The true meaning of Christmas

It is a bit late I know to reflect on Christmas but I just came across this program by Philomena Cunk who explores the origins, history, and meaning of Christmas in her own inimitable style, utilizing the wide-eyed innocent trope to perfection. As she says, Christmas has exploded all over the globe, and now can be found everywhere, even inside churches. I did learn some interesting history as well, such as that Oliver Cromwell banned Christmas celebrations.
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Are you a real child of god or merely an adopted one?

From time to time I come across theological debates of the kind I used to concern myself with during the time when I was a religious believer. Usually these are familiar ones that recycle old controversies but last week I came across one that was new to me that was prompted by an evangelical preacher named Paula White, yet another proponent of the infamous ‘prosperity gospel’ that tells suckers believers that if they ‘plant a seed’, i.e., send the evangelist money, they will reap financial rewards. White has been invited to participate at Donald Trump’s inauguration and some other evangelicals are criticizing that move, accusing White of promoting heretical views.
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What will Trump and Fox News do about this war on Christmas?

The phony ‘War on Christmas’ has been one of the most ridiculous frenzies that grip right-wing Christians and politicians and media each year around this time. Donald Trump predictably pandered to this sentiment by ridiculously promising that when he is president people will say “Merry Christmas” again. But what are they going to do about this attack on Christmas by rabbis in Israel who are concerned by the rise in popularity of Christmas as a secular holiday in that country?
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Black atheists and feminism

One strong stereotype about the African-American community is that they are one of the most religious ethnic groups. There is good reason for this. Slave owners, like colonial rulers, used Christianity as a means of control, deflecting the hopes of the oppressed people to a wonderful afterlife to distract them from their present state of exploitation. During the harsh period of slavery, many slaves placed their hope in some kind of miraculous salvation, either in this life or at least in the afterlife and there is no question that this enabled them to endure horrific conditions. So religion became both a means of imposing oppression and also of surviving it.
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Haven’t Christians heard of the Streisand effect?

A billboard put by American Atheists in Monroe, LA that said “Make Christmas Great Again. Skip church!” was taken down within two hours because of local protests. I found it amusing that one of the critics said that it was because it is a community of “strong believers”. Actually this shows the opposite. People whose beliefs are strong would not care. It is because their beliefs are so weak that they are fearful of encountering a message that challenges it.

As a result of the resulting news coverage, more people locally and around the country heard about the billboard than if the locals had simply ignored it. American Atheists are now moving the billboard to another area, likely hoping for a similar reaction there. They can stretch their advertising dollars a lot by putting up billboards for just a short time.

Unusual patterns in beliefs about religion, spirituality, god, and ghosts

I came across this 2007 survey about British public attitudes towards religion and other beliefs such as ghosts, telepathy, witches, and the like. The survey found that only 37% of the respondents said that they considered themselves religious but a much larger 56% said they believed in god. So there must be many who think that being religious involves more than believing in god, such as attending religious services or being involved in other religious exercises.
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Authoritarians tend to flock together

Donald Trump has the habit of effusively praising anyone who supports him or says something nice about him. So when in the last debate, he spoke about meeting with “high representatives of India”, people scratched their heads wondering whom he might have been referring to, since there seemed to have been no meeting with any representatives of the government of India.
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Another rule for Catholics to ignore

The Catholic church seems intent ion creating rules based on convoluted doctrinal reasoning that its followers are likely to ignore. The latest involves cremation, a practice allowed by the church in 1963 and that is increasingly favored by people over burial. The issue is what to do with the ashes. Up to now, people have had the freedom to choose, according to the wishes of the deceased or of the relatives of the deceased. This has led to some unusual methods of disposal.
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The danger posed by Catholic hospitals

Catholic hospitals often provide health care in areas where there is no other facility. But Samantha Bee gives a powerful message about the danger posed by Catholic hospitals becoming such a large part of the health care network, because of the way they reject any medical procedures that go against their medieval beliefs, even if the end result of their decisions is death.
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