Adeste Adoremus

Captain Groggy Swagger and I were having a pleasant chat in the comments to my post on Songs of Praise about whether it is appropriate for an atheist to sing Carols or say Grace.

There are some religious things that are ingrained into our daily lives that do bug me. What do you do when you sit at a dinner table and someone says grace?

– Captain Groggy Swagger

I confessed that I rather enjoy all the trappings of Cultural Christianity. I enjoy the songs, I have a nativity scene on my mantelpiece and I insist that our Christmas cards feature scenes from Luke and Matthew. I really miss not hearing sacred music played around Christmas time and the whole Frosty the Snowman and fat men in red coats thing bothers me much more than it should.

The Times picks up the trail after Richard Dawkins’ recent admission that he happily sings along to God Rest You Merry Gentlemen along with the rest of us Cultural Christians and Ceremonial Deists.

But the really fabulous news I mentioned is that Richard Dawkins, Prophet of Atheism, has said in a BBC interview that he is not against ‘cultural’ Christianity and “Yes, I like singing carols along with everyone else”. Which raises enough tantalising philosophical and ethical questions to keep us going till Christmas Eve. Dawkins sings carols? Does he sing all the words? Does he boom out lines about herald angels, holy nights, the tender Lamb promised from eternal years? Does he croon: “What can I give Him, poor as I am?” Does the polemicist who gave three eloquent pages to deconstructing the story of St Luke’s Gospel happily warble O Little Town of Bethlehem and Once in Royal David’s City? Does the man who says that religious education is tantamount to “child abuse” feel wholly comfortable crooning Away in a Manger?

Apart from the fact that she mentions my three favourite Carols in a single paragraph, I enjoyed her article because it gets to the heart of a cultural divide among atheists.

My guess is that people who have grown up around religion without ever actually believing it are typically more comfortable with the trappings of Cultural Christianity than are the former believers who had a road back from Damascus moment or the atheists who were never exposed to Christian mythology at all. Reading the comments to the Times article confirms my prejudices.

It also confirms my new belief in Ceremonial Deism as the best chance for salvation for mankind. I wonder if Dawkins would be interested in becoming our pope?

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Ragged Clown

Based in San Jose, California

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