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ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

Are atheists really responsible for taking the "Christ" out of "Christmas?"?

Asked by ANef_is_Enuf (26784points) November 4th, 2011

This time of year I start hearing the “put Christ back in Christmas” discussion. It always seems to have a finger pointed right at the atheists, but I’m curious to know why. I don’t ever remember hearing about mass boycotts of stores that say “Merry Christmas” or groups of atheists protesting in front of a store with a Christmas tree in the window. Did I miss that? Or did it never happen?
I always felt like “Happy Holidays” was about marketing. About being inclusive. You don’t have to celebrate Christmas to shop at our store, buy your loved ones their Hanukkah gifts, festivus presents, solstice gifts, giftmas presents, hell.. a New Years present, we don’t care what you celebrate, just give us your money!

Is that not what it is really about? Were atheists really behind this in the first place?

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90 Answers

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

Well, I’ll just speak for myself. As an atheist and a Russian person (we celebrate New Year’s), I don’t celebrate Christmas. Neither do many of the atheists I know. So whoever is dicking around with Jesus’s role in the bil ole corpora-oliday, it ain’t us.

everephebe's avatar

Hahahahahahahahaha, Ho ho ho, we wish.
Try the capitalists.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@ANef_is_Enuf A little early in the year to get out the big bullseye for flak isn’t it?

SpatzieLover's avatar

No. If anything it’s the seperation of Church and State. Personally I think it started in the schools, and that spilled over to retail.

I for one, don’t care. At home, we say “Merry Christmas!”

If a store doesn’t, that’s there business.

“Happy Holidays!” is polite, IMO. Not everyone on the planet is a Christian.

dappled_leaves's avatar

I am an atheist and I say “Merry Christmas” to people. But then, Christmas is essentially a shopping holiday, isn’t it? If the Christians want to get their knickers in a twist, perhaps they should work on getting retailers to stop hijacking their religious holiday, and stop worrying how people greet each other.

tinyfaery's avatar

This atheist couldn’t care less. Blame Hallmark & Toys ‘r Us.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

Well I ask, because, as an atheist… I don’t give a shit. I say Merry Christmas. I’m certainly not offended by it. But the finger always seems to be pointed at the atheists when this comes up, which it inevitably does every holiday season.

everephebe's avatar

Although really all blame should be leveled at Mithra.

SpatzieLover's avatar

@ANef_is_Enuf I think, at least around where I live, atheists or the ACLU were behind getting Christmas and other “Christian” holiday parties and terminology out of schools.

“Christmas Break” became Winter Break-etc.

Scooby's avatar

I blame the ‘TAX’ man….......... :-/

jrpowell's avatar

I’m agnostic and Christmas is pretty low on my list of shit to care about. Once gay people have the same liberties as everyone one else we can start tackling the Rudolph problem.

tom_g's avatar

Nope. Most of the people I know are atheists, and nearly all of us celebrate Christmas and don’t give a shit about “merry christmas”/“happy holidays”. My guess is the “happy holidays” thing is really just a business decision. They want to seem inclusive (more customers). So, when a business serves a diverse population, it would be in their best interest to be inclusive.

FutureMemory's avatar

I always thought it was a way to try to make non-Christians feel “included”, not atheists.

DominicX's avatar

I know many atheists who celebrate the secular part of Christmas. I’ve often talked about this concept, that Christmas has two sides: a religious side and a secular side. You can celebrate both, you can celebrate one, or you can celebrate neither. Most atheists I know who celebrate Christmas simply don’t celebrate the religious aspect and celebrate the secular part with decorations and gift-giving and family-togetherness. They don’t seem to be wanting to remove the religious aspect of Christmas, they simply don’t celebrate it.

The problem comes when the religious part of Christmas becomes part of the secular public display of Christmas. Is it okay to erect a Nativity scene in public places, etc. That’s when people start getting into the “removing Christ from Christmas” problem.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

I just like the loot.

tom_g's avatar

For the record, I have more of a problem with the wasteful consumption aspects of Christmas than the religious stuff.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@tom_g Don’t disagree, but I still like my loot.

JilltheTooth's avatar

Here is a good explanation of it.

thorninmud's avatar

I’m Buddhist, but I love Christmas. For that brief little moment in the darkest part of the year, there really does seem to be an extra measure of goodwill floating about. People are put into the mindset of thinking about what others would like, which really changes the way the world feels. There’s a general atmosphere of bonhomie that isn’t so common at other times.

