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Christmas as an Atheist

It’s that time of year again when pretty lights twinkle in the night, kids line up to sit on Santa’s lap in every mall across America, and parents struggle to figure out how to afford Christmas yet again.


If you listen to some conservative Christians, you’d think there’s some huge conspiracy to shut Christmas down–the “War on Christmas.” As far as I can tell, this war stems from some stores asking their employees to say, “Happy Holidays,” instead of “Merry Christmas” because they, you know, recognize that Christmas isn’t the only holiday celebrated in December! Apparently this is persecution.

As a minority religion-wise, I don’t get it. It’s just common decency to consider other people’s beliefs and to not insist yours is above the rest. Personally, I don’t mind either version. It seems the only people upset about what greeting is used during the holidays are the quacky Christians (not to be confused with the sane Christians).

Being an atheist during the holidays can be a challenge. First off, it’s the one time of year that bombardment with Christianity isn’t just tolerated, but expected. There are other religions celebrating in the winter? Who knew?

Luckily for me, I like Christmas. I grew up celebrating and carried the traditions to my children despite raising them in an atheist household. We have the tree with twinkling lights, Santa visits (although he’s about as poor as we are), we make cookies, have a big family dinner on Christmas Eve, and generally enjoy this time of year. I even like most religious Christmas music. God, Jesus, mangers, and wise men play absolutely no role in our celebrations. They aren’t mentioned at all; it’s completely secular–just the way Santa intended.

Deciding whether or not to celebrate a religious holiday when you don’t believe in the religion can cause a lot of stress for atheists. If family members aren’t pressuring you to participate, there’s an internal battle over your own personal beliefs. Not everyone goes through this. For me, it was never an issue. I never thought twice about doing Christmas with my kids, but I’ve known others that have struggled with the idea of giving into the Christians this time of year.

Trying to explain why I still celebrate Christmas as an atheist has been met with criticism in the past. I’ve been accused of just pretending to be an atheist since I still continue to participate in obvious religious holidays. I’ve been told I’m a hypocrite for saying there’s no Jesus, but celebrating his birth (which I’m not doing–it never comes up at our house). Generally, there is just confusion coming from Christians who can’t fathom anyone believing any differently than they.

Christmas is a family and cultural tradition for me. Although we’ve started a few traditions of our own since my kids were born, most come from things I did as a child like having dinner on the 24th, leaving gifts unwrapped to play with before Mom and Dad wake up, and stockings with names stitched on by hand. I also feel connected to the millions of other people celebrating Christmas (for whatever reason), knowing that on December 25th, most people are waking up to brightly wrapped gifts under a tree. It’s all about community–locally and globally.

Most atheists I know celebrate Christmas and other holidays from when they were children, but there are many that don’t. For them, this time of year can be aggravating with the music, decorations, and pushy Christians everywhere. For me the stress has more to do with affording a few gifts for the kids every year. With five children that adds up quickly.

When ideologies collide on facebook


Facebook is great for a lot of things. For me, the best part is being able to keep in touch with family that lives on the other side of the country. Without facebook I’d have no idea what was going on with everyone. I love being able to log in and find out what my cousin’s son is doing in Michigan or how my aunt’s vacation is going in Florida or how my old neighbor is still warring with the crazy lady next door.

But facebook has a much darker side, too. First of all, there’s all those highly addictive games. They’re sneaky and will get you every time. The games lead to the second most evil thing about facebook: game requests. No, I don’t want to help you on Candy Crush, please stop asking!

My biggest issue, though, is dealing with people on my friends’ list that have vastly different social, religious, and political ideas than me. As an atheist, facebook has been great for finding other atheists to commiserate with, but on the flip side I have to deal with people spamming my feed with stuff about god. It goes on and on, sometimes ten or fifteen posts in a row about how much god loves us or how Jesus will save us. Anti-abortion, anti-gay rights, pro-guns, pro-military, pro-crazy rancher in Nevada. Ultra conservative Evangelical Christian Republicans who believe their view is the only right one. Bob forbid you disagree with them.

