Ok, so this post is a little late, but what the hell it's my blog my thoughts and it's still on my mind. Last month was, of course, the holiday season. You know, Christmas, Chanukah, that whole deal. As a devout Atheist, it's an interesting time. It brings to mind some questions about the celebrations and their religious nature, and how an Atheist should respond to them.
Personally, I do not believe in god.
...Hmm, No, wait. That's doesn't really convey what I mean... What I should have said was:
THERE IS NO GOD.
That's better! Because there is no god, I don't just stay away from all religion, I actively promote atheism. I try not to support groups that support religious beliefs, I mock believers, and often point out to them their religious symbols they try to pass off as secular.
It was easy to do at first. All I did was give my friends Christmas gifts. It doesn't seem like a bad idea at all. I like the process of finding the right gift, wrapping it, and giving. And no it's not because I want anything in return, I don't care about that. "It is better to give then receive" is a bullshit statement as a whole, but I do enjoy giving gifts as much if not more then receiving them. There is a lot of joy in making people happy. So, all seemed well to give gifts around the same time at the end of the year. It's a nice thing to do, and doesn't have to be connected to a specific religion.
Then, last year, I was feeling kind of down right before the holiday times. I was shopping at Wal-Mart and saw their Christmas displays. The kid in me loved the decorations, know what I was old enough to chose the exact colors and styles I wanted, and the engineer in me loved the electrical lights. So they both overruled the atheist in me's protests. It was relatively cheap to buy a full holiday setup. So I bought a tree, decorations, a bunch of lights and even a menorah. I figured, I'm an atheist. I have nothing to prove to myself or my friends. Why not live for the moment, decorate my heathen dwelling a little? I admit, it is really fun to decorate. Much the same way I love costume parties, I love to dress up my house too. The tree symbolizes Christianity, and the menorah symbolizes Judaism. But really they're nothing special, just a lighted tree and a fancy candle holder.
Some of my friends wondered why I would put up decorations. I just told them it didn't matter, I don't believe or respect the religious part of the holidays, but all atheists love a good celebration.
It was funny, as a side note I had more people comment on the menorah than the christmas tree. Those people claim the menorah is more of a religious symbol than the tree. But really, I think it's because they're used to seeing Christmas trees everywhere, and menorah's seem weird since it's from a different religion than theirs. They're both just as much of religious symbols.
That is the problem. No matter what I say, or the sum of my actions, I'm still displaying religious symbols in my home. It's supporting at least some part of their belief by supporting their holiday. Again, for me, this isn't matter. So what? Now, the real question comes in...
Penn Jillette is the closest thing I have to a spiritual adviser. I knew he did not celebrate Christmas in anyway. I kind of just wrote it off as just another symbolic gesture to promote atheism, kind of like throwing away the bibles found in hotel rooms. But then a month ago, I was watching his Penn Point show and he made such a good point that I had not considered before.
It's not the message i'm sending to the world that matters. What happens when I have kids? What message would I send my Children, if I were to raise them with Christmas?
Watch as Penn speaks about his feelings about the dilemma this raises.
Here is the Tim Minchin video he mentions. I'd recommend watching it while reading the lyrics to truly appreciate it.
Makes me think. Makes me think a lot. Tim Minchin's words really convey what I'm feeling in a lot of ways. Seriously, don't just gloss over that video link. Go read the lyrics. I kind of like Christmas, but it's wrong. I dislike everything about Christmas, expect what we do. I feel like i've made the wrong moral choice to celebrate the holidays. If I don't stand up and say no, the next generation is just going to keep accepting and promoted the idea of his religious holiday. As Penn says, "I don't think I can, in good conscience, do Christmas with my children. I think thats disingenuous." But if I don't, I miss out on all the love and joy the holidays bring, and would bring to my future children.
What do I do?
I had an amazing Christmas this year. One of the best ever, actually, as I got to share it for the first time with a significant other who I truly love. Am I ready to accept it as my last?
I don't think I am. But, do I have another 10 months or so to think about it.