As rational freethinkers, it is important to know that one of the world’s greatest scientists, Isaac Newton, was born on 25 December 1642. This year, 2008, marks the 366th anniversary of his birth. Newton achieved his great scientific works against a background of disinterest by the church and general religious oppression in Western Europe.
The origin of Christmas Day as 25 December is discussed in the Nexus group ORIGINS (see under “Origins of Religion, Part 9”).

Michael Shermer among others has suggested that we honour Newton at this time of the year; and so we should—by word and email. The result is Newtonmass.

Because ‘mass’ implies church service and religious supplication and prostration, I prefer Newton-day, or Newtonday.

For a picture of Newton with a red-and-white hat see
http://skeptico.blogs.com/skeptico/2005/12/merry_newtonmas.html

Here follows an excerpt from a blogspot written by ‘Martino’ in December 2006 at
http://impartialism.blogspot.com/2006/12/merry-newtonmass.html

“Well we are near the end of the year and today is December the 25th the birthday of Sir Isaac Newton. Why do I note his birthday rather than Jesus? For reasons which I will now explain.

On my birthday I carried out a completely unoriginal search for others, who were born on the same day, using Wikipedia. Of course, the fact that they were born on the same day, is purely coincidence, someone significant had to be born on the same day as me and I selected the ones I liked. This started me thinking, who were the people that, not only I would like, but would generally be recognised and respected by everyone (or mostly everyone), as key positive contributors to this modern world we are part of?
I came up with lists of scientists, artists, writers, engineers, philosophers and so on, and as far as I can see the least contentious and most likely to be agreed upon list would be that of scientists - the big four being Galileo, Newton, Darwin and Einstein. As it happens, Newton's birthday is December the 25th!

Now applying the same criteria that I did for my birthday, I wondered if there was anyone better than Newton to select for this day?
I was looking for people who had made a positive contribution to society and avoided those who have caused suffering, violence, disruption and worse. Jesus, if he existed and is actually as portrayed in conventional christian views, most certainly fails in this regard, since he surely would have known all the suffering, persecution, violence and death that was to come that would have been carried out in his name.

Compare that to Newton with his Optics, Laws of Motion and Gravitational Attraction, and the Calculus, all one way or another incredibly significant ideas and tools that have shaped and contributed to our world today and no-one has died in his name either. So there really is no contest. If today needs to be a day to remember anyone at all, it should be Isaac Newton.”

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

So yes, let us therefore offer a birthday-anniversary toast in the memory of Sir Isaac Newton

and A WISH TO ALL OF YOU FOR A MERRY NEWTONDAY.

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Replies to This Discussion

What a great post! Thanks for sharing this information.

We can celebrate with apple trees instead of evergreens! Or maybe just apple pie. Yum.

Happy Newtonday!
This is an interesting idea, and I will attempt to spread the newtonday cheer myself. However, I am still a cultural christian, as i believe most on AN are, and I don't think that this should interfere with our celebration of xmas as a secular holiday focusing around family. I definitely think it would be a good idea, though, to educate people on Isaac Newton and his contributions to science around this time of the year.
Indeed DEH.

I would further stress that I think that in prehistoric times, too, the celebration of Solstice-day or Solstice-week was a great festive occasion involving all the families of the tribe at the turn of the year.
It is the case that the Roman christians got the winter solstice's replacement (namely, the later Mithraic Roman alternative) replaced by what they call Christmas.

And for us all today, it continues to be effectively the turning point of the year, the start of a new year, a glad time for family reunions.

I am moreover emphasising that Isaac Newton really was born on Christmas day whereas Jesus was not (September is thought more likely, IF the story is true, because shepherds and their sheep could be out at night in September but unlikely in the cold nights of December).

Celebrating Isaac Newton is celebrating the emergence of the world from the rule of religious darkness into the grand realm of scientific light,

and that between atheists we can say to one another

MERRY NEWTON-DAY. Have a nice day everyone!
This is delightful. Olivia Judson wrote well, and because its Newtonday (or Newtonmas) I'll reproduce the song here:

In honor of Newton’s Birthday festival, I therefore propose the following song, to be sung to the tune of “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” For brevity, I include only the final verse. All together now!

