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Tom Flynn - The Trouble With Christmas
Posted: 17 November 2011 03:34 PM   [ Ignore ]
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Host: Robert Price

Ebenezer Scrooge once called Christmas “a false and commercial holiday.” Is it? Should Humanists refuse to observe it? Should they wage war on it? Should they celebrate “Sanka” versions of it like Solstice and “HumanLight”? Christians complain that the holiday has become secularized—so should Secular Humanists just say “Thanks!” and enjoy listening to “Let It Snow” and “Winter Wonderland”? As always, Tom Flynn brings new and well-informed perspectives to a difficult issue!

Tom Flynn is the Executive Director of the Council for Secular Humanism and the editor of Free Inquiry magazine. He is the author of the science-fiction novels Galactic Rapture and Nothing Sacred, which involve the lore of Mormonism, on which Tom is an authority. He is also a historian of the Freethought movement and a frequent speaker in humanist circles. You would be well advised to mortgage your home and purchase a copy of The New Encyclopedia of Unbelief, which Tom edited. Perhaps his most notorious book, though, is The Trouble with Christmas, which has a lot to do with this episode.

http://www.pointofinquiry.org/tom_flynn_the_trouble_with_christmas/

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Posted: 17 November 2011 04:24 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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I imagine it must be very difficult for people like Flynn who don’t have kids to understand why others like to celebrate it. I feel very sorry for you, Flynn.

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Posted: 17 November 2011 05:42 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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This is a really boring interview, I only got half-way through it.

I’m sorry but Flynn is just kind of a curmudgeon. The reason most atheists (as well as many Jews and Muslims) celebrate Christmas is because holidays are fun. If you don’t want it to be religious, it doesn’t have to be. Call it something else if you want, change the meaning, change the theme if you want. I wonder if Flynn has a problem with Halloween as well.

Like any child (or the maturationally stunted adult I am), I like presents, candy, costumes and flashing lights. And if/when I have kids, I will tell them there’s no Santa Clause, but that’s okay because their parents are the mildly-insane products of a highly-commercialized society and are happy to pretend to be Santa and bring them presents, so long as they play along. See? Problem solved.

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Posted: 17 November 2011 06:04 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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I haven’t listened to the interview and don’t plan to, but I’m with George and Sarcen on this one. Like any maturationally challenged adult, I like presents, tequila, cigars, costumes and flashing lights. And playing dominos with my friends while the musicians among us are trading songs in the background, which is what I plan to do over Thanksgiving weekend. The group I hang with has an annual Christmas party, and some of us go to Big Bend for a few days to relax and hang out. No need to get stuffy about a holiday. As I keep saying, any excuse for a party is a good excuse for a party.

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Posted: 17 November 2011 07:15 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Flynn is right, Christmas is worse than Hitler, you people should hang your heads in shame! tongue wink

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Posted: 17 November 2011 07:40 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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I think the idea of ignoring Christmas is a brilliant idea for anyone who wants atheists to seem stuffy and unhappy.  I can’t wait for the followup interview: “How to make your children unhappy and ostracized”.  Perhaps the children of atheists will be so unhappy with their parent’s “let’s ignore Christmas” attitude, that they’ll become happy little Christians who love the idea of leaving that dismal atheism stuff behind.  And then, we’ll eliminate Valentine’s Day (it’s named for a Christian saint!), so that your girlfriend or wife will leave you.  That’ll teach her to never, ever date an atheist ever again.  Is Tom Flynn a secret agent working for a Christian organization?

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Posted: 17 November 2011 07:45 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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I like Christmas too, but my religious family members have pretty much spoiled it for me.  Not so much because of the religion, but their obsession with the materialistic aspect of it.  I really hate having to submit a list of things I want so that someone can run out and and buy it for me.  Where’s the fun or mystery in that?  And my nieces and nephews just get so much stuff…..a Christmas at their house, then at the in-town grandparents, then a third one at the out-of-town grandparents.  They don’t really appreciate anything, and I think it undermines the understanding that the Holiday should be about people and relationships, not getting loot.

