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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
[twitter-follow screen_name='DanMericaCNN']

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. snowboarder

    its all good. we celebrate a secular christmas.

    December 21, 2012 at 8:44 am |
  2. aragoner

    The extreme irony is that the Atheists' contention that there is no "god" is nothing more than a belief every bit as FAITH-BASED as those of any devout Christian, Jew or Muslim. Since there exists NO evidence regarding the existence/absence or nature of "god", the only logical and objective conclusion that can be reached on the subject of "god" is "I don't know". Since the Atheists claim to know, they are every bit as delusional as any Christian.

    December 21, 2012 at 8:39 am |
    • yawn....

      Another lazy christian who couldn't look up what an atheist is, it's not a faith.

      December 21, 2012 at 8:41 am |
    • xmas

      wrong,, since you are claiming no belief in the boggy man is faith based by your logic.

      December 21, 2012 at 8:42 am |
    • Ed Schultz

      Not true, I can prove god does not exist, 100%. Read my post below.

      December 21, 2012 at 8:42 am |
    • Ed Schultz

      This is a reply from me to someone trying to tell me to just accept something. I quoted their statement first after several discussions, then followed it with my response of the PROOF that god does not exist. The truth needs to be known.
      "Now this is hard to understand and logic is not going to help you."
      This is where i refuse to not use logic. See everything you are quoting is from a book. I never met jesus, and neither have you. The fact that I am using logic, and my brain (that god created if he does exist), proves that he actually does NOT exist. I know because I cried for a very long time, when i did not get an answer. This is very difficult, because I really did want him to exist, but I REFUSE TO BE DISHONEST TO MYSELF TO FEEL MORE COMFORTABLE. As for people that claim to have faith as your self. You don't really have faith, neither do many people that claim they have faith. Deep down, you really don't know that god exists. My proof: EVERY IMPORTANT CHARACTER IN THE BIBLE THAT DID RECEIVE FAITH, HAD DIRECT CONTACT WITH GOD IN SOME FORM. For example, the 12 apostles, lived with jesus for 3 years. They lived with god, they did not have to just think it’s true, they experienced it. You keep going down the line, moses, abraham, all of them had some strong communication with god WITHOUT JUST ACCEPTING, THEY EXPERIENCED GOD. Even after jesus died and came back to life by the holy spirit. Mathew said, I will not believe until i put my finger in his wound. WHAT DID JESUS ACTUALLY DO???? HE SHOWED UP. I know this because i truly asked, with all of my heart. And one thing i can always rely on is that i stayed honest to my self this entire journey. Logic and truth is the only thing left, and we began this discussion on logic and FACTS.
      So in conclusion, humans can not be fairer than god, and when people say that we can't understand god, that is different than going against all common sense, reasoning and logic that he CREATED for us to use. So how do i know that you don't really know that god exists? Simple, this god created both you and me. So how come you know that he exists, by just accepting, when I actually went directly to him to find out if he is there???? The answer is simple, because god can not be less fair than a human, he therefore does not exist. A true loving parent does not favor one child over another, and in the same sense, god if he does exist, can not play favorites, and allows for all humans on earth so simply accept something. Even now, when you read a book, any book, we as humans, we are skeptical, we don't just blindly believe everything we read. If i gave you the koran, you do not blindly accept it, you ask questions. Well jesus, if he is god, did not come down with a book, there was no bible like you have today for 1000 years later. jesus came down so that he personally delivered his true message. if god wanted us to know that he exists through books, he could have just dropped a million books from the sky, instead of coming down and going through all of that torture.
      You don't know if god exists, and as sad as it is, because i wanted him to exist, he does not exist. Many times i was tempted to just accept and say this is true, only because it made some sense, but it isn't that simple.
      For example, if I and you are in the same room, and there was an apple in the room, we WOULD NOT DEBATE OR EVEN HAVE A SLIGHT DISCUSSION ON IF THE APPLE EXIST OR DOES NOT EXIST. The fact that people debate the existence of god (such as you and i) means it is not as simple as ACCEPTING.
      I hope some of this logic (truth) got through to you, if not, then you can try asking your self for 10 years, and truly wait for an answer. Not just coincidences that many people mistake for god, but truly wait, until he does answer you. If you read your bible, you will notice that he did in fact answer all of the main characters, whether it is in the form of a burning bush, or blinding st. Paul. it was an act of the supernatural that the characters in the bible received, before they actually claimed to have TRUE FAITH

      December 21, 2012 at 8:43 am |
    • Rational Humanist

      Not so. We have real evidence that no gods exist. It is called modern science.
      There is no such thing as magic or supernatural anything. All you have is imaginary boojums to scare yourself with.

