As a kind of on-going penance, I follow Richard Dawkins on Twitter. As a consequence, I am regularly subjected to his various unflattering pensées in 140 characters or less on the subject of religion. Though this tests my reserves of patience and Christian charity, it has provided me with food for thought as we approach the Christmas season- a season which has a great deal to say about what it means to be a human being.

Back in the 19th century, when evolution was an exciting new idea, Benjamin Disraeli, was questioned on the subject and responded


What is the question now placed before society with the glib assurance which to me is most astonishing? That question is this: Is man an ape or an angel? I, my lord, I am on the side of the angels.


Now, I’m not sure, but I don’t think he had misunderstood Darwin’s principles. (Principles which, most Christians would nowadays agree, give a compelling account of human origins.)  I think he recognised the danger of taking from this too narrow an idea of what a person might be.


The difficulty with a lot of modern atheist thinking is that it reduces human existence to a Darwinist struggle for survival. By this rationale a human being is just a complex mechanism for survival and reproduction- freedom is an illusion, and right and wrong is purely arbitrary.


If we believe that human life has an inherent dignity and meaning, then we have no option but to suppose that these things come from somewhere, and Christianity finds its answer to this in the festival of Christmas.

The birth of Jesus shows that God was not content for human life to end in vacuous futility. Instead, he took the initiative and came amongst us in Christ, showing that we not only have our origin in God, but we find our destiny in him too. We have dignity because we were made to reflect God’s perfection, and our lives have meaning because they are part of His plan for creation.


Christmas is more than just a cheerful story, or a prelude to the rest of Jesus’ life. It is a powerful reminder that God cherishes and values us enough to become one of us- to join our fate to his. By coming amongst us in his Son, he says to us ‘You are not automata. You are not simply animals. You are rational creatures, free to choose right from wrong, good from bad. You are my children and you share my image. Love one another as I love you.’

Being human is something to live up to, and in Jesus we have a picture of what it looks like when we get it right.


I wish you all an excellent Christmas.

                                                                                             Fr Alec.