Atheist Perspective on Christmas

 

atheist-xmas-3Since this is my first December and holiday season as an admitted atheist, it seems fitting to discuss Christmas from my nonbeliever perspective.

Much has been said and written about the secularism surrounding the holidays, and I’ve decided to provide my personal perspective. This is my 70th time partaking of the Christmas season celebration. So, much of what I say and do has precedence in that it’s what I’ve been doing for years.

As I write this I’m hearing the news from Germany of a large truck being driven into a crowd of people celebrating the holidays and the Russian Ambassador to Turkey being assassinated. The majority opinion seems to be that both events may be related to terrorism and religion, or at least god politics of some kind. And the list of such deeds goes on. None of this is in the holiday spirit. But as Christopher Hitchens subtitled and wrote in his book, “Religion poisons everything.”

Tantum religio potuit suadere malorum.” (To such heights of evil are men driven by religion) ~ Lucretius

For years, this was the season when we tried to spend quality time with family. Beginning with Thanksgiving, it’s a busy travel season in America as families reunite for celebrations. We’re surrounded by hype. But I enjoy the hype more than I like to admit.

I look forward to Halloween each year, partly because it marks the start of this season. Christmas is a happy time, a great time for most children. There are football playoffs, and bowl games. Winter begins, Yule is celebrated, and I like to look at snow. Dealing with it sucks.

In the home of my birth, the smell of the house changed, mostly due to the tree. But the house would also take on the aroma of whatever adult beverage had been opened. Aunt Lorry, who seldom drank alcohol, always brought port wine. Port is some powerful vino.

The thrill of gifts and happy people occupied our thoughts. We went to church. A little hut was built in the yard next to the church with a nativity scene inside it, behind thick glass and a locked door. There was a slot to deposit money for the poor, until someone started to rob it. Then they stopped using the box, and eventually the little hut went away. They must have assumed the thief was not one of the poor.

I don’t recall going to midnight Mass as a kid, but I probably did once or twice. Years later, I went several times. It was always crowded. All those Catholics who only went to Mass on Christmas and Easter would show up. By then, there was only one Mass on Christmas Day — all the others were vigil Masses on Christmas Eve. Going to church on Christmas day was inconvenient, at best.

Christmas was a “holy day of obligation” which meant that if you did not go to Mass that day, you would burn for eternity unless you made it to confession. I’m oversimplifying, but I was a child back then.

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Some Christian denominations don’t celebrate Christmas at all. And for non-Christians, it’s not celebrated as anything more than a secular holiday. But Christian or not, no one in the USA escapes the hype of Christmas. I provide gifts and greetings appropriate to this time of year and the holiday. I helped to decorate a big tree and to put up other decorations this year. I went to our party and may have sung some Christmas songs.

I fully understand the religious aspect of the holiday season (be it Christian, Pagan, Jewish [Hanukkah], or others). While I don’t agree with any religion, I think the intended spirit of caring is good. For me, family, friends, caring, giving, and delighting in nature are all the good things. So, like many atheists and other non-Christians, I join the party as I have for almost ¾ of a century.

atheist-xmas-2I’ll continue to celebrate the season much as I always have: eating and drinking too much while overdosing on football. It’s a fun cultural and secular holiday with many features that benefit life, whether one believes in any god or not.

I don’t see my enjoying the holidays as a big deal any more than I do saying “bless you” when someone sneezes, or “God damn it” when things go wrong, or when I use the word “god” or “Jesus Christ” to express pain or anger. But cussing is another story for a different blog. Unfortunately, the holiday season is a stressful or bad time for some people.

atheist-xmas-5If it busts someone’s chops that atheists enjoy the holidays, that’s a bummer. We intend no harm by joining the festivities. I suggest those humbugs pass a law that says one must be Christian to enjoy the holidays. Until then, you’ll find me hangin’ ’round the mistletoe.

 

I suggest you try Joey’s take on this by clicking here.

 

Happy Holidays.
May there be peace, love, and a thousand sugar plumb fairies dancing in your heart.
Look both ways and mind the gap.

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12 thoughts on “Atheist Perspective on Christmas

  1. Glad to hear you’re enjoying the holidays. My laughing Buddha wears a Santa hat and sits near my Christmas tree. My family burned the Yule log last night to celebrate the winter solstice. I identify more with the old pagan religions and eastern traditions than I do Christianity but I say Merry Christmas too. Thanks for the link to Joey’s blog – she’s my kinda gal! As always, your blog is a pleasure to read and gets me thinking 🙂

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  2. Seems Christmas has history that may link it to a pagan holiday, Saturnalia. I see it as a good reason to plan for family and food to end the calendar year. Putting a tree in the house is fun as well.

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  3. I’ve always enjoyed Christmas, one way or another. if we didnt have a place to go to, though, I doubt if we’d do much about it.
    I don’t object to the displays, the lights, the carols (although Alvin and the Chipmunks does wear thin after the first two notes…), the excess. And anyone who has seen Mardi Gras in full cry, or Cinco de Mayo, really can’t complain about excess at Christmas.

    Have a good christmas, all of you. Eat lots, hug everyone, enjoy.

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  4. I was raised Catholic in Catholic school with all the trimmings. Then when I married I switched to my husband’s religion, Lutheran (Catholic light). There were less weird rules to follow. We went all in and supported all the wonderful work they did. I worked with a refugee family for 4 years through LSS. And my husband supported mission to El Slavador ( a sister city). Dangerous and time consuming work. I had three little kids at home. Curt also was very involved in other parts of the church. I became disillusioned after, when I was softwn late for church dragging three small children with me (curt was already here) , a lady at the door said, ” we don’t see you very often and you are often late.” Had I been thinking, I would have handed her the baby and the other 2 kids and turned around and went to the bar. It didn’t miss my notice that when my husband missioned with his “team” for ten days at a time, no one from church called to check on me and the kids or offer support or a meal or some company?
    I quickly lost interest in that church.
    We moved and tried “non denominational” which was weird and filled with coffee breaks and Rock music. Also the womans group told me that I had too many problems and that wasn’t what the woman’s church group was for. I guess it was for putting on a happy face, a luncheon and singing???
    Anywho, I have given up on church and go (uncomfortably ) at Easter and Christmas. Recently I have discovered cathedrals in Seattle that I can sneak in and out of anonymously instead of being attacked by the local do-folder at the door who wants my money. Church is big business and mainly for the yuppy crowd who wants to drink at the club with their third wife and erase their sins on Sunday before the big game. #disallusioned
    I appreciate you view, Bill, it’s refreshing. Yet, I remain a “sneak into the chapel to escape the crazy-ass-too-perky white lady with the membership info” Catholic. And I’m fundamental enough to believe that the devil is as busy as ever and up to his old tricks.

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    • I don’t have any facts to back up my theory, but I suspect fewer Christians go to church on XMas than on an average Sunday. In our old Parish, we had 6 Masses on Sunday, but only one or two on XMas day.

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