I’ll forever fight the war on Christmas in my own way

There’s a furious argument going on between Tom Flynn, who hates Christmas and thinks no right-minded atheist should have any truck with a religious holiday, and Beth Presswood, a confirmed atheist who loves the Christmas holiday. I agree with Flynn that the day is thoroughly tainted with ongoing religious garbage, but I also agree with Presswood that the season is in the process of being totally secularized, and that we ought as atheists to keep up the pressure to strip away the superstition and reconstruct the day to serve our completely human needs.

I write as a person living in the far north of our country, in a place that is bitterly cold and dark this time of year, where the snow doesn’t go away until March or April. I’m also a teacher, and for historical reasons that no longer have any religious meaning, our school year is split into two intense 4 month long instructional periods, where the work builds until it reaches a culmination in painful make-or-break finals…and we need this interim break to both recover and prepare for next term’s onslaught. Also for historical reasons, this midwinter break is nearly universal all across the country, so it’s actually a common time for families to get together.

So I don’t even get Flynn’s point. For me, it’s already a secular holiday with a secular rationale and justification — to tell me to not celebrate Christmas is absurd. I’m just going to do the same thing I do every year: sleep in, feed the zebrafish and the cat, relax and read a book, watch a movie, have a nice dinner, phone the family to hear what’s new, and just generally take it easy. There isn’t a speck of church anywhere in my agenda. What exactly am I supposed to stop doing to end my servitude to religious tradition? Starve the pets? Go to work? Don’t enjoy myself?

I’m going to side with Beth Presswood. I plan on loafing about secularly next year, too.


  1. twas brillig (stevem) says

    I’ve long believed that Solstice Celebration, errr Yule, was STOLEN by the Xians to bluster into the party with no invitations. They then applied their own name to it: Christ’s Mass, duh, duh, dunnn.
    Regardless, me and my friends and family celebrate the secular (pagan) holiday that is close enough to the Solstice to be Solstice Day. The party is not about worshiping the annual solar position, but to celebrate life itself and giving things to the people who are special to one, to show them that they ARE special to you. (that extreme position of the sun is just a marker of WHEN to have the party)
    Billy ORLY’s characterizing it as The War on Christmas, is totally bassackwards. It is the Xians warring on the secular Yulers, not vice versa. “Happy Holidays” is a greeting applicable to anyone, while “Merry Christmas”, is smug. When thrown at a non-Xian, it is basically saying, “I got a celebration and you DO NOT.” Or is the secret greeting to other members of the same clan. Why Billy is so offended by “Happy Holidays” is … … WTF.

  2. DonDueed says

    Happy Monkey, PZ.

    A midwinter break is always welcome. No need to celebrate anything, but if you care to, you can always celebrate the end and beginning of another annual cycle of life in the temperate zone.

  3. Ariaflame, BSc, BF, PhD says

    Or as we have here in the antipodes, a mid-summer break. But it’s generally too hot to think clearly at this point anyway so a break is a good thing. (Wish I was getting my usual one)

  4. Nick Gotts says

    close enough to the Solstice to be Solstice Day – twas brillig (stevem)@1

    I have heard somewhere – no idea if it’s true – that the pagan celebration was actually held a few days after solstice, once the watcher-of-the-skies was sure the days were getting longer again, so the sun must be beginning to recover from the assault of the dark forces which had been trying to kill it.

  5. dick says

    I have a couple of Jewish colleagues, so, on Hanukkah eve, I wished them ‘Happy Hanukkah’. I could tell they really liked that. A few days later, I wished them ‘Merry Christmas’. I didn’t, through circumstances, (they were on their way out the office door), pick up on their reaction. They’re nice people, so I don’t expect anything negative. I didn’t really think about whether or not I should’ve done that.

    This is the 21st Century, so we shouldn’t be taking Bronze Age superstitions seriously.

  6. mykroft says

    I for one am not going to drop our year end celebrations so I can be a True Atheist. We don’t go to a midnight mass, we don’t watch CNN’s little documentaries about the world at 0 AD and the (lack of) historical evidence that Jesus lived, and we don’t say a prayer before noshing on turkey.

    Instead we reconnect with family, admire our grandchildren for their latest feats of intelligence and skill (they’re all extraordinary, of course), and recover from the pressures of the previous year.

    Call it a mental health holiday if you want, but we need it.

  7. Becca Stareyes says

    I’m on the quarter system, and, while we get a long break between fall and winter, we get only a week between winter and spring. I wonder how I’ll take it.

    But, yeah. As other people have pointed out, a lot of the trappings of Christmas (lights, greenery, a feast, family time) pre-date Christianity. I don’t mind celebrating ‘yay, the days are getting longer’ with a side of ‘yay, I am with family’.

    (I note Halloween as another celebration that has been so secularized that many people don’t know it started as a religious festival.)

  8. HappyNat says

    I don’t get the atheists who hate on Christmas. If you don’t go to church there is nothing about the American Christmas that is religious. We put up lights, get a tree, bake cookies, have all the family we can over for dinner, and exchange presents. With the kids we read books about the reasons for celebrating the season in different cultures from Jewish to Dr. Seuss. The most religious thing we do is go to a Rabbi friend’s Chanukah party, which is a a reason for the adults to drink and socialize and the kids to play and eat sugar . . . oh and eat yummy latkes. She does have the kids light the menorah and sing 1 song, it takes 5 minutes of a 3 hour party.

    As an atheist am I supposed to shun all of the above? Why would I? It’s fun, the kids love it and it’s a good excuse to get together with family and friends. I also like exposing the kids to the many different reasons to celebrate. What good would it do to boycott everything to do with Christmas/Chanukah/Solstice? I suppose we could just sit in the dark and be miserable . . .

  9. HappyNat says

    chigau @5

    I’m totally going to go with a theme of “Feast of Circumcision of Christ” for new years this year. Anyone have any foreskin shaped cookie cutters? I can just add some drops of red icing around the one edge . . . and probably end up with a lot of uneaten cookies.

  10. says

    Flynn’s claim seems to be that Christianity has so completely captured “festival that happens right around the solstice” that participation is inescapably participation in a Christian festival, and will be seen as such by on-looking Christians. Maybe where he lives that’s true (though upstate NY ain’t that far from Southern Ontario), but my local Christmas has a pretty good balance of secular and religious. I think atheists should do as they damn well please.

    Not that we’re doing much notable festive stuff. I retired this year, so I’m not going to work anywyay, I put up a string of lights, we have family birthdays on the 25th and 28th, my wife did more baking than usual, and we’re having some social occasions. That’s it.

  11. says

    Y’know, it’s funny, I’ve always figured one of the sadder things about the season is the misuse of the, yes, really quite lovely and sensible tradition of taking some downtime around the solstice as a lever for emotional blackmail.

    I mean, think about it. Picture anyone not entirely down with the whole Christianity thing in a context in which someone is trying to pressure them into playing along. You’d really like to have your nice, ancient, psychologically probably quite helpful midwinter break, and instead you get some asshole insisting you mouth words you don’t believe, deliberately trying to tie these things together. This is our celebration, blah blah blah (and never mind we stole it), so you don’t get to celebrate unless you recite the shibboleths, and so on. They’ll try, indeed, somehow to imply it’s ‘hypocrisy’ just to take a holiday, without signing off on the appropriate confused, canonical farrago of creeds…

    Sure, it could just be a nice time to have some eggnog, some whiskey, sit together in the subarctic dark, tell stories around the fire together, this being probably the one commonality that has persisted through the varying traditions, over millenia. But noooo. Instead, some jerk has to bring that crap along, make it all about their anxious need to have their particular mangled hash of a cosmology validated by everyone present saying they believe. What fun, oh yes. You wanted a rest? Oh, well, nuh uh. Denied…

    Having seen such charming behaviour, I have now to say I’m really no more impressed by the contribution of folk like Flynn. As it seems to me this is essentially the same poisonous attitude. You have not proved your dedication to the doctrine sufficiently. Given this, how can we guilt you? And note also that it’s line which, in fact, implicitly swallows that very claim by the latest terribly-full-of-itself Johnny-Come-Lately of a religion about who owns the holiday.

    Seriously, I think we’d all be so much better off if such voices weren’t even around to generate drama and stress, at the last time anyone wants them, but the next best thing we can do, I guess, is limit their power by answering them with laughter, and maybe another trip back to the punchbowl.

    Enjoy your time. Everyone. It’s dark, it’s cold. Spend time staying warm with those you’ve had too little time for, the rest of the year.

  12. Markita Lynda—threadrupt says

    That’s it in a nutshell: neither Tom Flynn nor the Christians own the holiday.

  13. futurechemist says

    I’m an American secular Jew (Jatheist?). When I went to school in the UK, people in the Jewish society told me that they al celebrated Christmas – purely in terms of gift-giving, having a tree, and other secular stuff. They also celebrated Hanukkah too. They were just as surprised that I had never celebrated Christmas as I was that they celebrated Christmas routinely,

    Part of me saw that as just assimilating into the dominant culture. And part of me saw it as a betrayal of Jewish heritage. I’m not talking about religion in any way, just solely in terms of abandoning Jewish culture in favor of Christian culture. And yes, I know about Christmas’s pagan origins, but for our family, and I imagine many other non-Christians, Christmas = Christian holiday, down to the name of the holiday.

    Having said all that, my family brings our traditions into other secular holidays. It wouldn’t be our Thanksgiving dinner without matzo ball soup. So maybe there is no contradiction for a culturally Jewish family to celebrate Christmas.

    Basically I don’t really know what to think. I personally have no intentions to ever celebrate secular Christmas, but others can do what they want.

  14. Anri says

    The question I have always wondered about this War On Christmas biz is what a victory for Christmas in that war would look like.
    Christmas stuff starting in late August? Check.
    Christmas music playing on every possible venue, the same 2 dozen songs over and over and over? Check.
    Every single retail outlet scrambling to cash in on the holiday for literally months beforehand? Check.

    But here I am being stupid – I know what BillO thinks would be victory – everyone forced down onto their knees groveling before his chosen deity. You know: Heaven.

  15. says

    My usual reply is that just because Christians stole the holiday doesn’t mean they can keep it.
    I grew up with secular christmas.
    I celebrate the heck out of secular christmas.
    Shouldn’t it annoy christians the most that I’m (mostly) having good fun without any shred of their god? All the perks none of the downsides?

    My oldest is now becoming aware of the fact that we are different. She’s aware that we don’t celebrate because we believe that baby Jesus, son of God was born*, so she asked why do we celebrate?
    Well, because we like it. For all the reasons mentioned. Because the days are getting longer again, because we enjoy being together, because cookies are yummy.

    *It’S always amazing how little christians themselves actually know about the origins of christmas

  16. magistramarla says

    We spent the early part if the day on Dec. 25 having a purely secular celebration with family – watching the kids unwrap presents and eating a turkey meal.
    Then we escaped to a movie with our Freethinkers group and sat at the Indian restaurant across the street for wine and discussion. The same group had a Solstice party on the previous weekend and we’ll be getting together for a New Years Day brunch. (Hopefully we won’t be too hung over from attending a New Years Eve party with another group of friends).
    This is what this time of the year is all about – time with family and friends. That is a totally secular thing.

  17. robro says

    I’m certainly happy with the winter break, regardless of it’s origins or uses by superstitious people, and will continue to take advantage of it, sorry Tom Flynn. I do wish that businesses would stop the incessant holiday music.

    Christians certainly coerced pagan holidays into their rituals and the solstice celebrations were no different. The Romans basically took the entire month of December off for a series of festivals and celebrations, so what was the poor church to do.

