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.

i-35f91a1f81024eadd4901850131d3d72-steelin.jpg

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 Hank Fox
    December 16, 2007

    I keep hearing about “avowed atheists.”

    I mean, I know the Secret Atheist Handshake, and I have the Atheist Lodge Funny Hat, but I’m still waiting for someone to teach me the official Vow of Atheism.

    I just hope it doesn’t start “I swear to God …”

  2. #2 Kingreaper
    December 16, 2007

    Me and a friend have decided to celebrate Newtonmas this year after getting annoyed at people who assumed christmas was related to the birth of Christ.

    After all, we know the Newton was born on the 25th of december, we know he existed, and we know he made great, some would say miraculous, strides. Not over water, but in the worlds of mathematics and physics.

    Hell, why not?

  3. #3 MAJeff
    December 16, 2007

    Learn something, Albert.

    Beyond hope.

  4. #4 Hank Fox
    December 16, 2007

    Oh, yeah, my illustrator friend Carl Buell and I have decided the Dec. 25 holiday should be named after the fictional character Kris Kringle, rather than that central figure of Christianity to which assholes like Mohler so jealously guard access.

    In this joyous holiday season: Fuck You, Albert Mohler, you small-minded exclusivist wanker.

    To everyone else: Merry Krismas!

  5. #5 J Myers
    December 16, 2007

    I just hope it doesn’t start “I swear to God …”

    Hank, in fact, that is the atheist vow. After speaking it, you keep a straight face as long as you can, then burst into uncontrollable laughter. It’s very affirming.

  6. #6 Apikoros
    December 16, 2007

    Plus– delicious Fig Newtons at every party!

  7. #7 Dahan
    December 16, 2007

    I’m sure you’ve all heard/read it before, but this time of year is when I crank out the David Sedaris “Santaland Diaries” and “Six to Eight Black Men”. Cracks me up every year.

  8. #8 Jim Wyhne
    December 16, 2007

    Perhaps we should start celebrating Festivus and invite our Christian neighbors to participate. I think that the traditional Airing of Grievances and even the Feats of Strength components would be particularly enervating.

  9. #9 jimmiraybob
    December 16, 2007

    Me and a friend have decided to celebrate Newtonmas this year…

    Shouldn’t this be Newtonmass? Assuming, of course, the mass to be constant, omnipotent and possibly omnipresent.

  10. #10 Zombie
    December 16, 2007

    Christians didn’t invent Christmas anyway. They just borrowed it for a while.

  11. #11 Peter M
    December 16, 2007

    It wasn’t just the Puritans who once rejected Christmas in all its gaudiness:

    http://www.dailypress.com/news/local/virginia/dp-religiontoday1214dec14,0,2910292.story

    CHARLESTON, W.Va. – As Christmas draws near, Pastor John Foster won’t be decorating a tree, shopping for last-minute gifts or working on a holiday sermon for his flock. After all, it’s been 50 years since Christmas was anything more than a day of the week to him.

    He’s one of very few American Christians who follow what used to be the norm in many Protestant denominations–rejecting the celebration of Christmas on religious grounds.

    *** Through much of the 19th century, schools and businesses remained open, Congress met in session and some churches closed their doors, lest errant worshippers try to furtively commemorate the day.

    “The whole culture didn’t stop for Christmas,” said Bruce Forbes, a religious studies professor at Morningside College in Sioux City, Iowa. “Government went on as usual, business went on as usual, school went on as usual.”

    In researching his book, “Christmas: A Candid History,” Forbes discovered that major American denominations–Presbyterians, Baptists, Quakers, Methodists and Congregationalists–either ignored the holiday or actively discouraged it until the late 19th century.

    Some of our best Xmas carols were written by Jewish composers– Mendelssohn, and a bunch of TinPan Alley song writers. Get a big book of Christmas carols and you’ll see the names.

    The great English composer Ralph Vaughan Williams wrote lots of religious music, but he was not religious himself. (He was a member of that illustrious Wedgwood-Darwin clan.)

    I cannot right now find the Mencken quote in which he said essentially that no evangelical ever did anything worthy artistically. I did find one I’ve never seen before:

    “It is impossible to imagine the universe run by a wise, just and omnipotent God, but it is quite easy to imagine it run by a board of gods.”

  12. #12 Pablo
    December 16, 2007

    I’m wondering how these guys can get through days of the week, like Woden’s day, Thor’s day, and Saturn’s day.

  13. #13 Quiddam
    December 16, 2007

    I enjoy the traditions even more knowing that the most fundamentalist Christians in History were opposed to it.

    Cromwell and his puritans banned Christmas in 1644 as it was “an extraeme forgetfulnesse of Christ, by giving liberty to carnall and sensual delights”. When his sheriffs were sent out to enforce the ban and force people to work on Christmas there were riots.

    When Knox banned Christmas in 1562 the Scots changed their celebration to Hogmanay (The New Year)

    The Puritans made Christmas a crime in Massachusetts in 1659, which was not repealed until 1681.

    And that Unholy ‘Christmas’ tree?

    Jeremiah:
    10:1 Hear ye the word which the LORD speaketh unto you, O house of Israel:
    10:2 Thus saith the LORD, Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them.
    10:3 For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe.
    10:4 They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not.

    Go Druids! Sacrifice a tree to end winter.

  14. #14 Tulse
    December 16, 2007

    unless the Oxford professor intends to sing of a faith he does not profess

    So if I sing along to Clapton’s “Cocaine”, does that mean that I am a hypocrite for not doing drugs?

  15. #15 BobC
    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.

  16. #16 Ruth
    December 16, 2007

    I trust that Mr. Mohler refuses to participate in the singing of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Santa Claus is Coming To Town, or even Ave Maria, lest “those words will move from his lips to his head and his heart.”

  17. #17 Matt Heath
    December 16, 2007

    It’s better to give than believe.

    @Tulse: Yes, yes it does. Also anyone that ever hummed along to “There she goes” by the Las has to do heroin.

  18. #18 darwinfish
    December 16, 2007

    I love the Snowflake Day celebrated by the students of Clone High. I mean, who doesn’t want to celebrate with a lamb taco and get spices on dec 25?

  19. #19 Dan
    December 16, 2007

    So if I sing along to Clapton’s “Cocaine”, does that mean that I am a hypocrite for not doing drugs?

    Posted by: Tulse

    Hilarious!

    By the way, it may surprise you to learn that there are, in fact, lactose-intolerant people living in the state of Wisconsin.

  20. #20 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.

  21. #21 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.

  22. #22 Tony P
    December 16, 2007

    I too enjoy the pageantry of the season as well as the feeling of camaraderie.

    The best parts are the old pagan symbols that help welcome in the new light, and honor life. I’m talking about evergreens and lights here, the standard Saturnalia/Christmas fare.

    There are very few carols that I like though, to me they need refereshing. Maybe something a bit more modern, delete the God/Christ reference and put in a more secular bit and maybe I’d be out singing them too.