If I were a Christian, I’d look at that and feel proud. I’d say “That extra measure of goodwill, that cheer, that generous spirit…there’s the Christ in Christmas”. How sad to feel the need to get all proprietary about it.

Blackberry's avatar

No, the Constitution is.

Scooby's avatar

It’s official :-/
You heard it here first; maybe :-/

Buttonstc's avatar

@ANef

I’m still trying to figure out how you interpret the phrase about putting the Christ back in Christmas as finger pointing specifically at Atheists.

I’ve always interpreted it as being against the greediness and over-commercialism of the holiday. Another phrase which also appears is “Jesus is the reason for the season”

I think the primary intent of BOTH phrases is an exhortation to Christians THEMSELVES. Basically reminding them where their primary focus should be, so to speak.

I’ve never really perceived either phrase as being leveled at Atheists as much as at secular BUSINESS interests promoting their products and Christians being suckered into all the hype. Atheists are kind of beside the point on this issue as far as I’m concerned.

The money grubbing over-commercialization of Christmas has been the topic of far far more sermons than Atheism ever has IMHO.

Blackberry's avatar

@Buttonstc That’s a good point. Maybe I’ve just been on the internet too long, and I imagine the feelings being a bit different amongst moderates in reality. But whenever I see specifically christians discussing it, it is about non christians trying to secularize things. I haven’t heard many arguments for the commercialization. But like I said, I’ve been on internet forums too long. And outside of internet forums, I don’t think anyone would notice there was any persecution of christmas, because commercialization is apart of our american culture, anyway. So I assumed this was about the secularization of christmas: the whole “I can’t say christmas because of some non-christian whining” stuff (Which I haven’t seen any of in real life).

wundayatta's avatar

Christmas was dropped on top of existing winter holidays, so while the holiday bears Christ’s name, it does not belong to Christians. In fact, one could argue that us pagans atheists have more right to it than Christians do. I would never argue that because it’s silly, but one could.

Of course, Christmas now is a celebration of all the people and of our aspirations for a more affluent society. We feel dutybound to consume and to do our part to goose the economy. And of course, the economy needs goosing this year more than most. I used to think this was an American thing and that it was our patriotic duty to spend, but I see now it is a human thing, and it is our solidarity with humankind thing to spend as much as possible.

I no longer say this with irony. I know people think of spirituality as being something other than materialism, but I don’t see it that way any more. A good economy is how we can make the most people comfortable and happy. Even though it’s not cool to say, having more things is associated with greater happiness. If the Christmas spirit is truly about good will towards fellow humans, the the best way we can do that is help every one by doing our part to give people jobs so they can help themselves. The best way to do that is to spend, spend, spend.

We are all in this together, and the economy is how we weave the web that holds us all together. Right now, there is a dysfunction in the economy in that the benefits of a well-functioning economy do not go equally to all. The poor do the worst. But if we can float this boat, and we go all in, even the poor will benefit and be able to have jobs, and that is far more than they will have if we merely give them charity.

The disadvantaged may need charity to get through the winter, but in the long run they need jobs. The only way they will get jobs is if people buy stuff. Christmas is all about buying stuff, and helping your fellow man. Materialism is not so separate from spirituality here, and theisms and atheism are on the same page with Christmas, it seems to me.

DominicX's avatar

@Blackberry Yeah, my mom has complained about that as well, but so have I. Her complaint was the usage of the term “holiday tree”. That isn’t about commercialization, but it does seem to be a way of implying the word “Christmas” can’t be said because it’s a religious term. For me, as a linguist-in-training, it’s a linguistics issue. For me, “Christmas tree” is simply the name of the object. A tree covered in ornaments and lights is called a Christmas tree. It’s used primarily for Christmas. I see no reason why it should have to be called a “holiday tree”.

And I don’t think atheists are to blame for that one as much as it’s just a symptom of political correctness in an attempt to be “all-inclusive”. To me, however, the term Christmas tree doesn’t alienate anyone because it’s simply the name of the object, based on its original and primary use.