      December 21, 2012 at 8:47 am |
    • mk

      What is the name of that faith where you don't believe in gnomes? Shoot, I forget what it's called...

      December 21, 2012 at 8:47 am |
    • Bluto1941

      This ^^

      December 21, 2012 at 8:47 am |
    • DemFromSC

      That is ridiculous. As Carl Sagan once said: "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence". If you want to believe that a sky-god created the entire universe and is, even now, orchestrating events on Earth and everywhere else, the burden is on you to provide at least one piece of evidence. Since there isn't any such evidence, it is much more logical to assume the opposite.

      December 21, 2012 at 8:48 am |
    • snowboarder

      agagoner – that is the theists biggest fallacy. an atheist simply is an acknowledgement that man has invented innumerably gods over history and that all theologies conveniently proclaim a deity whose nature is unknowable.

      December 21, 2012 at 8:51 am |
    • heliocracy

      Please...if I go around saying the universe was created and is ruled by a flying spaghetti monster, it takes no faith on your part to say I'm wrong. The burden of proof is on those who make fanciful claims, not on those who disbelieve them. The idea that atheism is a faith is a favorite argument of the religious, but they don't seem to understand that it only makes sense to a person who has faith in the first place. If you don't have religious faith, the argument appears as silly as arguing about whether Santa's boots are black or brown.

      December 21, 2012 at 8:52 am |
    • Mnd your Own Business

      Why does it matter? As long as what you do in your personal time does not cause harm to another, then why care about what other people think? For example, Ed is welcome to ramble through his nonsensical "analysis" – it shouldn't convince anyone either way. But he's welcome to do it. Everything is a sword fight – Carlin was right. "I'm smarter than you." "What you think is wrong." It's tiresome.

      December 21, 2012 at 8:52 am |
    • are122

      Read the book "Knowing the mind of God." It is a book about and by physicist. It is a book of mathematics, physics and logic. It explains very well why it is not logical to conclude there is no god.

      December 21, 2012 at 9:07 am |
    • Rational Humanist

      @ar122
      You can't explain it? You can't summarize? Give me a break.

      December 21, 2012 at 10:26 am |
  3. are122

    I wonder why David Silverman wasn't in Newtown to comfort the mourners.

    December 21, 2012 at 8:38 am |
    • xmas

      were you?? and all the christians? Nope.

      December 21, 2012 at 8:42 am |
  4. joe

    To all you Atheists out there your the ones trying to start a war over your beliefs. Stop trying to find your 15 minutes of fame by thinking you even have a chance of stopping us from celebrating Christmas. If you don't want to celebrate it then don't. Are you that much of a spoiled little brat, were you picked on as a child, did you not get hugged enough...or maybe you were abused. If any of those apply to you then you should point your anger in another direction. It wasn't God who did this to you. Your own loved ones did. Direct your anger in finding help through social workers and stop putting the blame on Christian holidays. If you don't like that we are a Christian brotherly nation then move. No one is forcing you to live here, and plus...you will NEVER stop us from saying MERRY CHRISTMAS.

    December 21, 2012 at 8:36 am |
    • Ed Schultz

      Read my post below.

      December 21, 2012 at 8:37 am |
    • Huh?

      "chance of stopping us from celebrating Christmas. "

      We're not going to stop celebrating xmas ever, it's the biggest sales gimmick in the world. Our economy depends on your greed.

      December 21, 2012 at 8:39 am |
    • richunix

      Like the poster say’s in the article: Enjoy Christmas, blow the myth.

      Stephen F Roberts: “I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.”

      December 21, 2012 at 8:45 am |
    • mk

      Isn't it the christians saying that there's a war on christmas because some choose to say Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas? Christians can't accept the fact that "Happy Holidays" includes all holidays, including Christmas. They can't stand the fact that their holiday isn't being singled out as the "one true" holiday.

      December 21, 2012 at 8:51 am |
    • Roman

      I support the war on Christmas, but not because I want to stop it. Christians wage war on secular beliefs, try to pass their beliefs into laws, try to prevent people from exercising their freedoms when it conflicts with Christian teachings. Christians try to take this country "back" for their mindset, back to the days when we used the idea of divine mandate to kill red people and enslave black people. The outspoken Christians are the ones who started the war by refusing to accept the separation of Church and State.