  23. #23 Don Kane
    December 16, 2007

    We had a bunch of professors and their families over yesterday. Started decorating Xmas cookies at 3. Got the sleds going at 4:30 and sledded until long after dark under the lights (we take our sled hill very seriously). The Xmas pizzas were in the oven by 7, now some grad students were showing at too. (The kids, some of them back out sledding, some starting a DVD in the basement.) By now, on our 7th bottle of wine. Talk was about science or the kids or the best sled crash or the people in the dept we that dont come to our parties. The cats were starting to hide, tried of too much attention. The Snow was starting up again, the fire was a little on the hot side.

    Such a nice Xmas party. And, the honest truth, I actually never thought even once–not once–the entire day that we are all atheists of various degrees and that Xmas is some sort of religious time of year. And now that I think about it, we were all the better for it.

  24. #24 Yog-SothScrooge
    December 16, 2007

    How about Cthulhumas? Where you sit around the fire and read Lovecraft stories. With calamari roasting on an open fire.

  25. #25 Denny
    December 16, 2007

    When I saw the title I immediately started humming it to the tune of “Have a Holly Jolly Christmas”. I’m sure that someone somewhere has the lyrical chops to create the first Godless, Christmas carol, using that as a start…..

  26. #26 CalGeorge
    December 16, 2007

    With the atheist host proclaim:
    “Mohler is so fucking lame.”

    Hark! The godless atheists sing
    “Glory to our ‘Podmas King!”

  27. #27 imsd007
    December 16, 2007

    What does a fat fictional folklore figure sitting on a sledge drawn by reindeers have to do with the “Christian faith” / “the birth of Jesus” anyway?

  28. #28 G.| Tingey
    December 16, 2007

    Waes Heal!

    Gute Yule!

    Merry Midwinter …

  29. #29 Christianjb
    December 16, 2007

    I don’t know or care or plan on finding out who Albert Mohler is. I express complete indifference to him and his views. Let me know though if he’s elected the next president or put in a position of power over me.

    (Post may contain humor.)

  30. #30 Ted D
    December 16, 2007

    A Brumalian Wish

    From the damnable shadows of madness,
    From the corpse-ridden hollow of Weir,
    Comes a horrible message of gladness,
    And a ghost-guided poem of cheer –
    And a gloom-spouting pupil of Poe sends the pleasantest wish of the year!

    May the ghouls of the neighboring regions,
    And the cursd necrophagous things,
    Lay aside their dark habits in legions,
    For the bliss that Brumalia brings –
    And may Druids innum’rable bless thee, as they dance on the moor’s fairy-rings!

    So, Galba, may pleasures attend thee
    Thro’ all thy bright glorious days;
    May the world and the mighty commend thee,
    And the cosmos resound with thy praise –
    And may all future ages be brilliant with the light of thine intellect’s rays!

    -H.P. Lovecraft

  31. #31 Bob O'H
    December 16, 2007

    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.

    Of course not. I mean it wasn’t J.S. Bach, was it?

    Bob

  32. #32 Tulse
    December 16, 2007

    How about Cthulhumas? Where you sit around the fire and read Lovecraft stories.

    I’m practically having one with a good friend of mine — I’m giving him a Cthulhu ornament (thanks for the tip, PZ!), and an audio CD of At the Mountains of Madness. (My friend also collects Star Trek ornaments, and gets a new one for the tree every year, so perhaps these are better described as “Geekmas” gifts.)

  33. #33 vjack
    December 16, 2007

    I guess I’m an outlier here for being an atheist who does not celebrate Christmas. Well, at least I’m used to it. I don’t have any problem with the idea of atheists celebrating whatever they want to. I just see little about the commercial or religious aspects I want to celebrate. While that doesn’t mean I couldn’t celebrate some other part, I see little reason to do so.

  34. #34 Tony Popple
    December 16, 2007

    I reserve the right to reclaim the winter solstice festival of my pagan ancestors.

    Any time a Christian trys to tell me the reason for the season, I tell them to go get their own holiday.

  35. #35 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.

  36. #36 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)

  37. #37 Science Goddess
    December 16, 2007

    Most of the christmas symbols (around here anyway) are derived from winter solstice commemorations. I give Solstice cards. The evergreen boughs are german tribal symbols of the ever-living trees and were brought inside to symbolize the rebirth of the sun at solstice. The star is a perfectly good wiccan symbol of the pentagram. All appropriate for this time of year. Just because “some” religions have co-opted the symbol doesn’t detract from its original natural observations.

    SG

  38. #38 Steve LaBonne
    December 16, 2007

    Felix Saturnalia et dies natalis Solis Invicti, amici!

  39. #39 brent
    December 16, 2007

    Funny thing is that I know plenty of christians that do not celebrate christmas for various religious reasons. Jehovah’s witnesses, for instance, do not because they consider it a pagan holiday. It is up to me, an atheist, to try to convince them that they should think of it as a celebration and a time to express love and joy with their family and friends. But apparently their religious dogma precludes them from doing so.

  40. #40 bill r
    December 16, 2007

    #34: A druidic solstice, with human sacrifice? Maybe we can draft some christians for that. I wouldn’t want to do the get naked and rub blue mud over myself though, it’s below zero outside now.

  41. #41 Stephen
    December 16, 2007

    Funny picture, but you misspelled “traditionz” (alternate spelling: tradishunz).

  42. #42 Tom Foss
    December 16, 2007

    I’m sure that someone somewhere has the lyrical chops to create the first Godless, Christmas carol, using that as a start…..

    Leaving aside all the secular carols, I did precisely that a week or two ago, after listening to an episode of “The Atheist Experience.” “O Come All Ye Faithless” was a beautiful anthem about meeting the cast and crew at IHOP after the show.

    As far as singing Christmas carols goes, I wonder, does Mr. Mohler believe everything he sings? Does he refuse to sing along with the radio unless the content of the song is true to his life?

  43. #43 Unstable Isotope
    December 16, 2007

    I also celebrate Christmas. I think it is more of a secular holiday, after all it started out as a pagan holiday. I’m not sure what Santa Claus and Christmas trees has to do with Jesus anyway. I also enjoy the Christmas hymns, many of which were written by the masters (like Handel’s Messiah).

    Mr. Mohler expresses surprise that people say things they don’t believe? Wow, is he ever naive. Most people pick and choose what they want from religion already. It’s been my experience that a significant portion of people at church don’t believe what they’re saying.

  44. #44 apk
    December 16, 2007

    My friends and I celebrate the 25th of December as the so-called “Newtonmas” (Brilliant, Kingreaper. Brilliant.) by eating Fig Newtons and Chocolate Leibniz Cookies. What are the chances of two different cookies bearing the names of the founders of the calculus?

    Merry Newtonmas and a Happy Year full of (chocolate) Liebniz, everyone!

  45. #45 Dahan
    December 16, 2007

    Jim from #20

    “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.”

