11 January 2007 Yule How war became too commercialised losing it's old world charm and why no American is an individual Sign UpGet the New Statesman's Morning Call email. Sign-up Recently I have been undergoing Yule. The oft levelled criticism that Christmas has become "too commercialised" is seldom applied to warfare. I imagine in the good old days war was a bit of a laugh; a big stick, a month away from the wife, constant drinking, carousing with wenches, and a little bit of fighting. Sadly these days it has changed, changed utterly: it's a push button world. I've never had combat experience, but I played paintball once, and that was enough: wait wait wait wait wait and then bang, you're dead. No heroism, no fun. I blame the Americans. They didn't invent the gun or the bomb, but they popularised them - via their movies, and wars. I don't blame any individual American of course: There are none. You can't be an individual and part of a group. In Britain we are semi-Americans - we don't get to elect the president, but we do get to obey his orders. Christmas, what's it all about? A friend of mine is an atheist - well, I write 'friend' but I don't actually like him - I pretend to like him for my own selfish motives. He said to me once out of the blue as we strolled along the pavement "There's no God" as if something about my gait had implied there was a God and he felt the urgent need to correct this. I didn't say anything in reply - although I might have said something flippant like "Would you like a cup of tea instead?" - but what I wish I'd said is "There's no what?". Because then he'd have had to reply "There's no God" and I'd have said "No what?" and he'd have said "God" and I'd have said "What?". And then he'd be left in a tricky position - having to explain what this thing is that he claims doesn't exist. He might think that's a waste of time - but he started it. There's no point arguing about something, particularly if there's nothing to argue about. The claim "there's no God" is at best pedantic and at worst a dreadful lie. "Religion causes war" is another favourite claim of atheists - but they neglect to add "and science gave us the machine gun". I met Richard Dawkins once; it was in Edinburgh and there was a sign outside a venue saying "Richard Dawkins - Britain's cleverest man - speaks at 1pm, free". I was there like a shot - I love a spectacle; imagine: a clever man - speaking; how absurd; like a giant limbo dancing... Dawkins was being interviewed for a radio programme by a simpering brunette and early on in the talk he explained that he became an atheist at the age of seven when he reasoned to himself "there are many religions - they can't all be right, therefore they are all wrong". He said nothing to imply his views had changed at all in the intervening years, and at the end of his talk members of the audience were invited to put questions to the Dawkins, through a microphone held by a technician. I made the point "there are many languages - should we therefore not speak?" which he dismissed out of hand, and I was about to utter my standard witty riposte - "Alright then, outside, let's settle this like men" - when the microphone was whipped from my mouth and I was escorted from the venue. Dawkins claimed that languages and religions are categorically different, which may be true but is irrelevant; to refute my point he must show why his 'logic' about religion cannot be applied to languages. I have nothing against Darwin - I don't know him from Adam - but the spread of Darwinism irks me. Everything evolves now, have you noticed? Cars, policies, toilet brush holders. What does it mean? 'Survival of the fittest' only means survival of the things that have survived. Thanks lads, have the day off! It predicts nothing and it certainly doesn't tell us how to behave. If Dawkins really believed in evolution surely he would open a sperm bank, fill it with his own seed and distribute the contents by any means necessary. It's worth bearing in mind that competition is an abstract concept, a human invention. And anyway if all creatures have been competing with each other for millions of years surely one of them would have won by now. At Christmas we celebrate the birth of Jesus. I often compare myself to him. I've come to the conclusion I'm not as good. What a guy - started off as a humble carpenter and worked his way up to become son of God. He had some great one liners too, my favourite being, "Who by taking thought can add one cubit to his stature?" - who by thinking about it can make himself taller. I wish I'd been there because I'd have said "Lord, what about stilts?" -because it would have been nice if he'd had a pedantic disciple following him around: Doubting Thomas - Pedantic Alf maybe... He also said "Greater love hath no man than to lay down his life for a friend". With this in mind I rang up each of my friends, asked if they would they be prepared to die for me, and then crossed them off my Christmas card list. To stock up for the big feast I went to Stoke Newington Farmers Market. Got a cattle farmer and a pig farmer - great, fantastic anecdotes. I was listening to some carol singers there, singing along with the songs I knew and wondering why I seemed to be the only member of the audience when the next thing I knew I'd been handed a hymn sheet and joined the choir. It was most enjoyable, except now there was no audience. I was asked what I wanted for Christmas. I didn't and still don't want anything. I've got out of the habit of wanting things. Sometimes I need things; food or an alum key; and I go out and get them. Having said that, I might have liked to receive a book "The SAS Are All Poofs by Andy McNab" but it doesn't exist. (I've never read "Bravo Two Zero", but I have decoded the title: it means "B 20" - probably some sort of form). Or a DVD of a great movie, that would be nice; unfortunately none has yet been made. › Festivals and celebrations Subscribe For more great writing from our award-winning journalists subscribe for just £1 per month!