Our War on Christmas

We atheists have been caught in our ongoing devious strategem for destroying Christmas. The NY Times first expresses some surprise that fervent atheists celebrate Christmas, but then the writer begins to catch on.

“Presumably your reason for asking me is that “The God Delusion” is an atheistic book, and you still think of Christmas as a religious festival,” Mr. Dawkins wrote, in a reply printed here in its entirety. “But of course it has long since ceased to be a religious festival. I participate for family reasons, with a reluctance that owes more to aesthetics than atheistics. I detest Jingle Bells, White Christmas, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, and the obscene spending bonanza that nowadays seems to occupy not just December, but November and much of October, too.”

He added: “So divorced has Christmas become from religion that I find no necessity to bother with euphemisms such as happy holiday season. In the same way as many of my friends call themselves Jewish atheists, I acknowledge that I come from Christian cultural roots. I am a post-Christian atheist. So, understanding full well that the phrase retains zero religious significance, I unhesitatingly wish everyone a Merry Christmas.”

Why, yes. My personal war on Christmas is fought in a way the Bill O’Reillys of the world don’t even recognize: I blithely wish people a Merry Christmas without so much as a germ of religious reverence anywhere in my body. I take this holiday and turn it into a purely secular event, with family and friends and food and presents. I celebrate the season without thought of Jesus or any of the other myths so precious to the pious idiots who get upset when a Walmart gives them a cheery “Happy Holidays!”.

For now, they have to pretend that this myth of the dour atheist, the sour old Scrooge sitting home alone because he refuses to bend his knee to Jesus, is actually true. Someday, though, they might just notice that there are an awful lot of secular folk having a good time in late December and early January. Maybe we need to get a children’s book or a Christmas television special made…

And the Priest, with his priest-feet ice-cold in the snow,
Stood puzzling and puzzling: “How could it be so?
It came without Jesus! It came without gods!
“It came without reverends, ministers or frauds!”
And he puzzled three hours, `till his puzzler was sore.
Then the Priest thought of something he hadn’t before!
“Maybe Christmas,” he thought, “doesn’t come from a church.
“Maybe Christmas…perhaps…needs a bit more research!
And what happened then…?
Well…in Doubt-ville they say
That the Priest’s small brain
Grew three sizes that day!
And the minute his brain didn’t feel quite so tight,
He whizzed with his load through the bright morning light
And he brought back the books! And the logic and reason!
And he…
The Priest skipped church for the season!

(crossposted to The American Street)


  1. #1 Bruce
    December 17, 2006

    While I agree with Dawkins about the “the obscene spending bonanza”, I like the old Rudolph TV special. What a coincidence though, I wrote about this very thing on my blog just a few days ago, except mine is a little bit funnier.

  2. #2 Davis
    December 17, 2006

    I have always said Happy Holidays because I thought it would be inappropriate to say Merry Christmas if I disbelieved the myth. You and Dawkins have straightened me out. I plan to give The God Delusion as a Christmas gift. Not that ironic, though; it’s going to my athiest brother-in-law.

  3. #3 Schwaumlaut
    December 17, 2006

    So I’m working on a full parody incorporating that last staza you’ve got there.

    Dr Seuss

    Parodied by Schwa

    Every Doubt
    Down in Doubt-ville
    Thought Christmas was safe…
    But the Priest,
    Who lived just North of Doubt-ville,
    The Priest feared for Christmas!
    The whole Christmas season!
    Now, please don’t ask why. No one quite knows the reason.
    It could be that his head wasn’t screwed on quite right.
    It could be, perhaps, that his cross was too tight.
    But I think that the most likely reason of all
    May have been that his brain was two sizes too small.
    Whatever the reason,
    His brain or without,
    He stood there on Christmas Eve, hating the Doubts,
    Staring down from his cave with a sour, Priestly frown
    At the warm lighted windows below in their town.
    For he thought every Doubt down in Doubt-ville beneath
    Was busy now, wailing and gnashing their teeth.
    “And they’re plotting against us!” he snarled with a sneer.
    “Tomorrow is Christmas! It’s practically here!”
    Then he growled, with his priest fingers nervously drumming,
    “I MUST find a way to keep the lawyers from coming!”
    For, tomorrow, he thought…
    …All the Doubt girls and boys
    Would wake up bright and early. They’d rush for the pyres!
    And then! Oh, the fires! Oh, the fires! Fires! Fires! Fires!
    They’d persecute Christians! On the fires! Fires! Fires! Fires!
    Then the lawyers, young and old, would file some suits.
    And they’d file! And they’d file!
    And they’d FILE! FILE! FILE! FILE!
    They would start with ‘Merry Christmas!’, and the Nativity,
    Whose banning the Priest just couldn’t bear to see!
    And THEN
    They’d do something he liked least of all!
    Every Doubt down in Doubt-ville, the tall and the small,
    Would stand close together, with menorahs burning.
    They’d stand hand-in-hand. And the Whos would start spurning!
    They’d spurn! And they’d spurn!
    And the more the Priest thought of them denying The Lord,
    The more the Priest thought, “Today, God needs my sword!
    “Why for fifty-three years I’ve heard that’s what occurs!
    I MUST stop the lawyers from coming!
    …My WORD!”
    Then he got an idea!
    A Christian idea!
    “I know just what to do!” The Priest laughed in his chair.
    And he practiced a quick British accent and glare.
    And he chuckled, and clucked, “What a great Priestly trick!
    “With this accent and glare, I’ll look just like old Rick! (ed: Richard Dawkins)

  4. #4 JoeH
    December 17, 2006

    I’m a definite no-gods-exist atheist, but I include a Nativity scene in my Christmas decorations every year. Why? For the same reason that Dawkins stated; I’m a post-Catholic atheist, and erecting a creche is as much a part of Christmas for me as Christmas trees and eggnog.

    Jesus is as real as Santa Claus, and I have no problem enjoying the mythology of Christmas.

  5. #5 BJHokanson
    December 17, 2006

    Here’s the problem I’m having with Christmas as an atheist: Not only do I despise the religious aspects of it (because as small as they have become, they do still exist and are quite meaningful to many Christians), I also despise the secular aspects of it.

    I just finished reading Tom Flynn’s The Trouble With Christmas (he came to UMN-TC a little while ago, although I couldn’t go), in which he argues that atheists are doing themselves a disservice by celebrating the holiday. Having just come to identify as an atheist this year, I myself am dealing with this for the first time really. Regardless of whether or not celebrating Christmas is helping to legitimize religion, I see no reason why I should celebrate it when I despise both the religious and secular aspects. The religious myths involved are lies; Santa and Rudolph are, yes, lies; the absolutely unnecessary materialism and consumerism is based on the lie that more stuff makes us better.

    Dawkins participates for “family reasons”? Bah. The only good reason we have to be with our families is to celebrate lies? I think not. There are good things that often come along with the holiday, yes – cookies and hugs and warm fireplaces and familiar faces – but they’re totally exclusive of the holiday itself, and the holiday isn’t necessary one bit to enjoy them.

  6. #6 Miguel Garcia-Blanco
    December 17, 2006

    I haven’t celebrated Christmas for about 15 years, but I have no qualms with the likes of Dawkins and PZ celebrating it. Although, if somebody calls me a killjoy and tells me that I should celebrate Christmas because Dawkins does, then they’ll quickly receive a smack upside the head ­čśë

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