Zack and Peterson are together for the holidays, and rather than yak about Utah or Duck Dynasty, the two follow the travels of the afterbirth of Jesus in the Lost Gospel of the Holy Placenta. Enjoy this lighthearted and only slightly blasphemous holiday episode and let us know what you want to hear from us […]
There are only 67 days until Christmas!!! So, last night, I’m watching Brothers & Sisters like a good gay, and all of a sudden I see a commercial for a new toy aimed at 2-4 year-old’s. This is the long-form of the commercial: Yes, Pop On Pals. First, let me say that even though I’m […]
Every time atheism gets attacked, it makes me wonder just how insecure some folks must be with their beliefs. Atheists, as a stigmatized group, are an easy target for that insecurity, and William J. Kelly, Republican candidate for Illinois comptroller, is very insecure. Because I haven’t covered this issue before, here’s some background. The Illinois […]
Hey everybody! Here are just a couple of little highlights worth checking out… » Don’t forget! Tonight is the finale of The Sing-Off. Voices of Lee, the group from gay-hostile Lee University, is in the finals. » On Friday, I wrote a piece called, “How Long Until We Have Campus Atheist Resource Centers?” This post, […]
After two heavy days of IC Pianogate, I can’t think of anything better to get us back on track than some Atheist Holiday Traditions, courtesy of Big Fat Whale (hat tip Friendly Atheist). If Parson Brown says “Are ya married?” we’ll say “No, sir, and it’s your damn fault we’re still not allowed to! Stop […]
ZFb has felt pretty heavy lately, so here’s some good clean fun, courtesy of David Willis’ Shortpacked! By the way, apparently a GAP commercial recently featured the word “Christmas” prominently enough for the AFA to call off their boycott. I think that makes the AFA look weak. They’re like Beetlejuice, just say “Christmas” three times […]
Today is Black Friday, the biggest shopping day of the holiday season (though I hear Cyber Monday will be big too). That means that at WorldNetDaily, you can get amazing free gifts with your purchases to further your descent into naïve idiocy! (Note: All links actually go to the WND Superstore… so don’t click unless […]
(Hey readers! I’ll probably be linking back to this 2009 post in years to come, so I hope it’s a worthwhile read, if only to explain the seasonal logo I use. It draws a lot on one of my previous posts, An Atheist Who Loves Gospel Music, and also this post by Greg Laden and […]
Rather than regurgitate my reconciliation of my atheism with a not-so-secular holiday, I thought I’d share a simple thought today (Christmas Eve for many).
Lots of billboards debate the reason for the season. Some atheist groups like to point out that Jesus is a myth, which is a reasonable point. Some Christian groups like to hammer home that Jesus is the reason. I never understood what makes the birth of a baby in a stable a compelling story unless you 100% accept the virgin birth, which I think is a stretch for most believers. (That’s besides the fact that if Jesus was born, he most definitely was not born in December.) Jews, meanwhile, already celebrated that there was enough oil to burn for eight days instead of one—not as miraculous as the virgin birth of a god, but at least a bit more original (or did Osiris have long-burning candles, too?).
None of those stories really matter, though. See, way back in 46 BCE, Caesar figured out that December 25 was the Winter Solstice, the day when the Earth’s tilt is farthest way from the sun and thus it is the shortest day and longest night of the year. The calendar was off though, and the date started shifting to earlier in the year. Pope Gregory XIII standardized it in 1582, but screwed up and restored the date to December 22. (Maybe he didn’t want all his loyal followers in the Holy Roman Empire to be suspicious about Jesus just happening to be born on a day already celebrated by many Pagans.)
But that’s why we have holidays around this time. It’s dark.
So we need to light it up and warm it up (though admittedly, the wintry association with this time of year is biased to the Northern Hemisphere).
We need pretty lights and warm food and stirring music and good company. We need to make each other smile and show each other how much we love each other and exchange presents as tokens of that love.
And that’s it. That’s all it’s about. That’s all that’s important.
No myths or legends necessary! Just the intention to warm the hearts of your loved ones. We all owe ourselves and each other to do so at least once a year, and what better night than (almost) the longest of the year?
So whatever you do this holiday season, enjoy it. Do what it takes to make it really feel like the holiday season and not just the dark one. Celebrate that which makes us all human: love.
