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Author Topic:   Why does Richard Dawkins sing Christmas carols?
Kitsune
Member (Idle past 4379 days)
Posts: 788
From: Leicester, UK
Joined: 09-16-2007


Message 1 of 301 (440905)
12-15-2007 7:15 AM


Does anyone else find this a wee bit hypocritical?
Dawkins: I'm a Cultural Christian
Christmas is an increasingly secularised festival, particularly here in the UK where the majority of people do not go to church. Where I live there is a high proportion of Muslims, Hindus, and Siekhs. In classrooms, children of these faiths often join in with the celebrations to some degree and are happy to trade Christmas cards with friends.
What does Christmas mean to non-Christians, and can it really have any kind of deep meaning?
A topical thread for the season. Coffee House I think.
Edited by LindaLou, : No reason given.

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AdminPhat
Inactive Member


Message 2 of 301 (441086)
12-16-2007 12:09 PM


Thread moved here from the Proposed New Topics forum.

Chiroptera
Inactive Member


Message 3 of 301 (441089)
12-16-2007 12:18 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by Kitsune
12-15-2007 7:15 AM


What does Christmas mean to non-Christians, and can it really have any kind of deep meaning?
To me, Christmas is one of the particular holidays that occurs during a special two month period. November and December are chock full of holidays that I consider fun and enjoyable -- starting with Halloween, going onto my birthday (okay, that may not concern others!), then Thanksgiving (here in the U.S.), then Christmas and New Year's Day. In fact, the only holiday that I consider to be special that doesn't occur during this time is U.S. Independence Day.
Now, I realize how tired people are of the commercialization of Christmas, starting right after Halloween; I don't like that either, but I see nothing wrong with such an early start of a special holiday season.
To me, the entire months of November and December are really an extenstion of what we consider Thanksgiving to be here in the U.S. A time to slow down and relax (except that I am in the middle of finals, heh), a time to appreciate what we have and to remember those less unfortunate, to celebrate life with friends, and to have fun with dressing up and trick or treat at Halloween and putting up lights and holly at Christmas.
I don't know what holidays are like in the U.K., but those of us in the U.S. certainly consider Thanksgiving to be a more or less secular holiday -- I see no reason why Christmas can't be like Thanksgiving, except with lights and elves running around the shopping malls.

It has become fashionable on the left and in Western Europe to compare the Bush administration to the Nazis. The comparison is not without some superficial merit. In both cases the government is run by a small gang of snickering, stupid thugs whose vision of paradise is full of explosions and beautifully designed prisons. -- Matt Taibbi

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crashfrog
Member (Idle past 1546 days)
Posts: 19762
From: Silver Spring, MD
Joined: 03-20-2003


Message 4 of 301 (441095)
12-16-2007 12:27 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by Kitsune
12-15-2007 7:15 AM


Does anyone else find this a wee bit hypocritical?
Not any more than being a "non-practicing Jew." Dawkins grew up in a Christian society so naturally that stuff inflects the culture he prefers.
And I don't see for a second that you have to follow the words of Christ in order to enjoy the holidays. Heck Christianity ripped off the whole holiday from the pagans, anyway.
What does Christmas mean to non-Christians, and can it really have any kind of deep meaning?
As a time for getting together with friends and family, it has the same deep meaning for everyone who participates, I think. I don't see that the religious connotations add any "deep meaning." Most people, by far, don't find much deep meaning in religion. It just doesn't have the power to offer that kind of meaning.

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Phat
Member
Posts: 18388
From: Denver,Colorado USA
Joined: 12-30-2003


Message 5 of 301 (441097)
12-16-2007 12:30 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by Kitsune
12-15-2007 7:15 AM


Christmas should transcend religion
I believe that Christmas should be celebrated in the way that is comfortable to an individual or a community. In some areas of the country, there are elaborate lawn decorations with inflatable snowmen and competitions among blocks of houses as to who has the most colorful display.
Some folks choose to include a nativity scene, where other folks go all out with reindeer and Santa. The spirit of the holiday should focus on Peace on Earth and Goodwill rather than on the endlessly droning commercialization that inevitably is allowed to occur in a Capitalist society. (For retailers, it is their biggest time of year.)
And as for Dawkins? I respect the man more each time I hear of him, as it seems he has a cheerful and loving "heart" to go with his rational mind.

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Chiroptera
Inactive Member


Message 6 of 301 (441098)
12-16-2007 12:30 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by Kitsune
12-15-2007 7:15 AM


Does anyone else find this a wee bit hypocritical?
I should also say that my favorite Christmas carols are "Joy to the World" and "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen".
Go figure.

