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Christmas for atheists? Options
Babezy
Posted: Tuesday, September 28, 2010 9:58:17 PM
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Do any atheists celebrate Christmas and Easter? I was thinking you could separate each from its religious significance--Christmas could be a time for exchanging gifts and singing songs about snowmen; Easter could be a spring celebration. But would an atheist consider that some kind of cheating on the no-God system? For Christians Halloween started out religious, but now it's not, or at least it's not in this area.
HWNN1961
Posted: Tuesday, September 28, 2010 10:02:37 PM
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There is definately the secular aspects of Christmas (gift-giving, decorations, parties,etc) that atheists often participate in.

Why not institute the celebration of Festivus, the idea from the old Seinfeld sitcom?

Festivus,

For the rest of us!
AnthA1G
Posted: Tuesday, September 28, 2010 10:44:27 PM

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I celebrate Christmas. It's the only time of the year, apart from my birthday, when I get a lot of gifts (although I have to give gifts back). For me, it's not a time to remember Jesus' birth or whatever, it's a time to be with family and friends. The only problem I have with Christmas is that it's becoming a too "materialistic day". Just like St. Valentines day.

What about you, Babezy, do you celebrate Christmas? Last time I checked it was a pagan holiday and Jesus wasn't even born in December. LOL
Babezy
Posted: Tuesday, September 28, 2010 10:48:51 PM
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Yeah, I celebrate Christmas, but I'm down with the whole cast of imaginary friends, plus I respect paganism and atheism. I'm too free-love to get a controversy going. Dancing
worldsclyde
Posted: Tuesday, September 28, 2010 11:28:54 PM
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Have you seen the signs reading "Put the Christ back in Christmas"? I have considered one reading, "Get your Jesus out of my winter solstice fest". There was a celebration across Europe way before it was "Christianized". I'm not Pagan or anything, (devoutly agnostic), but a party is a party. I do think the christians took the fun out of it some and NOBODY knows when Jesus' birthday is anyway.
Also, Easter is suspiciously close to the equinox. Just sayin'. Easter bunnies and colored eggs were Pagan rituals also.
Epiphileon
Posted: Wednesday, September 29, 2010 5:16:35 AM

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worldsclyde wrote:
Have you seen the signs reading "Put the Christ back in Christmas"? I have considered one reading, "Get your Jesus out of my winter solstice fest". There was a celebration across Europe way before it was "Christianized". I'm not Pagan or anything, (devoutly agnostic), but a party is a party. I do think the christians took the fun out of it some and NOBODY knows when Jesus' birthday is anyway.
Also, Easter is suspiciously close to the equinox. Just sayin'. Easter bunnies and colored eggs were Pagan rituals also.

Applause Applause Applause Applause
So are Yule logs, and decorated trees.
And I send solstice and equinox cards, Ecards finally made that possible.
pedro
Posted: Wednesday, September 29, 2010 5:53:10 AM
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atheists can drop their guard for a while, using the uncertainty principle , to worship Dionysus and Bacchus when they fleetingly make a virtual appearance after a few stimulants
RuthP
Posted: Wednesday, September 29, 2010 1:40:11 PM

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Practically speaking, atheists celebrate Christmas and Easter, because that is when we are given time-off from work and school. (Well, not so much Easter any more, but it was true when I was young.)

Christmas is a time for family gatherings, good will, charity and gifts. Though not true of my family, many atheists have some family members who believe, so must these families celebrate separately? We all celebrate family and charity and peace on earth and good will to all: religion not required.

Easter is a spring celebration, with family and Easter bunnies, colored eggs and egg hunts, and a big dinner. It's good to see the sun, have a big meal and gather the family. Again: religion is not required for these things.

As far as symbology: I am as comfortable using Christian symbology as a part of my celebration as I am the Pagan yule log or fertility eggs, or the secular flying reindeer and Easter bunny. The religion-based symbols don't mean quite the same thing to me as to a believer (I assume; I am not inside your thoughts, so I cannot know for sure), but that does not stop them from being beautiful

It does not bother me or confuse that some have an added, religious dimension to such celebrations; I understand that you believe something different, even if I don't understand the belief itself. I guess I would ask that those who believe just try to see that while peace, love, and charity may be encompassed by religion, they also exist outside of religion and are cherished by people of all beliefs or lack thereof.

