Why Everyone Should Celebrate Christmas

No matter what religion people subscribe to, or which ones they steadfastly avoid and ignore, everyone seems to have an opinion about Christmas and its celebration. This article will attempt to shed light on truths about Christmas while steering clear of emotional arguments.

People celebrate Christmas for two fundamental reasons. One, the purely secular reason, has been going on in some form likely since the early days of human civilization thousands of years ago. The winter solstice has just passed in the northern hemisphere, where a large majority of earth’s human population lives. Days will get more hours of sunlight as the weeks pass and the promise of the renewal of plant life and the return of migrating birds sustains people through long, cold and often snowy days of winter weather.

The Romans adopted the earlier celebration of this turning point in the natural year, calling it Saturnalia. While Saturnalia is well known today for its extended periods of sexual promiscuity–early autumn was a good time to give birth, best for both mother and child–and heavy consumption of alcohol, it was also a time for eating heartily, gathering with friends and family, exchanging of gifts and having fun in favourite ways.

We continue a similar tradition of celebrating the Christmas period today, with less emphasis on sex. The secular component of the event lives today as much as it has for thousands of years. The “over commercialization” of Christmas is nothing more than businesses meeting well expressed and traditional needs of people to have a festive period during the days of few hours of daylight, too much cold weather and too much snow.

Those who believe that Christmas has been taken over by industries to peddle their wares believe more in a religious celebration of Christmas. Christians may consider Christmas a somber time when they should consider the birth of Jesus of Nazareth some 2012 years ago. They consider Jesus to have been the founder of their religion.

He wasn’t, and therein lies a cause for confusion.

Jesus was a Jew. He never claimed to be anything but a Jew. The Dead Sea Scrolls, which seem to reflect the teachings of Jesus–in many cases word for word as recorded in the Bible–have recently been proven to be the work of a group of Jewish monks known as Essenes. If Jesus could quote Essene works so accurately, it’s likely he spent at least some of his “missing years’ in an Essene monastery. In his time, the Essenes were ascetics, living simply and sparsely. Considering how Jesus lived during his years of teaching, his life too was simple and sparse.

Jesus never claimed to be THE Son of God. He wouldn’t because he believed that every man and woman has the potential to join the Kingdom of God, whose members are each a child of God. In fact, whose members are each a part of the universal whole of existence, thus part of God. The Kingdom of God, as Jesus taught, is here and now, not after death. He taught that God is within each of us–not up in some mysterious heaven–and may be found by searching within. He told people to follow his ways, which meant to do as he did to achieve the mystical experiences he had. He wanted people to find God today, not live for some promised reward later.

Jesus never spoke a word to suggest that he intended to found a church. In the fourth century C.E. several religious books were rewritten to then form what Christians know as their Bible and that version called Peter the founder and first leader of a new church. In fact, we now know that the real Peter was a rough and coarse fisherman who was unlikely to be either a leader or a good speaker. James the brother of Jesus was more likely to be the one to continue the work of Jesus after the crucifixion. And Mary of Magdala, whose work was buried by the Christian church in the fourth century and whose reputation was disparaged in the sixth century when the pope called her the unnamed whore in one of the Bible stories, but whose real work and value are recorded in the Nag Hamadi’s so-called Gnostic Gospels.

Judaism considers Jesus of Nazareth to have been one of its prophets. Islam mentions both Jesus and his mother, Mary, in the Qu’ran and considers Jesus one of the prophets in the history of its religion. In fact, Islam does not downplay the significance of Jesus at all, it only values the words of Mohammed (570-632 C.E.) higher because he was the most recent prophet.

Jesus was a man of peace and love. His teachings were all about both peace and love. Didn’t he destroy the tables of the merchants outside the temple in Jerusalem, suggesting that he had hidden violence within him? Unlikely. That story is almost certainly a tale added well after the death of Jesus to make him look more powerful in the world of his time. Can you even imagine someone wreaking the destruction Jesus supposedly did outside the temple and not being punished for it? According to the story, he was neither arrested nor imprisoned for this blatant act against his own church. Supposedly he just walked away and the incident forgotten. Not likely.

“Love they neighbour as thyself” and “Peace on earth” are the two statements most often attributed directly to Jesus. Few other words are associated with Jesus as his words are only recorded in some 24 instances in the Bible. Everything else is hearsay and folk tales invented after his death to make him seem greater than a normal man..

The non-commercial celebration of Christmas is, in fact, more a celebration of the words of Jesus than about the birthday of the founder of Christianity. As calculations based on words of the Bible would put his actual birth date around September 24, December 25 is more symbolic than actual.

December 25 is a day set aside to recognize the dual messages of Jesus–peace on earth and love thy neighbour–not to recognize the birth of a man we know precious little about. Other than what has been invented about him by Christianity and other religions.

Those who value the concepts and want to see the coming to pass of peace on earth and love of others will set aside some time around the Christmas season to give them some thought. We remember the words of Jesus, that are now over two millennia old. They won’t die. However, they can only come to fruition when more of us practise them in our lives.

