December 12, 2009

Our favorite atheist, Christopher Hitchens, takes up arms in the War on Christmas.

"[T]he placement of a creche surrounded by a motley crew of humans and animals has no more Scriptural warrant than does 'The Life of Brian.'"

But the lack of "Scriptural warrant" for the modern American form of the Christmas celebration isn't where Hitchens is going with this piece. In fact, it's because Christmas is religious that he's opposed to the Christmas decorations in the public part of the White House. Why isn't it enough, he asks, that there are Christmas decorations on all sorts of private property?
It is not the business of the Chief Executive to take any part in this business, and he has already sworn an oath to put the Constitution first, last and above all. This oath is not general but specific, which means that any detail however trivial is important. May his daughters' stockings be well-stuffed, may a mythical Saint Nick from ancient mythology delight them, may visions of sugar-plums dance in their heads, and may they be little drummer girls for baby Jesus but please, not in the parts of the White House that belong to the world's first secular Republic.
Can you imagine what a fool Barack Obama would be if he took on the project of banishing Christmas decorations from the White House? He of all Presidents — because his Christianity has been questioned — needs to put on the usual display. Oh, we could credit him with bravery if he made this his issue, but his political power is at stake, and I don't want a Commander in Chief who throws away power to gesture at an ideal. And, ironically, it would be the sort of gesture that would stir up political opposition and tend to lead to bold gestures in the other direction if Obama is ousted in 2012. Better to stand on the middle ground and adopt an easygoing maintenance of American Christmas traditions in the White House.

But quite aside from that — assume some other President taking Hitchens's teachings to heart — what is the good of taking away the evergreens and lights that make the darkest part of winter feel especially warm and happy? Does the Constitution require sanitizing religion out of public spaces? It was quite recently — in the case about the stone 10 Commandments monument — that the sensible, practical Justice Breyer wrote:
Where the Establishment Clause is at issue, tests designed to measure “neutrality” alone are insufficient, both because it is sometimes difficult to determine when a legal rule is “neutral,” and because
“untutored devotion to the concept of neutrality can lead to invocation or approval of results which partake not simply of that noninterference and noninvolvement with the religious which the Constitution commands, but of a brooding and pervasive devotion to the secular and a passive, or even active, hostility to the religious.” [School Dist. of Abington Township v. Schempp.]

... [T[he relation between government and religion is one of separation, but not of mutual hostility and suspicion...

Justices Goldberg and Harlan concluded in Schempp that
“[t]he First Amendment does not prohibit practices which by any realistic measure create none of the dangers which it is designed to prevent and which do not so directly or substantially involve the state in religious exercise or in the favoring of religion as to have meaningful and practical impact.”
Peace, Christmastopher.

108 comments:

Fred4Pres said...

Chris, Chris, Chris,

Upholding the Constitution does not require a complete break with everything nonsecular. It only means the Government shall not create its own official church and will not stop people from their reasonable exercise of their beliefs (some fringe exceptions aside).

So let's pour a whiskey (a generous one) and contemplate whatever holiday spirit we would like, be it Christianity, Hannukkah, Soltice, some other religious festival, or just contemplate the warm feeling of the liabation.

Paddy O. said...

"For preventing disorders, arising in several places within this jurisdiction by reason of some still observing such festivals as were superstitiously kept in other communities, to the great dishonor of God and offense of others: it is therefore ordered by this court and the authority thereof that whosoever shall be found observing any such day as Christmas or the like, either by forbearing of labor, feasting, or any other way, upon any such account as aforesaid, every such person so offending shall pay for every such offence five shilling as a fine to the county."

From the records of the General Court, Massachusetts Bay Colony
May 11, 1659


Speaking of the 1st Amendment, just read a very similar passage against Christmas by that old firebrand Roger Williams.

For the most part, Christmas, it seems was seen as a Catholic holiday and wasn't at all thought good to celebrate by conservative protestants--even up to near the end of the 1800s.

Meaning there's been a war on Christmas for a while.

John Lynch said...

This is why Hitch isn't a conservative.

Traditions have value, religion has value, even if you don't agree with them. People have a shared cultural identity, not just an individual one. Even David Hume said as much.

At least Hitchens is consistent about all religions, and isn't just another trendy Christianity-basher.

edutcher said...

Somebody needs to pick up a good dictionary and whack Mr. Hitchens over the head with it. Once his attention has been acquired, he should be shown the entry regarding the word, establishment, and what is, in fact, the specifics of the word as it pertains to religion and government.

At that point, whack him again, this time with a good history of the United States (it would have to be at least 50 years old) and show him the part where the men who wrote the Constitution and Bill of Rights were religious men and invoked their belief in God constantly.

Then smack him once more with "The Federalist Papers" and show him why there were people concerned about things like The Anglican Establishment, since the '45 rising was within the living memory of many people at the time.

Fred's first paragraph is on the money, of course, but, over 50 years, I have gotten so damned sick of this nonsense perpetrated by the ACLU and a pack of feather-headed left-wing judges, particularly regarding Christmas trees and creches on the village green,.

traditionalguy said...

