Among the highlights of the special Christmas issue of the New Statesman, guest-edited by Richard Dawkins and available for purchase here, the comedian and actor Tim Minchin offers anecdotes from the past and present Minchin family vault, and vindicates his love of the festive season’s fictional tales:
… I face a dilemma: I had sold [my daughter] the myth of Father Christmas in the spirit of allowing a child a sense of wonderment, but I felt that lying to her face when she’d asked me point blank about the veracity of my claims was a step too far.
I fumbled around a bit before opting for: “Father Christmas is real . . . in the imaginary world.”
Unsurprisingly to him, Minchin’s four-year-old is not satisfied by this offering:
Like so much language in theology, philosophy and parenting, that sentence has the odour of wisdom, but is a load of old bollocks. Quite nice as a phrase, but pure sophistry, like a lot of the stuff I say on stage and like nearly everything your preacher has ever said.
Yet these stories — even the “quite nice one” about Jesus — are less troubling to Minchin’s skeptical mind than one may think:
I was asked recently how I reconcile my reputation for championing a naturalistic world-view with the fact that I have co-written Matilda – a musical based on a Roald Dahl novel about a girl who is preternaturally gifted and, eventually, telekinetic.
What an odd question . . . I adore Christmas. The fact that I know that Christianity’s origins lie more in Paul of Tarsus’s mental illness and the emperor of Constantine’s political savvy than in the existence of the divine has no bearing on my ability to embrace this age-old festival of giving, family and feasting.
You can read Minchin’s full article, and a wealth of exclusive content from the late Christopher Hitchens to Bill Gates, Carolyn Porco to Carol Ann Duffy, and many more besides, in the Richard Dawkins guest-edited New Statesman Christmas issue, out now.