An easy solution to the last one is to just not respond to their posts. Which I don’t. But they’re still there. Dozens of them, several times a day, making me wade through them to find updates I actually want to read.

The dilemma, though, is do I block them, unfriend them, ask them to stop, suck it up, or just quit using facebook?

Option three would just be rude–it’s a free country and they can post whatever they want. I shouldn’t have to quit a site or sit quietly and endure and bunch of crap I don’t want to see, though. So that leaves blocking or unfriending? But can you really do that if they are family.

I wouldn’t mind if it was one or two things here and there. I don’t mind when other family members post things about their beliefs, but they don’t go overboard. And I don’t go crazy posting twenty atheist posts in a row. In fact I post nothing about atheism because it gets those family members in a tizzy. Then I get IMs wanting to know why I can’t just believe, and don’t I know how much god loves me, and “I just don’t understand, but I’ll pray for you.” Gee thanks.

I love my family, even the crazy religious members, but I’m not sure I can take much more of the spamming. I don’t want to start some family tiff either.

I guess for now I’ll just have to suck it up. Which, well, sucks.

why did I answer the door?

Ugh.  I should know better.  We don’t know anyone here, the kids are all in school and I’m not expecting packages.  Why did I answer the door?  There’s only one thing it could be: missionaries.  Or in this case super fundamental religious people trying to sell books.

I was happily watching the commentary on the first episode of Farscape and knitting up a little stuffed animal for my Meagan’s friend (it’s her birthday today and we have no money for gifts).  Even though my husband went in to work today I’ve had limited time to just relax and enjoy my day without noise and distractions.  I had to walk to the store again today so that took an hour and cleaning up the house and lunch.  Jack laid down at like 1pm and I threw a load of laundry in and sat down to watch and knit.  Hubby gets home at 2:30 and Meagan at 3pm.  I wanted to get this animal done before then.

And then the doorbell rings.  These people start off as if they’re touting healthy living, show me a cook book.  And then move on to Bibles and god and blah, blah, blah.  There’s no opportunity to tell them I’m not interested, they just keep blabbering on.  Finally they ask me if I’m interested in the books which were all super Christian and probably full of factual errors and I said, “no.”  And then the guy (who was super nice, they both were) asks why and I’m like I’m just not into religion.  So he asks, “but you still believe in god,” like the thought of meeting anyone that doesn’t is just beyond him.

How do these people find me.  At least the Jehovah’s Witnesses leave after 30 seconds if you tell them you’re not interested.  Unlike the Mormon boys that acosted me on the street last week.  I’m trying to get home in time for the kids to get off the bus, it’s hotter than hell, I was sick and in a bad mood to begin with.  They crossed the street to start preaching to me and when I said I wasn’t interested they kept pressing me.  For a full block they badgered me to take their card and listen to their word.  How much plainer can I get than, “I AM NOT INTERESTED”?

And now these people.  Once they found out I didn’t believe in their god the preaching started.  The girl (again, super sweet young girl from the Ukraine) starts going on and on about creation science and how it makes so much more sense than evolution.  I could tell just from talking to them that they are completely clueless as to what evolution really is.  The fact that they mention “the big bang” theory was enough to know they didn’t understand what the hell they were talking about.  It took every ounce of will power not to roll my eyes.

Up until now I’d only met these people online.  Now I know they really do exist in the real world.  But, they left shortly after that when they realized they weren’t going to sway me but they were giving me all this pity like they felt sorry I didn’t see their god the way they did and my life must be so horrible.  Whatever.

The whole time all I could think was why couldn’t Jack wake up NOW.  Then I’d have an excuse to leave.  They sure couldn’t read body language because everything about my stance screamed “really not interested in this.”

They finally leave and I go back inside to find my commentary is in the credits.  Grrr.  I had gotten to the point where Aeryn is “irrevocably contaminated” and they are detained by the Peacekeepers.  Only to come back and the show is over.  Shows how long they kept me captive and I’m too nice to just tell them to get lost.