For an interventionist supporter who argues so strongly in favor of sending American Military Personnel into danger and death, Hitchens is a fool if he also thinks those men and women risk their lives to preserve a Secular State that hates their religion. In truth the founders created a prohibition on tax money paying for one religion's overhead like many today oppose paying for the government free abortion religion's overhead.In both cases the free exercise of religion is protected. Hitchens is not an American, and he doesn't want us to enjoy our tradition of a free exercise of religion, but that is his own personal problem.

Ron said...

"Christmastopher" !

Just for that, a mistletoe kiss for you, Christmas Althouse! ;)

Once again, I'll steal it...

Michael McNeil said...

Peace, Christmastopher.

Interesting insight there — leading one to wonder how much of Hitchens' antireligious zealousness derives from chagrin that his very own name contains and is derived from the term “Christ”? Maybe he should “disestablish” his own name instead of disestablishing Christmas traditions for the rest of us.

Theo Boehm said...

If Hitchens objects to all forms of religion, perhaps he would appreciate the White House decorated like this, for a little mid-winter festivity to be held on 5 NivĂ´se this year, 218.

traditionalguy said...

As to the War On Christmas ,that idea was poo-pooed as paranoid when it was first spotted, but now the mask has come off. The anti-Christians better strategy to destroy Christmas has always been to convert it back into a winter solstice festival, thus "hiding the decline". Christianity did this to the occult pagan world first during the 325 to 525 switch over of Roman traditions under Christian Caesars. Then 1400 years later a famous occultist,and former paperhanger, re-converted Germany back to those older Roman occult pagan times in support of his role as Europe's new Ceasar seeking pre-Christian occult powers supposed to still live within Aryan Blood lines, but threatened by Jewish blood lines. That war goes on in the Heavens and on the earth today.

Adele Mundy said...

I don't think the President wants to disrupt the Christmas celebrations because he doesn't want anyone to try the same thing when he is celebrating ramandan.

David said...

Hitchens is correct that religion has been the source of a large percentage of the oppression and carnage man has inflicted on himself. He errs in believing it would have been different had there been no religion.

Palladian said...

Christmas is pagan, papist nonsense, the stuff of avaricious marketers and crap-merchants, an orgy of tired cliches and maudlin sentiments and vulgar, insidious music, all with an irritating gloss of unfounded religious importance and retaliatory gift-giving. I'd be happy to see it wither and die in both the private and public spheres.

reader_iam said...

I'm a long-, long-time fan of much of Hitchens' work, but he's not my favorite atheist.

Roy Lofquist said...

Hey, Redcoat. We haven't forgotten Nathan Hale. The old gibbet is still around somewhere.

Theo Boehm said...

Just say, "Bah! Humbug!" and be done with it.

Irene said...

I see that Oprah will reveal tomorrow evening how the easygoing Obamas maintain White House Christmas traditions.

Andrea said...

Christopher Hitchens is one of those "stopped clocks that are right twice a day" people, but that doesn't happen to be on the subject of religion, where he simply spouts the conventional adolescent unwisdom that it's real daring and original to fart in church during the silent prayer.

Andrea said...

Oh -- and MERRY CHRISTMAS, PALLADIAN!

Joe Giles said...

I suppose Hitchens would explain away the Attestation Clause of the Constitution as easily as he would the Gospels.

I don't offer either as proof concrete that things are the way some theocrats would claim, but this is one of those issues in which things are not as clear as Mr. Hitchens would have them.

SteveR said...

Hitchens is so commited to the Consitution that he retains dual citizenship. In view of that, I consider his opinion on such matters in the same way he considers himself an American- Half assed.

Ritmo Brasileiro said...

Behold! The great and retarded libertarian-conservative alliance is cracking.

Although Fred4Pres makes a more sensible case for what the Professor was trying to say.

BTW, "Hitchens's"?

Palladian wins the thread for most entertaining comment.

vbspurs said...

Mr. Hitchens, take it from a fellow Brit about reading the US Constitution carefully:

Freedom OF religion doesn't mean Freedom FROM religion.

Cheers,
Victoria

Ritmo Brasileiro said...

No, just from any theocratic impulses and excesses it may harbor.

Adele Mundy said...

Palladian is only angry because when he wears his red jump suit to pick up his coffee in the morning all the little children in Williamsburg give him their Christmas lists.

Oxbay said...

Hitchens is gonna get you for that last crack Althouse.

By get you I mean ask you to share a bottle of whiskey with him - the whole bottle. Or share 10 bottles of wine with him. When the bottle or bottles are empty he might just whip out his, ahem, video camera and catch a little Althouse in her, ah, cups.

Ritmo Brasileiro said...

Don't be silly, Oxbay. Now that Althouse is married she wouldn't be as tempted to drunk dial the entire internets the way she used to.

Paul Zrimsek said...

I thought we owned the entire White House. Has part of it been sold to Tony Rezko?

MUL is probably pissed that this ungovernable theocracy doesn't yet have a law mandating fluorescent Christmas lights.

Kelly said...

I think we need to do away with Christmas as a federal holiday in the name of separation of church and state.

Ritmo Brasileiro said...

Is that the wittiest chirp that can emanate from a mind incapable of distinguishing between ownership and management, Paul?

Oh and BTW, Happy (Generic) Holidays to you, Bub.

kentuckyliz said...

