Surfing among the skeptical/humanist/nontheist blogs recently, I came across a post asking what fellow atheists like or dislike in holiday cards.
In this question lie buried myriad other questions, such as,
- Why do atheists send holiday cards? If they don't believe in Jesus/God, then why celebrate the holiday at all?
- Do atheists even have a right (in ethical terms) to object to certain kinds of cards? It's not their holiday, after all. Who are they to object to a manger scene?
- Since atheists are in the minority, shouldn't they just shut up and go with the flow?
And so on.
I've addressed the topic of Christmas before. Yes, I'm a nonbeliever, and yes, I still love Christmas. I've never felt that I had to abandon the traditions I love, especially as so many of those traditions have their roots in pagan celebrations of the winter solstice. I'm not pagan, either--I don't have religious beliefs of any kind--but I can appreciate all of the symbols and archetypes that abound. Myth and story will never lose their enchantment for me.
I like sending and receiving Christmas cards. I choose secular cards, and particularly favor cards that feature the word "peace." UNICEF offers some good choices, and the money goes to children in need, so I often buy holiday cards from that organization.
I don't like getting religious cards, but for the most part, I also don't attribute our getting Jesus-y cards to specific intent on the part of the sender. It does, however, irk me to some extent that most Christians seem to feel that all share their beliefs. That's not exactly astonishing, given the cultural mainstream, but sometimes it rankles nonetheless. I'm sure, too, that Christians feel that if there's any time where religious figures and symbols are called for, it's at Christmas. I understand that. I don't take offense at people's Christmas cards, even when my gut reaction is "yuck." I'm pretty much just gratified that they thought of James and me, and signaled that with a card.
My spouse used to get birthday cards from his mom once in a while in which she would write something about how she hoped he'd find Jesus. Those used to bother me and, I think (he's not much to comment on such things), James. Do believers really think that we nonbelievers haven't thought these things through? That we're just uninformed? Or steeped in "sin"?
Anyway, holiday cards just aren't something to get your shorts in a knot about. I think we all just want to reach out at this time of year and let people know they're still important to us, that we think of them even when we don't stay in touch as we should, that they are not absent from our thoughts, hearts, and lives.
So for this atheist (or am I an agnostic?), Christmas cards will remain a feature of the holidays. Is it too early to say Merry Christmas?