This week is Thanksgiving in the United States. This means that over the coming weekend many Americans will be putting up Christmas decorations in and outside their houses. Many children will be putting finishing touches on their letters to Santa. The shopping malls will start to fill and while economists examine and measure the retail sales bump for signs that the world will not end, we, as a nation, will come together to incrementally crank up the material contents stored in our homes and the corresponding mass of our public landfills.

But what do Atheists do on Christmas?

We declare war
!!!! War, I say!!!!

OH, and some of us put up Christmas and/or Hanukkah and/or Kwanza decorations, we go to the malls or on line and get presents for family and loved ones, engage in Secret Santa negotiations and some of us (and by “us” I mean “them” in this case) sing Christmas Carols.

And there is another pleasure we atheists get from Christmas. From our perspective of understanding that Christmas is a cultural event as much as, if not more than, a religious holiday, we enjoy, and even get giddy about, the reaction of people who are nervous about their own religion and who disdain us atheists to our very existence. The ten commandments displayed at the courthouse is an abomination. The city funded Christmas creche in the town square is inappropriate and obnoxious. The Christmas tree in front of the state house? Meh…

But what about Richard Dawkins singing christmas carols????

I wrote the following a couple of years ago, but most of you have not seen it. It applies nicely this time of year …

The Bible-Thumping Grinch who Pissed on Christmas

I am amazed at the giddiness amongst Christian Fundamentalists that has fomented from the mere utterance of a holiday greeting by Richard Dawkins. The counter-insurgents in the War on Christmas … the Red White and Blue, squeaky-faced smirking shits that call themselves commentators or preachers are creaming in their jeans. But they are also stepping over the line, and I’m calling them on it.

I do not really know or care what Richard Dawkins thinks, or said, about Christmas. I do know what I think and how my multi-canonical family celebrates the holidays, and I certainly know a sanctimonious bastard when I see one. And I’m seeing them everywhere on the Internet.

Here’s how it is with me. My closest associate in life is probably my daughter, because she and I have known each other longer and more continuously and spent more time with each other over a number of years than anyone else. She and I have almost the same attitude about Christmas. It’s cool because you get presents. Giving presents is fun too. Which is more fun depends. On the presents.

There are additional things beyond this that we each appreciate. We both like the family gatherings and the food. I don’t care about the tree and the ornaments and the decorations. If it was traditional to put up model train sets I might care more because I have a Y-chromosome, and there’s a train gene on there. But I don’t care about the other stuff. My daughter likes that stuff more than I do.

I like the smell of air that is chilled by two day old snow, served up to my nose at a temperature between 21 and 34 F. This reproduces an olfactory experience that must match some earlier experiences that were pleasant. I don’t think my daughter has those visceral reactions at her age.

Many things about Christmas I find utterly annoying.

So, Julia and I have recently married into a new family, Amanda’s. Her family is part Christian and part Jewish, and of course Amanda and I (and Julia) share our particular “belief system.” Amanda’s extended (and I do mean extended) family is organized among a set of matriarchs. The celebrations of major holidays rotates among the homes of the matriarchs. Since only one of the matriarchs is Jewish, and that’s Amanda’s step mom, Jewish holidays are celebrated there, but the Christian holidays rotate through all the families, with the Jewish matriarch fully carrying out her Christian holiday duties.

There are certain traditions.

The Arrival of Santa. As long as there are proto-sentient offspring, some lucky designee dresses up as Santa and we all conspire to fool the little ones into believing that Santa is real. It’s a lot better than just lying to them. The transition they will experience will not just be “oh, mom and dad made up this Santa thing” but rather, it will be more complex … they will have vague, often olfactory and tactile, memories of each Christmas Santa event, each with a different relative wearing the Santa Suit. Moments after they realize Santa does not exist, it will also dawn on them that each of those Santa’s must have been Somebody … Grandma? Uncle Nate? Duane? That was YOU??? Holy crap! And so on. Trauma is good for the little ones.

