Americans in the outfield

Contributed by
Dec 25, 2006


A recent poll has revealed that 81% of Americans believe in angels. It's an AOL poll, so it's likely to have +/- 100% error margins, but still.

One man surveyed thinks angels can take many forms. He said he felt his late wife's spirit one winter day when a bluebird flew into his backyard. She loved them.

While I honestly feel for the guy, it's all too easy even under good circumstances to try to find patterns and meaning in life when none is there. The hard part is understanding that: this sort of illogic is so obvious to someone on the outside, and so very very difficult to show to those who use it. Why assume it's a bird or a moth when you can make the literally fantastic leap of faith that it's an angel?

Well, it's the time of year for faith, I suppose. I generally wind up gritting my teeth a lot through the last weeks of December: the TV, radio, and web are full of stories like that. Ironically, this story came out literally the day after a similar poll in the UK shows that most Brits think religion does more harm than good:

More people in Britain think religion causes harm than believe it does good, according to a Guardian/ICM poll published today. It shows that an overwhelming majority see religion as a cause of division and tension - greatly outnumbering the smaller majority who also believe that it can be a force for good.

I would like to see the actual poll. I think it's obvious enough that religion can do both harm and good. But I think that given our current state in the world, I agree with the poll: right now at least, the balance is tipped to harm. And I mean all religion, not just the narrow view held by a loud minority in the U.S. Just look to Iran, Iraq, Palestine, Israel, Afghanistan... how much good is religion doing there? Just as it has done here to some degree, religious intolerance -- and by that I mean religious people being intolerant of others -- has caused woe and destruction on a vast scale, and it's unlikely to stop now. Iran is run by a religious theocracy, and they are seeking nuclear technology. How safe does that make you feel?

Some people might think I am bah-humbugging the season... but honestly, what better time to take stock of our tightly-held values (I dare say beliefs) and review them for sense and nonsense? For me, Christmas is not a religious time at all. It's a time when I get to see family otherwise separated by distance, share fun and stories, and generally be together. I have an old friend from grad school here with her husband and kids, and it's been so much fun to have everyone together!

Of course, there's no denying the roots of this holiday are religious (and the roots under them are pagan). But that doesn't mean they always will be, or that I have to be religious to enjoy the season. Think of it this way: astrology is the root of astronomy, but astrology doesn't have to be right (and it isn't) for astronomy to be, and I don't have to acknowledge astrology when I go out under the night sky.

Christmastime might be grounded by religion, but you don't have to be religious to celebrate it. While I may grit my teeth at some aspects of all this time of year, there is still much to enjoy.

So, to all my wonderful BABloggees: whatever holiday you celebrate, and even -- no, especially if you don't celebrate any -- have a good end of the year.

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