Blackberry's avatar

@DominicX Yeah, it definitely sounds strange after hearing the word christmas for so long. I don’t care about the lingo, but it does bother me that some christians just think they should be a privileged majority, but I also don’t care enough to do anything about it. It’s not out of hand or anything (at least in christmas, politics: out of hand).

smilingheart1's avatar

Oh heck and I always thought it was the rich Jewish businessmen that made Christmas
X rated.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

@Buttonstc because I have heard it put that way, many times. I agree that there seem to be two sides to the same argument. Sometimes it does seem to be about remembering the religious aspect of the holiday, but often it is directly about the wording and the secularization of the whole thing, and people do argue about who is behind that.
When someone says “Jesus is the reason for the season,” I don’t think to myself that somehow that is an indirect blow to atheists. When someone makes a comment about atheists being behind “happy holidays,” an argument that is usually closely followed with comments about god not being allowed in school, or the pledge, there is really no mistaking what the message is.

ucme's avatar

Commercial enterprise with it’s insatiable appetite for our hard earned cash is the bigger culprit here, but that’s okay. I can live without the nazarine playing any role in my life whatsoever, not presents/decorations & xmas trees though….......yipppeeeee!!

Lightlyseared's avatar

I am fully paid up member of the Cult of Father Darwin atheist (and one of my profs was Dawkins) but I love christmas. I also like going to church as long as the actual church building is over say 400 years old and they don’t go in for that happy clappy modern crap (if they do the service in latin then thats perfect but very few places do now) and I don’t really like having to talk to any of the other people there but hey. In my opinion its not the athesists that have taken the christ out of christmas but the politically correct nutters that don’t want to offend other religions who are responsible.

Kardamom's avatar

Excuse me, but does any one have any eggnog?

wundayatta's avatar

Pasteurized or not?

Hibernate's avatar

@ANef_is_Enuf I’m not sure. I know a lot of Christians who are all about partying around Christmas and forget what this holiday is all about. With people like them we don’t really need to blame others.

spykenij's avatar

I agree that it was started with the seperation of church and state. What we need now is a seperation of Corporate America and State now. Anyhoo, I think it’s been spun out of control by the religious right. Boo hoo, poor us and bla, bla, bla… They want anything unlike them destroyed. It’s not the athiests. It’s not even another religion. It’s the whine-asses who thump the bible a little too hard and play the blame game.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

Fact from fiction, truth from diction. IT WAS NOT ATHIEST. Christ was removed, or marginalized, from Christmas because of sad sack capitalist who were afraid of offending atheist, Buddhist, Jews, and others who did not, or chose not, recognize Christ. Atheist might have been a catalyst in directing of that train of thought, but they far from owned it. Retailers wanted to stretch the net as far as possible so they went generic to get more money; atheist money, Islamic money, keep their money from the Jews, Buddhist money, Shinto money, etc. Not to mention the money unbelievers who don’t claim atheism. It is all about marketing, the same way they try to gernerictize Easter.

WillWorkForChocolate's avatar

No, I don’t think it’s the fault of atheists at all. I know atheists who celebrate Christmas and still say “Merry Christmas” to others. They don’t celebrate it for the same reasons as “Christians”, obviously, but they still celebrate.

@spykenij Can we PLEASE not turn yet another question into “Christians are atheist hating, bible thumpers and they suck” thread? PLEASE? It is possible to answer the ACTUAL question without twisting it into “let’s hate on the religious again!”, FFS.

Kardamom's avatar

@wundayatta Did you know that Silk was able to take the Egg out of the Nog?

Both of these are really yummy

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

@WillWorkForChocolate We don’t have to conform to your archaic concept of “gravity”. Float on. Also, none of this was serious. When you are trying to harvest the lurve fields, the use of the right buzzwords and talking points will get people streaming from the bunkhouse out into the fields to help you gather it. ;-)

WillWorkForChocolate's avatar

I have no idea what you just did there. Are you trying to quote someone else? I didn’t make that comment, nor did anyone else that I see here.

DominicX's avatar

@WillWorkForChocolate Sounds like @spykenij is talking about the religious right (which usually implies the Christian Right, the fundamentalists), and not all Christians.

WillWorkForChocolate's avatar

@DominicX Perhaps in that comment, yes. But when a comment like that is made, a domino effect is inevitable here. This question is a great question, without someone adding a catalyst to turn it into a religious flame thread.

Luiveton's avatar

Well, everyone likes presents.

tom_g's avatar

@Luiveton: “Well, everyone likes presents.”

Not everyone. I don’t.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

@WillWorkForChocolate Oops, my bad. Was referring to; “Can we PLEASE not turn yet another question into “Christians are atheist hating, bible thumpers and they suck” thread? PLEASE?” to let you know some people can’t help it. To get all hands into the lurve fields to glean the harvest, they use buzzwords and talking points that are sure to get a knee jerk reaction.

