10 best Christmas songs…

Greta Christina has a new post about a story she wrote for AlterNet…trying to list the 10 best Christmas songs for atheists.

I don’t like the rules of this particular meme…which is why I wasn’t happy with her list (this isn’t a knock on Greta who I really like and look forward to talking to at the American Atheists National convention in April, as we’re both on the speakers’ list…but screw the rules, let’s go for fun!).

So, in no particular order, here are my 10 favorite Christmas songs (or at least 10 that I really like)…irrespective of any rules:

1. Billy Squier – Christmas Is the Time to Say I Love You.
(This was the intro music for Saturday’s Non-Prophets and it’s downloadable content in Rock Band…what’s not to love?)
2. Big Bad Voodoo Daddy – Snowmeiser Heatmeiser
(This hip reworking of the Rankin/Bass classic is one I can listen to over and over and over and…)
3. The Waitresses – Christmas Wrapping
(This video includes decent audio and a geeky synchronized Xmas light show.)
4. John Lennon – Happy Christmas (War Is Over)
(What’s not to love?)
5. Robert Earl Keene – Merry Christmas from the Family
(If parts of this song seem mildly familiar — you might be a redneck)
6. Brenda Lee – Rockin Around the Christmas Tree
(How did this miss even an honorable mention on Greta’s list?)
7. Elmo and Patsy – Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer
(Unfortunately, I was only able to find this and remixes and not the original version)
8. The Beach Boys – Little Saint Nick
(This was close…but from the opening notes, I just want to listen to it.)
9. Gene Autry – Here Comes Santa Claus
(Yes, it says “say your prayers” “thanks to the lord above” and I couldn’t care less…)
10. Dean Martin – Baby It’s Cold Outside
(Because it’s my list and there has to be some Deano…Sway isn’t sufficiently Christmas-y, but this counts. Winter Wonderland is nice, but this is better.)

Obviously, there are many other songs and covers that I could add or change. But it’s a quick list of songs I’m happy to listen to this season…

Open thread on episode #687

Have at it!

In case you missed it, I was pre-announcing this to be the “worst episode ever.” Planned co-host couldn’t make it. No phones. No audio in the beginning.

Mega-kudos to Steve for hitting on the strategy of filtering chat comments and sending them to the phone screen line as if they were calls. What you hear in the end is me interviewing first-time cohost Erica about her plans to come out to her Christian family, followed by 40 minutes of me mostly monologuing on caller questions.

Considering what we were working with, I actually think it came out pretty well and not the disaster it could have been. Your thoughts!

We get email

Now, I’m not going to claim that this is the most unusual or interesting mail we’ve ever received; it’s actually a fairly mundane rehashing of common creationist cluelessness. But the final replay really makes the email exchange one for the ages.

My responses are embedded in his italicized message, but the original message was one huge block paragraph.

I would like to know how and why atheists can knowledgeably ignore the laws of physics when considering such things as creation?

It’s interesting that you would say that, because it turns out that physicists tend to be atheists far more than most people. According to fairly recent surveys, while around 85% of people in the world believe in some kind of God, somewhere around 60% of practicing physical scientists have doubts about the existence of God, and among members of the National Academy of Sciences — one of the most elite groups of scientists in the world — only about 7% are believers.


It seems that more advanced a person is in scientific disciplines, the less likely they are to believe in God. Maybe you should take up your question with them.

all the laws of physics prove that nothing can come from nothing, so how did this universe come into exsistance, if not from nothing, where did that original “something”, most often referrred to as matter or ssome other form, come from?

Big Bang theory doesn’t attempt to address this question. The universe came to its present state around 14.5 billion years ago. Before that, everything in the universe was compressed into a small enough state that known laws of physics can’t be applied properly.

Therefore, the Big Bang is not an assertion that anything came “from nothing.” Could have always existed. Could have been generated out of matter from a meta-universe. Could have spontaneously come into existence through a matter/antimatter reaction. The responsible perspective is to accept that we don’t know, and won’t until a new way to collect evidence is worked out.

