Is it appropriate for an atheist to celebrate Christmas?

Ayn Rand answers:

    “Yes, of course. A national holiday, in this country, cannot have an exclusively religious meaning. The secular meaning of the Christmas holiday is wider than the tenets of any particular religion: it is good will toward men—a frame of mind which is not the exclusive property (though it is supposed to be part, but is a largely unobserved part) of the Christian religion.

    “The charming aspect of Christmas is the fact that it expresses good will in a cheerful, happy, benevolent, non-sacrificial way. One says: ‘Merry Christmas’—not ‘Weep and Repent.’ And the good will is expressed in a material, earthly form—by giving presents to one’s friends, or by sending them cards in token of remembrance….

    “The best aspect of Christmas is the aspect usually decried by the mystics: the fact that Christmas has been commercialized. The gift-buying is good for business and good for the country’s economy; but, more importantly in this context, it stimulates an enormous outpouring of ingenuity in the creation of products devoted to a single purpose: to give men pleasure. And the street decoration put up by department stores and other institutions—the Christmas trees, the winking lights, the glittering colors—provide the city with a spectacular display, which only ‘commercial greed’ could afford to give us. One would have to be terribly depressed to resist the wonderful gaiety of that spectacle.

    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all of you.”
    —Ayn Rand, “The Objectivist Calendar”, Number 5, December 1976.

Borrowed from Bob at Illustrated Blog because it was too good not to.

11 thoughts on “Is it appropriate for an atheist to celebrate Christmas?

  1. I never thought I would now find myself agreeing with Ayn Rand about anything (yes, I was blown away by “Atlas Shrugged”, but then again I was eighteen when I read it), but she is right: it is appropriate for an atheist to celebrate Christmas.  After all, the Christians “appropriated” Christmas themselves from older traditions, so we can carry on the tradition and reappropriate it for our purposes.  We might as well spread a little joy on Earth before we depart for the lake of fire awaiting us…
    Merry Christmas, all!

  2. actually the real question should be “Is it appropriate for Christians to celebrate Christmas”?

    Technically Christmas is completely secular, was created as more of a marketing tool than anything else, has positively ZERO to do with what Christians claim as their particular Sun God.

    No part of Christmas is actually “Christian” its purely Pagan, the Tree, yulelog, Mistletoe, Eggnog, presents, Santa Clause, Holly, Wreaths, you name it, Nil Nada Zip to do with any Jesus, Iesous, Yashuah, etc.
    The only reason they adopted this particular date is because ALL the other 20 some odd SUN GODS were also born on Dec 25th, just like they ALL were reborn or rose from the dead on March 25th.

    As a matter of fact in America Christians were by far the last to celebrate Christmas especially the Protestants, it was considered just as heathen as Halloween.

  3. I like this very much, Les.  I think it addresses well the conflict between the “I hate Christmas because Christians are mean, nasty, oppressive idjits” and “I hate Christmas because it’s been stripped of all it’s religious meaning and is now a mean, nasty, atheistic/secular celebration.”

    Even if Christmas did lose all its religious trappings (which, of course, I would consider a real shame), this secular “peace on earth, good will toward men” aspect of it would remain a valuable and pleasant time of year.  Like any other human enterprise, it can be converted into something harried and commercial—but only if one lets it be.  There’s a lot to bitch about modern Christmas in the US, but there’s also a lot to enjoy about it, and whether you have a good time or bad time depends, as with most things, on which of those aspects you choose to focus on.

    Nunyabiz, you’re correct that the timing for Christmas as adopted by the Church to parallel other winter/solstice/sun god celebrations.  Lacking any more definitive date (aside from “probably some time in the spring”), I don’t (as a Christian) have any problem with joining into those festivities (I neither consider it theft nor blasphemy).  In a sense, it’s as arbitrary a date to choose as the end of November for Thanksgiving, and none the less valuable, holy, or enjoyable for all that.

  4. Tell you what if you insist on going to work or sitting at home ‘not celebrating’ based on moral grounds have at it idiot boy. Personally, I think I’ll fire up a doob, unlimber my Johnson, and tip my hat to baby Jesus and enjoy the extra time off.

