In the comments to yesterday’s post, Miss Profe asks:
So...Good question. And one that I have a longer answer for, so I’ll make it a separate post, rather than a response in the comments.
What does Christmas mean to an athiest?
I can only speak for this atheist, of course, and one who grew up in a Jewish family, as well. I had no family connection to Christmas, but most of the families in my neighbourhood did celebrate Christmas, and most of my friends, therefore, did.
I think the connection between Christmas and Jesus, or religion in general, is pretty tenuous now, as it also was in my youth; I wonder if it ever was particularly strong (its history is as an attempt by the church to replace pagan solstice rites, after all). Some people clearly have more of a religious feeling about it than others do, but I think in the mainstream it’s a fairly secular celebration.
And that last word is really the central aspect of it for me: it’s a celebration, and I’m happy to see my friends and neighbours celebrate it, and to join in the celebration myself. I have no use for the idea that anyone should object to public displays of Christmas trees or Santas, wreaths or angels or trumpets or any such. Even nativity scenes don’t set off my “separation of church and state” alarms. I’m more annoyed at being bombarded by excessive commercialism (come on, how many people really buy cars for Christmas?) than by “Christian” Christmas symbols.
For me, it’s a chance to share other people’s traditions, to learn about what their families do to gather and celebrate, and all that. It’s a festival. And I’m as festive as the next guy. It doesn’t bother me whether the festival is celebrating the arrival of winter, the birth of a religious figure, the burning of a lamp in a temple for longer than expected, or just general brotherhood and good will. If it really does make us think a bit more about brotherhood and good will for a few weeks, it makes me happy.
Just as long as I don’t have to listen to that horrible Paul McCartney song.