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Christmas exposes atheist divide on dealing with religion
December 20th, 2012
06:00 AM ET

Christmas exposes atheist divide on dealing with religion

By Dan Merica, CNN

Washington (CNN) – The Christmas season is revealing a growing rift among American atheists when it comes to the question of how to deal with religion.

Some atheist activists are trying to seize the holidays as a time to build bridges with faith groups, while other active unbelievers increasingly see Christmas as a central front in the war on religious faith. With the dramatic growth of the nonreligious in the last few decades, more atheist leaders are emerging as spokespeople for atheism, but the Christmas rift speaks to growing disagreement over how atheists should treat religion.

On the religion-bashing side, there’s David Silverman, president of the group American Atheists, which raised one of its provocative trademark billboards in New York’s Times Square last week. “Keep the MERRY!” it says. “Dump the MYTH!”
The sign features a picture of a jolly Santa Clause and another of Jesus dying on the cross – a not-so-subtle attack on Christianity.

“Christianity stole Christmas in the first place and they don’t own the season, they don’t own the Christmas season,” Silverman said, pointing to pagan winter solstice celebrations that predated Jesus Christ. “When they say keep Christ in Christmas, they are actually saying put Christ back in Christmas.”

The New York billboard, which will be up until early January and is costing the group at least $25,000, is the latest in a long line of provocative American Atheists signs, which attacked then-Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s religion during this year’s presidential campaign.

It’s not the only way Silverman is using Christmas to attack Christianity. In a recent TV interview with Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly, he said the American Atheist office be open on Christmas Day and called for an end to Christmas as a federal holiday.

O’Reilly, in turn, called Silverman a fascist.

Despite Silverman’s knack for making headlines, however, other prominent atheists are putting a softer face on the movement, including during Christmastime.

“I just think the whole war on Christmas story is bizarre” said Greg Epstein, the Humanist Chaplain at Harvard University, who has emerged as another spokesman for the burgeoning atheist movement. “I think that any atheist or humanist that is participating in that story needs to find better things to do with their time.”

From his point of view, atheism and religion can happily coexist, including at the holidays.

At the chaplaincy, Epstein has reached out to local religious groups, packaging holiday meals and breaking bread with believers to discuss their similarities and differences.

Sponsored by the Humanist Community at Harvard, evangelical Christians, Jews, Buddhists and Zoroastrians, along with a number of atheists, were among those represented at a recent meal packaging event for hungry kids in the Boston area. Around 250 people participated and over $10,000 was raised – including donations from local Lutheran and Methodist churches.
Epstein calls this sort of inter-religious dialogue “healthy.”

“We as a community need to be about the positive and we have so much positive to offer,” he said. “I think that we really can provide a positive alternative to religious holidays that are not meaningful because of their religious content.”
Silverman, for his part, is more than comfortable being negative when it comes to religion.

“We should look at the results - people are listening to us because we are shouting,” he said. “They don’t hear you unless you shout. … Sometimes you have to put political correctness aside. We need to get louder. I believe we are seeing the fruits of that volume.”

As proof, American Atheists points to the way their donations skyrocket after every billboard campaign. “We get donations and memberships because we are taking the stand that we do,” said Silverman, who would not give specific numbers on fundraising. “The donations are flowing in right now. People are loving it specifically because of the billboard.”

Epstein would rather see more emphasis on volunteerism, though he acknowledges that some atheists are drawn to Silverman’s vocal model. Both men said they appeal to different parts of the atheist movement.

“We are GOP and Dem, man and women, black and white – the only thing that holds us together is atheism,” Silverman said. “A movement like ours needs all sides. It needs people who are working to be conciliatory and it needs people who are willing to raise their voices.”

Religious “nones” – a combination of atheists, agnostics and the religiously unaffiliated, have been growing their ranks in recent years. According to a Pew Research study released this year, the fastest growing "religious" group in America is made up of people with no religion at all as one in five Americans is not affiliated with any religion.

The survey found that the unaffiliated are growing even faster among younger Americans. According to the poll, 34% of “younger millennials” - those born between 1990 and 1994 - are religiously unaffiliated.

Though not monolithic, younger atheists, according to Jesse Galef, communications director of the Secular Student Alliance, are more prone to celebrate a secular version of Christmas than to ignore the holiday.

“I am very much in favor of celebrating the secular Christmas,” Galef said. “It is a celebration of the spirit of giving and I think religious divisiveness goes against that effort.”

Other atheists celebrate Festivus, a December 23 holiday meant for atheists looking to celebrate during the winter without participating in a Christian holiday. The holiday, which entered into popular culture through the television show “Seinfeld” in 1997, has gained popularity in recent years.

At the Secular Student Alliance office in Columbus, Ohio, the staff will play Secret Sagan, a nod to the famed scientist, instead of Secret Santa. And instead of Christmas decorations, they put up a Winter Solstice Tree with ornaments from the movie “When the Grinch Stole Christmas.”

“We celebrate the holiday season, just not the religious holiday,” Galef said.

- Dan Merica

Filed under: Atheism • Christmas

soundoff (4,367 Responses)
  1. lewax00

    Of course there's a rift. A group of people have different opinions on something that has nothing to do with membership in that group is nothing new, it's the way the world works.

    It's not like all atheists are on some crusade to end religion. I'm an atheist, and I don't really care what others believe, as long as no one is trying to force me into their beliefs (and I don't mean things like putting Bible passages in courthouses, those arguments are just petty).

    We're all different, and in truth we don't have a unified voice (for obvious reasons), groups like these "American Atheists" are just looking out for their own interests, they certainly don't speak for me.

    December 20, 2012 at 4:44 pm |
    • Answer

      The only rule I adhere to is: "I speak for myself because I can."

      December 20, 2012 at 4:48 pm |
    • Sensitivity and points

      Very well said. Someone I knew said once, conflict is a part of freedom.

