[This post was originally published on my old blog site, underworldgoddess.com. I hope you find it well here. The published date here reflects the original publication date].
I had hoped to get a few more posts under my belt before diving into this particular subject, but the calendar stops for no one, so I must forge ahead. I am an atheist. In some later post, maybe I’ll discuss the irony of this fact considering I have named myself after a Greek goddess. This blog is not meant to be entirely atheism focused, but it will likely be a significantly discussed topic because it is an important part of who I am. And in a later post still, I will probably go in depth into why I’m an atheist, and what atheism means to me. Most people reading this blog who know me personally with a handful of exceptions will likely find this to be shocking news. I am not widely known to be “out.” That is also a topic for another time, and the ramifications for announcing that news here will be dealt with later. Today, I want to focus on what Christmas means to me as an atheist. To do so I’ll have to touch a smidge on my back story.
I was raised a Protestant Christian, and for a time in my teens, I was deeply committed to pursuing an understanding of God’s truth and following my interpretation of his wishes for how I lived my life. I was not a fundamentalist. I didn’t believe in the inerrant Word of the Bible, but I did believe in its essential truth (and Truth), and I think it’s fair to say, I was one of the most religious kids in my class. And worse, I was a goodie-goodie. In other words, I was BORING, and way too serious.
In those years, as a Christian raised in Lutheran tradition, but one who hadn’t pledged allegiance to any specific denomination’s dogma, for me Christmas was all about honoring the birth of Jesus Christ. That might seem like an obvious statement. Of course, Christmas is about the birth of Jesus Christ. Everyone knows that. But at the time, this was the most fundamental principal of Christmas to me. I didn’t completely divorce myself of secular traditions. I had no beef with most of them provided they didn’t interfere with or pervert the essential Holiness of the holiday. But in my most religious years, I did start to find the commercialism and consumerism of the season particularly crass.
What offended me more than that, however, was when “lukewarm” Christians, or “Christmas and Easter Christians” decided now was the time to go to church despite not bothering to do so the remaining 50 odd Sundays of the year. I felt they tarnished the spirit of the season far more than anything else. They were the group who believed in Jesus, but helped perpetuate the notion that the season is about “Peace on Earth” and “goodwill towards men” above honoring our Lord and Savior, which should always take precedence. It’s not that I hated the message — I just found it less important than spreading the news that Jesus was born of a virgin named Mary in a manger in Bethlehem surrounded by sheep and goats and visited by three wise men bearing gifts, guided to the birth site by a bright star.
Looking back on my former self, I am saddened for her.
Now, as an atheist who does not believe in the supernatural birth of Jesus, in the Judeo-Christian god, or any gods, I have a love for this holiday season that doesn’t compare to what I used to feel for it. I’m able to more fully appreciate the secular messages of the holiday, like peace and goodwill. I live in a northern state in the US, where Christmas usually means a beautiful snowflakes falling to earth on a black night, coating trees in blanket of pure white, and muting sounds in a blissful softness. I love all of the holiday lights magically dancing and twinkling in the trees and on homes. I allow myself time to truly appreciate the smells of hot cocoa and apple cider and a roaring fire. Even the Christmas music (religious and secular) on every overhead speaker, the boughs of holly, the endless loops of “Elf,” “A Christmas Carol,” “It’s a Wonderful Life,” “Rudolph,” and “A Christmas Story” playing on multiple channels, and the kitschy holiday TV specials and homage’s warm my heart.
Some vocal atheists out there are intent on disturbing the holiday to prove various points about separation of church and state, or fairness or whatever the case may be. I’m sad for them as well. You can completely remove the religiosity of the holiday (in fact I recommend you do), and it would still be worth preserving. Even though it is rooted in a myth, it doesn’t change what it is today. It’s a beautiful time of year when people’s greatest worry is how they can find the perfect gift for people they love. Is that crass consumerism?
I know when I shop for gifts, I’m far more concerned with finding something I know my friends and family will love, than I am about how much money Best Buy is making at my expense. And if that means I have to suffer through stores competing for my attention with crazy advertisements and ridiculous sales, then that is fine to me. It is that consumerism and commercialism that allows me to live in one of the most prosperous nations the earth has ever known. It is that prosperity that brings the entire world a little closer to peace and goodwill. Sure, there may be a tacky fight in the line to get the best deal on Black Friday as a consequence. But when it comes down to it, I love wishing you all a Merry Christmas. This year, like all years, I’ll be fortunate enough to spend the day with my family. We’ll play a game on Christmas Eve that we’re all probably a little tired of, but that we all want to play nevertheless. We’ll drink some punch, crack some nuts, turn on the Yule Log, eat some wonderful food, go to bed, open presents and bask in each other’s presence and insanity. It’s going to be the best Christmas ever. I am alive and well. My family, even my sister and my nephews will be in town. Life is good. I am one lucky human. There is no better time than Christmas to reflect upon that. Thank you Jesus! (Heh!)
I’m so giddy with the holiday spirit that I’m tempted to quote Tiny Tim as well, but instead I’ll simply say have a safe and joyous Christmas, and have a Happy New Year!