      Yes, there are Christians who believe in living and letting live, just as there are Atheists who do, but the conflict is on, and for every Christian who seeks a peaceful solution, there will be an Atheist who does; however, for every wishes-they-were-a-Crusader Christian, there will be angry atheists to meet them in kind. It is the rage-fueled Christian who kindled that fire. No logical person would choose conflict over coexistence. Nevertheless, as long as there are Christians who try to dumb down our education systems, I will gladly support the existence of Atheists who chip away at the moral integrity of the national faith.

      December 21, 2012 at 8:51 am |
    • heliocracy

      There is no war on Christmas, there's just resistance to your trying to take away our freedom of religion by passing laws which force everyone to live by your particular faith. And when we do resist your trying to violate our religious freedom in this way, you call it an attack on your faith. On the other hand, I guess it's too much to expect logic from people who believe in a fairy who will condemn you to endure eternal torment for thinking their neighbor's wife is hot.

      December 21, 2012 at 8:57 am |
  5. Ed Schultz

    This is a reply from me to someone trying to tell me to just accept something. I quoted their statement first after several discussions, then followed it with my response of the PROOF that god does not exist. The truth needs to be known.
    "Now this is hard to understand and logic is not going to help you."
    This is where i refuse to not use logic. See everything you are quoting is from a book. I never met jesus, and neither have you. The fact that I am using logic, and my brain (that god created if he does exist), proves that he actually does NOT exist. I know because I cried for a very long time, when i did not get an answer. This is very difficult, because I really did want him to exist, but I REFUSE TO BE DISHONEST TO MYSELF TO FEEL MORE COMFORTABLE. As for people that claim to have faith as your self. You don't really have faith, neither do many people that claim they have faith. Deep down, you really don't know that god exists. My proof: EVERY IMPORTANT CHARACTER IN THE BIBLE THAT DID RECEIVE FAITH, HAD DIRECT CONTACT WITH GOD IN SOME FORM. For example, the 12 apostles, lived with jesus for 3 years. They lived with god, they did not have to just think it’s true, they experienced it. You keep going down the line, moses, abraham, all of them had some strong communication with god WITHOUT JUST ACCEPTING, THEY EXPERIENCED GOD. Even after jesus died and came back to life by the holy spirit. Mathew said, I will not believe until i put my finger in his wound. WHAT DID JESUS ACTUALLY DO???? HE SHOWED UP. I know this because i truly asked, with all of my heart. And one thing i can always rely on is that i stayed honest to my self this entire journey. Logic and truth is the only thing left, and we began this discussion on logic and FACTS.
    So in conclusion, humans can not be fairer than god, and when people say that we can't understand god, that is different than going against all common sense, reasoning and logic that he CREATED for us to use. So how do i know that you don't really know that god exists? Simple, this god created both you and me. So how come you know that he exists, by just accepting, when I actually went directly to him to find out if he is there???? The answer is simple, because god can not be less fair than a human, he therefore does not exist. A true loving parent does not favor one child over another, and in the same sense, god if he does exist, can not play favorites, and allows for all humans on earth so simply accept something. Even now, when you read a book, any book, we as humans, we are skeptical, we don't just blindly believe everything we read. If i gave you the koran, you do not blindly accept it, you ask questions. Well jesus, if he is god, did not come down with a book, there was no bible like you have today for 1000 years later. jesus came down so that he personally delivered his true message. if god wanted us to know that he exists through books, he could have just dropped a million books from the sky, instead of coming down and going through all of that torture.
    You don't know if god exists, and as sad as it is, because i wanted him to exist, he does not exist. Many times i was tempted to just accept and say this is true, only because it made some sense, but it isn't that simple.
    For example, if I and you are in the same room, and there was an apple in the room, we WOULD NOT DEBATE OR EVEN HAVE A SLIGHT DISCUSSION ON IF THE APPLE EXIST OR DOES NOT EXIST. The fact that people debate the existence of god (such as you and i) means it is not as simple as ACCEPTING.
    I hope some of this logic (truth) got through to you, if not, then you can try asking your self for 10 years, and truly wait for an answer. Not just coincidences that many people mistake for god, but truly wait, until he does answer you. If you read your bible, you will notice that he did in fact answer all of the main characters, whether it is in the form of a burning bush, or blinding st. Paul. it was an act of the supernatural that the characters in the bible received, before they actually claimed to have TRUE FAITH

    December 21, 2012 at 8:36 am |
    • Mark

      yeah you can't prove squat about God existing or not existing man, it's called Faith.

      December 21, 2012 at 8:48 am |
    • WOW

      What a rambling mess you wrote!!!

