On this, the feast of Saint Lucy....
Proud that he can use Wikipedia, The Atlantic writer, Jonathan Merritt, ignores the reasonable extrapolations Christians have used to depict the Nativity without ever questioning the existence of the anthropomorphic god, Ganesh, or whether or not a donkey took Mohammad into space, especially during Eid when tempers are up and blood sugar is down:
On the less troublesome side is the nativity setting itself, which is usually a cave or a little stable constructed of twigs and peat moss. A Bible passage describes how Mary and Joseph arrived in Bethlehem to take part in the mandated census, but there “was no room for them in the inn.” But don’t let the English translation fool you: The word “inn” doesn’t refer to some kind of first-century hotel, but rather something like a guest room for visitors. The Bible does say that Jesus was laid in a manger, and in reality, in poorer places like Bethlehem, animals were brought into the lower level of homes at night to keep them safe from bandits.
So the most likely scenario is that Jesus was born in the home of relatives somewhere on the moss-less lower level of the house where animals were often kept.
That's nice except that the very important detail WOULD HAVE BEEN MENTIONED. After all, Saint Matthew exhaustively compiled Jesus' ancestry. Why would he have not included a pertinent passage where Saints Joseph and Mary were laid up on a cousin's hide-a-bed? By the time the Three Wisemen arrived in Bethlehem, Jesus would have been weeks or months-old and perhaps moved elsewhere (no red-eye flights in that day).
From the Gospel according to Saint Luke:
And it came to pass, that in those days there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that the whole world should be enrolled.
This enrolling was first made by Cyrinus, the governor of Syria.
And all went to be enrolled, every one into his own city.
And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem: because he was of the house and family of David,To be enrolled with Mary his espoused wife, who was with child.
And it came to pass, that when they were there, her days were accomplished, that she should be delivered.
And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him up in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
And where are mangers found? In a stable or cave, perhaps? Where shepherds could easily get to there and see Baby Jesus for themselves?
Colour me stunned.
And look- there's even a convenient census to record Saint Joseph and his family.
So much for that "imaginary friend" debacle.
But when you're aiming for low-hanging fruit, it's quite easy to feel smug and ignorant.
Unwittingly, Mr. Merritt is an example of why belief, particularly Christian belief, is important now more than ever:
When Thomas Jefferson wrote that ‘all men are created equal’ he called the proposition self-evident. It was a very Christian thing to say because not all men are created equal. They have equal rights under God, and it is only a Christian God that ensures the latter. Just look at what Islam is doing to its adherents, how it has cheapened life to the extent that people volunteer to blow themselves up in order to get some rice and some virgins, and compare that to Christianity. The idea of the preciousness and equal worth of every human being is largely rooted in Christianity.
How is the non-belief and relativism working out for everyone (and don't get me started on the laziness of blaming all religions for mucking up society or how atheism is not to blame for anything)? Is everyone happier? Are their lives more full?
I'm guessing not.
Nothing in life is easy, especially when the answers we ask daily go unanswered.
But I would rather cling to my belief in a Jewish carpenter than claim to have all the answers but really be clueless.
God bless us, everyone.