A Note on Christmas, and also the Pope

I’m an Atheist, and I Love Christmas. My favorite Christmas Carols are Carol of the Bells, The First Noel, and It’s Cold Outside. I don’t tend to go to church around this time of year- but I enjoy the season. I was raised a fundamentalist baptist, so Christmas, for the better part of my life, was about this Jesus fellow. This guy was supposedly born way back around 6BC (not 1 AD, as most think, the calendar got screwy along the way, so we’re off by a few years), by a “virgin” mother. More likely she was just a young maid who had sex with a Roman soldier or something, Joseph was a good guy and married her anyway. So anyway, this young lady had this kid in Bethlehem — supposedly, I’d like to note that we have no contemporary evidence for the existence of Jesus, which is particularly odd, since the reason for them being in this little hamlet was for a census — and apparently there were some angels and farmers there. No magi, they came a year or two later, to Joseph and Mary’s House, not the barn he was born in (no fancy sterile ER rooms back then). Anyway, this kid grows up with delusions of grandeur, and brothers and sisters (the text notes that fact, Mary was not a perpetual virgin, in addition to not being a virgin at the time of Jesus’ birth), became a zealot and cult leader, got executed for inciting political unrest (Jesus was a pretty big political figure, apparently), then rose from the dead and became God — or the Savior as most Christians put it, just like that guy in that one Greek myth. Anyway- this diatribe is supposedly what Christmas is about. Even though the day corresponds to a celebration of this festival (more or less). I think thats not what it should be about, I think thats just a bunch of crap. Holiday’s should be about family, they should be about your friends, getting to see everyone you care about. Why do we dump all this superstition and dogma on a day that should be about something so much more worthwhile? We only have one go-round on this spacerock, shouldn’t we make the most of it? Shouldn’t we cherish every second of every minute with our families, instead of going through pointless rituals, and assigning pointless meaning to some arbitrary day? The obvious reply is that, “We spend time with our families while doing all our rituals.” Why bother? When I was going to church, I had to sit down and shutup for three or four hours, listen to some one drone on about how we were all sinners and going to hell, and that the only way to be saved from this choice I didn’t make was to believe in some wackjob from 6BC. I didn’t feel close to my family- who for much of the year were apart- with Dad working, Mom going nuts trying to keep the house straight, (I swear she’s got superpowers). Why should we sit around, when we could be talking on one of the few days off we get out of the year?Hope, why is it exclusive to religiots? Many have heard that the Pope (who will henceforth be known as “Popehat”, because it amuses me) recently published an encyclical about atheists, among other things. In it, he asserted that atheism was the root cause of Marxism and Communism, and that effectively, atheists have no hope. I don’t buy it, I have more hope now than I did as a fundamentalist. Atheism made me own up to the fact that I only get one shot at life, so I must live it to the fullest. Atheism made me realize that life was about more than blind dogma, that I had to learn all I could about how the world works and hope to help the next generation to do better. Atheism may have caused some turmoil, Marxism is a wonderful theory, unfortunately it doesn’t work out as well as we hoped on large scale. Communists turned the good idea into a bad one, by forcing people to live communally. Marxism only works when everyone actively wants to support the community. However, for every error, every misstep, every tragedy atheism has caused, Christianity, Islam, and religion in general has caused 10. Sure, Stalin was an atheist, but Hitler was a Catholic. Atheists openly admit that they are not perfect, but you’re God claims to be, so how then does your God justify letting Hilter kill six million of his chosen people? Who’s beliefs led to the Crusades, the Inquisition, the wholesale slaughter of the Huguenots on St. Bartholomew’s Day in 1572? You’re organization is guilty for far more than my atheist colleagues.

So here it is, Mr. Popehat, Here’s my list of problems with your encyclical, I actually read the thing- the whole damn thing. You made some errors, I know you probably will never read this, but here is my list of questions for you.

All emphasis in quotes is mine unless otherwise noted.

In section 2, titled, “Faith is Hope” you right:

“…. Of course he knew they had had gods, he knew they had had a religion, but their gods had proved questionable, and no hope emerged from their contradictory myths. Notwithstanding their gods, they were “without God” and consequently found themselves in a dark world, facing a dark future…”

Are you stating here that you’re belief has no contradictons? If so, I point you to the myriad problems with things like: The Creation Account, Noah’s Ark, The lack of evidence for the truth of the book of Joshua, The lack of evidence for the existence of Jesus himself, The notable quantity of evidence that the entirety of Christianity was based on the teachings of Paul. Or the fact that you seem to promote disease over protection from such, in the form of birth control? Surely that cannot be biblical. The fact that you believe that whatever the Pope says is infallible, and previous Popes have contradicted each other, then certainly your dogma contains contradictory myths. How then do you find hope in your contradictory myths, where the Ephesians couldn’t?

