Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Bad Atheist! Sit! Roll Over!

I'm Truman, the Left Atheist. I could introduce myself by giving a long list of hot button political issues and my stance on them, but that'd probably alienate a lot of people - assuming we ever get any readers here in this shady corner of the Interwebs. Just know that I'm Liberal, I don't believe in God, I have incredible hair, and I'm not a robot nor a zombie.

Despite not having any religious faith, I do celebrate Christmas. And, according to a hardcore conservative Christian (I guess you could call her Right Christian, but that's sort of a blanket statement for a lot of the church), I'm a bad atheist because of it. Confused? Well, frankly, so am I. The conversation went something like this:

Right Christian: What, you celebrate Christmas?
Left Atheist: Yeah.
Right Christian: But... You're an atheist!
Left Atheist: That doesn't mean I can't celebrate Christmas.
Right Christian: But Christmas is a Christian holiday!
Left Atheist: Thanks for telling me, I never would've figured that out on my own, what with the name and all.
Right Christian: You're an atheist but you celebrate a Christian holiday... You're a bad atheist! BAD ATHEIST!
[She continues to chant this at me until I pull out my lightsaber and teach her why she should never mess with the person who doesn't have to turn the other cheek]

I have a message for Christians: Don't be so damn greedy. There's enough Christmas for all of us. Why can't we share it? Don't get all up in my nontheistic Kool-Aid about me celebrating Christmas - what does it matter to you? It's not like there's a set quota of Christmas laid out every year, and that my celebrating it is depriving some more deserving Christian family of their share.

Furthermore, Christmas is a celebration of the birth of Christ (even though, yes, apparently Christ was born sometime in the Spring, but I don't see anybody rushing to change the holiday - we'd have to rewrite all the Christmas songs! "Walkin' in a Spring Wonderland"? That's stupid! The words don't even line up with the tune of the original song! And in A Christmas Story it'd be too warm out for the kid to get his tongue stuck to the pole, and... Oh, man, let's just keep Christmas in late December, okay? We owe pop culture that much.). Maybe I don't speak for all atheists here, but I certainly believe that Christ did exist. Frankly, I think Christ was a pretty cool guy, if what I know of his teachings is correct. I don't think he was the son of God, and I'm not exactly crazy about the stuff that his followers have done in his name over the past 2000 years, but that's not what Christmas is about, is it? Christmas is about celebrating the birth of Christ, something that I believe happened, albeit not on exactly that day. Am I not allowed to celebrate the birth of a truly advanced person simply because I'm not a follower of the religion he went on to create?

Well, actually, I can celebrate pretty much whatever I want. United States, y'see. Freedom of Religion. Woohoo!

But then you may ask, "Say Truman, why don't you celebrate May 4th, Audrey Hepburn's birthday? You do love Audrey Hepburn. You think she was a model of beauty, grace, and conduct." Well, there's two reasons for that. The first is that I'd look damn silly prancing around in Spring saying "Merry Audreymas!" to everyone - I mean, hell, if I'm going to do that, why not just start celebrating Christmas in Spring, and we've already been over why that's a bad idea! The second reason, much more pertinent than the first, is that Christmas is a day of love and cheer throughout the western world. For one day, friends and family meet and share in the collective happiness of December 25th. Gifts are exchanged, food is consumed, and people get a chance to see other people they don't see very often and remember just why they love those people so much in the first place. Who are you, Right Christian, to judge me a Bad Atheist for wanting to take part in this daylong festival of love and good cheer?

People say that Christmas has become too commercialized, and to an extent I guess it has. Go to a department store today. Yeah, you'll get it. Critics claim that because there's so much buying and selling going on, people are forgetting the true meaning of Christmas - Christ and Mary and the Three Wise men, etc. I think what these critics are missing is that while there's a lot of buying and selling at Christmas, there's also a nearly equal amount of giving and receiving. Those gifts are being bought by people as tokens of affection for other people. I bought an apron and a spatula for my girlfriend (relax, she wanted them, I'm not trying to send some message about women and the cult of domesticity), and when she opened the box (early - she talked me into it) and saw what I'd bought her, we had one hell of a Christmas moment. I knew she loved cooking, so I bought her things that would help her do what she loved to do. Also, she knows that I love cookies, so I'm also enabling her to reward me with a cornucopia of delicacies. Score!

What I'm getting at is that Christmas is so much bigger than any one religion. Christmas has become a less a time of Christian celebration and more a time of personal celebration. We unearth fond memories around the dinner table, we watch the same movies that hold the same significance time after time, we're more forgiving, we're more charitable, we're less vengeful, we're less greedy. Christmas started out as a strictly Christian holiday, but now I think that trying to pigeonhole it as a day reserved exclusively for people of one religion is contrary to what the holiday is actually about. Christmas is a day for all of us to reunite with our loved ones, no matter what we believe. Many people include church services and nativity plays in their celebration of the day, just as many others don't. The love and cheer is still there, no matter how the celebration goes.

Right Christian continued to tell me I was a bad atheist, so I told her "Judge not, lest ye be judged." She just pointed and shouted "BAD ATHEIST! BAD ATHEIST!" So right now, I could judge the stuffing out of her and have the Bible on my side the whole time.

But it's Christmas.

Merry Christmas, Right Christian.


ashnash said...

Nice argument but Christmas is a pagan holiday that the Christians adopted, so your friend was wrong to call you a bad atheist, seeing as how Christmas isn't Christian to begin with.

Michelle said...

Hey Truman, I enjoyed the blog. And in all seriousness, I don't think you're a bad atheist at all, my teasing was purely in jest. I think it's great that you celebrate Christmas with your friends and family. Merry Christmas!

Jena said...

Hey, I've been an atheist my whole life and Christmas is cosy, and i never related it to anything to do with religion! You need some nice food and cosiness during the dark cold winter months.. and i just found this for ya:

"Roman pagans first introduced the holiday of Saturnalia, a week long period of lawlessness celebrated between December 17-25. During this period, Roman courts were closed, and Roman law dictated that no one could be punished for damaging property or injuring people during the weeklong celebration. The festival began when Roman authorities chose “an enemy of the Roman people” to represent the “Lord of Misrule.” Each Roman community selected a victim whom they forced to indulge in food and other physical pleasures throughout the week. At the festival’s conclusion, December 25th, Roman authorities believed they were destroying the forces of darkness by brutally murdering this innocent man or woman. In the 4th century CE, Christianity imported the Saturnalia festival hoping to take the pagan masses in with it. Christian leaders succeeded in converting to Christianity large numbers of pagans by promising them that they could continue to celebrate the Saturnalia as Christians."