...on Christmas, and yet I am an agnostic. I was brought up Catholic; that meant Catholic grammar school, catholic religious training, catholic summer camp, and even catholic High School. By the time I was in high school, I guess I was pretty doubtful that there was a god as most people think of god(s).
I do not practice any religion now. In fact I shun religion for myself, yet I do not deter others from believing or practicing. I just find it is not for me, and I believe it is probably one of the biggest causes of suffering in the world, both past and present; and religion promises to be one of the biggest causes of suffering in the future. One of the problems with religion has always been its inability to do things within reasonable limits, it is often all or nothing, such is the basis of faith; and such unrestrained hard core beliefs are what cause much of the problems. Yet, I also believe that there is a lot of good that has come from religion. For example some moral standards, the ideals of of charity (to an extent), of morality, of moral responsibility, of forgiveness (to an extent) and so forth.
One of the things I like about my catholic upbringing is the ideal of gift giving at Christmas. It is at this time of year that Christians believe that God gave his most valuable gift to mankind in the form of his own son. A pretty impressive gift. it is also a time when as the story goes, the wise men brought gifts to the newborn Christ child. The lesson I get from all of this is that it is a good gesture to give gifts. I believe that is correct, I believe it is righteous. I believe it is nice, and it sure makes me feel nice when I give gifts to others, as well as when I receive them. It is a tradition that I truly enjoy, and that I believe is a good thing to do, this even though I am not a worshipper.
Of course I do not limit gift giving to the Christmas time of year. I give gifts to my family throughout the year, usually smaller gifts than they receive on birthdays or at Christmas, but I still give them things every now and then - I guess much as we all do with our families at special times and at regular times that we just want them to feel special. I also give gifts to those less fortunate than me. No I am not a big charity kind of guy, but every now and then I give someone less fortunate a small handout. I also give at the office, yes I mean that seriously. I donate to a few charities annually, not so much to feed the poor kind of things, but to causes in which I believe. This year for example to the Wild Turkey Federation, and to Gun Owners Foundation.
Still though, Christmas retains some of its significance for me. I just find it a certain magic to give at Christmas, when others are doing the same even if they do so for reasons other than my own.
With that out of the way, and with all the pre-holiday sales already firing up, it is time to start thinking about which gifts I’ll be giving to whom. It truly is one of the better traditions to come out of a religion, something that can really make you feel you have done some good.
All the best,