As a preamble to this mini-essay, we would offer the following, objective explanation of the dynamics of the Earth’s four seasons: A season is a division of the year, featuring changes in weather, ecology, and the amount of sunlight. They are the result of the Earth’s orbit around the Sun and marked by changes in the intensity of the sunlight that reaches the Earth’s surface, causing animals to hibernate and migrate, and plants to become dormant. In the Northern Hemisphere, spring began on May 20 and will end, on June 21, 2022.
Our readings indicate that ancient peoples were very attentive to seasons and to the Sun’s journey across the sky because their livelihood depended upon planting and harvesting at the right time. Worshipped as a Deity, the Sun was commonly, envisioned as traveling across the sky in a boat, or chariot, depending on the specific culture. Many of the significant agricultural dates, became pagan holidays, the dates of several of which, generally, coincide with our modern holidays. It is our understanding, that the ancient experience of regular seasonal changes is the foundational background of modern man’s religious beliefs and holidays.
Worshippers of the Sun God noted the perceived “death” of the Earth. Each year, the trees would lose their leaves, plants grow dormant, and many animals and birds, disappear from the scene (“Death”). It was, not less than, a miraculous occurrence that all of the evergreen trees, (Christmas trees) did not “die” (remained green). Nevertheless, predictably, in a matter of a few months, the Earth would be restored to life, (resurrection) the little animals seen, a verdant planet (bunny rabbits, eggs, etc.). The origin of the Christian theme of “death and resurrection,” we would propose, is empirically, traceable, to this perennial (seasonal) phenomenon.
Many Hebrew holiday observances are directly in sync with planting and harvesting time, viz., “Sukkot,” (harvest time),” Tu Bsvat,” (trees), “Lag B’Omer (re: planting times). For those people, interested in religious belief, its origin, and analogous modern observances, there is a useful treasure- trove of (empirical) knowledge readily available.
We do not denigrate religious beliefs or ethnic folkways. The same has given meaning and significance to multiple generations of believers. Historically, the Black Church has been the existential backbone of support and hope to its adherents, and their many centuries of inhuman injustice, and to European Jews, during pogroms and the holocaust. For many, it is a soothing balm to man’s universal acknowledgment of his mortality. Cultural and ethnic beliefs can be a positive supplement and support, most especially, in times of stress.
Religious belief, however, is justifiably, criticized, when, it attempts to impose its own dogma on others, when it denies empirical facts and thus impedes human advancement or human rights, such as anti-vax prejudice, anti-abortion, anti-divorce, anti-gay, and fascistic book burning. It is especially harmful when it seeks to substitute religious dogma for empirical science and proven objective knowledge Even worse, from a historically, humanistic perspective, it has been the underlying cause for a plethora of history’s bloody, shameful wars.
Religious belief, to be appropriate, should remain private, and personal, and not part of governmental policy or shared societal expectations. History, however, eternally, demonstrates that religious evangelism and policies of religious attempts at persuasion (to the extreme of warfare, pogroms, and inquisitions) are chronic. Religious belief, purportedly, dedicated to peace and justice, has, too often, been the root cause of human warfare and great suffering, especially, when the operative cause is a competition between religious beliefs (example: the European Thirty Years War).
Accordingly, we would now suggest a humanistic,” fifth season,” not a reflection of seasonal changes, responsive to the amount of sunlight reaching the Earth’s surface, but rather, a year-long, perennial, observance by an enlightened humanity, peacefully and respectably, keeping its proclamation of nuanced religious beliefs, or lack thereof, to itself, or if desired, to fellow believers.