secular gods, was RE: Rowling and religion

meparks at meparks at
Sat Feb 21 22:17:46 EST 2004

Quoting Gili Bar-Hillel <gbhillel at>:

>> tendency in English language books to write about Christmas as a universal
> experience, ignoring the religious aspect of the holiday. Father Christmas
> plays an important role in "The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe", which I
> suppose is understandable as C.S.Lewis was religious; but even an author as
> secular as Frank Baum, who was even anti-church at times , having been
> seduced by theosophy and oriental mysticism, wrote Santa Claus into his
> books (an incidental character in one of the Oz books, I think "The Magic
> of
> Oz"; not to mention being the hero of Baum's "The Lives and Times of Santa
> Claus"). 

Yes, but what I find interesting here is how pagan Baum's Santa Claus is (to my 
memory).  It's been at least ten years since I read the book, but I remember 
lots of magic and things that would probably not go over well with the anti-
Potter crowd.  This reminds me of one of the big debates in feminism--is the 
tradition so integrated with its roots that it should be abandoned by those who 
don't agree with it, or can it be removed from them?  In this case, can Santa 
be secularized?  I'm one of those of Christian descent who has never celebrated 
Christmas as a religous holiday (though I am occasionally motivated to act in 
religiously-linked ways, ie the Christmas spirit of giving and joy and whatnot, 
most notably after I read Connie Willis' "Miracle"--but this, too, can exist 
secularly, right?), but I realize how different this is for those who are not 

On a vaguely related note, the Buddhist temple (Jodoshu) I sometimes attend has 
signed onto a brief in support of (long story short) removing the phrase 'One 
nation under God' (added in the early 50s) to the American Pledge of 
Allegiance, and this goes back to a similar thing--can we make God secular 
enough that it's okay to have all of our schoolchildren of diverse backgrounds 
talk about God in what is essentially a coerced mass oath?

to bring this sort of on topic, I was thinking about religion in DWJ, and the 
thing that comes to mind is when Millie assures Christoper that "Asheth is 
real."  And certainly Asheth exists in a much more practical way than does any 
other god in DWJ that I can think of. . . and it's just occured to me how 
interesting it is that the witch burnings in Witch Week aren't at all (iirc) 
religiously motivated.



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