Kardamom's avatar

@tom_g Not even this kind of Present?

tom_g's avatar

@Kardamom – Actually, the only types of “presents” I like are pieces of art my kids make for me.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

I like presents. Just in case anyone was wondering. O:)

Kardamom's avatar

@ANef_is_Enuf Well then here is a present just for you, my dear.

Blackberry's avatar

@tom_g You just reminded me. I found a business that takes drawings of people’s kids (well, the parent submits them, of course), and turns them into stuffed animals. I’ll go find the link.

Blackberry's avatar

Oops, correction: takes the drawings your kids make.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

@Kardamom awww, that’s perfect, thank you! You’re too sweet.
@Blackberry that’s pretty brilliant.

Blackberry's avatar

@tom_g Child’s own studio.

Edit: Oh crap, apparently she’s already reached her quota lol. She needs to expand.

tom_g's avatar

Wow. That’s great.

saint's avatar

God is an ancient myth.
Jesus is not the son of God, even if he existed at all (the only semi objective mention of him is Tacitus, and that account is disputed).
On the other hand Christmas is a lot of fun and many Western traditions are affirmed during the season. I hate it when people try to mess with it.

spykenij's avatar

@WillWorkForChocolate – It wasn’t directed at anyone specifically. I did mean the ones WHO HIT IT TOO HARD. So, if I create a post on here geared towards gays, like myself, it’s ok for people to post shit about them on here, like I posted, right? The difference between me and you is that I don’t expect for everyone to just understand my sexual preference. The world would be a little nicer if religious people did the same. Sheesh :P

tom_g's avatar

@Blackberry – Thanks for the link. Pretty damn cool. See, I think there’s a huge difference between true artists creating meaningful art (like that) and the stuff you buy in a mall that is the result of merging this and this. Sure, it will all eventually end up as this (because everything does). But at least it is the end result of the creative process.
I won’t go into detail in this post about my anti-Christmas (or anti-present) opinions here in this thread. I’m sure nobody wants to hear them anyway. Let’s just say that I have a Christmas manifesto that was distributed to my family many years ago. It was my attempt to get my family to understand that I felt strongly about this, and I wasn’t going to allow my kids to be infected. My family thinks I’m f%@king crazy. They define themselves by the products they purchase. Corporate, vacuous shit products that have polluted my planet in their manufacture, polluted the minds of the masses into purchasing such crap, and will outlast us all in a huge landfill.

wilma's avatar

@tom_g If I gave you a jar of my homemade raspberry jam as a gift, would you turn it down?
That is what I gave folks last year. Most of them give me back the empty jar to use again.

tom_g's avatar

@wilma – :) Now that is a gift! You must have some pretty cool friends/family to save the jar. What a great idea.

WillWorkForChocolate's avatar

@spykenij I didn’t say it was directed at any specific person. I was commenting on the fact that if anyone mentions atheists or Christians here, and one person makes an insulting comment about either side, it turns into a bashing session, and I didn’t want that to happen with this question. As to the rest of your little rant… I have no idea what you were trying to say. It makes no sense. Let’s take any other tirades about this to PM, so we don’t further derail @ANef_is_Enuf‘s thread.

Linda_Owl's avatar

If you read the Christian Bible, you will find that Christ was not born on Christmas. This was changed by the early Catholic Church so as to change a Pagan Celebration into a “Christian” celebration. The original Pagan Celebration included an evergreen tree brought indoors to remind them that the winter season was only temporary, that spring would be coming soon. I was raised as a Christian until I did enough reading of the Bible to realize that it was riddled with contradictions & brutality & absolute nonsense – so then I turned to logic & reality & I became an Atheist. However, I have no problem with people wishing me a merry christmas & I always wish them happy holidays, it is the thought that matters – not the words used to express the thought.

Rarebear's avatar

A few years ago we atheists had a secret conference in an undisclosed location where we determined after hours of deliberation and many many bottles of Jack Daniels to take the “Christ” out of “Christmas”. You found us out.

Kardamom's avatar

@Rarebear So I guess I should come to you for the Jack Daniels to put in the Nog which has had the Eggs removed.

Berserker's avatar

I think it may have been ’‘changed’’ to happy Holidays due to a lot of different sets of beliefs, (or lacks thereof) but I don’t think it’s just Atheism. In a hectic world where all sorts of people mingle together, someone was bound to get upset.

Pandora's avatar

Yeah at this point I will even take Happy Holidays because it can include Christmas and New Years and any other holiday in between.
It seems the new PC way to call it in public offices is Winter festival. I guess wishing people happiness on any day is no longer PC.
Whatever. I will call it Christmas. Until free speech is taken away I will call it what I want.

