Motivations may vary, but we all can spread joy and goodwill at this time of year
By August Berkshire
Nevertheless, in case you were wondering, here are the plans some of us have for December.
The cards we will be purchasing will not say “Merry Christmas” (or “Happy Hanukah” or “Happy Eid”) but rather “Season’s Greetings.”
After all, the original “reason for the season” is the winter solstice, which has long been appropriated by religious people to celebrate the birth or rebirth of their sun/savior gods. Nowadays, with religion in decline, the reason for the season is becoming merely a time for festivities. What’s wrong with that?
The trees that many of us will have in our homes will have colorful lights, originally symbolic of the post-solstice lengthening of days, but now just a pretty sight.
Of course, we will not have angels on top of our trees. We know this will make us unpatriotic as, in this economy, it is likely to lead the treetop-angel-making industry to seek a federal bailout.
The meals we will share will not have prayers said over them, but we will give thanks to those who provided them and to our families and friends.
The songs we sing will be secular – “Jingle Bells,” etc. But, fear not: Atheists are just as likely to sing them out of tune as religious people, though we will derive no less joy.
And jolly old Santa Claus? Well, the disappearance of milk and cookies left out for him and the appearance of wrapped presents are evidence in the minds of many that he exists. We’ll relax our skeptical standards for a day and leave Santa’s existence up to each person’s imagination.
© 2008 August Berkshire. This essay was published in the [Minneapolis] Star Tribune on November 23, 2008.
Inter-Non-Faith Dialogue, Part 2
by August Berkshire
Noah Waye, President of Universal Atheists
Mae Bea Something, President of Unitarian Universalists
Johnny [Janey] B. Goode, President of Universal Humanists
Ida Know, President of Universal Agnostics
Sonny Demeanor, President of Universal Brights
Set & Props:
A long table behind which are four chairs, with room for a fifth chair on the end, which is currently slightly off to the side. Or, five microphone stands with music stands in front of them to hold scripts. (If this many microphones are not available, two or more characters can share one mic. Preferably the Atheist would not be sharing a mic with anyone.)
Five signs or t-shirts saying: “Atheist”; “Humanist”; “Unitarian Universalist” or “UU”; “Agnostic” or “?”; and “Bright” or a picture of a light bulb. The first four descriptions of people, as well as the people themselves, are visible as the play opens. The last description (Bright) is added after that character enters. If signs are used, they may be placards on the table or hung in front of the microphone stands.
The skit opens with the Atheist, Humanist, Unitarian Universalist, and Agnostic on stage.
Atheist: Welcome to the second annual Inter-Non-Faith Dialogue. My name is Noah Waye and I am the president of the Universal Atheists. This year, in addition to an atheist, a humanist, and a Unitarian Universalist, we haven’t forgotten to include an agnostic… though I don’t know why… Before we begin, it’s become our custom, since last year, to call on the president of the Unitarian Universalists, Mae Bea Something, to give us an opening invocation.
UU: Thank you, Noah. Oh, God, whom some of us call “nature,” and some of us call “the universal force,” and some of us call “the great unknown,” and some of us call…
Atheist: (interrupting) Yes, we get the point. Please move on.
UU: (slightly startled and recollecting herself) Oh, God, teach us to have faith in your non-existence…
Atheist: (interrupting again) That’s not exactly how it works…
UU: (unruffled this time, and slightly annoyed) We ask this is the name of that which has no name…
Atheist: Okay, enough! (takes an exasperated breath). And now I’d like to introduce the president of the Universal Humanists, Johnny B. Goode.
Humanist: Thank you, Noah. I’d like to say how much I appreciate all the human effort that has gone into setting up tonight’s program. Why, without humans…
Atheist: Yes… Well… thank you, Johnny. And finally I’d like to introduce the president of the Universal Agnostics. What was your name again?
Agnostic: Ida Know.
Atheist: Well, I don’t know either, that’s why I’m asking…
Agnostic: No, it’s IDA… KNOW.
UU: Did you every play third base in baseball?
Agnostic: IDA KNOW!
Humanist: You’d think that’s something a person wouldn’t forget…
Agnostic: My name is IDA: I-D-A, KNOW: K-N-O-W…
UU: Oh. I’m sorry, Ida. Our apologies. I guess we can blame your name on your parents. What were their names?
Agnostic: My father is African. His name is Dontwanna Know. And my mother is Swedish. Her name is Intha Know.
Humanist: (sympathetically) Sounds like you had a very confused upbringing…
Agnostic: (shrugging it off; nonchalantly) Oh, I don’t know…
Bright: (rushing in from off stage) Wait a minute, aren’t you forgetting someone?!
Atheist: Who are you?
