To Angry Atheists, at Christmastime.

hvramsey

EDIT: The title and below greeting have been modified from the originals to better reflect the spirit of the original post.

To the angry atheists in the below article who complain about music and annoying family members,

I recently came across this article which discusses the hardships of being an atheist during the holiday season. I am sure there are some uncomfortable situations and conversations that you, as atheists, have during this season that the rest of us are saved from, but on the whole, I think my childhood experiences with Christmas were very similar those you are complaining about, and I never complained* when I was young.

You see, I grew up going to the Church of Christ. The Church of Christ (or at least parts of it) is similar to Jehovah’s Witnesses and atheists in that it doesn’t believe that Jesus was born on Christmas day, and as such we should not celebrate his birth that day. My parents, while both growing up in the Church of Christ as well, were not uptight about this facet of Christmas. We didn’t go to Christmas Eve services** or have a Christmas Day devotional (is that what other Protestants/Evangelicals do on Christmas to celebrate Jesus – I don’t even know), but we also didn’t call our Christmas tree the “Winter Solstice Tree.”

For a long time I didn’t know that we didn’t believe Jesus was born on that day, and was probably a tween (but we didn’t use that term back then) before I learned why our church didn’t do big Christmas programs. So yes, everyone else was running around putting on The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, and lighting candles at church, and going to midnight mass and then going home to eat the yule log (at least in France). And while we didn’t do those things, I never felt left out. And I never got mad when movies had these types of Christmas scenes in them, or when I went to a friend’s house and saw her mom had decorated with nativity scenes. I just thought “huh, that’s different” and moved on.

So I guess what I’m saying is, get over it. There’s a large part of the population that doesn’t celebrate Jesus’ birth on Christmas. In addition to the above-named Church of Christ, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and atheists, there are plan old heathens who don’t think about Jesus, either. To many, Christmas is just Santa Claus and fun movies and family and the yearly fight our parents have while putting the lights on the tree. However, unlike you atheists in the article (EDITED), we don’t get upset when we hear religious songs at TJ Maxx. We just hum along, because most of those songs are so, so, pretty, and then keep going about our lives. It’s much more fun this way, (EDITED) and I recommend you try it.

Sincerely,
Hayley

Addendum:
To help everyone (EDITED) learn to appreciate the secular aspects of Christmas, I recommend the following films which have no religious connotations whatsoever.

  1. Christmas Vacation (there’s even cussing!)
  2. A Christmas Story (there’s even cussing!)
  3. Scrooged (Todd is totally Twitter friends with “Dinner Guest” and, there’s even cussing!)
  4. A Muppet Christmas Carol
  5. Nightmare Before Christmas
  6. Elf.

You’re welcome.

* I did complain when I was young. A lot. But never about this Christmas stuff that makes the people in the article (EDITED) so mad.
**Okay, we did go to a Christmas Eve service once. It was at the big Community Church and it was loud. As in, the audience was really loud and we could barely hear what was happening with the program. For some reason, I do remember something flying across the ceiling (angel? star?) but I can’t confirm that actually happened. Regardless, that’s the only Christmas Eve service I remember from my youth.

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6 Comments

  1. Josh Cheek
    December 11, 2009 at 10:05 pm — Reply

    I don’t think the situation is quite the same. The one atheist cannot use his name without fear of losing his job. Another’s lack of belief was used against him in a hearing that cost him the custody of his children.

    I think most Christians realize that Jesus did not happen to be born on the winter solstice, I’ve never heard of any experiencing stigmatization as a result of this.

    In other words, Christians conspicuously celebrating Christmas may seem slightly naive to you, but to the Atheists in the article, they are propagating destructive beliefs. This is where phrases like “shoving it down our throats” come from.

    I think a better comparison would be Christians who become upset when they are asked to consider that other people have different beliefs than them. Saying “Happy Holidays” is touted as persecution http://tinyurl.com/y9tr4k8 , the conservative Christians at Fox News have coined the phrase “War on Christmas”. To these people, it is a big deal that they are being asked to be less invasive in their methods of celebration. Their obstinance itself seems to illustrate the very perspective some of the atheists in the article took issue with.

