Lawrence O’Donnell Responds to Pat Robertson’s Comments on Atheists Ruining Christmas

Recently Pat Robertson said something stupid. Since that doesn’t narrow it down, I’m talking about when he said atheists were miserable grinches who just want to ruin everybody’s fun.

Last night, on MSNBC’s The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell, the host responded to Robertson by quoting atheist comedian Ricky Gervais on how he celebrates Christmas:

The Gervais bit he’s quoting is this:

How do you plan on celebrating Christmas?

Eating and drinking too much with friends and family. Celebrating life and remembering those that did, but can no longer.

They are not looking down on me but they live in my mind and heart more than they ever did probably. Some, I was lucky enough to bump into on this planet of six billion people. Others shared much of my genetic material. One selflessly did her best for me all my life. That’s what mums do though. They do it for no other reason than love. Not for reward. Not for recognition. They create you. From nothing. Miracle? They do those every day. No big deal. They are not worshiped. They would give their life without the promise of heaven. They teach you everything they know yet they are not declared prophets. And you only have one.

I am crying as I write this.

It usually gets me this time of year. That’s what’s special about Christmas. It’s when you visit or reminisce about the ones you love. And reflect on how lucky you are. How they helped shape you. I remember the first time my mum took me to see a movie. I’d never been to a cinema before. I can still remember the place to this day. Everything seemed carpeted. The floors, the walls, everything. I had sweets and Pepsi and the biggest screen in the world, I thought. I was blown away. I lived a life in a couple of hours. When I thought Baloo was dead I was sobbing uncontrollably but trying to hide it. My mum was consoling me but didn’t seem as distressed as me. Then when it turned out that Baloo was still alive I was f—ing euphoric.

But it made me think. On the way home I asked my mum how old I’d be when she died. “Old,” she said. “Will I care?” I asked worried about my far off future feelings. She wasn’t sure what to say. She knew I wanted the answer “no” in some ways but as usual she chose honesty. “Yes,” she said. “But it won’t happen for a very long time.” That was good enough for me.

When I returned to school a few weeks later we had to do a little presentation about our holidays. I proceeded to act out the entire movie using the other kids in the class. I told them where to stand and what to say, filling in the action with narration. Eventually the teacher had to stop me because I was taking up the whole day. Now I’m a real director I never make that same mistake. I’m home by 4 o’clock on any movie I do.

I haven’t seen the film for 40 years so I’m not sure how good it is but it’s still one of my fondest memories because it was a gift from my mum. My mum died when I was 40.

She was right by the way. I did care. But luckily 35 five years before, I’d learnt the bear necessities to get me through.

Just like Baloo, she’s still with me.

Dads are pretty cool too. Mine was a man of few words. He let me make my own way. He taught me one important lesson though. That it’s OK for a man to cry. He only cried once in his life. Just one time. When his mum died. Luckily for him all his children out-lived him. Otherwise there would surely have been a second.

I hope you are with your loved ones at this wonderful time of year. That’s what will make it wonderful.

Peace to all mankind. Christian, Jew, Muslim and Atheist.

What a great rewrite and refutation from O’Donnell. Atheists, like everyone, experience the full gamut of emotions. But we’re not perpetually miserable just because we don’t believe in God.

Whatever joy religious people get from their faith, we get from other places. It’s no less meaningful just because it’s based in the natural world. Ricky Gervais’ piece says that beautifully and it’s wonderful to hear it quoted on O’Donnell’s show.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/A37GL7VKR3W6ACSIZPH7EID3LI rlrose63

    Okay, that tribute to Ricky and acceptance and love made me cry.  Darn you, Hemant!  It’s nice to see someone mainstream talking about atheists in a positive manner.  I don’t know when I’ve seen that before.

    Oh… and Pat Robertson can suck my big toe.

    • http://www.facebook.com/Dharmaworks David Benjamin Patton

      Pat Robertson comes across as a creeper who would offer you a $20 to suck your big toe. Probably while wearing a French maid’s outfit and listening to Bolero. Be careful what you give away because there’s always someone willing to take it. ; )

  • http://www.last.fm/user/m6wg4bxw m6wg4bxw

    I thought the segment on Last Word did well to refute the claim that atheists are all miserable people. I was, however, hoping for a point or two about how an atheist’s misery (or displeasure, unhappiness, anger, etc) might be a justified response to numerous flagrant violations of church-state separation.

    • Baal

       As a xtian troll who has been luring here a while now, you must have seen that the christians are rarely justified in what pisses them off?  Why would Lawrence diminish Ricky’s touching and humanizing statement with pandering to xtians?

      • http://www.last.fm/user/m6wg4bxw m6wg4bxw

        Was the intended for me? No part of it seems relevant to my first message.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Stephan-Goodwin/676660806 Stephan Goodwin

    That was awesome!  

