Humanist Voices in Verse: It Crawled From the Swamp (Inspired by Twas the Night Before Christmas)

This week’s poem is by Andrew Norman. Norman teaches philosophy at Carnegie Mellon University and writes and speaks about the philosophical foundations of humanism. His work has appeared in Free Inquiry, The Philosophical Quarterly, History and Theory, and at His model of the “reason-giving game” inspired the popular educational computer game Socrates Jones: Pro Philosopher.

His poem, “It Crawled From the Swamp” is set to the cadence of “Twas the Night Before Christmas.”

It Crawled From the Swamp

It emerged from the swamp-ooze
And crawled onto land;
Began swinging through trees,
And hunting in bands.

It evolved a big brain,
Shed its fur, stood upright;
Crafted hand-axes, spears,
And from fire, coaxed light.

It bred plants and livestock,
Built cities and roads;
Made up gods to enforce its
Behavioral codes.

To these simple creatures
But little made sense;
Good conduct, it seemed, was
Just o-be-di-ence.

Then along came a thinker
In old Athens, Greece,
He asked probing questions—
And disturbed the peace.

“What makes good things good?” he
Asked, wanting to know;
“They’re good ‘cuz God says so? —
Can that be right? No…”
So they made him drink hemlock
—And that was his end—
But his questions live on:
‘Fact they started a trend!

For centuries, people
Kept asking “What’s best?”
And as they sought knowledge
—Surprise!— We progressed!

Moral knowledge, of course
Is fruit God forbade;
Eve ate of this fruit,
And God? He got mad.

He banished his children
From their paradise—
Even Eve’s great-great-grandkids:
Come now, was that nice?

The honest among us,
Keep singing this song:
“Can’t we please just get real
About right and wrong?”

It just ain’t a matter of
‘Reap what you sow’:
Of getting what’s due you
In Life 2.0.
And it sure ain’t a matter
Of chapter and verse;
Of stubborn adherence
Through better or worse.

And if faith helps some
— ‘Cuz it gives hope and binds—
It also excuses
The closing of minds.

It just doesn’t help to
Believe things that ain’t;
A dead guy’s your savior?
Really? How quaint!

Prayer, it does nothing
—The studies are clear—
But breed superstition,
Nonsense, and fear.

And why would pretending
To know what ain’t real
Please the Almighty?
Is pleased what you’d feel?

The truth is much simpler:
We’ve but one life to live,
A short time to laugh
Love each other, and give.