      December 21, 2012 at 8:49 am |
    • heliocracy

      He's saying that when a child misbehaves, his parents don't throw him into the fireplace. This is proof that humans are more loving and forgiving than God, which is not possible according to the myths. Since this is not possible, God must not exist. It is not a completely empty argument.

      December 21, 2012 at 9:00 am |
  6. limpbagel

    My wife and I are atheists. We love Christmas. We just celebrate by watching Rudolph and Frosty instead of going to church. Christmas wasn't created by Christians so I don't have any issue with it. It was a collection of pagan traditions that Christianity hooked on to, renamed, and marketed better. The iPod wasn't the first mp3 player, either.

    December 21, 2012 at 8:34 am |
    • xmas

      miracle on 34th st compared santa to 'in god we trust',,

      December 21, 2012 at 8:36 am |
  7. YuleBSorry

    CHRISTmas is the birth of CHRIST you athiests...Don't you understand that Santa Claus is the commercial holiday that barged its way into CHRIST'S birthday you morons. It's not the other way around! ....December 25th is the birth of CHRIST. If you are going to attack someone, go attack the American buying retail culture that had turned CHRISTmas into a buying frenzy, not CHRISTians who believe in CHRIST's birth. Persecuting CHRISTians for believing in CHRISTmas is like outlawing guns because they kill people. Guns need people to pull the trigger...and you can't separate one without the other! We CHRISTians were here first...GET A LIFE!!!

    December 21, 2012 at 8:33 am |
    • limpbagel

      Jesus Christ was not born in December. Kind of buckles your argument.

      December 21, 2012 at 8:36 am |
    • JJ

      What a CHRIST-turd.

      December 21, 2012 at 8:36 am |
    • Larry Mc

      You sure sound like a Christian.

      December 21, 2012 at 8:36 am |
    • Huh?

      "CHRISTmas is the birth of CHRIST "

      Your bible proves your Christ wasn't born on Dec. 25th. Christians stole that day from other pagan religions so they could try and covert people of that time period over to their cult.

      December 21, 2012 at 8:37 am |
    • xmas

      yes you were,, during primitive times.. However many of us evolved, wish christians would.

      December 21, 2012 at 8:37 am |
    • limpbagel

      It's ironic that your name contains one of those pagan traditions: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yule

      December 21, 2012 at 8:38 am |
    • Mirosal

      There have been Atheists for a LOT onger than there have been Christians. Your religion goes back 2000 years. Atheists were questioninig the gods of ancient Rome, Greece, Egypt and elsewhere long before your religion was ever a wet dream. Atheists were here before you were. Get a real life and get over it.

      December 21, 2012 at 8:39 am |
    • are122

      A book by physicist I recently read concluded it is not logical to believe God DOESN'T exist. This was mainly based on the fact "nothing" cannot create laws (laws of physics). If the universe is currently expanding (according to science it is) and came from a "big bang" then what existed prior to the universe?

      December 21, 2012 at 8:58 am |
    • heliocracy

      are122, there are theories about that. More to the point, though, are you suggesting that if there's something we don't understand, then the only explanation is that God did it? Why not posit that the flying spaghetti monster did it as a practical joke?

      December 21, 2012 at 9:05 am |
  8. Laura

    CHRIST is the reason for the Christmas holiday. Sure, there may have been pagan holidays celebrating winter before Jesus walked the earth...but there were also other pagan holidays and celebrations throughout the year. Does this mean that the Easter holiday was derived from such a celebration? Or even the 4th of July for that matter? More power to you for whatever religion you want (or don't want) to practice in your individual lives...but then don't use a Christian holiday as an excuse to give each other presents and act self-righteous once a year. And I use the word "Christian" as someone who actually lives and follows God's teachings, rather than just pretending to.

    December 21, 2012 at 8:28 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Yes, Laura dear, in fact Easter WAS derived from pagan celebrations. It would help your case if you didn't display your ignorance.

      December 21, 2012 at 8:31 am |
    • Laura

      You proved my point Tom – there were pagan celebrations associated with the Easter season and that pre-dated Easter. But EASTER itself is the Christian celebration of the resurrection of Christ.

      December 21, 2012 at 8:32 am |
    • John Jacobson

      The Fourth of July has never been considered a "religious" holiday, and,yes, Easter is the rebirth of Spring

      December 21, 2012 at 8:34 am |
    • xmas

      It's baby Santa's b-day..

      December 21, 2012 at 8:34 am |
    • Huh?

      " But EASTER itself is the Christian celebration of the resurrection of Christ."

