‘No God’ Doesn't Mean ‘No Christmas’ For All Non-Believers

“My lack of belief has little impact on my observance of holiday traditions."

Whether celebrating, Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanza—or maybe “Chrismukkah”— ’tis the season.

Even for many atheists.

Absence of faith in God does not mean cultural holiday celebration is necessarily lost.

“My lack of belief has little impact on my observance of holiday traditions,” says 31-year-old Temecula resident Adrian Flores. “While I do not mark the birth of a religious figurehead or revel in the pagan rites that served as the figurative headwaters for modern-day Christmas, I do treasure the familial sentiments and warm traditions this season brings.”

According to a study conducted by the Pew Research Center and released in October , more than 13 million, or 6 percent, of Americans describe themselves as atheists or agnostics, and an additional 33 million people, or 14 percent, say they have no particular religious affiliation.

That 20 percent of America is a large slice of the shopping-season pie, and that could be a reason why so many retailers replace “Merry Christmas” and “Happy Chanukah” with the politically correct “Happy Holidays.” Nowadays, references to Christmas seem to have more to do with the bottom line — “Save 50% through Christmas Eve” or “2-Day Shipping: Get It There By Christmas” — than wishing good cheer.

The shift in retail marketing strategies over the last 20 years suggests corporations aren’t counting non-believers out of the biggest sales month of the year, and for good reason.

“Exchanging holiday gifts and merriment is just as important to me … as it surely is to someone doing the same out of religious faith,” Flores confirms.  

Fountain Valley resident Jeffrey Isbell, 59, agrees the holiday season is a special time of year. Raised a Protestant Christian but now an atheist, he still celebrates many of the traditions of Christmas. Afterall, exchanging gifts, decorating Christmas trees and waiting for Santa Claus to arrive aren't bound in religion.

“It is a whimsical time. (As a child) I thought ‘The First Noel’ was a pretty song, and I think it’s pretty now,” Isbell said. “However, (Christmas) is more of a cultural experience for me, rather than a religious one.”

Isbell says that while holidays like Christmas and Chanukah are based on religious faith, the true meaning is not always as clear on a societal level.

For Flores, the meaning of the holidays is based in what some may consider very Christian ideology: “Togetherness, rather than divisiveness," he said, "is the truest testament to the strength of family and a powerful statement of the meaning of the holiday season."

