It always amazes me the sheer number of theists that wander around all their lives oblivious to the fact that there are those of us that do not believe in gods. During the holidays this becomes especially noticeable. The question of where, when, how, or even IF a person should show their disbelief in gods is one which I find very important even apart from the issue of holidays and ritual celebrations. Most of the time, a person can go about daily life without feeling any particular urge to show their atheism to friends and family – not necessarily out of fear of their reaction, but simply due to the irrelevancy of religion in the day-to-day lives of even many theists.
I find that most believers are wholly indifferent to the fact that you may feel, at the very least, uncomfortable or uninterested in the more religious aspects to the holiday season.
This can lead to various complications. In some families or peer groups, religion can come up regularly – what’s an atheist to do? How does one react to questions about church attendance or weather our political leaders are properly implementing christian values? Such conflicts do not occur for all atheists, but they do occur for some and can make being an atheist uncomfortable.
On the other hand, once the holiday season arrives you may find it amiable to make plans that may potentially bring some aspects of religion back into your daily life, even if briefly. This is why atheists sometimes choose this time of year to show their atheism. Hiding it, whether out of fear or simply out of apathy, is no longer compatible with either honesty or self-respect.
It’s probably not a good idea to just blurt out your atheism to the world as they are sitting down to the holiday meal – this is true regardless of the actual context, but it is especially true if we are talking about family gatherings such as meals where your participation, or at the very least tolerance, of prayer may be expected. This is, to be blunt, very poor planning.
If you’re going to tell people who you are an atheist, you should do it before it becomes a crisis and, if possible, without giving the impression that you’re simply rebelling to undermine religious unity. Remember that, for many people, religion isn’t simply about belief in gods – instead, it’s about social unity. Religion can form a social and psychological bond – thus you, by rejecting religion, may also seem to be rejecting that bond of unity. It doesn’t matter if that isn’t your intention, because that is what the effect will seem to be. People may not even be entirely conscious of this, but YOU should because you can help reduce such concerns by being ready to discuss them.
Holidays are really the last time you should want to get involved in squabbles over belief in gods. Thus, it would probably be better to start at least hinting at your atheism well before the holidays arrive. The less of a surprise it is, the less dramatic will be the reactions.
You’ll have to ask yourself whether this holiday revelation is because you’re simply trying to prove something, or if you really are doing this to explain to people who you are. The former isn’t a very good motive and will likely cause you to experience more problems than are necessary.
You’ll have to pick the right time (preferably when people are already calm and relaxed) to let people know that while their religion no longer holds any meaning for you, the principle of family traditions certainly do. If you show respect for others, you’ll be in a better place to expect respect back from them.
It is probably wisest to be as calm and nonchalant about the matter as you possibly can. Your calmness will hopefully have a calming effect on the others, and if you don’t make a big deal out of it, hopefully the others will be less likely to do so as well.