      No, it's not it's the celebration of Mithra! All hail Mithra!
      Mithra
      Was born of a virgin on December 25th, in a cave, attended by shepherds
      Was considered a great traveling teacher and master
      Had 12 companions or disciples
      Promised his followers immortality
      Performed miracles
      Sacrificed himself for world peace
      Was buried in a tomb and after three days rose again
      Was celebrated each year at the time of His resurrection (later to become Easter)
      Was called "the Good Shepherd"
      Was identified with both the Lamb and the Lion
      Was considered to be the "Way, the Truth and the Light," and the "Logos," "Redeemer," "Savior" and "Messiah."
      Celebrated Sunday as His sacred day (also known as the "Lord's Day,")
      Celebrated a Eucharist or "Lord's Supper"

      December 21, 2012 at 8:35 am |
    • Roman

      Christmas was originally celebrated on the Winter Solstice in order to make converting pagans more comfortable with the new religion. That's why Christmas involves many pagan traditions, involving using a Northern tree (the evergreen) to celebrate the birth of a person who was born in the freaking middle east, burning the Yule log, and many other "Christian" practices. Nobody actually knows when Christ was born.

      Easter is named after Eostre and celebrates Eostre's feast. Eostre's animal symbol was a rabbit, ergo the Easter Bunny. #themoreyouknow

      ...The Fourth of July is...-facepalm-

      December 21, 2012 at 8:37 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Laura, you don't seem to grasp what's being written here-Christians weren't the first to celebrate the "holidays." Furthermore, they don't have a corner on celebrating them. Christmas is a holiday for everyone, not just Christians. For hundreds of years, it was far more secular than it was sacred.

      Get over it.

      December 21, 2012 at 8:41 am |
    • Laura

      Sigh. My point it that CHRISTmas is a celebration of Christ's birth in the Christian faith. If you want to celebrate a pagan holiday during that time, then call it something else. Feel free. It wasn't called CHRISTmas before Christ's birth, was it? No. As for the 4th of July, clearly none of you can use analogies – the point is that just because a holiday falls around or during other "pagan" holidays, doesn't mean that it was derived out of pagan tradition. There were certainly pagan celebrations during that time of year – but we don't associate the 4th of July with them, do we? No, it is a celebration of our nation's independence. Just as Christmas is a celebration of Christ's birth.

      December 21, 2012 at 8:43 am |
    • Laura

      @Tom – my point is only that you can't have it both ways. You can't celebrate a Christian holiday and then turn around and bash the Christian religion. If you aren't Christian, you can certainly celebrate Christmas. But have a little respect for what it is. And if you can't maintain some respect, then celebrate something else.

      December 21, 2012 at 8:44 am |
    • Huh?

      " Just as Christmas is a celebration of Christ's birth."

      That's like saying your bday falls in April but you're going to celebrate in December. It doesn't make sense cause you weren't actually born on that day. Christians stole it to convert others to their cult, plain and simple, even the bible clearly shows your christ wasn't really born on that day.

      December 21, 2012 at 8:46 am |
    • Laura

      @Huh – it is when his birth is OBSERVED. We know that Christ wasn't actually born on that day. Who cares when it is observed compared to when it actually happened? You apparently don't believe in him anyway, so what does it matter to you?

      December 21, 2012 at 8:49 am |
    • Huh?

      "We know that Christ wasn't actually born on that day. Who cares when it is observed compared to when it actually happened? You apparently don't believe in him anyway, so what does it matter to you?"

      Because it's the celebration of Winter Solstice and even your bible says no stealing allowed. Christmas needs to be done away with and if you really understood your religion you would know that until recently Christians used Easter to celebrate christ's birth but they decided to make up the holiday xmas to hijack Winter Solstice, which existed long before your religion.

      December 21, 2012 at 8:53 am |
    • Xmas

      Pope's book debunks christmas myths. Laura, honey, look up the definition of myth, merry Xmas; if you want to celebrate christs birth try going to the beach in the summer.

      December 21, 2012 at 8:54 am |
    • kritz

      Laura, I truly applaud you for going in to this lion's den. I just read and lurk because I get too emotionally wound up trying to defend my belief and faith. You have amazing power and strength and want to let you know I'm cheering you on. May God be with you and yours always.

      December 21, 2012 at 9:05 am |
    • JWT

      Christmas has been around for awhile now. It no longer matter why we get time off at this time of year (if we do) . People can celebrate whatever they want to. Some celebrate christ's birth some celebrate the pagan meaning some just call it a fun time to get together with family and maybe exchange gifts. Some just ignore it. All those reasons and more are correct. Nobody owns the time of year. My christmas has nothing to do with your christ and never has. Yet it is still christmas.

