What I Want for Christmas

Christmas TreeThis speech by Robert G. Ingersoll was printed in 1897, and is as fresh today as ever. Unfortunately Ingersoll has not yet gotten his Christmas wish, but perhaps this next year we can get a bit closer to attaining it.


If I had the power to produce exactly what I want for next
Christmas, I would have all the kings and emperors resign and allow
the people to govern themselves.

I would have all the nobility crop their titles and give their
lands back to the people. I would have the Pope throw away his
tiara, take off his sacred vestments, and admit that he is not
acting for God — is not infallible — but is just an ordinary
Italian. I would have all the cardinals, archbishops, bishops,
priests and clergymen admit that they know nothing about theology,
nothing about hell or heaven, nothing about the destiny of the
human race, nothing about devils or ghosts, gods or angels. I would
have them tell all their “flocks” to think for themselves, to be
manly men and womanly women, and to do all in their power to
increase the sum of human happiness.

I would have all the professors in colleges, all the teachers
in schools of every kind, including those in Sunday schools, agree
that they would teach only what they know, that they would not palm
off guesses as demonstrated truths.

I would like to see all the politicians changed to statesmen,
— to men who long to make their country great and free, — to men
who care more for public good than private gain — men who long to
be of use.

I would like to see all the editors of papers and magazines
agree to print the truth and nothing but the truth, to avoid all
slander and misrepresentation, and to let the private affairs of
the people alone.

I would like to see drunkenness and prohibition both

I would like to see corporal punishment done away with in
every home, in every school, in every asylum, reformatory, and
prison. Cruelty hardens and degrades, kindness reforms and

I would like to see the millionaires unite and form a trust
for the public good.

I would like to see a fair division of profits between capital
and labor, so that the toiler could save enough to mingle a little
June with the December of his life.

I would like to see an international court established in
which to settle disputes between nations, so that armies could be
disbanded and the great navies allowed to rust and rot in perfect

I would like to see the whole world free — free from
injustice — free from superstition.

This will do for next Christmas. The following Christmas, I
may want more.

The Arena, Boston, December 1897.

from: http://www.infidels.org/library/historical/robert_ingersoll/for_christmas.html

Thanks for the text goes to the Bank of Wisdom for converting the text to electronic form, and The Secular Web for posting it online.


We’re halfway out of the Dark

Congratulations, we are halfway out of the dark.

For those who don’t get the reference, I watched the Doctor Who “A Christmas Carol” special again last night. The Doctor refers to Christmas or the Solstice (they are considered basically the same in the story) as “halfway out of the dark.”

So celebrate today. We are halfway out of the dark!

“Community Tree” has Christians fuming in Louisville, KY

Apparently, the supposed “War on Christmas” has already come to my home city, even before Thanksgiving. A press release went out calling Louisville’s big Light Up Louisville spruce a “Community Tree.” And this has stirred controversy and hurt feelings.

It’s Called the Community Christmas Tree – WDRB.com

But not to worry, the city is not going to be “PC” or anything horrid like that. The tree is going to be called the “Community Christmas Tree.”

Don’t misunderstand, I have no problem with calling it a Christmas tree. It would still be a Christmas tree to me even if the city did officially call it a “Community Tree.” I am, after all, a product of a Christian upbringing and I have plenty of warm fuzzy memories of sitting under the Christmas tree. What shocks me (though maybe it shouldn’t by now) is the response of the Christians in this city to the naming of a tree. I have a small sampling of reactions pulled from Mayor Fisher’s Facebook wall (names masked for privacy, of course). Most are negative reactions, though I threw a couple of interesting positive reactions in for balance.

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My favorite negative comment is the “what have we turned into??” comment. I mean, what have we become for calling a Christmas tree a Community tree? A bit more pluralistic? Many of the comments make it clear that the authors think that the city Christmas celebration ought to be a blatant state endorsement of their religion. After all, it’s tradition, right? And tradition is always right. /sarcasm.

It’s not just Louisville of course. Any time a government pronouncement around the winter holidays does not explicitly endorse CHRISTmas, this happens. There is no pronouncement coming from our government regarding how or when or why anyone will be allowed to observe Christmas or any other holiday. America has no government religion, and any county, city, state, or national observance has to be for all citizens, not just the traditional majority. Neither belief in, nor deference to, Christianity or any other religion is required for full participation in civic life in this country. And that, my friends, is the core of our beloved religious freedom.

See also: Wiki Article on Christian Privilege.

Update to the Atheist Christmas Display Post

In order to set the record straight, I have edited the post I wrote last December about atheist Christmas displays. As it turns out, the most outrageous of the displays was not put up by atheists at all (as I had even thought at the time) but by a local Christian. For more details see the revised post here:
What’s the point of atheist Christmas displays?

How to Respond to “Merry Christmas” as an atheist

Not sure where this picture came from originally (I think I know the site actually but I can’t remember what it’s called). This was shared by New York Atheists on their Facebook page, and I could not resist passing it on.  It describes my sentiments exactly!

Merry Christmas!

What’s the point of atheist Christmas displays?

‘Tis the season of joy, family, rampant commercialism, and….atheistic Christmas displays? For the past few years, various atheist groups have challenged religious Christmas displays in government buildings by putting up displays of their own. After all, since this is a secular nation, the government is not supposed to show partiality to any religion or philosophy on religion. So, if one group is allowed to have a display, all groups get to have a display.

I first heard of this phenomena with the Freedom From Religion Foundation and their sign commemorating the Winter Solstice and dissing religion in the process.

 I like this sign.

And then there was the Tree of Knowledge put up in West Chester, PA by the Freethought Society. I like this one too, and I seriously do not think there is any reasonable reason why it has now been banned from the courthouse lawn for the second year in a row even though religious displays are still endorsed. It is cheerful, and it’s not even anti-religious, except perhaps for people who think that seeking knowledge outside one’s inherited religious tradition is sacrilege.

Then there is this display, which I sorta understand but I still wonder about its appropriateness…. I do understand, though in a rather cynical way, why this display got lots of press and news attention while all of the other secular/atheistic displays in very same place got scant attention if any at all (I only heard about the other displays in an atheist blog). The person who put this up describes it as a kind of protest against the empty consumerism that has come to characterize so much of Christmas. But surely they know that people get awful upset when you call out the naked emperor in a holiday display, and that most people and most news organizations were just not going to get the point. Instead this seems to have turned into outrage over atheists attacking Christmas than anything else. Not as if the Christian majority doesn’t rage over the nicer atheistic displays anyway (like the Tree of Knowledge above.) But I must say I still have my reservations about this one.

Now, for my part, I think it would be better if Christmas displays just didn’t make an appearance at all on government property. So maybe that is one positive thing about this last display, in that the hubbub from this display may have resulted in all Christmas displays being banned from the county courthouse in Loudoun County, Virginia for this year. This stuff is always much better kept on private property, IMHO.

EDIT: I just have to make a note here, since I discovered well after writing this post, that the skeleton Santa was put up by a Christian. Atheists just got the blame for it. From the First Quarter 2012 American Atheist Magazine article “The War on Christmas:”

As it turns out, the artist who placed the skeleton Santa on the lawn is a Christian. And, as it clearly states on his permit application, this was a commentary on the destruction of Christmas by commercialism–something that both Atheists and Christians generally dislike. The skeleton Santa is still being blamed on the Atheists.

More information can be found here as well: NOVA Atheists Display is now Up.