I’m not a practicing member of any congregation, but I’ve never entertained a single atheist thought. No aspect of creation has led me to doubt the existence of the Creator. I have never doubted that life endures beyond the final beat of a mortal heart. Faith and feeling lead me to hold these beliefs, but I hold them in concert with reason, not in defiance of it. I don’t believe any part of creation was put here for us to ignore, or deny.

I don’t like the way religious people are treated by our popular culture. A search for virtue and enlightenment that has been in progress for centuries is too often judged by the sins of its past, or the oppression it is found pre-emptively guilty of wishing to enforce. A secular State that has no qualms about legislating morality responds aggressively to those who speak of transcendence. Churches are measured against a grim shade of Torquemada, entirely invisible to the happy congregations inside. Questioning the fitness of religious believers to serve in democracy is as absurd as constructing a theocracy. Ideas should be evaluated on their strengths. Far from the stereotype of thoughtless Bible-thumping drones, religious men and women – from the Founding Fathers to today – have been ready to show the philosophical homework that led them to their moral conclusions.

People of the Jewish and Christian faiths are not the proprietors of our civilization, but it’s grossly unfair to deny their pivotal role in shaping it. It is equally unfair to plow over the true meaning of Chanukah and Christmas, and erect a thousand-watt generic monument to “happy holidays” and the Winter Solstice above them. I have never understood the increasingly common modern neurosis of taking offense at a hearty cry of “Merry Christmas!” Christians offer this wish as a gift, not a commandment. This is their season of joy, the celebration of what they believe is the most important moment in history. Joy is a flame that grows higher with kindling. It is music that bursts with the eagerness to leap from heart to heart. It is not a sacrament to be hoarded only by believers.

Who can embrace the full meaning of the birth we celebrate in this season, without loving the sound of laughing children playing with new toys, or young voices raised in carols of sleigh bells, snow, and mistletoe? Those who don’t believe in the divinity of Christmas Day have no reason to injure the faith of those who do… and the faithful have no reason to suffocate anything that spreads joy through the world, on this day we take as proof that Heaven loves us, and wants us to be happy. Even the most confident atheist can appreciate the nobility of a “fairy tale” that says the Author of creation wrote his own son into the story, in a chapter that would end with unspeakable pain… but turn the first page of a new book, describing a world of redemption and forgiveness. If you believe Christmas is a superstition, you can at least wish that all of humanity’s superstitions were as beautiful.

Some people doubt the sanctity of Christmas because the date was moved around in ancient times, to align with pagan festivals. With the modern understanding of reality, I wonder how the date would be measured on Mars, which takes just under six hundred and eighty seven days to orbit the Sun… or in the ribbon of light that stretches between the sisters of a binary star… or at the event horizon of a singularity. The theory of relativity tells us that it’s always Christmas somewhere. December the 25th is as good a day as any.

Tonight, on Christmas Eve, some of us will long for husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters who serve in distant lands, and sleep beneath different constellations… but we can all share the radiant memory of a single star, that burns forever above both the humble and the wise. Distance, and even death, are banished in the calm of a silent night, and a joyous morning. Not all of the guests at our tables will be visible to the eye, but all can be felt equally in the heart. No one requires you to believe in anything, to cherish Christmas as a special day… but we can all share the courtesy, and honesty, of remembering why this day is so special, to so many. This is not a season for demands. It is for gifts, and invitations.

I have two gifts for everyone, both simple, but heartfelt. The first is that I’ve finally found the time to put together my own website, where I’ve re-posted everything I’ve written for Hot Air, and set up a way for people to contact me. It’s rather plain right now, but I’ll keep working on making it better, and maybe do some more interesting things with it in the future. The address is http://www.doczero.org/

My other gift is even more humble, but people have frequently asked for it. My name is John Hayward, and it has been… and will continue to be… my delight and honor to write for you.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

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