Christmas is the opiate of the masses in a world that’s mad

By   /   December 24, 2016  /   19 Comments

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If religion is the opiate of the masses, then it’s no wonder semi-religious consumerist celebrations like Christmas incite frenzied and irrational buying and eating. We’re addicted to modern Christmas rituals involving spending madly, as much as religious iconography.


If religion is the opiate of the masses, then it’s no wonder semi-religious consumerist celebrations like Christmas incite frenzied and irrational buying and eating. We’re addicted to modern Christmas rituals involving spending madly, as much as religious iconography. Christmas celebrations these days successfully incorporate historic religious and pagan traditions, and are now well adapted to Western consumer excess. Christmas spending is next to Godliness don’t you know. Santa is the ultimate salesman encouraging ever more spending to prove love of family and friends. Consumerism is the new religious icon in the Christmas story.

To be an atheist, and anti-consumer at Christmas time is to be an alien in a hectic mass production and consumption world. There’s nothing wrong with the giving of gifts per se – in fact a gift economy could be an efficient and fair system. And it’s important to show love to those you care for. But as far as much of the gift giving goes, it would be sensible just to buy the stuff and send it directly to landfill. Cut out the middle man, the recipient of the gift, because our markets are saturated with plastic stuff made in China that is sometimes broken before we’ve finished the Christmas trifle. It’s a cynical reality that sees a booming market on Trade Me the day after Christmas for unwanted gifts. It’s even worse that shops discount their goods the day after Christmas but charge full price the day before. We’d all be better off spending time in the present with family and friends, rather than spending hard earned money on sometimes poor quality gifts that are surplus to need.

But Christmas is so much more than giving and eating, right? It’s the season of goodwill and peace to all men. Mainly men, that is, because usually women do a disproportionate amount of the stressful cooking, present buying and other responsibilities of Christmas. New Zealanders alone spend about $4.2 billion on Christmas – that’s a lot of shopping, a lot of money spent, often on credit, to meet ever increasing demands. And while kids are indoctrinated early into the Christmas culture, there is likely to be a continual stream of future shoppers to join the consumption chain too.

Around the world, Christmas is certainly no time for peace and goodwill. The bombs don’t stop nor are the children spared. Refugees in camps are likely to see out more than just one Christmas away from ‘home’, which probably no longer exists. In supposedly developed countries, homeless people, those in overcrowded accommodation, in poverty, stay homeless, poor, powerless, before Christmas, during, after.

Even the most naive Christmas tradition seems to be dwarfed by the capacity for human evil this year, especially close to the heart of where it all began. We’ve seen the destruction of ancient cities at the heart of Christianity. In the Biblical Christian birth story, there was no room at the inn for weary travelers in ancient Bethlehem that fateful night. And so today in continental Europe as well as more remote places like New Zealand, ‘there’s no room at the inn’, and refugees are rejected and resisted. There’ll be no peace in Palestine this Christmas. There’s been summary execution of civilians stranded between armies and rebels. Elsewhere, tensions are ramping up. A terrorist drives a truck into a crowded Christmas market in Berlin. The Russian ambassador to Turkey is shot in the back, at an art show, by an off-duty policeman shouting ‘Allah Akbar, Remember Allepo, Remember Syria’. More refugees drowned crossing the Mediterranean this year than ever before, but there’s much less fuss. Donald Trump tweeted support for expanding the American nuclear arsenal and Putin apparently raised to the bait. Trump’s unpredictable policy makes the whole world a less safe place but he was democratically voted to lead the ‘Free World’.

It would be comforting to be able to believe in old institutions like religion, democracy, internationalism. But 2016 reminded us that the United Nations is ineffectual at forestalling war crimes. When Russian propaganda leaflets were dropped upon Syria that said ‘The world has abandoned you’, they were right. In 2016 we learned that democracy can deliver perverse and dangerous results. That many people would prefer nationalism over transnationalism. Instability is easy to create, stability, harder to restore. Across Africa, the Middle East, Europe, and the US and Western states, we have been reminded how unstable peace can be. That there are threats to it everywhere. A suspected terror attack in Melbourne has been thwarted, which would otherwise have targeted many busy sites, including a main city church, on Christmas day. Nothing is sacred. Society is fragile. So is truth, in this post-truth, fake news, double speak age.

And so is the climate. Yet again we had another year that was the hottest on record. The Arctic is melting. Seas are warming, corals are bleaching. Predictions remind us that before too long the fish in the oceans, the elephants, polar bears and more, will be gone.

This year, as usual, there’s not much to celebrate really. We should all strive to enjoy the good weather with an existentialist’s realism more than a quasi-religious denial and consumerist distraction. The world is dreadful, confusing, absurd, meaningless and mad. People can be very bad. And that hasn’t changed since before the birth of Christ.

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  1. CosmicRay says:

    It’s an interesting thing this ‘post truth’. I’m pretty confident that if you read this back in 10 years time you will realise that your view of the world was skewed by a postmodern departure from reality and its drive to construct a better world (better for who though?) by tearing down the present one.