The Bronx Swap. My new family does not call it a Bronx Swap (that’s me, I’m from New York). Rather, they call it “The Gift Exchange” or something genteel like that. Everybody brings one gift, then you draw numbers out of a hat, and so on and so forth. You know the drill.

The food. Say no more.

As long as there is an elder who believes that a prayer should be uttered before every meal, there will be a prayer uttered before every meal. The atheists stand quietly and politely. The agnostics bow their heads half way … it is probably less hypocritical for them to bow their heads than it would be for the atheists, which is probably, in the long run, why they call themselves agnostics. But I digress. The Jews who are atheists (yes, you can be both) bow their heads too. The fundies (there are a couple) squinch their eyes up when they bow their heads.

I imagine it was different back in the 60s and 70s, when the present matriarchs were either too young to be in charge or just coming to their own, but earlier matriarchs ruled. The Jews had not married into the family yet. There were, however, both Protestants and Catholics. Indeed, there were mixed marriages between Protestants and Catholics. Even more importantly, perhaps, there were Norwegians and Swedes mixing it up, interbreeding, getting along, and so on. The limit of tolerance is not known to this family! The whole thing would have had its own pattern different from, yet similar to, today.

Here is my point: There is a spectrum across which all these people, at these events, range. We have people who go to churches where their preacher tells them that gays are sinners, and we have gay people. We have people who worship Jesus and people who may think of Jesus as a somewhat misguided Jewish boy. We have people who are rabid atheists, people who are agnostics (an agnostic is an atheist caught in the headlamps of family matters, really) and Lutherans and Catholics and Promise Seekers. What holds everybody together is that they are related by blood or marriage (but never both!). Any one of these Christmas celebrations (and the same happens for Easter but on a slightly smaller scale) could be a wedding or a funeral, in terms of who shows up. They are just family gatherings, and other than the crazy guy in the red suit and the gift exchange, there is nothing ceremonial that marks the day.

But this is not OK with the right wing Red White and Blue God-boy Preachers and Talk Radio Yahoos. Oh no, not at all. An atheist, like Richard Dawkins or me or anyone else cannot participate in this ancient holiday tradition in a casual manner without Great Meaning being attributed!

When I look at guys like this:

i-332017d3564be144720854c679e50585-blithering_asshole.jpg

staring at me from the Internet, and I read words like this …

The thought of Richard Dawkins singing any carols with explicit Christian content is difficult to hold — unless the Oxford professor intends to sing of a faith he does not profess.

and

We can only wonder which Christmas carols are Richard Dawkins’ favorites. The sight of an avowed atheist joining in the Christmas chorus is a bit hard to imagine.

I get a little angry and a little annoyed.

The cultural celebrations in which my family engages are not really subject to review, criticism, or comment by sanctimonious bastards like this. We have the right to assemble, and we have the right to mix creeds and cultures and approaches in a way that this family has managed to work out over the years very nicely. We do not need to be judged or told that we must stay away from Christmas or do Christmas in a certain way. The right wing fundamentalists do not own this holiday.

There is a lot more wrong with Christmas than there is right with Christmas. A week ago, my wife stopped at a major bookstore to buy a book for a Jewish relative for Hanukkah. She needed it gift wrapped, but they only had Christmas paper. This was during Hanukkah. That was annoying and, frankly inappropriate. That was Borders Books. The carols are annoying. I find all public music annoying, but the Christian carols are an imposition in the public square. I don’t care about Christian Christmas decorations going up in public space as long as the solstice rock (or whatever) and the Giant Inflated Dreidel can go up as well. I object to the spending of public money on any of this, but loaning a bit of public space for others to use is reasonable. It is public space.

The utterance of “Merry Christmas” and the widespread corporate and institutional exploitation of Christmas has never bothered me any more than any commercialism … from fast food to “without life itself chemicals would be impossible” … and not just because I’m used to it. Rather, I grew up in a liberal part of the country where no one really cared too much if you were an atheist or a Hasidim, and it was common to see diverse religious iconography displayed around at various holiday seasons. But this sort of thing has became an issue exactly because the right wing has attacked — attacked the tolerant and the unconcerned, the cultural celebrators and the casual Christmas-doers — from TV and talk radio, the pulpit, and even from state and national legislative bodies!

