What is it about carols? I cried a bucket listening to the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols from King’s College Chapel, Cambridge, on Christmas Eve. Don’t worry, though: it only took a nice mince pie to perk me up afterwards.
Superficial sentimentality then? And is that all an atheist’s faithless response to Christmas can ever amount to?
Well, you can be the judge of that for yourselves, but when I survey the wondrous cross on which the prince of glory died – or rather when I survey the gorgeous choirboys (an especially fine crop at King’s this year, but not great for those into “ethnic” or, God forbid, girls), when I survey the soaring vaulted roof of King’s, when my thoughts turn to the power of the Christmas story down the generations in lands near and far, when I think of the Star of Bethlehem and all the myriad stars, and what lies beyond them, and all the majesty of creation, I am overwhelmed.
What’s it all for? Why are we here? We live. We die. We are no more. Does this diminish the magnificence of Life, the Universe and Everything, or does it demand that we bloody well appreciate it while we’ve got the chance?
The latter, for me, is the message prompted by the spiritual power of Christmas – that and thoughts of sharing, inclusivity, fellowship, love and hope. I write this alone, as many paedophiles and other “minor attracted” people will be at this time of year, some of us ostracised by our own families and cut off from any sense of community.
Luckily for me, I do have good friends and my days are filled with a tremendous sense of purpose. I love writing and sharing my thoughts and feelings. For many others, I know, it is not so easy, especially at this time. What can I say to you? Hang in there, buddy, things can only get better? Not really. They might get worse. I can remind you that Jesus befriended the sinners and the outcasts, even if most of his oh-so-fucking-righteous Christian followers wouldn’t dream of doing so. Not a lot of comfort there then either.
It must be admitted, though, that there are some real Christians, and doubtless these stalwarts of religion have their counterparts in other faiths: I’m thinking of the Salvation Army types, the ones who put themselves out to help the lonely and the troubled and the down at heel. It is not unknown for them to extend the hand of friendship to paedophiles as well as others, through organisations such as the Circles of Support and Accountability and Heather Elizabeth Peterson’s Unconditional Love. If you’re really at your wit’s end you might want to turn to them.
Beware, though, a deal with such people is a Faustian pact: they are after your soul, and when you are feeling low you might sell it too cheap. You would be handing over your conscience, giving it up as a vassal’s tribute to an alien moral imperium. As a complete human being, as a moral agent, you would be exterminated.
An Old Testament way of putting it would be to speak of selling your birthright for a mess of potage. None of us has a birthright to sexual engagement with whomsoever we choose, because others must also choose us. But we do have a right to our own sexuality and to seek willing sexual partners of whatever age. That right is denied by law. The law must be obeyed. But we should not lightly surrender the moral birthright of all humanity, including its children.
Religion in general, and Christianity as developed by St Paul and his followers in particular, has a poor track record when it comes to sexual morality and much else. The best Christians, as already noted, are good on fellowship: they do community values much better than most of us atheists. But their primitive, brain-dead pretence to have worked out in the Bible an enduring guide to moral values is ludicrously inadequate to all except those who still feel adulterers should be stoned to death as its pages demand, or who approve of a vicious megalomaniac God who would torture you for eternity for failing to respect Him: this is the morality of a vain and sadistic Mafia capo.
I read the Authorised Version of the Bible (more commonly referred to in America, I believe, as the King James version) from end to end a few years ago, taking my time over the course of a year or so to absorb it slowly and thoughtfully. It is a wonderful read: many books, in many styles, with much wisdom and drama, and much to elevate the soul; but also a lot of utterly vile, despicable, nonsense.
I had just completed this Bible reading of mine back in the day, when Bill Clinton was in trouble over his sexual transgressions in the White House. I happened to get involved at that time in an email debate with a Christian American lady who opined that Clinton, who professes Christianity, should read his Bible more, and absorb its “lasting values”. With a detailed knowledge of the Bible fresh in my mind, I was able to tackle her view as to the real value of these so-called “lasting values”, referring her, chapter and verse, to all sorts of difficulties raised by her approach.
The outcome was two substantial essays, one primarily focused on the Old Testament, the other on the New. I am as proud of these pieces as of anything I have written. If you are interested, see The First Epistle of Thomas and The Gospels According to Thomas. Feedback would be very welcome.
Here endeth the lesson – or, rather, one old queen’s Christmas Message!