    In the real world life is a lot better than the constructed world in your mind – a world of fake global warming and the idea of the UN being anything other than the precursor of a global world government where people say with pride ‘we’ll all look the same one day’. And we’ll all worship the same false Gods. Fortunately it looks like the postmodern venture is failing because real people still vote (viz Brexit and Trump).

    • David Smith says:

      You seem to be a Brexit and Trump supporter and there are racist undertones to your comment about the UN. I’d like to know why you think that global warming (by which I assume you mean human induced climate change) is fake when the overwhelming scientific consensus is that it’s a very real threat.

      That’s what the term ‘post truth’ refers to, – people such as yourself expressing their misguided opinions as fact. This kind of obfuscation of well established scientific knowledge puts humanity on an even more dangerous path. You even hide behind a false name.

    • a world of fake global warming

      Really? So you’re not aware of the data?

      That we’ve had the hottest years since data was collected?

      That natural climate change occurs over millenia, but it has been compressed to less than a century?

      Do you also think that the threat posed by CFCs to the Ozone Layer was “fake”?

      Because you may consider, ‘Cosmic Ray’ that if humans have affected the atmosphere once (through CFC pollution), then it’s likely we’re doing it again, through CO2, methane, and nitrous oxide emissions.

      The only “departure from reality” is the Fake News you read from climate-denying websites (usually funded by fossil fuel industry).

      • Andrew says:

        I love the way these people declare it the hottest year on record when it’s not even over.

        It takes a few months to collate all the data so they should making their declarations in march/april earliest.

        So how much of this is real science and how much is politicized spin?

        Quote of the day:

        The urge to save humanity is almost always a false front for the urge to rule.

        H. L. Mencken

        • NASA would beg to differ with you, Andrew;

          If a new temperature record is set for 2016, it will confirm the longer term trends of climate change. This in turn will help scientists to counter claims from global warming sceptics that the rise in global temperatures has “paused” and therefore that climate change is not a threat.

          The monthly reports from Nasa come from publicly available data from about 6,300 meteorological stations around the world, as well as measurements taken from ships and buoys at sea, and Antarctic research stations.

          Other agencies, including the UK’s Met Office, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Japan’s Meteorological Agency, also publish temperature estimates. The Met Office forecast last December that this year would be the hottest ever, based on its observations. Also closely watched is the World Meteorological Organisation, which in July made a prediction that this year would be the hottest, based on data available to that date.

          Final confirmation of whether this year is record-breaking is likely to come early next year.


          Wishing you an environmentally clean Merry Christmas!

    • Afewknowthetruth says:

      Atmospheric CO2 is currently 405 ppm (130 ppm above pre-industrial baseline, and about 175 ppm above the 800,000 year average that facilitated the both the evolution of present life forms and the establishment of the present civilisation -if you can call the shocking mess we endure a civilisation!). Atmospheric CO2 has been rising at an ever-greater annual rate, which is not surprising when you consider the completely idiotic behavior of most industrial humans.

      10 years from now atmospheric CO2 will be in the range 440 to 460 ppm, and the commensurate temperatures will cause far greater climate chaos that already witnessed and will be sufficient to severely impact on industrialised food systems, if not annihilate them completely.

      10 years from now there will be NO ICE in the Arctic Sea for most of the year, and most of the species that depend on ice will be extinct, with humans well on the way to causing their own extinction via the burning of fossil fuels.

      10 years from now the accelerating rise in sea level will be impacting ALL coastal regions, (and 20 years from now most cities will be suffering from severe inundation).

      10 years from now the global extraction of oil will be in severe decline, and all the systems that depend on oil -in other words the entire globalized economic system and most of the food system- will be in the midst of collapse.

      The ‘postmodern departure from reality’ is the crap that politicians and the mainstream media continually churn out to keep the masses believing they have a future when in fact they are destroying it at an ever-faster pace.

    • Mike in Auckland says:

      “real people still vote”, hah, you mean ANGRY people still vote, while more actually choose to stay at home and do not bother.

      Angry Mr Trump for instance did NOT win the popular vote:

      Admittedly turnout in the UK Brexit vote was higher, but we may remember the tricks used by the Leave campaign, e.g. by Farage et al, presenting untrue, false figures on taxation, on levies going to the EU and on immigration and so forth.

      There is a tendency towards populism, but we know where that has led in the past, remember the 1930s in Europe perhaps?

      Most people are politically illiterate, and a fair few vote by gut-feeling, which though may confirm their own bias. An angry vote can upset the political landscape, can perhaps at times send a message that deserves to be sent, but it can also put people into power, who can turn out to be a much greater risk or threat than what we have.

  2. Mike in Auckland says:

    Thanks for this timely post, Christine. I went to do my remaining bit of Christmas shopping at Pak’n Save, I saw NO happy faces, many stressed out, stern and some insecure faces, of people feeling the pressure to take part in the consumerist frenzy called Christmas shopping.

    I do not bother with presents anymore, I expect none and give only very few to a few people I try to offer a humble present, which may nevertheless be appreciated.

    Does anybody still care about the actual meaning of Christmas, I ask? Where are those “Christians”, yes there will be a few left, but most are fake Christians also, pretending to care, but in their private thoughts they judge and decide, who is “worthy” of a present, and who not.

    Hence the frowning on those lining up at the City Mission door each year, oh, some are “fat” or “overweight”, why do they go and get help from the Mission, people ask?

    Then others do not want to mix with the “wrong crowd” and only look after their own family and friends.

    And as for environmental awareness, it is as low as it can get in New Zealand, the majority do not seem to give too much thought about the limits of our resources and so forth, and live like the plunderers of past generations.

    The years that National has been in government, we have had no real progress in environmentalism.

    So it goes, and that is supposed to be “Christmas”.

    • Afewknowthetruth says:

      When I wrote my first book 16 years ago I pointed out you can either have a planet with an intact environment suitable for your children/grandchildren to live on or you can have an industrialised society of mass consumption for a few decades: you cannot have both.

      It is now clear that corrupt politicians and corrupt media have conned the masses into believing they can have both, with the utterly catastrophic repercussions that were forecasted arriving over the next decade or so.

  3. peter h says:

    The gathering of family and friends, the sharing of a special meal and the reciprocal exchange of gifts are as old and wide spread as all of human society. That Christianity attached itself to the older established festivals is fine if you are a christian but does not detract from their importance if you aren’t.
    Catalogue the woes the problems the absurdities the desperation the folly the evil the injustice and the inequality of the world some other day.

  4. Helena says:

    It’s mind control and programming. Once we realize this, we’ll jump off the buy wagon. I think the children should have the beauty and joy of Christmas of sharing love, joy and laughter. For the adults, the Cabal have been defeated and now monies will start flowing so that we can get on with cleaning up the planet. A new day has dawned and its going to be a glorious future for all. Much of what we thought was lost will return. My thoughts, anyway.

  5. Blake says:

    Thanks Christine and glad to hear more speaking the truths about the ugly sides of the U.N. We have had enough consuming and now we need to try a new and healthier paradigm.
    Haven’t religions and consuming done enough damage ?

    Two songs ( new to me ) that I recently heard and enjoyed –
    Can check out on Youtube –

    Band – FLEET FOXES
    Songs – ” Tiger Mountain Peasant Song ” and ” White Winter Hymnal ”

    Warm and happy new year wishes to you Christine and again thanks for your contributions here.

  6. Afewknowthetruth says:


    Thanks for pointing out the insanity and destructiveness of the absurd rituals that most people living in industrial nations get caught up in because they are incessantly promoted by commercial interests.

    Perhaps the next time you write something along these lines you could change the ‘we’ to ‘they’ and the ‘we’re’ to ‘they’re’ because there is a small but increasing minority of people who can see through the disintegrating façade, and are disengaging from the mind control and consumeristic insanity being promoted.

    It might be worthwhile directly pointing out that Christmas has absolutely nothing to do with belief in Jesus or any of his teachings, and is simply embellishment of the fake Roman systems (Romans who couldn’t even get the calendar right!) imposed onto pre-existing pagan systems.

    The period we call 21st to 25th December (as a consequence of the Romans getting the calendar so utterly messed up!) corresponds to the Northern Hemisphere winter solstice, of course. And what is celebrated as Christmas is actually the new year -the time when the Sun stops ‘dying’ and begins climbing in the sky. So Christmas Day is actually New Year’s Day in the Northern Hemisphere. And New Year’s Day is yet another calendar foul-up.

    Depending on how you interpret Jesus (i.e Jesus = the Sun) and how you interpret ‘died on the cross and was resurrected after 3 days’, it can be argued that Easter is actually also Christmas, which is in fact New Year. In other words, all the religious festivals associated with Christianity are actually extreme misrepresentations of planetary cycles.

    New Zealanders should celebrate the New Year in the third week of June (and a few do). But that does not correspond to the short-term money-grubbing interests of the commercial enterprises who set the current, insane agenda, of course.

    • Nick says:

      And it’s so much more satisfying when we make it clear that it’s all of them doing it. Not us.

      Well expressed AFKTT, even if slightly inadvertent.

  7. Nick says:

    We need a day of re-dedication to goodwill and optimism. To the global family and the fresh optic of children. It doesn’t matter that it is illusion and that life is deadly earnest and we are surrounded by misery and horror. We still need this recharge to reset our holier than thou frowns and put our shoulders back to the wheel of self-righteous blogging.

    It is just one day. Relax. It won’t pollute the national soul more than it already is.

    Sure, some people are going to go on suffering through the Holiday. But our adopting a po-faced rectitude will do nothing to help. And sometimes even those in straightened circumstances can still smile and sing a carol and be with their kids and have a bit of fun.

    How wrong is that, again?

  8. countryboy says:

    I’m bored.

  9. Archonblatter says:

    Nearly eighty years on board. Bored from day one.