    With respect, I have to disagree. Think in terms of natural selection. Artists and designers (like myself) are just using what’s available to continue the progress of our art.

    There was a time when the church was the only organization that had the money and power to commission artists. Naturally, the art and architecture of the time was more than heavily influenced by that. Does that make it “a waste of human endeavor”? Of course not. Any more than a work of art (say the writings of Douglas Adams) is NOT a waste of human endeavor and therefore more important because it is free of religious influence. That’s far to limiting a view. It’s the sort of thing the creationist say. “if it doesn’t glorify god…” Michelangelo wasn’t a great artist because of or in spite of his working for the church. Just like he wasn’t a great artist because of or in spite of the fact that the church paid him off young boys.

    Evolution isn’t wasteful. Not in genetics, not in art, not in anything. It’s a process. You want art and design to be more secular…fund or hire artists and designers whose work correlates to your views.

    As an atheist and furniture designer, would I design a lectern and baptismal for a church? Yep, although I’d probably charge em a little extra (bleeding the beast ya know). Markets and evolution, not pretty, but real.

  46. #46 Yog-SothScrooge
    December 16, 2007

    Tulse @ 12:34, Thanks for the tips! And be sure to vote for Cthulhu for president:
    http://faroutshirts.com/detail.php?id=291

  47. #47 Dahan
    December 16, 2007

    Try to overlook the sloppiness of my last post, playing three games of chess at the same time and not proofing stuff very well obviously.

  48. #48 Kingreaper
    December 16, 2007

    Jim Jordan: “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. ”

    Then you are a philistine. Many beautiful things are created in the NAME of religion, with the AIM of beauty.

    They’re beautiful. The aim of their creator was a success. That they were meant to be beautiful to please a person who doesn’t exist is irrelevant: Do you deride artworks made for women who are now dead as now lacking purpose?

    Unless you wish to claim that all beauty is pointless, recognise that the aim of beautiful things made for holy purposes is BEAUTY. And they achieved this aim. Where’s the waste?

    This post (c) Kingreaper: Suspects Jim isn’t a creatively driven person.

  49. #49 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.

  50. #50 Carlie
    December 16, 2007

    By the way, it may surprise you to learn that there are, in fact, lactose-intolerant people living in the state of Wisconsin.

    By way of a complete non-sequitur, I had a student turn in a paper last week in which I saw the phrase “lack-toast and tolerant”. It took a few seconds to parse out what that meant, and a few minutes in wonderment of what the world must look like to some people.

  51. #51 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.

  52. #52 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.

  53. #53 Albatrossity
    December 16, 2007

    It is amusing to note that Mohler, who is nominally Dembski’s boss, does not include Dembski’s blog, Uncommon Descent, in his list of recommended web logs.

    It must be too scientific for him 😛

  54. #54 monyNH
    December 16, 2007

    Vienna Teng actually has a song called “The Atheist Christmas Carol”. It’s not very sing-alongable, but it’s wonderfully mellow for a winter’s day. In our home we celebrate both the solstice and Christmas, and the holiday continues with a family vacation in the White Mountains. We’ve found it extends the holiday beyond a one-day orgie of gift-giving (not that there’s anything wrong with that…)

  55. #55 cureholder
    December 16, 2007

    I have been in clubs and have sung along to love songs when I wasn’t in love.

    I have sung along to break-up songs when I wasn’t breaking up.

    I have sung along to anti-vietnam songs long after that war ended.

    I have sung “Happy Birthday” for people I didn’t even know and didn’t care whether they had a happy birthday or not.

    I have sung along to songs whose words simply lacked meaning (see, most pop hits of the 1980s, specifically “Relax,” “Come on Eileen,” and virtually anything by Duran Duran).

    I’ve sung along to “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” when I didn’t particularly want to be awakened, and when no one I knew was go-going anywhere.

    I’ve sung along to “Careless Whisper” when I hadn’t cheated on anyone.

    And perhaps most obviously, hundreds of times I have sung along to “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” when I was already AT the ballgame and when the game was, in fact, nearly 7/9 complete.

    Since when does the MEANING of the words affect our willingness and ability to enjoy singing songs in groups?

    What an idiot.

  56. #56 j
    December 16, 2007

    Carlie@49, there’s a whole database devoted to what the Language Log bloggers call “eggcorns”. Voil the Eggcorn Database.

  57. #57 David Marjanovi?, OM
    December 16, 2007

    “lack-toast and tolerant”

    😮

    King of the eggcorns!!!

  58. #58 David Marjanovi?, OM
    December 16, 2007

    “lack-toast and tolerant”

    😮

    King of the eggcorns!!!

  59. #59 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.

  60. #60 PoxyHowzes
    December 16, 2007

    You want a real downer of a day on Dec 25th? Forget the godless atheists and “celebrate” with Fred “God Hates You” Phelps and his clan.

  61. #61 Rahel
    December 16, 2007

    It’s funny, I don’t celebrate Christmas (not my tradition), but I just had the exact same discussion with a neighbor about Hannuka about a week ago. She just couldn’t wrap her mind around us celebrating it even though we are both atheists. We explained how this was a fun holiday when we grew up, and involved a lot of family traditions, so we enjoy doing the parts we like – the candles, the latkes, the presents, etc. She had a really hard time understanding that no, our celebration has nothing to do with the Jewish struggle against the Greek 2000 years ago. Who cares? For me it has to do with enjoying and continuing family traditions.

  62. #62 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.

  63. #63 Stuart Dryer
    December 16, 2007

    The idea that reindeer can fly is every bit as believable as the idea of a talking snake or a virgin human birth. That’s one of the things I like about Christmas.

  64. #64 Janine
    December 16, 2007

    Perhaps if I keep singing all those songs I love about heterosexual love, I will become straight. It sure worked for Dusty Springfield.

    Yeah,’Son Of A Preacher Man’ is one of my all time favorite songs. Yet I still cannot fall for any sons of preacher men. Maybe daughters of preacher men.

  65. #65 qedpro
    December 16, 2007

    I sometimes sing the Power Rangers theme and I find every once in a while I’ll even sing along to Spongebob Squarepants. Can’t help it with the kids and all. I guess that means I believe they are real.

  66. #66 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.”

  67. #67 Badger3k
    December 16, 2007

    I’m in favor of celebrating Hogswatchnight – when the Hogfather roams the land. See, I know he exists, since I read about it in a book ;P.

  68. #68 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.)

  69. #69 Carlie
    December 16, 2007

    Ah, perhaps there is some synergy with my random statement after all. We could just claim that we are hearing all Christmas lyrics as mondegreens, the musical equivalent of eggcorns, and therefore we don’t even notice the Jesusness of them.

  70. #70 Pablo
    December 16, 2007

    “I have sung along to songs whose words simply lacked meaning (see, most pop hits of the 1980s, specifically “Relax,” “Come on Eileen,” ”

    Lacked meaning?

