General Question

mrwhoopie's avatar

Is it a contradiction for an atheist to celebrate Christmas and easter?

Asked by mrwhoopie (100 points ) June 4th, 2009

Is it wrong for a person that claims to be an atheist to celebrate christian holidays?If so how are they celebrated?

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22 Answers

DarkScribe's avatar

What has the Christmas celebration to do with Christ? It is just a holiday that is heavily promoted by commercial interests. Enjoying the holiday, exchanging gifts has nothing to do with Christianity. As for Easter, it just an excuse to eat chocolate.

Do you REALLY think that most supposed Christian families actually go to Church on Easter and Christmas?

Where I live with very few exceptions the entire community claims to be Christian. Most of them couldn’t find the way to the Church of their denomination.

I go to Church more often than anyone in my community who isn’t an Islander. I go to argue about religion and play chess with the Priest. He and I have been good friends for a decade or more.

dynamicduo's avatar

Hahaha, this is hilarious! You do know that Christians stole all of their holidays from other religions, right? Christmas was always celebrated as the winter solstice before they added their savior onto it. In fact, most things in Christianity are copies from other religions. Even the virgin birth story isn’t unique.

But beyond that, with today’s marketing and consumerism, holidays are rarely about their original intent anymore.

Just because I’m atheist doesn’t mean my entire family is. I like to spend time with my family during the holidays. I don’t give one fuck about the actual holiday itself, it’s inconsequential, I care more about my family all together. Luckily even my extended family is not outright religious, and with the canning of the mandatory gift giving program, holidays are now about being together and talking and enjoying each other’s company. This is the way it should be.

cookieman's avatar

Christmas was a secular celebration long before it was adopted by the church in an attempt to bolster it’s waning popularity (Jesus was probably born in the Spring).

So that’s a “no”.

I see your point with Easter, but it’s been so commercialized, that most people I know celebrate it as a secular holiday (bunny in, crucifix out).

oratio's avatar

Traditions and rituals are important whether you are an atheist or not.

susanc's avatar

I get very choked up when I think about a baby being born into a cold world to save us from pain, and when I think about a man losing his life for the rest of us just when the
earth is coming back to life. It seems fine to me to go into a church and sing during
those times. I know some of the people in the church see these events in much more concrete terms. I think we all kind of get the general message.

Lupin's avatar

Call it Festivus and Spring and you got most everyone covered.

Critter38's avatar

Even Easter is pagan in origin from my understanding. Spring equinox, Saxon Earth goddess (Eostre), eggs and bunnies, etc. etc..

Seems to ring true that it’s timing is very much in tune with pagan celebrations of the rebirth of the natural world in Spring each year. If any ubiquitous animal is suited to representing fertility, the bunny certainly is…chicken egg is similarly indicative of pumping out those offspring.

In either regard I see these as nice excuses to spend some time with the extended family, eat lots, laugh lots and basically just enjoy life.

No religion can claim a monopoly on festivities at any time of year.

Lupin's avatar

For 9 years my kids went to an international school overseas. There were so many nationalities, cultures, languages, religions. The first day, the Headmaster stated to everyone (I’m paraphrasing here) “No matter what we teach here, we will offend some culture. For that I apologize and beg your tolerance. We simply cannot be paralyzed by the plethora of cultures and religious holidays and languages. We are all here for one goal, the education and safety of our children. We will celebrate the holidays of our host country . If you want to celebrate your own you are welcome to do so off-campus. Japan celebrates Winter, Summer, Spring and Fall. The calendar is posted. I also ask that you refrain from discussing politics and religion on campus. This is not the proper venue for it. We are here, united for our children.” It worked!!! The place was wonderful. I’ve seen more arguments on this site that there. And I’ve made some great, long lasting friendships with people of other persuasions.
“Hi Ho Hi Ho it’s off to Festivus I go.”

oratio's avatar

If one wants to celebrate Christmas as a celebration to the birth of Christ, one should get rid of the tree, presents and any references to Santa. Those aren’t that religious even if you are christian.

As for christian holidays and pagan. It would be either an amazing coincidence or planned that Christ would be born at the same time as pagan celebration, and John the baptist at midsummer. The bible doesn’t say when Jesus is born, but actually seems to indicate that he was born in the fall. Overtaking pagan holidays and demonize other gods were a good marketing strategy.

It is similar with the Sunday as a holy day. The seventh day – as the last day of the week , and day for prayer – is Saturday in the bible. But not for a christian. The church later decided otherwise, most likely overtaking the holy day of pagan religions such as Mithraism.

Church Council of Laodicea circa 364:
“Christians shall not Judaize and be idle on Saturday, but shall work on that day.”

