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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A profound lightness of seasonal being, 8 Oct. 2009
This review is from: The Atheist's Guide to Christmas (Hardcover)
You wait years for a funny contribution to the culture wars and then 42 turn up at once. Honestly...

Why 42? Well, as the introduction says, this is the answer to the question of Life, the Universe and Everything as calculated by one deserving contributor who sadly died some years too early to see this come to fruition. Luckily, a friend of his, Richard Dawkins, was around to add his own first, witty foray into fiction writing. And a friend of Dawkins, the adorable Ariane Sherine, organised and edited it all. It is, of course, the Atheist Bus Campaign reified in book form. And very lighthearted it is, too.

This is not a "serious" piece of work. It is some serious Xmas fun for those who wish to reclaim the midwinter festival and restore its true, pagan message of lots of food and drink with your community at the darkest part of the year. Now, you might think that this does not need reclaiming as it is what people are already doing. Believe it or not, though, there are persistent efforts by one of the later-arriving, monotheistic faiths to annexe this festival for their own aggrandisement. Just as aggressive and terrifying proselytising on buses by such a religious group provoked the light and cheerful message of the Atheist Bus Campaign, now aggressive and moralising annexation of Xmas by the same religious group has provoked this light-hearted staking-out of this common territory for the rest of us.

It is a collection of short pastiches and thoughtful essays on the subject of the Xmas period and what it means to us atheists and humanists. It is too common knowledge to be clever these days that Xmas is originally a pagan celebration, like Easter. Be that as it may, one is occasionally confronted by theists demanding to know why one celebrates Xmas if one does not believe in the Christian God, in whose own Book flying reindeer, bearded men in red-and-white pyjamas, totemic trees and egg-nog obviously feature most prominently. Read this book and you'll have some answers lined up.

The contributors range from professional scientists and philosophers to comedians and pop stars. What they all have in common is that they are atheists and/or humanists. As a movement we are finally starting to come together in small ways like this and express our aspiration to recognition on an equal basis with supernaturalist belief groups. Not before time. In addition, the proceeds from the book go to the Terence Higgins Trust, a charity helping AIDS victims. There is no downside to this book and it is a pleasant, light read. None of the contributors threaten you with being burned alive for all eternity, they just tell you how to have some fun at Xmas without feeling incongruous. It is a great read and would make a fitting present for a humanist, or tolerant theist, friend or relative.

I am not a contributor, by the way!
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