    However, since the opposite of “Christian” isn’t “atheist”, but rather “non-Christian”, a term which encompasses a majority of the world, I think we should try to be prudent this holiday season. For Christians, displaying mangers on Main St. seems to fly in the face of the actual event, and is likely to be taken as combatant. For non-Christians, “Merry Christmas” isn’t a big deal, focus on the semantic not the syntactic. For you, Hayley, using phrases like “you atheists” is a little off-putting as it paints with a very broad brush (for example, you are incorrectly including me in the group you are criticizing), combine that with the somewhat sarcastic tone and flat dismissal of points-of-view completely foreign to you, and your post does little to put concerned atheists at ease. A positive, understanding attitude would have done much more to calm the people you are writing to, saying “get over it” only fans the flames of unease that you are telling them to get over.

    The earth is a very small corner of the universe, it is important that we consider the effects of our actions, and the perspectives of other people in our society.

    Here is a nice list of holidays celebrated around this time http://www.religioustolerance.org/winter_solstice.htm which illustrates why we should all realize that the season isn’t about just us, and try to all enjoy it with mutual respect.

  2. December 12, 2009 at 10:08 am — Reply

    Not being sure on the date of Jesus’ birth and not believing in Christ, God, the Holy Spirit or religion as a whole are two vastly different things.

    I don’t celebrate Jesus’ birth during Christmas, but I celebrate him nonetheless. I’m sure if you asked an atheist what annoys him or her about Christmas, it wouldn’t be “These Christian people are getting the dates ALL WRONG!”

    So on the flip-side, when we hear them complaining, perhaps we should just “get over it” and realize we can’t empathize with their position. At all.

  3. Hayley
    December 12, 2009 at 11:08 am — Reply

    So, when I asked Todd if the post was offensive and he said “No,” I guess maybe I should have asked for another opinion. It was tongue-in-cheek and wasn’t intended to calm the atheists quoted in the article.

    I did not intend to belittle the situations of those who risk getting fired for being atheist or the man who lost custody of his children. I think it was rather inappropriate, and belittling, to put those stories in the same article as one in which some complained of stores playing Christmas music. Getting fired or losing custody of your children are serious issues that have nothing to do with this particular season and shouldn’t be lumped in with those whose only complaints are musically or awkward-family related.

    I mainly wrote this post (in misguided jest, apparently) because after reading the article I found it funny how similar our Christmas experiences were, and thought it interesting that those quoted felt like they were the only ones being put in awkward situations. I apologize for trying to make light of a sub

    But this time of year, all of us believe differently from some of those we love, and everyone has family situations they have to tip-toe through to avoid conflict. That one man has problems with his mother this time of year? He should try sitting down to dinner with one of my uncles.

    So, to sum up:
    – I’m sorry. I originally intended to poke fun at the Church of Christ more than atheists with this post.
    – I didn’t think about atheists believing that those who celebrate Christmas are propagating destructive beliefs. I can see how that would change the way you look at the season.
    – Having said that, I think that the majority of people around the world do not celebrate Christmas for any religious reason. To most, it’s entirely secular, even though some may attach religious meaning to it.
    – I understand how “Merry Christmas” could offend atheists, Jews, Buddhists and Muslims, and think the people who insist on “Merry Christmas,” like Fox News, should get over it, too.
    – The post will be edited to be directed to “those angry atheists in the article who complain about music and annoying family members,” as should have been done originally, and not all atheists.

  4. December 12, 2009 at 11:24 am — Reply

    Having grown up in an EXTREMELY conservative CofC environment, I can honestly say that the Christian Christmas was pretty offensive to us as well. Maybe not to the extent as atheists experience, but it was a pretty big deal, and I made every effort to let my friends know I was in it for the presents, not the Advent.

    Knowing Hayley definitely helps one to read this post differently. But I’m glad she’s had this experience, as she now knows how a simple, innocently written jab can go so, so wrong.

    I think, in the end, the point of her post was that people need to chill out – we all think we’re the persecuted ones regardless of where that persecution comes from and what time of year we face it.

    We screwed up by using a generic term (atheists) to represent a small minority. So we sincerely apologize for that gaff.

  5. Andy the Atheist
    December 12, 2009 at 3:54 pm — Reply

    I don’t know Hayley. I’m an atheist (my name is a dead giveaway). But I chuckled when I ran across this post.

    Both Christians and atheists take this issue far too seriously. Both sides feel like the other is encroaching on their freedom and happiness. Both need to shut up and celebrate. Or not. Whatever makes them happy. As long as they both shut up.

    And for the guy mentioned in the article who could get fired for being an atheist, he should do it, and then sue his employer. Hayley’s right – that has absolutely nothing to do with this time of year.

  6. Josh Cheek
    December 12, 2009 at 5:18 pm — Reply

    Thank you for clarifying, sorry I missed the humour 🙂

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To Angry Atheists, at Christmastime.