This summer, I attended the funeral of my father. My father was, in the main, a good man. But he did some things that he wouldn’t have been proud of. At his funeral, I spoke for ten minutes about the highlights of his life. Was it a true representation of his life? Was it fair? For the purposes of a funeral, of course it was. If you were trying to write a balanced biography, perhaps it wouldn’t.
But it would have been easy for someone at his funeral – after all, they all knew him – to stand up and mention one of the more fruitier parts of his life. And it would have been thoroughly appalling to have done so. Luckily, those present had sufficient decorum and respected the sensibilities of those present.
Or let’s consider a starker example. Would anyone consider it kind, or a good idea, to walk into a pub full of Manchester United fans during a local derby in which City are winning 2-0 to tell them how poorly their team is performing and how much better City are?
Christmas is a challenging time for atheists, as they find themselves face to face with faith. While the vast majority conduct themselves with decorum, some feel obliged to seek refuge from their own unhappiness by bringing others down to their level. So they might seek to pour scorn on elements of the Christmas story that strike them as inconsistent. Or to deride faith itself in cruel and mocking terms. To those who are tempted to behave in such a way, imagine the losing football supporter or the grieving child at a parent’s funeral, and consider whether you would like to be on the receiving end of such unkind behaviour.
At the Church of the Dead Dad, we do not subscribe to the idea that only through the church can you find morality. So at Christmas time, I call upon atheists everywhere to show that you can find ethics in atheism as well, and to keep any unkind opinions about Christianity or faith firmly under wraps.