      December 20, 2012 at 4:51 pm |
    • Answer

      @Sensitivity and points
      -
      Very well said. Someone I knew said once, conflict is a part of freedom.
      -

      Very true. In matters of confrontation we, human, can let our fellow men know what we can each tolerate from each other and set standards on agreements. This is the basis of our society. Confrontation with each other is always needed. Reasonable discourse and no stifling of our limited rights to express ourselves.

      December 20, 2012 at 4:57 pm |
  2. GenericMan

    Christmas is a season of spending.

    December 20, 2012 at 4:43 pm |
  3. Jim

    Soraya – Christian fundamentalists purport the "is the its our way or the hell way" – not Catholicism. IResearch St. Augustine who said in early 300's "there are many in the Church God does not have, and many not in the Church God does have." I know it is true that an Athiest can be closer to God than a person who "says" they believe in God.

    December 20, 2012 at 4:37 pm |
    • Meatwad

      I believe in God ya'll, I talk to him everyday and pray for tacos. Sometimes I go in the kitchen and there are tacos in there.

      December 20, 2012 at 4:42 pm |
    • Jim

      MeatWad – it's very clear what's in your head as well as your stomach ... lol :)

      December 20, 2012 at 5:08 pm |
    • Frank

      Jim, your understanding of Augustine is mistaken. The distinction Augustine is making is between the visible and invisible Church. The visible church is made up of all those who profess faith in Christ. But Augustine duly noted, as Scripture does, that there will always be some whose faith is spurious. The invisible church is made of all those granted the grace to believe whether they be in heaven or earth, whether they be in the visible church or not. However, the means by which people come to understand their spiritual need and come to saving faith under the preaching of the gospel is typically through the church. When I say church I do not mean the Roman Catholic Church, but any church that submits itself to the authority of God's Word and teaches the gospel of Jesus Christ. Obviously, some things can be narrow and true. The claims of Christ and his apostles have not changed. Anyone can read the New Testament for themselves. God has provided a means to atone for our sins which should be duly punished and has suffered the penalty due our sin himself in the person of Jesus Christ. If God was willing to do that for us, surely he is not a vindicative tyrant but a loving God beyond measure. God has provided a way. It would be the height of arrogance to demand God provide another way. The fact is none other would do, because we need someone willing to live and die in our place who can reconcile us with God. This is the miracle of Christmas – God becoming a man to redeem us. That is good news, isn't it?

      December 20, 2012 at 5:12 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      It is The Good News

      December 20, 2012 at 5:16 pm |
    • Jim

      Frank – it is clear you are a fundamentalist and think a person will only get into heaven if they "believe in Christ" before they die. I agree with you no one will get into heaven without the saving merits of Christ on the cross, but the idea that if a person doesn't believe in Christ before death – that they will absolutely going to a lake of fire for the rest of eternity – is ridiculous and a disgrace to Christianity. And yes – I do believe in the existence of Purgatory – even if it isn't mentioned in the scriptures. It's too bad your Bible ends at the Acts of the Apostles.

      Jim, your understanding of Augustine is mistaken. The distinction Augustine is making is between the visible and invisible Church. The visible church is made up of all those who profess faith in Christ. But Augustine duly noted, as Scripture does, that there will always be some whose faith is spurious. The invisible church is made of all those granted the grace to believe whether they be in heaven or earth, whether they be in the visible church or not. However, the means by which people come to understand their spiritual need and come to saving faith under the preaching of the gospel is typically through the church. When I say church I do not mean the Roman Catholic Church, but any church that submits itself to the authority of God's Word and teaches the gospel of Jesus Christ. Obviously, some things can be narrow and true. The claims of Christ and his apostles have not changed. Anyone can read the New Testament for themselves. God has provided a means to atone for our sins which should be duly punished and has suffered the penalty due our sin himself in the person of Jesus Christ. If God was willing to do that for us, surely he is not a vindicative tyrant but a loving God beyond measure. God has provided a way. It would be the height of arrogance to demand God provide another way. The fact is none other would do, because we need someone willing to live and die in our place who can reconcile us with God. This is the miracle of Christmas – God becoming a man to redeem us. That is good news, isn't it?

      December 20, 2012 at 5:28 pm |
    • Jim

      Now would you care to debate the idea that an Athiest can be closer to God than a person who "says" they believe in God?

      December 20, 2012 at 5:33 pm |
    • Frank

      Jim, it is simply illogical to say a person who rejects God is closer to God than who believes in him. Outwardly, an atheist's conduct may be more "moral" than a person who claims to believe but is a hypocrite, but keeping the rules doesn't make one necessarily close to God. The Pharisees were very good at keeping the rules, but their hearts were far from God. Only one granted saving grace can truly love God and follow him. If you claim to be a Catholic, you must realize that your claims are contrary to the church and the church fathers. Albert, Augustine, Anslem, Aquinas, Bonaventure – all of them believed only through faith in Jesus Christ could one receive the benefits procured by his life, death, and resurrection. I suggest you read the New Testament over again. You do believe that as a Catholic, do you not?

      December 20, 2012 at 5:44 pm |
    • Jim

      Frank – I tried to post something here in response to your comments, but it wouldn't let me. I am going to start a new comment and welcome another response from you. News flash – non believers are also human with the capacity to love and do good :)

      December 20, 2012 at 6:05 pm |
  4. MetalOxides

    If you don't believe in God: go online and watch videos of people describing their near death experiences (NDE's). Atheists, doctors, nurses, and people of various faiths have had them. Be humble for a minute and just listen to what they say.

    December 20, 2012 at 4:36 pm |
    • Dark Drew

      your explanation of near death as proof for an existence of god? hardly, when you die, you pretty much have a hallucination because of a lack of oxygen to the brain. Try again.

      December 20, 2012 at 4:43 pm |
    • lalala

      Then go pick up a book on neuroscience and realize that your brain is far from perfect and many different "Dying" neurological circuits could cause the same thing.... as well as many applied or endogenous hallucinogens.

      December 20, 2012 at 4:44 pm |
    • Matthew

      Gullible much???

      the reason it is called Near Death Experiences is because they are NOT Dead....

      Testimony when your brain is malfunctioning, starved from oxygen and on its last legs is the worst testimonial evidence you could have!!

