Impressions of the Christmas Season – Mine and Robert Green Ingersoll’s



As a REAL wellness enthusiast fond of reason and science, disposed toward exuberance in all forms (joy, serenity, love, meaning and purpose and so on), committed to athleticism (a health-enhancing, mostly vegan diet and daily exercise) and determined to resist incursions on my liberties and personal choices (e.g., violations of church/state separation), I have a cafeteria view of Christmas. I like the gatherings of friends and one or two other small pleasures associated with the season (e.g., FFRF’s Winter Solstice songs and the excitement of children who delight in the falsehoods told by their parents and other adults about an obese person who brings presents on Christmas day. However, I deplore all xmas music (how any adult as old as me can patiently suffer “Jingle Bells,” “Rudolph the Red-Nose Reindeer” or other banal musical staples of Christmas escapes me), talk of a baby Jesus and the nonsense of Fox News’ annual “War on Christmas” campaign.


But, it’s really no big deal. I don’t pay much attention. For the most part, I’m cheerfully oblivious to almost everything about Christmas.

However, every year at this time I do enjoy re-reading Robert Green Ingersoll’s famous “Christmas Sermon,” first printed in the Evening Telegram on December 19, 1891.


Ingersoll General View of Christmas

“The Great Agnostic” was fond of Christmas. However, not in the usual sense. For him and his family and friends, it was a holiday, a day of rest and pleasure, a day to get acquainted with each other, to recall old memories and to cultivate social amenities.

It was, after all, an historic occasion, a day celebrated for thousands of years before Christianity came along. It grew out of sun-worship. Like other religious festivals of his time and today (e.g., communion), it’s origin is pagan and its popularity due primarily to its being a holiday. Overworked people have always welcomed rest and recreation and time to be with families and friends. Humans enjoy giving and receiving gifts, what Ingersoll viewed as “evidences of friendship, of remembrance and love.”

Three years before writing the famous “Christmas Sermon,” Ingersoll offered these words about holidays and Sundays, for that matter:

For my part I am willing to have two or three a year — the more holidays the better. Many people have an idea that I am opposed to Sunday. I am perfectly willing to have two a week. All I insist on is that these days shall be for the benefit of the people, and that they shall be kept not in a way to make folks miserable or sad or hungry, but in a way to make people happy, and to add a little to the joy of life. Of course, I am in favor of everybody keeping holidays to suit himself, provided he does not interfere with others, and I am perfectly willing that everybody should go to church on that day, provided he is willing that I should go somewhere else.

Ingersoll - extended family

Christmas Sermon

The good part of Christmas is not always Christian — it is generally Pagan; that is to say, human, natural. 
 Christianity did not come with tidings of great joy, but with a message of eternal grief.  It came with the threat of everlasting torture on its lips.  It meant war on earth and perdition hereafter.

It taught some good things — the beauty of love and kindness in man.  But as a torch-bearer, as a bringer of joy, it has been a failure.  It has given infinite consequences to the acts of finite beings, crushing the soul with a responsibility too great for mortals to bear.  It has filled the future with fear and flame, and made God the keeper of an eternal penitentiary, destined to be the home of nearly all the sons of men.  Not satisfied with that, it has deprived God of the pardoning power.

And yet it may have done some good by borrowing from the Pagan world the old festival called Christmas.

Long before Christ was born, the Sun-God triumphed over the powers of Darkness.  About the time that we call Christmas the days begin perceptibly to lengthen.  Our barbarian ancestors were worshipers of the sun, and they celebrated his victory over the hosts of night.  Such a festival was natural and beautiful.  The most natural of all religions is the worship of the sun.  Christianity adopted this festival.  It borrowed from the Pagans the best it has.

I believe in Christmas and in every day that has been set apart for joy.  We in America have too much work and not enough play.  We are too much like the English.

I think it was Heinrich Heine who said that he thought a blaspheming Frenchman was a more pleasing object to God than a praying Englishman.  We take our joys too sadly.  I am in favor of all the good free days — the more the better.

Christmas is a good day to forgive and forget — a good day to throw away prejudices and hatreds — a good day to fill your heart and your house, and the hearts and houses of others, with sunshine.

3 thoughts on “Impressions of the Christmas Season – Mine and Robert Green Ingersoll’s

  1. Xmas Grinches are among my favorite people, all of whom seem to be given to reason, exuberance, athleticism and liberty. On another occasion, Ingersoll had more to say about xmas.
    Consider this:

    If I had the power to produce exactly what I want for next Christmas, I would have all the kings and emperors resign and allow the people to govern themselves.

    I would have all the nobility crop their titles and give their lands back to the people.

    I would have the Pope throw away his tiara, take off his sacred vestments, and admit that he is not acting for God — is not infallible — but is just an ordinary Italian.

    I would have all the cardinals, archbishops, bishops, priests and clergymen admit that they know nothing about theology, nothing about hell or heaven, nothing about the destiny of the human race, nothing about devils or ghosts, gods or angels.

    I would have them tell all their “flocks” to think for themselves, to be manly men and womanly women, and to do all in their power to increase the sum of human happiness.

    I would have all the professors in colleges, all the teachers in schools of every kind, including those in Sunday schools, agree that they would teach only what they know, that they would not palm off guesses as demonstrated truths.

    I would like to see all the politicians changed to statesmen, — to men who long to make their country great and free, — to men who care more for public good than private gain — men who long to be of use.

    I would like to see all the editors of papers and magazines agree to print the truth and nothing but the truth, to avoid all slander and misrepresentation, and to let the private affairs of the people alone.

    I would like to see drunkenness and prohibition both abolished.

    I would like to see corporal punishment done away with in every home, in every school, in every asylum, reformatory, and prison. Cruelty hardens and degrades, kindness reforms and ennobles.

    I would like to see the millionaires unite and form a trust for the public good.

    I would like to see a fair division of profits between capital and labor, so that the toiler could save enough to mingle a little June with the December of his life.

    I would like to see an international court established in which to settle disputes between nations, so that armies could be disbanded and the great navies allowed to rust and rot in perfect peace

    I would like to see the whole world free — free from injustice — free from superstition.

    This will do for next Christmas. The following Christmas, I may want more.

    The Arena, Boston, December 1897. Read more about the 19th century’s most famous American infidel, Robert G. Ingersoll, in American Infidel: Robert G. Ingersoll, a warmly told biography by Professor Orvin Larson

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