The United Kingdom collected taxes for its national church from all its citizens and residents until...pop quiz...what year?

1977.

Wedding rings and Christmas trees are pagan traditions. Most Christians don't seem to mind.

The creche or Nativity scene was the invention of the tender hearted poverello St. Francis of Assisi.

The nun-hater Hitchens would hate Il Poverello.

The people loved him and still do, yea these many centuries later. Hitchens will be barely cold before he is forgotten.

I take it as a great sign of post-Reformation rapprochement that many non-Catholic Christians have enthusiastically adopted a traditional Catholic devotional practice.

kentuckyliz said...

Oh and that social secretary said in a public speech that Obama was thinking about eliminating the creche scene in the WH.

She was bitch slapped behind closed doors for not keeping her mouth shut.

The War on Christmas ppl ran with it and lo and behold there's a creche scene in the WH.

kentuckyliz said...

Can an atheist at least appreciate the modicum of human warmth and lovingkindness that is unleashed in the dark of midwinter?

The fire of this love is melted hearts and caritas.

Once again, an atheist benefits from the inheritance while spitting on the benefactor.

Palladian said...

"Don't be silly, Oxbay. Now that Althouse is married she wouldn't be as tempted to drunk dial the entire internets the way she used to."

Ah, another pissy little puritan needling Althouse for the sin of drinking a glass of wine without shame.

I thought you Purgressuvs approved of human pleasure? Oh wait, only when it applies to the correct sort of people. You're just as happy to play on people's prejudices and moralism when its to your political advantage, just like any theocrat would.

kentuckyliz said...

Grinchopher Hitchens.

Let's keep the Christ out of Christopher.

kentuckyliz said...

In non-holiday times, it would be just

Opher Hitchens.

kentuckyliz said...

Kelly saith: I think we need to do away with Christmas as a federal holiday in the name of separation of church and state.

I wouldn't mind that, as long as we shut all businesses down in December and January to save Mother Earth. Saves on utilities and gasoline usage. Do it for Gaia.

See, even the Watermelons (green on the outside, red on the inside) are Christmas colors.

kentuckyliz said...

Opher Hitchens is a proud drunkard, he won't "get" Ann for any crack about his drinking. He does it himself.

TMink said...

"Once his attention has been acquired, he should be shown the entry regarding the word, establishment, and what is, in fact, the specifics of the word as it pertains to religion and government."

Then he should look up the word Congress. THE STATES CAN MAKE THE STATE ANY RELIGION THEY WANT TO AND IT IS CONSTITUTIONAL!

It would not be prudent or respectful, but it would be LEGAL.

This shows Hitchens to be a moron in this area. His own anti-religious zeal causes him to be unable to read simple English. Or maybe it is all the alcohol.

Are the 1st ammendment pretenders and the "wall of separation" morons that dumb, delusional, or just liars?

Trey

Ritmo Brasileiro said...

"Don't be silly, Oxbay. Now that Althouse is married she wouldn't be as tempted to drunk dial the entire internets the way she used to."

Ah, another pissy little puritan needling Althouse for the sin of drinking a glass of wine without shame.

I thought you Purgressuvs approved of human pleasure? Oh wait, only when it applies to the correct sort of people. You're just as happy to play on people's prejudices and moralism when its to your political advantage, just like any theocrat would.


Althouse's exploits were released to the entire internets for a reason. If her loneliness (at the time) and need for admiration weren't that acute, perhaps she would have just drunk-dialed one individual - and that would have been it. It would have remained a private matter. But that wasn't the case. She broadcasted it en masse for a reason and that reason is the point.

I don't care about it or moralize over it, just pointed out the obvious. And I did so because it was funny to use the term "drunk dial" in that context.

Some things are just funny and carry no pretext of moral opprobrium, Palladian. You know, it's possible to engage in banter without there being a moral judgment to it. Just so you know.

And if she enjoyed that episode, more power to her. You seem to assume she didn't, though.

Greg Hlatky said...

Christmas is pagan, papist nonsense, the stuff of avaricious marketers and crap-merchants, an orgy of tired cliches and maudlin sentiments and vulgar, insidious music, all with an irritating gloss of unfounded religious importance and retaliatory gift-giving. I'd be happy to see it wither and die in both the private and public spheres.

No, what you're describing is the holiday season, not Christmas.

Maybe Hitchens and the other God-bashers can have their own holiday in remembrance of their own object of worship: themselves.

Ritmo Brasileiro said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ritmo Brasileiro said...

Although for what it's worth, it was definitely a more mature display than what we're treated to by the little floozies on MTV's Real World who are recorded doing all sorts of things while drunk. Things that who knows whether they regret later or not.

I don't care about someone's political affiliations when it comes to the mindless pursuit of consequential frivolities - which in my mind is a much bigger sin than loneliness.

Maguro said...

Hitchens seems like he's more angry at God than a true non-believer. Daddy issues, perhaps? He'll probably find God when he's on his death bed.

Palladian said...

"Althouse's exploits were released to the entire internets for a reason. If her loneliness (at the time) and need for admiration weren't that acute, perhaps she would have just drunk-dialed one individual - and that would have been it. It would have remained a private matter. But that wasn't the case. She broadcasted it en masse for a reason and that reason is the point."

