I was inspired to write this column by an argument that came up in comments for today's (December 14) "Working Daze" comic strip. I didn't want to add to the debate there as battle lines had already been drawn that I don't feel addressed what I wanted to say and I didn't want to get drawn into either one. Early in the comments, someone made a reference to "religious nut jobs" and someone else challenged the writer about what was meant, and the explanation was obviously an example of the writer's own intolerance, etc. I don't want to go to that road. Please note that I did not include the word religion in the quotations in the title of this entry.
Let me make clear: I do not believe that everyone who believes in a religion is a nut job. But there are certain nut jobs out there whose insanity is based on ideas about religion that have taken, let's say, a peculiar turn.
I encountered them sometimes when I was a child. Two examples have stayed with me, roughly 50 years later.
One of them happened when I had a paper route. When I was collecting money, I mentioned to one customer a television show that I liked. And this man started telling me that watching television was a sin because we were here on this Earth to love the things of the Lord, and television wasn't something of the Lord.
I understand there are religions where television is not tolerated, maybe even outright forbidden. There are also a lot of people who simply don't watch television for reasons that have nothing to do with religion. That's fine, if that's what you feel, go with it. But to go around telling little kids they're committing a sin by watching television, that's wrong. I remember I was struggling with that until I got home, where my Mom set me straight.
The other incident, in my mind, was much worse. I was going door-to-door selling personalized Christmas cards. I'd been doing very well. Eventually, I sold enough to win a tape recorder. As I had a speech impediment when I was young, it was something I could use.
But, when I was doing the actual selling, I came to one house with a middle-aged woman in it. And she told me she didn't celebrate Christmas. No, she wasn't a member of another religion. This woman had gotten it in her head that December 25 was actually celebrating the birth of Nebuchadnezzar.
Her reasoning was this: When Christ was crucified, he was 33 and a half years old. If you went six months forward or six months backward from when he was supposed to have been crucified, roughly March or April, you're in September or October. I don't know how she came to the conclusion that what everyone was celebrating was the birth of Nebuchadnezzar, but that was what she believed.
I was 11 years old at this time. Imagine yourself at that age, probably unaware (as I was at the time) that the calendar when Jesus walked the Earth had only 10 months to it. And you also didn't know (I did not) that the day chosen to celebrate Christmas was chosen by The Church, possibly to take the place of Saturnalia, Yule, Sol Invictus, and other pagan festivals. Probably no one today knows on exactly which day Christ was born.
And, yes, Christmas is horribly commercialized and people forget the reason for the season, etc. Most Christians, in their hearts, know why they're celebrating.
If you want to tell your own child that Christmas is a sin, that television is a sin, that's one thing. The children being told that will eventually deal with it in their own ways.
But to go around telling this stuff to children in general, children who probably don't know how to discern differences in beliefs, that's just wrong and harmful. It might actually drive them away from religion. And, from what I've read about Jesus, he would not be pleased with this practice regarding children.
In my opinion, it is people who have to inflict such beliefs on others that are, yes, religious "nut jobs." And the harm they do is incalculable.