How Can Atheists Win the War on Christmas? November 28, 2008

How Can Atheists Win the War on Christmas?

Joe M. has an answer to that question: Don’t bother playing the game.

Also remember that the person that wishes you a “Happy Holiday” has no way of knowing if you are christian, jewish, muslim, or atheist and is honestly just wishing you well for the season. Take that as the kindness that it is.

Atheists: remember that this season does have religious meaning to a majority of folks. In the spirit of goodwill, show [a] little extra patience for those who feel the need to pray over dinner or anything else. You are not obliged to participate, but it won’t kill you to sit in silence for a moment.

Do yourself a favor and don’t indulge in the media-manufactured farce of the war on Christmas. Instead, drive through your neighborhood and enjoy your neighbor’s hard work on the lights, drop a few bucks in your donation box of choice, show your kids the constellations in the Christmas skies, and hold your family tight as if it’s the last holiday you’ll spend with them.

That’s how you win the War on Christmas. Don’t play.

Nicely said.

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  • mikespeir

    Very good advice.

  • Who is fighting this war? I certainly don’t know anyone who is fighting a war on Christmas. I celebrate Christmas with abandon. I even sing religious Christmas carols and hang a little nativity scene on my Christmas tree. Sometimes I read the Christmas story in the book of Luke to myself just for old-times sake. I just don’t believe in God. LOL.

    I do, however, think it’s more polite to say “Happy Holidays” to strangers because I don’t assume that every person I meet on the street is a Christian. But I sure as hell don’t get mad if someone wishes me a “Merry Christmas.” I wear a pendant of a large Jewish star with a small cross in the center of it that belonged to my grandmother, so sometimes people wish me “Happy Hanukkah,” too. 🙂

  • “Catholics enter the culture war, demand that Protestants put the MASS back into ChristMAS.”

  • Jesse

    Solid advice, I never understand why people get so involved in this issue.

  • chancelikely

    I’d argue that the culture warriors lost the War on Christmas ages ago. Now they’re stuck in the weird position of making sure that everyone calls this four-week orgy of consumerism “Christmas” and not “The Holidays” or something that acknowledges that maybe not everybody celebrates Christmas, but everybody is welcome to spend their money at Best Buy in December.

    Why fight a war that was won long ago?

  • It’s interesting that this “War on Christmas” is (as far as I’m aware) restricted to the States. It exposes it as an alarmist media scare so beloved of crappy networks like Fox. It’s definitely a case of not rising to the taunt.

  • Miko

    In the spirit of goodwill, show little extra patience for those who feel the need to pray over dinner or anything else. You are not obliged to participate, but it won’t kill you to sit in silence for a moment.

    In all seriousness, does anyone not do this?

  • PrimeNumbers

    Lights and trees and food are all part of Christmas, but they all come from the ancient pagan traditions, and are well worth supporting. I don’t do Christmas, but I do do Winter Solstice.

    As for people who pray at dinner – best just to ignore them, like you ignore anyone speaking to their imaginary friend.

  • In the spirit of goodwill, show little extra patience for those who feel the need to pray over dinner or anything else. You are not obliged to participate, but it won’t kill you to sit in silence for a moment.

    In all seriousness, does anyone not do this?

    As the designated prayer reciter at family gatherings for the past 10 or so years, it will be interesting to see how this year’s Xmas get-together goes. I came out as an atheist to my parents a couple of weeks ago. I faked it (the prayer, that is) for at least 7 of those 10 years.

    Wonder if I’ll be called on to pray this year.

    Anyone been through this, or have suggestions on how I should handle this without “ruining Christmas?”

  • Beijingrrl

    I don’t know anybody who is fighting Christmas. Especially over these kind of issues. I’ve heard of people protesting their city using funds to put up Christmas displays and that might bother me if they were really religious in nature and specifically excluded other schools of thought.