    In the middle Iron Age, December 25th was the birthdate, or re-birthdate, of a number of solar gods, such as Attis, the consort of the Phrygian Cybele. But why the 25th, which is a few days after the actual solstice. The rationale that I’ve read goes something like this:

    In ancient times, they knew the date of the solstice, but they couldn’t identify the exact time of the winter solstice, when the sun is at the lowest point of the ecliptic…it might even occur in the middle of the night. So the date was an approximation of when the sun god entered its cave or tomb. In addition, the path of the ecliptic is somewhat flat at the solstices, so the sun would appear to be at the same elevation for several days. They would watch patiently for three days after the solstice as the sun lay in its cave, but by the morning of the fourth day, the 25th, they could tell unequivocally that the sun was returning. Hoozah! The sun is reborn! The cycle renewed! Spring will come. Let’s eat, drink and be merry.

    I have no idea if this is valid, but it seems plausible.

  18. zmidponk says

    Anri #17:

    The question I have always wondered about this War On Christmas biz is what a victory for Christmas in that war would look like.

    According to those who keep bloviating about the ‘war on Christmas’, that would probably be everyone, without exception, acknowledging this time of year is CHRISTmas, with any and all alternatives never, ever, ever being mentioned, most especially wishing someone ‘Happy Holidays’, with this being enforced by statute, if necessary (and this, of course, would not violate the First Amendment, even though it quite explicitly bans things like wishing someone a happy Hanukkah, because Tradition).

  19. weatherwax says

    “feed the zebrafish and the cat”

    Did anyone else initially read this as “feed the zebrafish TO the cat”?

  20. vereverum says

    Mr Flynn brought to mind two quotes:
    The haunting feeling that someone, somewhere, is happy
    Pardon him, Theodotus: he is a barbarian and thinks that the customs of his tribe and island are the laws of nature.
    Leviticus 19:37
    Therefore shall ye observe all my statutes, and all my judgments, and do them.
    Three quotes, Mr Flynn brought to mind three quotes.

  21. says

    Will someone please give Mr. Flynn his perfect atheist cookie so he’ll stop yammering about his dogma while the rest of us are enjoying ourselves in whatever way we see fit?

  22. Rivendellyan says

    Flynn has agreed to debate Matt Dillahunty on this exact subject, though the details of such debate are still unclear. If you guys are interested, try following Matt’s posts on his Facebook page, he’ll probably announce something there.

  23. lancefinney says

    Here’s what a Christmastime celebration looks like at one Humanist congregation: Good Cheer.

    There’s lots of fun, food, friendship, and Rudolph, but no baby Jesus.

    So, the good parts.

  24. says

    Flynn can take his humbuggery and re-gift it.

    I’ve never set foot in a church in December. Even my religious family members don’t bring up Jesus while we’re all having lunch or opening presents, because we use Christmas as the annual catch-up feast while the kids run themselves ragged in the garden of whoever it is that’s hosting this year (our bring-a-plate Christmas rotates through my parents and various aunts & uncles). Give a tinker’s fucking cuss about the Christian roots – they’re bloody well tacked on anyway. As artificial as the snow my fellow Australians spray on their windows when decorating.

    Flynn can chew a boiled arsehole if he thinks this atheist – or any atheist who likes a good nosh and a catch-up with friends, rellies, co-workers, whatever – is going to just forgo Christmas (or not call it Christmas, or call it Atheismas) because it has Christian content and is handing some kind of victory to the fundies. Because for this atheist, Christmas has never had any Christian content. Even when I was a Christian it was all about food, family and presents. The only hymns I ever heard were at school (sometimes I think the only reason I ever identified as Christian was because of my odd little country school).

    And speaking of victories – I wonder what, say, Bill O’Reilly’s reaction might be to Flynn’s Scrooging. We all know Bill just constructed his War on Christmas™ out of whole cloth (or at least from straw), but in comes Flynn, an atheist with influence who proceeds to grouch about how atheists should stop Christmassing because it’s helping the god-botherers. Must be like, well, Christmas to someone of Bill-O’s ilk.

