I’m an atheist (I think my handle hints at that)… strong and occasionally militant, even having my own site dedicated to atheism, but I still celebrate Christmas. My reasons are, it seems to me, fairly straightforward and boil down liking both the season and the event; no mumbo jumbo, no imaginary gods, I just want to.
I was brought up Catholic and it wasn’t until my thirties (more than thirty years ago) that I realised I had utterly rejected the essential tenets of Christianity. But why do I continue to celebrate the birth of the Christian messiah.
Well that, I don’t do; the reasons I continue to celebrate Christmas (and maybe “celebrate” is the wrong word) is that I consider it fun, a time when my friends and family are enjoying it as there is good company, good cheer, food & drink and, quite simply, a good time to be had by all. I am sure there must be many Jewish people who celebrate Hanukah, and Muslims who celebrate Ramadan in much the same way. You could argue that despite my lack of religiosity, I remain culturally Christian/Catholic.
Margo McKenna, an Intern Minister at the First Unitarian Universalist Church of San Diego, on December 17th 2000, gave an address that included the following as a possible view of the “miraculous” (although the word itself is somewhat irrelevant to me):
“The miraculous may be the acknowledgement that there is awe in the simple events of everyday life. I find the miraculous in the smell of pine needles and cookies baking, the feeling of a warm bed on a cold night, the joy of having friends who may have become like family, a full moon on a clear night, our pets who love us unconditionally, a wheelchair in which to be mobile, a hug or a smile, the opportunity to eat or share from our bounty with someone who has nothing to eat, the wonder of waking up in the morning.”
At Christmas, as I do at most other times of the year, I remain in awe of the magnificent natural splendour, rolling hills spread out before my eyes, of science and of my children and those of others. At Christmas, I am grateful to be alive, grateful to the blind, pitiless & indifferent forces that shaped this universe; grateful to those that went before without whose efforts I would probably have been born into poverty or slavery. I am grateful to those who remain (for whatever distorted reasons) my friends, I am grateful (if only for the intellectual challenge they offer) to those who I “hang with” on the Internet. But most of all I am grateful for the love and support of my family, my beautiful wife & my two wonderful children and I, as an atheist, look forward to spending my Christmas free of religion and with them. In short, I am grateful to those that I love & those that love me and, even though that gratitude can never be returned, I remain grateful to a universe that without reason or purpose brought me into existence.
Of course I could argue that Christmas is actually the pagan festival of Saturnalia (a celebration of the winter solstice) before it was stolen by Christians and now it seems everyone else has “stolen” Christmas from the Christians; big whoop! Or I could argue that I’m doing it because I’m celebrating the fact that reindeer can fly; and I know that’s true because NASA provides the proof each and every Christmas Eve night, haha!
Of course, I rail against the emphasis on both religion and commercialism but I’d rail against them any other time of the year. To me, and I suspect most others, Christmas is just a good time when people get together to have a good time and religion, quite frankly, just gets in the way! Unlike some atheists (and I do know some), I’m not all “Bah Humbug” about it; I love to give gifts to others (and at my age it really is about giving), I love to eat, I love to talk & drink with friends, I love the new films on TV, DVD & Blu-ray (even the Christmas classics) … all in all it is a nice time!
So, whether you are atheist or theist; whether you believe in the existence of Christ or Buddha or Mohammed; whether you look for salvation to Yahweh, Elohim, Allah or the simple rest from a life of which you have grown weary; whether you believe in god, gods or UFO’s I wish you all a happy Christmas and hope that the next year will bring you peace & happiness.