We are now expected to fall into line and behave as they do, or get out. I am supposed to become like Bill O’Reilly. I would cut my wrists first.

No, Mr. and Mrs Red White and Blue Pastie-Face Right Wing Yahoo, this holiday, or any others, is not yours. Christmas is just as much Richard Dawkins’ .. and mine … as it is anyone else’s. This is what is meant by the term “cultural.” The Cultural emerges from the actions and attitudes of the participants. What you are trying to do is dictate a narrow theocratically defined and litmus tested range of behaviors. Now, you are telling me what my attitude needs to be about a holiday in order to escape your disdain and ridicule. What will you be telling me to do next?

In fact, this holiday is more ours than yours, because ours is everyone’s and yours is close minded, selfish, parsimonious and pompous. You are mean. Santa is jolly. We’re with Santa, you cold hearted bastards!

I leave you with this:

Check out this series of posts about missionaries ….

Comments

  1. #1 Mike Haubrich, FCD
    November 22, 2009

    Merry Christnas to you to.

    War is Over, if you let it.

  2. #2 Pat
    November 22, 2009

    Might want to change the title to “begin” instead of “being”…

  3. #3 dorid
    November 22, 2009

    I’m going to have to repost this. I’ve been telling my kids, if I can sing about Santa Claus, I can sing about Jesus.

  4. #4 mariana
    November 22, 2009

    Nice! I like it. A well-balanced approach. In a downtown Vancouver coffee-shop run by two Sikh brothers and their family, I had several interesting conversations with them. After I knew them well enough I asked what they thought of Christmas. The one with a wife and children said that he loves it, and he gets into all the trappings and gift-giving and they talk about peace and goodness on earth, and our part in trying to make it happen. The non-married brother liked it, but would like it more if he had a wife.

    Just because something has religious overtones does not mean you can’t enjoy the experience in your own way if you don’t share that religion. It is part of our culture. Even people with other strong religious beliefs enjoy participating in this holiday. There will always be uptight wingnuts on both sides trying to create controversy. Fine, but don’t expect us to come running to join you. We’ll be too busy celebrating Christmas in our own way.

    Incidentally, when I lived in Vancouver I’d participate in other religious holidays. My Asian and East Indian coworkers and friends were always inviting me (dragging me in a couple of cases) and I had good times at various parades or meals.

  5. #5 Greg Laden
    November 22, 2009

    Pat: Thanks. I saw that error (and a couple of others, also fixed) just before my internet connection crashed.

  6. #6 Terry Rice
    November 22, 2009

    Let the War on Christmas *begin*, NOT “being.” C’mon, Greg.

  7. #7 R. Barber
    November 22, 2009

    More often each year I think people say “Merry Christmas” to me with a smirk on their face because they are thinking of the War on Christmas and are expecting a come-back. Or at least that is what I think they are thinking.

  8. #8 Alex
    November 22, 2009

    Terry, I think we’ve been over that.

  9. #9 wallace Turner
    November 22, 2009

    Humbug!

  10. #10 Brent
    November 22, 2009

    Christmas carols are sung in church, and church is, unfortunately, one of the last places where people can sing in a group without appearing a bit daft. To be sure, one can sing along to the radio or in the shower or go to a karaoke bar, but there’s nothing quite like a choir. Besides, it’s obvious why Dawkins might enjoy caroling; the music is beautiful and for him probably carries the memories of Christmases past, just as it does for almost anyone who spent a childhood around a Christmas tree.

  11. #11 Bob
    November 22, 2009

    Sorry, but I think there is a hypocracy to write a book like God Delusion and the sing about Christ the Savior. Pick a side, pick a stance, Mr. Dawkins.

    Also notice that the great doctor stated that England is a Christian Nation. Since America is an offshoot of that, America is also a Christian Nation. So we can stop arguing now.

