Did he just compare atheists to the Washington Generals?

I am offended! But I’m too busy waging war on the ubiquity of Christmas to care very much.

I have a plan. As Stewart notes, Christmas has been expanding, reaching gigantic size as it gobbles up Thanksgiving and threatens Halloween. It’s massive size means it has some vulnerabilities, however; there is a small thermal exhaust port located on 25 December itself which leads directly to the core of the religious system, and which we believe can be reached by a small elite strike team…either the atheists, or if they aren’t available, the Washington Generals. Your mission is to fly in close and drop a torpedo directly down their holiday by treating it as an entirely secular event: give material presents to family and friends, eat non-imaginary food, discuss real events, and just generally treat it as a period of time in the rotation of our planet at a particular point in its rotation about our home star.

This is going to work.

Comments

  1. Gregory Greenwood says

    I have a plan. As Stewart notes, Christmas has been expanding, reaching gigantic size as it gobbles up Thanksgiving and threatens Halloween. It’s massive size means it has some vulnerabilities, however; there is a small thermal exhaust port located on 25 December itself which leads directly to the core of the religious system, and which we believe can be reached by a small elite strike team…either the atheists, or if they aren’t available, the Washington Generals. Your mission is to fly in close and drop a torpedo directly down their holiday by treating it as an entirely secular event: give material presents to family and friends, eat non-imaginary food, discuss real events, and just generally treat it as a period of time in the rotation of our planet at a particular point in its rotation about our home star.

    This is going to work.

    Just remember – no matter how much religiosity and faithist, accommodationist blather you may encounter – you must stay on target

  2. robb says

    you would prefer another target, a secular target? then name the system! i grow tired of asking this so it will be the last time: *where* is santa claus?

  3. consciousness razor says

    Did he just compare atheists to the Washington Generals?

    I am offended!

    Is that better or worse than when he said atheists are “annoying people”? Belittling us and our influence is all well and good, I suppose. But what makes us as a group especially annoying? Are theists not annoying? Maybe everyone is supposed to be annoying.

  4. says

    Is that better or worse than when he said atheists are “annoying people”?

    It seems he always has to get in a jab or two about atheists and how petty and trivial are the issues we raise. It’s…well, annoying. I don’t know why he finds it necessary.

  5. carlie says

    Error! Christmas Tree Shops do not, in fact, specialize in Christmas decor. It’s an overstock reseller of all things…um… house-y. It’s only Christmasy at Christmas. Otherwise, it’s all plastic tumblers and garden gnomes and lamps and plates and stuff.

  6. robro says

    The music…it’s everywhere. I can go all year without hearing Andy Williams, Johnny Mathis, Bing Crosby, or dozens of other old pop singers. But come the end of November, I can’t get a cup of coffee, buy a role of toilet paper, or pick up a prescription without having to listen to them singing those tired old songs.

  7. robro says

    It seems he always has to get in a jab or two about atheists…

    Isn’t Stewart just parodying the stupid attitude of others, in this case the idiots on Fox who seem to find atheists everywhere and be annoyed that they exist at all?

  8. machintelligence says

    carlie @6
    You are conflating Christmas shops with Christmas Tree shops. Real Christmas shops sell Christmas decorations year around, and since I collect blown glass ornaments, I seek them out when traveling.

  9. habsolute says

    As a liberal, pro-reason/freethinking, anti-hypocrisy, anti-propagandism, pro-calling out the anti-intellectuals on their bs, I’m a huge fan of Jon Stewart and the Daily Show. That’s why it pains me so much that (and I really wonder what his true view are — would love to see Sam Harris on the show since Hitch has passed) he seems to do what PZ has suggested: skirt around religiosity as if it’s not something that is at the bedrock of the very issues he actively lampoons and opposes. I get the “I’m an old Jew” schtick, even he admits it, but when I heard him suggest that atheists are annoying and powerless, it really turned me off. I wonder if he realizes just how many of his fans are atheists for the same reason they enjoy his political satire: reason. It sucks that someone I admire so much is so lacking in the capacity to bravely address this issue. That’s why I’ve come to the conclusion that Bill Maher has bigger balls (also highlighting the false equivalence between far left and far right).

