Pharyngula

Have a jolly godless Christmas, all!

Albert Mohler never disappoints. If you want a peek at the smug, ignorant heart of modern American Christianity, the weekly columns of the president of the Souther Baptist Theological Seminary are good places to start. In his latest effort, he expresses surprise that atheists might enjoy the Christmas holidays. He’s positively baffled that Richard Dawkins admits sharing in the traditions of his culture.

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.

Stephen Jay Gould, evolutionist, atheist Jew, and Marxist sympathizer, used to join a choir to sing Handel’s Messiah at Christmas time. Note to Albert: Jesus didn’t write it, the music wasn’t brought to earth by a covey of angels, and it doesn’t require supernatural intervention to either sing it or hear it. Enjoying great music, or for that matter, eating Christmas cookies, gathering with friends and family for a meal, or giving a child a toy, does not require one speck of faith of any kind. These are human acts; the only way you can have difficulty holding the thought that an atheist might do them is if you have difficulty considering atheists as human.

Although I suppose an alternative and more charitable explanation is that Albert Mohler merely holds an extraordinarily withered imagination that is pretty much incapable of doing much of anything.

The sight of an avowed atheist joining in the Christmas chorus is a bit hard to imagine. At the same time, there is something comforting about the idea that even the world’s most famous atheist will move his lips to the songs that celebrate Christ’s birth. Perhaps those words will move from his lips to his head and his heart. We should pray that it might be so.

Yep. Nonexistent imagination. It’s a sad sight. Learn something, Albert.

Richard Dawkins celebrates Christmas. Greg Laden celebrates Christmas. PZ Myers celebrates Christmas. We aren’t celebrating the Christian faith (we actually deplore that), but we do like parties and music and good food and a seasonal tradition and having fun with our kids.

I have no problem saying “Merry Christmas!” to people, or putting on a red santa hat, or seeing houses draped with Christmas lights. I’m joining in. It’s my way of subverting the tradition — it’s also a secular holiday, you know, and I aim to appropriate it. I’m following another tradition there, since Christians initially stole the pagan midwinter festival for themselves, so I’m planning to take over Christmas as an atheist celebration.

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One thing, though: I won’t ever be baffled by the fact that Christians have a good time on Christmas, too. They’re only human, after all. They’re welcome to join in our good cheer.

Comments

  1. #1 MAJeff
    December 16, 2007

    Learn something, Albert.

    Beyond hope.

  2. #2 JIM JORDAN
    December 16, 2007

    Say what you will, in my opinion and staunch atheism, if
    anything, music, art, architecture or whatever we observe
    or design has a religious connotation, I will deride it as
    a waste of human endeavor. As in architecture, form follows function, and to admire a church architecturally
    is to overlook the fact that it was built to glorify and
    perpetuate a non-existent idiocy. If Bach and Handel’s
    religious music were known as Concerti Grosso or any other
    non-secular connotation then it would be great music for it
    does not denote composition to or in praise of a fictional
    entity. Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett may admit to a
    love of these pathetic compositions, and yet profess to
    rant against religion, is to me, akin to hanging a bible
    and other nonsense works on a “Tree Of Knowledge” and
    sporting a tee shirt that reads “Thank god I’m an Atheist”
    As far as I’m concerned, this is being disingenuous and
    kowtowing to religion with little niceties. I will have
    none of it and will not stoop to this phony crap. Either
    you are totally against religion and all other insanities
    or maintain bits and pieces in your life to defer to the
    insane and live falsely. Like Holbach, I am intransigent
    to anything that smacks of religion in all its forms.

  3. #3 Blake Stacey
    December 16, 2007

    I have a scarlet A on my website, and two Christmas trees in my home. (They’re both of the plastic species.) I strung lights all around them, and made a tree-topper for one out of some prototype children’s construction toys a housemate happened to have a box of.

    It’s the first time I’m celebrating Christmas in my own place, where by “my own” I mean “the place I share with people who are not my biological family”.

