What is Big Think?  

We are Big Idea Hunters…

We live in a time of information abundance, which far too many of us see as information overload. With the sum total of human knowledge, past and present, at our fingertips, we’re faced with a crisis of attention: which ideas should we engage with, and why? Big Think is an evolving roadmap to the best thinking on the planet — the ideas that can help you think flexibly and act decisively in a multivariate world.

A word about Big Ideas and Themes — The architecture of Big Think

Big ideas are lenses for envisioning the future. Every article and video on bigthink.com and on our learning platforms is based on an emerging “big idea” that is significant, widely relevant, and actionable. We’re sifting the noise for the questions and insights that have the power to change all of our lives, for decades to come. For example, reverse-engineering is a big idea in that the concept is increasingly useful across multiple disciplines, from education to nanotechnology.

Themes are the seven broad umbrellas under which we organize the hundreds of big ideas that populate Big Think. They include New World Order, Earth and Beyond, 21st Century Living, Going Mental, Extreme Biology, Power and Influence, and Inventing the Future.

Big Think Features:

12,000+ Expert Videos

1

Browse videos featuring experts across a wide range of disciplines, from personal health to business leadership to neuroscience.

Watch videos

World Renowned Bloggers

2

Big Think’s contributors offer expert analysis of the big ideas behind the news.

Go to blogs

Big Think Edge

3

Big Think’s Edge learning platform for career mentorship and professional development provides engaging and actionable courses delivered by the people who are shaping our future.

Find out more
Close

Penn Jillette: There's No War on Christmas. Let's Just Spread the Joy, Man!

December 12, 2012, 12:00 AM
Ca-penn-jillette

Here's a little bit of context to catch you up on this year's "War on Christmas."

Christmas may be a federal holiday, but that does not impose religion on you, Bill O'Reilly told Atheists for America President David Silverman. That is because Christianity is not a religion, but a philosophy, O'Reilly said. Jon Stewart had some fun with this one: "You just handed that atheist another thing he can't f**king believe," Stewart said. 

What is the difference between religion and philosophy?

"I like a lot of Jesus' philosophy -- love your neighbor, a little cheek-turning, stone not-casting," Stewart said. "But while I can get an A in his philosophy class, I don't get to go to the after party." 

In the video below, atheist author and magician Penn Jillette says he wants everyone to be invited to the party -- the party being an American holiday "that really includes all Americans." Everyone can celebrate the winter solstice. Everyone can celebrate the holidays. So Jillette asks why we don't just call it that -- the "holidays" instead of "Christmas" -- and make it more inclusive?  

Watch the video here:

What's the Significance?

Jillette insists he is "more in favor of freedom of religion than anyone I’ve ever met," and as a libertarian his aim is not to get in the way of someone else practicing their beliefs. "I think you’re fine putting up your trees," he says. "I think you’re fine talking about Santa Claus and you’re fine talking about Jesus Christ." However, as an atheist Jillette does, in fact, have his own beef with Christmas, and he's not exactly shy about sharing it. In fact, Jillette finds the holidays of all the world religions to be lacking in joy. 

In his new book, Every Day is an Atheist Holiday! he writes:

The thing about religious holidays is that they aren't about how good and happy life is. Far from it. Religious holidays are about how bad life was, or how good the way distant future or even the afterlife is going to be. The "Joy to the World" is going to come at the end times. 

In fact, Christmas carols, which "flood the ears of Christians, Jews, Muslims, Scientologists, and atheists alike for about a quarter of the year," are a case in point. The lyrics are joyless, or as Jillette puts it, "full of North Korea shit." To cite a few examples, "O Little Town of Bethlehem" is all "in this world of sin" up in your face, Jillette writes. "Silent Night" is full of "quaking shepherds reminded that heaven is far away and it's just the dawn of redeeming grace."

Where's the joy?

To offer an alternative, Jillette borrows an idea from Lewis Carroll -- the idea of the unbirthday. "If we celebrated those we'd have 364 more (in a leap year) un-birthdays than birthdays," Jillette writes, noting that atheists have "had the corner on un-holidays." To Jillette, life is holy, and every day deserves to be celebrated. "We're not going for the promise of life after death; we're celebrating life before death." 

For an atheist, that means "a day that we're alive." For Jillette, that means celebrating the best things in life: "sunsets, rock and roll, bebop, Jell-O, stinky cheese, and offensive jokes."

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

Follow Daniel Honan on Twitter @Daniel Honan

 

Penn Jillette: There's No W...

Newsletter: Share: