Wednesday, December 30, 2009

In Which Ryan Describes his Religion

Here's another glimpse into life with my quirky kids. And again, this exchange happened during a car ride (I actually pulled over so I could type some notes into my iPhone, so I wouldn't forget this!).

The whole thing began with Care Bears. Morgan wanted to know my favorite one, and since I know nothing about Care Bears, I told her I supposed I liked the green one (green is my favorite color). She went on to declare her favorite one ("the purple one"--no, we don't know their names, which should tell you something about how non-important Care Bears are to our daily existence).

Ryan asked if there's a red Care Bear. Morgan and I didn't think so.

So then Ryan said, "Well, then I don't like Care Bears, since they don't have red ones. That breaks my religion."


Me: "What religion is that?"

Ryan, pontificating with much pomposity: "Well, MY religion is when I boss people around and watch army movies and play video games."

While I was digesting this gem, he continued: "And occasionally play with my friends."

And then, in a lower voice directed at the back seat only (Morgan): "And spend Mom's money."

And THEN: "And take a thousand classes and be the smartest person in the world."

What this has to do with the non-existence of Red Care Bears, I am sure I don't know. But I found what he said to be very revealing--he really knows himself very well!


Hanah said...

I'm curious. Since you're an Objectivist and your kids' views on religion involve the odd things discussed in this post, why and how do you celebrate Christmas? What does it mean to you, which parts do you celebrate and which do you avoid, and does it cause any mental conflicts for you?

Rational Jenn said...

Well, to be fair to Ryan, I'm not at all certain he understands the usual meaning of the word religion. I think he meant it (based on the things he described) as a way of saying some of the things he stands for. Which is why I thought the bossing other people around thing was pretty funny. :o)

We celebrate Christmas because my husband and I both grew up celebrating Christmas. If we'd grown up Jewish instead of Catholic, we'd probably do Hanukkah this time of year.

I don't feel any conflict about celebrating Christmas. We don't celebrate the birth of any gods, or anything else mystical (we haven't even told the kids that Santa is real). But what we do celebrate is our values--each other, and giving gifts is a good way to demonstrate that we value each other. And good will and Christmas "cheer" is a way to express a benevolent view of the world, to celebrate being human and being alive.

We do a Christmas tree (very pagan in origin) and the usual decorations (lights and ornaments and sometimes other things). I love Christmas lights. The kids have Nutcrackers my aunt has given them. We all use the hand-knitted stockings my grandmother created for us. We exchange gifts--in years past, we exchanged with members of the external family, but this year, Brendan and I chose not to participate in that, mostly for money reasons. We open presents on Christmas day and play with toys (or put them together) all day long.

It's a fun, happy time--this year was anyway (see the post below this). It's a time to take a break from our usual routines and just spend TIME with each other, which is so precious.

Many other Objectivists I know celebrate during the holiday season--many do Christmas, some do Hanukkah. We've left the religious/mystical aspects behind, but we retain the elements that celebrate our lives and allow us to share them with other people who mean so much to us.

For more, here's a post (linking to another article) from the Ayn Rand Center, where Christmas is discussed:


Hanah said...

That's really interesting. Thanks for the long explanation!

This is something I'm struggling with right now. I grew up Jewish, and my husband grew up basically atheist, so we have no connection to Christmas whatsoever. Part of me wants to carry on the Jewish traditions, but when I think about what parts of the holidays are meaningful to me traditionally, it's the religious parts. I've always been cynical about people who celebrate the cultural aspects of a religious holiday without an underlying core of religious belief. I see more value in that now than I used to, but it still seems inauthentic to me.

So, despite being completely nonreligious, the things I value about Judaism (yet don't do) are keeping kosher, saying the Hebrew prayers, going to synagogue, and keeping the sabbath. When I think about Christianity, the things I value are also closely related to the spiritual core. I realize this is a major contradiction in my thinking, but I haven't managed to work through it yet.

Rational Jenn said...

Well, you know I'm always good for a LONG answer! :o)

It's interesting, what you said. The meaningful things about the Christmases from my childhood were not the religious aspects at all. I always found having to go to church on Christmas Eve or Christmas morning an intrusion into my festivities (which revolved around Christmas cookies and presents).

Certainly, Christmas is a much more fun Christian holiday than Easter, which everyone always told me was more important (and I suppose it is), but since my family made a HUGE deal out of Christmas, and a rather medium deal out of Easter, it was clear to me from their actions which holiday was really more important. Which was fine with me. The Easter bunny is okay, but nothing compares to Santa.

There are still some religious Christmas carols I like, mostly because I recall my grandmother singing them, or because I sang them at the Christmas pageant--so, for sentimental reasons. "O Holy Night" is one such song.

Anyway, for me, there was no religious conflict with celebrating Christmas as an atheist. I chose the traditions that meant something to me and those are the things we do. And almost none of them have anything to do with Christianity, as it turns out. But I think that's because I was a doubter long before I knew I was an atheist. I never really *truly* believed.

We do Easter, too, but as a celebration of Springtime, and because it's fun to hunt for Easter eggs in our large backyard. :o)