    I don’t think you actually heard the words you were singing.

    OK, Come On Eileen has a miniscule amount of subtlety to it (or not – it’s a simple coming of age song) but “Relax” isn’t hiding anything:

    “Relax, don’t do it.
    When you want to come”

    To put it in your list of “I’ve sung it despite…”, you could say you sang “Relax” despite not suffering from premature ejaculation.

  71. #71 Joolya
    December 16, 2007

    My high school physics class used to go Newton-caroling through the halls every year on the week before Christmas vacation. We’d rewrite Christmas carols (and usually “Dreidl, Dreidl, Dreidl” also) with physics themes and walk down the halls singing loudly and passing out candycanes. (I wrote one about F=ma to the tune of “We Three Kings”… “Take into consideration/force equals mass time acceleration”) Our physics teacher would wear a Santa hat and carry a basket of apples.
    That’s my kind of holiday spirit!

  72. #72 poke
    December 16, 2007

    I may be what Mohler is looking for in an atheist. I just told some carol singers to “go away.”

  73. #73 Monado, FCD
    December 16, 2007

    Well, after all, the Christians stole it from the Romans, who probably stole it from some other soltice-celebrating group. Somewhere along the way, the serial numbers got filed off. I declare solstice celebrations to be Out of Copyright!

    Skimming the theologian’s rant, I find it ironic that he thinks atheists shouldn’t enjoy singing Christmas carols. The first example of cultural evolution that I ever identified, many years ago, was Christmas carols. Think of all the people during all those centuries writing the best music they could to the glory of God. Imagine the winnowing that takes place: there’s only so much time and energy to sing, worst luck! So each year the most favourite, most emotional, most musical, most singable, most beautiful, most evocative get sung, learned, written down, and passed along. How could they not evolve into a flock of some of the most beautiful tunes ever?

  74. #74 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.

  75. #75 Mike Haubrich, FCD
    December 16, 2007

    And so this is Christmas
    I hope you have fun
    The near and the dear ones
    The old and the young.

    An atheist wrote that. Imagine.

  76. #76 Ian H Spedding FCD
    December 16, 2007

    So, it is either:

    “If I could work my will,” said Scrooge indignantly, “every idiot who goes about with ‘Merry Christmas’ on his lips, should be boiled with his own pudding, and buried with a stake of holly through his heart. He should!”

    or:

    “But I am sure I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round — apart from the veneration due to its sacred name and origin, if anything belonging to it can be apart from that — as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time: the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys. And therefore, uncle, though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe that it has done me good, and will do me good; and I say, God bless it!'”

    Or maybe it should be a secular festival which celebrates and encourages the finer human virtues of kindness, compassion, charity and goodwill which, I believe, can be found to some extent in most people, regardless of faith, and which eschews

    …the annual orgy of waste and reckless reciprocal spending,…

    should be our ideal?

  77. #77 Lepht
    December 16, 2007

    Kingreaper (way up there), Jim (wayer):

    king’s gotta point, Jim. you don’t consider the Taj Mahal ripe for demolition because the Sultan and his wife are both now dead, same as you wouldn’t march past the Koeln cathedral with ya nose in the air because it was concieved as the house of a magic sky daddy.

    (regardless of the fact that it looks more like some sort of stunning, biomechanical HR Giger palace.)

    happy podmas, all

    L

  78. #78 Mike
    December 16, 2007

    Some years ago I had the pleasure of performing Hayden’s Creation in the bass section of the Boston Cecilia chorale with Stephen Jay Gould. It is a beautiful piece of music, and the voice of reason not make it less so.

    So much of our cultural heritage is based on religious traditions that it is foolish to suggest that a lack of faith should imply lack of interest, especially in the good stuff.

  79. #79 cureholder
    December 16, 2007

    Hey Pablo,

    You’re probably right. There WAS some semblance of meaning in the ’80s songs I was singing along to. Maybe I should have said “lacked any meaning to me” or “I didn’t care what the words meant.”

    And given that I was still trapped in fundamentalist hell in the mid-’80s when these songs were popular, it’s no surprise that I failed to recognize the not-so-subtle meaning of coming-of-age songs like “Come on Eileen.” And as for “Relax,” well, let’s just say that premature ejaculation wasn’t even on my list of sexual issues. Being convinced that even simple masturbation would condemn me to an eternity of fiery torment, I wasn’t even touching girls back then (much as I oh-so-wanted to!).

    Fortunately, when I did finally start touching girls, and then some, Frankie still had no relevance for me.

    Thanks for the correction.

    Cure

  80. #80 Ruprecht
    December 16, 2007

    What would he make of someone singing Yellow Submarine who didn’t believe the Yellow Submarine ever existed? What of the Octopus’s Garden?

    As a small child, I used to sing the song of the Junior Birdmen. What would he think of me?

    (“Up in the air, Junior Birdmen, up in the air, upside down.
    Up in the air, Junior Birdmen, keep your noses off the ground.
    When you hear the bosun’s whistle, and see the badges made of tin,
    You can bet the Junior Birdmen have sent their boxtops in.”)

  81. #81 troy
    December 16, 2007

    What does a fat fictional folklore figure sitting on a sledge drawn by reindeers have to do with the “Christian faith” / “the birth of Jesus” anyway?

    Well the bible says that Mary rode upon an ass, and Santa does have a rather large one that could easily accommodate a single pregnant Jewish woman. Heck in some depictions it could accommodate a football team.

  82. #82 troy
    December 16, 2007

    What does a fat fictional folklore figure sitting on a sledge drawn by reindeers have to do with the “Christian faith” / “the birth of Jesus” anyway?

    Well the bible says that Mary rode upon an ass, and Santa does have a rather large one that could easily accommodate a single pregnant Jewish woman. Heck in some depictions it could accommodate a football team.

    Of course my personal theory is that Santa is Jesus’ real father and he’s always so jolly because he still can’t believe that Joseph bought it.

  83. #83 robbrown
    December 16, 2007

    I thought it was interesting that I got a christmas card from a friend in Sweden, and of course it didn’t have any explicity Christian elements, as their holiday is called Jul (pronounced “yule”) which of course is the same name the holiday has had prior to christianity in that part of the world.

    Unfortunately, though, the cards message was “Good Yule”, which in Swedish is “God Jul”. Arrgghh.

  84. #84 Interrobang
    December 16, 2007

    I’m an atheist and I celebrate Christmas under duress. My family is (nominally) Christian (at least they don’t try to drag me to church anymore) and my mother has a huge sentimental attachment to Christmas — celebration en famille choreographed by Busby Berkley and the whole nine yards. If I had my druthers, I wouldn’t do it, because I don’t believe in gods, in rampant consumerism, or that “Christmas carols” (a substantial chunk of which are medieval dance tunes appropriated by piously prudish Victorians) are fun to listen to or sing.

