Saturday, 17 December 2011

Carols, Christmas and Complaining Christians

I sang in the choir at a carol service the other week. This generated some interesting and rather infuriating responses from various people. Strangely, it wasn’t the atheists telling me that I was going over to the dark side and shouldn’t be participating in Christmas celebrations, but the Christians, who were apparently angry at the idea of an atheist in their church. Apparently the very idea of an atheist singing in a choir in a church shows that the atheist concerned is clearly only doing so in order to laugh at the Christians.

I hid my atheism from the other people in the choir. When I signed up, I did send an email to the conductor saying I would join as long as she didn’t mind that I was an outspoken atheist – she didn’t. I assumed, however, that the rest of the choir members would be participating because of their religious beliefs more than their enjoyment of singing. Imagine my surprise when, in the pub after the service, one of my fellow choristers noticed the National Secular Society badge I’d forgotten I had on my coat, which started a conversation between four of us about our atheism. Yes, that’s right, at least four out of the nine members of the choir were atheist.

"Where is she going with this?” you may ask. Well, I want to make it clear for once and for all that it is ABSOLUTELY FINE for atheists to celebrate Christmas. I know the reasons have been pointed out many times before, but I live in hope that maybe one day the people who they are aimed at (i.e. the Christians trying to tell me to stop celebrating Christmas) will actually read them.

1.      Christians don’t have a monopoly on the day. I can celebrate any day of the year that I like! It’s convenient that my family are all in one place on Christmas Day and in the mood for playing games and giving each other presents, so what’s to stop me celebrating then? Nothing. The meaning that Christians attribute to December 25 does not and should not prevent me from having a good time on that day too.

2.      Some atheists have been heard occasionally to suggest that we should celebrate a different festival instead, e.g. the winter solstice on December 22nd. The problem is, if we did so we would be more or less celebrating on our own, because everyone else would be celebrating Christmas. That would be a rubbish celebration, wouldn’t it?

3.      Christmas these days is increasingly secular anyway. The reason for the season is much more about friends and family, giving and receiving presents, eating silly amounts of food, drinking a little too much and watching old favourites on telly. And why shouldn’t it be? What exactly is wrong with enjoying giving gifts to your family?

4.      If you can’t celebrate Christmas without Christ, you aren’t allowed to have Thursdays without Thor or Fridays without Frey. Sorry, you just can’t.

5.      Christians stole the celebration and indeed most of the traditions from the pagans in the first place. The celebrations went from being about many gods to being about one... I want to celebrate it with one god fewer. And what’s more, I’m not trying to stop people from celebrating it according to their own religion (like the Christians did to the pagans), I just want the right to celebrate in my own way and for my own reasons.

There are so many more reasons but I won’t labour the point. I celebrate Christmas because I like it. I don’t believe in the virgin birth but I do believe in spending time with my family. Is that so wrong?

1 comment:

  1. Over the last few years as I've spoken about and spent more time on atheism and secularism, people have often asked me "Do you celebrate Christmas?"

    It's a silly question, imo, but can come from several directions:
    1) If you mean "Celebrate the religious festival" then no: I do not celebrate Christmas in the same way that religious people do. In fact I don't think many people in Britain do, or have for years. There is no, nor has there ever been, Christ in my Christmas.
    2) If you mean do I "get together with relations and do gift giving, eating etc." then yes: I celebrate the age old rituals and activities that long pre-date Christianity. Not because they are specifically "Not Christian" and not because they are instead Pagan, but because they're a damn good idea and fun.

    Similarly I have never celebrated Easter in a Christian way, but enjoyed the left over Pagan activities: Fun activities with no discernible nor required deity.