Gary December 24, 2012 at 05:10 PM
Met, Not sure where you obtain your limited knowledge of history from, but you are very wrong in your description of the entry of Christ in to the history of Christmas. From the 2nd-3rd century, Dec 25th was established as a day to celebrate the birth of Christ. (Yes, the actual date of Christ birth is not recorded in history) This day was decided on by religious leaders at that time because it was the first day post the conclusion of a period of lawless celebration established by the Roman in or around the 1st century. Yes, the intent of the Christian leaders was to get persons to turn to Christ post witnessing the the extensive property damage and rape of which no one would be prosecuted for, which took place during the week long drunken celebration. If you so choose to not believe in Christ, so be it. But instead of telling misguiding stories, how about stating facts.
Lindsey Hanson December 24, 2012 at 05:11 PM
A perfect example of Christian faith. Love & compassion for thy nieghbor.
Lil-Marty December 24, 2012 at 05:58 PM
You clowns Crack me up!
Sicmarc December 24, 2012 at 06:09 PM
" it's the celebration if the birth if Christ," And this moron is accusing those who believe in science as being "foolish imbeciles" ? As Lindsey wrote "a perfect example" I would say of the intelligence of those who believe in talking snakes, hippies living inside of whales and a zombie as a god.
jeff s December 24, 2012 at 06:37 PM
Kate, you have replaced your precious logic and reason with pride, self arrogance, and debased stubbornness. Wake up - reason and faith are empty and worthless without one another.
Dw Backstrom December 24, 2012 at 06:39 PM
Yes, thank you we all love to get good gifts but we do not posess a gift until we open or receive it. Many of us will return the Christmas Tie or Sweater given to us by a well-meaning friend or relative and that is our choice. "For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace." (Isaiah 9:6) Grandma's knitted slippers won't warm our feet until we put them on, maybe when no one is looking even. Who cares, feet are never warmed by good intensions. God has given the greatest gift available to the world and we can receive His gift or not, again our choice. "For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord." (Luke 2:11) Christ’s being born and given to us is the great foundation of our hopes, and fountain of our joys, in times of greatest grief and fear. This child, this son, this Son of God, this Son of man, that is given to us, is in a capacity to do us a great deal of kindness; for he is invested with the highest honour and power, so that we cannot but be happy if he be our friend. Grandma's Fruit Cake still sitting in the Christmas Tin is ours to enjoy or re-gift as we please. My choice is to re-gift to you this Christmas Gods gift to you, Jesus Christ that you might enjoy your greatest Christmas ever, God bless. dwbackstrom
Carmelcat December 24, 2012 at 07:26 PM
Gary's right ... in part.... Christmas is a fabricated date (of a fabricated event?) used to attract Roman citizens to Christianity by attaching it to Romes joyus Saturnalia holiday: a week of sex and drunkeness, of singing naked in the streets, unfortunately ending in human sacrifice. What better to follow a symbolic death than with a symbolic birth? Thats marketing.
tiny December 24, 2012 at 07:37 PM
Buy My Bikes December 24, 2012 at 08:06 PM
Watch "It's a Charlie Brown Christmas" Linus says it all! Bicycle Jim!
Dw Backstrom December 24, 2012 at 09:12 PM
Thanks Tiny, good posting.
Bill Ellis December 25, 2012 at 01:31 AM
I'm amused by the violent reaction of "Christian Purists" who ignore the fact that Dec 25 was nowhere near the date of the actual birth of Jesus - His birth was more likely in the Spring, http://www.snopes.com/holidays/christmas/jesus.asp In fact, many of the "American Christmas Traditions", like the Christmas Tree were actually pagan rituals that were adopted by the Christian church. Not to mention that the Puritans did not celebrate Christmas http://masstraveljournal.com/places/boston-cambridge/when-christmas-was-banned-boston
met00 December 25, 2012 at 01:56 AM
Actually, go look up Christmas and study history and you find it's actually a "minor Christian feast day". But, it's so much easier to make crap up than to actually do any research to support what you say.
met00 December 25, 2012 at 02:05 AM
Facts? Based on "accounts of the bible" of the constellations and stated date references, the experts believed that Christ was most likely born in mid to late August. But then again, the Greek Orthodox read the same stuff and came up with early January. Now what does decorating a tree in December have to do with all this? Or mistletoe? Or most of the holiday traditions we now associate to Christmas? Well all of these "traditions" have a common thread. They were all Pagan festival rites for the mid-winter Solstice. In fact, there are references in the Bible that forbid the whole decorating a tree thing. Gary, enjoy the holiday season, but please don't attempt to sell the BS of what was a minor feast day in Christianity as this super important major holiday. I wish more Christians would actually follow what the man supposedly taught (love you brother, do not judge, etc.). You would think with all the importance the Knights of Columbus put into taking a minor semi-secular holiday and making it a major religious one that some of the actual teachings would have been taught.
met00 December 25, 2012 at 02:07 AM
Faith (belief in fairy tales and mythology as a basis for reason) is not compatible with logic and reason. If it was I would be taking a Pegasus around town, or maybe a Unicorn rather than my beat up van.
met00 December 25, 2012 at 02:12 AM
Bill, don't tell them this kind of stuff, it makes their heads explode when you use actual fact to post about their blind faith. Now you will be labeled an anti-Christian Atheist Scumbag, because only those types (whisper, whisper, sneer) can't see the beauty of their faith and attack them. Yeah, all you did was post facts, but that's an attack on their faith don'tcyaknow. Oh, there are four birth periods... one is late spring (your researched date), one late summer (another one I found after research), then the late December (the celebration tonight and tomorrow) and the Greek Orthodox in early January. Must have been born in parts, eh?
