’Tis the Season!

’Tis the Season! December 12, 2016

Happy holidays, everyone! This is the 900th post for this blog.

Christmas presents atheismAs we near the solstice, one’s thoughts turn to topics of the season. If you’re looking for holiday gift ideas, let me suggest my two books. The apologetic argument becomes something of an additional character in Cross Examined: An Unconventional Spiritual Journey. It’s the story of a young man torn between two mentors, struggling to make the Christian case in the aftermath of the 1906 Azusa Street Revival.

A Modern Christmas Carol is a reworking of Dickens’ classic, in which a shrewdly successful televangelist receives unexpected Christmas visitors: first, his long-dead partner, and then three ghostly guides. Finally able to acknowledge the shallowness of his message and doubts he has long suppressed, he makes amends with far-reaching consequences.

Here are a few Christmas-y posts:

  • The virgin birth story is a popular one in the list of supposed fulfilled biblical prophecies. When you actually read it, however, it’s startling how many ways this claim falls apart.
  • The War on Christmas™ is a perennial favorite. Some Christians seem to enjoy being offended, and the Catholic League’s Bill Donohue is a professional at it. Literally—it’s his job. In one end-of-the-year survey, he thought he found a juicy factoid with which to attack the atheists, but it blew up in his face.
  • Stand-up comedian Patton Oswalt demolished a pop Christmas song and taught an important lesson about how God doesn’t work: “How Christianity Infantilizes Adults.”
  • A parable about two kids arguing about evidence for Santa has interesting parallels with evidence for Jesus. Be careful about dismissing the existence of Santa, because that reasoning may demand that you dismiss Jesus as well.
  • In 2013, in what must have been a War-on-Christmas miracle, I was given a copy of Sarah Palin’s newly released Good Tidings and Great Joy to review. I had a few thoughts. Here’s the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of that book.

And finally, here’s a Christmas present from a reader of this blog, a skeptical update on the song “Mary Did You Know?”

We cannot know that Santa definitely doesn’t exist. 
This is technically true. 
But what’s your best guess? 
Go on. Be bold. 
— Ricky Gervais

Image credit: Donnie Ray Jones, flickr, CC


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  • Sophia Sadek

    Congratulations on post #900. Keep up the good work.

  • Michael Neville

    The War on Christmas™ is a wholly owned subsidiary of Fox News.

    • They’re very litigious. Good thing we have the trademark thingy.

  • Sheila Warner

    I heartily recommend Bob’s books. I found them to be both entertaining & thought-provoking.

  • epicurus

    900th post. Man, I have a lot of back issue posts to catch up on.

    • You’ve got a nice Christmas vacation coming up, I’m sure. What better way to pass those long hours?

      • epicurus


    • Greg G.

      Don’t forget to read all the comments and follow-ups.

      • epicurus

        Ugggghhh! That would turn into a full time job.

        • Pofarmer

          You should have been involved in MAKING a bunch of those comments. Lol.

  • Kompi

    While actual Yule is still some two weeks off, it is the 13th right now so have a happy Lucia have a complimentary imaginary lucia cat saffron bun.


  • Jonathan Morgan

    I enjoyed both your novels (though I’ve only got round to reviewing one of them so far). But I’m not sure I know too many others who would really appreciate them.

    • Close enough! If you enjoyed them, I can’t ask for much more. Thanks for the feedback.

  • RichardSRussell

    Happy 900th, Bob. May your 1000th be equally rewarding. (Looking forward to the journey.)

  • sandy
    • If you wrap it with Linus’s blanket, it’ll look more authentic.

      • sandy

        Not sure if you can see it, but this is the tree of knowledge complete with talking snake. Perhaps to make it more authentic I should add an apple or some piece of fruit. In reality, this tree should represent the true reason for christianity for without Eve being tempted by the snake there is no reason for Jesus to be born. I have been putting this tree up for several tears new to respect towards my Christian friends.

        • That’s an idea–a red apple instead of a red Christmas tree ball.

          On the topic of Christian friends, this Bible passage is relevant:

          This is what the LORD says: “Do not learn the ways of the nations or be terrified by signs in the sky, though the nations are terrified by them. For the customs of the peoples are worthless; they cut a tree out of the forest, and a craftsman shapes it with his chisel. They adorn it with silver and gold; they fasten it with hammer and nails so it will not totter. Like a scarecrow in a melon patch, their idols cannot speak; they must be carried because they cannot walk. Do not fear them; they can do no harm nor can they do any good.”

