Posts Tagged ‘holidays’


So, it’s Thanksgiving, traditionally a day of giving thanks to God and the semi-official beginning of the holiday season (and therefore of people whining about calling it the “holiday” season and all that crap — I may have more on that later). So what’s an atheist to do?

I say, be thankful. It’s not like you have to state or imply that you’re thankful to some magical sky-wizard. Do you think all the theists reciting their lists of things they’re thankful for are really stating or implying that those things are primarily the providence of their sky-wizard of choice? I don’t. I think “thanksgiving” generally translates to just stepping back, taking a breath, and remembering all the ways in which your life doesn’t suck right now.

Personally, I’m kind of thankful that I have the day off from my job (even though I have to work tomorrow and therefore can’t be with my family back home in Wisconsin), and I’m really, really, REALLY thankful that I have a job to have the day off from. I spent 1 year, 9 months and 11 days being unemployed before I started my current job in September, and while I don’t attribute that change of fortune to any divine activity, I’m thankful as all hell for it.

And while I’m at it, I’m thankful to anyone reading this, just for reading it. This is a tiny little blog, with pageviews numbering a few dozen per day, but it just knocks me over that even a few dozen people are interested enough in what I have to say that they come here and visit when I put up a new post. I’m thankful for the encouraging comments I received when I said I’d have to cut back on the blogging a bit now that I’m working at a job that doesn’t allow any goofing off at all, and I’m thankful for all the suggestions, comments and even arguments that people have brought to this tiny little outpost in the blogosphere. Thank you, thank you, thank you, every one of you.

(awesome version of Tim Minchin’s “White Wine In The Sun” via Pharyngula)

Season’s greetings

‘Tis the season, not only for corny holiday cliches, but for bickering about the proper way to wish people a happy merry whatever.

Here’s a suggestion: Let’s try to have one consistent standard. If you don’t want to hear Christians whining about being greeted with “happy holidays” or “season’s greetings,” then don’t whine about people greeting you with “Merry Christmas.”

Not because it’s the same — it’s not. There’s a big difference between being inclusive (e.g. “season” or “holidays”) and being exclusive (referring to one specific religion’s holiday, e.g. “Christmas”).

But the principle is, if someone’s trying to be nice, do you give them some credit for that, or do you sneer at their attempt just because it doesn’t measure up to your standards, or meet your preferences?

On the other hand, if you want to preserve the right to complain loudly and vociferously about  being wished “Merry Christmas” (and you don’t mind that you’re playing into every negative stereotype about atheists being “strident” or “militant” or “politically correct” or whatever), then understand that other people have just as much right to complain, just as loudly and vociferously, about being wished “happy holidays” or whatever.

Sure, complaining about insufficient inclusivity isn’t the same as complaining about insufficient exclusivity, but free speech is free speech, even for people who are wrong or stupid or bigoted or whatever. So pick a standard, and stick with it.

(pic via Atheist Holiday Greeting Cards — collect them all!)

Ghosts and ghouls for the godless


Christians face a bit of a dilemma around Halloween time. On the one hand, it’s a Christian holiday (All Hallow’s Eve, the day before All Saints Day); on the other hand, it glorifies ghosts and devils and all sorts of other anti-Christian kind of stuff. But what about atheists? Should it be a dilemma for us as well?

Certainly Halloween has religious roots, however secularized and diluted the original meaning of the thing has become. Even if you want to assume (with good reason) that it was probably a pagan holiday long before the Christians snapped it up, paganism isn’t atheism — it’s just superstition without the overlay of rigorous codification that turns a superstition into a religion.

But let’s face it, if atheists shun every activity that’s been co-opted by the God-botherers, we wouldn’t have very much left to do for fun, would we? And we shouldn’t dismiss superstition (or religion) out of hand. There may well be profound psychological underpinnings to which superstition, paganism and other religions are a response.

Maybe mid-autumn (in Europe and North America), when leaves are dying and the icy bleakness of winter is beginning to approach, is just a natural time for people to think about death and other creepy things. Maybe that’s why religions in temperate climates evolved to use this time of year for reflection on such things.

There’s no reason we atheists — just as human, just as evolved, just as engaged in the world as anybody else — can’t acknowledge those underpinnings and even revel in them.

(cartoon via