    Frustratingly enough, I had “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” in my head earlier, so I chased it out with (ironically) “Israelites” by Desmond Dekker and the Aces and “Suliman” by Infected Mushroom. :)

  85. #85 Neil
    December 16, 2007

    Mike Haubrich, FCD-That was beautiful. More in five words than I (or Mohler) could get across in an entire column.

  86. #86 Zarquon
    December 16, 2007

    Hey try celebrating Christmas in the southern hemisphere when it’s summer and the temperatures get to 35C. It really shows turns the traditional celebrations into just a feast of consumption and cricket watching.

  87. #87 Peter William Lount
    December 16, 2007

    Wow, it’s amazing how many words have a religious root. Christmas obviously. But “festive” (Latin for holy day feast)? Or “holiday” which is “holy day”. Even “new year” is based upon a Pope’s idea of a calendar.

    This leaves little room for non-religious based greetings that respect that people might have many different traditions that they “observe” during the season. It’s even hard to write that sentence. Sigh, what’s an anti-theist humanist rationalist reality-ist to do?

    Oh yeah,

    Merry Seasons Greetings and May Your Days Begin To Brighten Soon

  88. #88 Norman Doering
    December 16, 2007

    imsd007 wrote:

    What does a fat fictional folklore figure sitting on a sledge drawn by reindeers have to do with the “Christian faith” / “the birth of Jesus” anyway?

    It inoculates children against religion. It does so by teaching them to see how something they are told to believe can turn out to be one big fat lie. Satan Claus becomes a metaphor for gods that aren’t real either and we can see how people who still believe such things haven’t really grown up.

    Santa Claus is probably an atheist invention.

  89. #89 Oaf
    December 16, 2007

    Has no one pointed out to this clown that even the dog and the cat enjoy the holidays?

    Around here, we celebrate Dies Natalis Solis Invicti by watching The Ref a time or two, followed by hours of Monty Python. Have a cool Yule and a frantic First, y’all — and, if you roll that way, a kwazy Kwanzaa or a Merry Mithramas.

  90. #90 Crudely Wrott
    December 16, 2007

    You know, if nothing else Christmas is an opportunity to demonstrate to the young among us that people can in fact be charitable, kind, and of good will. Not that any other day of the year isn’t pregnant with possibilities to prove same. I guess it’s the orchestration of the season as provided by merchants everywhere. I guess attributing to the season special significance with regard to an original intent or to the machinations of ISS* moves some people who might be otherwise unmoved. I guess that some labor under the illusion that their worth as a human is proportional to their frenetic spending during the month of December. I cannot consider any of these to be of more than temporary, seasonal, value.

    Speaking for myself, this time of year is full of sweet memory of Christmases past. They were truly days of wonder and joy. I take deep comfort in recalling them and consider them among my most valuable possessions.

    Oh, if Gramie and Grampa could just come through the door right now, laden with brightly wrapped gifts and with a blast of icy air, snowflakes whirling at their ankles. Fact is, I am now Grampa. My grandchildren look forward to Christmas. Entering Santa Mode, now! Cause I can, and I like it, so there!

    Merry Christmas to all, and don’t forget

    E Pluribus Unum

    *Invisible Supernatural Spooks

  91. #91 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.

  92. #92 Bryson Brown
    December 16, 2007

    We just held our annual solstice/Saturnalia celebration yesterday–a good time for all, with bits of astronomy, archaeology (neolithic observatories marking winter solstice & other important dates), history and some happy mockery of the silly belief systems that have accreted around it… And we sang Christmas tunes, too (though we’ve altered the words to suit our take on it all– following up on some of Tom Lehrer’s lines). Our Xmas tree is a wonderful miscellany, like our celebrations. Funny how the notion that these things are impossible or show some kind of weakness in our atheist convictions persists despite its obvious falsity. Perhaps it’s a way to help maintain belief– simply persuade yourself that to give up the silly beliefs would require giving up all the fun of celebrating and singing… But that only makes the irony of the fact that the harsh and austere traditions of Protestant Xianity were always opposed to such celebrations all the more delicious…)

  93. #93 madaha
    December 16, 2007

    well, as an atheist, I believe cultural traditions and festivals are a healthy part of being a human. As Barabara Ehrenreich writes, festivals bring out the communal spirit. So I’m a Euro-American (white girl) who wants to partake of my culture’s traditions? Hell yeah! And right on to all you who wrote about it being about YULE and the solstice anyway. It makes sense to have our communal festivals at times of change in nature. It puts us in tune with the natural world, something that we sorely need right now. Besides, lots of Xmas carols are not even very Xian: Deck the Halls? About celebration, and the verse I know doesn’t mention jeebus at all. There are many, many others, that’s just the first I thought of. I say: Atheists! Don’t be afraid of the communal celebrations! It may mean something religious to other people, but that’s their problem. Our festivals give us a connection to our past, our community, and nature. Good times! I’m off to make some gluewein now. Yums.

  94. #94 dogmeatib
    December 16, 2007

    It is amusing that they decry school districts, etc., not allowing sectarian holiday songs in their programs because “they are holiday classics that just happen to be religiously inspired,” but on the other hand are shocked that non-religious people listen to and sing those very same songs because “they are holiday classics that just happen to be religiously inspired.”

    Haven’t they noticed that Christmas has become just a tad commercialized?

    Happy non-denominational winter solstice celebration all! ;o)

  95. #95 efrique
    December 16, 2007

    Speaking of Cthulhumas, try this comic for size:

    http://www.irregularwebcomic.net/1063.html

    Every Christmas Eve, David Morgan-Mar’s Irregular Webcomic does a Cthulhu-mythos-related alternative “Christmas” carol. The above one is from 2005. The creature in Lego is Cthulhu.

    2006: http://www.irregularwebcomic.net/1428.html
    2004: http://www.irregularwebcomic.net/698.html
    2003: http://www.irregularwebcomic.net/333.html

    Oh, and the author is an atheist:
    http://www.irregularwebcomic.net/1609.html (read the annotation under the “comic”).

  96. #96 Julian
    December 16, 2007

    HaHa! 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.

  97. #97 alex
    December 16, 2007

    Just this week, my devout jewish coworker was shocked that I would participate in the holiday gift exchange program. He somehow equated exchanging gifts with deism. Odd.

  98. #98 Pablo
    December 16, 2007

    (“Up in the air, Junior Birdmen, up in the air, upside down.
    Up in the air, Junior Birdmen, keep your noses off the ground.
    When you hear the bosun’s whistle, and see the badges made of tin,
    You can bet the Junior Birdmen have sent their boxtops in.”)

    And it takes

    FIVE box tops
    FOUR bottle bottoms
    THREE wrappers
    TWO coupons
    And ONE. THIN. DIME.

  99. #99 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”.

  100. #100 Rick T.
    December 16, 2007

    Jeremiah:
    10:1 Hear ye the word which the LORD speaketh unto you, O house of Israel:
    10:2 Thus saith the LORD, Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them.
    10:3 For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe.
    10:4 They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not.

