I celebrate Christmas. Not Christ’s mass, but all the other stuff. I have a big Christmas tree with lights and decorations, other decorations around the house, and my front windows all have lights in them to delight passers by.
New Zealand pretty much closes down over the Christmas/New Year break. We have a couple of days public holiday at Christmas, and two more at New Year, which are usually attached to a weekend, so most people take the three working days between Christmas and New Year off too, and many the three working days the following week as well. For some it’s a compulsory holiday. Small businesses are usually closed until the third week in January, and larger ones are on reduced staff. Schools are closed until the end of January. Retail outlets, restaurants, and tourist and entertainment-related businesses are pretty much the only ones still operating.
All this means whatever your religion or lack thereof, this is the time of year that it’s easiest for families to get together, and that’s what Christmas and New Year mean to me. All my life, this time of year has been family time. When I was a kid, that meant travelling across the country with my parents and three younger siblings to my grandmother’s farm and meeting up with my cousins (her other 21 grandchildren), aunts, uncles, great-grandmother, and various other assorted relations. There were up to fifty people staying on Christmas night.
In memory, the weather was always warm sunny, and we were always happy, and I think that’s probably mostly what it was like in reality as well. We spent our days roaming the farm, playing in the creek, going eeling, and just generally enjoying ourselves. On Christmas Day and Sundays we went to Church, but that meant going to town so we didn’t mind.
It’s harder for us all to get together now. It’s usually just for weddings and funerals, but it’s always like the years haven’t passed and we’re still kids on the farm again. This year it will just be Mum and I on Christmas Day, but later in the week other family will be coming to stay, and more will be here in the New Year, so I won’t be missing out. I can’t wait to see them all. 🙂
In the meantime, here are some of the pics that make their way around Twitter when most of your followers are fellow atheists.
This one came from reader Diana McPherson, and she actually put it on Facebook, not Twitter. Can you see it?
There’s Joseph, Mary, and the birth of Jesus:
Many focus on the similarities to the traditions of other religions. I think some of these may be inaccurate, but they make the point nevertheless:
Someone always has to point out what the Bible says about Christmas trees:
Then there’s Santa:
And the ones that tell us what it’s really all about:
And the ones designed for atheists who celebrate Christmas:
There always has to be cats:
There’s always the odd anti-atheist nastiness:
An atheist message. I’m not sure this was a good idea. Although I agree with the sentiment, and I think it’s great the American Atheists are doing billboards, this one’s almost as bad as the one above in terms of pettiness.
And finally, an atheist wish:
Whatever you’re doing over the holidays, I hope you have a good one.
Thanks so much to all of you for reading my blog, and especially those who’ve taken the time to comment. It means a lot to me and I really appreciate it! 🙂
I might not write much, if at all, over the next couple of weeks. But, just like Arnie, I’ll be back, and I hope you will be too!
I think the grumpy cat one is my favourite. Thanks for writing, Heather and I hope you have a good Xmas with your Whānau.
Yeah, grumpy cat is cool. There are quite a few atheist ones with Grumpy Cat, and they’re all good.
Thanks for the Christmas wishes. Have a great Christmas, or whatever it is you have! 🙂
Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Freakin’ Festivus!
I can’t begin to imagine 50 folks at once for Xmas! Do you think the adults (say, the cooks, cleaners, etc.) enjoyed it quite as much as the children? 😀
But those sound like wonderful memories! What a special family you must have.
Love the collection of graphics! 😀
Thanks Diane! 🙂
I don’t think it was too bad for the adults – the women did all the work of course, but there always seemed to be plenty of laughter coming from the kitchen. I’m sure there were plenty of things we didn’t notice going on as kids, but nothing big. Sometimes there would be an insistence we had an afternoon rest, which we hated, because we never felt like resting in the daytime. I’ve no doubt that was for the benefit of the adults. 🙂
But yes, I’m very lucky in my extended family. They’re mostly Good People.
Merry Atheist Christmas, Heather, and Happy Atheist New Year too! I’ve counted myself among your number for ten years this month, though I called myself agnostic for thirty years before that.
Thanks Ken! And thanks for all the effort you put into your comments.
I can’t remember the exact date I realized I was an atheist, though I could probably work it out if I thought about it hard enough. However, it was less than ten years ago, so it was me joining you, not the other way around!
Even as a very young child I recognized religion had to have it wrong – that was mainly based on logical fallacies and other inconsistencies. I was also guilty of believing “our” religion was better i. e. moderate Protestantism, though it was a matter of less faulty rather than okay. For a long time I clung to the belief that God was real, and was good, it was just that religion was poisoned by man. My brain got quite twisted in knots sometimes maintaining a belief in a good god in the face of reality.
One day, while watching a Dawkins documentary, I suddenly saw the light, just like Born Agains say they do Looking back, I realize it never occurred to me to doubt God was real because that’s what I’d been taught from earliest childhood.
Cheers, Heather. I enjoy your blog as a place for civil debate. It was Dawkins who gave me a final push too, culminating on 10 Dec 2005.
