Every year about this time when I start getting all geeked about Christmas several people will take it upon themselves to point out that I am an atheist.
“Atheists don’t celebrate Christmas!” I am told. They go on to insist that, “You must be the only atheist ever that celebrates a holiday dedicated to the birth of a figure you don’t believe in.” Actually, I’m not the only one. In an article titled Don’t believe in God? Have some eggnog anyway the folks at the Scripps Howard News Service reveal the results of a recent poll on that very topic:
Nearly half of adult Americans report they personally know someone who doesn’t believe in God but still will celebrate the yuletide this year, according to a survey of 1,001 people conducted by Scripps Howard News Service and Ohio University.
Significantly more people will set up a Christmas tree than will attend a worship service on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. And Americans overwhelmingly believe the holiday has become less focused on the birth of Jesus than it used to be.
“Historically, it has been a struggle for America to find meaningful holidays that include a sufficiently broad number of people. But Christmas seems to have many modes of interpretation upon which we can set our own personal needs,” said University of Texas historian Penne Restad, author of the scholarly book “Christmas in America: A History.”
“Christmas has become as much a celebration of community as it has a celebration of religion,” she said.
The survey asked if “you, personally, know anyone who does not believe in God but still celebrates Christmas?” Forty-five percent answered yes, 51 percent said no and 4 percent were undecided.
“Sure I know people like that. I’m one of them,” said New Yorker Ron Barrier, a leader of American Atheists, a 2,500-member national organization defending the rights and interests of atheists. “As a free thinker, I believe the holidays are a great tradition regardless of the underlying basis for them. It a wonderful time of celebration and a gathering of friends and family.”
Barrier said he and many other atheists enjoy celebrating the slew of early winter holidays: Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and even the winter solstice.
“There is that old tradition that if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. I certainly don’t want to be an isolationist,” Barrier said. “Christmas is seductive. I love this time of year. And it does seem that people behave a little better around the holidays, and that’s always a good thing.”
The rest of the article goes into a few more results from the survey and reflects a lot of what I’ve been saying all along: Christmas is more than the celebration of a mythical birth. The Christians stole the holiday from the Pagans anyway and moved Jesus’ supposed birth to the other end of the year to do it. Jesus ain’t the reason for the season, he’s a Johnny-come-lately trying to steal the spotlight and hog all the attention. Fortunately, like most bores who show up at a good party, more and more people are starting to ignore his antics and enjoy the party in spite of him. So, all you folks who write me every year to tell me how odd of an atheist I am please take note of this poll’s results. Thank you and Merry Christmas.