by Karen I. Shragg
I have always wondered why an all-powerful deity would be offended by those who aren’t convinced of ‘his’ existence. There are about 4,200 different religions that worship approximately 21 different gods, unless you count the 320 million forms god can take in Hinduism. With more than 7.5 billion people and growing on our ever crowded planet, each god would get to be offended by nearly 2 million people if followers were distributed evenly throughout the globe. That’s a lot of pain for an all-powerful, all mighty deity.
If you are a person who likes to live an evidence-based life, it truly can be offensive to keep hearing about having a god-blessed season, that Jesus is the reason for the season, or even hearing ‘Silent Night’ while shopping for groceries. If we ever do speak up, we are told that we are like the Grinch who tried to steal the beauty of this gift-giving ‘holy’ season.
On the contrary, I love making homemade gifts and giving them to family and friends this time of year. I think the Winter Solstice, with its lights and cheer, is a fabulous way to counter the doldrums that can accompany the darkest time of the year. With our shockingly unqualified president elect dominating the news, I am especially invested in spreading as much cheer as I can this year.
It’s just that tying up the seasonal activities with religious stories can feel offensive too. Being ‘offended’ by anyone’s beliefs is childish at best, it’s more like being perpetually annoyed that you have to respect other’s beliefs while never getting to voice your lack of interest in following any god. From angels on trees to late night masses, December’s zeitgeist seems awash with beliefs that easily turn off evidence-based people.
There needs to be space in our culture for those who want to wish people a happy holiday season and a happy new year untethered to biblical stories we outgrew years ago. I think I just did.
Karen I. Shragg is a naturalist, writer and overpopulation activist. She joined the advisory board of World Population Balance in 2004, and regularly delivers lectures on overpopulation to local, state and national groups. Karen holds an Ed.D. from the University of St. Thomas in critical pedagogy and is director of the Wood Lake Nature Center in Richfield, Minnesota. Her books include, Move Upsteam: A Call to Solve Overpopulation, Grieving Outside the Box, and the Nature’s Yucky! children’s series. She lives in Bloomington, Minnesota.