Berserker's avatar

@Pandora Hell yeah. I’m an Atheist, but I’ve always said Merry Christmas. And it ain’t gonna change. Merry Christmas, for fuck sakes!

dannyc's avatar

Once Wall Street got its hands on Xmas there was no hope. Buy, buy, until you die…

Pandora's avatar

@Symbeline LOL, Yeah, well I guess the Merry part may be the real problem come to think of it, being people are usually broke by the time the holiday rolls around. So they are tired, broke, and many are hungry and cold and homeless. I can see where the Merry part may be a slap in the face.
Hmmm! So maybe it never was the Christ in Christmas that was the real offense but rather this whole gift idea was started with the 3 kings visit and it grew and now everyone is pissed at Christ.

Buttonstc's avatar

@dannyc

And THAT is the truth of the matter. Atheists had nothing to do with it (regardless of what the nitwits at Fox news try to inject into it).

Green (as in money) and greed is the almighty replacement for anyone’s God and no one’s God alike.

Pandora's avatar

@dannyc So do you think we should call it Happy Wall Street day, or Happy Merchants day?

dannyc's avatar

Maybe call it Friskmas.

Pandora's avatar

@dannyc Why friskmas?

Buttonstc's avatar

@Pandora

And the irony is that the 3 gift bearing wise men were not even present at the birth (regardless of what all the crèche scenes insist on portraying)

They came several weeks (or months) later. And Dec. 25th was an arbitrary date chosen by the RC church as a compromise with Pagan festivals.

It would also have been, in all likelihood, way too cold for there to be “shepherds abiding in the fields” by night.

Pandora's avatar

Oh, maybe we should start a rumor that Santa (which is just mixed letters for Satan) slipped and fell on the ice and cracked his head like an easter egg. Or he ate too much pudding and he had a heart attack. So no gifts this year. :(

Pandora's avatar

@Buttonstc Yeah, thats why spanish tradition is to celebrate all kings day with gifts but american traditions have overriden that. They should’ve kept that up because gifts are cheaper after Christmas.

dannyc's avatar

..as in your wallet being frisked by a smiling merchant (and your local politicians) tempting you to “fight the deficit” by spending more, more, more…worry about paying later in 2 years, no interest, no payments till 2013 when we will start charging you 29% interest…

martianspringtime's avatar

Yes. In fact, it was me personally. Sorry for the inconvenience! It was really just for the shallow reason that I thought it looked better on holiday cards~

ratboy's avatar

Christ left Christmas of His own accord. Did you read about the gifts he received? Pretty shitty for a kid. The last straw was His rejected application for a platinum card because he was a vagrant.

OpryLeigh's avatar

I had a similar discussion with my boss yesterday when we were creating some flyers for activities in December (during the Christmas period) to send to about 650 people by email. His concern was that by calling them “Christmas activities” rather than “December activities” we would offend anyone who is a member of another religion. He didn’t mention any concerns for Atheists at all (probably because being an Atheist doesn’t necessarily mean that you don’t celebrate Christmas in some way but being Hindi or Sikh, for example, does). We eventually decided on “Christmas activities” because we have in previous years and it has never raised any complaints.

dappled_leaves's avatar

It’s beginnning to look a lot like Friskmas… I like it.

spykenij's avatar

@WillWorkForChocolate – I didn’t post it with intent to piss anyone off or to argue. Don’t care anymore, man. Let it go. Damn. Don’t put words in my mouth either. If you read it, you ought to understand it. WTF?

spykenij's avatar

@WillWorkForChocolate – Isn’t the whole point about this site different points of view?

Kardamom's avatar

OK, so we’re not 100% who took the Christ out of Christmas, or even if he’s really out, but let me ask you this: Who put the bomp in the bomp she bomp she bomp?

WillWorkForChocolate's avatar

@spykenij Nevermind, you don’t get what I was saying. /facepalm

spykenij's avatar

@WillWorkForChocolate – It’s not your post to decide what you want to happen with it. Sheesh!

Kardamom's avatar

Oh Dear. Knock Knock way up there. ^^ @Rarebear where did you put bottle of Jack Daniels?

WillWorkForChocolate's avatar

Bangs head on desk. I’m sorry @ANef_is_Enuf.

mattbrowne's avatar

Mas is Spanish for more. So I’d say it’s the giant advertising budget turning the event into a maniac “mas” shopping spree.

Rarebear's avatar

@Kardamom I drank it before coming to work today.

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