Let me chime in with my complete agreement with PZ and Greg Laden over the subject of unbelievers, even outspoken atheists, celebrating and enjoying Christmas. They both mention Richard Dawkins’ recent statement that he enjoys Christmas and sings carols and the like, and Albert Mohler’s ridiculous reaction to those statements. It’s all quite absurd. As PZ points out, a non-Christian can enjoy Christmas just like a non-Christian can enjoy Christian music.
My old French teacher in high school was an agnostic, yet he played the organ every Sunday for a Catholic Church in town. Why? Because he loved the music and the ritual of it all. This seems odd only to those, like Mohler, who appear to be incapable of thinking only in the most literal manner at all times. To the rest of us, this makes perfect sense.
PZ mentions Stephen Jay Gould being in many choirs that performed Handel’s Messiah and that is a perfect example. It’s a beautiful piece of music quite apart from whether one believes in the ideas in it. The only reason Mohler thinks that an atheist can’t love a piece of art or music without regard to the ideas of the person behind it is because people like him are incapable of making such a separation; everything, even beauty, is to be subordinated to ideology. And they accuse us of bleeding life of its meaning!
I don’t go to church, but I love churches (architecturally, that is). I cannot listen to the Ave Maria performed well without being moved to tears. I say Merry Christmas to people every day during this time of year and it has nothing to do with Christianity. PZ is right when he says that Mohler’s attitude reflects a lack of imagination; he simply cannot imagine anyone not being as simpleminded as he clearly is.