      December 21, 2012 at 9:17 am |
    • Pete

      I choose to celebrate Christmas by not going to church or thinking about Jesus. Deal with it.

      December 21, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
  9. Lou

    The fact is, God never answers any prayers. The entire idea that "God answers prayers" is an illusion created by human imagination.

    How do we know that "answered prayers" are illusions? We simply perform scientific experiments. We ask a group of believers to pray for something and then we watch what happens.

    What we find, whenever we test the efficacy of prayer scientifically, is that prayer has zero effect: It does not matter who prays. It does not matter if we pray to God, Allah, Vishnu, Zeus, Ra or any other human god. It does not matter what we pray about.

    One of the most scientifically rigorous studies yet, published found that the prayers of a distant congregation did not reduce the major complications or death rate in patients hospitalized for heart treatments.

    And: A review of 17 past studies of "distant healing," published in 2003 by a British researcher, found no significant effect for prayer or other healing methods.

    December 21, 2012 at 8:26 am |
    • Laura

      You can't explain the power of prayer through science.

      December 21, 2012 at 8:31 am |
    • Bob

      "You can't explain the power of prayer through science."

      That's right because there is no power to prayer so you can't measure it or prove it.

      December 21, 2012 at 8:33 am |
    • Laura

      @Bob – Not everything can be explained away through science. It's important to keep that in mind. You may not believe in the power of prayer and that is fine for you. But for those of us who do, we have seen what it can do and therefore, have faith and knowledge that it exists.

      December 21, 2012 at 8:36 am |
    • WOW

      That's right. God's plan does not always include what we want and you will probably never find the result for you are not to test God.

      December 21, 2012 at 8:37 am |
    • JJ

      Prayer does indeed works. It changes a thinking mind into a delusional one.

      December 21, 2012 at 8:39 am |
    • xmas

      prayer has no more success than flipping a coin.. better off flipping a coin.

      December 21, 2012 at 8:40 am |
    • Rational Humanist

      @Laura
      Google "confirmation bias" and see your schizophrenia mirrored in front of your eyes.

      December 21, 2012 at 8:55 am |
  10. Mr. Black

    Is it just coincidence that the sign in Times Square is next to a sign advertising the show "Shameless"?

    December 21, 2012 at 8:25 am |
  11. citizen bob

    The atheist group is targeting Christianity. Why not all religions? Are they afraid of being branded as antisemitic if they target Judaism? Are they just afraid if they target Islam? What about Wiccans on Halloween? Too small a group?
    Like many groups, there is profit in being a leader, including the atheist group, and their strategy is business. Do you really think their goal is to "set people free"? That kind of sounds like a religion in itself. The goal is to get more to believe your way, to get more members, more donations, and wealth for the leaders. Sounds like they are becoming just like the groups they complain about.

    December 21, 2012 at 8:19 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      You sound a bit worried.

      December 21, 2012 at 8:24 am |
    • John

      This same group targeted Jews and Muslims back in March. They put up billboards, written in both Arabic and Hebrew, in New Jersey and a Jewish neighborhood in Brooklyn.

      December 21, 2012 at 8:25 am |
    • SlothBot

      Actually AA puts up signs about all Judeo-Christian religions. They had a billboard in a hacidic jewish neigborhood in Brooklyn last year and a billboard in a muslim area of Paterson NJ the year before. You're just offended and you don't know how to handle your feelings like an adult.

      December 21, 2012 at 8:33 am |
    • citizen bob

      I didn't know they posted against other religions also. And, I'm not worried, I just think that people bully too much others to believe their way of thinking. Freedom is good, believe or disbelieve is a choice. Both sides put too much attack on others of a different opinion. Anyways I still see this as a group, like many others, to get donations, money, wealth all that stuff. Many political, religious, or anti-religious groups want us to think their way and give them money.

      December 21, 2012 at 8:44 am |
  12. Lou

    The Order of Creation

    Genesis 1:11-12 and 1:26-27 Trees came before Adam.

    Genesis 2:4-9 Trees came after Adam.

    Genesis 1:20-21 and 26-27 Birds were created before Adam.

    Genesis 2:7 and 2:19 Birds were created after Adam.

    Genesis 1:24-27 Animals were created before Adam.

    Genesis 2:7 and 2:19 Animals were created after Adam.

    Genesis 1:26-27 Adam and Eve were created at the same time.

    Genesis 2:7 and 2:21-22 Adam was created first, woman sometime later.

    December 21, 2012 at 8:11 am |
    • ko

      Lou- u need to read more and understand Hebrew narrative.

