Friday, 21 December 2007

Polly Toynbee: No one's trying to ban Christmas

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In today's Guardian British Humanist Association President Polly Toynbee blasts back at the ridiculous notion that atheists, secularists and humanists are trying to ban Christmas. It seems she was moved to write about this after one of her readers sent her a copy of the Christmas message by Rev Jules Gomes, chaplain of the Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich, which read: "More Christians have been martyred for their faith in the last century than in any other period of church history. Yesterday's Herod is today's Richard Dawkins and Polly Toynbee, seeking the total extermination of all forms of Christianity. The great irony is that the greatest opposition to Christ comes from so-called broad-minded people who seek to ban Christmas so that people of other faiths are not offended."

As Polly proceeds to point out, this is all complete nonsense. The myth that secularists are trying to ban Christmas is becoming far more tiresome than that other famous myth you tend to hear at this time of year.

Let's face it, most people love Christmas, even if they don't believe/couldn't care less about the "true meaning". Which is something we've been stressing at New Humanist. As comedian Carrie Quinlan pointed out in our November/December issue, for most people these days Christmas is all about spending time with family, just as New Year is all about spending time with Alka-Seltzer. And the vast majority have no interest in renaming the holiday. As Michael Bywater wrote for our website, it's absurd to refer to it as anything other than Christmas. If there are people out there trying to rename it Winterval or Festivus, they may as well give up because it isn't going to catch on. All they're doing is providing the conservative press with ready-made scare stories.

So, no matter what Vanessa Feltz, Stephen Green, Nick Ferrari and all the rest may think (see Robin Ince on his TV confrontation with this delightful bunch), secularists aren't trying to ban Christmas. In fact, speaking on behalf of the New Humanist staff, we're very much looking forward to it. We're just putting the finishing touches to the January/February issue (Attenborough, Darwin, Zizek, torture, luxury, liberty – don't miss it) before dispersing to spend some quality time with friends, family, food and alcohol.

Merry Christmas.