X-Message-Number: 25373
Subject: The Existential Meaning of Christmas
Date: Tue, 21 Dec 2004 23:29:17 US/Eastern

    Whether we love it, hate it or simply accept it, Christmas thrusts
itself into our lives every December. For years I tried to come to 
terms with this event. The most "tangible" result of my struggle 
has been a page on my website: "The History of Christmas":


    I believe that this webpage is the most thorough & detailed 
exploration of Christmas from an anthropological & historical 
point of view that can be found anywhere on the web. It is 
listed in the Yahoo Christmas directory:

and a Google search for "History of Christmas" puts me on the 
first page.

     People who have read my Christmas webpage previously will find
that many major additions have been made in the last couple of months. 

   What does this have to do with cryonics? It is no secret that most
cryonicists do not have religious beliefs. Although Christmas can be
celebrated as a purely secular holiday, people who feel independent
of religion often have the same disregard for social ritual in general.
A cryonicist is typically an independent thinker who has a strong 
capacity for resisting social pressure and acting on her/his own
beliefs.  This would be true of religous as well as non-religious 
cryonicists. I have glimmers of the kind of pressure Joe Waynick
must feel as a devoted Seventh-Day Adventists, both within his
church and in the cryonics community. I witnessed an Alcor member 
harshly telling Joe that a religionist should not be associated with Alcor. 

    I feel that it is very important that we present cryonics as a 
medical procedure and not as an alternative to religious salvation. 
We should question (not challenge) those who claim direct knowledge 
that God is against cryonics. (Ask why the Catholic Church opposes 
the destruction of cryopreserved human embryos.) This is difficult for 
those of us who are secular, which is a reason why I think Alcor is
fortunate to have Joe Waynick as a spokesperson. 

    Christmas is a celebration of family -- a time for family reunions 
and an occason for reopening family conflicts. To my knowledge
every single one of my family is a devoted Christian. One relative
has bitterly attacked my secular orientation and association with
cryonics, but he has mellowed a bit as he has aged and lost the
energy to fight me. (I have stood my ground, but never fought back.)
He does love me, but my beliefs are a troubling source of conflict 
and confusion for him. 

     I do not want to be seen as an enemy of religion. My goal is 
survival. "Live and let live" is a good policy for a survivalist as well
as for anyone simply wanting to be on good terms with fellow
human beings. Cryonics will have too many enemies for too many
reasons for us to risk our lives with further trouble. Cryonics can 
and must embrace those of many religious faiths to survive.  Still,
I prefer be honest about my perceptions of reality. 

    Like the death or deanimation of those close to us, Christmas
interrrupts the routine of our lives and can provide an occasion to
reflect on our place in the universe. Christmas is an aspect of 
the culture in which I was born that has occasionally left me with
the existential sense of having been thrown into an alien world I
cannot relate to -- a "Stranger in a Strange Land" (more in
the sense of Camus than of Heinlein) -- but associated with this
is the independence and feeling of responsibility for my life which
has enabled me to be a cryonicists and openly work for cryonics.

    And to write a History of Christmas webpage that has become
a top Google search item. 

         Ben Best, speaking for

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