Saturday, November 24, 2007

Why "Merry Christmas" doesn't bother me

Now that Thanksgiving has passed, I allow myself to listen to Christmas music, decorate the house and begin discussing Christmas-related topics. This year is really my first Christmas as an "outed" atheist, and apparantly there is some expectation for me to reject the supposive christian holiday. At the very least, I should limit my Christmas music catalogue to songs about snow and Santa and grimmace every time someone whishes me a merry Christmas.

Now, I applaud most efforts to maintain seperation of church and state. Mentions of God should not be in our Pledge of Allegiance or on our decreasingly valuable currency. The Ten Commandments should not be in front of any courthouse, and prayer should be kept out of the public schools. Those are all reasonable attempts to keep church and state seperate. But banning the phrase "Merry Christmas" is not.

I ask this question in all seriousness, because I know a lot of atheists feel this way, but how do you figure uttering "Merry Christmas" is promoting Christianity or harming anyone in any way?

The origins of Christmas are debatable, but we at least know that the holiday is a combination of religious and non-religious tradition, so it's not purely a christian holiday. But even if it was, "Merry Christmas" has become so commonplace that it should not hold or evoke any kind of religious meaning. When someone sneezes and you say "Bless you," are you trying to keep the person's soul from escaping? When you say "Knock on wood," is it because you believe the trees to be gods, or to thank leprechauns for your good luck, or keeping the devil from hearing you? (just some of the possible origins).

If I woke up tomorrow and the papers read "Everyone denounces faith, realizes there is no god" I would probably do some kind of dance and song, but Christmas would go off without a hitch, with a lot of the religious aspects included, because we hang onto traditions from our human history for quite some time, regardless of their origin. Christmas has never been about some baby in a manger, except to those who try very hard to force that part of Christmas into Christmas. While atheists are crying for the removal of "Merry Christmas" christians are trying very hard to "Put Christ back in Christmas." Preachers around the country warn and rewarn their congregations to "remember what Christmas is all about." But it's too late, because the kids are thinking about the presents they're going to get, the adults are thinking about the relatives they have to put up with, or how they have to shovel the driveway when they get home, or how Best Buy better take back that "Jingle All the Way" DVD your great aunt got you even though you don't have the receipt. But it's all worth it because you love the time off from work, or hot chocolate with marshmallows, or sitting by a fireplace, or Robert Goulet's Christmas album, or watching your kids open gifts. You certainly do not put up with it because you love to celebrate some Jew being born some 2000 years ago.

So I'm asking my fellow atheists to stop griping about the christian aspect of Christmas. The debate not only emphasizes exactly what you're trying to get rid of, it gives christians another reason to feel like they are persecuted in a country where they are the 90% majority. So go ahead and enjoy Christmas and don't worry about what some people think it's about.

Also, make sure you throw a killer Festivus party. Because airing grievances is a great way to counteract the bullshit you have to put up with during the holidays, like your parents trying to convert you.

Editor's Note: This does not mean that I am in favor of a christian Christmas, just that I believe certain things (like "Merry Christmas" and the word "Christmas" in general) have become so indoctrinated into our culture that they no longer carry religious meaning. It's okay to celebrate Christmas in an entirely non-religious manner.


Jenny said...

Wait - you have a new blog??

Nathan said...

Apparantly, I do.