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ringo
Member (Idle past 491 days)
Posts: 20940
From: frozen wasteland
Joined: 03-23-2005


Message 7 of 301 (441118)
12-16-2007 1:13 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by Kitsune
12-15-2007 7:15 AM


LindaLou writes:
What does Christmas mean to non-Christians, and can it really have any kind of deep meaning?
I don't think most Christians find a "deeper" meaning in Christmas than most non-Christians do. The "Christ" part of Christmas is fairly superficial and unimportant. "The holidays" can be celebrated without reference to "Christ" at all.
Singing a carol or two doesn't give the religious aspects any great significance. It's no different from singing "We are the Champions" when we're not.

Disclaimer: The above statement is without a doubt, the most LUDICROUS, IDIOTIC AND PERFECT EXAMPLE OF WILLFUL STUPIDITY, THAT I HAVE EVER SEEN OR HEARD.

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Kitsune
Member (Idle past 4379 days)
Posts: 788
From: Leicester, UK
Joined: 09-16-2007


Message 8 of 301 (441125)
12-16-2007 1:29 PM


I agree that Christmas is a big celebration both in the UK and in the US, and people don't want to be excluded from it. I see no reason why they should be excluded, and why the ideas of peace and love shouldn't be celebrated.
I was just trying to imagine Dawkins singing something like "Silent Night." What goes through his mind? I've been singing carols with my daughter, who has participated in a nativity play in school this year. I feel strange singing about God and Jesus.
I was a devout Catholic until I was 18. I loved Christmas as any child would, but celebrating Jesus' birthday gave it a depth of meaning that it lost for me when I ceased to be a theist. It gave it a purpose, it connected me to something spiritual and universal. I still put up a Christmas tree, give presents, even sing carols -- all that kind of thing -- but it feels empty to me.
To a non-religious person, what deep significance do any of our holidays have anymore? Getting together with family and friends to celebrate is important and special, I agree -- but what are we celebrating exactly?
I wouldn't mind making Christmas into a festival of lights celebrating the winter solstice, but I run into the same theological problem there. This was a festival which no doubt became supremely important in the neolithic period, when people marked the seasons according to the crops that they grew. I can get the food I want year round, I'm sat in my warm and bright house, and I feel pretty divorced from nature.
To conclude for now, I'll go back to Dawkins singing carols. If someone asked him if he believed what he was singing, of course he would say "no." That just jars with me somehow, if the songs are particularly religious.
BTW Phat, the more I learn about Dawkins myself, the more I don't like his ideas. Funny, considering our respective positions.

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Silent H
Member (Idle past 5898 days)
Posts: 7405
From: satellite of love
Joined: 12-11-2002


Message 9 of 301 (441126)
12-16-2007 1:30 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by Kitsune
12-15-2007 7:15 AM


Well I would say that for Dawkins in specific, yes this seems a bit hypocritical. You can't blast religion as much as he does and then enjoy reveling in its "culture" without a tad bit of chutzpah.
That said, I don't think atheists or non-Xians in this case, can't enjoy this time period... including Xian iconography and other "culture".
People travel to different lands and cultures and enjoy unique aspects of these other people's traditions, so why not at home as well?
If anything this phenomena, blending of religious traditions, seems much like how paganism was a long time ago. Many gods, many traditions, you could sample them all as you like.
I personally think a lot of artistic energy has been spent on Xianity, and I don't feel odd enjoying its beauty. To me the truth of the iconography is about as relevant as the truth found in Lord of the Rings, or Harry Potter. You don't have to believe in its reality, to enjoy aesthetic qualities and some meanings words or images might contain.
I suppose it might be important to point out that Xmas was sort of lifted from pagan traditions. So it might be asked if Xians feel a bit hypocritical celebrating pagan festivals. From what I understand some are upset by this and avoid traditional Xmas revelry, or Xmas altogether.

h
"Civilized men are more discourteous than savages because they know they can be impolite without having their skulls split, as a general thing." - Robert E. Howard

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crashfrog
Member (Idle past 1546 days)
Posts: 19762
From: Silver Spring, MD
Joined: 03-20-2003


Message 10 of 301 (441133)
12-16-2007 1:54 PM
Reply to: Message 8 by Kitsune
12-16-2007 1:29 PM


I was just trying to imagine Dawkins singing something like "Silent Night." What goes through his mind?
"Uh-huh, here comes that high C I can never hit."
Getting together with family and friends to celebrate is important and special, I agree -- but what are we celebrating exactly?
Them, maybe?
BTW Phat, the more I learn about Dawkins myself, the more I don't like his ideas.
Pick up his book. Get them from the horse's mouth. Dawkins is, by far, the most singularly misrepresented figure in modern science.

