Former minister: ‘We atheists love this time of year like everyone else’

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Charles C. Haynes, in his “Christmas wars” column, acknowledges that atheists have achieved a victory in the battle to keep religious symbols from dominating certain public property during December. He astutely outlines the reasoning of the courts and municipalities that are opting for fairness and inclusivity for all Americans. But then, like a sore loser, he calls on nonbelievers to “stay home for the holidays. Let Christian groups set up Nativity scenes in public spaces unanswered in December — and save the atheist messages for another time of year.”


Haynes complains that the “in-your-face tactics” of people like Damon Vix, who organized the nonreligious displays in Santa Monica, Calif. (including a Winter Solstice banner from the Freedom From Religion Foundation) have become “counterproductive and needlessly divisive.”

Counterproductive of what? Isn’t diversity — with freedom and justice for all — what America is all about? And if there is divisiveness, who is to blame? Does December belong only to Christians?

Haynes is certainly aware that this season of the year has been celebrated for millennia before the Christian Church usurped it for their own agenda. No respectable scholar thinks Jesus was born in December, if he was born at all. Many other pagan sun gods and resurrected “saviors” had been purportedly born on Dec. 25 long before a sect of messianic Jews came up with their own version of the story. The Romans celebrated the Saturnalia during December, leading up to the New Year, the Dies Natalis of Sol Invictus, the “Birthday of the Unconquerable Sun,” on Dec. 25, which was the date in the Julian calendar of the winter solstice, the actual new year.

The real “reason for the season” is the natural astronomical holiday. We all like to honor the shortest day of the year with lights, food, gifts, fun, music, and family gatherings, as it signals the return of the sun for another year. While everything in the upper northern hemisphere is dark and colorless, the evergreen signifies hope for a returning spring. None of this is supernatural. It has nothing to do with the birth of a god.

Written By: Dan Barker
continue to source article at washingtonpost.com

14 COMMENTS

  1. “Many other pagan sun gods and resurrected “saviors” had been purportedly born on Dec. 25 long before a sect of messianic Jews came up with their own version of the story.” Dan Barker…

    What?? Is Dan claiming that Christianity is nothing but a sect of Jews??  They are not even similar to each other!!

    What would his claim mean to Islam, with all the similarities to Jews, Like “Halal/Kosher”, segregation between women and men, hacking bits of their sons, etc, etc..

    Is Dan claiming that Islam is another sect of Jews??

    Interesting!!

  2. Not a big fan, myself. Too cold, too dark. I care less for Christmas than Hanuka. No one tries to ram Hanuka down my throat. Never get harassed for telling my daughter Hanuclaus is just a story. No one asks me why I don’t have a tinsel covered Hanuka bush. You get to light stuff on fire. I know I can get everyone a dreidel.

    I complain too much, sorry everyone.

  3. Ironically, often it was the reaction to these atheistic messages from the poor Christian victims in the form of vandalism and harassment that lead to the municipalities and courts to shut down the tradition of making public land available around Christmas. 

  4. What?? Is Dan claiming that Christianity is nothing but a sect of Jews?? They are not even similar to each other!!

    What?? Is someone claiming that humans are nothing but a branch of apes?? They are not even similar to each other!!

  5. December is the prime time of year, at least for half the world, when our animal instinct of altruism is most active. The feel good emotion for most comes not from receiving but, from giving. The smiles of joy from those we love, even some we hate, are enough for most of us to pull up our morals and make the effort to screw our resolve to its sticking place for another year.

    Religion is not the reason for the season. It is simply a group effort to bring the joys of peace and sharing to the world. Think back on all your happy times and you will find that they stem from the natural altruistic emotion of helping and sharing with others. We should change the name of this celebration of HUMAN kindness and honour it year round.