  5. you’re correct that the timing for Christmas as adopted by the Church to parallel other winter/solstice/sun god celebrations.  Lacking any more definitive date (aside from “probably some time in the spring”), I don’t (as a Christian) have any problem with joining into those festivities (I neither consider it theft nor blasphemy).  In a sense, it’s as arbitrary a date to choose as the end of November for Thanksgiving, and none the less valuable, holy, or enjoyable for all that.

    Nothing “arbitrary” about it.
    The date of Dec25th was used by the Church simply because it is the Winter Solstice and the Bible is an Astrological Drama written in old Pagan passion play style.
    The character “Jesus” is a fictional character that is an allegory for the SUN.
    While there “may” possibly have been a real life person from which the character of Jesus was loosely based on, there was quite obviously no such “godman” here on Earth.
    It is absolutely impossible for this alleged person to have been called “Jesus of Nazareth” because the letter “J” did not even exist much more than 500 years ago, and the city of Nazareth did not exist in the 1st century CE.
    There was never a single word written by or about this alleged Jesus/Iesous/Yesuhah or whatever during his alleged lifetime.
    Thanksgiving isn’t exactly arbitrary either, it is merely another name for “Harvest Festival” which obviously can only happen just after harvest time and just before winter sets in.

    Then when you take into account that you can literally positively prove beyond any reasonable doubt that 90% of the Bible is pure Bullshit, you can positively place most of the stories & characters as originating from much older “Pagan” religions, what exactly is it that you think you have left?
    What is there to have “faith” in?

    There is more proof of the toothfairy existing, far more proof of UFO’s existing.

    Christians are the result of a cruel hoax played on the human race, as a Christian you are brainwashed into believing that you have some supernatural father figure in the sky that will punish his children if they misbehave, which to this invisible bogeyman “misbehaving” is basically everything you do & say or even think your entire life, hell just being born you are already damned at your first breath.
    This is nothing short of INSANE.
    There is not a single shred of verifiable evidence that any such bogeyman exist, there are mountains of verifiable evidence that it/he/she in fact does NOT exist, yet approx. 2 Billion humans on this planet are still infected with this horribly debilitating Meme?
    While I find this fascinating that so many humans can be so easily bamboozled into believing such utter absurdities, there comes a time when logic and reasoning needs to start taking over before we destroy ourselves as a species.
    Such insanity spread to so many affects the entire human race on this planet in very profound ways that if left unchecked can cause the extinction of the whole human species.

    IF human beings do not snap out of this religious insanity based solely on the active imaginations of ancient cultures of which “The Dark Ages” was actually an improvement then as a species we are doomed.
    We currently have a part of the human race whom have moved on, evolved, “grown up” if you will, past that infancy of our species, this percentage of the population have for years broken out of that primitive ignorance that society in general tries to impose upon them, this is why we have the technological advances we do today most are harmless, many very helpful such as medications etc. but there are also the areas of science that have brought into light very destructive forces such as all the various WMD be they Chemical, Biological, Nuclear created by those on a higher level of Consciousness , which is handed to what amounts to humans with no more base intelligence (George Dubya Christ) than that poor deluded human several thousand years ago whom perceived that thunder storm that just rumbled though his campsite as a sign of some supernatural Godman that’s pissed & hurling thunderbolts at him for reasons he can only imagine.

    Christians have that same mind set of savages, they even view the ecological problems, most if not all man made or at least can possibly be partially controlled by man as a “good thing” they view the total destruction of this planet as self fulfilling their ignorant ass Biblical prophecy, they want so badly their insanity to be real that they will do anything to bring it on, they want total self destruction of this planet and everyone on it, to these lunatics this is a good thing, to them it will signify the 2nd coming of their fictitious Sun God.
    Religion, especially the 2 main ones Christianity/Islam are by far the most destructive force on this planet, they both have for 2000+ years now done irreversible damage to the evolution of man, just imagine all the books & text lost forever, imagine if the mind of man remained focused on Factual reality, all the time, effort, resources/money that has been completely wasted on sheer insanity, imagine if all that was spent on factual reality just how much further ahead we would be as a species, how much less hatred there would be, less racism, sexism, human beings hating one another for so many silly ignorant reasons that are virtually ALL religious in origin.