Then I have my husband texting me wanting me to make dinner to be ready when he gets home at 2:30.  For crying out loud, dinner isn’t until 5pm.

Now he’ll be home in a half hour and I didn’t get an freaking time to myself.  And I have a migraine.  Grrr.

[again: I have no issue with religious people I just wish they’d leave me the hell alone.]

Christians=big whiny babies?

I usually try to be respectful of all people and all beliefs.  But this is something I was thinking about the other day based solely on experiences at this one online site for mothers.

I’ve been a member of this mom site for a year and a half and in that time I have seen some down right nasty things being written about people by Christians.  That’s just the personal stuff.  Then you get into the debates about politics and religion and it gets insane.

*DISCLAIMER*This is my personal experience and I KNOW not all Christians are like this.  I have also met some very nice Christians who also don’t condone the behavior I have witnessed.  I also know the Christians I know in real life are not like this.  They are good, caring people that don’t care what I believe as long as I am a good person.  I also realize the relative anonymity of the internet allows for certain behaviors that would not otherwise come to the surface but that just makes me even more suspect of Christians as a whole because I wonder what they would say or do if societal limitations weren’t there.

Anyway this is my observation:

From the debate over the Pledge containing “under god” and “in god we trust” being on our money–this is what I see.

atheist (or other person for removal): Having “under god” in the Pledge is a violation of the 1st amendment and should be removed.

Christian (usually a fundamentalist): Wah, you are oppressing me, it’s not fair, why don’t you like Christians?  Why are you so mean?  WAH! [then they throw a tissy fit when asked to explain how upholding the 1st amendment oppresses them or how removal will effect their faith in god.  Then they usually go on to blame atheists and the ACLU for ruining America.]

I’m not trying to be rude but this is seriously what I hear in my head whenever this debate comes up.  It sounds like the Christians are a bunch of whiny babies that need a nap or a time-out.  It is like my kids fighting over a toy.  Child A has had a toy for a long while but really isn’t playing with it.  Child B asks to play with said toy and then Child A throws a tantrum saying it isn’t fair and refuses to share.

From the debate over homosexuals being allowed to marry:

GLBT supporter: All people are equal and should have equal rights.

Christian: WAH! No, no, no, I won’t share the word marriage.  God loves sinners but hates the sin, Wah, it offends me, Wah, what about the children…how can I explain it to them.  WAH!  [followed by another tissy fit when asked to explain exactly how gays getting married effects their marriage or their life in any way]

Hey, way to look like a bunch of jack asses.  Even many of the Christians at this mom site are offended by this behavior.  If my children acted this way I would send them to the corner until they could be civil with each other.

From the debate over removing “Christmas” from schools and other government buildings:

atheist (and other supporters): Unless all beliefs are encompassed then none should be signaled out.

Christian: Wah, but it was like that forever.  It isn’t fair!  Wah, we’re being oppressed because we can’t practice our religion anywhere anymore. [followed by another temper tantrum]

This debate I find hilarious.  And the cry of “oppression” is just ridiculous.  It is sad that they consider freedom of religion (one of our country’s founding principals) and religious equality to be oppression.

Taking the Christmas pageant out of a public school is NOT oppression.  It is simply not signaling out Christian traditions as any more important then other traditions.  And the fact of the matter is not everyone is Christian.

I can only imagine the outrage if an atheist wanted to teach all the kids about their beliefs (or lack there of) to a class of 4th graders.  Parents would be beating down the school board’s doors with torches and pitchforks.  But they have no problem trying to push creationism as real science and teach ALL children (including non-Christians) that what the Bible says is 100% truth.

From a couple of posts I just witnessed on the mom’s site:

Question A is posed by a non-Christian (most likely agnostic although she doesn’t actually say) as to how she should go about teaching her 4yo daughter about the idea of god without indoctrinating her.

