By Bob Quarteroni
I’ve been asked to comment on how an atheist celebrates Christmas.
For this atheist, that’s easy: He doesn’t.
In the first place it would be logically inconsistent to celebrate that which doesn’t exist, which is my strongly held belief about the Big Implausible.
If Seinfeld was a show about nothing, this would be a celebration about nothing, and that’s too ludicrous a concept even for someone as mentally misaligned as I am.
So, nothing – in the way of gods, unmoved movers, first causes — is what I believe exists.
And happily so: The old torture monster that is laughingly passed of as an omniscient deity by the family of true believers is something to be loathed, not revered.
I’ll trot it out one more time, because no one has ever said it as well as Shakespeare: “As flies to wanton boys are we to the gods, they kill us for their sport.”
Zero celebration seems pretty clear cut to me but I was curious about how other atheists deal with the annual birth of the Exalted Nothing, so I started poking around.
And it turns out many non-believers, maybe most, have tucked their tails between their legs and espoused an “Atheism Lite” around Christmas, clutching with gusto just about everything that believers do. And with only a tiny throw-away afterthought that, of course, there is no god.
As an example, I found this by Marty Nemko, Ph.D. on Psychology Today:
“I may be pushing it here, but if you attend Midnight Mass at a church known for doing it wonderfully, even a staunch atheist should be able to enjoy it—In a building of architectural wonder, you get to experience, with a community of connected people, some of the most exalted music.”
Oh yeah, right. We refute everything believers espouse and we’re going to go into their crib on the Night of the Most Exalted Celebration of the Non-Existent and hold hands and sing kumbaya?
That dog don’t hunt nor does this from American Atheists’ Randy Gotovich: “We’re trying to be inclusive of everyone in Christmas and saying that anyone can celebrate it. It shouldn’t be viewed strictly as a Christian holiday.”
Randy, buddy, didn’t you get the memo? “We” shouldn’t be doing anything – much less anything inclusive – when it comes to Christmas because it’s a celebration of what we don’t believe in. Methinks your atheism is a tad wobbly.
It’s clear there’s a division between atheists who want to seemingly “suspend” their core beliefs so they can play nice with believers and ooh and ahh over Christmas trees, and go caroling and some of us – perhaps only me — who want to keep our own separation of church and the state of atheism clear and distinct.
They used to speak of “muscular Christianity” in Victorian England.
I espouse a muscular atheism: I don’t want to join in to celebrate everything I find hollow, empty, intellectually dishonest and beyond the pale in so many ways. And I’m not going to be shy about spreading that zero-participation policy.
Which, I think, pretty much sums up my views on celebrating Christmas: I don’t
But I’m not singling out Christmas.
I pretty much dislike all holidays, for as many reasons as there are holidays and it seems there’s more and more holidays every year.
A neurotic loner vegetarian non-drinker (two years Dec. 31) amateur naturalist I am constitutionally unable to join willingly in anything from the July 4th noise-a-thon to the Thanksgiving let’s eat 10,000 calories bacchanalia.
Crowd left, Bob right. Just the way it is, always has been, always will, holidays no exceptions.
Which could lead you to ask: What, do you hate everything?
And the answer is, of course not, but what I like is apparently at odds with what most people like.
“If a man does not keep pace with his companions,” Thoreau wrote, “perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.”
That be me.
I celebrate being alone. I celebrate nature great and small. I celebrate my lifelong obsession with seeking knowledge about the fundamental questions of why we are here, what is life and how did this great, tangled mess of creation all come about.
I celebrate a few friends who are as committed to the rigor of truth as I try to be. I celebrate rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim. I celebrate the grasses, sedges, trees, flowers and all the extravagant intricacies of nature.
And I celebrate, quietly and privately, those I love and who love me.
And I celebrate 17-pound rescue doggie Opie, who is more of a god to me than anything else I’ve run across in my biblically allotted three score and ten years.
As magician Penn Jillette said, “Believing there is no God gives me more room for belief in family, people, love, truth, beauty, sex, Jell-O, and all the other things I can prove and that make this life the best life I will ever have.”
So that’s that. There’s really nothing more to say.
Well, just one thing, doesn’t hurt me so why not? As Thomas Jefferson said, “It does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no God.”
So, Merry Christmas!