That argument is classic sexist bullshit. Are you actually saying that a woman is incomplete without a man? That Althouse was drinking a glass of wine not for pleasure but because she was lonely? You're more disgusting than I thought you were. No wonder your relationships with women seem to end badly. Who wants to hook up with a lefty chauvinist pig?

edutcher said...

David said...

Hitchens is correct that religion has been the source of a large percentage of the oppression and carnage man has inflicted on himself. He errs in believing it would have been different had there been no religion.

The usual Communist nonsense. Wars are caused in a great many cases by people wanting power over someone who doesn't want them to have it (see, Cold War, The). Religious wars are often caused by someone who also wants the power of thought over someone else ("Do it my way or I'll kill you"). It has very little to do with doctrine, but everything to do with agenda.

Palladian said...

Christmas is pagan, papist nonsense, the stuff of avaricious marketers and crap-merchants, an orgy of tired cliches and maudlin sentiments and vulgar, insidious music, all with an irritating gloss of unfounded religious importance and retaliatory gift-giving. I'd be happy to see it wither and die in both the private and public spheres.

Oh, so the Protestants aren't like any of that? Right!

If you don't like it, don't participate, but I get the impression you're what the Establishment of Religion clause is all about

Ritmo Brasileiro said...

Getting back to the topic at hand (or at least, getting back to something as topical as I can manage to find in posts that seem so peripheral), I never understood atheism. Especially by rationalists and those who proclaim to be inspired or guided by science and other gifts and virtues of the enlightenment.

The first thing science (or any empirical system) can never do is to prove a negative.

Unless you scour the entire universe and make the search for new knowledge obsolete, you will never know what doesn't, definitively, exist. And it's a lost cause to try. Hence the emphasis on establishing positive relationships.

For my part, I consider myself a theological noncognitivist, or as it's called ignostic. Religion certainly seems to fulfill some human need or purpose - and it may very well be an important one. But it's certainly not an altogether cognitive one.

traditionalguy said...

Merry Christmas Ritmo. Christmas as a gift giving and gift recieving tradition will never end. A loving relationship among All Men as equals under the Lordship of the King of Kings is worthy of a Holiday Festival once a year. In the Virginia Colony it went on for a month. There are great historical celebrations at Williamsburg in December, and some great concerts and services at Bruton Parrish Church where you can sit in James Madison's pew.

Palladian said...

"No, what you're describing is the holiday season, not Christmas."

It's both. There is no biblical imperative to celebrate the birth of Christ on a certain day, the winter solstice or otherwise. To live in accordance to His teaching is the only celebration necessary.

Most of my complaints however are aesthetic ones. If Christmas was celebrated solely as a low-key religious holiday, I'd be perfectly fine with it. It's the monstrous character of its contemporary iteration and the weird idea that celebrating it is some sort of Christian imperative that offends me. I think it also irks me that the beautiful bleakness of midwinter is marred by the repulsive Santa! Holiday Cheer! Mulled Venti Lattes! nonsense that gets vomited up earlier and earlier each year by the desperate retail industry. If your success or failure as a retailer hinges upon your Christmas sales, you deserve to fail.

Ritmo Brasileiro said...

That argument is classic sexist bullshit. Are you actually saying that a woman is incomplete without a man? That Althouse was drinking a glass of wine not for pleasure but because she was lonely? You're more disgusting than I thought you were. No wonder your relationships with women seem to end badly. Who wants to hook up with a lefty chauvinist pig?

There is nothing more pathetic than someone who knows and understands nothing of sexism (or any other ism) to abuse themselves with the appearance of schooling others in its precepts.

First off, loneliness is not an exclusively sexual thing. (Who would propose such a thing?) A need for admiration is not a sexual thing. There are people of either gender watching what someone broadcasts on the internet and I doubt that Althouse cares which gender they are. Do you think she does? Your ridiculous attempt at scolding me does.

I could go on, and ask you to apologize for gratuitous insults that presume to know a thing about me other than what I've happened to post on-line for entertainment. But why bother? Digest that first paragraph and then we'll see who has even an inkling of insight into the reality of human nature. And then we'll debate the merits of our respective relationships.

Palladian said...

"Oh, so the Protestants aren't like any of that? Right!"

They're even worse than the followers of the Bishop of Rome because one of the fundamental reasons there was a Protestant Reformation was to separate Christianity as a religion from the ancient pagan practices and celebrations co-opted by the Roman Catholics.

Palladian said...

Lefties are allowed to splurt sexist ideas because they're the only ones who truly understand feminism, man!

Apparently women not on the left don't deserve respect or the application of feminist principles because they're not even human. You can be a pig to sub-humanoid wingnut bitches, eh?

Ritmo Brasileiro said...

It is clear that you have given up arguing with me and are just arguing with thoughts that, in your fantasizing, you attribute to me. You believe it helps your argument. But people familiar with how argumentation works call this a "straw man". Which is what you're making yourself look like at this point.

Quit focusing on the faux-trage and the emotion and learn to follow an argument, Palladian. It will make you more effective at what you're trying to do. It will improve the quality of your entertainment by making it seem like you actually grounded it in something sensible.