    This was a reference to Asherah, the consort of Yahweh. Once worshiped side by side with Yahweh, she was denounced by Jeremiah in much the same way that we today see fundies spouting nonsense and demanding that we all practice their religion in lock step with them.

    My thought is that religion has morphed and continues to do so even though the ignorant (religiotards) fail to see this despite the hodge podge of seasonal symbols and customs that encompass many different traditions.

    If the Queen of Heaven can be evicted from her place in a major religion then we as non-believers can cut and paste whatever traditions we want to make this time of year enjoyable for us and our families.

  101. #101 KiwiInOz
    December 16, 2007

    Winter solstice. Winter solstice?? It’s heading to 31 degrees C here in Brisbane today. With the chance of a thunderstorm.

  102. #102 David Marjanovi?, OM
    December 16, 2007

    Oh yeah, here it is in the eggcorn database.

    Pizza: Culture shock! Pizzas are fast-food.

  103. #103 David Marjanovi?, OM
    December 16, 2007

    Oh yeah, here it is in the eggcorn database.

    Pizza: Culture shock! Pizzas are fast-food.

  104. #104 kc
    December 16, 2007

    Pablo #12 (better late than never!)

    …don’t forget Thiw (god of war – Tuesday) or the goddess Frigg (Friday).

  105. #105 coathangrrr
    December 16, 2007

    How could they not evolve into a flock of some of the most beautiful tunes ever?

    Like Jingle Bells?

  106. #106 articulett-- the ungodly goddess
    December 16, 2007

    I’m guilty of singing carols of a faith I do not profess. I do not believe in Santa Claus, Rudolph, nor Frosty the snowman, but I most admit to partaking in singing those songs at the season. I didn’t realize belief was required for indulgence and festivities. Shame on me.

    The nice thing about being an atheist is that you don’t have to give up your rationality to have fun!

  107. #107 Ted D
    December 16, 2007

    Lines For a Christmas Card

    May all my enemies go to hell,
    Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel

    -Hilaire Belloc

    A Christian sentiment if ever I heard one :) But a favourite little verse anyway, even if I only agree with it on a metaphorical level.

  108. #108 Pablo
    December 16, 2007

    “I’m guilty of singing carols of a faith I do not profess. I do not believe in Santa Claus, Rudolph, nor Frosty the snowman, but I most admit to partaking in singing those songs at the season.”

    Nor have I dashed through the snow in a one horse open sleigh (I prefer lots of horsepower in a closed car). Nor have I ever decked any halls with boughs of holly. At least not real holly. And only then if you consider the entry way to my house to be a “hall.” I don’t have a lot of fashion sense, and was never a watcher of “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy”, so I will not speculate on whether I have worn “gay apparel”.

  109. #109 Hank Roberts
    December 16, 2007

    Don’t forget:

    Happy Agnostica!

    Hooray! It’s QM Day (Dec 14), the first day of Agnostica! This year, we learn how to make another Agnostica decoration, construction-paper atomic orbitals!

    Riddles!
    http://www.agnostica.com/images/news-nukees-dec2006.gif

    http://www.nukees.com/agnostica/images/news-nukees-dec2003.gif

    http://www.nukees.com/

  110. #110 efrique
    December 16, 2007

    So does Mohler regard singing Jingle Bells (about Santa) or Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (both of which I presume he thinks don’t exist) acts of worship, or just a bit of harmless fun?

    I guess the problem is many theists are so practiced at doublethink they are incapable of drawing the parallel.

  111. #111 BadAunt
    December 16, 2007

    He would have hated this little bunch of cuties. They were singing off-key, too! (But very enthusiastically.)

  112. #112 Graculus
    December 16, 2007

    Well the bible says that Mary rode upon an ass

    I was taught that was a referrence to a domestic argument.

    “Mary rode Joseph’s ass all the way to Egypt.”

  113. #113 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!

  114. #114 Randy Owens
    December 16, 2007

    Just one word for you: Agnostica!!

  115. #115 Scott Hatfield, OM
    December 16, 2007

    My, my, my. There’s such a fundamental disconnect here that I’m not sure it’s even worth commenting. But, here goes…

    1) Christmas as a traditional winter holiday clearly appropriates pagan traditions, and just as clearly has been appropriated by popular culture and Madison Avenue. But this is not the Christmas that the Rev. Mohler is talking about, and you non-believers will pardon me for pointing this out. He was preaching to his choir, not PZ’s, and the whole thing’s a bit silly, isn’t it?

    2) From where I sit, it’s really pretty simple: North Americans generally celebrate Christmas, regardless of what they believe. Christians celebrate the Incarnation, and properly regard the traditions that they share with non-Christians as things which are embedded within, rather than integral to their faith. Christians don’t have the right to tell non-Christians how to celebrate those shared traditions, obviously, but I doubt very much this was the rhetorical point Mohler sought.

    3) I find it difficult to believe that anyone would find it necessary to remove an object they don’t believe in (an angel) from atop a Christmas tree, but if so, then that person would probably agree with Mohler, right?

  116. #116 Scott Hatfield, OM
    December 16, 2007

    Sorry, bad manners. I forgot the most important point:

    Merry Christmas to all!

  117. #117 Carlie
    December 16, 2007

    #100 – The only thing more depressing than reading it the first time was realizing that a lot of other people have said that, too.

  118. #118 Engineer-Poet
    December 16, 2007

    Brian Coughlin, I tried to fix the scansion for you. Try this and see how you like it:

    Faith rest ye mindless mo-o-rons, let nothing you dismay.
    Don’t let the weight of evidence convince you on this day,
    Set centuries of science down 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
    Don’t base our laws on myths or you will find I will 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 now amassed
    Cling to discredited hearsay of mankind’s bronze-age 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 ancient sham
    While polished and professional it is no less a scam
    To part us from our hard earned cash, without a clam

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

    So try to make the most of the one life on which you’re bound
    Let neither God nor Allah make you drive your bark aground
    Upon the shoals of ignorance we will no more be found

    Face it you’ve been had, and so have i, so have I
    It’s a fact that it’s all over when we die.

  119. #119 Tulse
    December 16, 2007

    I and my atheist friends celebrate Halloween, even though we don’t celebrate “All Hallows Day” (and I doubt that many Christians do, either). I really don’t see what the big deal is.

    That said, I’m happy to work toward making the holiday even more secular.

    Every Christmas Eve, David Morgan-Mar’s Irregular Webcomic does a Cthulhu-mythos-related alternative “Christmas” carol.

    For those not aware, the incredibly creative folks at the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society have two full CDs of Mythos-related seasonal music, A Very Scary Solstice and An Even Scarier Solstice. (Especially recommended is the most excellent “Carol of the Old Ones” — check out the MP3.)

  120. #120 Odd Jack
    December 16, 2007

    Cthulhu fun is always great!

    And I saw that no one mentioned it yet, so I thought I would. The people who made the At the Mountains of Madness CD, have made a number of music CD’s, including a Cthulhu version of Fiddler on the Roof.