      December 20, 2012 at 4:46 pm |
    • Answer

      Ya all I get for my near death experience is the pitch blackness of the void. Figures.

      Your kind are absolutely worthless with the evidence. Touchy emotions and feelings. Way too embarrassing for your kind to even come out to the forums to post but you try. And fail.

      December 20, 2012 at 4:46 pm |
    • Susan StoHelit

      Yeah, then read the NDE of a Muslim, the NDE of a Hindu, of a Buddhist.... and you'll see that people imagine what they expect in a NDE.

      December 20, 2012 at 4:46 pm |
    • Argument from Ignorance

      NDE? If you have 15 mins to read up on DMT and its connection to this so called "NDE" you would not be as clueless as you sound.. maybe google 'Dr Rick Strassman DMT experiment" from University of Mexico.– Thats point one and while im at it might as well give you something else to research... google "religion and dopamine"

      btw both Dopamine and DMT are found in your brain... not going to go in details here.. look it up.. u wont find the answer in ur scripture btw.

      December 20, 2012 at 5:23 pm |
  5. t3chn0ph0b3

    I like Christmas. It's a time when we get to take refuge from a cold and unforgiving environment with family and friends. It's a time we get to remind ourselves that even when there's a foot of snow on the ground, it will eventually melt. It's a time when we get to think of other people before ourselves and get to feel good about others putting us before themselves.

    I like Christmas. There are, however, a lot of Christians I could do without.

    December 20, 2012 at 4:35 pm |
    • lalala

      And people have been doing that on the same day way before the Romans brought them Christianity.

      December 20, 2012 at 4:45 pm |
    • Holiday Pirate

      Aye matey, I'd board that ship an' raise me glass to the snow with yah!

      December 20, 2012 at 5:10 pm |
  6. Joe

    Let us be frank using the occasion. Christmas is a business, period. Those who claim that Christmas is not a business but a religious celebration are those human beings who do not quite understand or wonder what religion means to them, moreover, they have no idea why they think they believe in this or that religion. The difference between an atheist and a believer is simple and basic: the atheist asked his own mind, not other's, if he really believes in God, Jesus, Evil, Paradise, Eternal Life, life, reason for existence, Bible and all those fantasies, Genesis (creation in just a few days) and last but not least, if he believes in priest, God's advocates. Yeah, priest, those pedophiles who ramble in every country of the world. So, the believers are those who either for fear or ignorance shout to the skies that they are human beings of faith, without even knowing the exact meaning of such word. Fundamentally, atheist are not afraid of death, so we do not need to feed our brains with things that precisely religion teaches. Believers, thanks to religion, are afraid of dying, although they say that they are ok, as God is waiting for them. Waiting? Where? For example, in those paradises that certain religion dictates with virgin women, not matter how many you want, river of milk, falls of juices, angels playing the trumpets all day and night long, probably because in this place nobody needs to sleep? I am not a depressive person, nor a pessimist, nor insane according to my doctor, pretty much normal, whatever my normal is LOL, but I cannot even think of myself believing in those things. It is illogical, irrational, simply, crazy. See, the problem with the believers, who love Christmas, is that they believe what other thinks for many reason. Priest, again, or Ministers, or any other name, tell these people things like that (paradise) for money or should I say for living a good life, without worries. Amazingly, believers give money to these mini Gods. The issue becomes funny when for example, in Chile, 99% of the population is catholic, and 97% out of that 99% have no idea at all why they are catholic. The gigantic difference between an atheist and a believers is what is thought about what really happens to a man when he is alive and then when he is dead. We all know the yara, yara, that believers believe: let us be brief and I will only say one word to reflect such belief, SOUL. Yeah, that soul that Aristotel and his pal Plato assured was in every thing, not only men, but plants, flowers, trees, etc. Resuming for the believers: you die, soul is out to the skies, God receives you in paradise, and let's live an eternal life. Meanwhile, atheist believe that our body, a mass of flesh and bones get tired on day, they died, the body in total afterwards is dust, and as dust that body or what is left from it after dying, continues to be part of the things we know as universe or cosmos, and this is all, there is nothing else, is over, finito, final, bye. We then become the exact thing we were before we were born, I mean, nothing or something inexistent. What a simple rationality! Now, because is Christmas, put your hand in your heart and look at your God above and ask yourself what is more logic? However, do not wait for the almighty to appear in your room to give a direct answer, only one thing you should do, assuming that you are like myself, just normal: ask yourself if what you believe in sounds certain or utterly true. Because, knowing that nobody knows the answer to the facts of this life, at least we have the free will to think whatever we want, without fear, but always trying to be logic and common sensed. Sorry, I got to go now. My wife is waiting for me to go to WalMart and spend a few bucks, after all is Christmas, and tomorrow will be Valentina Day, and after, Mother's Day, and after, Father's Day, then the Children Day, etc. etc. This way we make God happy. I am an atheist since I finished my High School in a Catholic School.

    December 20, 2012 at 4:34 pm |
    • Al

      So, in other words, you have decided that all the faithful in the world have no idea why they follow a religious belief? That is complete nonsense. You say you went to a Catholic school and yet you clearly have no idea what Confirmation is or what it's about. Perhaps you should do more than research from your own mind.

      December 20, 2012 at 5:06 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      If you work on your own mind with nothing but your own mind, how can you help but go insane?

      December 20, 2012 at 5:17 pm |
  7. NatR

    To all aethiests: Pick a holiday to celebrate whatever you choose and we will see if anyone is going to attack you over it. In this country we are granted freedom of religion, and you are the only group that keeps attacking this right.

    for goodness sake, even my muslim friends call me to wish me a merry christmas. It seems there's more tolerance for religion coming from other faiths than from non-believers. they make it sound like someone is holding a wip and forcing them to convert and believe. Go get a life or a hobby of some sort and stop harrassing people.

    December 20, 2012 at 4:33 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian

      TROLL. That or retarded.

      December 20, 2012 at 4:34 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      To all cristanians:

      You lead by example and quit trying to force your beliefs down every body's throats and have them made into laws that everyone has to follow.

