Even the most rational, relentlessly logical people have their moments of weakness. This month, I’ve been struggling a bit with my enjoyment of Christmas. This time of year has certainly been secularized to a large extent (the “war on Christmas” has seen much success), but I’m still not sure if my atheism should impact how I have traditionally celebrated the season.
Is it wrong to enjoy carols about the birth of Jesus while arguing that the birth narratives are wholly contradictory? Is it problematic to elucidate the merits of critical thinking and reason while singing about flying reindeer and magical snowmen?
I don’t know! I’m still new to this whole atheism business. Like it or not, my upbringing is part of who I am, and if that’s left me sentimental for Christmases past, is it necessary for me to deny this? Can I permit myself just a bit of nostalgic nonsense?
I will probably watch A Charlie Brown Christmas and quote Linus’ scripture monologue from memory, while acknowledging that it’s bullshit. I will listen to carols about Santa Claus and Jesus alike, even as I know they’re mythology. I will enjoy one time of year when people feel compelled to be generous and thoughtful, even if it’s for fundamentally flawed reasons.
I don’t even really care if a cashier wishes me a non-inclusive “Merry Christmas!” I might even say “Merry Christmas” in return! Does this make me a bad atheist? Do I need to turn in my badge?
I suppose there’s a time and place to raise objections, and I’m not exactly sure yet where to draw that line. My brain tells me that we atheists must vigilantly stand against every religious encroachment, no matter how small, but my gut tells me that it may not be worth looking like a stodgy asshole during the one time of year when people are actually being pleasant to each other.
Is this me admitting a potential flaw in my own thinking? Hallelujah, it’s a Christmas miracle!