For many non-Christians, Christmas is a confusing time of the year. If I had my way I probably wouldn't celebrate it at all, although I definitely enjoy the time off from work. As someone from a culturally Christian home, I do enjoy the season and I do enjoy the time spent with my family who I only see once or twice a year. But for many people around the world, Christmas has evolved into a celebration of consumerism. That's basically how I see it today. It's a capitalist holiday; an ode to corporations and our cultural materialism.
There's really nothing Christian about Christmas. December 25th was not Jesus' birthday, and many of the traditions trace its roots back to various pagan celebrations surrounding the winter solstice. Most of the festivities typically associated with Christmas, such as putting up the Christmas tree, hanging up stockings, burning the yule log, and the Santa Claus myth, all have their origins outside the Christian tradition. Perhaps it is time non-Christians reclaimed Christmas for what it is: a loose assortment of pagan beliefs, traditions and myths that were stitched together and incorporated into Christianity.
It's certainly something that will piss off many Christians. But then again, Christianity has never had a friendly relationship with facts. One thing I would like to see more of are Christians being properly educated about the rampant paganism in the Christmas tradition. Perhaps with a diligent education campaign, secularists will be able to reclaim the Christmas holiday season away from the Christian grinches who stole it.
On a side note, this is a great time to celebrate if you're an atheist given the newly released Harris Poll that is lighting up the blogosphere. Atheism and agnosticism are on the rise, and belief in god is on the decline. Santa hath delivered my wish this year.
The new poll indicates that only 74% of Americans believe in god. Although still a comfortable majority, that number has declined by almost ten points since 2005 when 82% of Americans reported god belief. For "echo boomers" (those under 35) which would include all of Generation Y, god belief tops out at just over two-thirds at 64%. Absolute certainty that god exists is down as well, from 66% to 54% in the last ten years. In addition, nearly a quarter of Americans (23%) describe themselves as "not at all" religious. These would be the "nones" we've been hearing so much about recently. The last Pew survey about the "nones" from 2012 indicated that 19.6% of Americans reported no religious affiliation at all. This new poll would indicate that this number has grown by 4 points in just one year but you have to factor in margins of error and other things of that nature. Nonetheless, that 12% of Americans do not believe in god, which by the way is the definition of an atheist, I think is amazing. Atheists now outnumber Jews, Muslims, Hindus, and all other non-Christian believers in the US combined by a long shot. We're a force to be reckoned with.
These are all excellent reasons to celebrate the holidays a little more this year for atheists like myself. The numbers show that the US is finally beginning to catch up with the rest of the industrialized world, especially Western Europe. Are we "echo boomers" going to be witnessing the slow death of god in our lifetime? Probably not, but a god so small and insignificant that you can drown in a bathtub is a god I can live with. For now ;)
See the rest of the Harris Poll here: http://www.harrisinteractive.com/NewsRoom/HarrisPolls/tabid/447/ctl/ReadCustom%20Default/mid/1508/ArticleId/1353/Default.aspx
And have a very secular Christmas holiday!