William Brownyard December 25, 2012 at 08:15 AM
God hates Christmas and Easter they are "pagan holidays", people that believe in them carry the "666" on their foreheads for their false beliefs, and they work on saturday the sabbath using their right hand so they have the "666" on their wrist, their is no arguement with God, it's his 'show" and it's either his way or "no way"
Kathi December 26, 2012 at 07:53 AM
Kate, don't believe everything you hear about the bible.There is actually better documentation for it that any other ancient writings. Some of the widely accepted Greek writings have about 1-2 manuscripts from about 1000 years after the original. I think the writings of Homer are in that category. The bible has thousands of early manuscripts within 200 years or less of the original. The Qumran scrolls confirmed that the current translations of Isaiah & other books have not changed. There are a lot of even "scholarly" people spouting a lot of nonsense about the bible. Just because someone has scholarly credentials doesn't mean they necessarily know what they are talking about on other subjects. So again, the bible we have today has very solid documentary evidence, much better than other ancient writings. Sure we have a lot of different translations today, but they all say essentially the same thing. The KJV uses 1611 or so English. Some words have changed meanings since then so we have more modern translations that are easier to understand. The original didn't change but the KJV words aren't understood today the way they were at the time they were written for some words. & those who comment based on hearsay are not called geniuses (although geniuses can also make the mistake of doing that). Facts are facts though, so do a little more research.
Kathi December 26, 2012 at 08:43 AM
met00, Sure, Jesus was not born on Dec 25 & a lot of the trappings that you described were of pagan origin. & the bible does not tell us the date of Jesus' birth, but it does give us clues. The shepherds were in the field so it would not have been in winter, etc. There is a fascinating movie/DVD that uses modern astronomy computer programs that can look back at the position of the stars at apparently any given date in history. It gives a very plausible explanation, based on clues in scripture about the star, the magi & the birth as well as astronomy. Apparently Copernicus tried to do it by manual calculations but made a slight error & of course the calculations were too complex to be easily performed. There was a website w this info, but right now its not up. Not sure if temporary or permanent but it was bethelehemstar.net. Or the DVD is available. Was what he describes the Star of Bethlehem? Can't say for sure but it sure sounds convincing. But the important thing is the Jesus was born. The trappings are not essential to celebrate that fact. & His birth was so important that we divide our calendar based on it (yes, they didn't calculate quite right so it is believed He was born a few years before the calendar point.) God stepped into history to redeem mankind. There is plenty of evidence to support this for any who are open & honest enough to look. But many would not believe if Jesus came & stood in front of them.
Kathi December 26, 2012 at 08:59 AM
William, I know of no scripture that says that God hates Christmas & Easter. Sure when the church became a state church, they used pagan holidays & sort of Christianized them. But as a believer, I do not celebrate the pagan holidays. I celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ who was born in Bethlehem as the scriptures say. It is certainly worth celebrating God intervening in human history by sending His son to be born. & then celebrating His resurrection from the dead which we celebrate on the day that is commonly referred to as Easter, although I prefer Resurrection day--without the pagan trappings. It is clear that the believers met on the 1st day of the week in remembrance of Jesus resurrection. & the NT repeatedly makes it clear that we are not under law but under grace. The mark of the beast 666 has nothing to do w working on the sabbath. Paul makes it clear that some esteem 1 day higher than another but others hold them all equally & it doesn't matter. So be careful about claiming to speak about what God hates, etc when it is not clearly stated in scripture (& I don't mean conflating several passages out of context to come up w your own conclusions). Read the bible on your own, asking for God to show you what is true or not true & read it through in context, not picking out a passage here & there. Read the whole books of Galatians & Romans among others.
Kathi December 26, 2012 at 09:10 AM
Jeff, not sure what points you are trying to make, but calling people names is certainly not a good way to win them to Christ. I would suggest reading your bible & letting it teach you. Jesus came to be born as a baby & live as a man to die to save people from their sins & to rise from the dead--not to win a culture war. Christians are to speak the truth in love & our lives are to be such that people will know we are Christians by our love & be drawn to Him.
met00 December 26, 2012 at 09:22 AM
