My First Atheist Podcast – The Imaginary Friends Show Episode 162: Apostasy, Science Journals, and Christmas


Thanks to Australian blogger Martin Pribble, I was invited by the host of The Imaginary Friends Podcast Jake (if the iTunes link does not work the web link to the podcast is here). Together with Tim Farley (of the James Randi Foundation) we had a serious and tongue in cheek look at some key stories we had all picked out. My fear of not being hot on Australian politics was mitigated when comparing the words of Tim Wilson, self styled government department head of newly renamed “Freedom Commission” to The Dark Knight dialogue. Not as easy as it sounds.

So for a discussion about apostasy (where I should have added that Jehovah’s Witnesses shun apostates also to stop the spreading of rival ideas to Governing Body teaching), luxury science journals and the rise of open access journals, the winter solstice as the festive celebration for one and all (as if we needed a reason in December to make Merry), sexuality as a continuum and the death of the fraud “end is nigh” bill board man Harold Camping.

In the next podcast we discuss Martin’s Slate article which caused a stir, on him leaving the online atheist community. Which, even with the hell edited out of his original post by Slate, has taken a life beyond his intention let alone words. Essentially Martin was saying “I am not beating my head against a brick wall arguing with a fundamentalist theist to feel superior anymore – I want to get past that and actually do something with more constructive engagement.”

Probably, like most of the thousand comments on Slate, even I am misrepresenting what Martin means. Occupational hazard – when saying everyone from antiquity to now celebrates festivities in December so let us use the solstice and if possible Christmas to have a universal marking of time and the season was misunderstood by some in comments on Harry’s Place as:

Don’t celebrate Christmas if you are not a Christian/You should only celebrate the solstice

So however you were planning on celebrating December 25, have a Merry Christmas. But might I encourage you, and those that never celebrate Christmas Day, to consider this Saturday what happens on earth to all and how humanity has marked the passing of time.

No one should do anything “pagan” for Christmas

The Romans during this festive time had slaves the equal with masters. This is the time to remember that whether as Children of Creation, or citizens, we are in equal need of the milk of human kindness. Stripped bare we need the same fundamentals to survive. If anything is sacrilegious, people dying due to lack of food, water and shelter on this earth is. A baby born in this world should be celebrated as a messiah – wherever and whenever it takes place.

Using symbols of nature to brighten up the home as a reminder that life carries on, whether bearing fruit on the holly or with a kiss under the mistletoe in the hope that unrequited love just might be reciprocated to kindle a romance to warm cold winter nights.

Christmas needs a make over/needs to adapt

Not really as I state “Especially given majority of people do not celebrate December with Christ’s birth in mind.” My point is a universal coming together that transcends religious dogma, claim to monopoly – the solstice as a natural event fits the bill perfectly as a separate event. I have already made clear plan Christmas however you want – though I do show a weakness for finding the perfect gift for someone that shows you have been attentive to them through the year.

If you can do that with Christmas great, but if for whatever reason you cannot then:

may be [my dream can be] embraced by all as a universal festival for a shared human spirit. Like all dreamers I am not the only one. Perhaps an interfaith approach of celebrating a religious festival as it is, with all the trimmings and inclusive, may work for those that do faith and feel comfortable celebrating another faith. However, I am calling for something that is not religious – though it may borrow (or reclaim) from them – but an observance of the season, marking time, and celebrating life with each other. Something for everyone.

Which makes the Winter Solstice and Christmas the platform to build on.

I must have high functioning Aspergers/no need to mark the solstice

I mention how some will be dead against the idea – but frankly who cares if people want to mark the solstice? Why should that worry you that some may find more meaning in celebrating that way than on Christmas Day? As I say it is up to you to celebrate as you want, when you want, how you want. Do not listen to anyone who says do not do this or that regarding being genuinely festive.

My point: there is no right or wrong way to celebrate December – just some of us do not consider being plonked down in front of the television as celebrating life, nature, community and passage of time. Just like twitter is a pale substitute for actually talking to people, being in each other’s company.

In short, and this maybe blasphemy, but there is more to December than Doctor Who.

Religion is stupid and pretending your own is more ‘authentic’ just because it predates Christianity is moronic/The entire discussion is a waste of time. Do what you want, let other people be, end of story

I was arguing against anyone claiming authenticity – pointing out December has always been a month stretching back in time for festivities. I agree people should be able to do what they want but alas:

Such a festival is one I would like to invite all to celebrate together at this time of year. In a world where Ahmadi Muslims can be arrested for celebrating Islamic festivals in Pakistan, puritanical Christian sects ban Christmas inspired frivolity for followers or Christians seeing my suggestion as a secular war on Christmas, this might be a big ask.

I should have added a big celebration of Christmas in the Middle East could be a death sentence – Tom Holland makes that point for me here.

I was saying people are not allowed sometimes to do what they want.

In fairness other people did also get what I was saying:

      “The Solstice is experienced by all, those noon time shadows are the longest with the low arc of the Sun in the Northern Hemisphere, as the shortest day approaches on Saturday December 21 2013.”

‘And three days later the sun is ‘reborn’, the cycle is renewed and we celebrate the return of the sun and longer days. Nice post by Mr Sargeant. A happy Winter Soltice/Saturnalia and salutations to all, including those who celebrate various Faith (or Victorian) based events at this time of year.’


      ‘Seeing this [post], I took advantage of our rather patchy sun and went out to admire my tall shadow riding on enormous wheels’

        ‘Agreed with a rider to the effect that the Winter Soltice is a real event.’

So no worries Martin, being misunderstood happens to us all in blogosphere.

Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog

Follow @JPSargeant78

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