I’ve always loved Christmas. This time of year in general is an important one for me–almost everybody in my family has birthdays in the three months of winter, and most of the anniversaries happen around then as well–and most of the important deaths (“light a candle for me every year,” she asked, and I always do, always, always). So I want to talk about Christmas today, and at the end there’ll be some link love to posts elsewhere by me and other folks in case you need something to keep you busy.
Given that Christmas is so pagan in its roots–and so universal in its hope-in-winter themes across cultures and religions worldwide–it’s really no surprise at all that even most non-Christian Americans celebrate the holiday. As the Pew Research Group discovered, most non-Christians view the holiday as a “cultural” thing, while most Christians view it as a religious thing.
And they’re both right in their ways. December 25th is the ultimate chameleon. A Christian-style celebration of Christmas is quite Christian. A non-Christian’s celebration of Christmas is not at all Christian. That’s because there are so many aspects to the holiday and so many expressions of it, so many ways to celebrate it and so many completely acceptable permutations of it, that a particular person or family can easily pick and choose which bits to include in their personalized holiday traditions.
Even within Christianity, different families handle the holiday in markedly different ways. My Catholic grandparents always attended Christmas Eve vigil services when they were alive, though now that they’re both gone my aunt–the nun–always makes sure to attend the big Mormon Tabernacle Choir carol recitation in her area every year. And now I don’t attend any religious services at all unless I’m visiting a close relative who is very religious and it’s just part of the tradition–though bear in mind I don’t have any family members who’d snake a cheap proselytization attempt at me that way, so there you go.
I love having a small tree covered in handmade ornaments from when my sister and I (and our own mother) were children and some glass European pieces I’ve collected over the years, while others have huge blowout trees that hit 20 feet and are covered in themes. Others don’t have a tree at all. Some go for artificial, some for natural, and my grandparents had not only three artificial trees, but alternated them every year in different colors (white with gold ornaments and tinsel; red with white; blue with silver) and also dressed the Baby Jesus Toddler doll we had in special holiday robes (seriously, I told you they were totally Catholic). I go out to community celebrations if I can, while other folks go caroling or volunteer somewhere. As I said, there are literally hundreds of different little pieces of Christmas that we can each assemble to make something personally meaningful to ourselves. That’s one of the biggest strengths of the holiday.
It may blow some folks’ minds to know this, but some Christians think that their religion has some kind of ownership on these end-of-year celebrations, and furthermore that people who do not follow their religion should not be free to celebrate it however they wish–like our presence will sully their grand and glorious holiday which is Totally Christian and Not At All In The Very Least Pagan in Origin, like knowing that somewhere, somehow, a non-Christian family watching Claymation specials on television and singing carols will cheapen their own enjoyment of it. Sometimes our celebration is taken as some kind of secret hint that we secretly believe in Jesus deep down (hint: no, we don’t), that we secretly wish we could be involved in Christianity somehow (hint: no, we don’t), or even that we want to take something away from Christian families (hint: no, we don’t). And they think that somehow our enjoyment can impact theirs in some way (hint: no, it cannot–unless they let it).
Christians’ outraged squawks are about as relevant here as when they freak out over same-sex couples using the word “marriage,” and for the same reasons (and I’m noticing it’s much the same crowd in both cases). I’ve seen more of these squawks in RL and online than I’d like to think about this week, and all they do is serve to remind me that the Christians talking that way just want to feel more special-er than all the rest of the people and to have something that nobody else is allowed to have. Such squawks indicate a poverty of soul and a vicious lack of compassion and empathy. Maybe they need to go back to kindergarten to learn to share, since they missed that lesson the first time ’round. They’re certainly not being a very good reflection of their god. (Or maybe they are, and that’s precisely the problem.)
So no, it doesn’t matter much to me how indignant some Christians get about whether or not non-believers are “allowed” to celebrate the holiday. It’s not really up to them; the holiday doesn’t belong to them any more than all wedding anniversaries belong to them. They may think they own it, but they don’t–and millions of families all over the country (and world) demonstrate Christians’ total lack of ownership of the holiday every single year, and will continue to do so.
Thanks for another amazing year, friends.
If you’re hiding out from the fam and need some reading material while you bide time in the bathroom, here are some links to stuff I liked this week and also to some RR Ex-Communications posts you might have missed —
* Here’s Not Why I Deconverted – shocking how popular this one got. In it, I cite the various false accusations I get for why I don’t believe anymore.
* Choices That Aren’t Really Choices – wherein I talk about why belief–and disbelief–aren’t choices at all, and what they really are.
* A Critical Distinction: Belief vs. Compliance – about my perception that what our Christian spouses and families often want from us is just the outward show of compliance, in hopes it’ll spark belief (but see the piece above about how it’s not a choice).
* Battle Tactics. Some of the techniques I’ve seen Christians use to avoid challenges.
* I Belong To Me – a fucking brilliant discussion of Christianity’s consent problem by a guest poster on RR, Dani Kelly. Remember her name–this post puts her at the top of the game. If I were allowed to make a list of required reading, this would be right at the front. Please don’t miss it.
* Male Shame – written by a professional psychologist. Really deep, startling look at the way that religion inculcates men with deep shame and confusion about their gender roles and identities–and how that shame leads to them trying to control women and define femininity. Seriously, this would be right at the top of the list as well. Don’t miss this one either.
* Male Shame: The Trumpet He Heard. I don’t talk a lot about my relationship with Biff or how it ended; I kinda thought that a lot of our problems stemmed from him being a narcissistic jackass and not because of Christianity per se. But for the first time–since seeing that Male Shame post above–I’m starting to realize that actually Christianity spurred him into becoming the monster he eventually morphed into, by giving him power and permission to get worse. So here I talk about how I’m starting to see him as having heard the “trumpet” of fundagelical Christianity. It gets a little dark, but if you want to come along on my mental journey then here’s a chunk of it.
* Complaining About the Exodus Movie from A Pasta Sea, written by our dear dear friend The Apostate. I really wish he’d write a book already. He’s that super-nice but ultra-reserved British uncle in all of our imaginations. He’s been running a series about the various historical errors in the Old Testament (which is also quite good) but took a break to discuss the specific errors in that new Exodus movie that just came out. I admit when I heard about it I just about cringed on the filmmakers’ behalf at the idea of The Apostate getting his hands on it. But after eviscerating the Bible story itself, he takes a slightly different tack by discussing why no sane filmmaker would ever even want to recreate that storyline.
* Like, We Are Never Getting Back Together. Like, Ever. Another great post from The Apostate riffing off of a Taylor Swift song. Come for the juxtaposition of teenybopper pop and someone like him; stay for the Biblical criticism and hard-hitting observations about Christian culture.
* The Convenience and Self-Flattery of Apostasy. The Apostate discusses a WLC post about how ex-Christians just wanted to sin and how we feel all self-flattered about deconverting and stuff. This post got featured on Neil’s blog over at Godless in Dixie and got a butt-ton of buzz–and it deserved every bit of it.
* If You Have to Believe It, It Probably Isn’t Real by Neil, which covers why religious ideas have to have faith to prop themselves up and how religious ideas differ from, um, objectively true ideas.
* How Christianity Stunted My Relational Growth, also by Neil, about how the Bible’s false narratives for relationships led him astray and how he’s slowly starting to unpack the damage and fix his flawed thinking about self-sacrifice. Ex-Christians who have recently deconverted will find this post especially valuable.