Tuesday, 16 November 2010

9 lessons and carols for the Godless… again

This is the third year of Nine Lessons and Carols for Godless People so it’s becoming a bit of an institution. The brainchild of Robin Ince, previous shows have included such luminaries as Richard Dawkins, Ricky Gervais, Dara O Briain and Ben Goldacre. The aim is to provide a rational celebration of Christmas featuring talks about the wonders of science and the universe, with atheists seeking to demonstrate that they can enjoy Christmas but without the God bit.

Explaining the idea behind the original celebration in 2008 Ince wrote in the New Humanist:
Last year I was invited on a show to talk about whether Britain was becoming more secular, but by the 10_Nine-Lessons-brighton_wetime I arrived it had changed to “Who’s taking the Christ out of Christmas?” I got increasingly furious as Nick Ferrari and Vanessa Feltz passed off half-truths – and full-blown lies – about the way councils up and down the country were abandoning Christmas.
I said, “Actually I think Christmas is good, it’s nice to have some time for reflection,” and Stephen Green, who was in the audience, sat there saying, “I don’t think he does like Christmas, I don’t think he is happy with there being Christmas.”
So that was why I decided I would get together a 20-piece orchestra and a choir, and assorted atheist and agnostic comedians like Ricky Gervais and Phill Jupitus, and some scientists like Ben Goldacre, Simon Singh and Richard Dawkins.
Already people are annoyed, saying, “Oh, typical, you’re just having a go at Christians.” Well we’re not. When we say we’re having a Godless celebration, that means no god at all, from any religion.
Not one. It’s not about having a go at religion – it’s going to be a proper celebration; of the Big Bang, of evolution theory and of comedy. We will be visited by spirits, of course, through the help of a medium. The spirit will be the late great science broadcaster Carl Sagan, and the medium will be a DVD player.
This year’s repeat of the celebration has already sold out several nights at the Bloomsbury Theatre with a show in Brighton also on offer and the line up includes many of the old regulars. Procedes will go to the Rationalist Association.

I hope they have a good time, though I seem to remember reviewers of previous events suggesting that three hours of unremitting humanism was hard going for all but the most committed.

I would just make one observation. It isn’t really a surprise that these events are sold out. If you look at the line up, many of the acts sell out their own shows across the country and so one would expect them to attract a big audience when gathered together.

Now it is true that over Christmas Christians will also be putting on big celebrations featuring well known artists and musicians. There are also the more traditional big draws like Carols from Kings broadcast on television and radio as well as the Midnight Mass and other Christmas services. But many people will not be going to these great events to listen to well known celebrities. They will be going to their local parish church to gather with family, friends and neighbours. They will sing well known carols, listen to familiar readings from the scriptures and spend time offering praise, thanksgiving and prayers. And at the centre of the worship will be the miraculous truth which secular humanists find so difficult to understand; that the Creator of the Universe, the one behind all the wonder which rationalists rightly marvel at, loved us so much that he embraced our humanity in the person of his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.


Richard Brown said...

You would have thought that the way not to celebrate a Christian festival was not to celebrate it, instead of celebrating it in parody. The very terms 'lesson' and 'carol' have a Christian context, so what does the average humanist find to celebrate at Christmas time? Perhaps they should invent a few of their own festivals - alternatively they could work solidly 365 days in the year and never have any time off on the grounds of never wanting to celebrate a Sabbath or festival.

dennis hodgson said...

"the miraculous truth which secular humanists find so difficult to understand".

I'm not a Christian (obviously), but I'm not a humanist either. I simply reject your notion of a 'miraculous truth'. I believe in truth, but I don't believe in miracles, and I certainly don't believe in God. In fact, I detest Christmas. Knowledge or certainty? I prefer the former.