  12. #12 Elizabeth
    November 22, 2009

    Brent, there are carol groups in my neighborhood who do not sing in church and do sing on the street. I think they a Buddhists.

  13. #13 Glendon Mellow
    November 22, 2009

    Terrific post Greg.

    Christmas is a cultural tradition. The mixture of Christian, pagan, commerical and pop culture all work together wonderfully.

    Pass the egg nog.

  14. #14 Stephanie Z
    November 22, 2009

    Bob, is it also hypocrisy to sing Frosty the Snowman and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer?

  15. #15 Mike Haubrich, FCD
    November 22, 2009

    Poor Bob and his reading comprehension skills have been separated again. It’s okay, Bob, we all love you around Christmas, and maybe Santa will bring them back to you.

    I do have a couple of little points that you may have missed.
    1. It’s all in good fun to celebrate this Holiday season no matter what the name.
    2. Atheists are not vampires, so Jesus is not scary. It’s kind of cute the way you want to claim a mythology, but have at it. We’ll celebrate Krismas right beside you.
    3. The offshooting of the United States from Britain required a lot of shooting. You may want to bone up on history.

  16. #16 Rich Wilson
    November 22, 2009

    Amen!

    I actually agree with O’Reilly in that this “let’s not offend anyone by calling it Christmas” is silly. But then so it trying to exclude everyone else from this supposedly Christian good time. If you’re going to co-opt someone else’s good time, then you don’t get to be exclusive about it.

  17. #17 Wallace Turner
    November 22, 2009

    I speak neither Italian or German yet Verdi and Wagner can both bring tears to my eyes …

  18. #18 Adrian
    November 22, 2009

    Bob @ 11
    The UK is officially a Christian nation because the Queen is head of state and head of the Church of England. We do not have separation of church and state as in the USA. However despite this we are still probably the most secular nation, thank reason. Us rationalists can appreciate the Christmas music and why shouldn’t we join in as it is a social occasion with our friends and families as much as a celebration of Christianity. Also remember the roots of all this predate Christ by some thousands of years.

  19. #19 imr90
    November 22, 2009

    As a biologist and an atheist I have no problem at all with participating in fun cultural traditions that may have religious significance to some people. I travel to the Amazon regularly and when I visit indigenous people and they invite me to participate in their ceremonies and dances I do so joyfully, even though I do not actually believe in the river gods. Although my cultural tradition is Jewish, my parents were atheists and we had a Christmas tree every year next to the menorah because they were fun! My wife is an atheist and she has been attending Messiah sings every year for decades. I see nothing hypocritical about that. Besides, many of the symbols and traditions of Christmas are actually of pagan origin.

  20. #20 Irene
    November 22, 2009

    I am an atheist so I have as much a problem with Pagan as Christian.

    But yes the presents can be good.

  21. #21 Valerie
    November 22, 2009

    I’m sending this link to all my relatives.

  22. #22 articulett
    November 22, 2009

    I sing songs about Frosty the Snowman and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer with gusto. Am I being a hypocrite for not believing in such magical entities?

  23. #23 Laura
    November 22, 2009

    I’ve been lurking here for months, since dissenting comments either seem to ignite flame wars or are shunned as trolls. But because I surprisingly and passionately agree with this post, here goes.
    I am Catholic and I love Christmas because it’s so much more than a religious holiday. It’s so annoying when I hear “Put Christ back into Christmas.” Then the usual response, “Christmas was originally a Pagan festival.” How much was it ever all that focused on Christ? Perhaps, the main reason the Church embraced the custom was to officially continue the celebration by declaring it “holy”. Essentially, we are obliged to enjoy it. In the Northern hemisphere, mankind has an apparent need for a joyful event during the darkest time of the year. Assigning the birth of our Savior, not only permitted participation, it encouraged it.
    Because everyone CAN and DOES share this wonderful time of year, it is just that more special. As much as it irks me that uttering “Merry Christmas” actually offends someone, the notion that Atheists should be excluded is far more abhorrent.
    Dawkins once remarked he’d like a t-shirt that says, “Atheists for Jesus.” Knowing he likes to sing Christmas carols, makes me like him even more. In the spirit of the holiday, I now excuse him for not objecting to Bill Maher’s award.(like anyone cares what I think, LOL)
    Merry Christmas to all! This year, let’s live it up!

