Richard Dawkins and Christmas

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Richard Dawkins
Richard Dawkins sings traditional Christmas carols each Christmas season.[1]

New Atheism is a form of militant atheism. Yet even the new atheists Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris indicate they participate in Christmas festivities/celebrations.[2][3] See also: Atheism and Christmas

The Daily Mail declared:

Scientist and atheist Richard Dawkins has admitted he does celebrate Christmas - and enjoys singing traditional Christmas carols each festive season.

The writer and evolutionary biologist told singer Jarvis Cocker that he happily wishes everyone a Merry Christmas - and used to have a tree when his daughter was younger.[4]

See also: Richard Dawkins and Christianity

Despite being an agnostic and not an atheist (see: Richard Dawkins and agnosticism), Dawkins wrote about Christmas:

When people find out I’m an atheist, the question often comes up about what I do during the Christmas holidays. There is an assumption that atheists don’t ‘do Christmas,’ so they are surprised when I say how much I love it.

Most atheists grew up in religious households, and most of us grew up with celebrating religious holidays. We have childhood memories of Christmas or Hanukkah, family meals, holiday cheer and the quirkiness of our relatives. While we might make noise when religion attempts to break through the wall of the separation of church and state, we are not in the habit of kicking Santa in the shins, tearing down creches, or, like the Grinch, stealing the Christmas stockings from the mantle. I admit I have known atheists who grow quite surly and Scrooge-like at any suggestion of Christmas merriment. But historically most of that sort of opposition to Christmas and its symbols has come not from atheists at all, but from rival religions. Most of the the atheists I know revel in the season as a way of celebrating family and friends, which really is the modern meaning of Christmas.

Some Christians have accused me of being hypocritical for celebrating a Christian holiday. However – and perhaps this is from my background in anthropology – celebrations are a natural part of human culture, and Christians simply appropriated local celebrations to suit their own peculiar beliefs. Christmas is only ‘Christian’ because ancient winter pagan celebrations were incorporated by the Church.[5]

The BBC reported about Dawkins' view of Christmas:

He told the BBC's Have Your Say that he did not want to "purge" the UK of its Christian heritage.

The comments came after Tory MP Mark Pritchard accused "politically correct" people of undermining Christmas.

Professor Dawkins, author of the God Delusion, added that he liked "singing Carols along with everybody else".

On Have Your Say, Mr Pritchard told Prof Dawkins there was an "increasing feeling" that "many of the main Christian festivals are being sidelined and marginalised, sometimes by stealth, sometimes openly".

This, he argued, would allow groups such as the British National Party, to utilise Christian imagery for their own ends.

Prof Dawkins, who has frequently spoken out against creationism and religious fundamentalism, replied: "I'm not one of those who wants to stop Christian traditions.

"This is historically a Christian country. I'm a cultural Christian in the same way many of my friends call themselves cultural Jews or cultural Muslims.

"So, yes, I like singing carols along with everybody else. I'm not one of those who wants to purge our society of our Christian history.

"If there's any threat these sorts of things, I think you will find it comes from rival religions and not from atheists."[6]

The New York Times reports:

Mr. Dawkins, reached by e-mail somewhere on a book tour, was asked about his own Christmas philosophy. The response sounded almost as if he and Mr. Harris — and maybe other members of a soon-to-be-chartered Atheists Who Kind of Don’t Object to Christmas Club — had hashed out a statement of principles. Strangely, these principles find much common ground with Christians who complain about the holiday’s over-commercialization and secularization, though the atheists bemoan the former and appreciate the latter.

“Presumably your reason for asking me is that ‘The God Delusion’ is an atheistic book, and you still think of Christmas as a religious festival,” Mr. Dawkins wrote, in a reply printed here in its entirety. “But of course it has long since ceased to be a religious festival. I participate for family reasons, with a reluctance that owes more to aesthetics than atheistics. I detest Jingle Bells, White Christmas, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, and the obscene spending bonanza that nowadays seems to occupy not just December, but November and much of October, too.”

He added: “So divorced has Christmas become from religion that I find no necessity to bother with euphemisms such as happy holiday season. In the same way as many of my friends call themselves Jewish atheists, I acknowledge that I come from Christian cultural roots. I am a post-Christian atheist. So, understanding full well that the phrase retains zero religious significance, I unhesitatingly wish everyone a Merry Christmas.”[7]

Notes