Ritmo Brasileiro said...

Of course, every right-winger who claims that Obama is only in politics for the admiration he receives is making a comment on Obama's sexual needs!

This, of course, is the kind of bullshit thinking that follows from Palladian's illogic.

Theo Boehm said...

Bah! Humbug!

Ritmo Brasileiro said...

Theo Boehm will drink to that!

Does Theo's avatar picture a raised wine glass because he is just looking to pick up women, Palladian?

Theo Boehm said...

Bah! Humbug!

Palladian said...

"Does Theo's avatar picture a raised wine glass because he is just looking to pick up women, Palladian?"

Did you accuse him of being lonely and "drunk dialing" the internet?

You are a very silly man and I'm not going to talk to you.

Ritmo Brasileiro said...

BTW, Merry Christmans to traditionalguy. I just noticed your post.

And just because it might get under Palladian's skin (given the current debate on two topics) MERRY CHRISTMAS TO YOU, TOO!!! MAY IT BE FILLED WITH RETAIL EXCESS AND ELEVATOR MUSIC PIPED IN THROUGH DEPARTMENT STORES AND EVERY OTHER ESTABLISHMENT THROUGHOUT EVERY BOROUGH YOU VISIT THIS SEASON!!! AND MAY YOU BE BARRAGED WITH OODLES OF KITCHSY KLATSCH, THE LIKES OF WHICH WOULD NEVER ORDINARILY BE ON DISPLAY PAST DEC. 26th.

I love the arguer, hate his argument. Christianity newly re-applied.

Palladian said...
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Palladian said...
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Palladian said...

I wonder what Sir Archy has to say about the Catholiques? Was he caught up in the Unjust & Baleful frenzies over the Popish Plot, or was that before his time? And how did he celebrate Christmas?

Adele Mundy said...

What is it about Althouse that engenders joyful camaraderie and good cheer during the Holiday Season!

Ritmo Brasileiro said...

Ok. Just because silly men sometimes feel like being charitable:

The fact that Theo relegates his focus on drinking wine to his avatar conveys that he fancies himself a connoisseur of wine.

If he made an entire video of himself drunk, in communication with no one but the unseen - but widely available - public audience, that might convey something different. Loneliness. A need for admiration. Not necessarily sexual, but more than just his taste in beverages.

Someday you'll learn, Pal. I actually have a religious sense of faith in you that you will.

Adele Mundy said...

I thought Theo's avatar was a lollipop?

Or was that Kojack?

Ritmo Brasileiro said...

BTW, I hinted something similar to Trooper when Lem spent an entire evening until the wee hours posting nearly a hundred comments in a row drunk. If you want to call me a sexist for that, feel free. But I guess that means I demean both sexes for pointing out the meaning behind activity they revealed while drunk - which makes your charge moreso one of misanthropy than of sexism.

But hey, deep down I really love drunks! (Sometimes).

Cedarford said...

Well, sometimes the best dig is the one done "throwaway, insouciant style" a la snotty Brit uppercrust...and Althouse's Christmastopher! is in that tradition.
Well done! Hitch reads it, he grits his teeth, guaranteed!
================
John Lynch said...
"This is why Hitch isn't a conservative."

There are many conservatives who are non-believers, even militantly atheist. Even in America, but especially abroad.

The idea that the only true conservative is a southern Fundie steeped in southern-fried cultural values - is a serious loser - if that is extrapolated to mean that 92% of the country are inherent RINOs and unfit to be considered by the "hushpuppy crowd of Southern Baptists" that now purports to be the true and Only Republican Base.
Remember that the other true fundamentalist, deeply conservative religious Base of political action is the one we are dropping bombs on when we are not paying for their oil which is recycled into Wahhabi mosques here and in places like Pakistan, UK, Somalia.
================
Oxbay - "By get you I mean ask you to share a bottle of whiskey with him - the whole bottle. Or share 10 bottles of wine with him. When the bottle or bottles are empty he might just whip out his, ahem, video camera and catch a little Althouse in her, ah, cups."

If by that, you mean Hitchen's famous recent essay where he had his cock and balls waxed to help him understand the pubic depiliatory craze that began in the 90s in porn and went mainstream....that is a 4 whiskey bottle event.
2 bottles to convince Hitchens that was a good idea to do. One to prep him for the waxing and the pain of it, itself. Then a full 4th bottle to accompany him in his self-loathing after getting sober, then hairless, then thinking it was a pretty gay thing to do and he was an ass for doing it then writing about it.

Michael McNeil said...

The first thing science (or any empirical system) can never do is to prove a negative.

Guess what? Science can never prove a positive either. “Proof” as such isn't something that can be accomplished in this physical universe of ours (outside the realm of abstract mathematics). All science can do is attempt to disprove its theories, never prove them. Theories which robustly resist disproof despite all efforts to disprove them, over time become (provisionally) accepted as valid, but even after centuries of success (as occurred in the case of Newtonian gravitation) they may eventually ignominiously bite the dust.

wv: hanchest

Theo Boehm said...

I've worked as a sommelier, but I'm not that much of a connoisseur of wine anymore. Having to make things with my hands for a living—something unknown to the cubicle types who proliferate around here—I do not have excess money to spend on luxuries such as expensive wine.

