There's been a bit of a brouhaha over a situation in Santa Monica. For 60 years, a Palisades Park had displays for the holidays. It was assigned by lottery. Last year, of the 21 spots, 18 went to atheists. When the displays were vandalized, the city ended the tradition not wanting to deal with the issue especially since they were accused of being against Christians. So now, because of this, there is a group trying to get the event back up and running again so that they can have their nativity scenes and people are joining in on the fray online badmouthing atheists and making some pretty big assumptions about them. One rant appeared on a Cafemom's The Stir website. Cafemom is a forum for mothers, not just Christian mothers either but mothers of ALL faiths, something that people on there sometimes forget. The title of the rant is the very provocative 10 Reasons Atheists Can Go to Hell Over Holiday Decorations Fight If that doesn't get an atheist's blood boiling, the list of reasons along with some of the comments are sure to. You can check it out HERE.
Here are my thoughts on the whole thing as an atheist who celebrates and enjoys the holidays and yet CANNOT celebrate them as she wishes because she's married to a CHRISTIAN who does NOT celebrate Christmas.
1. Believe it or not Christmas did NOT begin as a Christian holiday. All the ranting and raving to keep CHRIST in Christmas, all the moaning and groaning over people who say Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas (the HORROR!) is for naught because Jesus was NEVER EVER the reason for the season. He may be now but that does not give Christians the sole unalienable rights to the holiday. Christmas has pagan roots and was celebrated by the very people Christians reviled and killed once upon a time. Then someone got the clever idea to take all the customs of Christmas and Christianize them to lure pagans to the Christian religion. Pretty smart idea if you ask me but people tend to conveniently forget that when they start going off about how Christmas needs to be about Jesus and Jesus only.
2. Not all atheists avoid Christmas and not all Christians celebrate Christmas. This is definitely the case in my household. My mom kind of failed to explain to me the so-called true meaning of Christmas back when I was a wee one so for many years, I simply didn't know. I didn't really learn until I was 9 years old and got a lecture on it because I was going to put X-mas on my window instead of Christmas. I do recall singing Christmas carols before that time but I didn't know what they meant, just thought they were pretty songs. So, for years and years Christmas meant no more to me than decorations, a tree (gotta have the tree), family getting together, and presents (some years better than other on that score).
One of my first memories is a picture of me decorating a tree when I was I think 4 years old. I remember another time when my toddler age little sister pulled down the Christmas tree. I remember going out to the Megafoods 25 miles from home and buying enough groceries to get the free Christmas tree. I remember playing Candy Land and opening presents and rushing down the stairs on Christmas morning and waiting for Santa. I have a lot of happy memories of Christmas. I have some not so happy memories of Christmas but I try not to think of those so much. Christmas to me is magical and bright and I do not need a reason to celebrate.
My husband, on the other hand, is a Christian who sees Christmas as an unholy, EVIL holiday that should be banned if at all possible. The years I have put up a Christmas tree are met with glares, comments on how I'm rebellious, and massive amounts of tension in general. He brings back memories of all of the UNhappy Christmases I had growing up, the ones that tended to be ruined by a mentally ill father who would reach the peak of his depression right when the amount of light was at its lowest (winter solstice). My family calls him Ebeneezer and sadly, I think he has outdone even my father as to how positively GRINCH-like he can be. The Christmas I was due with our first child I think was the deciding factor. At least my father wouldn't have fasted and prayed for nearly 48 just because he didn't want his wife to have their child on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.
He is not alone in his beliefs. There are a number of Christians out there who do not celebrate Christmas for the very same reasons my husband doesn't. The Bible mentions nothing of Christmas and there are many who believe that scripture in the book of Jeremiah actually FORBIDS the celebration of Christmas (or at the very least, putting up a Christmas tree). Some of the stories behind Christmas are rather sordid which adds to the dislike towards Christmas by a number of Christians.
3. Christmas has not always been celebrated in the US. Out of the almost 250 years since our country's birth, Christmas has only really been annually celebrated for 150 of those years. Nearly 100 years went by before Christmas became a national holiday and there are periods of the country's history when Christmas was OUTLAWED! This was for the very same reasons that some Christians do not celebrate Christmas today. Other reasons include the fact that at one time, it was seen as an English holiday and as we were NOT English anymore, it was considered unpatriotic to celebrate.
4. We do not live in a theocracy, this is NOT a Christian nation (in that it is mandated as a Christian nation as other countries are like those in Europe). There is something called freedom of religion and the separation of church and state which is there to protect ALL religions, not just Christian religions.
So let's get over this idea that atheists are out to ruin things because they're not. Some do want to make sure that one particular religion is not being favored over all other religions. In the case of Santa Monica, the town did a good job of trying to keep that from happening with a lottery. When a dispute arose because of the changes of the dynamics of the area, they cut it. Part of the reason behind this was to save money.
And while we're at it, let's consider for a moment what would happen if the US were to become a theocracy and decided to follow ONE religion. What religion would it be? What laws would be put on the books in order to follow this religion? Look at history, at a time when stores and other businesses were closed on Sundays, where two consenting MARRIED adults couldn't participate in certain sexual activities because they were illegal, where the rights of women were non-existent. Do we really want to go back to those times? I sure don't! So remember that this country is full of people of many religions and that having one religion dominating in the US would not be fun AT ALL.