Zack and Peterson gather by the fireside to follow up on DADT repeal, Barack Obama, and the United Nations, and lots of other interesting things happen too. Happy Holidays from the Queer and Queerer Podcast!
So, last night, I’m watching Brothers & Sisters like a good gay, and all of a sudden I see a commercial for a new toy aimed at 2-4 year-old’s. This is the long-form of the commercial:
Yes, Pop On Pals.
First, let me say that even though I’m a good 21 years older than anyone probably interested in these toys, the “pop” sound is strangely appealing. If you visit the Pop On Pals website, you’ll see what I mean. I think it’s totally a Freudian thing.
This toy has the potential to really help young people be creative and inspired, and yet how it has been marketed does anything but. The gender policing in the video and in the way these sets are sold is remarkably archaic. What troubles me more isn’t just the gender limitations afforded to the toddlers by how the sets are sold, but also the way the marketing encourages parents to reinforce gender norms. The sad part is: by age two or three, the kids already have all the messages.
The video makes it pretty evident which characters are geared toward which gender, but the way they’re sold really clears things up.
Boys get to be a policeman/baseball player, a handyman/fireman, and a farmer/doctor. They also get to drive the garbage truck and dump truck.
Girls get to be a ballerina/musician, a princess/chef, and a pet doctor/gardener. They also get to drive the ice cream truck and ambulance.
I have a couple of friends who got their BAs in princesshood and are doing quite well these days. However, I don’t know any women who are real doctors, only nurses and vets pet doctors. (For the record, vets are brilliant, hard-working people of both genders; my point here is that girls only get to be a doctor when there’s something cuddly.)
It’s a shame that these messages persist in this way. The commercial also reminds us that dogs are for boys, and cats are for girls. (Actually, the dogs and cats come in both genders, but all the animals look pretty gender neutral anyway.)
Now, the video does point out the potential for “creativity.” The “funnest” combo is a bird doctor, the “silliest” is a dog pilot, and the “most imaginative” is the fireman ballerina.
I think the reason I was most struck by this commercial is because I think the way the 30-second version was edited, “silliest” was paired with “fireman ballerina.” This, to me, was a very negative message about crossing gender lines, when it should in fact be very empowering. If a parent is rich enough to buy all the sets, then the kids could be free to explore lots of realistic and interesting combinations that don’t have to be “imaginative” or “silly.”
Also, there are a few Pop On Pals of color, but most are white, and there’s no guarantee which you’ll get in your set. (It looks like the Latino boy is paired with the handyman, which is also a bit disconcerting.)
I’m sure as we get closer to the holidays, the frequency of toy commercials will increase dramatically. Just remember: Blue is for boys (who get real jobs), pink is for girls (who get to wear tutus, garden, and bake), and most kids who play with new toys are white.
(Also, another note from when I was researching for this post: There are a lot of bloggers and youtubers out there who review toys. Unsurprisingly, they are almost all Moms. Who else would take the time to make sure a toy is safe, enjoyable, and worth purchasing?)
Every time atheism gets attacked, it makes me wonder just how insecure some folks must be with their beliefs. Atheists, as a stigmatized group, are an easy target for that insecurity, and William J. Kelly, Republican candidate for Illinois comptroller, is very insecure.
Because I haven’t covered this issue before, here’s some background.
The Illinois State Capitol allows religious displays during holidays. In response to the presence of a nativity scene, the Freedom from Religion Foundation has put up a sign for the past two years that says:
At the time of the winter solstice, let reason prevail. There are no gods, no devils, no angels, no heaven or hell. There is only our natural world. Religion is just a myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds.
This was in addition to a Christmas tree, a Soldiers’ Angels wreath, an ACLU tabletop display defending religious freedom, a Hanukkah menorah, and even a Festivus pole.
Now it seems that Mr. Kelly has officially filed a lawsuit against Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White for approving the sign. Here again, CBS2 News:
Kelly’s attorney filed a lawsuit for declatory relief and permanent injunction Thursday morning, stating the Freedom from Religion’s sign violates the U.S. Constitution’s Establishment Clause.