    Mr Flynn, if anyone’s “giving aid to the enemy” here, it sure as fuck isn’t atheists.

  25. Sastra says

    Flynn’s wrong. If “Christmas” was so totally, absolutely, intrinsically, inelectably religious then you wouldn’t have all the hysterical, whiny little signs insisting that “Jesus is the Reason for the Season” and “Keep the Christ in Christmas.” They’re scared. Because they all know it’s so, so easy and so, so popular to ignore “whose birthday it is(n’t.)”

    We’ve got them running. Now’s the time to double down with “You don’t need Christ in Christmas.” It is not the time to bend over and just hand them the whole package — decorated tree, Santa, egg nog, and irrelevant little manger scene that never was. Like hell I will.

    I was raised without religion and celebrated a secular Christmas. I knew there was some weird story about a baby who grew up to become a king but the donkeys and the sheep were the best part of that tale. Atheists who agree with the Christians that the focus IS and MUST be on Jesus sound to me as if they’re coming from a different world, a world where we gratefully accept our role as a minority.

    Christmas for everybody! Watch the pious bust a gut on that one.

    Atheists who celebrate Christmas don’t disappear into the Christian culture. Little by little, the Christians disappear into a secular celebration. If they wanted to keep Christmas sectarian and all about religion then they were donkeys to insist on making it a national holiday and everyone and everything endlessly repeating “Merry Christmas!” They can have the first part of the word (big deal) — but the celebration is returning to its roots.

  26. says

    Like a few other commenters, I maintain that Christmas isn’t a Christian festival that has undergone secularisation. Rather, it was never, at any point in history, a Christian holiday in the first place. There have been a few Christian efforts to hijack it, but they failed.

    All the good bits about Christmas – the very things that define it, in most people’s minds – haven’t got the slightest thing to do with the Christian religion, and pre-date it by several centuries. People got together to feast and share presents at this time of year (presumably to cheer everyone up during the long and bleak northern European winters) long before the Christians turned up. It’s the Christians who are waging the futile war.

  27. Anne Fenwick says

    I even quite like the religious bits of Christmas in the same way that some people quite like dressing up and participating in Lord of the Rings re-enactment conventions (you know what I mean). I like the traditional cribs from the region I grew up in which aim to create a complete microcosm of society (well, the society of 150 years ago, anyway). I like Christmas carols, especially ones which are several hundred years old. To me, it’s all pretty folklore. Anything like real religious belief seems incomprehensibly distant from my life, in much the same way that I don’t believe in dragons even though they play quite a large part in the family culture.

  28. frog says

    My neighborhood has lots of churches, but lights and decorations only on about 40% of houses. Many of those include secular symbols (Santa, Mickey Mouse, snowmen, reindeer. Folks across the way have R2D2, Yoda, and Darth Vader with Santa hats). I don’t think I’ve ever seen a nativity scene. The most “religious” symbol I see is people putting single candles in the windows and hanging wreaths.

    I hang a swag of green boughs (holly, cedar, pine) on my front lamppost. To some it might appear I’m putting up Christmas decorations. To me, it’s a pagan symbol with which I secularly acknowledge an astronomical event that makes me happy. I love winter solstice! It means it’s time to start thinking about what veggies I want to plant in the garden next year!

  29. MJP says

    It’s being “secularized” for the wrong reasons – big companies are trying to turn it into the mother of all Hallmark Holidays.

  30. says

    Whew. I’ve spent much of today arguing with the guy over there who called Beth a collaborator with the enemy for celebrating Christmas. He couldn’t give a coherent explanation of why celebrating is so bad and his last resort was to claim that we’re only arguing with him because we know he’s right and we’re wrong. [bewilderment]

  31. Sastra says

    Ibis3 #35 wrote:

    Whew. I’ve spent much of today arguing with the guy over there who called Beth a collaborator with the enemy for celebrating Christmas.