      December 21, 2012 at 8:35 am |
    • NotTooSure

      Doesn't really say before or after, just said it happened. It's too ambiguous to assume that, just seems to be repeating the same thing multiple times.

      December 21, 2012 at 9:01 am |
  13. Derek

    Athiests celebrating Christmas is an oxymoron. Maybe they need to create their own holiday can call it Santamas.

    December 21, 2012 at 8:10 am |
    • John

      We "celebrate" Halloween even though we typically don't believe in ghosts and ghoulies, and we celebrate Chinese New Year even though we don't believe in astrology. Christmas is just another cultural celebration that can be totally enjoyed from a secular standing.

      December 21, 2012 at 8:20 am |
    • Huh?

      It's the celebration of Winter Solstice, Santa Claus, helping others and being with family.

      December 21, 2012 at 8:21 am |
    • Huh?

      Hey what about Thanksgiving too, what's the purpose of celebrating it?

      December 21, 2012 at 8:22 am |
    • Rick

      You participate in St. Patty's Day festivities? I highly doubt all the people celebrating on that day are Irish. Just another example.

      December 21, 2012 at 8:24 am |
    • Mr. Black

      Maybe Christians should celebrate the birth of Jesus when it really happened...in the spring.

      December 21, 2012 at 8:24 am |
    • Huh?

      "Maybe Christians should celebrate the birth of Jesus when it really happened...in the spring."

      That would mean they would have to publicly admit they were wrong, that won't happen.

      December 21, 2012 at 8:26 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Nonsense. Christmas was largely a secular holiday for hundreds of years. It's only been recently that the thumpers have attempted to make it exclusive to Christians. Sorry, but you don't get to decide who celebrates any holiday. Christmas is a holiday on the calendar for everyone, whether Christian or not. Get over it.

      December 21, 2012 at 8:27 am |
    • Fupped Duck

      Festivus for the Restivus!!!

      December 21, 2012 at 8:41 am |
    • Derek

      I don't celebrate holloween. I dont celebrate St. Patricks (even though I have a lot of Irish descent)
      I celebrate Thanksgiving because its a time to give thanks for what I've been given by God.
      I celebrate Christmas to remember the birth of Christ (which is the true reason to celebrate it) even though the world has turned it into a marketing scheme.

      December 21, 2012 at 8:59 am |
  14. Lou

    The human heart is a muscle that pumps blood it does not have any emotions or supernatural powers. If you believe that your heart has emotional feelings or supernatural powers then you are delusional.

    December 21, 2012 at 8:09 am |
    • Roo

      Lou, I don't think anyone honestly thinks that the heart 'feels' emotion. It is just a symbol.

      December 21, 2012 at 8:22 am |
    • John

      Roo
      Anyone who can take the Bible totally literally doesn't have a very strong sense of what's meant to be symbolic, or not, right?

      December 21, 2012 at 8:29 am |
  15. nichellebelle

    So much hate...so much venom has beenn spewed in the name of religion...but the thing is...is that Jesus chose to be born as a human to die for our sins because he loves us...he loves us..How wonderful is that? Whether you believe in Christ or not I wish you a happy Christmas...i wish you a wonderful time with your family...i wish you good health in the new year...i wish our world to be a safer place....i pray for that blessed hope

    December 21, 2012 at 8:04 am |
    • Not a Theist

      Yes, it's so wonderful that god sent his son down to be tortured and killed as a loop hole to a system of rules he created in the first place.
      What a heart warming tale.

      December 21, 2012 at 8:07 am |
    • Rational Humanist

      @Not a theist
      Ha ha ha ha ! Good one! I laffed.

      December 21, 2012 at 8:08 am |
    • Not a Theist

      @humanist
      Thanks, but in fairness I stole that from Matt Dillahunty.

      December 21, 2012 at 8:10 am |
    • John

      So, an eternal God made an avatar of himself and chose to become a player in human existence just to make a showy sacrifice of himself, and then returned to being eternal with the rest of himself. How is that any more meaningful than our playing a video game with a specially made mii, and play it badly, just to watch it lose all it's lives?

      If Jesus knew that he was eternal, had the memory that he had always been and of this plan for human salvation, then sacrificing 33 or so years lived as a human couldn't have meant very much.

      December 21, 2012 at 8:15 am |
    • Maxwell

      @not a Theist – well said and extremely funny. How could someone send there son to be tortured to death and oh he somehow magically came back to life I didn't know wizards were around in those days.

