It’s that time of year again. The gloriously hedonistic annual jaunt through that labyrinth filled with religious land mines called XMAS. As I get older I have noticed that I loath xmas more and more each year. I find that as soon as the turkey is all gobbled up, my mind begins an old internal struggle. Should atheists ignore xmas or celebrate It?
I know that many do generally because they always have and don’t want to change. Some even say that it should be replaced by a more inclusive, general holiday. Part of me feels that all such holidays should be ignored by atheists altogether. A more humane holiday should be global and universal, equally relevant to all humans, regardless of their cultural heritage or where they live.
The idea that xmas is a purely christian holiday is actually a myth perpetuated by the majority that happen to actually be christians. (link to post on this here) Many atheists don’t believe that Jesus existed, and those who do don’t regard him as having been anyone special. No atheists are christians, so why bother participating in such a holiday? It’s arguable that participating makes christianity seem more popular than it really is, not to mention giving christians an unjustified ego boost.
I feel that atheists celebrating xmas can often cause more harm than good by arming conservative evangelical christians with the perceived argument that America is essentially a christian nation. The more popular and important christian holidays are in America, the easier it is to claim that there is something about christianity which is fundamental to America’s culture. It’s not a very good argument and this isn’t very good support for it, but why offer them even this bit of help?
Long ago I lost the struggle being an atheist parent who celebrates xmas, weather or not to perpetuate the Santa Claus myth. This required me to lie to my kids. Yes, it is a lie. There’s not a nicer way of describing what one does when telling small children that Santa Claus visits every house on the planet delivering presents to children via a flying sleigh pulled by “magic” ruminants. If I had it to do it over I would have left this out of my children’s lives Aside from the joy of engrossing oneself in pure fantasy I find no value in it. In fact in many ways I feel it may even be a mild form of indoctrination. There are always very strong incentives to do what other parents are doing. Not celebrating xmas and not telling kids about Santa could have caused my children to be ostracized from others above and beyond what simply being an atheist tends to do already. At the same time, though, the numbers of religious minorities who also don’t participate are increasing, thus increasing the numbers of kids who are “different.” Being different isn’t easy, but who wants to be a hypocrite just to fit in?
One possible reason for atheists to celebrate xmas is that it has become increasingly secularized over time and there is little sign of the process stopping soon. Arguments against xmas remain, but atheist participation in xmas actually helps serve the cause of removing it from its various christian and pagan roots. There are good reasons why many christians are upset over the current state of christmas, and those may be good reasons for atheists to keep the changes in motion.
Some folks will read this and think it is an attack on a cherished holiday. Others may take away that I am a hard-line non- conformist that wants to openly besmirch christianity in general. Nothing could be farther from the truth. I enjoy all the pagan, secular aspects of the holiday. I just don’t like the feeling of being under fire that comes along with its observance.