  10. consciousness razor says

    It seems he always has to get in a jab or two about atheists and how petty and trivial are the issues we raise. It’s…well, annoying. I don’t know why he finds it necessary.

    He’s turned golden mean fallacies into an artform. I can’t think of anyone who does them better or more often. That’s part of it. I don’t know — could we just chalk that up to his personality?

    Also, a lot of his shtick is making issues seem petty and trivial, even things he seems to basically agree with and think are important. (But obviously atheism is not one of those things, not even secularism to a certain degree.) It’s not for the sake of “comedy,” because often they’re just pointless little jabs, like you said, which I doubt are supposed to be considered funny. And if it were supposed to be a serious part of his commentary, he’d only do it for things he seriously doesn’t think are important. So to me it seems like he’s just being an ass, for no particular reason.

  11. noastronomer says

    Wade: I’ve got a problem here, my accommodator’s running wild.
    Coyne : Eject!
    Wade: I can hold it. Gimme more room to run.
    Coyne: You’re too low. Pull up!
    Wade: No, I’m all right… [explodes in creationist cross-fire]

  12. stonyground says

    I understand that, in the US you are not familiar with the Christmas songs of Seventies Glam Rockers Slade and Wizzard. Both bands had Christmas hits in 1973 and are so much a part of the UK Christmas that it is difficult to imagine pre-1972 Christmases not having them. I know that lots of people get hacked off by the Christmas songs that get trotted out year after year but I can’t help having an affection for them.

  13. consciousness razor says

    I understand that, in the US you are not familiar with the Christmas songs of Seventies Glam Rockers Slade and Wizzard. Both bands had Christmas hits in 1973 and are so much a part of the UK Christmas that it is difficult to imagine pre-1972 Christmases not having them. I know that lots of people get hacked off by the Christmas songs that get trotted out year after year but I can’t help having an affection for them.

    Obligatory xkcd

  14. habsolute says

    Personally I have no problem with the secular or rather commercialized form of Christmas (barring its calendar expansion akin to an exploding Death Star). It bears no meaning to me in a religious context. All the carols, chipmunk songs and disney cartoons, xmas tree, stuff I grew up with are also quite important to my childhood memories. (And my religious background isn’t Judeo-Christian — that is to say that of my parent since I’m a secular atheist.) I never, however associated them with Jesus and the whole nativity scene since there was never any overt proselytizing about it. It’s actually the “war on Christmas” that made me aware of the religious basis of what I simply considered to be Santa Claus time. The scene in Home Alone, when he’s at the Church – didn’t register anything religious (particularly Christian…you know, that “philosophy”), just that people seemed to care for each other and family that time of year and there was a vague connotation to Churches. The irony is that there is MOAR Christmas now and more of an effort by the right to impose its Christian tone vs its traditionally secular presents and snow and Reindeer-filled experience. I don’t mind the candy canes and the tinsel and the trees, in fact I love Christmas time. I just don’t associate it at all with Christianity, in the sense that I’m not offended by it since it doesn’t tend to tread on my lack of belief in Santa…err…god. I can understand why removing the nativity scene in a public park is a step towards an atheist society, although we probably have bigger fish to fry.

  15. consciousness razor says

    I can understand why removing the nativity scene in a public park is a step towards an atheist secular society,

    Big difference. Getting rid of the equivalence between “atheist” and “secular” is also a step toward a secular society.

    although we probably have bigger fish to fry.

    Having a fish fry doesn’t seem like it would help.

  16. habsolute says

    Big difference. Getting rid of the equivalence between “atheist” and “secular” is also a step toward a secular society.

    True, but I actually meant atheist. Maybe that’s a little extreme, but I have a long view perspective where we eventually do away with religion altogether. Fair enough, I’m really dreaming here and I did say I’m ok with a non-imposing secular culture. I guess I just mean that I understand why those specific representations of a religious dogma shouldn’t be in a public park IF you really want to see Christianity disappear (which I suppose is impossible) as opposed to simply not impinge on others.