Yes. You read that right. Kelly thinks that the one display that actually disavows all religion is the one in violation of the Establishment Clause. It’s not clear exactly how, aside from that it “mocks” religion. There’s a lot more detail in the WorldNetDaily version of the story, but it’s also much fishier. Take a look at this description and the very awkward way the quote “ends.”
“The First Amendment of the United States Constitution, in conjunction with the 14th Amendment, forbids state action that has the effect of disapproving, inhibiting or evincing hostility toward religion,” the lawsuit, filed in the Northern District in Illinois, said, “The United States Supreme Court has specifically held, for instance, that the Constitution affirmatively mandates accommodation, not merely tolerance, of all religions, and forbids hostility toward any …”
Towards any WHAT? I bet it says “person,” but just sounds so much juicier as an ellipsis. And wait a second! Accommodation?? I’d love to see that substantiated. Maybe he thinks the Establishment Clause is supposed to establish something?
Kelly’s hostility toward atheists is remarkable. Here are some more comments, courtesy the WND story:
“We need to stop the hate speech against Christians and all religious people,” Kelly said in a statement released along with the announcement about the lawsuit. “It is this attitude of hate that has enabled the stripping of religion, tradition, and history from our holidays, our history books, and our culture in general. Perhaps the atheists need some sensitivity training.”
Dude, we’re just stating facts. There’s no hate. There’s no threatening. Heck, if anything, the sign implies fear of religion. I’m afraid of cutting my hand or fingers off, but that doesn’t mean I hate electric saws; it just means I don’t use them.
Now, back when Kelly was saying that the sign “mocked” religion; that was a fair claim, and the co-president of FFRF agreed:
As to Kelly’s claims that the sign mocks religion, foundation co-President Dan Barker said: “He’s kind of right, because the last couple of sentences do criticize religion, and of course, the beginning is a celebration of the winter solstice. But that kind of speech is protected as well – speech that is critical and speech that is supportive.”
The foundation does not approve of the nativity scene, Barker said.
“We atheists believe that the nativity scene is mocking humanity,” by suggesting that those who do not believe in Jesus will go to hell, Barker said. “But notice that we are not defacing or stealing nativity scenes because we disagree with their speech.”
(The second half of that quote was omitted on the WND article.) But no, Kelly does not just see this as a disagreement (nor does he concede there might be anything out of place by the other symbols on display):
“The totality of the language of the sign is hostile and inflammatory to all religions, including but not limited to Christianity, Catholicism, Judaism, Islam and others that worship God and/or believe in the concepts heaven and hell,” the case claims.
Really? We’re not just expressing hate, but hostility too?
This is what I mean by insecurity. Kelly believes something. The sign calls his beliefs bunk. Kelly FLIPS OUT.
This is religious privilege at its most obvious. Whenever I’m told that I should “respect beliefs” the same way I expect my own point of view to be respected, I remember that too often my point of view is not respected. There is no room for a healthy debate. I have facts and understanding to substantiate what I don’t believe, and when I state them, believers either disregard them or retaliate against them. That’s not mutual respect.
And you know what? I don’t respect beliefs. They are myth and superstition. But that doesn’t make me a hater. That makes me an atheist. But believers are so insecure, they can’t see the difference. Any minute challenge to what they believe is considered an attack, and our society has to learn to stop humoring that attitude. That’s where the hostility is coming from.
Hey everybody! Here are just a couple of little highlights worth checking out…
» Don’t forget! Tonight is the finale of The Sing-Off. Voices of Lee, the group from gay-hostile Lee University, is in the finals.
» On Friday, I wrote a piece called, “How Long Until We Have Campus Atheist Resource Centers?” This post, while seemingly about a very specific concept, is a piece I’m very proud of. Even if the idea of college diversity education isn’t totally relevant for you, this article is an effective synthesis of a lot of the writing I’ve done over the past year. I hope you’ll take some time to read through it and check out the previous posts that inform it.
» Peterson Toscano, well-known ex-gay survivor and advocate, has offered some kind words about ZackFord Blogs on his own blog. If you haven’t ever watched any of his videos before, you are missing out.
» One of my favorite holidays of “The Holidays” has gotten very little attention this year: Decemberween. Celebrated exactly 55 days after Halloween, Decemberween is a truly festive holiday. After the traditional meal of bunnies, gather ’round the fire to reflect on how Archibald and The Popular Vote helped welcome The First Decemberween. May you all have the best Decemberween ever.
