war on Christmas

SkepSun #169 (12_20_2015)

News on Freethought Radio includes how Saudi Arabia is scheduled to behead a nonbeliever and that an Indiana school is thumbing its nose at the Constitution by staging a “mannequin” nativity scene after a judge enjoined them from doing a “live nativity scene.” We hear some Winter Solstice songs and a reading about how Christians coopted the season. Then Annie Laurie Gaylor and Dan Barker talk with Holly Baer, the first winner of the Yip Harburg Youth Activist award, who challenged a Christian display in the city of Collins, Mississippi.

Gordon Bonnet, author of the Skeptophilia blog, pokes some fun at members of the U.S. Congress who, with all the domestic and international problems at hand think that the War on Christmas is something that deserves their attention. Gordon is right. There is no war by atheists on Christians to keep them from celebrating their religious holiday.

If there is a war, it is within the ranks of non-believers.  Should we atheists be caught up in this holiday and be doing up the Christmas trees, wreaths and lights? Well, for me an important holiday tradition is hearing from Tom Flynn on this issue.  He’s the Executive Director of the Council on Secular Humanism and editor-in-chief of Free Inquiry magazine. Nora Hurley talks with Tom on a Point of Inquiry podcast. According to Tom, Ho ho ho? No no no!

Then we hear from two atheists who like the holiday,  Julia Galef interviews philosophy professor David Kyle Johnson, the author of “The Myths that Stole Christmas” on the Rationally Speaking Podcast. Kyle explains the little-known, and somewhat sinister, origin story of Santa Claus — and then Kyle and Julia debate whether it’s ethical to lie to your children about the reality of Santa Claus and discuss possible alternatives to doing so.


Tom Flynn, Anti-Claus, and Nora Hurley of the Center for Inquiry

SkepSun #118 (12_21_2014)

Ah yes, it’s that most wonderful time of year…for illegal state-sponsored religious speech. We’ll hear how the FFRF is challenging a nativity scene in Indiana and about their lawsuit against Wisconsin governor Scott Walker over an open records violation. Then, Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor celebrate the Winter Solstice with some seasonal freethought music. Then, not one, but two Point of Inquiry podcasts for you: one is brand new and the other from the vault. First, Lindsay and Lindsay: president and CEO of the Center for Inquiry, Ron Lindsay joins host Lindsay Beyerstein to discuss his just-released book, The Necessity of Secularism: Why God Can’t Tell Us What to Do. Lindsay makes the case that secularism, something to be distinguished from atheism, works to everyone’s benefit in a pluralistic democracy, the religious and non-religious alike, and is the only reliable means of creating fair public policy and of preserving our rights. Finally, for some it wouldn’t be the holiday season if it weren’t for Santa, mistletoe and eggnog.  For me, it’s not complete until I hear Tom Flynn tell me why I’m a traitor to the secular movement for putting lights in my yard and celebrating Solstice or even Festivus. Tom Flynn is the Executive Director of the Council for Secular Humanism and the editor of Free Inquiry magazine and the author of  the infamous book, The Trouble with Christmas. He talks with Robert Price on a Point of Inquiry from 2011.

Trouble with Christmas

Cover of Tom Flynn’s 1993 classic, “The Trouble with Christmas”



SkepSun #117 (12_14_2014)

On Freethought Radio, Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor tell us about nativity scenes, county grants to churches, praying high-school coaches, and Winter Solstice displays that are all in the news this week. Then they speak with Harvard evolutionary psychologist and linguist Steven Pinker about his newest book, The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century. Apropos of good writing, tomorrow, Monday the 15th, we mark the passing three years ago of author, essayist, polemicist, and contrarian Christopher Hitchens. Atheism never had a more rhetorically skilled advocate and religion never a more formidable opponent. This past week, reflecting on this sad anniversary and the void left behind, I found myself watching clips of Hitchens in action, online, some of which we’ll hear on today’s show.  [In doing so I stumbled upon an excellent documentary spanning Hitchens life and career.  It is so good that you’d never guess it was made by one individual fan named Kristoffer Hellssmark as a labor of love. It is called simply “The Hitch” and is available on the website Vimeo. ] Afterwards, we’ll sample a recent episode of the Friendly Atheist podcast on which hosts Hemant Mehta and Jessica Bluemke interview Steve Wells, author of the Skeptics Annotated Bible (an amazing resource that exists both online and in print). They speak with Steve about his time in seminary, how one documents the number of deaths during an imaginary flood, and what has motivated him to spend the last 25 years of his life producing annotated guides not only to the Bible, but also to the Qu’ran and Book of Mormon.