  17. davidwilford says

    Christmas has already feasted on Halloween, ever since Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas came out. So deal.

    As an atheist myself, I have less of a problem with Christmas as a day of birth for someone other than Brian given how many stories from other cultures have become entwined with it and made it more than the sum of its parts. That, and I still have a soft spot on my hard unbelieving heart for the words of Linus to Charlie Brown about what Christmas is all about, in its proper Peanuts context of course.

  18. Rodney Nelson says

    The War on Christmas™ is a proprietary trademark of Fox News. It’s the recognition that some people don’t celebrate Christmas the way
    Bill O’Reilly & Co. want them to.

  19. jakc says

    That, and I still have a soft spot on my hard unbelieving heart for the words of Linus to Charlie Brown about what Christmas is all about, in its proper Peanuts context of course.

    So do I davidwilford, as ridiculous as it is. Linus’s speech is a highlight of the season, even if it really has nothing to do with Christmas. Of course, Peanuts protesting against commercialization is like Fox News publicizing the war on Christmas: it’s not funny if you don’t get irony.

  20. stonyground says

    @ conciousness razor #15

    The graph on the link seems to bear no relation to reality. It seems to suggest that no Christmas songs have had radio air time for about twenty years. I’m Baffled. OK I give up.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AG4BPNvayWo

    Regarding the, so called, war on Christmas. Here in the UK the whole problem appears to be that the dwindling Christian minority are upset that people celebrate Christmas without celebrating the birth of Jesus. The fact that the midwinter festival pre-dates Christianity by thousands of years is willfully ignored. Why can’t these people celebrate the birth of their saviour, and let other people celebrate the winter solstice or whatever else, without getting uptight that everyone else is not just like them?

  21. says

    Your mission is to fly in close and drop a torpedo directly down their holiday by treating it as an entirely secular event

    #2 Son was born on the 25th, so we’ll do something to observe that. Christmas trees, if they’re religious at all, are a pre-Christian tradition, and anyways we won’t have one unless the kids (26 and 28yo) feel like doing most of the work, which they probably won’t. My wife says we’re going to celebrate Christmas the Jewish way: have Chinese takeout and go to a movie (The Hobbit should be here by then).

  22. says

    @26: The candles represent when the most-played songs (as sampled 2000-2009) were written, ie. the “tradition” is whatever the boomers remember from their childhood (see also: the mouse-over text).

  23. consciousness razor says

    The graph on the link seems to bear no relation to reality. It seems to suggest that no Christmas songs have had radio air time for about twenty years. I’m Baffled. OK I give up.

    It’s the top twenty (not all) Christmas songs which got US radio airplay in 2000-2009, showing the decades they were originally released, not the decades they got air time. They still do get lots of air time, whereas newer songs don’t get as much. Which is much less baffling. :)

  24. says

    The graph on the link seems to bear no relation to reality. It seems to suggest that no Christmas songs have had radio air time for about twenty years. I’m Baffled.

    It is confusing on first sight. It’s the top songs (in terms of 2000-2009 airplay) by decade of release. It’s showing that the songs we hear the most in the US are those released while the Baby Boomers were growing up. The music associated with the holiday is really that tied specifically to (white) Boomer nostalgia.

  25. davidwilford says

    When you consider how radio has been supplanted by the internet for music, especially for those who are 20-30, it’s no surprise to me that you hear the same old songs at Christmastime each year.

    Not that I mind. However, I am curious about what new Christmas songs there are these days. Guess I’d better turn the virtual knob and start warming up the YouTubes and see.

  26. Sastra says

    stonyground #26 wrote:

    Regarding the, so called, war on Christmas. Here in the UK the whole problem appears to be that the dwindling Christian minority are upset that people celebrate Christmas without celebrating the birth of Jesus.

    That’s actually the main issue with the War on Christmas in the U.S. also, though the “dwindling Christian minority” is no doubt larger here. The real problem is the fact that people are celebrating Christmas without celebrating the birth of Jesus, not that other holidays are being acknowledged. This gets obscured, however, by the common Christian insistence that Christmas be treated like a secular celebration and “Merry Christmas” mouthed everywhere in place of “Happy Holidays.” This confusion is the result of people thinking that using the word over and over again will make the general public think Christianity must be true.

