I’m one of those types of atheists who loves Christmas. I celebrate it with my family and I love singing the songs, regardless if they’re about Jesus or Frosty the Snowman. I grew up singing Christmas carols in concerts for public schools, and it didn’t traumatize me. My family was secular and I didn’t feel left out; I just saw singing about Jesus’s divinity the same as singing about Santa (aka, silly and fictional). I’m still an atheist now - the Noel didn’t convert me.And so we approach the most magical time of the year—Christmas. The season of sharing, of remembering the less fortunate, of peace on earth and good will toward all mankind, no matter how bigoted or nasty. The time of lights and presents, of Santa and mistletoe, of A Christmas Carol and The Nutcracker, of hacking down a living tree and dragging it inside to die slowly for our entertainment. It’s truly an amazing time, as we all celebrate acting in ways that would absolutely screw us up in the real world. Handouts to all and sundry, generosity even to the undeserving, suspending our quarrels and holding a spirit of benevolence—it’s either a celebration of our ideals, or a monument to hypocrisy, depending on how you want to look at it. As Tom Lehrer once observed about National Brotherhood Week, be grateful that it doesn’t last all year.
Personally I love the Yuletide. I haven’t always loved it; there have been many years, particularly when I was in a deep depression, when Christmas has felt like a millstone around my neck, something to be endured rather than enjoyed as I sank into the abyss. But that’s okay. I’ve always observed it, I think, much as I’ve always recognized other seasonal landmarks—birthdays, holidays, and private anniversaries.
One thing I despise, however, is the increasing religionization of Christmas. What was originally a joyous time, where the usual values were turned upside down so as to provide a little light in the season of darkness, has increasingly become a moment for screechy preachers to pimp for their faith and for teachers with an axe to grind to use the power of government to proselytize. Some may see these faith-whores as merely misguided; I see them as avatars of destruction, enemies of civilization, and, well, just not very nice people. I don’t expect much to come of their “War on Christmas”; they’ve been at it at least from Cromwell’s time and still haven’t managed to stamp it out. If these guys had their way Christmas would become a suicidally dreary time of mandatory church-attendance and hymn-singing, with the praise of the Infant Jesus as the principle theme. Well, they’ve succeeded in getting Jesus into the Yuletide festivities, and I (for one) think that’s enough. Let it stop here.