    The other way I celebrate is by giving in to temptations, like finding new webcomics and clicking the “read from first strip” link. Today, Unshelved sent me to Planet Karen; Pharyngulites may enjoy the 16 January 2007 strip.

  4. #4 MAJeff
    December 16, 2007

    It doesn’t take supernatural intervention to sing Bach, just a lot of practice–particularly to sing Bach well.

    The annual Christmas concert is one thing I miss about college choir. Singing Bach’s Magnificat or Handel’s Messiah was fun. And that counterpoint required work. But, oh my, when it came together was it a blast.

  5. #5 Brian Coughlan
    December 16, 2007

    It is hard for the theist to grasp that given we think it’s nonsense, we see nothing wrong with bumping along as long as it’s harmless nonsense. Mohler see this in the same light as a someone who loves Jesus, swearing allegiance to Allah. He can’t imagine that no invisible feelings are hurt by Dawkins “hypocrisy”.

    My contribution to the Season :

    Faith rest ye mindless morons, let nothing you dismay.
    Don’t let the weight of evidence convince you this day,
    Ignore 300 years of science and continue to pray

    Faith is a crude coping ploy, coping ploy
    Faith is a crude coping ploy …

    Embrace whatever faith inspired nonsense you insist
    But, Keep it to yourself and I won’t ask you to desist
    Yet, Start to base our laws on myths and you’ll find I’ll resist

    Faith is a crude coping ploy, coping ploy
    Faith is a crude coping ploy …

    Accept 4th hand reports from primitives without a grasp,
    Of knowledge every 10 year old today has amassed
    Cling to The edited, discredited hearsay of the past

    Faith is a crude coping ploy, coping ploy
    Faith is a crude coping ploy …

    Now, I’ve said things one could consider harsh and even cruel,
    I’ve called you names and practically implied that you’re a fool
    If you believe in Jesus Christ and think he’s rather cool

    Faith is a crude coping ploy, coping ploy
    Faith is a crude coping ploy …

    In Truth we’ve all been victims of a cunning endless scam
    A polished, professional and shameless ancient sham
    To part us from our hard earned cash, without a clam

    Face it you’ve been had, and so have i, so have I
    it’s all over when we die …

    So make the most of the single life on which you’re bound
    Dont let the breath of Allah drive you’re bark aground
    Upon the shoals of ignorance we’ll no more be found

    Faith is a crude coping ploy, coping ploy
    Faith is a crude coping ploy … (more)

  6. #6 MAJeff
    December 16, 2007

    What’s interesting is that everyone considers “Hallelujah” to be an christmas song. In the oratorio, it’s actually at the moment of resurrection, on easter.

    Still a hell of a lot of fun to sing. I was even humming along with the bass line as my aunt played it on the organ at grandma’s funeral.

  7. #7 David Marjanovi?, OM
    December 16, 2007

    Saying “Merry Christmas” is offensive to many people. Christmas is another word for immorality and stupidity. Civilized people say “Happy Santa Claus Day”. Just saying the word “Christmas”, except to ridicule it, is sucking up to Christians.

    Tsss, tsss. Learn about kurisumasu, the Japanese celebration of love and rampant consumerism.

    Xmas pizzas

    Now this is an abomination. Repent immediately.

  8. #8 David Marjanovi?, OM
    December 16, 2007

    Saying “Merry Christmas” is offensive to many people. Christmas is another word for immorality and stupidity. Civilized people say “Happy Santa Claus Day”. Just saying the word “Christmas”, except to ridicule it, is sucking up to Christians.

    Tsss, tsss. Learn about kurisumasu, the Japanese celebration of love and rampant consumerism.

    Xmas pizzas

    Now this is an abomination. Repent immediately.

  9. #9 David Marjanovi?, OM
    December 16, 2007

    “lack-toast and tolerant”

    :-o

    King of the eggcorns!!!

  10. #10 David Marjanovi?, OM
    December 16, 2007

    “lack-toast and tolerant”

    :-o

    King of the eggcorns!!!