She got many good answers about checking out a UU church or different books (from both an atheist/agnostic standpoint and a Christian one); all very civil and informative.  But there were also about 8 or so answers that just came right out and said she should ONLY be teaching the Christian version of god as described in the Bible and a couple insinuated that she was a bad mother and raising her child wrong by not teaching her god and Jesus were the only way to heaven (never mind this mother doesn’t believe those things herself).  Then she was told she NEEDS to figure out what she believes, but only as long is it is the Christian beliefs because she was dooming her family to hell.

Yeah, right.  She ended up having to defend her non-beliefs to these idiots while trying to glean some useful information from the other responders (most of who were also Christian).

Question B is posed by a Christian about having “homosexual” type dreams and how can she get them to stop.  Normally I wouldn’t even have read the question because it was obviously posed by a Christian to other Christians but there were over 35 answers and I wanted to see what people had to say about such a touchy subject.

What happened was Christians (mostly helpful ones) posted some suggestions along with some practical advice.  Then there were some non-Christians that answered that there was nothing wrong with her dreams or that living by the Bible was silly if it was making her so uncomfortable.  A few people with New Age philosophies jumped in with some dream interpretations (trying to be helpful which I found pointless because this person was obviously a fundamentalist so would automatically reject the dream interpretations).

Then the Christians got their panties all in a twist because the non-Christians had given answers based on what they believe and that was just wrong.

From what I can gather from these two topics is that Christians feel they should inject their beliefs into every one else’s lives but if other people try to give Christians advice based on their beliefs it is wrong and Christians are then “offended” or “oppressed” in some way because of this.

It pretty much supports my view that they are a bunch of whiny babies.  They remind me of my 8yo daughter who demands that her sister share all her toys with her because it is only fair but then when the 5yo wants to use something that belongs to the 8yo she throws a horrendous fit and says it isn’t fair that she has to share anything.

What it boils down to in my mind is right now Christians are the majority and because of that have somewhat of a control over society (although they seem to think the opposite).  Laws are still made based on their morals and their values, disregarding all other people’s beliefs.  So when the minority finally speaks up and says, “um, yeah, we live here, too, and we’d like to be treated equally” they freak out because that means giving up some power, control, prestige.  It is to say they are not the top dog any more.

From what I can see Christians want all sorts of respect for their beliefs but don’t want to give any out.  The ones that say that is a lie are usually the ones that are the worst offenders.  They are the ones that cry “oppression” when someone says god doesn’t belong in public schools then turn around and tell Pagans and atheists that they are evil, devil worshipers and they are going to hell and are abusing their children by not taking them to church (yes I have had people tell me this).  But that is a rant for another post about the hypocrisy of Christians.

In the end it comes down to this simple tirade, “it’s mine and you can’t have it” about the dwindling power Christians hold in our society.

faith vs. blind faith

Faith is described as believing in something without evidence.  In religion it is usually connected to a deity, such as Christians have faith that god exists because no solid evidence exists.

I was thinking of this topic awhile back and came to a conclusion.  I don’t agree with the accepted definition of “faith”.  To me the ideas of faith and blind faith are two different things.

The idea came about when someone asked me about believing in god.  The end argument being, “you just have to have faith.”  Well, I don’t and I can’t have blind faith in something so intangible as a god.  I see absolutely no proof that there is a god.  Believing in such a being, to me, is utter blind faith.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t have faith in other things.  As the conversation went I listed various things I do have faith in, including, first and foremost, my family.

Here’s where my disagreement with the accepted meaning of faith comes in.  Based on the definition I would have faith in my family without any proof they would do anything benificial for me. That isn’t true.  I have much proof and, I assume, that would mean I have trust, not faith.  But I still state it as faith.  Why?  Well the way I see it I do have some proof.  In the past my family has helped me, cared for me and been there for me when I needed them most, but I have no proof they will continue to do so in the future.  Things could change and they might decide to disown me and no longer help me.  But I faith that won’t happened based on how I have been treated in the past.