    The truth, of course, is that everyone calling the winter celebration “Christmas” only succeeds in taking the Christ out of it. I was bothered most, then, by Jon Stewart’s regular concession that Christmas is really just “Jesus’ birthday.”

    No it’s not. It’s whatever aspect you want it to be.

    I grew up with a secular Christmas. People who have breathed in the air of “the true meaning of Christmas is the birth of Jesus” their whole life often seem to have no real idea of how EASY it is to accept 90-95% of all the Christmas hullabaloo with joy and enthusiasm … and yet never even think about Christ the Savior . It would be harder to cut out Santa Claus.

    I predict that more and more atheists will stop complaining about “Christmas” trees and decorations on government property and focus instead on complaining about nativity scenes which are not surrounded by other ways of interpreting Christmas and other seasonal holidays. Neither the origins nor the decorations nor the trappings nor the traditions nor the values of Christmas are exclusive to the Christian religion and the religious are not just in danger of losing it — they never really had it in the first place.

    Saying “I don’t celebrate Christmas because I am not Christian” will start to sound like “I do not celebrate Halloween because I am not Wiccan.” It privileges religion. Like “I don’t believe in love because I do not believe in God.” Their fantasy, not our brave atheist stand.

    Some of the anti-Christmas atheists hardliners may start to relent when they see that taking the Christ out of Christmas actually pisses them off more.

  27. says

    What Sastra said.

    Being the child of agnostics, I grew up with a pretty secular Christmas. Even the Nativity itself — as expressed in carols and A Charlie Brown Christmas — was basically a cute story about a baby, and taken about as seriously as Rudolph, Frosty the Snowman or the whole Santa Claus mythos. If I’ve mostly stopped doing anything special about the occasion it’s because after 50+ years, I’m a wee bit bored with the whole thing. (Put up a tree, only to take it down two weeks later? Ditto outdoor Christmas lights).

  28. Larry says

    So would Bill O’Reilly and Fox News be okay with me celebrating Christmas in my family’s traditional way? By going out to a movie and eating Chinese food? I mean, I’m supporting my local small businesses.

    But yeah, Fox News is either blindingly unaware of Christian privilege or they deliberately want to make it larger.

  29. Stardrake says

    It’s not impossible. I used to bullseye creationists in my T-16 back home, and they’re not much bigger than 2 meters!

  30. r3a50n says

    Your mission is to fly in close and drop a torpedo directly down their holiday by treating it as an entirely secular event: give material presents to family and friends, eat non-imaginary food, discuss real events, and just generally treat it as a period of time in the rotation of our planet at a particular point in its rotation about our home star.

    It’ll be just like Beggar’s Canyon back home.

  31. Kimpatsu says

    It’s massive size means it has some vulnerabilities…
    Hey, PZ, if one of your students misused the apostrophe like that in an essay, would you mark them down?
    Enquiring minds want to know.

  32. jasmyn says

    I had never seen a Christmas Tree Shop until a year ago when I moved from Texas to North Carolina. I was shocked that a seasonal store paid rent in the shopping center year round. When I realized it was just a silly name, I decided to go. I love that place.
    I love Christmas time. I don’t care about the Jesus part, but my husband gets off at eleven am for the last two weeks of December, and I enjoy the extra time with him. I enjoy taking my did to get Santa pictures. I don’t personally know any anti-Xmas atheists. We all just enjoy the fun decorations and gifts.
    I do admit to being a humbug about emotionally over-wrought pop stars singing terrible Christmas songs, though.

  33. Q.E.D says

    Sastra @ 36

    I was bothered most, then, by Jon Stewart’s regular concession that Christmas is really just “Jesus’ birthday.”

    Not even the Pope believes that. Papa Ratzinger admits what scholars have known for a long time, that they don’t even have the year right, much less the date of December 25 right. Jesus’ actual birth date is nowhere near 25 December, 1 C.E