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Silent Night, Godless Night: Surviving Christmas Eve, Day as a Godless Atheist

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Christmas as a Cultural Juggernaut:

The term "juggernaut" is thought to come from a Jagannath, an idol of Krishna pulled along on a cart under whose wheels devotees would throw themselves. Christmas in contemporary America is a juggernaut in that respect: people willingly throw themselves under its wheels and it crushes everything it comes into contact with. You can't escape it and it dominates everything in culture, politics, and media for upwards of two months. What's an irreligious atheist to do?

 

Pressure to Attend Religious Christmas Services:

It is standard during most religious holidays for churches or temples to hold special services in commemoration of that holiday. Often, people attend services as a family as part of a long-running tradition, and even those who rarely or never attend religious services are moved to attend now. More than a few atheists might feel pressure from family to keep up this tradition, especially if they haven't revealed their atheism to people yet. What can you do? Read More...

 

Pressure to Sing Religious Christmas Carols:

Religious carols remain one of the primary religious aspects of Christmas today. There is secular Christmas music, but carols are generally pretty religious. Naturally, many families have traditions of singing Christmas carols, whether out in public or just in the home. If you like the music, there's nothing wrong with participating — many atheists play religious music because they like it despite its connotations. If you can't bring yourself to do so, though, you need to speak up.

 

Pressure to Contribute to Religious Charities:

A big part of the Christmas season is the appearance of so many charities soliciting donations. Many of these are worthy causes that deserve support, but you may not feel comfortable with helping a religious organization regardless of the cause. If you are feeling pressured by people at work to contribute to charities they are shilling for, you need to speak up to your manager or the human resources person. Read More...

 

Refusing to Put Up Christmas Decorations:

Do you object to putting up all the Christmas decorations that come with this holiday season: trees and garlands and lights and colored balls? There are plenty of secular options, but even many people who celebrate Christmas get tired of it all and it certainly seems to be a colossal waste of money and electricity. You may get some negative comments or strange remarks, but there is nothing wrong with rejecting Christmas decorations, whether because they are too religious or too kitschy.

 

Going to Work on Christmas Day:

If you really want to show people that you don't celebrate Christmas and want nothing to do with it, there are few options as effective as going to work on Christmas day. Not only aren't you participating in any Christians activities, but you aren't even taking the day off to rest — for you, it's just another work day. This may not be possible if you don't have access to your office. Telecommute if you can, and if that's not possible then find work around the house to do.

 

Refusing to Participate in Gift Exchanges:

Many aspects of Christmas can be avoided without notice, but because gift exchanges occupy such a central position in the Christmas holidays, the only way to not be noticed is if you're a hermit in a cave. Since you have internet access, that's not you, so if you refuse to give or receive gifts, you're certain to raise eyebrows and get questions. You can explain it by saying that you find the holiday too religious, by saying that you object to the commercial pressure to spend, or both.

 

Rehabilitating the Grinch, Responding to Bigotry:

Anyone not interested in participating in Christmas holiday festivities may quickly be labeled a "grinch." This isn't a term of affection; instead it's an emotionally laden label that connotes all sorts of nasty things about a person. Grinches aren't fun, aren't lovable, aren't generous, and are all-around mean people. None of this follows from disinterest in Christmas, though, and if you want to separate yourself from Christmas holidays you'll need to be prepared to respond to such bigotry.

 

No Holidays vs. New Holidays:

Some atheists who would like to abandon Christmas feel that it would be easier if they had some holiday to replace it with. The most popular choice for this is Solstice, marking a transition in nature rather than something supernatural. I don't personally see the point in this because there's not really anything to celebrate. Moreover, there is as much religious baggage to go along with solstice as there is with Christmas. Read More...

 

Christmas Isn't Just for Christians, but Christmas Isn't for Everybody:

For godless, irreligious atheists there are a lot of conflicting emotions, motives, and issues to deal with during the Christmas holiday season. Many people would like to hold to on childhood traditions and memories or just be able to participate in the same sorts of fun that everyone else is doing. Not wanting to be left out is natural for most people and quite understandable.

At the same time, though, many atheists don't want to simply roll over and submit to Christian practices and thereby give credence to the idea that America is so overwhelmingly Christian that everyone takes part in this religion — even those who don't technically belong to it. That, too, is quite understandable, and thus we have the source of tension: do you stay true to your philosophical principles or do you just "go along to get along" and have some fun on the way?

There is no easy answer to this, except perhaps for fact that there are ways to take part in Christmas celebrations without also accepting the dominance of Christianity. This is because of the increasingly secularized and commercialized nature of Christmas in America. Atheists would never have been able to cause this to happen themselves, but fortunately they don't have to — all they have to do is take advantage of social and religious trends that have been developing for decades.

Despite that, many will continue to feel uncomfortable with taking part in Christmas festivities. If that's the case, then they shouldn't be forced to take part anyway — they should work on ways to explain their position to others and find other things to do at Christmas. It's likely that the numbers of such people, whether atheists or adherents of non-Christian religions, will continue to grow over time and thereby make it easier for everyone.

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