Christopher Hitchens, 1949-2011

SkepSun #70 (12_22_2013)

On Freethought Radio, after Annie Laurie Gaylor and Dan Barker relate the news about FFRF’s seasonal displays, countering nativity scenes and religious messages on public property, they devote the show to their favorite freethought seasonal music, including Tim Minchin, Tom Lehrer, Roy Zimmerman, South Park’s “Merry Frickin Christmas,” FFRF’s musical albums, and the Nutcracker Suite from Tchaikovsky who was an agnostic. We also hear the radio debut of Dan Barker’s children’s song “Time Never Stops,” honoring the solstice. Then we hear two Point of Inquiry podcasts from out of the vault from back when D.J. Grothe was the host. Hard to believe it, but sadly it’s been two years this month since the passing of Christopher Hitchens.  We’ll hear D.J. interview the Hitch back in 2007 after the release of his bestselling book, God is not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything. Then, Ho Ho Ho!, No No No? Should we rationalists really be putting up lights and celebrating an alternative holiday like Solstice?  Of course not, says  Tom Flynn, Director of the Council for Secular Humanism, Editor of Free Inquiry magazine, and author of The Trouble with Christmas.  And it just wouldn’t be the holiday season for me if I couldn’t hear Mr. Flynn’s perennial challenge to those of us who are proudly secular to treat December 25th like any other day.

Tribute to Christopher Hitchens published in the HuffPo last week by G. Elijah Dann.


Cindy Lou Who to Tom Flynn: “Why are you taking our Christmas tree? Why?

SkepSun #69 (12_15_2013)

It’s the most wonderful time of year…for nativity scene violations! Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor report on complaints to the FFRF about creche scenes erected on public property and then talk with Tom Cara, director of FFRF’s Metropolitan Chicago chapter, about the large atheist ‘A’ and the “nativity of the Bill of Rights” his group erected in downtown Daley Plaza. On the second half of the show, they interview Linda LaScola, one of the founders of the Clergy Project, and co-author of the new book (with Daniel C. Dennett) about clergy who have abandoned faith, Caught In The Pulpit: Leaving Belief Behind. – See more at: http://ffrf.org/news/radio#sthash.gz5jiqrg.dpuf

After Freethougtht Radio we ask where does morality come from and in what do we nonbelievers say our ethics are grounded?  If there is no God or gods, is everything permissable? We’ll hear from two prominent thinkers on this subject on today’s show.  First evolutionary psychologist Steven Pinker, professor in the Department of Psychology at Harvard University in a talk he gave at MIT in 2010. Pinker discusses the probable evolutionary origin of our sense of right and wrong and defends a compatibilist view of free will.  Then we’ll hear from the moral philosopher perhaps best known for his arguments for widening the circle of moral responsibilty to include other species, Peter Singer from Princeton University.  Singer talks to Massimo Pigliucci and Julia Galef on the Rationally Speaking podcast about consequentialist ethics and animal welfare.


The FFRF’s banner in Pitman, NJ, countering another placed by the Knights of Columbus that urges people to “Keep Christ in Christmas.”  See the story here.

SkepSun #68 (12_08_2013)

Annie Laurie Gaylor flies solo on Freethought Radio this week and talks about the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s newest major federal court victory over the IRS’ tax-free housing allowance for ministers. We’ll also hear about 55 new billboards in the Sacremento area and an atheist contribution to a public holiday display in Chicago. After Freethought Radio we’ll hear Hemant Mehta’s “15 things Christians say to atheists, but shouldn’t” and the Skeptic Rogues of the Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe podcast fill us in on graphology, the psuedoscience that purports to uncover personality characteristics via handwriting analysis. In hour two, we hear famed educator, engineer, Cornellian and “Science Guy,” Bill Nye as he joins host Josh Zepps on the revamped Point of Inquiry podcast. They discuss Bill Nye’s early history as an engineer and a stand up comedian prior to his groundbreaking work in television during which he educated a generation on science. We’ll hear Nye’s view of the future of science, science education, and even religion.


Bill Nye, Cornell ’77, and the solar noon clock atop Rhodes Hall in August of 2011.