You can be skeptical and friendly at the same time.
Follow Patheos Atheist:
Alright, who’s waiting until after Christmas to come out to your family…?
Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.
I gotta admit, when I saw this on postsecret I thought (in an appropriate Kyle Broflovski voice) “Really? Really?!?!”
I mean, I’ve been “out” as an atheist since I was 12 and yet this has not stopped the receiving, and unfortunately as I got older, the giving.
I’m not a druid, but I celebrate Samhain, I’m not a Roman, but I like my Fridays, I’m not American, but I’ll watch the fireworks on the 4th of July, and I’m not Christian, but I’m fecked if I’m ignoring Christmas.
And a big swing and a miss.
No idea what that’s supposed to mean.
I think you can get a t-shirt somewhere that says I may be an atheist but I still like Christmas presents. I really want to get one of those.
They already know.
I’m gay, and I used to talk to a lot of young gay people about coming out of the closet.
One of the important pieces of advice I give, and a lot of others give, is that you should not come out to your friends and family around a holiday. I know that particularly for young people it’s one of the few times you see them, but better to wait for some random time not near a holiday to come out, by phone or letter or email if necessary.
The reason for this is, for the sort of people inclined to get upset about it, they may feel that you have “ruined christmas” (or insert other holiday) for them and be angry with you about it, making it harder to accept you as you are. On the other hand if you just come out at some arbitrary time not near a holiday, they may still be upset but you haven’t handed them the excuse to blame something further on you, and they may calm down more easily.
You RUINED June 26th!
This is no joke in my family. My mother (88 yrs old) wrote in her current will that any grandchildren that go into christian work will inherit double what the others will. (She doesn’t know that all 5 of her grandchildren ditched their christian faith years ago!) And if she finds out that her eldest son (me) de-converted, she almost certainly would write me out of her will. So I’m not about to play martyr and update her on my spiritual status!
Probably off topic, but what if all of them go into christian work? I mean, she only has a finite amount to bequeath, she can only double inheritances so much …
I’d assume that she has specified a specific amount – be it a set dollar value, or some portion of the estate – that would be divvied up by the grandchildren; those who go into Christian work would receive a double share. In which case, everybody would receive the same amount as they’d receive if nobody went into Christian work.
Interesting. So is the thinking behind this that those who aren’t Christians shouldn’t get presents? Though the festival was originally pagan and then taken over by Christianity.
(I am a Christian) but I find this very odd indeed…
Some people are shunned from their families after identifying themselves as atheists. And parents have been known to use the “you’ll get no Christmas presents” as a threat to bring teen atheists back into line.
Atheist all my life, spawned from atheists, raising atheists and we celebrate Christmas with Santa, a tree, and more “hall decking” than you can shake a stick at. We also celebrate Easter with bunnies. Religion holds no monopoly on holidays.
Neither of those holidays are actually Christian in origin.
The gift giving predates Christmas and comes from the Roman Saturnalia festival, which was one of the most popular holidays in the year. And of course celebrated at the winter solstice, which is why it’s spent with family and there is a feast. The tree stuff is from nordic festivals like Yule, but didn’t become a standard feature until much, much later
Easter is a fertility festival. Celebrated around the spring equinox when things start growing again after the winter. Eggs and hares are fertility symbols.
I am well versed in the histories of modern holidays, as any educated atheist should be.
same here. born and raised Athiest with a christmas every year. we dont celebrate a christian religous holiday, we don’t even celebrate the pagan religous holday it was based on. we use trees and cherubs not becuase they represent christianity or nature gods. but becuase in modern culture they represent, the idea of giving things to others, charity, and good will. symbols are like words, just cause a symbol meant one thing in the past doesnt mean it still means that when used today and it has different meanings for different peoples.
Christmas is one of those holidays where people of all faiths can come together to celebrate family, togetherness, and the birth of Santa. Let’s just admit that “Christmas” as it is popularly celebrated has absolutely nothing to do with Jesus, especially not the Jesus of History.
