighting before the Muslims were finally ejected from Spain. Additionally, in the east, the Ottoman Turks made it almost to Vienna at one point.
(MB) None of which contradicts what I said or shows that I am poorly informed about this subject. The fact that an Arab army marched from lands it occupied in Iberia and attempted (and failed) to win a couple of battles in France still means that the extent of their Iberian occupation was just what I said it was. Obviously, they couldn't occupy lands where they failed to win battles of conquest!

(R) Additionally, in the east, the Ottoman Turks made it almost to Vienna at one point.
(MB) Since Vienna is not a part of the Iberian peninsula (nor is it anywhere close), your statement also fails to back up your claim that I am poorly informed on this issue.

(R) I guess whether or not you feel conquering the south half of a region constitutes great pressure depends on your definition of pressure. Personally, if Mexico were to conquer the southern half of the United States, I would have to consider that they were placing tremendous pressure on us.
(MB) Since the southern half of Iberia constitutes only a very minor percentage of the total area of Western Europe, I fail to see how your scenario of Mexico conquering half of the United States is analogous.

Were the Muslims "wrong"? Certainly they felt that their religion was "right" and all others should be converted or killed. Jerusalem was bound to be a bone of contention since it is a holy city for Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Certainly, the Christians would oppose exclusive Muslim control of the city and the attendant interference with pilgrimages.
(R) Putting modern definitions of aggression aside, no, the Muslims weren't "wrong." It's generally a mistake to judge the actions of the past in light of modern-day morality.
(MB) Agreed, but that's not the case here. When the Pope issued the first call for Crusaders, it is quite clear what the rationale was. But, it's also quite clear what the rationale of the Muslims was. Basically, what it comes down to is what it *always* comes down to -- the winners are always "right".

(R) However, neither were European peoples "wrong" for defending themselves, even by counterattacking.
(MB) That implies that the Muslims conquered something which they had no right to occupy -- and this is certainly not clear.

Yet, school textbooks tend to paint the Crusaders as "holy" while the Muslims are "infidels".
(R) You know, I haven't looked at any secondary school or lower history text books lately, so I really can't say if this is true or not. However, I'm extremely sceptical. I certainly remember nothing of the sort from my own school experience, and would be most interested in your providing an exact reference of this sort of thing from a common-use, public school text book.
(MB) Any school textbook that tells the story from the Western perspective is going to tend to portray the Crusades this way (a fact pointed out in a recent excellent multi-part documentary on the Crusades broadcast on the History Channel).
    Here's a link to a large bibliography of books on the Crusades if you want to research and read all sorts of accounts of who was who and what was what. You might also pick up a dictionary and see exactly what the word "infidels" means.

(R) I can also say that any professor at higher levels of secular education would be laughed out of academia if they tried to portray the Crusades in such a light.
(MB) Not if he did so while teaching the historical context from the point of view of the Crusaders! As you yourself just said a few paragraphs back, it's generally a mistake to judge the actions of the past in light of modern-day morality.

Correct, but if history is taught objectively and completely, not only can we reach proper conclusions, we might also be better able to avoid the errors of the past.
(R) Absolutely the entire purpose of the study of history. However, reaching "the proper conclusions" is often difficult and controversial.
(MB) That depends upon whether or not one has any presuppositions that will affect his ability to reach or accept any given conclusion. Controversy is most often generated by unpopular or disturbing conclusions.

Which goes to show that emotion is more popular with the masses than is intellect.
(R) Of course! What did you think motivates human beings except emotion? Even the exercise of pure logic brings its own emotional satisfaction. Fear, anger, hatred, envy, lust, and greed are the things which motivate men. You are no different. When you condemn the masses for being influenced by emotion, you condemn yourself.
(MB) Who condemned anybody here? I merely pointed out the obvious fact that emotion is more popular with the masses than is intellect. If anything is a no-brainer, this ought to be it. Since leaders (either actual or would-be) also know this, they are better able to gain support for their causes by appealing to emotion rather than by appealing to intellect. Heck, it has even earned Bill Clinton two terms in office!

(R) Oh, and don't forget love as a motivater. There are at least three different types of it: eros, philios, and agape. (ah-gop-ay)
(MB) Funny, I always thought that love (of any type) was an emotion...

Perhaps. But, a visit by the Pope still produces a bigger public response than a visit by anybody else - including the President. Also, politics tends to seek extra support by appealing to religious beliefs.
(R) No pope has started (or finished) any wars in the 20th century.
(MB) Just how much power do you think the Pope actually wields these days?

(R) Seems to me a couple of presidents have.
(MB) Not to mention kings, emirs, prime ministers, chancellors, emperors, and all other make and manner of national leaders. What does this have to do with the popularity of the Pope?

(R) And politicians use appeals to economic interests and social issues much more effectively and often than appeals to religious belief.
(MB) Nobody gets elected for expressing a belief in religion, but that's not the point. I said that politicians seek "extra support" by appealing to religious beliefs and this can't be denied. On the other hand, what chance for election would you give to any Presidential candidate who was openly atheistic -- no matter what his economic or social policies might be?

(R) So you tell me which has had greater impact on the course of human events this century: political, economic, and social forces, or, religious influences.
(MB) Actually, it's technology that has had the biggest impact during this century -- thanks in large part to the decline in the power of religion to restrict advancement as it has done throughout the rest of human history.

(R) Anyway, a rock festival draws a bigger public response than a pope or a president.
(MB) Bigger than the President perhaps, but nowhere near what happens when the Pope comes to town. There is no bigger single draw in the world. Having been a part of the White House Communications Agency team that supported President Reagan during the Pope's visit to Miami, I have first-hand knowledge of what goes on. No rock star's appearance would have registered a blip in comparison.

Created with Allaire HomeSite 4.0 .......... Last Update: 02 Aug 98

Earthlink Network Home Page