I was raised a Catholic and remember praying as a child, but like you, by my early teens I was having serious logical doubts. I couldn’t get past the fact that I was a Catholic only by an accident of birth and that if born elsewhere, I’d be part of some other religion. That was a fact, all else about religion was conjecture. So I consciously became agnostic. Of course, I hadn’t read much by then and didn’t know that not only was the evidence for a god very bad, but the evidence that nature was enough on it’s own to explain our existence was very good. Later I started reading Stephen Jay Gould’s essays on evolution and just loved them. Then books on cosmology which were fantastic to. I got to the point I stopped reading fiction entirely, because truth really is stranger! You just can’t make this stuff up.
In the 90’s a friend said I should be reading Dawkins instead of Gould, because Gould had too many things wrong. I couldn’t believe that was the case, but had to give Dawkins a go and quickly realised that my friend was right; Gould, while possibly the very best science writer of the 20th century, had some crucial things wrong in evolution that Dawkins wrote very clearly about. So I read all his books, which other than one or two, are entirely about science.
During 2005, so before The God Delusion came out, I think it was The Devil’s Chaplain that I read, which is a book of essays covering Dawkins’ views on many topics. In it, there is an argument against agnosticism that I couldn’t ignore. Dawkins accused agnostics of a cop out because most treated the existence of god as a 50/50 proposition. He challenged agnostics to come off the fence; that they knew the probability of there being a god was far less than this, given all the evidence to the contrary. He evoked Russell’s teapot, that technically one had to be agnostic about this teapot orbiting the sun somewhere out in space, because it couldn’t be completely disproved, but that the probability if it existing was vanishingly small. As science showed god to be in the same boat, agnostics should stop playing games and admit what they knew to be true.
I’d read enough science by then to know that he was right. Another final nail in the coffin was a thought experiment that may be in the same book. Dawkins invites the reader to imagine a universe that has no creator and asks what would need to be different about it from the one we live in. The answer of course is that there is nothing we know of that would need to be different. I don’t remember how long I ruminated on this before 10 Dec, but realised I could no longer justify sitting on that fence and jumped off that day.
It’s so cool that your Awakening came on my birthday! 😀
I didn’t do any science past the 4th form at school, and my science education in the 3rd and 4th forms (through a combination of a very rough school and bad teachers) was pretty poor. I think I would have made the leap far earlier if I’d known more about science.
I read The God Delusion as soon as I was awakened, followed immediately by God is Not Great. I’ve bought/read a few others since, including, of course, The End of Faith, Why Evolution is True, and Faith vs Fact. I also bought a collection of Dawkins DVDs.
(BTW, talking of DVDs, there’s a National Geographic DVD called Putin and the West which does a pretty good job of summarizing the situation from 2001 to 2012. It’s not cheap for a 45 minute TV programme which is still broadcast periodically though. However, I own it, so if you are OK e-mailing me your address, I’m happy to lend it to you.)
The Dawkins thought experiment is a good one.
I’ve just watched the Rubin Report episode you recommended to Paxton. It’s very good, and I enjoyed it.
I’ve already see the other one, which is also good.
Nice about your birthday! Yes, I’ll certainly have a watch of your DVD if you’re keen to send it. Thanks very much. I’ll make sure it gets back safely.
It’s also international Human Rights Day, which is far more pertinent, the day smoking was banned from pubs and restaurants in NZ, and the day NZer Philip Blackwood was sentenced to prison for blasphemy in Burma/Myanmar.
I’ll try and get that DVD off to you this afternoon so it gets there before Christmas.
Heather, I’ve watched the DVD on Putin. It is really interesting and I recommend it to others. And by the way, it is 90 minutes, not 45, though it even says 45 on the cover.
I found three things particularly interesting. One was that Putin asked to join NATO very early on in his presidency and was rebuffed. Second was that he offered joint development of missile defences to keep the US from establishing new bases in Poland (and somewhere else, can’t remember), which the US claimed it needed to defend against long range Iranian missiles. The video didn’t say whether these actually existed; Russia thought not, but the Bush administration was adamant they did. The offer was taken seriously and negotiations were extensive, but the US still wanted to build the new bases. Rice and Gates offered Putin a permanent presence at the bases as assurance they were not targeting Russia, but Washington withdrew that offer and the deal fell through.
One has to wonder how things would be different today had either of these overtures been accepted. The video implies that Putin became much more wary of US intentions after this, particularly in the light of NATO expansion.
The third interesting thing was just how different Medvedev was; both an internal reformer and also built a positive relationship with Obama. Too bad he wasn’t able to stay president, but it seems he had a deal with Putin that no one quite understood was for real.