We have always celebrated Christmas as a non-secular holiday. Tree, lots of food, and presents. This postsecret surprised me; I have never not been given gifts at Christmas, and I’ve never made a secret of my atheism.
edit: “as a non-secular holiday”
I was challenged by a christian pastor (in front of an audience) on this very point. “Ah!” he said “Do you celebrate Christmas!?”
I gave him this reply:
There are two holidays, both on December 25th, both called Christmas. One is about the birth of Jesus and is celebrated by a minority of people mainly inside churches and christian schools. The other is celebrated everywhere else by most people, it’s a secular holiday which is all about Santa and gifts and eating and drinking too much. I celebrate the second one.
How can children learn the truth about Santa and not suffer from existential meaninglessness and despair? They had based their hopes on a lie!
My sense is that this was not literally about receiving one’s quota of christmas presents, as some here have interpreted it. Humor, folks, humor. Most of my (admittedly small) family knows, and one of my siblings is also an atheist. There are a couple of *very* elderly aunts I haven’t told; they’re sweet and I don’t see any point in their spending part of their last years (or months – who knows?) worrying about me ending-up in a hell that I know doesn’t exist. It just seems to me that it would do more harm than good. Presents or inheritance aren’t an issue in this case; if they were, I’d look at the situation differently because I wouldn’t want to be benefiting under false pretenses if what I believed might be a factor in their decisions.
My mom, being the mom she is, will still get me Christmas presents no matter what. She’s accepted I’m gay and I’m sure being an atheist wouldn’t matter to her; she just wants me happy and out of trouble.
I grew up in an atheist family and we always celebrated the secular aspect of December 25th (and yes, exchanged presents and even called the event Christmas). Of course, being soul-less atheist animals, we ate with our mouths open and hunkered over our food all possessive-like so that others wouldn’t steal anything… kind of like dogs. But then again, that is what being an atheist is like. 😉
My immediate family are all atheist. We celebrate Christmas anyway, because presents are nice.
Outside of the kids, we adults stopped the gift giving part of Christmas a long time ago.
When the person you’re buying the gift for has enough money to buy it for themselves it becomes nearly impossible to find that “perfect” gift. So then you end up just giving each other gift cards in the same denominations that they’re giving you.
So we got together and talked it over, now every Christmas we donate what we were going to spend on each other to a charity that helps gives toys to poor children at Christmas. Not only do we get a tax receipt, Merry Christmas to us, but we also get the satisfaction of knowing that there is one less poor kid who’s not going to get a visit from Santa.
PS: For a lot of these charities “Kid” really means anyone from 0 – 17 years and 364 days.
These charities are literally filled with toys for the 3-10 year old age bracket, what most people think of when someone says “kids”. There is an incredible demand for stuff for babies, toddlers, and even t(w)eens.
My mom buys baby stuff all year long when it goes on sale, every year there is at least one person at the booth who starts crying tears of joy when she shows up with the large bags filled with baby supplies.
Apparently the t(w)eens in each family have a wish list filled out and the charity just buys off of that. So I donate cash and give express instructions that it should go toward purchasing gifts for the t(w)eens.
My sister and brother-in-law do a combination of these, my nieces even help pick out toys they think little girls would like to play with at Christmas.
It makes for a rewarding and fulfilling family tradition.
There is no reason an atheist can’t give or receive xmas gifts. It’s a pagan holiday in the first place so just think of it as participatory anthropology.
My mom knows that I haven’t been to church in more than 10 years, but she still thinks this is “just a phase,” probably because she thinks that at age 32, I’m still a kid. I’ve only recently accepted my atheism, and I honestly couldn’t be happier with all aspects of my life … except… I’m dreading my upcoming trip to my hometown to visit my ultra-catholic family.
I used to just ignore the jabs or worse, feel guilty for having “turned my back on my faith!” But now, I’ve grown a bit of a backbone, and it’ll be harder to bite my tongue and keep the peace. I don’t have plans of coming out, since it’ll be 100 against 1 (gotta love those huge, small-town catholic families), but if I’m cornered, I just might have to try talking them through it. If worse comes to worst, I’ll remind myself that it’s just a visit, that I no longer live there, and I’ll soon get to go back to my real home and normal life with my loving friends and family that I’ve made here.
Follow Patheos on