    Oh yeah? Well, go back and tell him HE’S a collaborator with the enemy for NOT celebrating Christmas.

    That’ll fix him good.

  32. Scr... Archivist says

    I think Flynn is too pessimistic about how things are going with the secularization of U.S. society. But the process is far from over, and what is still called “Christmas” still needs a lot of work.

    How do we get the smug Christians (which isn’t even all Christians) to realize that we atheists who participate in kris-məs-time get-togethers in our own personal, familial, and idiosyncratic ways are not unwittingly or covertly worshipping their god?

    How do we get people like to Kirk Cameron to not lie about baubled conifers and Santa costumes with lines like “Everything you see inside there? …It’s all about Jesus.”? (I mean, that’s quite a whopper.)

    How do we make this time of year so secular and diversified that the Right gives up on pretending that it is a monolithic ritual supporting universal acceptance of their beliefs?

    These things might happen, but probably not in my lifetime. Maybe we’ll have to wait until, for example, time diary studies show no statistically significant increase in church attendance during Christmas or Easter or Mother’s Day. I would like to know how to hasten such a transformation.

  33. Sastra says

    Scr… Archivist #37 wrote:

    How do we get the smug Christians (which isn’t even all Christians) to realize that we atheists who participate in kris-məs-time get-togethers in our own personal, familial, and idiosyncratic ways are not unwittingly or covertly worshipping their god?

    I’m not sure, but personally I had some good feelings re American Atheists’ “You Don’t Need ‘Christ’ in Christmas” campaign last year. What if this (or something like this) was stepped up and emphasized across groups? Even a sneering response from the media of “Gee, “You Don’t Need Christ in Christmas” is just as bad as “Keep Christ in Christmas” puts the idea out there as not only a possible stance, but a proud (and overtly non-christian) stance.

    Let the Christians focus more and more on a “war” where nonchristians are removing Jesus and celebrating the wrong way, boo hoo hoo. This will I think have less appeal than the ‘angry-atheists-hate-Christmas-trees’ meme. It gives us a more positive and welcoming “Christmas for everyone because it’s not about Christ” message. They’re the grinches, not us.

    I don’t know. It’s not perfect, no, but it’s an idea.

  34. Menyambal says

    I just got back from a “Christmas” gathering of family. It wasn’t much different from getting together any other time of the year, except giving more gifts around (all handmade, unwrapped (I gave sambal, living up to my moniker)). There was some mention of the fact there was no tree in the house, but that was about it for Christmas, and damn-all religion to it. Food, family, and helping each other. I was, as always, tickled by how well the various inlaws like each other.

    The bible forbids decorated trees, by the way, so we were probably better than Billo, there. And let us not forget that the Pilgrims that supposedly started America came here to get away from Christmas.

    I got to sit in on an elementary school holiday sing, the other day. The kids sang beautifully, and were having fun. They did winter songs, and Hanukkah songs and even secular songs about Christmas, and it was great. But the three religious hymns were really jarring. Not just religion-wise, although I thought they should have been kept out for Constitutional reasons, but because they were creepy. The grovelling and the fear seemed awful things to inflict on children. (I pitched in and sang, but I looked around, and only saw one adult that seemed really thrilled with them.)

  35. Sastra says

    Menyambal #39 wrote:

    But the three religious hymns were really jarring.

    The old, traditional Christmas carols generally don’t bother me. The ‘creepy’ aspects are usually couched in such archaic expressions that my guess is that by the time the children are old enough to understand what they mean they are also old enough to understand that they’re not true.

    The only time I was bothered at an elementary public school Christmas show was one year a while back when my daughter’s class (2nd or 3rd grade) sang what I consider a “Sunday School song.” It wasn’t anything I’d ever heard before on any Christmas album or radio station — and it was all about how the letters in the word J-E-S-U-S stood for various things, all of them overtly creepy (ie written for small children) and one of the initials standing for something like “Every night my mommy reads the Bible to me” or some such highly fallacious mind-rot.