I was always very suspicious of Putin’s offer to join NATO, and consider it completely disingenuous. For a start, it was originally set up as a counter-balance to the potential for future Russian expansionism and so Russia being a member would have been pointless. Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, for example, often say that they consider their membership the only thing that keeps them safe from Russia taking them over. None of the NATO members except the US took their membership that seriously – they all considered the existence of the organisation enough to stop Russia. There’s a membership requirement, foe example, to spend a certain amount of GDP on the military; except the US, all were spending less than half the requirement. It’s only recently that they’re started spending a bit more, and it’s in direct response to Russia intervening in Ukraine. There was a NATO meeting last year that the president of Ukraine was invited to. On the way to it, the US representative stopped off in Lithuania. Both were obviously signals. It was at that meeting that the NATO ready reaction forces were created.
I agree that Washington withdrawing that offer was wrong, and doing that both undermined Rice et al and made them untrustworthy as negotiating partners. This could have made a difference.
I agree about Medvedev too. I’ve always liked him a lot, and Russia would be much more respected on the world stage if he was still in charge. The thing is, when Putin first came to power, even though there were already some questionable things in his background, he did do some good stuff for Russia, and so their alliance was probably fairly genuine. Now, I think Medvedev is doing what he can from the inside while trying to survive. Maybe he’ll be back. Unless Putin changes the constitution again, he’s going to have to leave office eventually. Still, his corruption has made him one of the world’s richest men, so he’ll always have power now.
What better way to stop Russian expansion than to bring them into the club and guarantee their security? Then all effort could have gone into integrating their economy with Europe too. Maybe wouldn’t have worked if Putin really wasn’t sincere, but I can’t see that trying would have led to disaster. Seems like a sadly missed opportunity that may never happen again.
Reading Dawkins to learn about God is like reading Trump to learn about modesty.
One reads Dawkins to learn about physical reality and discovers that learning about god isn’t required.
No learning is mandatory, it’s just that more learning is almost always better than less. And the point of learning about God is not to learn about material reality, but about what really matters.
Seriously? You really want to come to a site full of atheists and debate the existence of your imaginary friend? Well bring it on if you must.
Richard Dawkins is the Donald Trump of theology, so if that’s where you get yours, I’m not sure what there would be to debate. It’s just that it was startling to find such lack of seriousness among an otherwise thoughtful group. Now that I have been disabused, so be it.
I don’t go to Dawkins for theology. I do find much of his critical analysis of religion useful. He points out many of the inaccuracies in the Bible but nevertheless says people should read it because of its contribution to the English language. I agree with him on that.
This is an atheist website though. Theists are as welcome here as anyone else, but they’re not going to find much sympathy for the thesis that there’s a divine creator. Most of us used to be theists and have abandoned that idea after much thought. It’s not a lack of thoughtfulness on our part, it’s that we went through that process some time ago and came to the conclusion that atheism was what made the most sense.
My theology was Catholic as I described. I rejected it long before I ever heard of Dawkins, as I also described. Is a poor analogy all you got?
To the contrary, it’s a delicious and incisive analogy: A pair of know-nothing blowhards with fanboy followings. You might say a match made in heaven.
You don’t mention reading any theology other than Dawkins, so perhaps I can be forgiven for assuming that’s your source. (And no, childhood catechism lessons don’t count, any more than learning the alphabet makes you an authority on literature.)
I said I lost my faith long before hearing of Dawkins. You are just being a troll again.
If you think Dawkins is a “no-nothing blowhard” then I must pronounce you the “King of Projecting”. Congratulations.
For me Christmas is also about family. My parents are born-agains, but they do more shopping than praying this time of year. They know my brother and wife aren’t religious, and luckily for all of us they respect that. About 10 years ago I told my mother I was an atheist as she is more curious than dad as to why I abandoned the church. She didn’t take it well, but has really never mentioned it since. Most people in my family know and don’t seem bothered by it; in general, they leave the subject alone when talking to me. I don’t flaunt it either, though when they say grace, I look straight ahead w/o closing my eyes and never say ‘amen’. I guess that’s my bit of being true to what I believe (or rather don’t believe). I’m sure they are all ‘praying for me’, as if that has any chance in hell of working. But like Sisyphus, religious people continue to pray even though the stone will never quite reach the top. Futility is a fixture of human existence and prayer is the placebo that tries to cure it.
Those cartoons were spot on and hilarious. Thanks for assembling them.
Thanks for sharing that. It’s cool that your family is accepting of your’s and your brother’s decisions. One of my maxims for those in a religion is, “If your religion makes you choose it over your family, you’re in the wrong religion.”
I like the Tyrannosaurus Rexes, though they forgot to mention the comet about crash into the earth!
(Been too busy lately to keep up with comments on other threads but will do so soon.)
In NZ you can buy lamb burgers with mint sauce. I’d love to see this as a poster in the places that sell them! 🙂
Yes, Christmas for me has always been a holiday and getting together with family.
May Isaac Newtons Birthday being joy to all 🙂 you have a good one enjoyed reading your blog, thank you for reading mine.
Blogidarity my friend.
Cheers Ken. I’ve just recommended you hijab post in the comments of WEIT: https://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2015/12/23/jesus-n-mo-n-the-reformers/