Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas Atheists

Atheist ChristmasFirst of all, I’d like to say Merry Christmas to all. Atheists can’t enjoy Christmas? Is this an oxymoron? This is not at all the case. Atheists can fully savour the holiday without appealing to alternate identity-phrases, political correctness, or altogether avoidance. Although It is often thought that atheists are opposed to saying “Merry Christmas”, this could not be further from reality for the vast majority of atheists. The problem of saying “Christmas” vs. saying “holiday” is not an atheist battle, but rather, an inter-faith battle. It is one that media discourse has moulded into a problem concerning the every-increasing public ‘threat’ of atheism –  most viciously seen every year by Fox’s ‘Culture Warriors’.  Atheists have become the scapegoat; they have become the ‘outsiders’ whom which it is politically correct to blame for the ‘demise of Christmas’. These inter-faith disputes over political correctness do not concern the atheist – aside from being sucked into an insecure and anxious national dialogue as the scapegoat. The reasonable atheist is too busy living the day to its fullest – since, of course, our days are finite – it is a waste of valuable time to be bothered by such holiday identity politics. Of course there will be the odd asshole-atheists who are too busy building ego identities to get past the awkward avoidances, futile debates, and creative alternate constructions of the phrase ‘Merry Christmas’.

Getting past the Grinch mentality is not easy and inner-battles are plenty. Although the concern of religious harm is the main priority of the atheists, identity politics often creep in and complicate this simple concern. Saying ‘Merry Christmas’ may be taken as an expression of ones personal faith affiliation. This can be an embarrassing affiliation since atheists do not want to appear as part of the religious ‘herd mentality’ that is often associated with docility of the mind. Freethinking, in this sense, not only acts as a personal liberation, but pulls social identification toward a category of negative identity. This is an identity characterized by a sort of liberation mentality directly juxtaposed to the resented mentality of another group. For atheists, using Christian terms and traditions may act as an embarrassment since it goes directly against what they stand for. The issue here is that what an atheist may ‘stand for’ creates an identity in itself; therefore, when confronted by threatening identities the atheist may build walls, stock-pile extra ammunition, and map out the target into narrow categorical boxes. This is what leads to the Bah-Humbug-mentality of the outsider, the rational truth-holder, and ultimate alienation from the spirit of Christmas.

What do I mean by ‘Christmas spirit’? By this I do not mean a religious affiliation. Although there are some people may go overboard with the dogma aspect, most people practicing the tradition of Christmas carry loose religious affiliation or no religious affiliation at all. The holiday is about much more than the fundamental dogmas; the holiday is about a certain collective experience. This collective experience that is central to many religions’ does not need to be bound up with harmful mentalities. Being a freethinker does not mean trading in all emotional potential for a cold slab of rationality. The best dinners are those with a variety of flavours; therefore, the atheist must not only chop ham carefully, but be able to season it with a variety of spices. The sensual experience of seasoned flavour is not a rational engagement. Although it is functionally useful to cut the food properly, atheists must rise above the Fox news constructions of straw-man identities and find the spice that makes tradition worth while. Nobody wants a cold slab of bah-humbug-ham when they can have the full feast. Enjoy the food, the drinks, and the family… and again, Merry Christmas.


  1. As a non-religious, former atheist, I love this post. Merry Christmas!

  2. Merry Christmas. I am also an atheist who enjoy the Christmas holiday, a lot.

  3. Indeed! This clarified a lot and gave permission to get in "the Christmas spirit." (and not just Tullamore Dew)