"But the important thing is the Jesus was born." If you WANT to believe that a guy named Jesus was born at that time, great. If you want to believe that this Jesus was a carpenter/philosopher great. If you want to believe that this Jesus was a teacher, great. The problem for many is that don't want to believe the mythology. They may, or may not, already have a mythology that they choose to believe in. They may, or may not, think it's as bogus as a three dollar bill. But since the talk of Jesus being the "son of G-d" passes over the mark between reality and mythology, what it can't be is a universally accepted provable truth. It relies on aspects of faith, and blind faith at that. "There is plenty of evidence to support this for any who are open & honest enough to look. But many would not believe if Jesus came & stood in front of them." When I was young; learning magic my teacher took me backstage once to meet master magician Henning. He explained that when we are young we want to believe, so a story set with wonders opens up the mind to accept what one sees as real, but as we get older and others tell us how the magic is performed we lose our wonder and we watch for the slip, the error by the practitioner. Until our belief in the myth of the mystery is violated, we accept. This is true with faith in any myth series. From magic to religion. Belief is the key. From a quarter under the pillow for a tooth to a man who can die for your sins, it's all belief.
Kathi December 26, 2012 at 09:33 AM
I wouldn't necessarily call the Knights of Columbus a right wing Christian organization. They are a Catholic organization. I remember in the 50s & 60s that Christmas carols were very much a part of life this time of year. Most stores played Christmas carols & not just the secular, holiday songs like jingle bells. I grew up in W LA where we had a very noticeable Jewish population. So we would sing Christmas carols & we would also sing the dreidel song. Those are a part of our culture & it doesn't hurt anyone to learn them. In fact I think modern youth are impoverished by being deprived of exposure to Christmas carols, etc. I don't expect someone to necessarily sing the carols that tell of Jesus' birth & salvation if they don't believe it, but it sure doesn't hurt for them to hear them. I miss hearing the wonderful Christmas carols & enjoy the few stores that still play them. I would not force stores to promote what they do not believe in, but on the other hand I do not like all the pc nonsense where people are afraid to wish others a merry Christmas. What's w people being so easily offended by something they don't believe in? If you don't believe, then how about just appreciate the good will expressed in the greeting? This should not be about forcing people to either express something they don't believe or to suppress them from saying what they do believe. You don't have to say Merry Christmas if you don't want, but I will wish people a blessed Christmas.
Kathi December 26, 2012 at 10:04 AM
met00, You are making the common mistake of misunderstanding the nature of faith. We all live by faith every day--faith based on reason & experience. We sit in a chair believing that it will hold us. We get in a plane believing that it can safely fly through the air. Most of us only partly understand electricity but we turn on the switch, we screw in the light bulb. So we act in faith based on experience & reason. My faith in God & the bible is also based on experience & reason. I have seen God keep His promises. I have studied the bible for many years personally & have been taught & have had classes exploring evidence for the bible as well as what skeptics have taught. The birth of Jesus fulfilled so many prophecies: born in Bethlehem, descended from David & so many others. The probability of all those just being chance is quite low. But w magic, understanding how its done may remove the wonder, but in life, understanding how nature works should not diminish our wonder. I'm not a scientist & only partly understand how clouds form & why there are so many variations. I know that cumulous is 1 type, but why there is such variation within the cumulous clouds i don't know. But I wonder at the creativity displayed in clouds. & I see something of God's nature in His handiwork. He is creative & likes color & variety. & magic is not nearly as complex as 1 part of our bodies. I can understand basics of how my eye works & still marvel at it!
met00 December 26, 2012 at 07:57 PM
"You are making the common mistake of misunderstanding the nature of faith." Faith is the belief in something with no "reason". "We all live by faith every day--faith based on reason & experience." Faith and "reason" are two competing concepts. Faith excludes reason. "We sit in a chair believing that it will hold us." But we know that it will hold us based on scientific method. We have seen it hold others, we have evaluated that it should hold us, we test that theory by sitting in it. If we wanted to be sure that we would be "held" we would use three legs rather than four as three points make a plane and four points are less stable. Factual basis for information set by rules that are concrete and testable. "We get in a plane believing that it can safely fly through the air." But that is not always accurate. We get on a plane because we know that it has undergone rigorous testing. We know that there are risks in doing this, and we accept the calculated risks. "...understand electricity..., we screw in the light bulb." We can do this 1000 times and get the same consistent set of results using the same process. Again, scientific method. When we don't get the same results we can check to see if the bulb is burnt out. We can check to see if electricity is flowing to the socket. In other words, we can through a standard process of reason determine why it failed when it failed.
met00 December 26, 2012 at 08:07 PM
"So we act in faith based on experience & reason." We act based on scientific method, reason and calculated risks. When it fails we can go back and analyze why it failed and what the reason for the failure was in a measured methodology. If you "pray" to G-d for something, and it happens, is it repeatable? Is it testable? If it fails can you go back and find out why? No, you can not. If I have a sick child and I pray every day and on day 10 the child is no longer sick, will that exact same process, saying the exact same prayer work for you and your child? Faith is believing that what you do will get a result when in fact you have no idea if it will. It is not able to be repeated, it can not be tested, it can not be ever more than an untestable and unprovable theory. Time and time again I have this discussion when covering the theory of evolution. It is a scientific theory, and it is being tested everyday be someone who is trying to disprove it. Creationism on the other hand is not testable. Why? Because the existence of dinosaurs disproves the "faith" timeline. The only explanation for the existence of fossil records is the magic "G-d put them there for us to find." and that is believing in magic. That you have faith in a specific mythology is great for you. But in doing so you have left reason and scientific method behind. That "prayer works" is like a guy who shoots 7 and 11's at craps. It works by the random chance of the universe.
