Season’s Greetings from the Secular Side
Reprinted with permission from the Star Tribune.
Motivations may vary, but we all can spread joy and goodwill at this time of year.
By AUGUST BERKSHIRE
‘Tis the season. With winter coming, some members of the religious right have begun bracing themselves for the so-called annual atheists’ “war on Christmas.” While we think that the government and public schools should remain neutral when it comes to religious celebrations, we have no interest in depriving anyone of whatever private celebrations they wish to conduct.
Nevertheless, in case you were wondering, here are the plans some of us have for December.
The cards we will be purchasing will not say “Merry Christmas” (or “Happy Hanukah” or “Happy Eid”) but rather “Season’s Greetings.”
After all, the original “reason for the season” is the winter solstice, which has long been appropriated by religious people to celebrate the birth or rebirth of their sun/savior gods. Nowadays, with religion in decline, the reason for the season is becoming merely a time for festivities. What’s wrong with that?
The trees that many of us will have in our homes will have colorful lights, originally symbolic of the post-solstice lengthening of days, but now just a pretty sight.
Of course, we will not have angels on top of our trees. We know this will make us unpatriotic as, in this economy, it is likely to lead the treetop-angel-making industry to seek a federal bailout.
The meals we will share will not have prayers said over them, but we will give thanks to those who provided them and to our families and friends.
The songs we sing will be secular — “Jingle Bells,” etc. But, fear not: Atheists are just as likely to sing them out of tune as religious people, though we will derive no less joy.
And jolly old Santa Claus? Well, the disappearance of milk and cookies left out for him and the appearance of wrapped presents are evidence in the minds of many that he exists. We’ll relax our skeptical standards for a day and leave Santa’s existence up to each person’s imagination.
We wish everyone well in celebrating the season as they see fit. Let us set aside our differences and come together in the goodwill of our shared humanity. It is the Jewish-Christian-Muslim-Buddhist-Hindu-pagan-humanist-atheist thing to do.
August Berkshire is president of Minnesota Atheists.