      December 20, 2012 at 4:35 pm |
    • NatR

      @Rational Libertarian:
      Now now, why do you feel the need to use the description of challenged individuals to insult another being? it must feel great. I guess it's either your way or the highway OR.... wait for it, wait for it... pull a tantrum like a 4 year old in a candy store. pathetic.

      December 20, 2012 at 4:41 pm |
    • Answer

      It's simple you religious tards are sub-human.

      December 20, 2012 at 4:43 pm |
    • NatR

      @Answer
      Merry Christmas to you too.

      December 20, 2012 at 4:49 pm |
    • Susan StoHelit

      You're so wrong. I'm not harassing salespeople who greet me with the 'wrong' holiday greeting – that's Christians who have sermons (I've sat there and listened to them) all about how it's good to harass employees of stores that say "Happy Holidays". Atheists aren't trying to force the government to allow public land to be used for our, and ONLY our religious displays – that's Christians again.

      December 20, 2012 at 4:49 pm |
    • Susan StoHelit

      And a great many people have attacked atheists about them celebrating Christmas, in our secular way, with the pagan traditions that make up most of the Christmas holiday. I can't tell you how many atheists have people getting in their faces telling them they cannot, in fact, celebrate whatever holiday they want.

      December 20, 2012 at 4:51 pm |
    • Javier

      Amen

      December 20, 2012 at 4:52 pm |
    • Answer

      Happy holidays.. don't let your jeebus call you back home now. XD

      December 20, 2012 at 4:53 pm |
    • Fran Snyder

      I do not understand why Atheists feel like they have to bash religion. If you do or do not believe that is your business. I feel like most of the Atheists sound like the other end of the spectrum as the fundementalists. They are both SURE they have the only true answer and I find both of these extremes arrogant. Let us all learn to live with respect for all who have a religion and those that do not.

      December 20, 2012 at 4:54 pm |
    • Answer

      @Fran

      Then you do believe in the law of man. Well that's settled.. try to teach your kind to stop injecting religion into areas outside of their church.

      December 20, 2012 at 5:00 pm |
    • Pete

      OK, I pick Christmas and will celebrate it without setting foot in a church or thinking about Jesus for even two seconds.

      December 20, 2012 at 5:10 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      Pete – I bet you can't not think about Jesus on Christmas morning.

      December 20, 2012 at 5:19 pm |
  8. T. Philip

    The problem with athiest is that 1) In the terminology Christmas, the name of Christ is mentioned so they don't like that. 2) the reason they vehemently apposed to accepting Christ and His divininty is because then they will have to live by absolutes which they don't want that means end to their wild life style. Simple math. So, athiests shut up recognizing that you are all still the minority in this country.

    December 20, 2012 at 4:32 pm |
    • lalala

      Absolutes hahahahahahahahahahaha, the last place to look for absolutes is in the hypocritical writings of the bible. Only fools and small, unthinking minds see the world in absolutes.

      December 20, 2012 at 4:35 pm |
    • Dark Drew

      Um, Christianity stole every ceremony in their belief structure, often mimicking pagan rituals to sway people over to their side using confusion. Historical Fact. The Procession of Mary, Was actually the Procession of Dyonisis. as an example. Christmas comes from Yule, which alot of people dont celebrate anymore because Christmas took over.

      December 20, 2012 at 4:38 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      "athiests and their wild life style"

      What a moron.

      December 20, 2012 at 4:40 pm |
    • Susan StoHelit

      What makes this country great is that the rights of minorities are protected.

      People who think might makes right, and that they can bully others because they are numerous are anti-american.

      December 20, 2012 at 4:44 pm |
    • GodlessOpera

      Atheism is not a "life-style." Please educate yourself on what atheism is before you denounce an entire group of people as being "wild."

      December 20, 2012 at 4:46 pm |
    • Will

      That has to be one of the most hilarious things I've read today. I am a atheist, agnostic... whatever people want to term it with. So... I help others when and where I can, I give money to charity and generally go out of my way to help others. I do this cause I feel its the right thing to do as a decent person. I don't do it out of fear of punishment from the almighty.
      I don't argue with my religious friends or others except when they tell me I am wrong and how could I not fear death and burning in hell. I don't cause I want to appreciate this life and this time... not expect something at the end. I can expect that it does end. When someone, such as yourself, indicates that I MUST be a bad person simply cause I do not believe in any god is beyond idiotic. Those who are religious and think that without god you are evil means to me that if you yourself didn't have religion then you would be out there harming others. So you mean to tell me you in your heart KNOW you would be evil... harming others... without the threat of god and hell. Well my friend that is more messed up than saying I believe in no god and still do good. I love Christmas, I don't care what you call it. Even a good myth is a good reason for a holiday. It's part of all of our past, but to be shackled by it still. If people would realize you can be good out of your own heart and not out of fear of reprisal from the almighty then we'd all be better off. Now you need to understand I was raise with religion... studied and read the bible multiple times but never was convinced. I didn't rebel, I didn't lash out. I simply took the evidence before me and made up my own mind.

      December 20, 2012 at 4:54 pm |
    • elgeevz

      My main problem with Christians has to do with their assumption that everyone is as wicked as they are. In fact, the most honest, decent, and benovolent individuals that I have know in my 80 years were not at all religious. And essentially every time I have been ripped off or stabbbed in the back, the deed has been done by Baptists.

      December 20, 2012 at 5:02 pm |
    • Al

      elgeevz: "My main problem with Christians has to do with their assumption that everyone is.."

      My main problem with atheists is that all too often they think the worst of Christians with comparisons to lemmings, etc.. It's like y'all expect us all to be religious robots. Yes, I get peeved at some of the comments here and elsewhere, but I don't organize a crusade to wipe y'all out. Most christians are decent, imperfect people, as is the rest of the world.