So, no there is no contradiction really. One could argue the opposite. That it is unfounded to celebrate them as christian holidays. Whether you do or not, it brings us together.

wundayatta's avatar

It seems to me the question should be the other way around: is it a contradiction (or hypocrisy) for a Christian to celebrate Christmas and Easter?

btko's avatar

Regardless of the history – Christmas and Easter are now Christian holidays. Likewise, just because the corporate world has sucked the life out of the meaning they are still Christian holidays.I think it’s even hypocritical for myself, as an agonistic, to celebrate these holidays.

It’s the same idea as a Jew celebrating Christmas and Easter, or a Muslim. All religions and secular groups have celebrations around winter solstice and spring equinox. The Christians call these times Christmas and Easter respectively. If an atheist wants to spend time with their family and friends and exchange gifts during the holidays they shouldn’t fool themselves into thinking that they aren’t taking part in the Christian flavour.

tinyfaery's avatar

Christmas and Easter are now cultural holidays as much as religious, probably more so. I celebrate Giftmas and Egg Day. They happen to coincide with Christmas and Easter, but have no religious connotations.

cookieman's avatar

@btko: To re-phrase: “Regardless of the history – the North America is now of European descent. Likewise, just because subsequent immigrants from places like Mexico have sucked the life out of the meaning we are still a white, anglo-saxon country.”

The point is, these holidays were originally non-religious. As @tinyfaery says, they cultural and religious holidays. There is no hypocrisy in celebrating them.

mattbrowne's avatar

No, because there are two forms of Christmas: religious and a cultural one. Many symbols or traditions came into existence without a direct religious basis, for example the Christmas tree, which has pre-Christian roots. While some cultural parts seem global, others are not. Ask almost any German child about Santa Claus and his relationship to the North Pole and you would get incredulous stares.

cwilbur's avatar

I think it’s pretty hypocritical for an atheist to scold me for celebrating Christmas and Holy Week instead of Winter Shopping Holiday and Gorge Yourself On Jellybeans Day. And yes, I have had that happen.

“Why don’t you have a Christmas tree?” “Because I think it’s tedious to put one up.” “But aren’t you Christian?” “Yes, I am, but what does a tree covered with lights and tinsel have to do with Christmas?”

cookieman's avatar

@cwilbur: “Why don’t you have a Christmas tree?” and “But aren’t you Christian?”. Yet another example of someone “believing in” something they don’t fully understand.

but Jesus was born under a christmas tree and there was a single white bunny at the foot of the cross where he was crucified. la la la.

Darwin's avatar

Since our founders stated there should be separation of church and state in the United States, the fact that all government offices and most businesses close for Christmas Day would argue that this has become a secular holiday that happens to coincide with a Christian celebration. Easter is in some ways the same, in that many schools and government offices are closed on Good Friday, arguing once again that there is a secular celebration as well as a Christian one.

In fact, most human cultures seem to have some sort of celebration both for the depth of winter as well as for the start of spring. There also are often celebrations for the start of summer, and many, many harvest celebrations. In fact, there are so many celebrations that there aren’t enough days in the year for each to have its own day. Thus, any given day may be the time for several different celebrations for a number of different groups of people.

The simplest thing, and the one in line with American tradition, is to let your neighbors celebrate what they wish to celebrate, and for you to celebrate what you wish to celebrate, and for all to do it in their own way. However, I can see valid health and legal reasons to skip animal and human sacrifice.

And why should an atheist scold anyone for celebrating any religious holiday? We do also practice freedom of religion in this country, including freedom of non-religion.

cwilbur's avatar

@Darwin: You’ve never run into a militant atheist before?

Darwin's avatar

No, actually I haven’t. Most atheists that I know tend to be Unitarian Universalists if they are anything at all (mostly just for the companionship and the potlucks), and they all believe in “live and let live.” Actually, I have seen more scolding done by fundamentalist Protestant Christians than just about any other group.

Atheists should not scold any more than should Christians, Hindus, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Animists, Pagans, Secular Humanists or anyone else.

ml3269's avatar

We are a non-religious family and using christmas to come together from all parts of the EU and having a great party… with christmas tree but without church…

Jeruba's avatar

No more than it is for most of us to wear a touch o’ the green on St. Paddy’s Day.

dausonlovi's avatar

Enjoy the holidays. That’s why they are there. These holidays are all pagan holidays, just edited. I talked about this in book quite a bit. Christmas is just any number of pagan sun god holidays and the first Easters was actually celebrated in 2400 B.C.E. Holidays are just an excuse to relax, spending time with family and enjoy life. Go for it.

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