We do the best we can, however. My wife is an excellent cook who, Julia Child-like, learned how to cook well during her years in France. She also learned how to cook economically, as the French do.

So, I raise my glass of $12 Malbec to your health, and hope you can afford to eat and drink as well as I can on a budget.

I suspect we'll all be on even tighter budgets soon enough.

Adele Mundy said...

It seems that we have lost the theme of this thread. That drunken limey poofters hate the baby Jesus as much as they hate toothpaste.

mariner said...

Palladian:
I wonder what Sir Archy has to say about the Catholiques? Was he caught up in the Unjust & Baleful frenzies over the Popish Plot, or was that before his time?

As he has been dead lo these two hundred years, I suspect the Popish Plot was well before his time.

;)

Synova said...

I believe that the Puritans refused to celebrate Christmas at all because it was an excuse for debauchery in England.

But *really*... people need a Winter Party. They do.

Christmas is, by and large, a secular holiday in practice. Every year someone replays the old links to how the holly and tinsel and Christmas tree and lights are actually pagan. (My take on that is... it's *winter* and modern manufacturing does not exist... what do you decorate with then? Dur!)

Hey, I actually saw a Freedom From Religion billboard. It had the stained glass thing and said "Beware Dogma" or something like that about Dogma. I wondered who'd that convince of anything.

How about freedom from winter happiness?

TMink said...

Pal wrote: "There is no biblical imperative to celebrate the birth of Christ on a certain day, the winter solstice or otherwise. To live in accordance to His teaching is the only celebration necessary."

Well and truly written.

Still, I loves me some Christmas, and we keep Christ in in here at chez Trey.

Trey

pst314 said...

"Hitchens is correct that religion has been the source of a large percentage of the oppression and carnage man has inflicted on himself."

The 20th Century winners in that contest are the various forms of leftism.

Has Hitchens ever repudiated his Trotskyist politics? When he was at Oxford he was notorious for joking about how, come the revolution, he and his fellow Reds would kill all the wishy-washy social democrats.

It would not surprise me if Hitchens' public support for the war against Islamic fascism had less to do with any suddenly-discovered love of freedom and more to do with a hostility toward an Islam which is anti-socialist and anti-secularist. I personally know leftists for whom this is the case: They pretend to be defending freedom, but in reality they merely don't want the "wrong" thugs to conquer us.

If anybody can point me to clear evidence of Hitchens' repudiation of his commie past, I would be happy to read it.

Skyler said...

Hitchens is, of course, right about the evil nature of religion, but I don't think all fights against religion are worth undertaking.

Sure, the idea of a deity is an obscentiy against reason and teaches people to subordinate their own minds to magic. Yeah, so what.

Most people who observe their religions don't go to the root of this and simply have nice thoughts that they associate with the deity. The belief in a deity is so widespread that it does little good to rail against innocently intended symbols of the religion.

This is especially true when the symbols are so completely mixed up between pagan and christian, such as mistletoe, christmas trees, easter bunnies, etc. There is very little meaning that you can really get from it, and it becomes simply a nice tradition.

And there's nothing wrong with some nice traditions wrapped up in pleasant sentiments about peace and such. So long as you don't take them too seriously, and Hitchens is taking them too seriously.

Palladian said...

Ok, I'll concede a little bit. As long as Christmas in my house remains very medieval, with ypocras and gilded spice cookies and dried fruits and tannenbaums and candles and a hurdy-gurdy and viols and darkness and despair-flecked joy, I'm o.k. with it.

Palladian said...

Myrrh is mine, its bitter perfume
Breathes a life of gathering gloom...
Sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying,
Seal'd in the stone-cold tomb.

Michael McNeil said...

There is no biblical imperative to celebrate the birth of Christ on a certain day, the winter solstice or otherwise. To live in accordance to His teaching is the only celebration necessary.

Why is it that many folks are perfectly willing to accept and admire Buddhism, say, for having developed out of the old Theravada (“Way of the Elders”) school into Mahayana (“Greater Vehicle”) Buddhism over many centuries of time, but refuse to grant Christianity the right to have evolved and changed over two thousands years of its history?

traditionalguy said...

Christmas Day has an important historical milestone connected with it. It marks year 0. Everything before His birth as the Son of David was BC and after His birth has been AD in His Kingdom, yet the scriptures say he was "Slain from the foundation of the earth" even before God carefully planned out all of our lives and created our first ancestors.

kynefski said...

For an interventionist supporter who argues so strongly in favor of sending American Military Personnel into danger and death, Hitchens is a fool if he also thinks those men and women risk their lives to preserve a Secular State that hates their religion.

And he knows it.

Alex said...

Christians have to ask themselves why they celebrate a pagan holiday.

traditionalguy said...

Alex...It was the pagan's celebration to their gods, but Christians made it into our Holiday. It works like a replacement strategy works. Removing an old ruler from power is not complete until the new ruler has taken his place. E.G.,The word "antichrist" is best tranlsted as Replacement Christ.

Big Mike said...

Hitchens gives the rest of us atheists a bad name.

Cedarford said...

kynefski said...
For an interventionist supporter who argues so strongly in favor of sending American Military Personnel into danger and death, Hitchens is a fool if he also thinks those men and women risk their lives to preserve a Secular State that hates their religion.


