One of the most hilarious things I’ve seen recently on the internet is the controversy (if you could call it that) surrounding the fact that Richard Dawkins sings Christmas carols! Le gasp! The horror!
I can understand the confusion from the press, but most amusing is how pissed some people are about it. It’s as if they want to send the Atheist Inquisition after him and sentence him to 200 lashes.
Well, when I heard that he sang Christmas carols and called himself a ‘cultural Christian’, I’ll admit to a bit of surprise. But, it made sense… to me, at least. When I was younger, my parents exposed me to a few Christmas traditions. They gave me presents, we occasionally set up a plastic Christmas tree, but mostly we’d just use the time off from school and work to travel. We never felt obligated to celebrate the holiday, but I enjoyed it. I mean, free toys were the coolest thing ever at my age.
When people asked me if my family celebrated Christmas, though, it was about as awkward as being asked what religion I was, since I’d have to end up saying I was Atheist both ways. I told them the truth, that we traveled mostly, occasionally set up a tree, gave presents to friends… but surprisingly, it was my religious friends who got mad at me. One of my (now ex-)Catholic friends started whining about how the holiday was not about presents, but about Jesus.
It seems to have changed. Now it’s a minority of Atheists that are getting pissed at the Atheists who celebrate Christmas.
Well, I might’ve sort of supported those Atheists earlier on, but when I went around saying “Happy Holiday” it was not because of political correctness, it was because it’s a Pastafarian holiday. But, today I came to the conclusion that it’s OK to say you’re celebrating Christmas. The Christmas I celebrate is a secular Christmas. Some people may start saying that that’s an oxymoron, but even theologists think that Jesus wasn’t actually born in December, but that the Christians celebrated it during that time. Something about the Winter Solstice making it easier for them to blend in with the Pagans, but I don’t remember and I don’t want to misinform…
But the point is, it’s OK to celebrate Christmas. It’s OK to participate in those traditions. Why? It’s OK to have fun for no , or a meaningless reason.
Christmas traditions can be fun. I like looking at the pretty lights. I like getting presents from friends. I like making presents for my friends, and giving them to them. I like food.
So, while I was eating breakfast this morning, I came to that conclusion, left my food at the table, sat down at the piano, and started playing Christmas carols and bellowing the lyrics as loudly as possible. My mum must have thought that I was acting quite mad. But isn’t singing a song about the night Jesus was born about the same as singing some of the Potter Puppet Pals songs? You don’t have to take the lyrics seriously, and I can’t really think of an example when you need to take lyrics you’re singing seriously.
Then, I went downstairs, dragged up the plastic Christmas tree we hadn’t set up for two or three years, and decorated it. I wrestled a bit with the tangled up tinsel and lights, wrapped them around, then started hanging ornaments on spare branches.
And I had quite a lot of fun.
So why should theists get all the fun of the season? The answer is they shouldn’t. Atheists have every right to practice whatever traditions they want, not matter what the origins are (most Christmas traditions have secular origins anyway), just as Christians have the right to practice traditions that have Pagan origins.
And Hell, if Dawkins wants to sing Christmas carols (as long as he doesn’t have the singing voice of Sanjaya), and Hitchens wants to set up a tree, and if I want to do both, we should be allowed to. And if some people don’t want to, more power to them. I hate some aspects of Christmas myself.
So, to all ye faithless and faithful, have a Happy Holiday/Christmas/Hanukkah/whatever.