Therefore for me, regular old faith has a lot of evidence to support it.  All the things I have faith in I have so because I’ve seen some kind of evidence to push me in that direction.

I don’t see this slight change in definition to cause any trouble for religious, either, because from what I gather talking to many Christians they have some sort of personal evidence that god exists.  They “feel” him so to speak or “see” him in the natural world around them.  Great, more power to them.  That is their evidence and the reason they give their faith to that being.  I don’t see it.  For me to say there is a god would mean I was falling back on “blind faith” or belief with zero evidence since when I look at nature all I see is nature…science at work, not a higher power.

Picture it like this.  You know your family.  They are good people and have taken care of you whenever you needed them to.  They would drop everything to help a friend at a moment’s notice.  They are the most caring people you know.  You have “faith” that they will continue to be so based on the evidence you have in previous events (doesn’t mean they will, they could decide to stop helping for whatever reason).

You tell me about that and explain I should have faith in your family to help me, also.  That’s all fine and dandy but I don’t have any personal evidence/proof that they will help me.  Maybe they will, maybe they won’t.  If I took your word for it and believed they would help that would be “blind faith”.

It isn’t the accepted definition of the word but it is how I see it.  Otherwise I’ll have to give up saying I have faith in many things because all the things I have “faith” in I have some kind of evidence that gives me a reason to continue to have faith.  I guess I’ll have to start saying I simply “trust” in those things and say I have faith in nothing.

Either way I have little respect for people that have blind faith in anything.  Those people that take everyone’s word for it with no research or investigation on their own.  I don’t understand how people can live like that.  And that goes for religious or otherwise.

Raising Freethinkers

Raising freethinking kids in a mostly Christian society isn’t easy.  We are looked down upon by our religious neighbors.  Many people I have talked to have been shunned by family and friends when they have come “out of the closet” as atheists.

We are lucky to have family that supports us, even agree with the way we are trying to raise our kids.  We don’t come right out and tell our kids there is no god.  I am tempted all the time.  Like most parents I want them to believe what I believe; to see the world the way I do.  But I know they have to come to their own conclusions.

Instead I spend my time balancing the religious learning they are getting at their Catholic school.  Yes, my heathen children go to a Catholic school.  It was a matter of circumstances that lead us to the school (the same one that one of my best friends attended).  The school is nice.  It is small, one classroom per grade.  All the teachers know the names of all the students, even mine who have only been in the school the one year.  Even the principal knew their names (and, no, they have never been in the principal’s office).

I don’t try to dispel any of the teachings the school imparts on the kids.  When they ask questions about what they are learning or even mention in passing I just tell them that not everyone believes that and that they don’t have to either if it doesn’t make sense.  They know I don’t believe in a god, they know Daddy doesn’t care about religion, they know Papa doesn’t believe either.

I know it will get harder as they get older.  Meagan is already worried about making her First Communion with her classmates, which she will not do since she isn’t baptized and we don’t plan to get her baptized.  I had to go through the same thing in school.  At least she will have someone there to tell her it is okay to not believe.  I didn’t have that despite my dad being agnostic my entire life.

Owen says he doesn’t believe.  He is still too young to really come to any conclusion but if that is what he says he believes/doesn’t believe then I let it go.  Meagan says she does believe in god and heaven.  I don’t try to change her mind.  I periodically question her as to why she believes that.  I want her to question everything.  I have little respect for people that have blind faith in anything.  I question Owen also.

The hardest part for me, sometimes, is feeling out of place.  Even though no one at the school knows we are atheist I feel completely cut off from them, like I have a giant glowing scarlet “A” on my forehead.  It is hard to make friends when you are worried about others bringing up what church you attend or why you haven’t been to Mass all year.

My goal for my children is to teach them to be good, upstanding, productive citizens that have empathy for all people.  To teach them to never be afraid to stand up for what they believe, to never be ashamed of what they are or what they believe.  I want them to think for themselves, be critical and analyze everything they come into contact with.  And to find love and be happy.  I don’t see how god has to be a part of that.

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