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Thread: Christmas

  1. #1 Christmas 
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    I am an atheist, I believe in science. Most of my family (uncles, aunts, and cousins etc.) go to church, my parents and brother do not, its not because they don't believe. I have not told anyone that I am atheist, don't know if I want to. My question has to do with Christmas, which is just around the corner. Should an atheist celebrate Christmas? How does an atheist go about celebrateing Christmas? If Christmas has to do with something I don't believe in, do I just think of it as a time for family to get together. I have a very close family, we get together every Christmas at a church most of them attend and have a meal, I bow my head when they pray, out of respect, but I don't say amen.


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  3. #2  
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    I don't think there's any conflict here. Just because you lack belief in God doesn't mean you can't enjoy a holiday - which let's face it, is more social than religious to a lot of people these days anyway. It's social, it's commercial, and it's grown well beyond the original "intention" of the feast day celebration of the birth of Christ.


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  4. #3  
    Forum Cosmic Wizard SkinWalker's Avatar
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    Christmas is a cultural holiday more than a religious one. I'm an atheist, and I look forward to Christmas every year. In fact, my daughter, at four years old, is a "perfect atheist." She doesn't even know what the word god means, nor does she have any notion of religiosity or faith in anything except chocolate.

    Besides, the Holiday Season that occurs around Nov-Jan is far bigger than a bunch of religious people celebrating the birth of their alleged Christ. Its about many cultures engaging in the festive spirit. Hannuka, Christmas, Kwanza... The origin of the holiday is one that early Christians took over from one or more so-called pagan religions in which the winter solstice is marked and the moment celebrated as the days begin to get longer after around 12/21-22.

    "Yuletide" is a term from the Germanic holiday of Yule (or Jul), which was a pagan solstice celebration that involved gift-giving, yule logs, and the use of holly, mistletoe, and evergreen trees to represent the renewal of life (spring is coming!). To pre-christian agriculturalists, this is a VERY important moment.

    Early christians found it easier to adopt and adapt (some would say 'steal') pagan customs in their missionary work rather than forcibly push them to accept a new faith. Even in modernity, Christian and Islamic evangelicals use similarities of themes to convert indigenous peoples of traditional religions, as with African Traditional Religion, which many themes include a creator god (as well as many lesser gods), ideas of trinity (also common in many cults from Christianity to the Zande), good/evil, etc.

    In the end, Christmas (or the Yule) is about renewal and a celebration of life with the people we love. It doesn't matter whether they are religious or not, but what matters is that they share special moments together. I have a photo-album that grows by a few pictures every xmas and, looking through it, I can see my family develop and grow. And in a time where people tend to live many miles apart, one season a year to come together and share food and gifts is very meaningful.

    Now... excuse me while I leave the forum to go plug in my holiday tree.

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  5. #4  
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    Similar to others on this forum, I am also a scientist and an athiest (via the true definition of athiest is a "non-thiestic", not "anti-theistic" as it is commonly misperceived by fundies). I was born Greek Orthodox, but never believed it since I was about 8 yrs old. My wife was born Jewish, but also was always athiestic in belief too. Our teenage children share similar beliefs as us.

    We celebrate the holidays because holidays are fun with a few gifts for our children and a nice meal - but we are just festive and not religious. I share christmas presents with my parents and a few nieces/nephews, but frankly this gift giving feels obligatory and dumb.
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  6. #5  
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    Christmas marks the anniversary of birth of Jesus Christ. A fairly nice Palestinian man... If you like what he spoke of .:

    - People should forgive a lot

    - its not cool to be greedy etc..

    (Church nowadays has little to none in common with Jesus). In fact.. Jesus would get some trouble in dark, middle ages .. if he spoke same at that time.
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  7. #6  
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    Thank you for the reply, Neutrino, SkinWalker, and silylene. I think that Christmas is just that. I believe that gift giving is simply a way of keeping family and friends together.
    "Nature is an infinite sphere whos center is everywhere and whose circumferense is nowhere."
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  8. #7  
    Forum Freshman Starry.Skies's Avatar
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    I am athiest, and I celebrate Christmas simply to take advantage over the holiday itself. It is a time to get together with family and share happiness and such. I don't make reference to God, nor do I believe in the creation of Christmas for reasons due to God. I simply just celebrate the holiday and pretend its an Athiest holiday.
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  9. #8  
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    Sometimes you'll watch something on National Geographic channel about some distant tribal people, and they'll show some kind of celebration with colours, and happy faces, and we'll be told that this is a festival day when people share gifts, and have fun, and drink and dance. And we look at that and think, "How fascinating - they've set aside a day to dance and play music and exchange gifts", seemingly unaware that we do precisely the same thing. And a religious person will say, "Well, we do that just because it's Christmas", and a non-religious person will say, "Oh, that's just Christmas, we exchange gifts because everybody does it". But in fact, without even realising it, we are in fact undertaking a tribal custom. This is what our tribe does at this time of year. And Christmas itself is such a beguiling version (thanks, I think, to American promotion of Christmas through its movies and TV programmes) that non-Christian places that aspire to the Western lifestyle have even adopted Christmas, including santa and decorations. I'm speaking in this particular case of Japan. However, that is not the point I'm trying to make. The Japanese of course have their own festivals of gift-giving, they just happen to do the Christmas thing in the shops in december.

    Sometimes here on scientific forums, some people will overzealously emphasise the fact that we don't know when Jesus was born, and that Christmas is actually a pagan festival. Really, though, it hardly matters - Christmas happens to fall near a Winter Solstice festival. Easter falls near a spring festival (that one even retains its pagan name in the Nordic/Teutonic languages including English - after Eostre). The point is that Jesus's birthday is not the reason we all get together in fellowship and reconnect with our families if at all possible (however much somem of us may hate doing that). It's a specifically human thing to do. The date doesn't matter. What matters is that it is done at the same time.

    Remember, too, that outside a Church, very little Christmas iconography has anything to do with Christianity, Jesus, God, or any religion whatsoever. A Christmas tree is just a tree. We traditionally use firs in Northern Europe, and that habit spread around the whole of the Western world, and was exported to America with the pilgrim fathers. Well, not them, because htey hated decorations, but at any rate, it was exported. You can forget those lessons you may have been taught about the "religious significance of The Holly and The Ivy" - they are evergreens that happen to be common, again in Northern Europe - we had a holly tree in our garden - and it's nothing more than a celebration of nature and our place in it.

    Humanity has an inbuilt recognition of how easy it is to go our own path, and that just once in a while, it is necessary to connect with our fellow human beings. And that is why it is a season of good will to all men and women. The Western world does it at Christmas. Other places do it at different times. We all do it.
    "It is comparatively easy to make clever guesses; indeed there are theorems, like 'Goldbach's Theorem' which have never been proved and which any fool could have guessed." G.H. Hardy, Fourier Series, 1943
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