  11. #11 j
    December 16, 2007

    Non-existent god damn it, David Marjanovic. I had written a comment to the same effect but had included too many links in it, so it got held up in moderation. Anyway, here’s the Eggcorn Database.

  12. #12 dorid
    December 16, 2007

    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 is Mohler likewise having difficulty with Christians singing about Santa Claus? Seems to me that’s another example of people singing of a faith they don’t profess.

  13. #13 Brownian, OM
    December 16, 2007

    The Mormon I work with once tried to bait me by asking what it was that atheists were celebrating if they celebrated Christmas.

    Being in a snarky mood, I replied, “The same thing you Christians do, silly. Mithra’s birthday.”

  14. #14 Brownian, OM
    December 16, 2007

    By the way, if stupid assholes like Mohler really wanted to know how people un-indoctrinated in the Sky Daddy Death Cult (best. band. name. ever.) can celebrate Christmas, he should just look at the faces of the kids too young to understand the theology.

    By his reckoning, they should all be morosely staring at their shoes, bewildered but otherwise completely unaffected by all the food, presents, and the laughter and singing of friends and relatives.

    I mean, only one of the Clueless for Christ could possibly enjoy those things.

    I hope his pagan tree falls on his empty head (causing no injury but to his ego, of course. It is SolsticeMithra’sBirthdayAnyNumberOfWinterCelebrationsChristmas after all.)

  15. #15 Theo Bromine
    December 16, 2007

    David Marjanovi?, what’s wrong with Xmas pizzas? They are so festively decorative, with their red tomatoes, green peppers, and white cheese….

    I have fond memories of my Jewish grandmother telling her sister about the lovely red&green tablecloth that she was putting out for “yontif”, which is a Yiddishization of the Hebrew “yom tov”, meaning “good (holy) day”.

    Yesterday, the Ottawa Humanists had our annual Solstice party, held in an apartment party room. The room had been seasonally decorated (by either the building staff or other residents) with a Christmas tree with an angel on top. Some of those present found it necessary to remove the angel for the duration of the event (though they replaced it when we were finished). I wonder if they would have had the same response to leprechaun decorations for St Patrick’s day.

  16. #16 extattyzoma
    December 16, 2007

    I wonder if mohler enjoys a somewhat derived from its natural state avain tetrapod on his christmas dinner table, funny how he could possibly enjoy the succulent fruits of evolution then artifical selection, he doesnt of course realise it poor sod. maybe in the spirit of his condescension to dawkins some of that nice fat from the skin might well move from his lips to his heart aswell. that could be a good thing for us all.

  17. #17 Kimpatsu
    December 16, 2007

    Hank Fox, do you have the secret Atheist decoder ring yet?

    The reason Albert Mohler is stunned by the thought of Dawkins celebrating Xmas is because he considers such celebrations to be hypocritical, PZ. After all, it’s a CHRISTIAN holiday, right? (Never mind the fact that Xmas was originally supposed to be observed solemnly, not celebrated, and all the celebrationist trappings, like partying, gift giving, and trees are pagan.) Consequently, to Mohler’s impoverished imagination, Atheists sit at home at Xmas fuming that Xians are having fun. We’re all Scrooges and Marleys, don’tcha know? The idea that we can enjoy the music without believing the words is anathema.
    So, I guess if Mohler enjoys Calamity Jane, he really does have a horse-drawn buggy at home when he sings the “Surrey with the Fringe on Top”.

  18. #18 David Marjanovi?, OM
    December 16, 2007

    Oh yeah, here it is in the eggcorn database.

    Pizza: Culture shock! Pizzas are fast-food.

  19. #19 David Marjanovi?, OM
    December 16, 2007

    Oh yeah, here it is in the eggcorn database.

    Pizza: Culture shock! Pizzas are fast-food.

  20. #20 Caveat
    December 16, 2007

    Hilarious! Yes, no doubt once Dawkins start singing those carols, he’ll be converted to believing in faeries.