  24. #24 J-Dog
    November 22, 2009

    As a strong “Type-A” Atheist, I find that smiling and returning every “Merry Christmas ” with a “F*&k You” is a real feel-good and teaching moment. Ha Ha Bob – Got you! I save that
    Special Magic Moment and Greeting for Bob and his ilk.

    Happy Holidays to everyone else!

  25. #26 penn
    November 22, 2009

    Great post Greg. I was raised Catholic and later became an atheist, but I’ll give up celebrating Christmas when I’m dead. I love the holiday season, and I love the decorations, and I love the carols (for about the first week). I also love the giving/getting presents and eating and spending time with family. All of it just creates a visceral joy in me and I think it always will.

    With that said, I definitely prefer “Happy Holidays” because of the inherent inclusivity of the greeting. I hate how the religious right loons try to push “Merry Christmas” down our throats as if exclusion is virtue.

    Bob, I think Adrian crushed your argument nicely. Many of the original colonists fled Europe due to religious persecution. Our founded were acutely aware of the inherent perils of mixing church and state, and thus the US was founded as a secular democracy.

  26. #27 Terry
    November 22, 2009

    If we atheists are not a factor, then why do these Xian wacko’s insist on pressing the so-called “hypocrisy” of Professor Dawkins? If I were to go about every day, visiting churches and praying and singing praises to the invisible, impotent god of the Xian’s, that still would not make religion any less crazy than it is now.

  27. #28 Theo Bromine
    November 22, 2009

    The tilt of the earth’s axis is the Reason for the Season.

  28. #29 MadScientist
    November 22, 2009

    What have the godless got to do with the grinch? Every place where I’d seen christmas events renamed or trees taken down it was not because of the godless. It was always some other religious group seeking some recognition or whining about something. For example, some strange person telling the airport managers that they feel left out and could he and his friends please put up a giant candle holder? Rather than allow some strange people to put up a giant candle holder, the managers remove the tree and tell the public “It’s them damn jews that killed the christmas spirit here”. (I found the candle holder request very strange indeed – although Hannukah is meant to be a fun time, it’s not really a religious celebration.) In other places the catholics set up a stable and some other jesus cult complains that (1) it’s offensive because Mary was no virgin (yeah, Mary loved those donkeys) and (2) it’s a fire hazard. Any playground excuse will do. Now for religious displays on government property – that’s primarily challenged by the religious as well, not the godless (although there are godless people in organizations like AU), and it is challenged as a violation of the state’s duty not to promote any religion.

  29. #30 MadScientist
    November 22, 2009

    Poor Bob – what version of US history did you read? The one in your cult’s version of the bible?

    Although many Americans belong to some jesus cult or other, the government and its laws are not based on any sect since it was realized that any such thing would only invite a war of the sects. So no particular jesus cult was given preference. In fact Thomas Jefferson wrote and explicitly stated that the USA was not a xian nation (and hence has no intention of bringing a religious war to Africa). So one of the big guys who had a huge part in establishing the nation says it’s not xian; he should know, because he was there.

  30. #31 Gabby
    November 22, 2009

    Greg
    You got a shoutout from the Dawkins site. And on the lords day! Does that make it more of an honor?

  31. #32 notahypocrite
    November 22, 2009

    As an atheist I really don’t at all about Xmas and don’t object to anything about it except for the fact that is is a Federal Holiday in the United States – Humbug on that!

  32. #33 Vince Whirlwind
    November 22, 2009

    @18, talking about the UK:
    “we are still probably the most secular nation, thank reason”

    You have *got* to be kidding – English government schools teach religious instruction: that is anything *but* secular.

