Pondering the Christmas Star

Its that time of year where there are a plethora of predictable items on blogs, science sites and in the news about what precisely it was that the wise men saw on in the story of Christ’s birth.

Most stories focus on the speculation of what it could possibly be. A conjunction? A supernova? A meteor? More religious commentaries might mention something more supernatural in nature that’s not explained scientifically.

There is however one little aspect of the star story that has bothered me for some time and I have yet to see its mentioned specifically in any speculation. That is this; how on earth do you identify which building a celestial body is over? Its frankly not possible. If I look at the night sky from my back garden and look at the stars, pick the brightest one and follow it down, I might identify a house a few roads away. However, if I go to that house and look up at the star again, it in no way identifies that house anymore. So this game would continue with any star that I picked in the sky. It is just not possible to identify any particular building as being directly below any star up there.

The reason for this is simple, the distance the stars are from earth is so great that the triangulation required to identify any specific point on earth by eye is not possible. Add into that the fact the earth’s rotation would mean that any identified property would change every few minutes.

So judging the accuracy and validity of the star in the Christmas story by todays knowledge of astronomy basically makes it an impossible situation. There is simply no chance at all that people from miles away would have travelled to Bethlehem and identified the place where a baby was born simply through the position of a celestial object. We’ll ignore the small fact that this would also be future telling though astrology, something that Christendom overwhelmingly condemns these days.

For the Christmas Star, or Star of Bethlehem, or whatever you wish to call it, to be a true event, something supernatural would have had to have happened. I would also expect this to have therefore been a much more shocking event and one that would have generated far more interest than just the three wise men mentioned. Also I would expect it to have been mentioned in other places and not just Matthew.

Scientific speculation aside, I simply can’t see how this account of the birth of Jesus being marked in the stars as being credible or possible.

The Evils of Contraception?

With some of the recent discussion on the Catholic attitude towards contraception I have found myself reading more than I care to on the subject. I’ve never been against contraception and I don’t think I’ve ever been taught that it was wrong either, something I am pleased about.

In my reading of articles defending the Catholic position on contraception there is one word that has cropped up again and again. Evil. Contraception, it seems, has been called evil by everyone from ordained priests to enthusiastic bloggers. Evil is a very strong and emotive word and not at all appropriate to the use of contraception.

Evil is the wilful act of doing harm to someone or something with no empathy for the victim. Evil is flying planes into buildings and killing many hundreds of people. Evil is repeatedly subjecting young children to physical violence and worse. Evil is kidnapping and torturing people. Evil is many things and many people has done evil to others over the course of human history and if one was so inclined the list of evils done by man could be very long indeed.

However, one action that most certainly does not belong on that list is the use of contraception by consenting adults for the purposes of sexual pleasure. Disagree with what they do if you wish, call some of the acts sin if that seems appropriate, but evil it is not.

I can forgive misguided but well intentioned individuals calling it evil, but when a man of the cloth speaks out against contraception and calls it evil, then my heart sinks. This attitude displays a staggering inability to see context.

I am thankful that this peculiarity is not widespread throughout Christendom, however, the Catholic church is large enough and influential enough that it still has a major impact in less educated parts of the world.

Stepping further into the bizarre, I have seen contraception take the blame for the increase in STDs, single parent families and a general increase in casual bonking. Certainly easy access to contraception makes the latter very easy, and an increase in the latter will lead to an increase in the former two. The main reasons for these increases are the changes in social expectation. Single parents are not frowned upon in the way they once were, divorce is much easier to attain and is not stigmatised anymore. Single women who find themselves pregnant are not rushed into a quick marriage. Lets not forget that casual sex and openly sexual relationships between non married couples is now the norm.

There is so much social change over the past 50 years that anyone who tries to nail the sexually related ills of the world on contraception can only be blinkered by their own prejudices. Contraception is a product that has become popular due to increased demand for such a product. High contraception use is a symptom and result of greater demand for a reduction in the bonk / baby ratio. It is absolutely not the case that people suddenly found themselves with a glut of contraceptives and had to come up with ways to use them.