I believe the OP is trying to understand something which seems strange and foreign. I believe no insult was intended and have tried to explain my celebration (as the religious celebrations seem more commonly explained in society as a whole). I will take a moment to caution, however, that it does seem offensive when statements imply that we atheists are immoral, uncaring, unloving because we do not believe and, as with most, we may see slights where none were intended.
will
Posted: Wednesday, September 29, 2010 5:14:11 PM
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Babezy wrote:
Do any atheists celebrate Christmas and Easter? I was thinking you could separate each from its religious significance--Christmas could be a time for exchanging gifts and singing songs about snowmen; Easter could be a spring celebration. But would an atheist consider that some kind of cheating on the no-God system? For Christians Halloween started out religious, but now it's not, or at least it's not in this area.


Halloween also has its roots in pre Christian tradition. Just as Christmas was ‘attached’ to the winter solstice, and easter with pagan spring equinox celebrations, Halloween evolved from an earlier Celtic celebration called Samhain.

No-God system? Is that anything like a no-mermaid system? Think

I don’t know of any atheist who would be churlish enough to let a simple absence of belief in the supernatural get in the way of a good party.

Personally I love Christmas, you can’t beat it for tradition. There is nothing quite like a good carol service in a big old church. Just because I’m the type to rationalise doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate things for what they are.

Well said, RuthP. Applause

Babezy, by all means throw your own personal traditions and superstitions into the mix, but please don’t attempt to assert cultural hegemony over others.
excaelis
Posted: Wednesday, September 29, 2010 5:27:40 PM

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I wouldn't say I'm an atheist, nor am I a theist. I consider myself a virtuous pagan, while much of my family are christians. I just quietly celebrate Yule and Imbolc, Beltane and Samhein in my own little way, and then go eat turkey or lamb or whatever else those crazy red sea pedestrians care to feed me and all is sweetness and harmony. Angel
Jyrkkä Jätkä
Posted: Wednesday, September 29, 2010 6:32:35 PM

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I see no problem going to Christmas Eve or Good Friday Mass. Even an atheist can feel and sense the devout atmosphere in churches. No problem decorating Christmas tree or windows with angels as well as with Santa and winter stuff. I'll gladly empty my pockets from coins when I see Salvation Army's red kettle outside our groceries.
Babezy
Posted: Wednesday, September 29, 2010 7:32:18 PM
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I have to say I'm surprised at RuthP and Will. I said I respected atheism, and yet RuthP suggests I'm calling her immoral and all that. That wouldn't be too respectful, would it? And Will uses terms like "rationalise" and "supernatural," which sounds pretty mocking of belief, and then accuses me of the whole cultural hegemony thing. What's with you guys? As I've said in other threads, I think there are many paths to Wisdom/Truth, some of which involve a belief in God and some of which don't. I don't give a tinker's damn which way you swing, but when I say I respect your right to choose I don't expect you to call me a liar and then accuse me of persecuting you. God or no God, whatever. Seriously. Get over yourselves.
2thescream
Posted: Wednesday, September 29, 2010 7:45:28 PM
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Christmas was and still is about being with family, exchanging gifts and Santa Claus.
Likewise with Easter except that eggs are hidden and the jolly fellow is replaced with a chocolate bunny.
Oh yeah...and no religion too.
AnthA1G
Posted: Wednesday, September 29, 2010 9:27:36 PM

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Babezy, I don't think you said anything to offend atheists (although I'm not fond of the'no-god system' comment). The same with Ruth and Will's comment; I don't see why they offend you (although the 'rationalizer' comment was unfriendly) lol.

Look at the bright side, Babezy, you got your questions answered. Applause
Babezy
Posted: Wednesday, September 29, 2010 9:31:15 PM
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To everyone who answered my questions in good faith, I apologize. Instead of thanking you for sharing your views, I got tripped up by the weird antagonism games. I do appreciate your taking the time to enlighten me!
Babezy
Posted: Wednesday, September 29, 2010 9:34:15 PM
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Anth, thank you for your voice-of-reason commentary (missed it as I was posting the last thing). The "no-God system" wasn't intended as a slam--I was trying to avoid overusing the term "atheist" in one post. But at best it was darn awkward phrasing, and at worst it must have sounded flippant. I didn't mean offense, and I apologize for giving it.
lenam
Posted: Thursday, September 30, 2010 4:52:38 AM
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When I was a little child, one of my father's close friend was an atheist and he was the one who helped us each year during Christmas time to decorate our house, arrange the christmas tree, etc. He even accompanied us to the church for the midnight service. He saw this as celebration and sharing. I enjoyed his presence.
will
Posted: Thursday, September 30, 2010 4:46:44 PM
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Babeyz. There was no offence intended in my reply (if it ever comes to that, you’ll know for sure). Whistle

I simply stated I am able to happily sit in a church and enjoy a carol service without considering it ‘some kind of cheating’. I am the type to be rational about my actions and emotions.

