How A Non-believer Can Love Christmas And Other Religious Things

I don’t have a whole lot to say today. I was up until 3:00am working, and not work as in writing or photography which I love, but work as in, they-sign-my-paycheck-so-I-have-to-do-this kind of work. Also, today I’v got the beginnings of a sore throat, which doesn’t bode well since both my kinds either just got over, or currently have, a nasty sore throaty virus. Things aren’t helped by the fact that my dog, who is lying so cutely asleep beside me, is fouling the air with dog farts. I really wish I had the stuffy nosey virus instead of the sore throaty virus right now!

I’m sitting here listening to Christmas In The Heart, by Bob Dylan. I love Christmas carols and Christmas music. But Jay, you say, you are an atheist! How can you justify listening to Christmas music?

Fist off all I will ask you to, read my last post about the real history of Christmas in America as an explanation Secondly, I want to talk briefly about how we can appreciate art, literature and music that may have religious origins. Just because an artist was inspire by their religious beliefs to create a great work of art doesn’t, and shouldn’t, take away from the intrinsic beauty and majesty of the art work itself. Is Handel’s Messiah any less beautiful just because it was written to celebrate the Christian ideal of a messiah? Are the great cathedrals of Europe any less magnificent because they were built to glorify the Christian God?

Anyone who has ever had the privilege to visit any of these beautiful edifices can’t help have been rendered almost speechless and struck with a profound sense of awe while walking within them. But this is exactly the emotional response that the mortal men who designed them intended them to have. Just as Handel, who was only a man, after all, intended his opus to inspire and fill us with joy.

The intense emotions that art engenders in us are distinctly human emotions, inspired by the creative geniuses of other humans who were in turn inspired by, not religion itself, but by the inexplicable wonder of the universe we live in. It is this wonder and awe of our existence that religion tries (feebly I believe) to explain, and which art is able to come closer than anything else humans can ever invent to express.

We only punish ourselves by refusing to let ourselves appreciate the expansive beauty that is art just because it may have been inspired by a thought or philosophy we don’t agree with. Life is too short not to appreciate beauty where ever we may find it. By doing so, we only diminish our own existence, to our own detriment.

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