I used to be a Christian but gave that up in good time. Now, I suppose Humanist would be a better way to characterize myself and my belief system. That would be better than saying Atheist, which, rather than affirming what one believes, affirms a negation of belief, a somewhat self-contradicting expression.
More than a disbelief, Humanism asserts a belief in the sacredness, if you will, of humanity. It elevates the notion of brotherly love to the highest ideal. So where does the festival of Christmas fit in for an ex-Christian and believer in the primacy of humanity, while living in a somewhat Islamic state?
It comes into play, on the one hand, with often being faced with the assumption that one is Christian, simply because he hails from a Western country. People in the Islamic world, it would seem, view the rest of the world as a mirrored, albeit errant, version of their own. "I'm Muslim so you must be Christian," so the rationale goes. "We have our Eid (an important Islamic celebration) so you must have your Christmas."
It is so much easier to respond, "Right, I'm Christian," rather than create puzzlement, sympathy or, even worse, an opportunity to proselytize by saying, "I have no religion." A non-believer, and even more so, an ex-Christian, is a ripe pick in the world of the Prophet. Invariably some obscure ex-Christian convert to Islam will be held up as proof of the errancy of believing in a faith, thusly discredited.
Such simple minds--one of the main reasons I left Christianity! There may be something to that sense of a mirrored reality after all.
Getting back to Christmas in the UAE, it is gaining in importance here as not only a commercial opportunity but also an expression of the multiculturalism that is growing in this land. To the chagrin of some the UAE is a land of Hindus, Christians and even those invisible and silent humanists and other unorthodox non-believers, in addition to the native Islamics.
Christmas, whether one believes in its religious significance or not, is full of symbolism that goes far beyond the religious fundamentals. It is a festival of the family, togetherness, brotherly love, sharing, fantasy, as well as that of crass consumerism and more, both good and bad. It is an inescapable part of contemporary Western culture, if not Western religion. As Dubai and the rest of the UAE adopt capitalism, globalization and modernization, the legacy of Christmas is bound to take hold.
To its credit, the occasion presents as good a time as any to spend a special moment with a loved one or loved ones. In that, its relevance transcends the confines of any one religion or any religion at all. It is both fitting and beneficial that it continues to grow in significance in even an Islamic society, and more so in one that is as multicultural as the UAE.
Open a printable copy, in a new window.
Technorati Tags: Christmas, Christmas in the UAE, humanism, atheism, multiculturalism