In 1897, Robert Ingersoll wrote “What I Want for Christmas“. This short essay was a holiday wish list for humankind in the coming year, one that showcased both the great freethinker’s wit and his compassion.
All well and good, but we can now look back at this piece from a century later and see how it’s fared. Happily, some of Ingersoll’s wishes have been fulfilled, but others are still awaiting fruition. This being so, I think it would be worthwhile to update Ingersoll’s wish list, to highlight the areas where we’ve made progress and call attention to those where we still lag behind.
And so, without further ado, here’s what I want for Christmas this year:
This year for Christmas, if I could have whatever I wanted, I would have a spirit of reason and tolerance take hold throughout the world.
I would have religious conservatives cease their bigotry and demagoguery against gays and lesbians, recognize that homosexuals are human beings deserving of the same legal protections as everyone else, and join us in supporting civil marriage and adoption rights for all adults, regardless of gender.
I would have churchgoers and theists everywhere abandon belief in angels and devils, witches and miracles, and all the other prodigies which cloud our sight and distract us from the things that are real and meaningful. I would have them recognize that there is only our natural world, and that religion is but myth and superstition which hardens hearts and enslaves minds.
I would have the churches and Sunday schools preach reason rather than faith, compassion rather than intolerance, and the recognition that we are all human beings alike in dignity, rather than dividing the world into the saved and the hellbound.
I would have the Pope admit that he was wrong to oppose family planning and abortion, wrong to exclude gays and women from the priesthood, and wrong to teach that he knows anything more about God’s will or God’s existence than anyone else. I would have him urge his flock to liberate their women, learn about and use contraception, and sell off his fabulous wealth and use the proceeds for the good of the poor throughout the world.
I would have the absolute rulers of the Islamic world close down their state-sponsored madrassahs, imprison their morality police, and then resign their thrones and teach their people about human rights and democracy. I would like to see a new flowering of science, art and culture among the Islamic people, a rebirth of the wonderful culture of tolerance and exuberant creativity they once enjoyed.
I would like to see the world’s billionaires unite and form a massive nonprofit to fight poverty and disease everywhere. I would like to see the world’s corporations agree that they will funnel their profits into this trust, rather than paying out further bonuses and dividends to the already wealthy.
I would like to see the nations of the world come together to safeguard the planet’s remaining wilderness, agree on a comprehensive plan to stop global warming, and pour their wealth into developing new sources of clean energy.
I would like to see all politicians who have broken the law or abused the public trust resign or be impeached, and see them replaced with true public servants, men and women of honesty and integrity who will consider their offices a sacred trust, rather than an entitlement, and who will fight for reform and social progress.
I would like to see an end to belief in Hell, holy wars, promised lands, chosen people, and all the other dogmas that promote cruelty and sow division.
I would like to see the world’s churches reopen as libraries and museums, institutions that teach reason and knowledge rather than faith.
I would like to see all sacred texts and divine commands replaced with a morality of compassion, one that promotes well-being and values human happiness as the highest good.
I would like to see the whole world free – free from injustice – free from superstition.
All this will suffice for this Christmas. The following Christmas, I may want more.