It's Christmastime in the U.S., which means that all the wingnuts are out in force. Oops. I'm sorry, wingnuts is not PC. I'm going to be open and honest right from the beginning of this post, so that you don't think I have some ulterior motive or hidden agenda or anything. I hate Christmas. And when I use the word hate, I really, truly mean hate. This is, by far, my least favorite time of year. I hate the stress, the commercialism, the materialism, and, yes, the blatant, in your face religiousity that I am forced to live with for 6-8 weeks. All the same, I still find myself celebrating it, if only for one more year.
My family, just about as unreligious as they come, has always celebrated a traditional, secular Christmas holiday, complete with tree, lights, garland, and presents. The extended family joins us and we give each other meaningless gifts that we all pretend to like and then immediately discard or hide in the back of the closet. We all rush around in a grumpy haze trying to bake and shop and decorate and remain cheerful all the time. And when it's all over, we breathe a huge sigh of relief and remind ourselves to start sooner and be more organized next year so that it isn't as stressful and we can actually enjoy the season. So, there you have it, that's the reason this particular atheist celebrates Christmas.
And every year some where in this grand U.S. of A. there is a heated debate between the Christians and the atheists about the Christmas parapharnalia. Should there be a Christmas Tree at school? A nativity scene at the town hall? The singing of Christmas Carols at the Selectboard Meeting? Ok, so I've never heard of any controversy surrounding that last one, but I'm sure it has happened somewhere. If not, someone write it down and use it next year. Considering how much I love the holiday, I'm sure you're not surprised to read that I would just as soon have all these decorations disappear from all the public spaces. Similarly, I'd love to have all the retail stores stop playing those disgusting, sappy, overly reworked Christmas songs. I don't care if you're Elvis or The Chipmunks, I don't want to hear one more word about what Santa and Mommy were getting up to under the mistletoe last night.
Except, as an atheist, I'm in the minority in this country (as I'm constantly reminded) and I don't get to have an opinion about the matter. I'm not allowed to be bothered by the fact that my local, state, or federal government is celebrating one religious holiday, complete with all the corresponding religious whatnot, to the near exclusion of all other religions. I'm simply not allowed to think that, or believe that, or say that. Because if I do, then I'm just being petty and I'm shoving my beliefs in your face. Which makes me a hypocrite, because that's the very thing about which I'm complaining (having your beliefs shoved in my face.)
Truly, I think there are a lot of arguments that can be made. Many, if not most, aspects of Christmas have become completely secular. The tree, the songs, Santa Claus; all those things are basically without religious meaning. So, it's difficult to argue for their removal from public space based on the whole separation of church and state bit. And, I can admit that the forced inclusion of atheist beliefs in the Christmas holiday celebrations is a bit of an....oddity. Really, atheists are marked by their non-belief in all the hoo-ha. The (forced) inclusion of a negative belief is something of an insult to those who believe.
But, here's my question to those who celebrate Christmas for it's religious meaning and think that it is imperative that religious symbols be present in all public spaces, including government space, during this holiday season: what are you celebrating, and why does that celebration require the display of your religious symbols in my public space? Please, with honesty and sincerity, explain what it is you are celebrating during this Christmas season. Is it the birth of Christ, whom you consider your savior? Is it goodwill toward man(kind)? Is it just a warm and fuzzy feeling? Or are you just following along with tradition and reveling in the rampant materialism that happens?
Now that you know what you're celebrating, please explain to me why it is necessary to have the trappings of your celebration displayed in my public space? If you're truly celebrating the religious aspect of Christmas, then I think I can safely assume you have all the religious symbols displayed in your home, where you can see them daily. I would imagine all those same religious symbols are displayed at your chosen house of worship, where you can see them weekly, daily, or as often as you like. If this is all true, why then is it necessary to have all these same symbols displayed in my public space? Is it detrimental to your celebration to be out of sight of these symbols for even a few moments? If it is not, then what is the purpose of demanding they be displayed on public property? Would it not be kinder, more tolerant, more understanding, more accepting and non-judgemental to simply leave the public space as it is for the rest of the year? We certainly have enough government supported nods to religion throughout the rest of the year, do we really need the added religiousity during Christmas? I'd like to think no.
And, yes, I hate Santa Claus, too. I hope the dog bites that sneaky little, chimney sliding, animal enslaving, height discriminating bastard this year.