Who remembers the Atheist Bus Campaign? When I first heard about it, I couldn’t decide whether to be delighted or appalled. Atheism, in general, is not a movement or an organisation or in any way controlled. It’s about individuals choosing logic over dogma, and rejecting the idea of an overarching consciousness controlling the universe. To have a campaign about it seemed, to me, to go against the principles behind atheism. I eventually decided it was amusing and forgot about it.
Fast forward to Oct 2009 when Harper Collins sent me a copy of The Atheist’s Guide to Christmas to review. I had no idea they’d even made a book from the campaign.
It turns out that the campaign and the book were created by the British Humanist Society. Driving force Ariane Sherine has gathered 42 short stories and articles celebrating atheism, talking about life without religion, about the universe, space, humans and what we are.
It’s brilliant. Entertaining, moving, thought-provoking and elevating, there’s something in this collection for everyone.
It’s not a book about bashing the religious. It’s a book about Christmas for those of us who just do it for family, for friends, for companionship, without the underlying Christian message.
And it’s funny. The writers that editor Sherine has chosen have done a lovely job of bringing out the human in humanist, and reminding us about what it is that makes us who we are.
Like the meaning of Christmas, in The Real Christmas Story by Jenny Colgan:
Christmas, as a practicing Catholic child, was seen as a reward for lots and lots and lots of church.
Or sharing your birthday with Jesus, in A Child was Born on Christmas Day by Emery Emery:
Every birthday party I attended was clearly a day set aside specifically to celebrate one person’s most important life event…but as it turns out, Jesus was born of a virgin on December 25th and they deem it a miracle. How can any kid compete with that?
And I dare you to read Nick Doody’s excellent article, How to Understand Christmas: A Scientific Overview and not laugh:
Robins, as is well known, have an unusually high level of natural Yule – far higher than a mouse.
But it’s not all humour. For the scientifically inclined, there’s the wonderful Starry, Starry Night by Phil Platt, or one of my favourites, The Large Hadron Collider: A Scientific Creation Story by Brian Cox:
About 13.7 billion years ago, something interesting happened and our universe began.
There’s also a great How-To section; How to Have a Peaceful Pagan Christmas, I’m Dreaming of a Green Christmas and How to Decorate the Outside of Your House, and Not Have All Your Neighbours Hate You.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this collection, and would recommend it as a great gift for the hard-to-buy-for person in your life. It’s a book for the thinker, the skeptic, the logical. A really wonderful experience.