      December 21, 2012 at 8:17 am |
    • charmed

      Not a Theist

      Yes, it's so wonderful that god sent his son down to be tortured and killed as a loop hole to a system of rules he created in the first place.
      What a heart warming tale.

      Never heard it put that way before, quite an interesting point.

      December 21, 2012 at 8:22 am |
    • Huh?

      @charmed wait for it Christians will come up with excuses to try and justify the loop hole. 😉

      December 21, 2012 at 8:24 am |
    • Fred

      nich – Forget what everyone has been saying. You are 100% spot on. Whether you believe in Christianity, Judiasm, Islam, nothing, Pastafarism, or whatever, yes, just have happy time this season. I think all religions or non-religions all respect and celebrate similar, basic values and morals (really people, don't cite religious texts or extreme cases).

      December 21, 2012 at 8:27 am |
    • John

      Fred
      Except, deep down, many Christians and Muslims sincerely believe that anyone not believing as they do is going to hell. Christmas is the celebration of the coming of the judge who will condemn billions.

      Oh, happy day!

      December 21, 2012 at 8:33 am |
    • sybaris

      @not a Theist

      Yeah you would think an omniscient being would have seen the flaw in it's plan beforehand

      December 21, 2012 at 8:41 am |
    • Ed Schultz

      I wish for you to get a brain.

      December 21, 2012 at 8:46 am |
  16. AudreyE

    Probably two out of ten atheists have a problem with Christmas, but, yeah, let's feed the trolls like O'Reilly. Now all the Fox News nonsense and brouhaha about the war on Christmas will seem meaningful. Good job CNN.

    December 21, 2012 at 8:04 am |
  17. Merry Christmas!

    I don’t understand why atheist and agnostic people can’t allow Christians to celebrate CHRISTmas the way they want to. You think it’s okay to attack anyone who wants to observe Christmas with Christ in it. Just celebrate (or not) the way YOU want to and let everyone else alone to celebrate the way they want to. I don’t understand why there always have to be a fight. It doesn’t make sense to me to attack Christians because of their belief.

    December 21, 2012 at 8:04 am |
    • Not a Theist

      You have that so backwards it's not even funny.

      December 21, 2012 at 8:06 am |
    • $$$$$

      I agree. Why attack people and their religion with rude advertisement? Just do your own thing and stop being so nasty. I am not offended when Jewish people celebrate or African Americans celebrate Kwanza. Maybe if you found Christ, you wouldn't be so hateful and mean! 🙂 Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

      December 21, 2012 at 8:07 am |
    • bag o chips

      i was raised catholic, i guess you could say i have lapsed in my religious beliefs so im agnostic

      but, i think its hilarious when these self-proclaimed athiests say they are being "persecuted" for their beliefs.

      December 21, 2012 at 8:09 am |
    • Derek

      They attack because they have nothing else better to do.

      December 21, 2012 at 8:12 am |
    • sybaris

      "It doesn’t make sense to me to attack Christians because of their belief"

      And yet George Bush used his military to attack Iraq and murder tens of thousands of innocent civilians because..................he believed his god told him it was the right thing to do.

      We really don't need the fate of billions of people resting with someone who believes they receive direction via personal whispers from an invisible sky daddy.

      December 21, 2012 at 8:37 am |
  18. LivingHistory

    Happy Hogswatch to one and all!

    December 21, 2012 at 8:02 am |
  19. John

    MERRY CHRISTMAS AND HAPPY NEW YEAR TO EVERYONE. LOVE-N-PEACE!!

    December 21, 2012 at 8:00 am |
    • Not a Theist

      Are you turning what is supposed to be a friendly greeting into a slight against people who don't think the same as you?
      That's pretty low my friend.

      December 21, 2012 at 8:02 am |
    • js

      "Not a Theist," the only one seeking out confrontation is you.

      December 21, 2012 at 8:44 am |
    • Not a Theist

      js – when you scream out "MERRY CHRISTMAS" on a forum where there is a religious debate over christmas, then it's clearly not meant in the pleasant way it was intended to be used.
      Like when someone says "Happy Holidays" and in response someone blurts out "MERRY CHRISTMAS" assertively, which has happened to me several times.
      It's in effect saying "No, I don't accept your friendly seasonal greeting unless it's a recognition of my own personal faith".

      December 21, 2012 at 9:26 am |
  20. Dirty Harry

    Anything that needs proselytized by anyone is flawed and distorted by close-mindedness. Evangelical any-people including proselytizing atheists need to get a life.

    December 21, 2012 at 7:59 am |
    • sybaris

      and yet you are telling them what to do.

      December 21, 2012 at 8:02 am |
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About this blog

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.