  • dcl3500

    That was great! Thanks!

  • jose

    It’s heartening to see the sentiment of earthly love among human beings dignified by Ricky Gervais in such eloquent manner.

    • Michael Koch

      Ricky Gervais is the epitome of the eloquent, educated,  Brilliantly enlightened Human Being that Pat Robertson is so afraid of……….

      • Sindigo

        I’m a huge fan of Ricky’s and he’s at his brilliant best here but let’s not beatify the man who thinks “mong” is an acceptable word to throw around.

        • BruceMcGlory

          He also thinks misogynistic slurs are okay.  he’s hardly an enlightened human being.

  • kooonse
  • Michael Koch

    Let’s not condemn Pat Robertson, before the Psychiatrists finish their tests…..

  • OregoniAn

    Damn that Ricky Gervais!… So eloquent, and hitting me so close to home. In my mid forties now, my parents entering their eighties.. Time is short to connect, to share, to experience those things we can cherish- and hold dear as we ourselves move along through our own short life ~

    Think I’ll check in on our youngest.. We tucked her in an hour ago, but you never know when that extra hug might help her sleep better..

    Luv ‘ya Ricky G.. oh yeah.. and a big “middle finger salute” to that stupid ass-hat Pat.

  • Csilver

    Religion hawkers need to convince religion buyers that religion adds something indispensable to their lives, so they say that atheists are miserable, etc ( in addition to being doomed). It’s just sales propaganda.

  • Guest

    I love carols and the whole atmosphere of Christmas even though I am agnostic. Atheists can sing unholy night and oh come all ye unfaithful if they like. I enjoy taking vacations during religious celebrations in other countries. The atmosphere is great in most cases. One of the most memorable time was in Rome during Easter when we saw the pope at the Vatican. One need not be a believer to enjoy religious celebrations of others. After all atheists are only 2% of the population. So why try to stop the rest of us from enjoying.

    • OregoniAn

       2% ? . . . Open  your eyes.. You’re in for a surprise  =)

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_6OE7LEYELE4MZTVXGZUSVTBFUI julie

      I also love the carols and the atmosphere of Christmas. It is without a doubt my favorite holiday and I enjoy it just as much now as I did when I was a Christian. 
      I’m not quite sure why you think atheists get less from holidays than you do as an agnostic. Do you get less from holidays as an agnostic than religious people do? Holidays may originate from religions, but what makes them so special and enjoyable is the time we set aside to connect with our friends and family and appreciate each other.I would never dream of stopping others from celebrating Christmas because I understand how special it is to them. However, government should not sponsor Christmas and Christianity. That’s not their business. I’m not sure how not having a nativity scene on government property interferes with the holiday in any way.

    • Marella

       I have no idea what you are talking about, I love Xmas and I certainly wouldn’t dream of trying to stop anyone from enjoying it. I also sing carols in a (secular) choir. You are making assumptions that have no foundation in reality.

    • Sindigo

      Straw man from a theist. Your belief is showing I’m afraid.

    • Deven Kale

       It’s good that you at least accept that you don’t know there’s a god, but do you believe there’s one or not? knowledge =/= belief. So ask yourself, do you believe there’s a god, or not? There’s no in-between, either you do or you don’t. If you don’t believe there’s a god, you’re an atheist. If you do believe there’s a god, you’re a theist. You can be either one and still not claim to have evidence for it (agnostic theist/agnostic atheist).

      With that out of the way, I’m an agnostic atheist and I don’t have a problem with Christmas at all. In fact, there are a lot of things about Christmas that I really love. The trees, the presents, the food, the getting together with those you care about and just enjoying each others company. I love driving around town and seeing all the Christmas decorations people put up in their yards. I love gathering around the fire and telling stories about that one crazy uncle.

      There’s nothing about Christmas in my family that I don’t like. I don’t even mind that the religious folks in our family insist on a prayer before meals, or that there are nativities set up in our house. They’re actually rather pretty most of the time. Christmas is a time to be happy and celebrate what you have, not focus on what other people are doing or what you don’t have. That’s, at least, my way of looking at it.

  • Sarah

    Ricky Gervais needs to stop making me cry, the big eloquent jerk.

  • Artor

    Gervais’ piece is exponentially more awesome than anything I’ve ever heard from a religious figure.

  • David Starner

    Tim Minchin’s “White Wine in the Sun” (naturally on YouTube) is also an awesome atheist hymn to the season.

    • allein

      One of my favorites of his (I think Not Perfect is my fave, though). I use a quote from it as a signature on another forum.
      As far as traditional Christmas music goes, O Holy night (when sung well) is one of my favorites. Unfortunately, I have had Santa Baby stuck in my head all day. :-/

  • Robster

    Xmas is cool, even more so without the baby jEsus.

  • ORAXX

    Pat Robertson, and his ilk, would burn atheists at the stake if they could. 


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