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Chiroptera
Inactive Member


Message 11 of 301 (441138)
12-16-2007 2:11 PM
Reply to: Message 8 by Kitsune
12-16-2007 1:29 PM


I was just trying to imagine Dawkins singing something like "Silent Night." What goes through his mind?
"I wonder why people call me a fundamentalist atheist?"
-
I wouldn't mind making Christmas into a festival of lights celebrating the winter solstice, but I run into the same theological problem there.
What problem? Religion has always been about symbolizing the essential features of what it means to be human. These symbols will change over time and between communities, and there is no reason why you can't feel that these symbols have special meanings that are clear only to you. The fundamentalist will try to tell you that the symbols must be interpreted literally; the evangelical will try to tell you that there is only one true meaning behind the symbols. Both are wrong.
Or you can dispense with the symbolism altogether. Just decorate a tree (if you do that in the U.K.) just because it looks pretty, and then when you and your family and your friends are standing admiring how beautiful it is, consider that, the sharing of a special moment, to be the real meaning of the season.
That's the way I look at it, anyway.
Edited by Chiroptera, : Added to the first paragraph in the second section.

It has become fashionable on the left and in Western Europe to compare the Bush administration to the Nazis. The comparison is not without some superficial merit. In both cases the government is run by a small gang of snickering, stupid thugs whose vision of paradise is full of explosions and beautifully designed prisons. -- Matt Taibbi

This message is a reply to:
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NosyNed
Member
Posts: 9006
From: Canada
Joined: 04-04-2003


Message 12 of 301 (441143)
12-16-2007 2:48 PM
Reply to: Message 8 by Kitsune
12-16-2007 1:29 PM


Singing
I like to sing lots of xmas carols. My daughter listens to them all year round. They are associated with some nice times.
One of my favorite songs to sing and pick out on a keyboard (by the numbers) is Amazing Grace (partially because I think I can sing it ).
It might be hard to get what goes through my mind while singing. If it is in a church (not been for a few years but used to do church parade with the scouts when I was a leader) I have part of my mind like an anthropologist visiting an alien culture. I just enjoy it about like I like reading about Egyptian and Greek myths. They are imaginative fun and part of our cultural background.
I don't know why anyone would make a big deal out of it all.
(short funny story: When my son was about 6 the beaver troop went to church parade at xmas time to sing and stuff. The next day he mentioned that "they say bad things in there". I asked what he meant and he says " they sang 'Jesus Christ'! ". (as in "and Jesus Christ was born" ) )
I had to explain that it wasn't swearing then.
At about 11 my daughter was interested in religions and wanted to go to Sunday school so we took her. She also borrowed comparative religions books from a minister friend. She and I talked about what I believed.
It lasted about 6 months before her conclusion was: "They all believe they are right and they all believe different things.".
In the last 2 or 3 years I have to remind her that not all so-called "Christians" are like what she finds on FSTDTs (fundies say the darndest things) or here. They have helped make her a somewhat militant atheist.

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Silent H
Member (Idle past 5898 days)
Posts: 7405
From: satellite of love
Joined: 12-11-2002


Message 13 of 301 (441145)
12-16-2007 2:53 PM
Reply to: Message 10 by crashfrog
12-16-2007 1:54 PM


Dawkins is, by far, the most singularly misrepresented figure in modern science.
When he is promoting atheism, he is not a scientist. It is this misrepresentation by himself and others that support him, that irks me the most.
You can be both, but they should be as carefully separated a role as Xian and President.

h
"Civilized men are more discourteous than savages because they know they can be impolite without having their skulls split, as a general thing." - Robert E. Howard

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iano
Member (Idle past 2020 days)
Posts: 6165
From: Co. Wicklow, Ireland.
Joined: 07-27-2005


Message 14 of 301 (441147)
12-16-2007 3:11 PM
Reply to: Message 5 by Phat
12-16-2007 12:30 PM


Re: Christmas should transcend religion
phat writes:
And as for Dawkins? I respect the man more each time I hear of him, as it seems he has a cheerful and loving "heart" to go with his rational mind.
Peace in our time huh?
{AbE} Oh Holy Night my own favorite. Tingles....
Edited by iano, : No reason given.
Edited by iano, : No reason given.
Edited by iano, : No reason given.

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Hyroglyphx
Inactive Member


Message 15 of 301 (441153)
12-16-2007 3:43 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by Kitsune
12-15-2007 7:15 AM


Its already secularized
I don't find it particularly strange that Dawkins celebrates Christmas since it started out as a pagan holiday to begin with. You are probably already aware of the history behind Christmas, but if not, it began as a synthesization of Germanic and Roman holidays.
It was later Christianized to be the reputed day of Jesus' birth. The Christmas tree, down to the ornaments, to the specific day, along with winter solstice, and the lunar spectacles is all pagan.
Plus, as he stated, its a cultural thing. Westerners observe Christmas because of the cultural aspects.
So while Christmas is a "Mass for Christ," its origins predate Christianity.

“This life’s dim windows of the soul, distorts the heavens from pole to pole, and goads you to believe a lie, when you see with and not through the eye.” -William Blake

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