    I wish I could say that I protested to someone in charge, but I only stewed and sniped privately and at any rate there was never anything quite like that again. If it were to happen today I would speak up, but I am older and ornerier and less worried about what might happen to my daughter as a result (given that she’s in her final semester of law school.)

  36. WhiteHatLurker says

    The “pagan” celebration people speak of is likely “Dies Natalis Solis Invicti”.

  37. says

    My wife’s family is Hindu, I often get asked the question “does your wife’s celebrate Xmas?” My answer is “Yes, the same way my family does.”

  38. Al Dente says

    If Flynn feels the need to deny himself a pleasure then that’s his prerogative. I won’t force him to celebrate Christmas and I won’t let him dictate what I do.

    Who is Tom Flynn anyway? Is he someone we should pay attention to like Sastra and David Marjanović or is he someone like Dawkins and Harris who thinks they’re more important than they actually are?

  39. ibyea says

    The permanent elimination of smallpox, a disease that killed millions, one of humanity’s greatest achievements.

  40. Owlmirror says

    I wonder how Mr Flynn might feel knowing that he might be making common cause with the most devout Puritans?

    During the following year, moreover – when Christmas Day happened to coincide with one of the monthly fast days upon which parliament’s supporters were enjoined to pray for the success of their cause – MPs ordered, not only that the fast day should be “observed” instead of the traditional feast, but also that the fast should be kept “with the more solemn humiliation, because it may call to remembrance our sins, and the sins of our forefathers, who have turned this feast, pretending [to] the memory of Christ, into an extreme forgetfulness of him, by giving liberty to carnal and sensual delights”.

    Indeed. Indeed.

  41. Acolyte of Sagan says

    It appears that Flynn’s main bone of contention is that we shouldn’t celebrate Christmas as a secular holiday because it somehow validates the Christian belief that Christmas is all about the birth of Christ. Does this mean then that atheists should never be seen to be comitting good acts or even showing good behaviour because it will validate the Christian belief that we need God in order to be good?

    Anyway, nothing that Flynn says carries any weight with me. I cannot take seriously anybody who uses the non-word irregardless, a Palinism if ever there was one.

  42. leepicton says

    When christians ask me why I celebrate their holiday, I reply it’s because it’s so deliciously pagan. I’ve gotten a few funny looks.

  43. nich says

    It wasn’t anything I’d ever heard before on any Christmas album or radio station — and it was all about how the letters in the word J-E-S-U-S stood for various things, all of them overtly creepy (ie written for small children) and one of the initials standing for something like “Every night my mommy reads the Bible to me” or some such highly fallacious mind-rot.

    I have just three words for you: Happy Birthday, Jesus.

  44. says

    I’m a bit of an accomodationist on this: the Winter Solstice isn’t just a date, it has real meaning and consequences for people, both as a hopeful sign that the days are starting to get longer again, and as the point where winter really starts to kick in and get harsh; so it makes perfect sense for people (in non-tropical climates at least) to have some sort of big celebration at this time, to acknowledge that life is harsh and people need cheering up, and to make some sort of charity or gift-giving a part of the celebration. That’s why so many religions have some sort of celebration and folklore pegged to the Winter Solstice; and I see nothing wrong with atheists acknowledging that, at least in the sense of remembering history. Axial tilt may be the original “reason for the season,” but it’s a good thing to point out, in a non-mocking way, that various religions have rational reasons for celebrating it in their own ways.

    There are a lot of folktales around the Winter Solstice, from many different religions and cultures, and most of them at least express some good sentiment that all of us, theist and atheist alike, should be able to appreciate. Today’s Santa Claus may have been reduced to a department-store shill, but he used to be a lot more and better than that, and I see nothing wrong with remembering what he once (allegedly) was, and acknowledging and emulating the decency those old tales expressed.