    But the one that is perfect for this time of year is,

    A VERY SCARY SOLSTICE

    with songs like, “Have Yourself a Scary Little Solstice”, “Great Old Ones Are Coming To Town”, “Silent Night, Blasphemous Night”, “I Saw Mommy Kissing Yog-Sothoth”, and “Cthulhu Lives!”

    It is a fun listen, with the subversion of the old Christmas classics.

    But, still, I do like to put up a tree and lights, and give gifts. And I do have a soft spot for Perry Como singing those old songs. Why would I let Christians ruin Christmas for me?

  121. #121 Aureola Nominee, FCD
    December 16, 2007

    #38: “Saturnalia” is plural, so IIRC it should be “Felices Saturnalia” et cetera.

  122. #122 efrique
    December 17, 2007

    So does Mohler regard singing Jingle Bells (about Santa) or Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (both of which I presume he thinks don’t exist) acts of worship, or just a bit of harmless fun?

    I guess the problem is many theists are so practiced at doublethink they are incapable of drawing the parallel.

  123. #123 Jonathan
    December 17, 2007

    You know, “Good King Wenceslas” is almost an athiest Christmas carol already. It’s already noted as being one of the only Carols not referencing the Nativity, and the hero of the narrative is made so for his generosity to the poor, and for setting an example of kindness. It’s always been one of my favorites, anyways.

  124. #124 noncarborundum
    December 17, 2007

    #38 & #118: Actually “Saturnalia” is neuter plural. It should be “Felicia Saturnalia”.

  125. #125 phat
    December 17, 2007

    I happen to really dislike Christmas. I think working retail and restaurants did that to me. People are at their worst behavior this time of year.

    I will go to my parents’ or in-laws’ houses for Christmas and partake, but I’m never very comfortable. Now Independence Day! That’s a holiday!

    phat

  126. #126 bad Jim
    December 17, 2007

    You’re supposed to put an angel on top of the tree? We’ve always put a star on the top.

    On the Swedish side of the family Yule has always been a straightforward affair, with a smorgasbord on Christmas Eve, though the traditional ingredients have fallen out of favor (the grandkids never acquired a taste for pickled herring) or disappeared (like the old style of sausage). Nowadays we might have tamales (borrowing the Mexican tradition) or even individually designed pizzas.

    On the Irish side, we have the American modern on top of the British Victorian on top of the Christian on top of the Celtic and God only knows what the original dark people did at this time of year. What we wind up with is basically Thanksgiving with presents.

  127. #127 grinch
    December 17, 2007

    Even when I was a Christian I thought those carols sucked anyway.
    —–
    Campaign for the war on carols

  128. #128 dave
    December 17, 2007

    In the search for an atheist carol, why not The Holly and the Ivy? Reckoned to be pre-Christian, a celebration of ecology and the winter solstice. Ok, some odd words got tacked on to some of the verses, but the basics are there, and it’s a good tune.

    Minor quibble – Cocaine is a J J Cale song that Clapton covered admirably.

    Anyway, in my time Scotland has shown a decline in the Calvinist ethic from not celebrating that pagan Christmas, to the full blown commercial extravaganza and Beltane celebrations atop Arthur’s Seat (a hill in the centre of Edinburgh). Season’s Greetings to all!

  129. #129 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…

  130. #130 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.

  131. #131 nacky
    December 17, 2007

    As for non-Christmas carols, try the Monty Python Sings CD. I particularly like irritating the family with “Christmas in Heaven” and “The Galaxy Song”. Their parody of “All Things Bright and Beautiful” is also quite nice.

  132. #132 Carlie
    December 17, 2007

    Bit of a kerfuffle right now in my town over a sign the fire department hung up that says “Happy birthday Jesus, we love you”. This is the statement of the fire chief straight out of the paper, believe it or not:

    “Firehouse Capt. Richard Tomaino said he doesn’t see what the fuss is about over the sign, which was painted by firefighter Michael Welch.

    “We were under the impression there would be nothing religious about saying ‘Happy Birthday,’ whatever the name may be,” Tomaino said.”

    Yep. Nothing religious about “We love you Jesus” at all.

  133. #133 Saber
    December 17, 2007

    So, by this fellow’s reasoning, if you sing along with:
    “Hey Mickey
    You so fine
    You so fine
    You blow my mind” then you must genuinely believe that Mickey is indeed “So fine”

  134. #134 Todd
    December 17, 2007

    I am firmly in the Bah, Humbug camp and can’t wait for the stupid holiday to pass so we can get to bowl games, which have now been ruined by the stupid fucking BCS abomination.

  135. #135 Pablo
    December 17, 2007

    RE: atheist “carols”

    I guess it depends what you mean by “carols.” If you are talking about songs that people sing at Christmas time, then there are plenty including

    Deck the Halls – great solstace song
    Jingle Bells
    Frosty the Snowman (ok, that might not be a carol, but there is not even a mention of Christmas – like Jingle Bells)
    Mel Torme’s “The Christmas Song” (you know, “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire”)

  136. #136 Bee
    December 17, 2007

    If I had to believe in everything I sang about or celebrated, I’d be a very confused old woo-woo. I’ve been known to celebrate All Hallow’s Eve without believing in Saints, as do many non-Roman Catholic Christians. I have a great affection for very old folk ballads, yet I don’t for one minute expect to see malicious elves riding through the woods, or magic shape-shifting seals crawling ashore to shed their skins.

    Why should Christmas be any different? There is a lot of really bad Christmas music that gets hauled out this time of year, and unfortunately a lot of it is secular (Daddy Don’t Come Home Drunk for Christmas, anyone? Grandma got Run Over by a Reindeer?). I’ll be singing carols with the family, enjoy my pretty Christmas tree, and will get a great kick out of watching the neices opening presents.

  137. #137 PeteK
    December 17, 2007

    Yes, it’s possible to be a Christian atheist – adopting Christian ideas, but not Jesus’ deity, and not celebrating the birth of the Son of God on Earth (concepts which were made up after Jesus). 😎

  138. #138 jim
    December 17, 2007

    Well, we’re just coming up to our 3rd and final carol concert of the season, and it’s all jolly good fun. There’s not been a whiff of religion at any of the rehearsals as far as I can see. Besides which, most of the actual carols are pagan (grab whatever greenery you can find to symbolise rebirth of growing things) or Jewish (come Messiah and rescue the tribes), with a bit about Jesus flung in to go with the Christian hijacking of the festival–the ones that even do that, and aren’t just about getting drunk and overeating.

    No, it doesn’t make me a hypocrite, any more than singing Oklahoma! in the summer without being from Oklahoma, or even the US, or singing Haydn’s Creation next year (with period orchestra, hence presumably flat!) would, were I one of those Christians who accept evolution.

    And no, being an atheist[*] doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate beautiful music when I hear it, no matter why it was written.

