Monday, December 12, 2011

How do atheists celebrate the holidays?

CNN is asking atheists how we celebrate the holidays. They're asking for "photos, videos, and stories." OK, on the one hand, it's good whenever the media notice that we actually exist. (Usually, they don't.)

But on the other hand, it's a rather strange question, don't you think? Why wouldn't we celebrate the holidays - Christmas, for most of us - pretty much like everyone else?

Santa Claus, Christmas trees, eggnog, snowmen, mistletoe, gifts, friends and family, holiday lights, candy canes, greeting cards, evergreen wreathes, carols and other Christmas music, bright lights and cheer and goodwill to men (and women) in this darkest time of the year,... what does being an atheist have to do with any of that, one way or another?

(photo of Richard Dawkins, via Neuroanthropology)

Even Richard Dawkins celebrates Christmas. And why wouldn't he? Of course, some atheists might celebrate Hanukkah, instead. Or Kwanza. Or just the winter solstice. Or perhaps some combination of these. But why would we treat the holidays any differently than most people?

After all, in America, at least, Christmas is a federal holiday. That makes it secular pretty much by definition.

And, of course, Christmas predates Christianity. Northern cultures have probably always had a holiday about this time of year, when the days reach their shortest length. Here in Nebraska, the hardest part of winter is still ahead. But we know, after Christmas, that the days will start getting longer. Spring will come. That's a good excuse to party.

As I say, all of this predates Christianity. Christians just adopted the holiday, knowing that people would more readily give up their gods than give up a celebration. And no one actually knows when Jesus was born, if Jesus even existed at all.

Since Christians basically stole the holiday, I've heard people say that we should steal it back. But is that really necessary? We've already got Christmas. As I say, it's a federal holiday, which means that it belongs to everyone.

And look how we celebrate it. Did I miss something, or does Mariah Carey in a sexy Santa suit really have something to do with baby Jesus?

(image via The Jasmine Brand)

This is why that "war on Christmas" garbage pushed by Fox News is so dumb. Why would we wage war on Christmas? Most of us love Christmas!

Of course, not everyone actually celebrates Christmas. Depending on your ethnic heritage, you might celebrate Hanukkah instead. Or Kwanza. Or some other holiday tradition this time of year. So what? Who cares? Best wishes to you, however you celebrate the holidays.

And that's the whole point behind "Happy Holidays." It's inclusive. It means that we wish you well, whatever your holiday tradition. Businesses use that greeting so they don't leave anyone out. With "Happy Holidays," Jews - among others - are made welcome, too. So how is that a "war on Christmas"?

But the right-wing can't stand being inclusive. They can't stand sharing. If you welcome Jews and Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists, atheists and agnostics, well, that's a slur on Christians, see. It implies that you think those people are worth just as much as Christians. It doesn't matter that Christians are welcomed, too. They have to be exalted above the rest. In fact, they demand not just primacy, but exclusivity.

This isn't the Christmas of baby Jesus, but of bully Jesus. Christians are the 800-lb. gorilla who whines about being victimized and proposes to beat the crap out of the little guy responsible. That'll show him, huh?

Of course, the slights are all in their own imagination. 80% of the population, Christians are always looking to portray themselves as victims. They're always looking for slights, so they can flex their muscles. They're always looking for an excuse to show other religious beliefs who's boss.

Well, not all Christians, of course. But the right-wing Christians, the Fox News Christians, the Republican Christians, yes. They're going to wage war over Christmas, no matter what. But like many bullies, they like to pretend that they were attacked first.

Well, at any rate, I don't know where CNN is going with this assignment about how atheists celebrate the holidays. It seems like kind of a foolish question to me, but at least it's not Fox News.

Basically, we celebrate the holidays just like everyone else, for the most part. We get together with family, according to our family traditions.

Maybe we just think about the holidays a little more than most...

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