    On CBC this morning, the host Evan who unfortunately finds himself wittier than he actually is, was ‘debating’ Dawkins. It was hilarious. Evan kept saying things such as ‘atheist fundamentalists’ and ‘believe’ and trying to debunk evolution – it was an absolute massacre.

    You know, I think these maroons have trouble getting out of the belief system mindset. They don’t understand that atheism is the absence of belief, not a religion. Sad.

    My Christmas lights look OK this year and since we got a foot of snow today, I’m looking forward to a white Christmas! I’ve sent my gifts and made my charitable donations online, have dusted off my old Mitch Miller record, ordered my turkey and will be picking up my tree this week. Mooey ha. ha. ha hahahahahahahahaha! In your face, thumpers! I’m an atheist of many generations’ standing!

    Great picture, PZ! And Merry Christmas to one and all!

  21. #21 Ichthyic
    December 17, 2007

    Cromwell and his puritans banned Christmas in 1644 as it was “an extraeme forgetfulnesse of Christ, by giving liberty to carnal and sensual delights”.

    holy crap! I’ve been celebrating this holiday all wrong for so many years.

    ah, the missed opportunities for carnal and sensual delights.

    I’ve got a whole new series of presents to consider…

  22. #22 Ichthyic
    December 17, 2007

    So I guess that means, by his logic, considering the fact that Christmas celebrations are just a renaming of the festivals of Mithras, that he and all other christians believe in the miraculous qualities of bull-sacrifice

    or they believe in something that starts with bull and rhymes with it, anyway.

  23. #23 Greta Christina
    December 17, 2007

    Talk about “damned if you do, damned if you don’t.” If we don’t celebrate Christmas, we’re sour, negative party-poopers. If we do, we’re hypocrites.

    Well, screw that. It’s cold, it’s dark, the days are getting shorter, and we need to party.

    Me? The wife and I are having seventeeen people over for roast beef and Yorkshire pudding on Christmas Eve. After which we will shower our new niece with books, despite the fact that she’s not yet old enough to talk.

  24. #24 MAJeff
    December 17, 2007

    What better way to celebrate than with cookies!

  25. #25 Sastra, OM
    December 17, 2007

    I’m with Jason W — Christmas has always been a secular holiday to me. I was raised without religion, but with a Christmas. The manger myth is simply part of the comfy scenery, along with the Rudolph story (which balances the cold lil’ baby whom they wouldn’t let into the inn with a poor lil’ reindeer whom they wouldn’t let play the reindeer games.)

    I disagree with the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s strategy of insisting that “Christmas is a religious holiday.” Ok, maybe the nativity part is (I’ll stretch a bit on that one and agree), but the holiday itself is secular, with traditions from all over merging and blending into one totally ecumenical free-for-all. And this should be pushed.

    Nothing undermines the agenda of the Religious Right more than keeping the Christ out of Christmas, and saying “Merry Christmas!” anyway. Let the “Christ” part of Christmas become as important as the “Saint” in Valentine’s Day, the Goddess Estre in Easter, and the Hallo in Ween. Jesus is NOT the reason for the season. It wasn’t in the first place, and it sure isn’t now. They should have tried to keep it in their churches — did they really think splashing it all over was going to convert non-christians? Heh.

    “There is no wrong way to celebrate Christmas.” Now that is really subversive. I’d like to light it up and put it on my lawn, to match my neighbor’s cheesy little “Keep the Christ in Christmas” one, with the praying angel. Let Christians argue that spreading the Christmas celebration to everyone expresses a mean, narrow, hateful sentiment that oppresses them. Let them try.

    Merry Christmas to ALL! Oh, yeah!

  26. #26 Nicholas Spies
    December 20, 2007

    “It doesn’t take supernatural intervention to sing Bach, just a lot of practice–particularly to sing Bach well.”
    Amen.
    However, it does take supernatural intervention to be a J.S. Bach. After all, isn’t this what “supernatural intervention” really means, religious zealots and quibblers aside…?

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