But their religion does put a damper on it, too.  My mother likes to continually remind everyone that the season is really about Jesus and not Santa Claus or snowmen.  As the only non-believer in my family (both nuclear and extended), there has been a widening gulf over the years between my idea of Christmas and theirs to the point that I dread the season.

So I empathize with Tom Flynn to some degree, but I do think that it’s possible to celebrate in a secular way and have it rewarding to everyone.  Last year, I spent Christmas with like-minded friends, rather than family, and it was the best Christmas in many years.

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Posted: 18 November 2011 05:45 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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I can think of no more effective way for the secular community to alienate itself from the rest of Western society than to attempt to cancel Christmas.

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Posted: 19 November 2011 09:28 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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I’m happy to help celebrate anyone’s holy daze; just wouldn’t sacrifice my life for any of them.

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Posted: 19 November 2011 08:54 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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I found the history very interesting.  His points about the Solstice being Northern biased was very good.  I love to hear Tom Flynn, he does a great job.  A very honest man, and deep down (alright, deep, deep, deep, deep, very very deep down) I think that the skeptics realize that the all too ignored and so hard to swallow fact that… Tom… is… well, ah… he’s right.  LOL

I had a wonderful conversation with Tom once, as he brought up one religious extremist idea about Christmas after another, I put each point away with ease and friendly graciousness.  My family’s Christmases were quite secular, with just a couple of little religious symbols on the tree and an aunt who always sends a religious Christmas card, and nothing else.  Tom being a bit surprised about that but quickly accepted it.

Then he pulled out the zinger on me, he asked me to give it up for strategic reasons.  Where else could be a better place to take a secular stance other than the family Christmas celebration, I had to wonder?  I lost the argument there.  smile

The skeptics here, I’m sure, will be enthusiastically mentioning the settlement at Jamestown, VA, and the Clovis people, who the anthropologists have been digging up for years, during this Thanksgiving family gathering.  We can’t let those nasty Puritans take the holiday over, can we?  When the Puritans were kicked out of England because they were, hard to live with to say the least, then why do we celebrate them here?  Can we all get together on that one, at least?  smile

The butcher was open on Christmas day in Dickens’ story, I’ve always wondered about that, good one Tom!

Personally, I’m all for a winter holiday (and another one for the Southerners), but I do wish it could be done without being so wrapped up in the Holiday Season.  I’m getting more turned-off each year.

“In 1607, 13 years before the Pilgrims landed in Massachusetts, a group of 104 English men and boys began a settlement on the banks of Virginia’s James River.”

Oh that lucky number thirteen, Jamestown beat the Puritans with a permanent British settlement in the New World by thirteen years.  smile

[ Edited: 19 November 2011 09:13 PM by jump_in_the_pit ]
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Posted: 20 November 2011 07:19 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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It would have been nice if Bob Price had used this episode as an opportunity to ask some pointed and skeptical questions about Tom Flynn’s attitude toward Christmas.

Instead we were presented with softball questions and continuous heaping of praise.

As atheists, the full spectrum of the world’s holidays is available for us to enjoy. It is a ridiculous notion that we should have to reject anything that might once have been associated with a religion or superstition.

My wife and I particularly enjoy solstice and equinox celebrations. What better way to appreciate the continuation of life and our place in the cosmos than to celebrate the changing of seasons?

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Posted: 20 November 2011 07:39 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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1000 Needles - 20 November 2011 07:19 AM

Instead we were presented with softball questions and continuous heaping of praise.

That is Robert Price’s MO, and the reason I delete his podcasts soon after they appear in my iTunes library. I listened to this one and to the Richard Johnson interview because of the respective threads. At least Richard Johnson had some interesting things to say. Tom Flynn came across as reaching a conclusion then searching every nook and cranny of his brain to justify the conclusion. He answered a question no one but he cares about.

As atheists, the full spectrum of the world’s holidays is available for us to enjoy. It is a ridiculous notion that we should have to reject anything that might once have been associated with a religion or superstition.