    If you want to see true secular, go to France. Germany does it pretty well, too.
    But the UK? not on your nelly – aside the head of state/head of the Church thing, the particular brand of Christianity there is quite conservative and less progressive compared with Catholicism even.

    Mind you, there’s plenty of silliness in the UK – Christmas decorations including Christmas trees are progressively being phased out on account of an imaginary offense they give non-Christians.
    I will never understand the thinking behind eliminating fun cultural customs (and there is nothing *Christian* about Christmas trees!) in order to pander to non-integrating immigrants. You’d be much better off getting rid of the non-integrating immigrants than the Christmas trees – save a bucket on welfare, reduce riots and terrorism, reduce crime and solve the housing shortage.

  33. #34 Cuttlefish
    November 22, 2009

    Hmph. My comment is hung up in moderation.

    From the Cape of Good Hope to the Newfoundland islands,
    The sands of Iran to the Panama isthmus;
    From Outback Australia to Inverness Highlands
    It’s time to take arms in the War Against Christmas!

    My weapons are mistletoe, Christmas trees, holly,
    A yule-log, and caroling out in the snow;
    Sleigh-rides and snowball-fights, eggnog and Jolly
    Old Santa Claus, laughing his loud “Ho! Ho! Ho!”

    We’ll make them forget all the Truth of the season—
    The sacrifice planned by a god up above—
    And have them believing some bastardized reason
    Like giving, or kindness, or caring or love!

    I’ll cruelly and callously help out a stranger
    Who’s down on his luck or has suffered some loss,
    I won’t even speak of the babe in the manger
    Whom God sent to Earth to get nailed to a cross;

    When the winds of December conspire to freeze us
    I’ll help collect sweaters and coats for the poor,
    Neglecting to make any mention of Jesus,
    Whose torture is really what Christmas is for.

    My hatred of Christmas will focus my labors
    On weaving an atheist fabric of lies—
    For instance, I’m giving to all of my neighbors
    Gift baskets, cookies, and fruitcakes and pies!

    I’ll say “Merry Christmas!” I’ll say “Season’s Greetings!”
    I’ll say “Happy Holidays—Joyous Noel!”
    Intending of course, that with each of these meetings
    The Truth About Christmas can just go to hell.

    The truth is that Christmas is not about presents
    It’s no time for songs, It’s not time to be nice
    It’s not time for feasting on turkeys or pheasants—
    It’s sin, and redemption by blood sacrifice.

    No time to be jolly; no time to be merry
    It’s time to be solemn, and grim, and devout!
    The heathens might find it depressing or scary
    But that is what Christmas is truly about.

    Yes, Jesus is really the ultimate reason
    And Christmas is really redemption and sin;
    The war against Christmas is early this season—
    For God’s sake, let’s hope that the atheists win!

  34. #35 Tiny Tim
    November 22, 2009

    Frankly, I am surprised that the marxist miltant atheists/liberals/communists/socialist Godophobes haven’t declared war on Thanksgiving too. After all, Thanksgiving is all about giving thanks to God for our blessings.

    I agree that warhas been declared though. However, it is an unwinnable war that will result in gnashing of teeth. For now the evil marxists may be winning the battles here on earth, but one day Christ will return and abolish the evil of socialism, communism, atheism, and all other isms that have declared war on His glory and His people.

    One day, those warriors against God will be thrown into a lake of fire by the warriors FOR God.

    Go ahead and declare your pointless, pathetic attempt at war. History tells us that everyone who has gone against God has failed miserably. Even Satan, the once powerful and beautiful of all of the angels will burn in that same fire.

    Go ahead and declare your war. We win in the end anyway. I hope you like HOT places becuase al of eternity is a long time to spend trying to put out a fire that is seven times hotter than the Sun. There you will be on fire, but not be consumes. You will suffer and scream, but no one can help. You will cry out but no one will care. You will be in misery, torment, pain, and agony, and no one will help you. There will be no escape and no ease from suffering. Darkness will surroind you and the creatures of hell will torment you day and night. You will not rest, not will you cease to be pain free for all eternity. What’s worse is the fact that you will be able to see all of the followers of God in a place of complete tranquility and peace obtaining their reward for being faithful followers throught the persecution you put them through. While you suffer, they will be rewarded. Go ahead and make our lives miserable. The more you persecute us the bigger our reward and the bigger your punishment.