          (Jeremiah 10:2–5)

        • sandy

          Love it and thank you! I just might copy that out and have it under the tree.

    • Michael Neville

      Plus your stocking is hung on the mantle. That’s where I hang my pillowcase. The coal I get keeps me warm for several days.

      • sandy

        Maybe this year you will get a little solar panel.

  • Myna

    On a side note, I like how the Patheos channel now says: Non-Religious. I just now noticed it.

    • Yeah, I heard about this upcoming change. You think it’s good, I take it? I wonder if others have any reaction.

      • Myna

        I don’t look at it as either good or bad. I noticed it and I liked it. For someone like me, a strong agnostic, anti-religionist and unwavering supporter of the glory of reason, the Non-Religious feels more inclusive. It’s not as though I felt excluded before, not by any stretch.

        • Good. I’m glad you like it. One concern is someone poking through the blogs with “atheism” on their mind, not seeing it, and moving on. Or thinking that “Nonreligion” means pagan or spiritual or something like that.

          “Atheism and Nonreligion” would obviously be too cumbersome, though.

          We’ll see if the numbers improve.

        • Pofarmer

          Or thinking that “Nonreligion” means pagan or spiritual or something like that.

          That’s my problem. Atheist tells you something immediately. Non-religious does not. That could just as easily mean “spiritual but not religious,” which you see all the time.

          As far as numbers, it seems to me that the atheist channel is already one of the busiest on Patheos. Could be wrong, I don’t see any other blogs with near the number of comments or commenters. on Most blogs 30 comments is quite a few.

        • You’re right–the atheist channel is the biggest, which is impressive, since that means we have an outsized per-blog presence.

          It doesn’t hurt that we have Friendly Atheist. I wish hits/blog were made public. I’d like to know who to be jealous of. And, of course, it’d be interesting to see which religious blogs are the biggies.

        • TheNuszAbides

          my knee-jerk was to suspect that members of one or more, er, ‘faith groups’? had whined about Atheist winning the alphabetical order game, thereby somehow seeming too prominent for their tastes. after all, who could be more invested in hyperactive pattern-seeking than those who cling to hyperactive agency detection?
          but on reflection it might just (or also!) be that a few self-unidentified atheists [by my definition] unwittingly wanted to muddy the waters. frankly, i see way more wiggle room in “non-religious” for folks who may not have any theist belief but sure do think there’s something under the ‘spirituality’ umbrella. ffs, i’ve seen more than one Prog Christian insist they are not religious. maybe there should be a whole-channel Waking Up [and anything else on that general theme of Sam’s] book club for a while until these sensibilities get sorted out?

        • Myna

          You know, I didn’t consider that. I always look at each forum statement written by the author or go to the Pathoes channel page…ie: Buddhism…to navigate where or what I’m interested in reading and then by any stated theme of the individual blog, and neglected to realize that not everyone might do this. Did Patheos give a reason for the change?

        • The reason was that “nonreligious” is much bigger than “atheist” and growing very quickly. They want to tap into that.

        • Greg G.

          Some blogs could fall into multiple categories. An atheist could be listed in both Non-religious and Atheist so everybody finds their niche. There could also be an Athiest heading to shunt off the less interesting theists looking to preach.

        • TheNuszAbides

          yep, my second thought on noticing the change was that i’ve run into more than a few theists/rabbi-yeshua-ists who explicitly identify as “not religious” — and can thus reasonably anticipate a stink from at least one or two RealAtheist(TM) bloggers, not to mention regular commentariat.

      • Michael Neville

        To me “nonreligious” means a blog that has nothing to do with religion like a political, social or economic blog.

        • Yes, that’s a possible pitfall as well. Technically, “Nones” is what we’re looking for, but few will know what that means.

        • TheNuszAbides

          i still think it’s funny that imaginary distinctions are drawn between ‘religion’ and ‘politics’ (leaving aside perfectly valid conceptual/practical barriers between Church & State). i suppose it’s because of how hard it is to engage in the inevitable hair-splitting without going down the threat-of-force rabbit hole.

          EDIT: i might have meant something like ‘mine field’ more than ‘rabbit hole’. mine hole?

  • Ignorant Amos