My wife and I particularly enjoy solstice and equinox celebrations. What better way to appreciate the continuation of life and our place in the cosmos than to celebrate the changing of seasons?

party0003.gif

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Posted: 20 November 2011 08:14 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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I know from listening to Price’s other podcast that he actually does celebrate christmas.  II’m surprised he didn’t give Flynn a few hardballs.

Personally, I fall in with “fun” crowd that celebrates holidays.  I think humanists have more important things to do than to kill a good party, especially since that party is being secularized already on its own.

I have several issues with Flynn’s reasoning, but I’ll focus on the solstice.  His two main problems with the winter solstice are: a) pagan origins and b) regional basis.

For point (a), it goes without saying that some pretty badass stuff has come out of pagan culture.  Euclid anyone?  By his reasoning, it seems like The Illiad and The Odyssey would be off limits too, since they were once considered to be religious texts.

On point (b), I have to ask why there is a problem with regional holidays.  Different countries have different independence day celebrations for obvious historical reasons.  Harvest festivals vary regionally depending on the climate and the product.  Not all holidays have to be global, just like not all birthdays have to be celebrated on the same day.

Just a few of my thoughts, I’m still in the middle of listening to it…

[ Edited: 20 November 2011 08:28 PM by julian_the_hellene ]
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Posted: 21 November 2011 06:18 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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jump_in_the_pit - 19 November 2011 08:54 PM

Then he pulled out the zinger on me, he asked me to give it up for strategic reasons.  Where else could be a better place to take a secular stance other than the family Christmas celebration, I had to wonder?  I lost the argument there.

But why stop at celebrating Christmas? What about the irrationality of saying “good morning” or “happy birthday”? We know that wishing somebody a good morning won’t make their morning good nor will wishing for a happy birthday make the birthday happy.

No, there is no problem with Christmas. There is a problem (a psychological problem) with Tom Flynn.

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Posted: 21 November 2011 08:02 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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George - 21 November 2011 06:18 AM

But why stop at celebrating Christmas? What about the irrationality of saying “good morning” or “happy birthday”? We know that wishing somebody a good morning won’t make their morning good nor will wishing for a happy birthday make the birthday happy.

I just see “happy birthday”, “good morning”, “good-bye”, “gesundheit”, etc. as polite and kind, there’s nothing supernatural about them.

Actually I want people to attend the holidays and participate, I asked that people enthusiastically mention Jamestown, VA during this year’s Thanksgiving gathering.  I think that Flynn is so critical about all the holidays at this time of the year because he sees so little movement from the skeptics about them, I think he’s responding to the rest of our behavior.  I think that he’s just being honest by taking a stand on the holidays, such a prominent and brave act, rather than silently blending in with the holiday season, like you’re just one of the devout.  Is it psychologically healthy to just blend with the celebration of Christ’s birth, or is it healthy to speak your mind about the truth to your family, during a big gathering? 

George - 21 November 2011 06:18 AM

No, there is no problem with Christmas. There is a problem (a psychological problem) with Tom Flynn.

And your diagnosis is, doctor?

[ Edited: 21 November 2011 08:05 AM by jump_in_the_pit ]
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Posted: 21 November 2011 08:28 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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Pope Julius I[337-352] chose December 25. It is commonly believed that the church chose this date in an effort to adopt and absorb the traditions of the pagan Saturnalia festival.”

“When Oliver Cromwell and his Puritan forces took over England in 1645, they vowed to rid England of decadence and, as part of their effort, cancelled Christmas.”

History.com: Christmas

Celebrating the Puritans settling in the Americas, and then celebrating Christmas is in direct conflict, if you look at it from the historical view-point.  I mean the Brits drove out the Puritans, in part, because they canceled the Christmas celebration, so why do we celebrate the Puritans at Thanksgiving, but then celebrate Christmas after that?  LOL

[ Edited: 21 November 2011 01:50 PM by jump_in_the_pit ]
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