On the tenth day of Newton,
My true love gave to me,
Ten drops of genius,
Nine silver co-oins,
Eight circling planets,
Seven shades of li-ight,
Six counterfeiters,
Cal-Cu-Lus!
Four telescopes,
Three Laws of Motion,
Two awful feuds,
And the discovery of gravity!
Happy Newton, everybody!
What a great idea, thank you Terrance and Michael.

Though in light of Newton's alchemical research maybe we can perform magic on Newtonday? I am going to be passing around lead ingots on Newtonday morning to all my family, there's always hope, and I need the gold!


Gregg
Well there was certainly hope in Newton's Day. They were not to know then (in the 17th century) that alchemy does not work.

Happy Newton-day.
Here it comes again:

another Newtonday is approaching, and another Newtonweek has started.

Three hundred and sixty-seven years ago, on 25 December 1642, the great Isaac Newton was born.

So at the right moment on the right day, let us offer a birthday-anniversary toast in the memory of Sir Isaac Newton.

In addition of course, and without further ado, I wish A VERY MERRY NEWTONDAY TO YOU ALL.
You may be heartened to know about the meaning of the imagery to be seen on the green Newtontree that we are setting up in our homes right now.

In particular, there are the shiny globular items on the tree representing the basic elements of the Solar System whose planetary motions Isaac Newton explained so well by gravity and the laws of motion.

In centre position at the top is a glowing orb signifying the sun. Around it, on orbits of increasing diameter are smaller light-reflecting globes representing the planets.

My friend, Enlightened Observer, points out that such globes on a tree remind us of Newton's famous apple story,

the Newtontree lights recall Newton's fundamental explanation for the origin of spectral colours,

and that snowballing gives everyone the opportunity to test by experimentation the great man's Laws of Motion. Thank you, Enlightened Observer.
Happy Newtonday everyone!

To everyone, it is my great pleasure and joy to wish you all a very Merry Newtonsday

or Newtonday once again.

Terry 

Firstly - Happy December 25, 2010 to one and all of AN and non-theists everywhere who are not members!

It is an excellent idea to have an extra-special day this time of year filled with goodwill and celebration commemorating the positive things that we stand for. We should not allow this idea to die. I personally think using December 25th would make the boldest statement and in the name of human dignity boldest is best. However, keep in mind the image by contrast that we would project if our celebrations did not convey at least the same degree of well wishing as those of the christians and other religions. Of course if well wishing were a compromisable element of our festivities scapegoating of Atheists as malign and decadent by christians et al would be facilitated. Because it is important that we be on the highest road regarding this it is important that Atheism value Humanism as much as science and reason.

In taking a humanistic approach to a December 25th holiday I think one of the last things we should want to do is take a shot at Santa Claus. (I am talking about the picture of a stone faced Newton with a Santa Claus hat on.) As silly as it might sound a perceived attack on Santa Claus would have the net effect of closing the minds of people who might otherwise entertain our perspectives. Although supporting myths is not part of our agenda we do not want to be stereotyped as people who want to take the fun out of life and we have better things to do than to attack the idea of Santa Claus anyway.

Finally, I am not so sure that an extra-special day for Atheists should be in celebration of or associated with any particular person. Having it in honor of a person would make it to much along the lines of christianity and worship. We certainly should not have the day in honor of a theist and although Newton did not subscribe to christianity I understand that he did subscribe to the existence of a god http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isaac_Newton#Religious_views. Let us not float theism to any degree in celebrating and promoting Atheism. Instead let us honor Atheism by celebrating and promoting the secular notions of dignity, science and reason.

In this mode let us attack the Achilles heel of theism by making the very valid point that nothing good would want to be worshiped in the first place thus rendering the secular values of dignity science and reason the most noble to choose.
Let's also remember that 25th December was stolen from the pagans anyway - no one knows exactly when Jesus (assuming he existed at all) was born!

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