    Personally, I’m happy to have our family participate in our city-sponsored holiday events. It’s nice to see the whole neighborhood out waiting for Santa to come by on a fire truck. Or to share cookies with others in our city while we watch the tree and menorah lighting. These really are treated as community building events rather than religious events. I’m fairly certain that if someone proposed a holiday display which wasn’t designed solely to antagonize others but to share in community outreach, our city would support it. And if they didn’t, I would protest that.

    As we’ve all said before, atheism is something hard to get people to gather together for. What would an atheist city-sponsored celebration look like? Actually, a local charter school has a peace and social justice pageant rather than a Christmas pageant. Of course, these ideals aren’t necessarily going to appeal to all atheists either. I think it’s good for local government to have community-building events and as long as they give everyone an opportunity to participate I’m all for it.

  • I’ve been an atheist for nearly 20 years now. We’ve always celebrated Christmas. We just admit we have a secular Christmas (Santa, Rudolph, Frosty, etc.) & don’t feel guilty about it as opposed to my religious friends who pretty much also have very secular Christmases, but throw in a little Jesus on Xmas eve to squelch their guilt.

    We also participate in some projects for the needy, but those aren’t as big of a deal for us because I’ve tried to make a point with my kids over the years that we help the needy all year long, not just during November & December.

    When I send out cards, I always get cards that say Happy Holidays or Season’s Greetings because I know people of various faiths (or non-faiths) & I just think it’s the polite thing to do. It includes everyone and doesn’t give the impression that I think one holiday is better or more legitimate than another. Plus, I don’t always know if someone has changed their belief systems during the past year either.

    The main thing that bothers me about the war on Xmas is the Christians who think they have some exclusive corner on the month of December & everyone needs to bow to their beliefs.

  • Loren Petrich

    Claim that you celebrate Yule instead. Or Winter Solstice.

    And say “Remember: axial tilt is the reason for the season.”


  • “Happy Holidays” is just so much easier than saying “Happy Thanksgiving, Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, New Years, Winter Solstice, and Festivus.”

  • The Unbrainwashed

    Do you guys get annoyed when someone says “Merry Christmas”? This is probably more appropriate for atheists who didn’t grow up celebrating XMas.

  • Brian C Posey

    I’m curious. How does an atheist respond if they are asked to lead the prayer?

    It seems somewhat customary for the guest to be offered this “privilege”.

  • AxeGrrl

    I’m curious. How does an atheist respond if they are asked to lead the prayer?

    Depending on the collective sense of humour of those at the table, one could simply recite Ben Stiller’s ‘grace’ from ‘Meet The Parents’:

    ‘O dear God,
    thank You.
    You are such a good God to us, a kind and gentle…
    and accommodating God.
    And we thank You, Osweet,
    sweet…Lord of hosts…
    for the…
    You have so aptly lain at our table this day…
    and each day… by day.
    Day by day by day.
    O dear Lord,
    three things we pray.
    To love Thee more dearly,
    to see Thee more clearly,
    to follow Thee more nearly…
    day by day… by day.
    Amen. Amen.’


  • Tao Jones

    What to do when asked to lead the prayer depends on the situation.

    If at all possible, avoid it ahead of time. If you expect to be asked, try speaking with the host ahead of time. Try to be positive and respectful, perhaps by suggesting that someone else really does want to do it.

    If caught off guard at the table and a “no thanks,” won’t do the trick, do a toast. Thank the hosts and the cook and focus on the family camaraderie of getting together for the holidays. Don’t pretend it’s a prayer but don’t go overboard making it obvious it isn’t a prayer.

    Another idea may be to do a preemptive strike. Do a toast before anyone has a chance to bring up prayer at all. It’s got to be a good one. Have a definitive ending that segues nicely into eating. Hopefully no one will even realize that they didn’t pray.

    “Remember: axial tilt is the reason for the season.”

    I must remember this…

  • PShooter

    Great advice! I have always loved Christmas, so during my conversion to reality and reason I was worried I would loose this holiday. But having done some research I draw great happiness in knowing the whole celebration of Christmas was around centuries before Christians and they actually hijacked this holiday as their own!
    Happy Holidays everyone.

