There is, underneath all the eye-rolling stupidity, a point to the annual debate in the atheist community about the celebration of Christmas. Yes, it has become so mainstream as to have its religious significance diluted. Yes, it is so pagan in its celebration as to strip it almost entirely of any overt Christianity. Yes, it can be (and has been) rebranded as a holiday celebrating humankind’s ability to be at its best in the way it treats other humans, regardless of any person’s beliefs about a supernatural force.
However, the celebration of Christmas does reinforce the false equation of Christianity with goodness – as though Christianity is a moral system (it isn’t) or that Christians are better people (they aren’t). Christianity may offer opinions on good and evil, but can claim no monopoly of either understanding or execution when it comes to questions of morality. However, thanks to centuries of religious domination, we in the west subconsciously equate Christianity with righteousness (“it’s the Christian thing to do”, “we’re God-fearing people”, “WWJD”).
Celebrating Christmas, no matter how secularly we try to do it, requires the inclusion of Christmas songs. Some of them are simple winter ditties (Frosty the Snowman, Winter Wonderland, Jingle Bells), others are secular (Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Santa Claus is Coming to Town, I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas), and a great many are explicitly religious (O Holy Night, Away in a Manger, Hark! The Herald Angels Sing). By flipping through those messages interchangeably, we prop up the notion that Christmas is explicitly religious, which in turn equates all the virtues of Christmas with the religious celebration.
Luckily, there’s guys like Patton Oswald who ask us to maybe think about things just a little harder:
Whether you’re celebrating a secular, egg-nog-filled Yule or a Jesus-heavy Christ-mas, I hope you enjoy yourself. Remember, I’m off my vacation starting the first weekend after the New Year, and I look forward to seeing you all in 2011.
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