Thanksgiving and Religion

I think it was fifth grade when I asked why the days we got off school for Thanksgiving were just called ‘Fall Break’. My mom asked me who people were giving thanks to. I had to think about it a minute. I knew that it must be a religious thing, since that is why it’s ‘Winter Break’ not ‘Christmas Break’ etc. It did not take me long to realize Mom was referring to God, but what took me awhile was the idea that I was supposed to be thanking a specific entity. It hadn’t ever really occurred to me. I just kind of give thanks to the world, luck, all of the people whose effort it took to bring the meal together, whatever. It never occurred to me that it was supposed to be directed any particular direction. I still don’t think that it needs to. I can be thankful without having any one thing, or person, or event to thank. 

For instance; I am thankful for my family. Who do I have to thank for that? Well let’s start with the recent past: I have to thank my husband for giving me my kids. I have to thank cancer for not taking people from me. I have to thank all of the other drivers on the road who have not killed my family members. I have to thank everyone who has made our society a more healthy place. I have to thank my parents for having me, and my husbands’ for having him. I have to thank their parents (this could keep going…). I have to thank whoever designed the school bus routes for my high school so that I could meet the boy who would become my husband. I have to thank my employers and everyone who employs my family. I could go way back in time to thank the people who moved to this country, and whoever set them up to take that path for whatever reason they did. I could talk about how thankful I am that this ‘tiny blue dot’ is able to sustain life, and how grateful I am to evolution, the stars, and the big bang.

I know that for many people “Thank God” is kind of the way to express that whole last paragraph, and that is fine. I prefer to think of it as an endless series of events that put me where I am today, this allows me to run through them and kind of say ‘thank you’ individually, or just give one big collective ‘thanks’ to the universe. 

 

I consider myself a bit of an outsider, an observer to the battle between religions that has been waging recently. When I was young, I was really very little aware of different religions, I only was really taught about Christmas, maybe a bit about Easter. I found it odd that some people did not celebrate Halloween, but hey, each to his own. I knew the concept of religion and that people believe differently, but I had no idea what they believed. It didn’t really make much of a difference, at that time it seemed like everyone was pretty okay with other people. That could be a young kid growing up with White Privilege on her side, but that is how it seemed to me. 

In middle school I started becoming more aware of politics and the state of the world. It was during this time also that 9/11 happened. The announcement that it was Muslim terrorists made very little difference to me. If I had really thought about that statement at all it would have been something like ‘Ok, so they happen to follow that religion, why mention it?’ Today I believe very much the same thing, but now I know why they mention it, because it is a scapegoat. The media tells us the answer so that we won’t go looking, and having a whole religion that reportedly wants to kill us is a great copout.

On that same note, this is not a ‘Christian Nation’. We are guaranteed freedom of religion under the constitution. This does not mean freedom of Christian religions, it means freedom of all religions. There is a lot of debate right now about the beliefs of the founding fathers, but some believe that not all of them were Christian. Throughout history, while newcomers to this country have been marginalized, they came for a new start, and many for that religious freedom. We are a nation of different people, different races, different sexualities, different ages, different beliefs, but we have all come together in a place that is better for our differences. It is this melting pot that keeps us fresh, and at the top of our game. It is the exposure to new things that allows us the ability to be the best. So why are we not the best right now? We have embarked down a dangerous road, in international policies, educational policies, climate policies, and civilian monitoring, we are limiting the very diversity that made us great. We need to stand up and make the changes that will allow us to use our greatest strength to our advantage again.

Religion

I consider myself to be an Eclectic Atheistic Agnostic Pagan. What the heck does that mean?

It means that I don’t really know what is going on out there, but I do not believe that any one entity is in charge, but rather that we are all connected. I take little bits from lots of different religions and sciences and put them into my beliefs together. I know a lot of people think that religions are not compatible with one another, but I find that most religions, regardless of the details, had one point in common; Be nice to one another.

I do not understand how people have begun associating so many negative things with religions. Bad people will do bad things. They will find an excuse anywhere. There are passages in religious texts that, taken out of context give fuel to people’s hates. This is not to say that religious texts teach hate, because they, as far as I have seen, do not.

In America right now I hear a lot about two religions in particular, Islam and Christianity. The story about Islam from one side is ‘They are out to get us” and the other side says, “we just want to live our lives, we hate the nut jobs who attacked just as much as you do”. The story about Christianity also has two sides, one says “Poor me, I am being attacked!” and the other says “You are the one in power, all anyone asks is to be on par with you.”

Islam is actually very similar to Christianity. In fact the books are so similar that people can’t tell them apart. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zEnWw_lH4tQ

I have gotten into multiple discussions with people where they argue that there is no way that Islam has roots in Christianity (some even claim that Islam is older than Christianity). People talk about how if they are not all out to get us, why are they not standing up to defend their religion? Now I see all over facebook, ‘Blaming all Muslims for ISIS is like blaming all Christians for KKK’ and this is a much more succinct way of saying it, but I would talk about how most people just want to live their lives in peace. Today, in the face of all of this hatred toward Muslims, many are standing up for themselves. I stopped watching the mainstream media long ago, but I doubt that they are covering any of that, since they are guilty of perpetuating the myth.

This is not the only religion that is being marginalized, with all of the hatred coming from Donald Trump, many non-Christians are fearing the worst, like the holocaust kind of worst. But somehow the other big religious battle getting any media coverage right now is the ‘War on Christmas’. I know it is all over the place online right now, but I am going to say it too. There is no war on Christmas. You are allowed to celebrate it all you want. We may get annoyed with the holiday starting two months early, but we can deal with that, and I don’t think that is what they mean.

When I was little I thought “Happy Holidays” referred to ‘holiday season’, or Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years. I was pretty clueless about non-Christian anything, so I made it fit with what I knew. As far as I remember, growing up ‘Happy Holidays’, ‘Merry Christmas’ and ‘Feliz Navidad’ were used pretty much interchangeably. (I grew up in New Mexico). I think that if that one store had just quietly switched to ‘Happy Holidays’ no-one would have really noticed. While I whole-heartedly approved of the announcement that it was done with the intention of being more inclusive, and still do, I believe that the announcement itself is what kicked off the whole thing.

I understand that part of the history of Christianity involves persecution, but I also recognize that since the conversion of Constantine, they have largely had the upper hand. Yes, some places not so much, but overall, after that Christian influence has flourished around the world. Aside from some small countries in some parts of the world and a few radicalized individuals, no-one really wants to kill Christians just because they are Christian. The ‘War on Christmas’ in America is really just a bunch of over-entitled people who have been told their whole lives that they are victims (because persecution is still taught like it’s a current issue) throwing a pity party because their entitlement is waning.

All anyone ever wanted out of ‘Happy Holidays’ or making a cup red is making people who celebrate other holidays around the same time feel more accepted. All we want is equality. We are not trying to take away your right to celebrate, we are not trying to minimize your holiday or religion, we just want to be able to celebrate ours with the same freedom.

So this Yule I want to wish everyone a Happy Holidays and Peace to the World.