» I’ve written a couple of posts this year about the “War on Christmas,” and thankfully, the “war” had very little momentum in 2009. Because of all the business about the Gap ads, I thought I’d leave you with a delightfully gay parody of them (Hat tip JMG). Happy holiday Monday!
If Parson Brown says “Are ya married?” we’ll say “No, sir, and it’s your damn fault we’re still not allowed to! Stop using your religion to advocate against our civil rights! Who made you a snowman anyway?”
By the way, apparently a GAP commercial recently featured the word “Christmas” prominently enough for the AFA to call off their boycott. I think that makes the AFA look weak. They’re like Beetlejuice, just say “Christmas” three times and they appear and get all smarmy about it.
Today is Black Friday, the biggest shopping day of the holiday season (though I hear Cyber Monday will be big too).
That means that at WorldNetDaily, you can get amazing free gifts with your purchases to further your descent into naïve idiocy! (Note: All links actually go to the WND Superstore… so don’t click unless you actually want to go look at this crap. Of course, it’s slightly amusing, since every item description reads like a Poe. If REAL ads pop up on the sidebar, you can always click on those too.)
For $30 of purchases, you get a “Say Merry Christmas!” bumper sticker, so that not only can you show what a proud Christian you are, you can show what an arrogant prick you are for expecting everybody to conform to your religious practices!
For $50 of purchases, you’ll also get the extremely well-researched and objective documentary, “A Question of Eligibility.” You and your family can have holiday viewing parties of this bestselling film and it’ll be the perfect yule log to fuel your inherently racist and paranoid hatred of our unfairly-elected President!
For $100, you’ll get your own copy of Joseph Farah’s “Taking America Back,” signed by the author! You’ll dedicate many hours to practicing your reading skills and convincing yourself that America has become a one-party system that kowtows to the “all-powerful secular state,” even though it’s the conservative Republicans you support who prevent any reform or progress in society.
And, if you spend over $150, add to your collection David Kupellan’s “The Marketing of Evil,” also signed by the author! Have you been trying to figure out why things like divorce, abortion, body piercing, and talking openly about homosexuality have become so popular and accessible? It obviously has nothing to do with the development of sexual literacy or the resistance to patriarchy that has fueled much of the social justice progress we’ve experienced. That’s just evil in disguise, marketed effectively. I know I get sucked into those cunning abortion advertisements all the time. Now you’ll finally get to the bottom of these dastardly schemes out to destroy your narrow archaic view of morality!
Of course, in addition to all the other books and films for sale, you can check out WND’s incredible line of bumper stickers. You are sure to find just the right stickers and magnets to help everybody know just how stupid, insensitive, and bigoted you are! Truly, WorldNetDaily knows how to make the season a bright and loving time for our nation.
(Hey readers! I’ll probably be linking back to this 2009 post in years to come, so I hope it’s a worthwhile read, if only to explain the seasonal logo I use. It draws a lot on one of my previous posts, An Atheist Who Loves Gospel Music, and also this post by Greg Laden and this radio interview with Richard Dawkins. For my other posts about Christmas, click here. I’ve also included this wonderful song by Tim Minchin to help set the tone of this post and add to its meaning. I recommend listening to it before or as you read. Enjoy and Happy Holidays!)
I can’t help the fact that I was raised by a Christian family in a Christian home. What I can help is what I believe (or in my case, what I don’t). And even though I don’t care at all about virgin births or any other such nonsense, there is a lot of culture around the holiday season that I can and do appreciate. In fact, I love Xmastime.
Despite my fervent atheism, I am in many ways still a cultural Christian and enjoy celebrating many traditions related to the holidays. I love decorating a “Christmas tree,” though I don’t like to put an angel on top and I now always recall that the tree was a pagan symbol that had nothing to do with Christianity before a few hundred years ago. The same goes for the cute little tradition of mistletoe, though swine flu paranoia might interrupt that tradition a bit this year. I enjoy the myth of Santa Claus, because unlike God, Santa Claus is a character that nobody past puberty actually believes in, but who we celebrate as a fun sort of prank on our young ones. Santa also conveys an attitude of jolliness and goodwill which I think anybody can appreciate. All of these ideas, including others I’ll discuss below, are all cultural traditions. They are German American more than anything, and there are many more, like the Italians’ La Befana, for example. (It’s not so dissimilar from the way some atheists still identify as Jewish because of the cultural connections.)