  6. Alan, I’ve been asking myself why I can’t seem to get festive for the holidays and I’ve come to two main conclusions about it and I guess it’s not really limited to Christmas; it invades every part of my life. Firstly, I’m selfish about authority over my behaviour. I can’t seem to allow anyone to determine my actions. It’s the old, if I’m not in charge, I’m not involved. Problem is, I’m not responsible enough to actually be in charge and so I’m rarely involved in anything. I actually get a black cloud of anger come over me when someone even starts to suggest what I should do. It’s more complex but that’s the simple take on it.
    Secondly, I don’t seem to grasp the excitement in things the way some others appear to. Like the solstice. When I try to think about a reason to celebrate it I see an image of a cycle going from peak to trough back to peak and to trough. Dec 21 is just a single point on that line in my head. Yes it’s at a peak but it’s really no different than any other point on the line, it’s just a convenient landmark, like a building in town or a statue in the park. Turn left at the old mill is no different to me than get brighter after Dec 21. They are just convenient landmarks and not special in anyway. Celebrating it makes me feel as though I’m being made a fool, like gathering around a stop sign and singing its praises. There is no distinction in my mind. It’s just a dot on a wave.
    I suffer embarrassment horribly. I enjoy spending time with people I like, which makes it tolerable but the most excitement I get is when I have a fresh idea that wasn’t influenced directly by anyone. It’s all mine and I love it.

  7. aquilacane
    Secondly, I don’t seem to grasp the excitement in things the way some
    others appear to. Like the solstice. When I try to think about a reason
    to celebrate it I see an image of a cycle going from peak to trough back
    to peak and to trough. Dec 21 is just a single point on that line in my
    head.

    Unlike theists, I don’t think atheists should need an excuse for a celebration or party.

    The Solstice is quite a good landmark, because as the shortest day it is the turning point of the seasons towards the longer warmer days of summer.  Because of temperature lag, we usually have some fierce winter weather in January.  Indoor parties are good when the weather is hostile outside.  Summer barbecues are good too!

    They are just convenient landmarks and not special in anyway.

    I think any emotional response or enjoyment, is what you and friends make of it.  It does not need “authority” or “deity” approval, but it can be helpful in getting into the right state of mind to tidy up loose ends and prepare for the next stage of a plan, or a timetable of objectives.

    It’s the old, if I’m not in charge, I’m not involved.

    I must admit that when I step up to the mike in a pub as lead singer, I am in charge, but when other members of the band take over that is not a problem.  We have been pals for years, and are all there for a good time.

    Likewise when the family + partmers come to visit for Xmas dinner, but it is not a big issue, so we all “muck in”.  A lot of celebrations are just co-ordinating timing to fit with time off work for all involved.

    Being semi-retired, I have given up “being in charge”, for much of the time.

  8. The solstice as a good landmark is how my mother put it. “It’s a bloody good landmark”. The family is what gets me out, I just wish we didn’t have to dress it in the clothes of someone else but, of course, I have to consider their wishes. It’s not up to me and that’s probably what bugs me. At Easter, we go egg rolling, have for years. I am a grand champ, so naturally, I like it. We’ve actually had families stop and watch us only to show up the next year with their own eggs.

  9. Aquilacane,
    The problem with leaders is their inability to follow the concerns of others. You need to give of yourself to be able to feel true joy. Imposing your contentment on others grows tiresome quickly while, helping others can last you a lifetime. Go with the flow and enjoy the moment. The rich who struggle and promote the nonsense that money cannot buy happiness clearly do not share their wealth directly with anyone. The “Joy of giving” is more than a mere moniker.

  10. Robert Graves had an idea I sort of like about ancient religion and the position of the sun.  That one of the one percent or member of the sacred royal family was choosen by lot to be killed and eaten.  The death of the holly king for the birth of the oak King.  I suppose if one lived at the time in the Paris area, one could serve a nice fat Irish yule baby roasted on the fire and kept the bones for luck.

  11. OMG! Aquilane is very much the dark poet!  Come over to London, England and share a pint with me! I will try to locate Alan4 also, and we could have a nice discussion! Personally, I hate the darkness of this time of year, but I love the togetherness with my fellow humans! AFAIC it’s perfectly fine to celebrate life at any time of year!

    PS I hope Alan will excuse my singing voice!

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