Christmas for Atheists

I’m not one of those Grinch atheists that want to remove Christmas celebrations from governmental locations.  I’m sure my faithful friends would be horrified, but I no longer believe Christmas is just about Christ, and seeing baby Jesus in a manager is no different than seeing Santa in a sleigh.  Christmas supplanted a pagan holiday, so is it all that strange that a secular Christmas has supplanted a religious Christmas?  Our society is about diversity and inclusion, so why not let the religious Christmas coexist with a secular Christmas?  I don’t believe in angels, but I like them, and I especially like movies with angels.  I value the concept of the separation of Church and State, but is a nativity scene really a religious endorsement in our modern commercial Christmas times?  Isn’t it closer to a holiday brand?

christmas-carol-1938-ghost-of-christmas-past

I love that we have a holiday based on giving and sharing, that promotes goodwill to all mankind.  That’s very positive and not particularly endorsing any religion when you think about it.  It is sad that Christmas has become a commercial holiday, but the underlying concept is still about giving, and that’s good.  Plus, helping businesses stay afloat and keep people employed is a positive concept too.  We’re a capitalistic society, so a commercial Christmas is the perfect holiday for our economic philosophy.  And isn’t giving a nice way to expand the GDP?

Wasn’t Christmas redesigned by Charles Dickens in the 19th century anyway?  Isn’t A Christmas Carol the real model for modern Christmas philosophy?  It’s sad to say, I think even the wonderful sentiment of Dickens is now being supplanted by Comedy Christmas – which makes me wonder what the holiday will be like in one hundred years.  I guess it’s sort of funny, but serious Christians want to restore the ancient traditions about the celebration of Jesus, and I want to maintain a mid-20th century traditional view of Christmas.  My concept of Christmas comes from these movies:

  • A Christmas Carol (1938) – with Reginald Owen
  • The Shop Around the Corner (1940)
  • The Man Who Came to Dinner (1942)
  • Holiday Inn (1942)
  • Christmas in Connecticut (1945)
  • It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
  • It Happened on Fifth Avenue (1947)
  • Miracle on 34th Street (1947)
  • The Bishop’s Wife (1947)
  • Scrooge (1951) – A Christmas Carol with Alastair Sim
  • White Christmas (1954)
  • A Christmas Story (1983) – a modern movie about a mid-20th century Christmas

Younger people today when they list their favorite Christmas movies pick films that are about the Christmas holiday such as Home Alone and National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, but they seem to lack the sentiment of what I think Christmas is about.  Even the Christian Science Monitor lists Die Hard as one of their top Christmas films.  Really?!!! 

Thus, we have to accept that Christmas is constantly changing, mutating, and must I say it, evolving.  I think it’s interesting that many low-tech animated Christmas television shows from the 1960s have a retro popularity now.  I guess Christmas itself is always about looking backwards, and promoting a sentimental view of the past.  Sometimes a modern movie conveys this almost as well as my old favorites, such as the films Love Actually, and The Family Stone.  Even the comedy Christmas movies add moments of touching generosity between their crude gags.

Christmas is about reminding people they shouldn’t be Ebenezer Scrooge.  Does it matter how the message is delivered?  I can accept that some people like it with metaphysical trappings.  That’s cool.

JWH – 12/16/13

3 Responses

  1. Christmas is great, Jim, and it’s a federal holiday, so I don’t know of ANY atheist who wants to remove Christmas celebrations from government locations. Have you heard of anyone complaining about government Christmas trees or holiday lights? I haven’t.

    Of course, not every American celebrates Christmas, but nearly all the atheists I know love the holiday.

    I disagree about mangers, though, because that’s explicitly religious. Christmas is a religious holiday as well as a secular one, and it’s only the secular holiday which is fine to celebrate on government property – Santa Claus, reindeer, gifts, candy cane, holiday lights, decorated trees and wreaths, all that stuff that’s more about the winter solstice than anything else.

    But our government can’t favor one religion over another – or even favor religion in general – so a manger is out, unless everyone else is allowed to put up a display, too (with is unwieldy, if not completely impossible). Baby Jesus needs to remain in private homes or on church property. But so what? Aren’t there enough churches for that?

    Obviously, there are more than enough churches for manger displays. The only reason they want them on government property, too, is to demonstrate their political power. They just want to force them on people who may not believe as they do.

    Last I saw, the religious Christmas does coexist with the secular Christmas. Look around you. Why in the world would you think otherwise? In my neighborhood, manger displays coexist with Santa Claus and holiday lights, often in the same yard. And I haven’t seen a single atheist complaining about that.

  2. A reasonable position for an atheist to hold, Jim. No offence but I find many atheists to be very unreasonable which is probably why I follow your blog and not those of any other atheists. My blog this week was on the same topic…unsurprisingly, at this time of the year. Merry Christmas mate. http://dacairns.blogspot.com.au

  3. What a lovely, truthful and relaxing article to read. I share your beliefs. And have added 2 movies to my list..I have not seen the Man ..and Book…Have a Merry Christmas :)

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