  45. twas brillig (stevem) says

    I cannot take seriously anybody who uses the non-word irregardless,

    I understand your hatred of that word, like my hatred of the misuse of “less”, instead of properly, “fewer”. So like I was ‘schooled’ about my obsession, let me tell you that although irregardless is a badly constructed ‘double negative’ kind of word; it has become an acceptable word. As a form of emphasis, like the misuse of “literally” to be an emphatic version of “figuratively”. So, may I suggest, disregard only that single word, while considering the rest of what the person says?
    – shoot – I went too far, in this gentle conversation place. Sorry to get rude at you, correcting an idle comment, excuse me, please.

  46. Kevin Kehres says

    @40 Sastra: Sounds like someone repurposed the old song “M_O_T_H_E_R” with Jesus lyrics.

    M Is for the Many things she gave me,
    O Means only that she’s growing Old.
    T Is for the Tears she shed to save me,
    H Is for her Heart of purest gold.
    E Is for her Eyes with love light shining,
    R Means Right and Right she’ll always be.

    Put them all together, They spell MOTHER.
    A word that means the world to me.

  47. mistertwo says

    When I was a kid my parents sent out holiday photo cards of our family, and they always said “Happy Holidays” or “Season’s Greetings”. Why? Because they didn’t want to upset (too much) the people in our religion (non-institutional Church of Christ) who thought it was wrong to celebrate Christmas and other “Catholic holidays”. And we celebrated it in totally secular fashion. While some mainline Churches of Christ may have religious Christmas celebrations now, the “ni” churches still don’t, though few people refuse to celebrate it at all.

    Anyway, I’m tempted to accuse my Baptist friends who cry about the secularization of Christmas of being liberals. All I’d have to do is point them to a Charles Spurgeon sermon from a random December in the 19th century to show them that they should celebrate it as a secular holiday, too, or not at all.

  48. David Marjanović says

    Over here, semester break is a week in February for schools and all of February for universities.

    Secularization? Japan has done it. Kurisumasu is the celebration of love and rampant consumerism.

    These things might happen, but probably not in my lifetime. Maybe we’ll have to wait until, for example, time diary studies show no statistically significant increase in church attendance during Christmas or Easter or Mother’s Day.

    Mother’s Day??? Do Americans go to church on Mother’s Day? It’s completely secular over here.

  49. says

    …although irregardless is a badly constructed ‘double negative’ kind of word; it has become an acceptable word.

    I, for one, refuse to use it, just as I refuse to use “utilize” or “gotten.” (And the spellchecker on my PC redlined it, so there!) The more people refuse to use such badly-constructed words, the less “acceptable” they will be.

  50. says

    As a form of emphasis, like the misuse of “literally” to be an emphatic version of “figuratively”.

    Misuse of words should be resisted, especially when the words are stretched well past their original and most important meaning. “Literally” has been widely misused, especially in debates over what the Bible “really” says; so it’s all the more important to minimize the potential for misunderstanding and dishonesty in our choice of words.

  51. says

    Getting back to the original topic…

    …the guy over there who called Beth a collaborator with the enemy for celebrating Christmas.

    Actually, that guy is the one collaborating with the enemy: “the enemy” are the “Jesus is the reason for the season”/”Keep Christ [and no one and nothing else] in Christmas” crowd, the people trying to make sure NO ONE celebrates anything at Winter Solstice except their God, their way. And anyone who demands that non-Christians have nothing at all to do with any Solstice festivities, is pretty much agreeing with that enemy. Fact is, the Christians stole both the date and the specific celebratory activities and folktales, and anyone else can bloody well steal them back any time we want. We Pagans are doing it, and it won’t hurt anyone if the atheists join in. Belief in the Norse or Roman pantheon is not required.

  52. says

    Basically, Flynn seems to be saying that all the pagan religions eradicated by the often bloody christianisation of Europe and las Américas have ulitimately won because their traditions are still firmly embedded within the christian traditions, right?

  53. AstroLad says

    The way my employer’s holiday schedule worked this year, I got 16 consecutive days off, counting weekends, for the price of five. I’ll take that bargin any time.