    Merry Christmas !

  35. #36 Aaron Wilkerson
    November 22, 2009

    @Laura #23: Well said. Please don’t feel as if you are amongst enemies or will be attacked.

    @Vince #32: Wow. Sounding pretty racist/nationalist toward the end there.

  36. #37 Stephanie Z
    November 22, 2009

    Tiny, you might want to read the post you’re commenting on. I don’t think you meant that to be that funny.

    Vince, how long do those oppressed by British colonialism really have to be told that the British way is the only way? They made the empire run; they can live their own lives in what’s left of it.

    And Britain, in any way except officially, is indeed a very secular nation, particularly by comparison with the U.S. There are large numbers of nonbelievers, and they’re mostly let alone.

  37. #38 Phil
    November 22, 2009

    @Tiny Tim #34:
    I cant tell if youre serious or just making fun of the god botherers. Either way, very entertaining post. The funniest line was the one about the “evil of socialism, communism, atheism, and all other isms that have declared war on His glory and His people.” LOL

    Yes, I should have realized that Jesus was a capitalist, given all the biblical accounts of his obsession with the stock market, commodities trading, flipping real estate, and all those small businesses he opened. I may not believe he was divine, but I’ll give it to the guy, he really knew how to work the markets.

    I dont think Mohammad knew a short-term derivative from a hole in the ground.

  38. #39 Tiny Tim
    November 22, 2009

    I know you are alluding to Jesus beng a socialist. That alone is a statement of blashphemy. What Jesus did was encourage His followers tom ehlp the poor and sick by giving them food, water, money, and healing.

    However, socialism does sort of the same thing. The difference is in how these things are done.

    Jesus encouraged His followers to give to the poor and help the needy. Socialists force people through coercion of jailtime to give up their belongings and give it to a group of people who best benefit the socialist’s political well being.

    Forcing people to give up their money to a reckeless evil government and then letting that same government decide who gets the money is far different from me or your willingly of our own free will giving our neighbor some moeny becuase he lost his job.

    See Jesus was not a socialist. He never forced anyone to give up anything. He allowed the to do it own their won free will.

    Therefore, the term “Jesus was a socialist” is a blasphemous statement worthy of punishment.

    Besides, people who do not believe in God should not be allowed to say anything negative about somethuing thye do not believe exists. That right is reserved for people who actually believe in what they are criticizing or uplifting.

  39. #40 Irene
    November 22, 2009

    Tiny Tim. Shut up. You are dead. (but not forgotten)

  40. #41 Anna K.
    November 22, 2009

    Uff da! Norwegians and Swedes intermarrying?!?!

    I’ve read enough.

  41. #42 Gabby
    November 22, 2009

    “See Jesus was not a socialist. He never forced anyone to give up anything. He allowed the to do it own their won free will.”

    Threats of hell don’t count as force? The jail time you could get from not paying your taxes is a walk in the park compared to eternal fire.

  42. #43 Pen
    November 22, 2009

    I don’t know who the smug guy in the suit is, but if he wants to see a whole church full of atheists singing christmas carols, all he has to do is pop in for midnight mass anywhere in the UK.

  43. #44 Phil
    November 22, 2009

    Tiny Tim,
    I didnt say anything bad about jesus. I said (through sarcasm) that he is the opposite of his followers. Thats a complement. As far as we know, jesus never got married, never had kids, never made any attempt to build wealth, never showed any interest in technology, never said anything negative about gays, never showed any fondness for owning weapons, and never whined about paying taxes.. Perhaps some indigenous peoples are similar, but no christian Ive ever met is anything like him.

    Seems to me you made an argument that jesus was a socialist. Is hell not a prison?

