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Imagine No Jesus

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Christopher Hitchens' annual Christmas column[1] was published in Slate this week. An edited version (a little less vitriol) also appears in The National Post[2] and possibly other newspapers.

I like Hitchens' writing and find the article a good read. But he's not for everyone.

Overall, he expresses his extreme dislike that Christmas is imposed on all of us for an entire month, regardless of our beliefs. In a way he reminds me of those Christians who object to the overcommercialization of the season.

Both the atheist Hitchens and the hyper-Christians want Christmas to be a strictly religious occasion applicable to believers. I, on the other hand, still like the festive season and I just ignore the religious trappings.

But towards the end of the article, Hitchens makes some highly valid points. He asks us to "imagine that conclusive archaeological and textual evidence emerged to prove that the whole story of the birth, life and death of Jesus of Nazareth was either a delusion or a fabrication". Then what would happen? Hitchens goes on to say:

Serious Christians, of the sort I have been debating lately, would have no choice but to consider such news as absolutely calamitous. The light of the world would have gone out; the hope of humanity would have been extinguished.

But I invite you to consider things more lucidly. If all the official stories of monotheism, from Moses to Mormonism, were to be utterly and finally discredited, we would be exactly where we are now. All the agonizing questions that we face, from the idea of the good life and our duties to each other to the concept of justice and the enigma of existence itself, would be just as difficult and also just as fascinating.

In my view he is right - up to a point. It would change nothing - immediately. But - and this is where he does not take the thought far enough - if religion were discredited, in the longer term at least some of the roadblocks to solving some of the world's most intractable problems would be removed. And who could object to that?


  1. 'Tis the Season To Be Incredulous: The moral and aesthetic nightmare of Christmas by Christopher Hitchens, Slate, Monday, 15 December 2008
  2. Why I Hate Christmas by Christopher Hitchens, National Post, Friday, December 19 2008