What I Want For Christmas

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.

New on the Guardian: Beyond Debating God’s Existence
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About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, City of Light, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.

  • http://thewarfareismental.typepad.com cl

    Happy Holidays to all @ DA, thank you for everything and a Happy New Year..

  • Judy

    What I want for Christmas:

    For my mother to realize that the god she keeps “praising” for her little “blessings” (she lives in near-poverty) and keeps begging for help (and not getting) DOES NOT EXIST and to use that knowledge to better herself using her own might as she gets deeper into her golden years. The same for my older sister, who has suffered for years from a terrible alcohol/drug addiction.

  • Judy

    Also, I forgot, for Xmas I also want:

    A nice (and permanent!) boyfriend/husband/companion. Hee hee!

  • mikespeir

    (Sigh) Nobody can accuse us of not being realists! But I guess it’s okay to dream now and again, so long as we take care to come back to Earth pretty soon.

  • velkyn

    I don’t think it’s too unrealistic. However, we have people actively not wanting these dreams and wanting worse than what we have now. And that makes it hard to achieve.

  • Adele

    I would like modern medicine to be freely available to all those who need it.

    I would like libraries to be on every street corner so that knowledge is readily accessible to everyone.

    I would like education to be the highest priority of every society. I would like a higher education at the level of institutions like Harvard and Oxford to be free. I would like teachers to be paid as highly as CEOs and sports players are paid today.

    I would like elected officials to be genuinely concerned with the welfare of their voters.

    And since we’re shooting for the moon here… I would like all the books that have ever been burned to be recovered.

  • http://www.atheistrev.com vjack

    That was a good point about your mom, Judy. Religious people are so fond of claiming their their faith gives them hope. But what good is false hope, especially when it leads to inaction?

  • mikespeir

    However, we have people actively not wanting these dreams and wanting worse than what we have now. And that makes it hard to achieve.


  • Tom

    “Who shoots at the mid-day sun, though he be sure he shall never hit the mark, yet as sure he is he shall shoot higher than who aims but at a bush.” – Philip Sidney

  • mikespeir

    That’s almost profound, Tom. Almost.

  • Tom

    Meh, seemed appropriate, if somewhat tame. If it’s profound you’re after, something slightly better would be to remark that the forces of rational and scientific inquiry have, since Sidney devised that particular metaphor about impossible goals, progressed to the point that it is no longer a laughable impossibility – today, we actually could launch a projectile into the sun itself, should we so wish, and it’s been by the work of just such people who challenged the impossible. The forces of religion can lay claim to no similar achievement stemming from any of their own principles or methods of thought (though it must be said that they’ve caused a few by inspiring scientists to try and better understand creation in order to show respect to its supposed creator); indeed, religions are best known for boasting not about how much they’ve learned or developed but how little they’ve changed over the centuries. And if you want really profound, to paraphrase Terry Pratchett, what doesn’t change doesn’t live.

  • mikespeir

    …what doesn’t change doesn’t live.

    I guess that’s, um, profounder. I can’t think of anything better.

  • http://www.blacksunjournal.com BlackSun

    Ebonmuse, in other words, “Peace on Earth, good will to men.” Isn’t that supposed to be the Christian message? Too bad they don’t really live it.

  • MissCherryPi

    They didn’t have that at the mall. So I got you a sweater.

  • bbk

    I’m okay with churches being turned into bars. They look pretty when I’m drunk.

  • Alex Weaver

    And in other news, happy electrified conifer day everyone. :)

  • http://thechapel.wordpress.com the chaplain

    We can look at this as a wish list or as a set of goals. Same goes for some of the fine additions that other commenters have made. We may not achieve all of these goals, but it’s good to know what our targets are.

  • http://www.ateosmexicanos.com/portal/ Juan Felipe

    Happy Holidays everyone!!!

  • TommyP

    Rock on, Ebonmuse! This is why we love your guts, mister. It’s nifty to see your own ideas spoken by another, and spoken better. It’s helped me quite a bit to refine my own ideas. My thanks also to the other people who post replies and such, some of the things that are said are amazingly useful.

  • http://www.superhappyjen.blogspot.com SuperHappyJen

    Just have to announce that my daughter was born at 5:15 am Christmas morning. The perfect time for two atheists to bring a child into the world.

  • Alex Weaver

    Just have to announce that my daughter was born at 5:15 am Christmas morning. The perfect time for two atheists to bring a child into the world.

    I can’t think of the right one-liner about wrapping paper, so I’ll just say “happy human larva acquisition” :3

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism Ebonmuse

    Congratulations, Jen and family!