Myths about atheism: Atheists hate Christmas

Photo: Andrea Piacquadio /

This is another myth I hear and read with alarming regularity: Atheists hate Christmas, or hate being wished a Merry Christmas, or are waging some sort of a war on Christmas.

For the record, I don’t hate Christmas. Actually, I think it’s kind of cool. I like the lights, the costumes, and all the winter-wonderland stuff, especially now that I live in a place where it never snows. When I was a kid, I enjoyed the TV specials and the music. The most wonderful time of the year, indeed.

Of course, having grown up Jewish, I understand what it’s like to feel a little excluded. Not everyone celebrates Christmas. There are other holidays people celebrate in December. Some celebrate none at all.

But I don’t hate Christmas, and I don’t get angry when someone wishes me a merry Christmas. (Though if I’m feeling in a particularly devilish mood, I might reply “Thanks, and happy Hannukah!”)

What I do have a problem with—and what a lot of atheists and non-Christians have a problem with—is when you start using taxpayer money to celebrate Christmas (or Hannukah, or Ramadan, or any religious holiday) exclusively. And that’s not because I hate Christmas, it’s because I feel rather protective of the Constitution. The First Amendment is very clear on this: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

I don’t mean to get political—that’s not the purpose of this blog—I’m just saying that using taxpayer money to celebrate any one particular religious holiday runs counter to the Constitution. It’s a direct violation of what the Framers had in mind when they specifically set out to make us a country with no official state religion.

For the record, I believe firmly that religious freedom goes in both directions. If my local government tried to prevent a church from using their own money to put up their own nativity scene on their own land, you’d better believe I’d be out there protesting with my Christian friends.

Unfortunately, there are some religious people, particularly people in a position of authority, who seem to be trying to portray atheists (or even non-Christians) as enemies of Christmas (and, by extension, enemies of Christianity and/or all religion). We’re not. A lot of us are, however, defenders of the Constitution. Unfortunately, labeling us as such makes it difficult to turn us into the Boogeyman.

(A side note: The need that some religious leaders seem to have to set up atheist as monsters is really curious. It’s as if they think a short conversation with an atheist (let alone a long one) is enough to make people give up their belief. How fragile do they think their co-religionists are? I love to listen to debates on the existence of God, and I’ve heard some of the finest religious minds go up against some of the finest atheist minds, which entailed hearing some of the most convincing arguments against theism. So far as I know, not one of those religious minds has become an atheist as a result of what they heard. Truth be told, if religious leaders don’t want to lose the flock, they should hide the Bible. You’d be surprised how many atheists will tell you it was a careful reading of The Good Book that led them to realize there is no god. Like her.)

So yes, the “atheists hate Christmas” is, I am sad to say, mostly just a tool to drive a wedge further between this.

That’s a shame, because I actually agree with a lot of the most fundamental and stringent Christians on the subject of Christmas, particularly when they lament its commercialization. If Christianity is true, than the birth of Christ is one of the most holy events of the calendar. (We’ll set aside the astronomical evidence which places Jesus’ birth in the spring or the fall and the notion that Christmas was moved as a substitution for the Pagan celebration of winter solstice.) If I was a devout Christian, I’d be pretty pissed off about the fact that Christmas has become more of a marketing exercise and a retailgasm than anything else. But that’s just me.

But just because I don’t celebrate Christmas, and just because I don’t want to see my tax money used to celebrate Christmas (or any other religious holiday), doesn’t mean I hate Christmas.

Now, I can’t speak for all atheists. Maybe some of them really do hate Christmas. Not everyone has my tolerance for Christmas carols and Christmas movies. But it’s not as if hatred of Christmas is some sort of atheist doctrine. We know this for sure because there is no Athiest doctrine.

This being December 25th, and this being a privately-funded web site, I will happily say: Merry Christmas to all those who celebrate it!

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