You, on the other hand, seem to believe that you do know. And your belief is that the universe was in fact created from nothing, by a being who either always existed or, in turn, came into existence from nothing itself. I think it’s remarkable that you don’t see the irony in that position.

more importantly, id like you to address cosmological singularity, which has been accepted by most, if not al physicists, concluding that there is, and always has been God,

I don’t know where you’re getting your information from, although my guess would be that it’s from within a certain part of your body. As I’ve already pointed out, you can get actual information from scientists about how much they believe in god, and it’s considerably less than the general public. Besides which, even scientists who believe in God would very rarely claim that this believe is in some way scientifically proven. Most of them hold to some form of Stephen Jay Gould’s idea of “non-overlapping magisteria,” claiming that faith in god and scientific evidence should be held as dealing with separate domains.

Almost no formal papers have been published in mainstream, peer reviewed scientific journals addressing the question of a god’s existence, and those that have slipped through are generally not cited as relevant by any other scientific works. This is so widely acknowledged that creationists routinely claim that the “scientific establishment” is involved in a massive conspiracy against their work. This is, of course, baseless paranoia, since the reason that their work doesn’t get published is that it’s a load of poorly supported, pseudoscientific quackery.

therefore disproving the core of atheist beliefs. in such a society today that is so scientifically based, it is ignorant to ignore such things as cosmological singularity, as well as other laws of physics, including einstiens relativity, and quantum mechanics, which even led einstien to believe in the exsistance of God.

Somebody’s been lying to you, dude.

“It was, of course, a lie what you read about my religious convictions, a lie which is being systematically repeated. I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly. If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it.”
– Albert Einstein, in a letter March 24, 1954; from Albert Einstein the Human Side, Helen Dukas and Banesh Hoffman, eds., Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1981, p. 43.

thank you for your time, tho you’ll be wasting your efforts trying to disprove the laws of the universe to justify your living in denial.

Thanks for the vote of confidence. Ta ta!

And here’s the reply. Wait for it….

lol you actually wasted youre time to rely to me ??? hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!!!!!1

THANK YO SO MUCH FOR MAKING MY DAY! hahahahaah! thank you! wow you really would waste youre time like this wouldnt you!!! hahahaha!

im glad to know that you “care” enough about your “public” to reply to this! hahahahahahaha!


(by the way my email contained a virus)

have a “wonderful” life and then die!!!!!

Apart from being scientifically illiterate and knowing fuck-all about computers in the bargain, I’m kind of charmed to see that the victory which made his day was the recognition that he is wasting people’s time. If only all creationists could be so self-aware!

Take note, Mr. Plait: This is “being a dick”

There has been some concern among certain folks in the skeptical community that “expressing an opinion strongly and with conviction” constitutes “being a dick,” because it might bruise the tender feelings of believers. This concern is misplaced. From England’s green and pleasant land we have a literally staggering act of actual dickishness. Said to be nearly 2000 years old and planted by Joseph of Arimathea (and whether that’s true or not really isn’t relevant to the situation), the Holy Thorn Tree of Glastonbury has been a popular destination for believers on pilgrimages. The other night, some vandals hacked off all its branches, leaving nothing but a naked stump.

That, I submit, is dickishness of the first water.

Who are you calling a sheep? (Another classical music post)

It’s the holiday season, and my chorus last weekend performed a piece closely associated with the season, Handel’s Messiah. As I’ve often said before about choral music, atheists have to judge the artistic merits of a piece of music apart from the message being conveyed through the music. Presumably even the most hardened philistine is familiar with the great “Hallelujah” chorus of the piece, and there’s plenty else to love throughout the work. A few more of my favorites bits: “For Unto Us a Child is Born.” “And He Shall Purify.” And the Amens at the end. Great music.

Of course I could criticize the theology in all of it, but I want to focus specifically on this one piece in part 2. “All We Like Sheep.” In fact, it’s critical enough to this post that I’m going to embed it so you can watch it first. I think there’s a valuable insight into theology to be found.

(That’s not my chorus, by the way, it’s just some people on YouTube.)

Cute, isn’t it? Here are the words.

All we like sheep
Have gone astray
We have turned everyone
To his own way

And the Lord hath laid on him
The iniquities of us all!

