Ghost Stories, Richard Dawkins, Christmas, and Other Related Matters

Ghost Stories, Richard Dawkins, Christmas, and Other Related Matters December 22, 2020


A Botticelli Nativity
A Nativity by the great Sandro Botticelli
(Wikimedia Commons public domain image)


I call to your attention two new items that have been posted on the website of the Interpreter Foundation:


Audio Roundtable: Come, Follow Me Doctrine and Covenants Lesson 1 “Hearken, O Ye People” (D&C 1)

This is an Interpreter Radio Roundtable for Come, Follow Me Doctrine and Covenants Lesson 1, “Hearken, O Ye People,” on D&C 1. The panelists for it were Steve Densley, Matthew Bowen, and Mark Johnson. This roundtable was extracted, freed from commercial and other interruptions, from the 22 November 2020 broadcast of the Interpreter Radio Show. The complete show may be heard at The Interpreter Radio Show can be heard Sunday evenings from 7 to 9 PM (MDT), on K-TALK, AM 1640, or you can listen live on the Internet at


Also, from Jonn Claybaugh:  “Doctrine and Covenants Study and Teaching Helps — Lesson 1”




“Saints Unscripted” has produced another good little video that deserves wide circulation:


“Were the Book of Mormon witnesses lying, tricked, or telling the truth?”




For several years, one of my sons wrote occasional articles for the Deseret News, along with Peterson père.  Here’s an interesting and seasonally appropriate article from Peterson fils that appeared in 2010:


“Telling ghost stories is a lost tradition on Christmas Eve”




I share with you, as a variant of the story of Christmas, the New International Version rendering of John 1:1-14.  I choose this passage, and a possibly unfamiliar translation of it, in an effort to see the story of the birth of Christ from a slightly different angle than is provided by the familiar Lukan narrative:


1  In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

There was a man sent from God whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.

The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.


I think it’s important that we not make Christmas merely about the birth of a little baby.  Little babies are born every day.  Lots of them.  But this wasn’t merely a tiny infant.  This was (and is) the Lord of the Universe, the King of Kings, who voluntarily lay his glory by.




In an ecumenical spirit, I would also like to wish a very merry though very secular Christmas to my zealously atheistic readers.  As a gift, I offer a pair of inspiring quotations from two important writers in the modern atheist canon:


That Man is the product of causes which had no prevision of the end they were achieving; that his origin, his growth, his hopes and fears, his loves and his beliefs, are but the outcome of accidental collocations of atoms; that no fire, no heroism, no intensity of thought and feeling, can preserve an individual life beyond the grave; that all the labours of the ages, all the devotion, all the inspiration, all the noonday brightness of human genius, are destined to extinction in the vast death of the solar system, and that the whole temple of Man’s achievement must inevitably be buried beneath the debris of a universe in ruins — all these things, if not quite beyond dispute, are yet so nearly certain, that no philosophy which rejects them can hope to stand. Only within the scaffolding of these truths, only on the firm foundation of unyielding despair, can the soul’s habitation henceforth be safely built.  (Bertrand Russell, “The Free Man’s Worship” [1903])


The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference.  (Richard Dawkins)




In good time for Christmas — which, of course, is itself an example of the baleful effects of religious belief upon human societies and culture — here are some choice new specimens from the Christopher Hitchens Memorial “How Religion Poisons Everything” File:


“Latter-day Saints Around the World: Country Newsroom Websites, December 17, 2020”


“More than 200 New York Pantries Receive Food Donations from Latter-day Saints in 2020: Citation by Governor Cuomo recognizes Church, its bicentennial history and contributions in the state”


“Church Members and Missionaries Aid in Cyclone Cleanup: Evacuees shelter in Church meetinghouses”


“Church and the Salvation Army Team Up to Feed the Hungry: A $1 million donation will help more than 150 communities throughout the United States”


“Church donates $1 million to support Salvation Army efforts as food needs build: The funds will support food distribution in more than 150 locations throughout the United States during the holidays”


“A Lifeline of Hope and Connection — The Church’s Prison Ministry Impacts Lives of Incarcerated: Victor Robinson, who spent 21 years incarcerated, now thanks God for his second chance with a family and a belief in Jesus Christ’s Atonement”




Finally, if this story doesn’t touch your heart — be sure to watch the short video that accompanies the article — you may want to consult a cardiologist.  If, instead, it leaves you bitter and angry, you may well be my Malevolent Stalker:


“Watch: Country singer surprises Utah teen with a brand-new car: Russell Dickerson teamed up with Chevrolet to gift the 17-year-old a 2021 Chevrolet Traverse, outfitted for her specific needs.”



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