Not really. The Soviet Red Army had no shortage of brave mostly non-religious men willing to sacrifice their lives to defend the Revolution (1918-1920) or the Rodina (1941-45). Of course, Stalin recognized religion was a useful tool in motivating a subset to Soviets to fight and die, so he also took the oppression off expression of Orthodox faith for guys headed West to be gunfodder against the Nazis and civilians pressed into double shifts for the War effort.

The Soviets are not alone. History has many brutal wars where the belligerants were one or both "religion-lite" or "religion-free".
Typically, if religion is out..other tools of motivation are needed to be inculcated into the ranks - promises of land or booty, liberation ideology substituting for religion, a war of murderous rage against the "other" coupled with the imperative for self defense or various combinations...as motivators.

Revenant said...

In my opinion, Christmas can be viewed as a secular holiday with sectarian roots, similar to Halloween.

Certainly many of the people who celebrate it celebrate it as a religious holiday. But plenty don't. All the atheists I know (with the exception of those with Jewish roots) celebrate Christmas. We just don't go to church or talk about how awesome the birth of Jesus was. It's just a time for exchanging gifts and spending time with family.

traditionalguy said...

Revenant...I see your point of view, however I believe that Halloween also has Religious roots. It has Druid roots instead of Christian roots.

Synova said...

"It was the pagan's celebration to their gods, but Christians made it into our Holiday. It works like a replacement strategy works. Removing an old ruler from power is not complete until the new ruler has taken his place."

Which is why the invention of Kwanza bothers me. From what I can tell it seems to have been the anti-Christian brain-child of its creator, to give African Americans their own holiday in place of the Christian one, as if black people are not often (probably more-so than whites) devoutly Christian or as if they are somehow excluded from the holiday available to everyone else. And then everyone was guilted into pretending it had equal significance.

I have far more sympathy for pagans and will willingly throw a "happy winter solstice" out there if I know.

Palladian said...

"Christians have to ask themselves why they celebrate a pagan holiday."

Althousians have to ask themselves why they continue to respond to you.

Lyle said...

I love Hitchens and Althouse.

Ritmo Brasileiro said...

So, I raise my glass of $12 Malbec to your health, and hope you can afford to eat and drink as well as I can on a budget.

Luckily, I'm still managing to eat pretty well this season, and saving despite my occasionally, and very selectively, spendthrift ways. Luckily my income tends not to be all that cyclical - in spite of the impact that even my own employers have borne over the last year. Although I stand in very good and highly valued stead, I shudder at the impact the recession has just had on even the newest and least prominent employee at my workplace, and would have gladly offered a temporary and slight cut in mine and everyone else's hours and income in exchange for salvaging the continuity of a career that will surely be needed again as the self-correction of today's business cycle (which has already started to occur here) becomes evident to even the very distant, but overly micromanagement-focused, owner of our operation.

As for our lost sense of appreciation for the relationship between manual labor and a life without regrets, I'm really enjoying Shopcraft as Soulcraft, by Matthew Crawford. At a time when nothing in one's life should go unappreciated, I highly recommend picking it up.

As far as gastronomic techniques promoted by the French go, I do hope the small portions "movement" catches on. And if it encourages more American to focus on the quality of their food over quantity, so much the better.

reader_iam said...

Wouldn't a Althouse-Hitchens diavlog be interesting?

Ritmo Brasileiro said...

No.

Althouse is really cool, has diverse interests that encompass both the aesthetic and the argumentative, and works hard to cultivate a commentariat that is as colorful as she is. But in a debate-style format, Hitchens would demolish her as handily as he does everyone else.

If the conversation veered into topics not easily given to debate, perhaps it would be interesting. But no lawyer would dare go up against someone who can so easily navigate the intellectual expanse revealed by levels of reasoning and points of view that exceed the number two.

A lawyer is trained to only be for or against something. There is rarely much middle ground, let alone room for an entirely new perspective. If Althouse were to take off the lawyer armor, it might make for an interesting conversation. But I suspect pride precludes that.

For what it's worth, Hitchens is also following the false dichotomy of religion vs. reason. But he seems more liable restricting his black and white blinders to a very few, select pet peeves.

kynefski said...

Wouldn't a Althouse-Hitchens diavlog be interesting?

Nah. Althouse loves to provoke, and Hitchens loves to bludgeon. It would get nowhere.

I don't think Hitchens and Wright worked, either, although Althouse and Wright are a great pairing.

Hitchens and McArdle. That would be interesting.

Ritmo Brasileiro said...

Speaking of Bob Wright (who seems to think highly of Althouse and vice versa) his diavlog with Stephen Pinker (which I found out about here) was really, really good.

I had never really gotten all that into any of Bob Wright's stuff before. And while slightly intrigued by Pinker, I had never been all that interested in much of what he had to say. But something about that video...

I guess the true meaning of personal chemistry really does come down to the whole surpassing the sum of its parts.

mariner said...

Palladian:
Sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying,
Seal'd in the stone-cold tomb.

Methinks the good Rev. Hopkins confused the holidays, yes?

traditionalguy said...