Personally, I enjoy carols very much too. There is plenty of of holiday music to appreciate without having to tolerate a lick of Christianity (minus references to “Christmas,” of course). I can sing about Santa, Rudolph, Frosty, or a disastrous sleigh ride (I wonder if he ever got another date with Miss Fanny Bright?) with the same imaginative spirit as I would sing about any other fictional story. I need very little imagination to appreciate tunes like Let it Snow, Winter Wonderland, or The Christmas Song, though it’s hard not to be stimulated. I don’t know what chestnuts roasting smells like, but I can’t hear the lyric without feeling all warm and fuzzy inside. The sensory experience of the coming of winter is as sentimental as the other traditions. It’s probably why Christmas was set at the winter solstice. (You folks in temperate zones are missing out, but I know you think otherwise.)
As for songs about angels, mangers, and shepherds, I appreciate them in the same way I appreciate most religious music. I think the story is just as fictional as Santa or The Grinch, but I know it has a different connotation for others. Much in the same way I enjoy gospel music, I appreciate the musical beauty and conviction of the true Christmas carols. I find the chorus of Angels We Have Heard On High (Glooooooooooooooria…) quite rousing, and I don’t think anything is as powerful or stirring as a committed performance of O Holy Night. I can sing these songs the same way I can sing Handel’s Messiah or a Mozart Mass; I don’t feel like I’m participating in a religious ceremony or committing my own belief. I am sharing in an art form that just happens to have been motivated by (or paid for by) religious beliefs and believers.
I think the holiday season evokes a particular kind of emotional closeness that much of the music echoes. It’s a “special time of the year.” Thanks to Christian imperialism in America, it no longer matters why any person believes it should be a special time of the year. The commercialization of the month of December and the closing of schools and businesses at the end of the month signal that this is a time dedicated for everyone to be with their loved ones. I can watch Love, Actually year after year (and I do) and still tear up every time (and I do) because it channels the intimacy of the holiday season. It’s a time to set aside our studies and our careers and focus on the personal aspects of our lives that truly matter so much. While I’m not happy about how we got here, I certainly don’t think there’s anything more humanistic than this holiday sentiment.
The trick is to not force traditional religious Christianity upon anybody. I think the AFA and their bratty goal to infiltrate the culture with strict references to Christmas as a religious holiday is petty and blatantly exclusive (read other posts about the “War on Christmas” here) . I think public displays related to the holidays have to be very careful. The town I call home is in a rural, conservative Christian area, and I am constantly dismayed to see creches, lighted angels, and other religious symbols displayed on government property. I think this is totally inappropriate.
Similarly, I have the most respect for organizations and corporations that respect the fact there are other celebrations out there, including Hanukkah, Solstice, and Kwanzaa, among others. (I never get tired of seeing that one Gap ad… go whatever holiday you wanukkah!) I, myself, am trying to be particular about using “Xmas” to describe the culture of the holiday season and not confuse it with the religious nature of “Christmas.” I certainly prefer “Season’s Greetings” over the presumptuous “Merry Christmas.”
The bottom line, I think, is that it is quite possible to enjoy much about the holiday season without a single religious belief. I am an atheist and believe none of the nativity story (except I suppose for the fact that Jesus was, in fact, born at some point—not December 25, though). Despite being totally fictional (and unoriginal), it’s still a lovely story I can appreciate. More importantly, what the month of December has become is truly a cultural tradition that I think is hard to avoid if you live in the United States. I think there are many healthy ways to participate and enjoy these many seasonal activities without believing in anything religious and without enabling the Christian imperialism that got us here.
I hope you enjoy my holiday blog logo and understand why I included the symbols that I did. I’m sure this won’t be my last post related to the holiday season, but I wanted to offer a definitive perspective on Xmas from an atheist, who will, in fact, be celebrating the holidays.
Happy holidays to all of you from ZackFord Blogs!!