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 editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.