Sky News shows a segment called Big Ideas, which investigates controversial topics of current interest. They
invited the Secular Party of Australia (SPA) to participate in a panel to discuss changing the Christmas message.
The topic first proposed related to the season’s greeting – that we should stop saying Merry Christmas and replace
it with Happy Holidays. They expected the SPA to argue on the yes side. However I suggested that the former
greeting now had little to do with religion and this was not black and white.
The Topic – Nativity Scenes and Carols
After discussions, we agreed to change the question to: As a secular country, should government stop supporting Christmas activities that have a religious dimension, such as nativity scenes and Christian Christmas Carols? I would be happy to strongly argue yes, and they had some panelists willing to argue no. The host on air was Nick Reece, and it went to air live at 8:20 pm on 22 Dec 2017. It turned out that the presenter was a City of Melbourne Councillor, and that body had in fact funded a nativity scene in Melbourne’s prime forum, Federation Square. I was alone in a Sydney studio, with video links to the others. The other two panellists, Ian Henke and Clair someone, turned out to be unquestioning Christians. They scoffed: How can you take the Christ out of Christmas? It was looking like a 3:1 ambush. Bring It On, I thought!
There was an associated public opinion poll before the debate this showed 15% yes, 82% no, and 3% undecided. I cannot find the video at Sky News. The Twitter link above (under 22 Dec) linked to separate videos of the program.
- I decided that it was easy to be negative about these clear-cut religious icons, but I needed to present a positive
view. My arguments centred around four issues:
- The SPA is strong on positive human values, and Christmas can be improved by stripping out the religious
- Historically, Christmas most likely originated as a pagan festival (based on the solstice), then on Egyptian
and Roman gods. Then it became Christian for some, and is now mainly secular.
- The nativity scene centres around ghostly impregnation, planned torture, and murder. These claims are
both untrue and harmful – and thus need to be scrapped.
- Some Christian carols also include supernatural elements and tyranny – these need to be avoided, while
there are many suitable songs to entertain kids and promote human welfare, such as John Lennon’s
More detail follows.
1. SPA – Strong on Human Values
Secular values include equality, welfare, freedom, education, accuracy, acceptance, and generosity. We want to
reclaim Christmas in terms of human welfare, and discard the harmful baggage.
Thus we reject religious dogma, including the welfare of gods, worshipping, the bloody sacrifices in the Old
Testament, and the Ten Commandments, which focus on the welfare of gods, not humans.
2. Origins of Christmas – a Pagan Festival
- December festivals have evolved on a path which includes:
- The Solstice – the sun Sol returning after the (northern winter) solstice.
- The Egyptian god Horus –reportedly born of a virgin, and had 12 disciples.
- The Roman god Mithras – derived from Horus.
- Christianity – in the fourth century, further developed the above lineage, and linked it to the supposed
birth of Christ.
- In Australia – Henry Parkes in 1891 started the development of a secular constitution.
- The 2016 census overturned the religious landscape – the non-religious (30%) became larger than any
religious cult (Catholics 23%).
- In summary, the Birth of Christ had a limited and fleeting connection with Christmas.
Thus the historical record and science show this link to be false.
Instead, enlightened Westerners celebrate Christmas as a time for family bonding, friendship, celebration, and
giving. It is for the benefit of people, not gods
3. Nativity Scenes
The City of Melbourne provided a nativity scene in Federation Square. I noted that in Sydney there was none near
the Xmas tree in Martin Place. Instead, there were texted messages scrolling up the tree, a brass band playing,
families, eats, and lots of secular goodwill.
As for nativity, it seems Sydney’s over that, I said. This did not endear me to the Melburnians. They seemed to
think that nativity represents the joy of a newborn and peace to all men. I suggested they read their bible, then
they will find:
- The nativity scene depicts a woman who (Christians claim) was made pregnant by a ghost. Where is the
informed consent? This violates all morality, and contravenes all science – it is merely an ancient myth.
- This message sets up children for a lifetime of confusion. They will be forced to absorb biology lessons at
school, saying human life starts when a sperm meets an egg, and be confused by the ghostly rape story.
And where did Jesus’ Y chromosome come from?
- The child’s father (Elohim) was (according to the bible) the worst tyrant in history, routinely ordering
fathers to kill their own babies, and tribes to pack-rape girl children. How could God produce an offspring
with the greatest love and compassion?
- He created the child with the intent of having him tortured and murdered on the cross when he reached
adulthood – Father of the Year?
- Christians have even tried to hijack Christmas tree decorations. The star on top represents the apparition
which guided the “Three Wise Men” to Bethlehem – not possible according to real astronomy. And my
local RI teachers are claiming the candy cane hung on trees represents J for Jesus!
On the other hand, secular ethics lessons in NSW (which I have taught for 7 years) suggest that if something is
both wrong and harmful, it should be stopped. Certainly taxpayer money should not be spent on it.
4. Religious Carols
Many Christian hymns and carols contain the delusional material as described above. For example:
- Away in a Manger – virgin birth, heaven
- The First Noel – angels, star in the east.
We need to consider: do we want our children to trust us, or can we repeat old myths as facts? The panel asked
whether secularists would teach Santa Claus; I replied that this was not harmful, hardly treated as fact, and in a
In contrast, there are many happy carols for children: Jingle Bells, White Christmas, We Wish You a Merry
Christmas. These are improved through lack of the supernatural elements.
For adults, secularists prefer the many songs promoting human welfare:
- John Lennon’s Imagine
- Lennon and McCartney’s Give Peace a Chance
- Bob Dylan’s The Times They Are a-Changin’.
In summary, I have tried to demonstrate that the underlying messages of the Nativity and Christian carols are
gruesome and unsuitable for children. The solstice festival preceded Christianity, and will survive its demise.
Human welfare is much better served by secular values.
There was little change in the before and after polls: after the program at 9:30pm, of the 1815 votes cast, it was 14%, 83%, 3% respectively. There were some Twitter comments which were scoffing, and one positive report from an SPA member. When the segment was finished, the presenter merely told me “Ian, you’re free to go.” I can only assume they were too rattled for a thank you.