Bright: I’m Sonny Demeanor and I’m the President of the Universal Brights.
UU: But it isn’t universally bright, except at the North or South Pole, and only then for six months a year…
Humanist: Or in outer space!…
Bright: No, no, no! The Universal Brights… the Bright Movement…
Agnostic: Does that have anything to do with florescent light bulbs?
Bright: Brights! We’re people who don’t believe in the supernatural…
UU: So you’re an atheist!
Bright: (like a schoolyard taunt) Look who’s talking! You’re an atheist too, so there!
UU: Am not!
Bright: Are too!
UU: Not all the time! Sometimes I might not be!
Agnostic: (Interrupting, out of the blue, perhaps as if talking loudly to himself) I don’t know…
Atheist: Alright, whatever… I think we can all agree… at least sometimes… or on some days of the week… that the supernatural doesn’t exist.
UU: It depends if you mean that literally, figuratively, metaphorically, or symbolically…
Humanist: I think “week” is a very Euro-centric measure of time…
Atheist: (exasperated) What does that have to do with the existence of gods?!
Bright: (helpfully, insightfully) Some of the days of the week are named after gods.
Agnostic: So if the days of the week exist, does that mean those gods exist too?
UU: It’s a good thing this meeting isn’t being held on Thor’s Day.
Humanist: What have you got against Thor? Oh, sure, his lightning bolts would do some damage from time to time, but…
Atheist: You’re missing the point – Thor doesn’t even exist!
Agnostic: (genuinely puzzled) How do you know?
Bright: (in a know-it-all fashion) Because lightning is caused by electricity…
Humanist: (philosophically) But do we really know what electricity is?
UU: (even more deeply philosophical) For that matter, do we really know what reality is?
Atheist: I’m getting really tired of this! Let’s get back on track here. A lot of times at conferences like these they issue a statement at the end that everyone agrees with…
Humanist: Sounds good to me!
Bright: Me too!
UU: Me too!
Agnostic: I think so!
Atheist: (relieved) You know, that’s the first thing we’ve agreed on all day.
Bright: You’re right!
(The next series of events happens while the Atheist looks on bewildered, not believing what he’s hearing.)
UU: So our statement will be: “We all agree that conferences like this usually produce a statement we can all agree with.”
Humanist: I second that motion!
Bright: All in favor?
(Agnostic begins rubbing his eye, as if there’s something caught in it.)
Humanist: I think “aye” [“I”] sounds a little too selfish. Why don’t we all vote by saying “you”?
Agnostic (stops rubbing his eye, looking bewildered) You?
Atheist: You – have got to be kidding. (turning to audience) And there you have it. A rare moment of agreement in the Non-Faith Community… I think… Thank you all for coming here today. Join us again next year for our third annual Inter-Non-Faith Dialogue.
“Woden’s Day” may be substituted for “Thor’s Day” if the skit is performed on a Thursday.
This skit was first performed on December 20, 2009 at the Freethought Follies in St. Louis Park, Minnesota, hosted by the Humanists of Minnesota and Minnesota Atheists.
© 2008-2009 August Berkshire
Santa isn’t the only one keeping a list, except the American Family Association’s list has more in common with Joe McCarthy’s than the one kept by that jolly old elf. Yes, it’s time for the War On Christmas again, and the AFA has struck a pre-emptive strike by letting everyone know which companies are pro, anti or not Christmas-y enough. And how exactly does the AFA determine just which companies are disrespecting Jesus’ birthday?
“Company uses the term “Christmas” on a regular basis, we consider that company Christmas-friendly.
Company refers to Christmas infrequently, or in a single advertising medium, but not in others.
Company may use “Christmas” sparingly in a single or unique product description, but as a company, does not recognize it.”
So there you go. If you don’t use the word “Christmas” enough, you’re anti-Christmas according to the AFA. Don’t despair though if the AFA doesn’t think your company is Christmas-y enough. Just provide documentation to the House UnAmerican Activities Committee AFA and they’ll take you off their “bad” list. However, if you don’t repent and admit the error of your anti-Christmas ways, the AFA will call for a boycott on your sorry big box, just like they’re doing with Gap, Old Navy and Banana Republic. I guess there’ll be a lot less stylishly dressed AFA members this year.
You can probably guess which list I’ll be shopping from.
Intelligent Design fails on so many different levels that it’s hard to single out its most embarrassing arguments or moments but Discover has managed to pick what could be considered the best of the worst. Go give Intelligent Design’s 8 Biggest Fails a read.
August Berkshire will do his one-hour presentation “Exploring Atheism” for a meeting hosted by Atheists, Agnostics & Secular Humanists (AASH) in the Rose Room of Memorial Union, North Dakota State University (NDSU), Fargo, ND. Free and open to the public.