      December 20, 2012 at 5:23 pm |
  9. Ralph

    I am a Christian. I am also a person who believes in the right for people to believe or not believe what they desire. As a Christian, I remember that Jesus himself NEVER forced anyone to believe in what he said and did and NEVER forced anyone to do anything. God gave the gift of free will and it is no man's right (Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Athiest, or otherwise) to have the audacity to tell another person that they are wrong. Religion is not the problem. The problem is that people are so bent on being right that they feel the need to prove that anyone who doesn't believe what they belive is wrong/foolish. All people should have enough respect and deceny toward one another to not crap on what they believe or don't believe. One of my best friends is an Athiest and although we disagree on certain things, our respect and care for one another is undeniable. As far as being intilecually lazy as some consider Christians to be, I find it very interesting that the book of Proverbs encourages us to seek knowledge. Nothing wrong with science and learning how things happen, but I personally look at it as explaining how God does what he does. Funny enough some of the leading scientist through out history have stated that the more they learn, the more they figure out that they don't know much in the grand scheme of things. Kind of makes you wonder what else in this massive and possibly endless universe of possibilities...what else is out ther and who/what is behind all of it.

    December 20, 2012 at 4:31 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      "Wonder" is an interesting thing that does nothing to verify one creation myth over any other or religion over another. The answer "we don't know" is accurate and honest in many case and almost always is the better one over "invisible sky wizard did it with magic spellz.'

      December 20, 2012 at 4:33 pm |
    • Madtown

      Religion is not the problem. The problem is that people are so bent on being right
      -----
      Ralph, religion is part of the problem. In the bible, it states that "thou shall have no other god's before me". No "other Gods"? So here, your religion asserts that it is the correct one, and that all "other gods" are incorrect.

      December 20, 2012 at 4:37 pm |
    • Answer

      With that "no other gods" line – it means that there are other gods. XD

      You fools are wrong. Accept Zeus!

      December 20, 2012 at 4:40 pm |
    • ficklemookie

      Actually, Jesus had no problem telling people that they were wrong. He told the Pharisees over and over again that they were wrong. He also said that he was the way the truth and the light and that NO ONE gets to the Father except through him...He didn't force it down people's throats and he didn't force people to agree with him... But he did love people and treated them kindly AND let them know that if they wanted to go to heaven, they needed to put their faith in HIM and no one else.

      December 20, 2012 at 4:45 pm |
    • Answer

      And if Bob or you uncle says the same schtick "I am the way" – I'm sure you'll do that too.

      Let's see why you can't defend Bob and why you can defend your jeebus...

      December 20, 2012 at 4:51 pm |
  10. William Hopper

    Ironically, Christmas will live longer than Christianity. The holiday is a celebration of the shortest day of the year. It's been so for a lot longer than Christianity has existed, and will be long after the Christian myths have gone the way of their predecessors. Given the dark, wet, misery of December, people will always want to do something to liven their lives up at that time of year even after the religious nonsense has been long forgotten. ~William Hopper, author, "The Heathen's Guide to World Religions" and "The Heathen's Guide to Christmas: A Field Manual for the War on Christmas"

    December 20, 2012 at 4:30 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian

      Quite true.

      December 20, 2012 at 4:31 pm |
  11. Kevin7Harris

    Atheists are doing theists, especially Christians, the biggest favor in decades! They are confronting us with WHY we believe WHAT we believe! The Christian church in the U.S. has been stuck in touchy-feely anti-intellectual emotionalism for years!

    Scripture commands us to "give an answer", "test all things", "hold fast to that which is true", and "love God with all your...mind"! Paul reasoned with the philosophers of his day.

    There is an intellectual and spiritual renaissance growing rapidly, but we have a ways to go! Join me!

    December 20, 2012 at 4:28 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian

      Three Rings for the Elven-kings under the sky,
      Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone,
      Nine for Mortal Men doomed to die,
      One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne
      In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.
      One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them,
      One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them

      December 20, 2012 at 4:30 pm |
    • Chad

      Very true!

      http://www.reasonablefaith.org/

      http://biologos.org/

      http://www.rzim.org/

      December 20, 2012 at 4:32 pm |
    • Apple Bush

      Ahh, Tolkien's Jesus story. Every hero has a heavy burden to carry and must enter the fiery pits of the evil one to be risen again.

      December 20, 2012 at 4:35 pm |
    • lalala

      Yes, religion has evolved 1,000s of times so man can still feel safe and special, and it will continue to do so.

      December 20, 2012 at 4:37 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @AB,

      I'd be a lot happier praying to Manwë and Varda Elentári to intercede for me with Eru Ilúvatar than the Christian pan-dimensional Abrahamic Yahweh/Jesus/Spirit.

      December 20, 2012 at 4:43 pm |
    • Kevin7Harris

      Other than Chad, I've not gotten a response to the gist of my post. Shouldn't my atheist friends rejoice or at least hope what I said is true?

      December 20, 2012 at 4:46 pm |
    • lalala

      haha, someone read the Silmarillion... praise mawe!

      December 20, 2012 at 4:47 pm |
    • lalala

      I did Kevin: all memes evolve including religions.

      December 20, 2012 at 4:48 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @Kevin7Harris,

      were you expecting an answer?

      December 20, 2012 at 4:50 pm |
    • Answer

      Your opinion is worthy ? Really?

      Such a genius – we'll follow you because you just said so.. so smart.

      December 20, 2012 at 4:52 pm |
    • Kevin7Harris

      @lalala, because a belief or worldview "evolves" doesn't make it true or false! That is the Genetic Fallacy. Whether something "comforts" doesn't make it true or false.

      December 20, 2012 at 4:53 pm |
    • Kevin7Harris

      Answer,

      My opinion is open to scrutiny like anyone's. I see you prefer snarky answers and questioning someone's sincerity instead.

      December 20, 2012 at 5:00 pm |
    • Answer

      Ya you're so sincere... let me just shake your virtual hand.

      December 20, 2012 at 5:01 pm |
    • Apple Bush

      GOPer, did you just go all Silmarilliion on me?

      December 20, 2012 at 5:14 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @AB,

      in a manner of speaking, yes!

      Your analogy of the 'burden and resurrection' is apt. Tolkien was a Catholic in a predominantly Anglican world.