Ritmo...I followed your analysis as to lawyers being victory driven in their categories, while the more flexable thinkers like to pull together many levels of knowledge into a synthesis. Then you slam dunked me because I see Hitchens style as the lawyer's style extaordinaire, and I have always experienced the professor's style as the freer one which sees more in every argument than a category vs a category. She is person centered. He is the defender of his idea no matter where that leads his sophisticated conclusion. Anyway, we also love French restaurants here because you can have a good conversations without noise or waiter interference, and not overeat so long as you don't ask for more bread and butter. And thanks for your conversation style.

mariner said...

reader_iam:
Wouldn't a Althouse-Hitchens diavlog be interesting?

Far more than Althouse-Goldberg or Althouse-Wright, that's for sure.

Ritmo Brasileiro said...

While Hitchens has been known to become argumentative to a fault - in the style more popularly understood as given to lawyering - I think he does tend to consider a variety of angles before settling in on his own, and admittedly sometimes dogged point.

As far as person-centered goes, I'll have to think about that. Perhaps it comes across to me more as role-centered. When she tore in at that little Michelle girl, I really understood that she was chosen, as she said, to "represent" a certain, opposing viewpoint. And she said she found it pathetic that she was seen as the best representative for that viewpoint. But still, ideas and people are more easily related than are roles, or at least I'd like to believe. Althouse's interlocutor in that blog didn't seem quite so cued into maintaining a role. But in Althouse's defense, neither did she feel was chosen as an (inadequate) representative for a point of view that she felt was more widely held than her selection would have suggested.

Your conversational style is also appreciated, TG.

Ritmo Brasileiro said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ritmo Brasileiro said...

Good, long, uninterrupted (and serious) conversations are yet another reward provided by dining in a French restaurant.

If I were more conversant in 20th century philosophy, I'd be tempted to believe that such a setting provided the obvious intellectual womb for folks like Sartre and Co. A place where you can talk about anything, and invent any philosophy, no matter how removed from such pecuniary details as what makes you feel connected to life. But then again, the French already experience that in spades so I'm not surprised they allowed their philosophy, by contrast, to become so removed and artificial.

Oligonicella said...

traditionalguy --

"Christmas Day has an important historical milestone connected with it. It marks year 0. Everything before His birth..."

If it actually marked the birth you'd be correct.

I enjoy the holiday and the general partiness. But I really, really wish the damned Christmas songs didn't start early November.

wv: afest - any ol' fest will do.

traditionalguy said...

Oligonicella...Since there is no videotape of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, we are all speculating on the hour and the day and the year on our calendars. The best speculation is sometime in February of 4 BC, but the principal of dividing time at His birth is traditional because of the importance in Prophecy of His kingdom coming. His fulfillment of the Hebrew Prophets words and King David's words in psalms was the strongest evidence of what his birth meant.

Lexington Green said...

The Christmas creche originated with St. Francis. 800 years or so is enough to establish a tradition. Who needs "scriptural warrant" anyway? Hitchens, the atheist, regresses to his English Protestant sola scriptura background when it suits him, or more likely he is not even aware that he is a very Protestant sort of atheist.

JAL said...

Hitchens is correct that religion has been the source of a large percentage of the oppression and carnage man has inflicted on himself.

Define large.

Just off the top of my head:
Stalin
Hitler
Mao Tse-tung (Zedong)
Pol Pot

JAL said...

Is this Hitchens' form of Sullivanism?

kentuckyliz said...

Actually Jesus was born about 4 BC. Neat trick huh.

Miscalcs during the calendar revision.

And no, that's from a Christmas carol. Some of them carry the anticipation of the sacrifice. Wood of the cradle, wood of the cross; swaddling cloths, shroud; myrrh, nard.

Michael said...

I'd be happy to agree with Hitchens if there was any prospect of a truly secular, all-business president whose family and personal life was of no interest to us. I have this fantasy of someone like Leon Wieseltier being elected president, and doing lots of coke and screwing around and being a snotty highbrow, because we just don't care that the president be someone we could have a beer with and we just elected him for his brain.

That said, we're stuck with the idea that we should actually expect the president to be a Babbitt in his personal life, a good burgher, and so under the circumstances, I don't wish that we had less tradition in our lives, and that the president banished Christmas in favor of National HipHop Day or something.

Ritmo Brasileiro said...

Drats. The 6:39 PM post included a typo when mentioning the title of this, very commendable work. Just thought I'd correct it.

thx185 said...

"It's both. There is no biblical imperative to celebrate the birth of Christ on a certain day, the winter solstice or otherwise. To live in accordance to His teaching is the only celebration necessary."

Yes, but I submit to you that the Christian life is not limited to the things that are necessary, and instead finds deepest expression in the free-will offerings of love, adoration, service.

This is the way that I celebrate Christmas as a 30-something atheist-turned-Catholic.

"Most of my complaints however are aesthetic ones. If Christmas was celebrated solely as a low-key religious holiday, I'd be perfectly fine with it."

This also is the way that I celebrate Christmas as a 30-something atheist-turned-Catholic.

Except, the low-keyness is external. Internally and shared with my closest friends, there is profound joy, excitement and gratitude at the Christmas miracle. Many tears of joy were shed in recent weeks.