In section 3, you tell a story about a saint of your church, a nice anecdote, but we know this isn’t evidence. If you aim to prove a point, you must use the language of proof– that is, Logic. In Logic, Anecdotes to not count towards anything more than Verbiage. If you need filler material next time, you may as well put Lorem Ipsum text, or a translation of Humpty Dumpty to Latin. If you aim to convince a simpleton, your anecdote is fine, but then you would just be taking advantage of simpletons, and thats not ethical, is it?

In your anecdote, you note that she had “hope” because she heard about the “Paron,” or “Lord of all lords.” You say this made her feel better since it gave her the “knowledge” that the love of the “Paron” awaited her. First of all, this is speculation, unless you can provide an original writing of her’s to confirm it. However, as long as speculation is allowed, I will proffer my view on the matter. Maybe if she realized that this “Paron” was not awaiting her, she would have realized that it would be better to try to escape her captors. Maybe she would have sought to escape and fight against slavery in general. Further, here this young woman is– a young woman which your organization sanctified– why didn’t your organization try to free her? Buy her freedom? Surely the Catholic Church had the means- you are in fact a very rich organization, this is well known. Where was the Catholic Church when this woman needed their monetary might?

In section 5, you note: “… Paul illustrates the essential problem of the religion of that time [of the early church] quite accurately when he contrasts life “according to Christ” with life under the dominion of the “elemental spirits of the universe” (Col 2:8). In this regard a text by Saint Gregory Nazianzen is enlightening. He says that at the very moment when the Magi, guided by the star, adored Christ the new king, astrology came to an end, because the stars were now moving in the orbit determined by Christ…”

Are you honestly saying that Astrology at any point in history actually worked? I’m honestly concerned here– if you are supporting this statement, I assure you, you should stop. The brilliance of science, Sir, is that once it falsifies a hypothesis, that hypothesis stays falsified. Astrology was, and is, a pseudoscience, a falsified, competely debunked, damn near stupid belief. Honestly, if you think at any point Astrology actually had validity…

You note further in this section that we are “… it is not the laws of matter and of evolution that have the final say, but reason, will, love—a Person.

Well, saying that reason has a final say was good, but the rest is mostly bunk. The laws of matter always have the final say. If they do not, we can test this. Since, Sir, you are the conduit to God, why not take James Randi’s Paranomal Challenge. If your God is capable of defying the laws of physics, sir, then he should certainly be happy to help you not only eliminate the problem of us atheists, by proving his existence; defeat one pronounced skeptic and atheist, James Randi; earn a million dollars, which since your organization certainly doesn’t need could be put to good use, say for curing cancer, or HIV, the latter of which your organization seems to promote; and finally prove that paranormal/supernatural powers exist, for good. Sir, if your God can do all that, I will literally eat my hat, your hat, or any other hat you like. I will give every penny I earn from now till the end of my life and the end of time to charitable causes, I will devote every moment of my life to any cause you like. However, I know your God cannot do that, so I am not worried. I further challenge any other atheist to take this challenge with me. Sir, prove me wrong, please.

Finally, you end with this: “Life is not a simple product of laws and the randomness of matter, but within everything and at the same time above everything, there is a personal will, there is a Spirit who in Jesus has revealed himself as Love.”

Fine, blatently ignore the overwhelming evidence. Show your ignorance of how evolution really works (it is not random, it is selection). Contradict the previous Pope who asserted, “Evolution is more than just a theory.” Let me ask you this, if you, Pope Benedict XVI, and the previous pope, Pope John Paul II, are infallible, and you contradict each other on these points, isn’t that a paradox? I am a mathematician, sir, so I know a little bit about Logic. You are, in fact, asserting the truth of the statement “A and (Not A).” This, sir, is a contradiction, can you explain it?

In the interest of space, I’ll continue this post later, tackling sections 6-10, stay tuned.


~ by jfredett on December 1, 2007.

One Response to “A Note on Christmas, and also the Pope”

  1. Almost forgot, here is the encyclical text:


    sorry about the long link.

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