Episode 106 - The Trouble with Christmas
Posted: 19 December 2011 02:29 PM   [ Ignore ]
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An informative and humorous look at some people’s favorite holiday by Center Stage co-host Tom Flynn, whose 1993 book The Trouble with Christmas continues to serve as a blueprint for those secular humanists who reject the holiday outright. Where do mainstream society’s most cherished holiday traditions come from – and is it too late to send them back? Flynn probes the roots of holiday traditions, how Christmas came back from the dead less than two centuries ago, why alternative holidays like the Winter Solstice and HumanLight don’t make sense, and more.

This presentation was given at the Center for Inquiry – Transnational in Amherst, New York, on December 17, 2010.

http://www.centerforinquiry.net/centerstage/episodes/episode_106_-_the_trouble_with_christmas

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Posted: 21 December 2011 08:18 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Tom really out did himself.  So much historical research into modern and ancient history, religion, tradition, and even child psychology.  And gives us excellent reasons to clean things up. 

But he didn’t mention my most favorite word from Bible history.  The way that the Bible’s scribes have resolved some of the conflicts between the gospels… they call it harmonization.  grin  That’s where the scribes corrected one gospel by inserting ideas from other gospels or popular teachings.  The word sounds so pretty and placid, doesn’t it?  When you don’t like what the book says, just change it!  The Bible is just like Wikipedia!

So did Tom’s conclusion reach anyone?  “To narrowly Christian, to constructively Anglo, to obstinately white bread to meet the needs of a culture that’s growing ever more diverse.”  Can Humanists celebrate the solstice holiday in their own way, by their own design?  Do Humanists want to own that holiday?  Or must Humanists ignore the holiday? 

I hope that good Tom can handle either answer to the holiday, without being too upset.  Moderation Tom, accept when others want a good celebration with friends and family.  Of course the reason why Christmas is popular, is because people want a happy gathering of friends and family, not because of Francis Church or any individual.

And on the other side of the coin, people who do want to celebrate should be kind to those who don’t.

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Posted: 22 December 2011 12:22 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Excellent content, but Tom sounded a bit drunk during the presentation.  My wife and I decided early on not to lie about Santa or anything else to our daughter, but we did light Hannucka (Channaka… whatever, I never did figure out how it should be spelled)  smile candles with her and my wife taught her the appropriate Hebrew mumbo jumbo to recite (without understanding what it meant) for each night of that minor holiday.  Our daughter then went to my mother’s place for christmas where there was a tree but no pretense that Santa was real or had anything to do with the presents.  We both answered whatever questions our daughter came up with about the winter holidays to the best of our limited knowledge.  I completely agree with Tom on the problem with lying about Christmas, Santa, God or anything else, but I don’t agree that depriving the kid of a fun holiday that all her peers get to enjoy does anything helpful to the kid’s development.  Nor do I see any harm in carrying on some mangled versions of millenia old traditions or retelling ancient myths as vaguely interesting fiction, not pretending that it is in any way fact.  In fact, I would have loved to have had a copy of this podcast during those years when our daughter was in primary school so that we could play it for her at Christmas.  We could then have had an interesting discussion on how myths evolve over the centuries and what merit (if any) Tom’s rant against enjoying the winter solstice holidays might have.

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Posted: 22 December 2011 01:36 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Christmas isn’t about Christ because it is really about Mithra or Saturn or some other pagan god. BUT! if you celebrate Christmas you’re giving unequivocal support to Christianity. It’s all perfectly clear.

The most important thing is that you not enjoy the lights, music, food, and gatherings of family and friends because the holiday has a tangential and tenuous relationship to a religion to which you do not subscribe.

This Christmas try not to give into your “haunting fear that someone, somewhere is having a good time.”

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I would like to thank everyone at CFI for their hard work and all the forum participants for their thoughtfulness and good manners.

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Posted: 22 December 2011 02:14 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Charles Collom - 22 December 2011 01:36 AM

Christmas isn’t about Christ because it is really about Mithra or Saturn or some other pagan god. BUT! if you celebrate Christmas you’re giving unequivocal support to Christianity. It’s all perfectly clear.

The most important thing is that you not enjoy the lights, music, food, and gatherings of family and friends because the holiday has a tangential and tenuous relationship to a religion to which you do not subscribe.

This Christmas try not to give into your “haunting fear that someone, somewhere is having a good time.”

  LOL  Good Point!

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Posted: 22 December 2011 06:26 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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I am not sure why anyone would want to listen to a gay man with no kids, one who is not a psychologist nor does he have the scientic evidence to back up his wisdom on the development of children, on how to raise their kids.

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Posted: 22 December 2011 04:00 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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George - 22 December 2011 06:26 AM

I am not sure why anyone would want to listen to a gay man with no kids, one who is not a psychologist nor does he have the scientic evidence to back up his wisdom on the development of children, on how to raise their kids.

I’m not sure about anything… being skeptical… smile  but I will listen to anyone about anything just to find out what they think on the topic at hand.  Whether I choose to act on any advice that might ensue is another matter, but I have no problem listening.

Tom’s presentation did raise some perfectly valid points.  Most notably that it’s a bad idea to lie to your kids, and that the Santa myth can harm small children of poor families and more affluent kids as well.  His arguments for not celebrating the winter solstice related holidays in any form, were, IMHO far from convincing.  I suspect he didn’t follow them himself, given that he was probably a tad tipsy during this presentation.  smile

There are many forms of child abuse that even well meaning parents such as my wife and I commit under the mistaken belief that they are somehow required.  Lying to your kids is probably the most common, but until our daughter was almost 2 years old, we believed that spanking was ok and required to ensure compliance with safety related boundaries on behavior.  This was in the early 1980s.  After I found out from a co-worker that all forms of corporeal punishment of children was illegal in Sweden, I looked into it a bit further and as a result, we never used physical pain or the threat of it as a disciplinary tool again.  This is just one incident in my fairly long life which confirmed for me the value of listening to any and all arguments that anyone might care to make.  It just might give you a good idea or turn you off to a bad idea which you previously though was good or necessary.  Obviously, you still have to work out which ideas are which, but at least you become aware of them.

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Homeopaths don’t have brains, just skull water with the memory of brains - Robin Ince of The Infinite Monkey Cage podcast
The phrase “False Prophet” is redundant.  Cleanliness is next to… nothing.
I don’t have a God-shaped hole in my soul.  You have a Reason-shaped hole in your head!

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Posted: 22 December 2011 05:10 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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I haven’t watched it, but maybe you can tell me about the scientific study which showes that lying to kids about Santa (or about anything else for that matter) is harmful to them.

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