It happens every year and it has started already. Someone does or says something disrespectful of Christmas and the whole nauseating machinery of outraged Christianity swings into action; then the media pounce on it, and before long,we are all swamped in seasonal humbug and cant. The Religious Right will any day now be in full cry denouncing the commercialisation of a holy festival that most of us frankly don't give a toss about. The prize for first place this year goes to Greggs who for reasons best known to themselves have produced an advent calendar which features behind the Xmas Eve window, a nativity scene in which the baby Jesus in the crib is replaced by a Greggs sausage roll. Now, I must at this stage confess to a certain weakness for said sausage roll. It has been some time since I gave into that particular temptation, partly because I am trying to lose weight, and partly because I suspect that the meat involved is probably of dubious origin. But there have been times when nothing else would have done. Anyway, Greggs' substitution of pork product for holy infant has provoked an entirely predictable howl of protest from the usual set of media rentamouths and defenders of the faith. And so the season opens. There will be a lot more of the same before we arrive overfed and overhung at Boxing Day. We can only be thankful that Christians do not have the same aversion to pork products that afflict other religions like Judaism or Islam or we would have seen riots in high streets up and down the land or worse - and where then would the working man or woman have sourced their pulled pork wrap for lunch?
As an atheist, I have no problem with Xmas. (As a grumpy old man I could happily lose it, but that isn't my point here). I say in my book that I can't prove there is no God, but I can't prove there is no Santa Claus either - and the chances of me being wrong are about equal in either case. Both are fictions that give a lot of happiness to families everywhere. My grandchildren appear in nativity plays and I grin and applaud like an idiot. They put out their stockings for Santa and I go along with the charade. No doubt, along with the vast majority of their generation, they will grow up to understand both the benefits and the limitations of fairy tales. And if they read my book, they will learn that there is not a shred of historical evidence for the nativity story - wise men, shepherds, and cribs, with or without pork embellishment. But in due time, they will no doubt indulge their own children in the same fantasies and I am fine with that too because our culture is based on these stories and being an atheist needn't get in the way of childhood and family fun. One only wishes the Lord's Day Observance and 'Put Christ Back into Christmas' puritans had the same generosity of spirit and human joy. Greggs have apologised, saying it was not their intention to insult anyone - which I think we can believe since, as a commercial organisation, they are not in the business of alienating consumers. My own response would have been politely to suggest that the complainers get a sense of humour if not get a life. But humour, as we should know by now, is not the Supreme Being's strongest suit.