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The War on Christmas, 2005

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I can understand the emphasis upon history, tradition, and/or culture in defense of Christianity, and its public expression. When a culture defends itself against attack, it’s legitimate to make these kinds of cultural arguments.

But to say an individual is impoverished because they are deprived of intellectual or social participation in the heritage of Christianity rather misses the point. Yes, an individual is deprived of this richness and depth, and the reality of his or her history. But, rather more importantly, the individual is deprived of the truth, not only an objective, cultural truth but a subjective truth about his or her own personal existence. This is the great personal deprivation.

Christianity certainly has fulfilled many functions in the history of English culture and tradition. But appealing to those functions is to miss the point. Christianity is not valuable because it is or has been functional; it’s valuable because it’s true.

The “Christianity is important because it is or has been functional” is the sociological argument, and it is inherently liberal (Voltaire, among many others, made this argument).

The liberal argument is the “Uncle in the attic” position. “Yes, Uncle Joe has played an important part in family history, and he got us through some rough times, and we remember him from time to time, and we feed him 3 squares a day to keep him going, but after all he is crazy now and out of touch and behind the times, so let’s get on with things on our own terms and in reference to our own needs, and please don’t bother us with what Uncle Joe thinks or used to think because his thinking just isn’t functional anymore in our modern, up-to-date world, OK?”

“But to say an individual is impoverished because they are deprived of intellectual or social participation in the heritage of Christianity rather misses the point. Yes, an individual is deprived of this richness and depth, and the reality of his or her history. But, rather more importantly, the individual is deprived of the truth, not only an objective, cultural truth but a subjective truth about his or her own personal existence. This is the great personal deprivation.” (—MD, 11;36am)

This is of course exactly right, but to be fair to the author don’t we need to acknowledge that he says in the piece he’s a non-believer and therefore appreciates Christianity for what it has wrought in molding the society and culture around him, not for what religious truths it claims to offer? He writes,

”[…]I saw as a child that, having tried as hard as I could, I could not believe in God. I greatly regret this, but, despite extensive reflection, I can see no reason after all these years to revise my view. […] However, […] I rejoice wholeheartedly as an atheist that I live in a Christian culture, and I know that, in that undeniably hypocritical act, I am not alone.”

Though he’s a non-believer in Christianity his piece is for the most part right and has great value as social commentary for today, I feel.
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Long live free Flanders!

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I regret to say that I didn’t follow your link back to the original article; I only read your excerpt.

Heffer adopts the Voltaire position, and for much the same reason—it’s so much more pleasant to live in a Christian civilization than in, say, an Ottoman or a Bantu civilization.

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