Christmas is about gift giving. It’s also about peace and love. We’re big enough to be able to give them all.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today’s Epidemic Social Problems, a guidebook for parents and teachers who want to teach their children all the lessons of life, not just the ones in school curriculum.
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Science on the (Beneficial) Edge

Science on the (Beneficial) EdgeScientists have been known to take some goofy and destructive directions–not surprising for people who often believe they are intellectually superior to the rest of us–but some studies lately show themselves to be clearly beneficial for humanity.

You and Your Superpowers

Have you ever wished you had superpower strength like comics stars Superman or Iron Man? Even if your strength is not what it used to be, super strength potential may be only a few years away.

Researchers at Raytheon Sarcos in Salt Lake City, USA, have developed a wearable exoskeleton that not only won’t weigh you down, it will give you extra strength.

Raytheon developed the suit for the military so that one soldier can hoist a 200 pound missile into a plane or shove obstacles out of the way in pursuit of the enemy. It’s not bullet-proof or explosion-proof yet, but that’s in development as well.

The exoskeleton consists of an upper and lower suit so that a person can climb into it as easily as getting dressed. As it requires a minimum of training to operate, eventually it will be offered to people who have various weakness disabilities and to the elderly who lack the strength and agility they had in their youth but still need to climb stairs and move furniture.

Hydraulically powered joints not only mimic human movements, they sense movements of the wearer and assist with that very same action. If a wearer wants to lift something heavy, for example, the suit will act like a set of outside (the “exo” part) muscles and make the lifting job easier.

Developed by University of Utah mechanical engineer Stephen Jacobsen, with funding from the US Department of Defense, the suit should be ready by 2015.

Rebuilding Yourself from the Inside Out

MIT materials chemist Angela Belcher was always different, even as a child. She would try to invent things in the family garage, out of scrap materials. Trouble was, everything she invented had already been made. Then she grew up.

In college she “fell in love with large molecules.” She found that she could manipulate them to build things. She wrote her doctoral thesis on how the abalone uses the same proteins to build a rough outer shell as well as a pearl-like inner shell. All the gastropod had to do was shift the sequence of the proteins to create the different textures. She thought it pretty amazing. “If organisms like the abalone have precise control at a genetic level, I realized it might be possible to program an organism to grow other kinds of material. Why not use genetic information to build a protein that can grow a semiconductor?”

Along with about 30 students and postdocs at MIT, Belcher has now programmed viruses to grow various inorganic materials such as nanoscale semiconductors, solar cells and magnetic storage devices. Returning to her earlier love of biology, she has also used yeast cells as scaffolding to build other living cell components. She envisions one day being able to rebuild a human body cell from the inside, using much the same methods as our bodies already use when they are working properly.

The National Cancer Institute is currently funding her to find peptides that can enter the body through the bloodstream, then go to target areas and specifically identify cancer cells. From there it would be a relatively small step to ridding a body of cancer through internal warfare.

If You’re A Bad Guy, You Won’t See It

Gilles Brassard, of Canada’s Université de Montréal, takes a radically different approach to computer security from most people. While Albert Einstein would have been comfortable with most aspects of today’s computers, he wasn’t too thrilled with quantum mechanics. He particularly didn’t like the fact that some things at the nano level could be in two different places at the same time, and especially that if you looked in one place they would be in the other. Brassard thinks that’s exactly what computer security needs.

The professor of computer science uses exactly that feature in quantum cryptography to ensure that if the wrong person–or an unintended person–views an encrypted message, it will say something different from what the intended receiver is supposed to read.

Brassard also works with others, such as Christopher A. Fuchs of the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics, in Waterloo, Canada, to determine how quantum physics might fit into the structure of the universe. He suspects that the universe behaves not according to waves and particles as most physicists believe now, but according to information theory axioms.

Maybe if you look at the universe from the right point of view, it’s not as weird as it seems.

Medical Nanobots with Sperm Power

Though reproductive biologist Alex Travis doesn’t collaborate with Angela Belcher, they work along similar lines. Travis wants to build nanobots–mechanical rather than biological–that can go into the body to repair whatever is needed. But what could power something so small?

Travis became fascinated with the power utilized by sperm cells that support each other and compete with each other on their way from the female vagina, through the uterus to the fallopian tubes. He knew he could engineer a nanobot to do stuff like clear a blood clot or repair damaged organs from the inside if he could only duplicate whatever powers those sperm.

It turns out that sperm use a process called glycosis to make a biological fuel called ATP from the same glucose that powers the rest of the body. That’s the simple version of the explanation. Travis plans to use a 10-enzyme glycosis chain within the tails of mouse sperm–what makes the sperm’s tail flail back and forth so vigorously–to power a nanobot.

He will have to modify the enzymes a bit so that the nanobots will continue to work once they reach their destinations. Unlike sperm that die of exhaustion once they achieve their goal. So far he has modified two enzymes on the chain so that the mouse sperm does what it’s supposed to do with a nanobot stand-in. Now he wants to modify the other enzymes so they will perform other functions in the process.

When it all comes together, medical nanobots will use the body’s own fuel–plain old sugar/glucose–to power themselves to specific body locations to complete tasks such as killing cancer cells or repairing faulty heart valves.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today’s Epidemic Social Problems, a guidebook for parents and teachers who want to know what children need, not just what adults believe they need, to grow into balanced and competent adult citizens of a better world. It’s not what most adults think.
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