People at work are surprised when I tell them I’m an atheist. For some, it kind of jolts their wishy-washy religiosity and gets them to rethink what they believe when faced with a non-believer. And what perplexes them more is the fact that we (and by “we” I’m talking about my family) celebrate the holidays with all the fa la la la la and l’chayim that goes along with it. Yes, we celebrate Hanukkah and Christmas without the religion. Well, you may ask, what’s the point since I don’t believe anything that these holidays commemorate. It’s a fair question and one that I’ve kind of shrugged off because the holidays are time when you spend time with your family and friends.
When I studied religion in grad school, I read a few books by Mircea Eliade. One in particular was called The Sacred and the Profane, and there was a section where he wrote about the sacred space people create in their lives. It’s an ordered place away from the chaos of the world, and in religious terms, a place to reflect upon the divine order God (or the gods) created. Temples, churches, alters, are the more common sacred spaces, but for me, that ordered place away from the chaos is my home and my family. And since the holidays are about spending time with family and friends in a sacred space, it doesn’t clash with my non-belief at all.
I could do without all the oozy moralism about “Putting the Christ in Christmas,” or that whole fake “War on Christmas” crap, but when you strip away all that, this time of the year is really quite nice. I mean there’s good food, wine, sweets, lights, gifts, pretty songs, time to spend with family and friends … what’s not to like?
May your Christmas be merry and bright!