met00 December 26, 2012 at 08:15 PM
"But I wonder at the creativity displayed in clouds. & I see something of God's nature in His handiwork. He is creative & likes color & variety." Last comment in response. HOW DO YOU KNOW? How do you know that this "He is creative & likes color & variety." is an accurate statement? Did YOU have a direct conversation with the creator of the universe and determine the creator's gender? And then the creator of the universe told you that the creator is creative and likes color and variety? You do know what people used to do to people that talked to things that weren't there and claimed to have conversations with the creator of the universe don't you? And why would the creator of the universe choose to talk directly to you rather than someone else? And what if someone else claims that they talked to the creator and the creator said something different to them? How would anyone know who was talking to the creator of the universe and who was just plain old nuts? All faiths/myths claim that they come from divine sources, yet they all disagree. How do you test to determine which is accurate via any repeatable method? Like I said, I think it's great that you choose to have faith in your myths. All I have ever asked is that you share them with those that want to share them with you and leave them out of our secular society.
Kathi December 26, 2012 at 08:53 PM
Met, you seem to have your mind made up & not be open to what is outside what you have already decided. But I will address a few of your comments. Prayer is not subject to scientific method repeatability tests in the same way that a son or daughter asking a parent for something is not. Parents are not vending machines & neither is God. Both exercise judgement in whether to grant the requests made. But like a child w a parent develops trust when the parent demonstrates loving wisdom in answering requests, so a believer develops trust as we see God answer prayer, but also knowing that He has a purpose behind His answer whether it is yes, no or later. Sometimes we can come to see the wisdom in not getting what we asked for (like kids may grow up & learn to appreciate the fact that their parents didn't give them all the candy they wanted). Billy Graham has said he had prayed to marry a certain young lady as a young man. Didn't happen but after he met Ruth, the love of his life, he could see the wisdom in God not saying yes to his request. Prayer is also not just about asking for things. It is communicating w God--whether you believe it or not. & yes, anyone can come to God & pray to Him, asking for life in Him, provided by Jesus. Sure that is all outside our normal experience, but the Creator of the universe can overcome the observable laws--just as birds & planes can overcome gravity & fly.
Kathi December 26, 2012 at 09:10 PM
Again, faith is NOT contrary to reason but based on what is known believes in what is unknown. Scientists know a lot more than they did 100 years ago or even 10 or 20 years ago. I think they continue looking for answers because they believe that they will be able to find them as they have w other things. But there is still a lot that they don't know or understand yet. Also, you, like others seem to be putting more importance than warranted on the scientific method of verifying evidence. That is only 1 way. There are a # of things that are not repeatable. The earth came into existence in the past & that is not a repeatable event, nor are many other things. There is also historical, archeological, circumstantial, textual evidences among others. Decisions in court, while they use scientific evidence, will go by a preponderance of evidence. & if 1 looks honestly at the evidence for the existence of God & the reliability of the bible there is a preponderance of evidence that will convince any honest seeker. Dinosaurs do not disprove the bible. Evolution has lots of holes in its evidence, but you ignore that, but pick at any perceived inconsistencies in the bible. Unfortunately many do not like the message of the bible & so look for ways to validate their unbelief & discount anything that would validate belief in the bible's message.
Kathi December 26, 2012 at 09:28 PM
As to God's creativity, just like if you knew me & observed what I wear you would likely conclude that I like color. I do not wear black, I prefer navy but with it I like pinks & purples & green & other colors of blue. So I observe what I see in nature & am astounded at the variety. & that shows me something of the nature of God. You on the other hand seem to be blinded to the wonder of things (& hopefully there is still wonder even if the scientific explanation for something such as color is known). Open your eyes & look around you. Science has been able to explain a lot, but there are still many things that scientists have not been able to explain yet. I am glad that it seems that knowledge is inexhaustible. I'm to the age where I qualify for Medicare so have been around a long time. I know more than I did when I was younger & continue to learn. It would be boring if we could learn everything & be done. & the fact that there is order in the universe makes science possible. If things were all just random & changeable science would not be possible. & so I go from what I know & have experienced to what I have not but there is a consistency. My words to explain all this fall short, but those who want to understand will. Those who do not want to have God in their lives will reject what I say & not look at the evidence honestly.
Summer December 28, 2012 at 12:18 AM


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