My comment regarding absence of belief in the supernatural means just what it says. Magic bunnies, Santa, Mother Earth, Sol Invictus and other gods are all by definition supernatural, all play a part in the long history of winter solstice celebrations. Because I don’t worship the solstice as megalithic man did, or believe in Santa, does not mean I don’t celebrate Christmas (as it’s currently known).

Cultural hegemony does not imply ‘persecution by force’, rather the gradual and continual (and often unwitting) assertion of one ideology to the point of a presumed universal norm.

As you say, you didn’t phrase your question well. Ruth said she believed no insult was intended, that seemed clear to me too, but it is worth pointing these stereotypes out when they arise, lest they become the norm.

I don’t appreciate being defined by my mere lack of others faith (especially considering faith excuses a whole spectrum of prejudice). I consider it antagonistic, but also understand it may not be intentionally so.

No one called you a liar. Get over yourself. Shame on you Dancing

Jyrkkä Jätkä wrote:
Even an atheist can feel and sense the devout atmosphere in churches.

I carry a copy of Origin of the Species in my breast pocket and recite the mantra ‘it’s all reduced activity in the parietal lobe’, just in case.
excaelis
Posted: Thursday, September 30, 2010 6:00:36 PM

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Boy, are we all getting sensitive lately. Prickly. Frankly my dears, I don't give a damn what anyone thinks of my personal philosophies, nor what is said about them in the heat of debate.

It seems that in the wake of a few particularly combative threads and the departure of gg y'all are patrolling your perimeters with a rather hypervigilant pack of dogs.

What say we all take a deep breath, remember why we're here, go yell at some cab drivers ( from the safety of our vehicles of course ), and get back to the frank and open exchange of ideas for which this forum is designed. Peace, Salaam, Shalom, Chill People. ( I was going to put an angel smiley here, but I didn't want anyone to get all up in my grille, sAngel Whistle
excaelis
Posted: Thursday, September 30, 2010 6:04:11 PM

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Couldn't delete the angel. Sorry. ( Insert disclaimer here )
RuthP
Posted: Thursday, September 30, 2010 7:20:48 PM

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Babezy wrote:
I have to say I'm surprised at RuthP and Will. I said I respected atheism, and yet RuthP suggests I'm calling her immoral and all that. That wouldn't be too respectful, would it? And Will uses terms like "rationalise" and "supernatural," which sounds pretty mocking of belief, and then accuses me of the whole cultural hegemony thing. What's with you guys? As I've said in other threads, I think there are many paths to Wisdom/Truth, some of which involve a belief in God and some of which don't. I don't give a tinker's damn which way you swing, but when I say I respect your right to choose I don't expect you to call me a liar and then accuse me of persecuting you. God or no God, whatever. Seriously. Get over yourselves.


Hi Babezy,

I didn't think you were calling me immoral and I am sorry I made you believe I did (and thank you for your subsequent apology, but it was just a misunderstanding; no apology needed). I almost did not include that last paragraph, precisely because I was concerned about this potential for misinterpretation. To quote myself:
Quote:
I believe no insult was intended . . .

I did include it, because I suspected (but cannot know for sure, because I do not reside in anyone's head but my own) from some of the other responses that some folks felt that had been implied and I wished to remind the (potentially) offended that one must step back and consider what else the writer may have had in mind.

I also wished to remind all writers that when writing of views other than one's own, and especially of people who hold views other than one's own, it is incredibly easy to be misunderstood.

To say it another way: I always know for sure what I mean by what I write, but I can never know for sure what the reader will understand in what I write.

How does this relate to your original post? First let me restate what I quoted above: I do not believe you intended any insult. I would suggest reexamining this line:
Quote:
I was thinking you could separate each from its religious significance--Christmas could be a time for exchanging gifts and singing songs about snowmen; . . .

I (assume I) understand all you were trying to do here was remove religious elements and imagine a secular celebration, but there is a potential for misunderstanding.

What it may look like to an atheist expecting insults is a holiday with all the important parts stripped away, implying that the atheist would not care about: peace on earth, goodwill toward all, charity, love. Concomitantly: all the (greedy) atheists care about is presents; all they would sing about is winter weather (read: trivialities).