      It's not a coincidence that March 25 (the destruction of Sauron and the ring) falls on the feast of the Annunciation / ~vernal equinox / which was the traditional new year's day (from 525AD) until it was later reset to January 1.

      March 25 is of course 9 months (the human gestation period) before the ~solstice / Christmas.

      December 20, 2012 at 6:30 pm |
  12. achepotle

    yea, we have been having a lot of debate about this at our local Atheist Association. I am co-chair of the War on Xmas planning committee..I support keeping shopping, eggnog and the tree, but others only want to keep the mistletoe and drinking. We hold the vote tomorrow.

    December 20, 2012 at 4:28 pm |
    • William Hopper

      achepotle: Send me an email or friend me on Facebook. Happy to send you free copies of my stuff to help your noble cause. ~William Hopper, author, "The Heathen's Guide to World Religions" and "The Heathen's Guide to Christmas: A Field Manual for the War on Christmas"

      December 20, 2012 at 4:33 pm |
  13. The Truth

    Merry Christmas = Happy to see you on one of the 45 or so days around the time of My God and Saviors birth* regardless of whether you believe in him or not!!!

    *theologians place the likely date of Christs birth in late October. Maybe this is why Christmas starts early and earlier each year...

    December 20, 2012 at 4:28 pm |
    • GodFreeNow

      Merry Christmas to you too. So what did your god save you from exactly?

      December 20, 2012 at 4:29 pm |
  14. Luxx

    Im an athiest and I celebrate Joemas, the day the Great Joe Strummer died,we play Clash music watch the clash videos and movies and exchange gifts

    December 20, 2012 at 4:27 pm |
    • Luxx

      and I cant type

      December 20, 2012 at 4:29 pm |
    • achepotle

      We celebrate Johnnukkah

      December 20, 2012 at 4:29 pm |
  15. Rational Libertarian

    Don't feed Jim the troll. He even purposefully misspells atheist.

    December 20, 2012 at 4:27 pm |
    • Answer

      So in other words he's "a retard on purpose".

      December 20, 2012 at 4:30 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian

      He purposefully acts retarded. You can usually spot a troll from an actual retard.

      December 20, 2012 at 4:32 pm |
    • Answer

      @RL

      So he insults his own kind the "theists".. but not us because the "a" is what we are. XD

      Thanks.

      December 20, 2012 at 4:39 pm |
  16. Jim

    By the way – the term Athiest is a misnomer. An Athiest is someone who "believes" God does not exist. They can't prove it any more than someone can prove God does exist. It takes faith "to believe" God does not exist. Thus – Athiests have faith!!!

    December 20, 2012 at 4:25 pm |
    • Answer

      If you can even spell the word "theist" and then add the "a" in front of the word it would help you be more conscious of where the education is needed in your life.

      December 20, 2012 at 4:28 pm |
    • Athy

      Jim. Thanks for the bit of convoluted logic. It's just what I'd expect from a religie. And you might try to spell atheist correctly next time; it would make you look a little more intelligent.

      December 20, 2012 at 4:30 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      Did your preacher tell you that Jim?

      It's wrong.

      December 20, 2012 at 4:33 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      ... and it's not spelled athiest.

      December 20, 2012 at 4:38 pm |
    • JoJo

      Jim, as an agnostic, I get your point, but I wouldn't say "atheist" is a misnomer. It means "a" – without – "theism" – a belief in a supreme being. They are without a belief in a supreme being. I take your point though that if they hold to this nonexistence as certain truth even though there's no certain proof of it, they are taking at least a small leap of faith. Personally, I think the only truly honest position is "I don't know for sure, and I say so" - agnosticism.

      December 20, 2012 at 4:38 pm |
    • Jim

      pardon moi for my spelling mistake – correction noted.... atheist .. rather than have a rational argument against the idea I expressed, some people can only correct spelling mistakes – thats because they have no rational argument. Yes, an A-THEIST is a person who has "FAITH" that God does not exist. They can't prove it.

      "I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV – you sure do sound like one .. would you care to tell me what is faulty in my logic?

      December 20, 2012 at 4:52 pm |
    • Jim

      JoJo – you missed my point. It takes "faith" to say God does not exist. It isn't so much that they "they are without a belief in a supreme being" – it is more that with all the input from life experience and education, they take a stand and make a statement of belief that God does not exist. It is a belief to say God does not exist – because it cannot be proven any more than it can be proven that God does exist.

      December 20, 2012 at 5:00 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      Jim, you moron, you have no clue. Atheism is like asymmetry. The "a" means "without." If "theism" means "belief in a god," then "atheism" means "without a belief in god." Being without belief doesn't require belief. How much belief do you have that there are no unicorns that fart rainbows? None, but you certainly don't believe in unicorns that fart rainbows. You have a "lack of belief" in unicorns that fart rainbows just like atheists have a lack of belief in god. Get over yourself.

      December 20, 2012 at 6:04 pm |
    • craniumthedumb

      @Moby & Jim

      Faith is simply defined belief in something that you can not see that is true. There are many examples of this that even atheists have. Atheists believe in gravity, air and many other things that are obviously there but can not be seen. In the end everyone has faith. What kind of faith you have is what is at question. Faith in a higher power, in God, in religion etc etc etc are based in one question, does God exist, which can not be empirically proven. Essentially you are arguing over semantics.

      December 20, 2012 at 7:17 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      @cranium the dumb

      That was an incredibly stupid reply. The things you mention can be tested for and observed in many ways. We can test for air, as you well know. There are no methods to test for god that yield any results that allow us to build up a knowledge of him like we can for the items you mention.

      December 21, 2012 at 5:12 pm |
  17. Jonathan

    Seems ironic that it says "Dump the Myth" about a known historical figure, Jesus of Nazareth, and "Keep the Merry" about an obscure, perhaps mythical Saint Nicholas. This could have been throught through a little better.

    December 20, 2012 at 4:24 pm |
    • Chad

      post of the year!

      excellent point

      December 20, 2012 at 4:24 pm |
    • ChokeArtists

      Actually Saint Nick was quite real.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_Nicholas

      The case is still out on Jesus.

