Gimme Credit

December 8, 2007

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This time of year the credit card companies make a bundle off unsuspecting people who are driven to overspend based on a manufactured holiday season.

I say manufactured because this entire season is just a convenient time to celebrate the birth of some famous guy. It started in the 9th century and continues today—but these days the wise men are the CEOs at Best Buy, Circuit City, Amazon and Wal-Mart.

They’re poised to take your cash in exchange for electronics, clothing and plastics because you’ve been—ironically—beaten into a buying frenzy by guilt and convention.

I say it’s guilt because that’s what the church does pretty well. Guilt about sins, guilt about lifestyle, guilt about thoughts and guilt about actions.

An episode of Skeptoid has me all fired up about religion. Skeptoid is a podcast put out by a pretty smart guy who explained in no uncertain terms how an atheist can have the same moral standing as a religious person even though some religions denounce atheism as a sin.

To paraphrase his contention, Catholics don’t have any issue saying that other gods don’t exist. In fact they base their entire religion on the belief that their god is the only one. This is also true for every other religion on the planet that worships a god.

Therefore, if you are a member/follower of a certain religion, let’s call it Religion 1, then you feel right about denouncing the gods that Religion 2, 3, 4 and 5 announce as their savior.

Follow the logic. Religion 2 denounces 1, 3, 4, and 5. And so forth.

SO, by this reasoning, fully supported by each religious body, it’s fine to denounce another religion’s savior. And by extension an atheist is fully right to denounce any and all gods and still be on OK ground.

The moral standing issue is this argument taken a step further. If your religion says that your morals are given to you by your god, then how can you explain the morals the followers of other religions have inherent in them? Is this the one time your god accepted non-believers? Or is it possible that there are a bunch of gods (or no gods) and they are all working from the same playbook?

Aside from being a season full of religion and guilt, this time of year is a great time to start reflecting on more basic issues. Thinking about family and friends. Making connections with them and even taking the time to buy them gifts.

These gifts don’t have to be anything expensive and it really is the thought that counts.

Further, this time of year seems to bring out the best in people across all boundaries. For instance, during a recent commute I was mired in traffic. The roads were white with snow and the traffic was bumper to bumper.

Being the genius that I purport to be, I had just gulped down a Chai tea and gobbled three Charleston Chew candy bars. This set my delicate system into revolt and it informed me that I should locate a bathroom.

As luck would have it, there was a rest area just a few miles away.

Driving into the rest area I saw two kids (probably in their 20s) pushing a Saab wagon up the slight incline toward the gas pumps. The ramp area was icy and these guys were making no headway.

I decided that my innards could wait another five minutes and after parking my car I strolled across the parking lot to help push.

With three of us behind it, the Saab cruised right up to the pump and everything was right again with the world.

Do I believe in god? I’m not sure.

Would I have felt guilty if I let the guys struggle with the car alone? Probably.

So is that the only reason I helped—guilt? Not really. I’d like to think that the skeptic’s definition of morals was right on target.

And regardless of the how the religious universe is composed, it can’t hurt to have a little extra credit from time to time.

More to come…