  • I live in a multicultural city with people of many religious paths than my own. I wouldn’t get annoyed by a Jew, Buddhist or Hindu trying to participate in their religion (as long as I wasn’t infrining on me) so I don’t mind people who choose to get fully into the spirit of Christmas.

    I do know of some Atheists and secularists who are bothered by all the Christmas propoganda. But from my experience, those people are the ones just developing their Atheist identity and are more sensitive to this vulnerability. I’ve found that once people become most secure in their identity, they are bothered less by it all.

  • Mathew Wilder

    Fix: “show A little extra patience” – without the “a” the meaning changes completely

  • Thanks for the link and kind words, Hemant!

    I’m pretty open about my atheism, so I have yet to be asked to lead a dinner prayer. If I found myself in that situation, I’d probably offer secular thanks to people that deserve it. Thank the family for being there and providing food, thank the doctors for our health, and the poles for keep the strippers from falling.

    Wait, your Thanksgiving doesn’t have strippers?

    All joking aside, I have myself been guilty of feeling exasperation at those that want to pray, but I’m only human. Wehn the decision comes to vent my exasperation or enjoy a nice meal with my family and friends, I tend to choose to enjoy the meal!

    “Fix: “show A little extra patience” – without the “a” the meaning changes completely”

    LOL I’ll fix that! Good eye!

  • Cathy

    Pretty much everyone I know knows I am an atheist, so if they are wishing me merry christmas and asking me to lead prayers, they are doing it to be buttheads (I seriously knew a girl who knew I was an atheist who wished me Merry Christmas for the whole month of December). For strangers, I just smile and nod and ignore it. However, I am opposed to state or taxpayer sponsored religious ceremonies. They are free to celebrate if they want, but don’t make me pay for it.

  • Brooks

    My family are Christians, but they’ve always believed that celebrating religious holidays was a sin, but it was ok to celebrate the secular side of Christmas, so Christmas has always been a purely secular holiday for us and we never made a big deal about the Jesus stuff. I have no problems when somebody wishes me a Merry Christmas instead of Happy Holidays. Christmas is pretty much a pagan holiday anyway.

    The only people I know of who take the religious part of Christmas seriously are the diehard Christians and there’s only one atheist I’ve known of who was fighting the “war” on Christmas. The only problem I have with this “war” is when Christians insist you absolutely have to say Merry Christmas and act like it’s some horrible sin to say Happy Holidays. If you want to say Happy Holidays, I think you should be allowed to if you want, the same with Merry Christmas. If Christians don’t want people to take the phrase “Merry Christmas” as a big deal, they should stop treating it like a big deal themselves and just let people wish others what they want.

  • Erp

    For prayer you can try a moment of silence. My family which is mostly atheistic takes a moment of silence to think of absent friends and family. A moment of silence to think of that for which we should be thankful can be interpreted either theistically or atheistically (one can think of those people who have helped you in the previous year).

  • Jen

    ATL- this year for Thanksgiving, we went around and talked about what we are grateful for. My mother actually started it. She knows I am an atheist, but I don’t think that’s why she did it. You could, if asked to pray, talk about how grateful you are to, say, the people who got your dinner to the table, to the people who made your X-mas gifts, to the good weather (or the snow tires on your car). Just ignore thanking a deity. Or, be a brat and thank a different god.

  • Jay

    Why is it okay for Atheists to display their religion but not Christians?

  • Leilani

    Even when I was Mormon, I would say no when asked to say the prayer. It always felt odd to me. I opted to sit quietly.

    So, I gather from this article, being a rather new Atheist, that I am not supposed to be spending my nights wandering through town beating the crap out of navitiy scenes with my baseball bat? Oh, crap.

    🙂 I have always celebrated a Christ centered holiday, this is my first Christmas as an Atheist and I am actually excited. My daughter’s loved learning about Hanukkah, throughly enjoyed our Winter Solstice ‘party’, and I know will enjoy Christmas. I never thought of it as a war. I think we have commercialized the heck out of this holiday already and it’s never going to be all the Christians want it to be.

    It sure makes them seem paranoid by calling it a WAR.

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