    [*] Hailing as I do from post-Enlightenment Europe, it seems very strange to be going around calling myself an atheist just because I don’t happen to believe in God … ho hum.

  139. #139 KLGREGONIS
    December 17, 2007

    There are alternate celebrations that are loads of fun. Denver CO has the Winter Solabration every year. Pot Luck snack and desert, alternate carols, sword dances, participatory contras, squares and English Country dances, story telling – a six hour party. WAY more fun than a church service!! Open to the public, too. I think Swallow Hill has info.

  140. #140 Tulse
    December 17, 2007

    Regarding “atheist” carols, I’d add:

    Sleigh Ride
    Winter Wonderland
    Let It Snow

    I also think it is fair game to include songs that may mention the name of the holiday, but don’t actually have any religious content. If that criterion is used, then I’d include:

    Carol of the Bells
    We Wish You a Merry Christmas
    White Christmas
    The Twelve Days of Christmas

  141. #141 John Huey
    December 17, 2007

    I think that the dismay Christians find in atheists having a good time is link with their image of atheists as hateful, angry, bitter individuals.

    Reminds me of an incident I read about. A fellow was hosting a barbecue party and had invited several of his neighbors. The guy was a wonderful host, the party was a great success and everyone had a great time. However, towards the end the host was approached by one of the neighbors and was asked if what she had heard was true: that he was an atheist!! The host confirmed that that indeed was the case. This seemed to confuse her to no end because she said; “But you seem so normal!?”

  142. #142 Jason W
    December 17, 2007

    Christmas has always been a secular holiday for me, even when I was vaguely trying to be Christian. My mother’s family’s never been particularly religious, although they’d probably consider themselves culturally X-ian, if they bothered to put a name to it. As one of the above commenters noted, it’s sorta like Thanksgiving with presents. And I’m happy with that. Which is why all the ‘War on Christmas’ stuff has really annoyed me the past few years…as far as I’m concerned, O’Rly and crew are attacking *my* version of Xmas, and they can just lay off, thank you.

    Oh, also have to say that I’m oh so proud to live as close as I do to the Southern Baptist Seminary. 😛

  143. #143 Bob L
    December 17, 2007

    John Huey @ I think that the dismay Christians find in atheists having a good time is link with their image of atheists as hateful, angry, bitter individuals.

    I think they get that impression from Fundamentalist having a crises of faith. The ones I’ve meet like this were so peg so hard has a theist they go to the other extreme and become TRUE Atheists?, as annoying as it sounds. At lest for a while when and then go off on another direction. They tend to be very unhappy people and very much in everyone’s face about it.

  144. #144 Jaycubed
    December 17, 2007

    If I can’t wash myself in its blood, then I’m not buying a tree.
    .

  145. #145 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.

  146. #146 arensb
    December 17, 2007

    I wonder whether Mohler can imagine a Christian performing in or enjoying a Wagnerian opera, with all those Germanic gods. Or the Odyssey.

  147. #147 MAJeff
    December 17, 2007

    What better way to celebrate than with cookies!

  148. #148 spurge
    December 17, 2007

    If there were a religion that worshiped cookies I might just join up.

  149. #149 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!

  150. #150 Skwee
    December 17, 2007

    Albert Mohler’s head is inserted so far into his posterior it is a wonder he can brush his teeth. Christmas Chthulhu (*< <*>===) is angry. (Regular Chthulhu emoticon: < *>===)

  151. #151 Ken
    December 18, 2007

    Atmosphere by Joy Division makes a good carol – it even has sleigh bells.

  152. #152 Scrofulum
    December 18, 2007

    For the first time in many years I am not working on chrizmuz day :-)
    So I have at last invested in a tree, bought some lights and spent literally minutes crafting a be-crowned and be-cloaked frog (didn’t have a fairy or an angel) out of the inside of a bogroll for the top of it. There are baubles aplenty and posh tinsel refracts daintily of an evening.
    The fact that my new baby son likes it is enough for me to enjoy it, and I have to say he has a rather limited theological and philosophical bent.

    I hope everyone here has a pleasant and enjoyable christmas, and it breaks up the winter nicely for you all.

    I’m off for a Wenceslas special pizza now. Deep pan, crisp and even.

  153. #153 Melanthios
    December 18, 2007

    H’m…I’m a singer. The one thing I was taught about singing was that it is about the music first, not the lyrics. And hey, I sing cigarette jingled from the fifties–does that mean I really think that you can’t take the country out of Salem? Er, no. It’s just catchy.

    I was raised Atheist (I have since become a Greek Pagan), and we celebrated Christmas and Easter. Oddly enough, we used all the pagan symbols. Eggs and rabbits and flowers for Easter, and trees and stars and holly for Christmas. For me, it’s always been about Santa and family and giving and playing with shiny bits of paper and ribbon. Also cookies.

  154. #154 Judith in Ottawa
    December 18, 2007

    We put up our tree this weekend, accompanied by our traditional movies: “White Christmas” and “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” (the original Chuck Jones animation; how could you even ask?)

    I was pleased to see that the latter contains not a single reference to a Christian version of Christmas. The Whos celebrate without “packages, boxes and bags” because they are together and still “have hands to clasp.” It’s all about community and mutual support. That’s my kind of party!

  155. #155 Jaycubed
    December 18, 2007

    My favorite xmas song has long been Eskimo Blue Day by the Jefferson Airplane:

    Say It Plain,

    The Human Name,

    Doesn’t Mean Shit To A Tree.

    .

  156. #156 Ellen M
    December 19, 2007

    My religiously diverse family (well maybe not so diverse–they all started at different places, Jewish, Lutheran, etc–all end up atheists but me. I’m a Buddhist, which makes me the honorary family religious nut) celebrates Mithras. This involves gathering on the morning of December 25, Mithra’s birthday, for food, presents and hanging out. Often there is a decorated evergreen tree somewhere about. Later in the day we may get some Chinese food and take in a movie (official known as Jewish Christmas). Since we all enjoy each others company we have a very good time. When we part in the evening we feel happy and secure that our efforts and celebration will assure the return of the sun. If this displeases the Rev. Mohler that, I’m afraid, is his problem.

  157. #157 Shmuel
    December 20, 2007

    …Tacitly acknowledging the correlation between cultural christianity and evangelical atheism. Spread the Good News Cultural Christian Soldiers!

  158. #158 Steve_C
    December 20, 2007

    He’s baaaack.

    Welcome Shmuel Troll.

  159. #159 Shmuel
    December 20, 2007

    And the echo chamber is still heeeeeeeeere.

  160. #160 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…?

  161. #161 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…?

  162. #162 Daniel Dare
    December 23, 2007

    Definitely Newtonmas. Why celebrate a false saviour of mankind and fake messiah when for the same effort you can commemorate the real thing?

    Isaac Newton, I am so delighted to recall and celebrate your 365th birthday!
    You more than anyone else revealed to the world the wonder that is science – the one and only path to truth.

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