    As John Lennon wrote:

    Imagine there’s no heaven,
    It’s easy if you try,
    No hell below us,
    Above us only sky,
    Imagine all the people
    living for today…

    Imagine there’s no countries,
    It isnt hard to do,
    Nothing to kill or die for,
    No religion too,
    Imagine all the people
    living life in peace…

    Imagine no possesions,
    I wonder if you can,
    No need for greed or hunger,
    A brotherhood of man,
    Imagine all the people
    Sharing all the world…

    You may say Im a dreamer,
    but Im not the only one,
    I hope some day you’ll join us,
    And the world will live as one.

    This would ONLY be possible WITHOUT religion.

  6. I believe that the reason December 25th was celebrated as the solstice was because it was the first day where you could perceptibly see the day growing longer, not because that’s when the solstice actually took place.

  7. I think it’s more a case that it took a while to work out the astronomy, especially with the church burning the astronomers.  To be fair two days out isn’t bad with what they had to work with at the time.

    They discuss this in a round about way in the last 10 minutes of BBC Radio 4’s “Heresey” comedy program. Heresey (will only be availible for a short while)

    The opinions from the token christian in the audience brought a chuckle or two and I think you guys may appreciate it.  “The people who really profit from Christmas are the jews…”  We don’t have anything like the number of crazy people you have that side of the pond and this sort of thing is thankfully quite rare in the UK. 

    It’s well worth checking out the rest of the comedy on the listen again page too.

    -Ed

  8. I think it’s more a case that it took a while to work out the astronomy, especially with the church burning the astronomers.  To be fair two days out isn’t bad with what they had to work with at the time.

    Actually calculating the date of the Summer and Winter Solstice is quite easy to do if you have an unobscured horizon.  Ancient people on your side of the pond had it figured out over 5000 years ago.  The sun rises directly above the “Heel Stone” at Stonehenge during the Summer Solstice (  link).

    Today we think of measuring the Solstices using the length of the day.  This is easy for us to do since we have clocks capable of keeping very accurate time.  Obviously ancient peoples didn’t have watches, so they came up with a clever way of measuring the Solstices.  As Summer turns into Winter, the Sun peaks above the horizon further to the south each day.  At the Winter Solstice, the Sun is as far to the south as it gets, and the next day it will begin peaking over the horizon further to the north each day until the Summer Solstice.  Now if you plant a large stick (or place two massive stones together and let the sunlight stream between them) you can mark where the shadow (or the light beam) appears during the sunrise.  If you have a tall stick in a big field, it is easy to mark even the small change the sun makes on a day to day basis.  So the Solstices were known to the day in ancient times.

    With the inception of the Julian calendar, the Winter Solstice was on December 25.  Since the Julian calendar didn’t accurately account for the fact the Earth doesn’t orbit the Sun an even integer number of days, after a while the calendar day celebrating the Solstice (Dec 25) and the actual Solstice started to drift apart.  When this was finally addressed, the Solstice has slipped to around Dec 21-22, so the new version of the calendar was set up so the Spring Equinox was defined to be March 21, which made the Winter Solstice fall on December 21. 

    In short, the Solstices are easy to measure, even for ancient peoples.  However, early attempts at calendars were poorly done, largely due to ancient peoples attempts to break time up into days (Earth’s rotation), months (approximate Lunar cycle) and years (Earth’s revolution around the Sun). These three things are independent of one another and do not mesh well together, so early calendars were inaccurate and this led to the drift between the early Julian date for the Winter Solstice (Dec 25) and today’s modern date (Dec 21-22).

  9. As far as I’m concerned, you can celebrate the message without believing that the messenger was a diety. So I eagerly embrace the celebration of peace, good will and hope for the new year . Merry Christmas!

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