  44. #45 Diane G.
    November 22, 2009

    31
    Greg
    You got a shoutout from the Dawkins site. And on the lords day! Does that make it more of an honor?

    Posted by: Gabby | November 22, 2009 4:52 PM

    Linky?

  45. #47 Stephanie Z
    November 22, 2009

    Dawkins link here.

  46. #48 Diane G.
    November 22, 2009

    Thanks, phil & Stephanie Z!

  47. #49 Tanja Sova
    November 22, 2009

    Hi, Greg

    I truly enjoyed making this set instead of nativity scene for the wonderful family in California:
    http://www.etsy.com/view_transaction.php?transaction_id=21869735
    Kids are lovely 3 and 5 year old and are very much into nature. A bit of fairy beings fit in, not in extreme way either. It was quite refreshing reading the request about having a set that is not religion based.

    Cheers

  48. #50 Wanda
    November 23, 2009

    Excellent post

  49. #51 zippy
    November 23, 2009

    I think one of the best examples about why atheists might celebrate, and embrace, certain religious holidays was examined in a short story by Shalom Auslander, in which a religious jew dies and goes to heaven. There he finds God is a giant Chicken. He then asks to go back to earth to warn his family that all their rituals and prayers are pointless…but then he changes his mind. The story was broadcast at the end of an episode of This American Life, which you can access here: http://www.thislife.org/Radio_Episode.aspx?episode=369

  50. #52 Lynn Wilhelm
    November 23, 2009

    @ 51
    I liked that too Zippy. Got a real laugh out of it until he changed his mind and decided not to tell his family.

    It is a bit sad, isn’t it, that tradition could keep people from speaking the truth. Do we have to sacrifice happiness for rationality? (In our families at least?)

  51. #53 Greg Laden
    November 23, 2009

    wait wait… I thought sacrificing rationality for happiness was the whole point of …. oh never mind, never mind.

  52. #54 Lynn Wilhelm
    November 23, 2009

    Can’t we all just get along –rationally and happily???

    By the way, Greg, I did enjoy your essay, it was great. I think I will pass it on.

  53. #55 speedwell
    November 23, 2009

    Cuttlefish, I don’t compliment you every time you post a poem, but DAMN, that was a terrific one. :)

  54. #56 jafsica
    November 24, 2009

    I actually really enjoy many Christian hymns, even though it is probably sanctimonious for me to sing them. Then again, if I liked it, I’d sing a song about Aesop’s Fables.

  55. #57 Jim
    November 30, 2009

    I think it’s funny that you think Christmas is more for Atheists than for Christians. First off the Christmas Holiday was to Celebrate the Birth of Our Saviour. It was commercialized by people like you that want a day off work with pay and I’m sure you enjoy the gift giving and receiving but come on. It’s gutless the world owes me something people like you that continue to complain that we as Christians are infringing on your rights by saying Merry Christmas and Posting the Ten Commandments in Government buildings because after all this country was built on Christian Values and Morals and Beliefs. Something that has held this country together from it’s start. Now you start taking the foundation out from under it and it all starts falling apart ( Obama ) need I say more. I will NEVER force my beliefs on anyone, but now you are trying to take Christmas away from us and claim it as your own. You can’t even be an original Atheist, you have to take something from someone else and twist it to make it what you think it should be. Let me leave you with this……. I will put you on my Church prayer list.

  56. #58 weirsdo
    November 30, 2009

    I agree. The preceding commenter evidently does not know that Jesus was actually not born on Christmas. The Church made that up to convert the pagan Yule and winter solstice holidays to Christianity. So in a way, they stole Yule from us.
    I’m sure someone else has pointed out that it’s “Promise Keepers,” not “Promise Seekers.” Ironically.

  57. #59 Greg Laden
    November 30, 2009

    Actually, promise seekers exist as well.

  58. #60 Sean O'Doherty
    December 22, 2009

    Funny how the Puritans banned Christmas in both Old and New England, and Christmas wasn’t a Federal holiday in America until 1870.

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