      December 20, 2012 at 4:26 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      I don't interpret the phrase "Keep the merry" to mean "Believe in the folklore figure in this poster." But then again, I can't usually account for the reasoning of believers, so I guess it makes sense to you guys that way.

      December 20, 2012 at 4:27 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      Is Santa not the poster boy for the secular holiday?

      Is Jesus not the poster boy for the myth of the resurrection?

      December 20, 2012 at 4:35 pm |
    • mike

      It doesn't matter if Jesus existed or not. What's in question is whether or not he was the son of any Gods. Kind of like George Washington never telling a lie. He certainly existed, but did he ever lie?

      December 20, 2012 at 4:41 pm |
    • lalala

      wow that was just dumb

      December 20, 2012 at 4:41 pm |
    • Chad

      @GOPer, "Is Jesus not the poster boy for the myth of the resurrection?"

      =>are you saying that the resurrection never happened?
      bear in mind that "the resurrection is false until you can prove it is true", is just as fallacious as "teh resurrection is true until you can prove it is false"

      cue accusations of dishonesty, disengenuousness, circular reasoning... etc.. etc...

      December 20, 2012 at 5:38 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @Chad,

      if I believed that the resurrection actually happened, then it would be an indicator of Christ's divinity and I would adhere to the Christian faith I was raised in.

      No. I don't believe in the resurrection of Jesus. I presume that Jesus lived and was executed, but I don't believe he rose from the dead.

      December 20, 2012 at 5:44 pm |
    • Chad

      @GOPer "No. I don't believe in the resurrection of Jesus. I presume that Jesus lived and was executed, but I don't believe he rose from the dead."

      @Chad "what is that disbelief based on?"

      December 20, 2012 at 5:53 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @Chad,

      I don't believe there is a God and therefore I do not accept the Gospel accounts as factual. It is a matter of faith after all.

      No faith = No belief.

      December 20, 2012 at 5:58 pm |
    • Chad

      @GOPer "I don't believe there is a God and therefore I do not accept the Gospel accounts as factual. It is a matter of faith after all."

      @Chad "What is the basis for your disbelief in God?"

      December 20, 2012 at 6:05 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @Chad,

      I don't believe that in the infinity of the universe there is one group, that happens to be here on what we call earth, who hold the monopoly on absolute truth.

      Absolutism is a product of egocentricity. It is illogical.

      December 20, 2012 at 6:09 pm |
    • Chad

      @GOPer, "I don't believe that in the infinity of the universe there is one group, that happens to be here on what we call earth, who hold the monopoly on absolute truth.
      Absolutism is a product of egocentricity. It is illogical."

      @Chad "that's it???
      seriously?

      A. your position is literally self refuting. You (as an anti-theist) claim to part of a group that holds a monopoly on truth (there is no god).
      Since you claim there can be no group that holds a monopoly, that would include your group.

      B. your position fallaciously ignores the very real requirement that one of the positions MUST be true, since the various positions on religion encompass all the possible options.

      C. Further, your position fallaciously excludes the possibility that Christianity actually IS true a-priori, without doing any investigation whatsoever into the truth claims that it makes.

      stunningly illogical.
      wow, guess I shouldnt be surprised, but still, wow.

      December 20, 2012 at 6:23 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @Chad,

      I am an atheist. I am not an anti-theist – from the OED: 'Anti-theist: One opposed to belief in the existence of a God.' I don't believe in God, but you can believe however you want. I would say that David Silverman is clearly an anti-theist.

      "B. your position fallaciously ignores the very real requirement that one of the positions MUST be true, since the various positions on religion encompass all the possible options."

      Part of what you say, being 'one of the positions MUST be true' is accurate, and I don't fallaciously ignore that. Surely only of the positions is that there is no God? The null set is the only position that makes any sense to me.

      I can't assert that I can know that my choice is the definitive truth. I don't accept absolutism.

      I see no reason to believe in Odin or Zeus or Allah or Krishna or Yahweh/Jesus/Spirit or anything else. Surely you assert that all but one of them are all fabricated by the creative minds of humans attempting to explain life's mysteries? So why not all of them?

      Christianity is indistinct from all the other religions. If it gives you comfort, you are welcome to it. To me, it is a prison of the mind based on culture and circvmstance.

      December 20, 2012 at 6:47 pm |
    • Chad

      so, you agree that your statement that you dont believe in God because there cant be just one group in possession of the truth, is nonsense..

      ok, so then back to the original question: "What is the basis for your disbelief in God?"

      =>you dont believe in the God of Israel because there are other "gods" that arent real?
      that doesnt make any sense, there are fakes everywhere, that doesnt mean that the real deal doesnt exist. That's a terrible argument.

      =>you dont believe in the God of Israel because "it is a prison of the mind based on culture and circvmstance"
      That doesnt make any sense, you are talking about the inst.i.tutions of religion, not the God of Israel.
      Are you going to not believe in Justin Bieber because you dont want to join his fan club?

      Let me guess what happened. You grew up in a church you hated, so you decided that God doesn't exist.
      Does it bother you at all that you have absolutely no rational basis for your disbelief?

      December 20, 2012 at 8:22 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Hilarious. Chard is babbling about rationality.

      December 20, 2012 at 8:28 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      Oh look Chad is cherrypicking someones post. What a surprise.

      December 20, 2012 at 8:38 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @Chad,

      why do you always want to be such a smartarse?

      I have given you genuine, albeit short form answers here and what are your responses? The usual dismissive crap: "stunningly illogical.wow" etc. I can't be bothered to go find them all.

      I know there are many atheists who behave that way here, and perhaps you see your behavior as simply 'an eye for an eye' but frankly you demean yourself and what you think you stand for.

      Your guess is completely wrong by the way. I did not hate the church I grew up with. In college I defended my faith to my contemporaries who derided the particular denomination I was raised in. I continued to go to church after I left college and started working.

      Church was comfortable but I got to a point where I realized that I was kidding myself by attending – I no longer believed, so I stopped going. My parents continue to be devout. I respect that. I respect people who live a faith-based life, but godlessness does not mean a life immorality and depravity either.

