I received my Nov/Dec issue of The New Humanist from the UK–it’s an entertaining magazine for freethinkers, by the way, so highly recommended–and in it is an article about a celebration called Nine Lessons and Carols for Godless People. No doubt many of you have heard about it already. The annual holiday get-together is for people who like Christmas but don’t believe in Christmas and features well known scientists such as Richard Dawkins as well as numerous comedians and musicians who poke fun at religion but also contemplate the wonders of the universe. If you watch the video below you’ll start to feel festive already after hearing the music.
It seems the event started because in the UK there is a well organized backlash against religious satire and even satire that really doesn’t have its aim at religion. In particular Jerry Springer the Operainvoked the wrath of what New Humanist labels “a rightwing fringe group” called Christian Voice. While America can propose some pretty nutty laws, Britain had proposed an incitement to religious hatred bill that Rowan Atkinson felt necessary to speak out against enacting (if you don’t know who Rowan Atkinson is, shame on you, he’s a comedy legend). If the religious have it their way in the UK, blasphemy will equal a criminal act.
Nine Lessons and Carols for Godless Peoplesounds like a necessary event to show solidarity against such disturbing campaigns to squelch freedom of speech. It also shows community spirit. Ultimately, what keeps religion alive is not so much the theology, the rituals and the beliefs–it’s church, a community center. I also think churches are beneficial to society as a whole as they provide services to the neighborhood such as fundraising, volunteer work, visiting the sick and elderly, daycare services and being a place of refuge in times of emergencies. Who wouldn’t want to believe in god to get all that? Atheists cannot match this kind community resource because we are so few in number with limited funds. A yearly godless celebration is a step in the right direction. The church didn’t come together over night. According to Robert Wright in The Evolution of God, Paul was a savy franchise owner. He knew how to dominate his competition with community offerings.
If you know of any godless community events for the holidays in America, please leave a reply with links. I recommend reading the article in New Humanist. Very inspiring. If you fall into the atheist camp where you don’t think atheists should celebrate Christmas I think that’s fine too. Just remember that Christmas is a messy conglomeration of mythological traditions and most of us have childhood nostalgia for the holidays. There’s no reason why music, gift giving and animated TV specials are the domain of Christianity.