Friday, December 22, 2006

An Atheist Says Merry Christmas

What does it mean when an atheist says "Merry Christmas"?

I am not currently the holder of the "I speak for all atheists" gavel (Lenny in St. Louis is hoarding it), but as for me, I mean a lot of things when I say "Merry Christmas" to someone.

First and foremost, I mean it as a message of respect. Even if I am no longer a Christian, I appreciate that you are and that your faith is very important to you. This is a time of love and hope in the Christian faith, and I honor that.

Second, I mean simply that I hope you are happy. Beyond the religious meanings of the holiday in the Church, I just honestly, sincerely, one-human-being-to-another, hope that you're at peace and are filled with a sense of joy. That's a good thing no matter what god (if any) you worship. Being an atheist, I believe that the time we have here on earth is all we get, and it's up to us to make it as positive and glorious as possible. Christmas is just about the best time of year for that, and it gladdens my heart.

Finally, I mean it as an expression of our brotherhood, that I share the season's underlying meaning with you. Just as on any birthday, I take this as a time to reflect on the years that have passed, and to look towards the coming year with hope and anticipation. When the birthday being celebrated is someone's very first, that's even more special, whether that someone is the Savior or just the kid down the street. Hope, love, joy in new birth, that aching desire to protect and nurture a child, pleasure in giving gifts to those we love, all of that is universal to the human condition. I don't have to share your religious doctrine to feel at home with the humanity that undergirds it.

I'll be at home with my brothers and sisters (whether by birth or by marriage), my mother, and my nephews and nieces for the next week or so, celebrating all of that. When we bow our heads and hear the Gospel readings celebrating the birth of Christ, I'll be thinking about the good that Christians have done throughout the centuries. I'll be reflecting on how all of us are there celebrating the very best command Jesus gave us -- to love one another.

Christmas is a season of hope and renewal for all of us, even those of us who are not Christians.

So Merry Christmas from an atheist! May all the joys of the season surround you with love, hope, and compassion.

1 comment:

The Cow Whisperer said...

Merry Christmas back at ya. And while we're at it, I'll go ahead and throw a "Happy New Years" on you too. :)