      Religion, like all things created by humans has positive and negative aspects. I don't believe in God, so I'm not going to pretend that I do and I don't claim that I can prove the non-existence of God.

      The absolutist claims of zealous believers that they have the monopoly on truth and that everyone else is wrong, is abhorrent to me. If it works for you, great. It doesn't for me.

      December 20, 2012 at 8:45 pm |
    • Chad

      What reasons have you given for your disbelief?
      1. You don’t believe that any group can have a monopoly on the truth
      2. you dont believe in the God of Israel because there are other "gods" that arent real?
      3. you dont believe in the God of Israel because "it is a prison of the mind based on culture and circvmstance"

      that's it?

      all the scorn you expend on theists who in your opinion have not come about their belief in a rational manner, and that's what you come up with for yours?

      really? Not one of them even stands up to cursory inspection. You acknowledged #1 was fallacious yourself.

      December 20, 2012 at 10:15 pm |
    • Chad

      it sort of reminds me of deal I made an atheist years ago.
      I said "I'll read any book you tell me to if you'll read any book I tell you to"
      he said ok (note, he bailed out on his side of the bargain, never read his book.. but that's beside the point)

      anyway, so the book he chose for me was "The God Delusion" by Richard Dawkins, and I was a bit nervous opening it up.. I'm thinking "this guys is smart, he's going to have some really tough questions"
      so, I start reading, and my jaw just drops.
      I can't believe how poorly the book is logically organized, how emotional his presentation is. Its' the exact opposite of a cold, fact based, analytically refutation of the claims of Christianity.

      He spends the entire book complaining about how corrupt and evil the church is. That's it. That's the entire book. "the church is bad, they have done a lot of bad things"

      and it struck me. This guy doesnt know the first thing about the claims of Christianity. He hasnt even TRIED to understand what Christians claim. So, how in the world did he ever think he was going to refute it?

      makes no sense, utterly illogical. The entire anti-theist reasoning in a nutshell..

      December 20, 2012 at 10:33 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Odd. Have you written any books that have been published, Chard?

      December 20, 2012 at 10:35 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @Chad,

      I've never read the "God Delusion" I probably won't. I am not a disciple of Richard Dawkins.

      Where is the 'scorn' that I have heaped upon theists for their beliefs? If you want to conflate every atheist you have argued with here as a single hive-mind go right ahead, but you will be wrong to do so.

      I have plenty of scorn for so-called Christians who behave in a most un-Christian manner – but none for deeply held beliefs.

      To say "I can't prove the non-existence of God" is not a vindication that the God of Israel exists". The Abrahamic Gods are just like all the others – the product of human imagination. (And plural Gods, yes. I see the trinitarian view as a pantheon in monotheistic drag.)

      December 21, 2012 at 11:30 am |
    • Chad

      @GOPer "Where is the 'scorn' that I have heaped upon theists for their beliefs?"

      for example:

      http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2012/11/29/pat-robertson-challenges-creationism/comment-page-1/#comment-1993335


      @I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV "the issue comes down to critical thinking. While you and I may disagree in some important areas, you are perfectly willing to apply critical thought to the question of the age of the earth and the formation of life. Many Christians are not willing to apply critical thought to this question and blindly accept extrapolations (to use your terminology) handed down for centuries from pulpits. This is the problem."

      December 21, 2012 at 4:03 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @Chad,

      this is your 'evidence' of my 'scorn'. Criticism of the lack of critical thought?

      Wow, guess I shouldnt be surprised, but still, wow!

      Still, I suppose it's stronger than your 'evidence' for the resurrection. At least I actually said that.

      December 21, 2012 at 5:06 pm |
  18. solitudenyc

    Jesus, whether you believe in God or not, taught a doctrine of love. Love even your enemy, he said. Atheist of not, I think you would agree that is a good thing.

    Christmas, for all its convoluted history, is in the end an expression of that doctrine. True we give presents and we party, but we also use the occasion to forget past grievances and turn old enemies into brothers and sisters once again. Faced with reconciliation, we say, "It's Christmas, why the heck not?" Even if this happens only occasionally, that, whether you're atheist or not, would be worth keeping the spirit of the season.

    So why focus on the tangent of faith. I'd say fight faith if you must on another turf - not Christmas.

    December 20, 2012 at 4:23 pm |
    • Viking

      I Agree with you...there arent many religions that teach the doctrine of Love, Peace and Forgiveness.

      December 20, 2012 at 4:46 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      Good point. Why would a given person who is an atheist and by his own standards a "good" person choose to love his enemy and forgive those who persecute him? What would be the point of that and where would they find the inspiration and example to do so?

      December 20, 2012 at 5:28 pm |
  19. ChokeArtists

    The earth's axial tilt is the reason for the season! Happy everything and stuff.

    December 20, 2012 at 4:23 pm |
  20. Soraya

    I am agnostic that was raised Atheist. I grew up with Carl Sagan and Santa Clause. They are not mutually exclusive. One of the things that I have always disliked about religion is the its our way or the hell way, especially with Christianity however with that being said I would hope that my fellow non-believers show the same respect toward Christians and other religions as we would want and expect them to treat us. I don't care if you worship Jesus, Bud-ah or Ronald McDonald, and I always enjoy a day off regardless of the reason, but lets keep respect going on both sides of the debate.

    December 20, 2012 at 4:22 pm |
    • Sensitivity and points

      Well said Soraya. The hell way I believe is because followers truly believe that the place exists and therefore I'd expect would be scared to death of it. I hate to see anyone on either side of the debate being treated disrespectfully. I am personally only interested in two things, what can be proven for a fact and how we treat one another in the mean time.

      December 20, 2012 at 5:04 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      I think this discussion reflects a common but erroneous theological construct. Christians believe that existence outside the presence of God is a state called hell. It is often symbolized isl literature as a fiery torment. What is really being described is simply what it is, existence without God. So for an atheist who doesn't believe in or accept God, hell is simply what they have chosen.

      December 20, 2012 at 5:32 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.