In his annual Christmas message the Rt Rev John Davies, Bishop of the Church in Wales diocese of Swansea and Brecon, complained about atheists timing their contrary message so as to “coincide with two of the church’s greatest festivals, Christmas and Easter” and claimed that their criticisms were in any case based on a misunderstanding.
“Dealing with the Gospel stories in which these events are reflected, they trumpet that ‘things like that couldn’t have happened’.
“Quite evidently, and perhaps because they have little grasp of how and when those stories came to be recorded, they miss a point and overlook the fact that the faith is rooted in the experiences of real people, living witnesses, whose words were distilled, crystallised and developed into the stories which we possess and treasure.
“If one version of a particular story varies from another, we should not be bothered or concerned.
“If, in a strict sense, the stories are deemed not to be historically true in each and every detail, it does not mean that they do not convey truth, the most profound truth.”
If other religious leaders were similarly forthright in acknowledging the allegorical nature and human authorship of their sacred stories then the atheists would indeed have less to complain about. But we aren’t there yet, and until we are it seems only reasonable that the times of highest volume of religious propaganda should also be the times of strongest response.