Saturday, December 19, 2009

An Atheist Christmas: Sad and Weird

Via NRO, news of an atheist Christmas “celebration” in the UK, sponsored by the Rationalist Association. “Celebration” is in quotes because there seems to be more spite than joy involved, and it is certainly no celebration of Christmas, but rather a sort of anti-Christmas—as best I can tell a sort of long jeer at Christmas proper and Christianity in general, mixed with cheers for various leftish political causes (apparently there was a bit of controversy when one of the speakers showed signs of being a “climate-change denier,” which is a richly revealing epithet).

I want to be clear that I’m not suggesting that there’s anything amiss with people who are not Christians enjoying the holiday. In countries shaped by the Christian tradition, Christmas is a cultural as well as a religious holiday, often more the former than the latter. And there are millions of people of other faiths or no faith at all who enjoy it on a purely human level. And who would ever wish to deny them that? I’m happy for them to see that much of the light of Christ; may they see more of it every December. Irving Berlin, the composer of “White Christmas,” was said to have loved Christmas as much as the song suggests, and he was Jewish. And I think that’s wonderful.

But to make the holiday an occasion for a very reactionary round of Christianity-bashing, to go to the trouble and expense obviously involved in this show for the sake of denouncing the religion you don’t believe, doesn’t seem very rational.

The spirit of the thing is summed up in this bit of advertising: “Take the Christ out of this Christmas with the perfect godless gift...” The site is full of things like that, half appalling and half amusing, e.g. a “festive song,” which seems, on the basis of a thirty-second sample, to be a sort of ‘70s soft-rock song with rather joyless lyrics like “Some understand the science of the season/Don’t need no gospel...” (Do they think Christians don’t know what the winter solstice is?) I can’t say any of it is terribly offensive, though it seems to want to be. It’s mostly just weird. And sad.