Sometimes I imagined changing the lyrics to “We all like sheep,” which changes the message considerably.

Our director really emphasized the shift in tone at the final part. Up till then, everything is bouncy, cheerful, and silly. After that, it’s dark and scary. I like to envision all the little sheep frolicking around in a Pepe Le Pew style hopping trot. Then at the end, maybe a giant Monty Python foot comes down on them.

Who are the sheep? Us! All we! Maybe you’ve heard the Christian metaphor already that Christians are sheep and Christ is our loving shepherd. You might interpret it that way, but that’s not how Handel apparently thought of it… the consequence of being dumb, frolicking, self-willed sheep is implied in the dark, brooding, angry minor key of the last few bars.

That’s the perspective that Christianity seems to offer on humanity. Under all the cheerful, bouncy “I’m so happy I have a personal relationship with Christ!” vibe, I also detect a deep rooted contempt for all humankind. The image of sheep doesn’t seem to be used here to convey the idea of comfort at being taken care of, so much as scorn at whatever it is that people like doing that makes them go astray; and also an implied threat.

Maybe I’m exaggerating, but actually I think a lot of preachers would agree with me. “You’re just denying God because you want to sin,” they’d say. The idea of all non-Christians as stupid, clueless sheep lurching around without the shepherd to watch them is baked into the core message of the Bible.

The disagreement here is not that I want to “sin” for its own sake. It’s that I don’t agree with the Christian concept of what constitutes bad behavior. It doesn’t matter what the bad behavior is — whether it’s sex that isn’t sanctified by the church (as Darrel Ray and Matt discussed yesterday) or sleeping in on Sundays or scientific inquiry into the nature of the universe. What’s important in a religious context is that you feel generally uncomfortable with anything you do that the doesn’t involve religious devotion.

I understand that many people raised religious still feel that discomfort. What’s interesting is that if there is no God, the only place you’re getting information about the “going astray” behavior is from a group of individuals with a direct interest in keeping you coming back to church and donating money.

Quick word from your sponsor

You might recall I did T-shirts featuring the red on black logo in the sidebar there. As of today I have 4 Mediums and 5 Larges left. If interested, don’t comment, just send me an email to the TV show address with subject “FAO: Martin” and I’ll reply directly.

I’m considering hoodies.

Nice to see so much money so wisely invested

By now, you all know that the Creation “Museum” has plans to build what they think will be a full-size replica of the mythical Noah’s Ark, in order to fleece the drooling, uneducated rubes, of whom there are an unlimited supply. Setting aside exactly how he knows this replica will be authentic (hey, maybe the original had racing stripes — were you there?), it occurs to me that this could be a prime opportunity to do some actual science.

The first thing that should be done is that the ship should not have any modern construction methods brought to bear. The whole thing must be assembled by one old man (it’s unlikely we’ll find a 600-year old, but we’ll split the difference and hire a septuagenarian) using nothing but pitch and hand tools. (Gen. 6:14) Next, assemble all the animals as described in Genesis, and tow the monstrosity out into the middle of the Atlantic, where it will be left for ten months without any resupplying while all of the animals are cared for by a crew of four men and four women inhabiting a grand total of three decks. Assuming the ship floats at all, we’ll see who’s alive at the end of that time. Deal?

Oh, what’s that? This isn’t a scientific enterprise at all, but a theme attraction? But gosh, isn’t the whole sales pitch of Answers in Genesis that science is really on their side? What a fine, fine opportunity to make a real experiment out of all this. Just think of the look on that crusty old fellow Dawkins’ face when it’s all been proved! He’ll be crying into his tea and scones, the blighter! Praise Jesus.

You know, take a minute to think of what $24.5 million would mean to — oh, take your pick. Research in childhood leukemia. Feeding the homeless. Getting people clean and sober and helping them with job training. Christians go on and on about how much more they’re about the milk of human kindness and charity than anyone else. I don’t see anyone being helped by this at all, except Ken Ham and Ken Ham’s checking account. Like so many in the evangelical world, he plays multiple choice with his holy book.