I don't believe, nor do I think Will believes, you intended any such thing. Nor do I think you were stripping all those important elements from a secular holiday; I think you just assumed they came along. Atheists, however, frequently hear we are immoral, uncharitable, uncaring. Therefore, absent specific inclusion of such concepts, there is a relatively profound risk of misunderstanding.

I found it unlikely you would have realized this, because you have never seemed to hold those beliefs about atheism. (Hence my original reply.) I am unsurprised that you expected what you wrote would be understood as what you knew you meant and were blind-sided by the possibility that some might see something else.

Oh, and I absolutely failed to answer
Quote:
But would an atheist consider that some kind of cheating on the no-God system?

I think "no-God system" is a very reasonable English translation of "atheism."

My answer would be "No."

I don't have a deity to betray, and (I am an atheist) I do not believe I am singing to a real being, whether I sing "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing" or "Hine Ma Tov".

Belief is not necessary to feel the emotions of the songs (I get to say that, because I feel the emotions, yet lack the belief). Many represent joy and hope, others strength and succor, and still others love and charity. These are feelings common to all, meaningful to all. Believers have an added dimension in worship. I don't experience that, but I do experience the joy of worshipers around me.

Connection, celebration and ritual are needs of all people. Festivals at three times of the year are common to all known cultures from temperate climates, probably predating said cultures.

The two equinoxes celebrated fertility / planting / re-birth of the living world and let's eat the first fresh food we have had since fall (spring equinox) and harvest / good fortune / plenty and let's eat-up this temporary overabundance (fall equinox).

Midwinter solstice celebrated the re-birth of the sun / we've survived so far / we've had time to make household and personal items we can give as gifts / I still love y'all despite the fact we're all crammed in close quarters and the weather's too bad to go out, and oh-by-the-way let's eat those stores that are about to go bad before we lose them.

Culturally, these celebrations belong to everyone and I view it as happy that we can all celebrate at the same (similar) times, share our sometimes separate, but sometimes the same joys and be a community.
Babezy
Posted: Friday, October 1, 2010 12:27:44 AM
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Sorry I took so long to read these last posts. Like Ex, I was tired of (in this case, my own) raised hackles and wanted to come back less touchy. Thanks to RuthP and Will for being so gracious, giving me the benefit of the doubt, and explaining further. Cup of tea, anyone?Anxious
26letters
Posted: Friday, October 1, 2010 1:11:47 AM
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Babezy: I love tea!

RuthP: I couldn't help but laugh every time you said, "Let's eat..." I remember discussing the subject of Santa Claus here

I had a funny experience once when I lived next door to some friends who were outspoken atheists:

They came to my place to invite us to their Christmas party. I explained that Christmas was not originally about Christ - it was a holiday celebrated (by a different name) by non-Christians; and as someone who tries to stay as close to Biblical Christianity as possible, I felt uncomfortable about engaging in the celebration. She looked at me funny and said, "Well, we know that! So just come to our party and celebrate it as it used to be."

I really appreciated that they thought so well of us, as to want us to be there; but I especially appreciated that they allowed us to be true to our beliefs, without causing a schism.

Through the years, I've come to the conclusion that Christmas is about bright lights, gifts, music, parties, family and friends. But I don't believe that it's really about Christ at all. Christ only makes it palatable for "Christians" to engage in the same revelry as non-Christians do.
Wanderer
Posted: Friday, October 1, 2010 5:45:45 AM

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I consider myself as being a Christian and I don't celebrate Christmas as a religious holiday.
RuthP
Posted: Friday, October 1, 2010 1:14:12 PM

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I'll take tea anytime.

I love talking about why people celebrate what they do celebrate. I am interested in what others think and believe, including those times when the thoughts and beliefs differ from mine.

26lettrs - I agree, it does sound funny. That's part of why I put it in. I also worked seriously in agriculture for about a decade and it gives you a much different picture of the world: You don't so much see the progression of years as the cycle of seasons. That, and in a society with iffy food supply and scant preservation means, food is a major focus.
excaelis
Posted: Friday, October 1, 2010 9:50:39 PM

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Humans are just party animals, let's face it. I'll happily celebrate anything with anybody as long as we're all singing !
wercozy
Posted: Friday, October 8, 2010 1:18:17 PM
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I do not worship male children, but I do like pretty lights, and drive miles to see them.
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