no guarantees on signal:noise are offered, honoured, or acknowledged. also, hi.

(a)theists don’t own this time of year

Once more into the breach…

I’m not inclined, for once, to meet Rant with Rant. That said, I am inclined to comment because I think there is a need for reasonable discussion about that must NEVER be a taboo subject. Let’s start with a little textbite:

and told me she was an Atheist. Blah blah blah. She can’t take a joke and I couldn’t care less about the rest of the argument. My boyfriend is an Atheist and he doesn’t bitch and moan about people doing their thing during this season, he was brought up with religion in his life and endured education in the Catholic school system as an atheist. I have nothing against religion or atheism. I poke fun at it from time to time (and I also poke fun at myself), but I totally understand why people don’t believe in anything. Some people just can’t. I thought I was into atheism for the longest time until I realized what it was really all about, it didn’t quite fit the description of how I felt.

– BOOHOO: Whiney Atheist Doesn’t Celebrate Christmas

An image on the blog post hits at the same point too, a misconception that Atheism is a “belief in nothing”. Hardly. the literal meaning of the word, care of how English works, is basically a belief that there are no gods (or a God). Google helps with some definitions and sources thereof: define:atheism

Right, so that leaves a whole lot of room. For many, Atheism – in a practical sense – is equivalent to a “belief” in science. Science transcends mere “belief”, as it is a set of tools to approximate proof of (aspects of, or models of) reality. A belief in science must also equate to a rejection of faith, the two simply aren’t compatible ways of approaching the world. Many people manage to hold on to a behaviour pattern that makes them believe that both approaches are compatible, but in their essence they are not and cannot be. That’s fine.

Anyway, the meaning of “atheism” or “atheist” doesn’t need to be debated, it is a word with meaning(s) and Google does an adequate job of listing said meanings in a way that can be consumed easily. More understanding of what atheism vs theism requires a bit more work, and there are several excellent books on the more philosophical issues at hand. There are also plenty of great books that bring science down (yes, I said “down”, and yes I’m being a little intentionally derogatory) to the layman level. Science teaches you how to think in a way that leads to understanding reality with approximations of proof, and the many branches are critical to humanity being more than savage monkeys in pants. Those that can’t think in such a way are lessor thinkers. Ya, that’s right. I fucking said it. Let’s move on, I can’t be moved from that position. I’m more than a tiny bit arrogant about the value I place on scientific thought, but I’ve alway maintained another position: It isn’t really arrogance if you can back it up. Science backs it up. Thats how science works.

Moving on (I have to add the Rant category now thanks to that last tangent)…

Atheists and theists alike need to understand: This time of year, this holiday season, has many labels. There are many festivals, celebrations, observances, etc. Neither position on the (non-)existence of supernatural beings (not all god myths assigned omnipotence to their subjects, so I don’t see a point in being more specific than “supernatural”) requires the significance of this time of year to be ignored or held in distain. Not celebrating something is not an atheistic position. Choosing not to celebrate Christmas makes perfect sense, considering the literal subject matter of the modern Christian holiday. However, it is still the soltice. Actually, this year’s was the coolest solstice in hundreds of years. Full lunar eclipse + solstice on the same day? That is awesome. Sleeping through it was not awesome.

Grr.

Anyway, being an atheist doesn’t mean you have nothing to celebrate. Many of the ethical messages that come with the modern Christian holiday are worth consideration even without a belief in the supernatural in any form because at the basic level they are about how human beings should treat other human beings. I don’t know much of anything about what Judaism or Islam events around this time of year are about, nor what the ethical messages those particular sects of the dominant monotheistic lineage of faith have to offer. I’m much more concerned about the human behaviour that drives and defines those belief systems in a constant feedback loop, but that is really another matter entirely.

My point is: celebrate the time of the year, celebrate friendship and love. Call it Festivus for all I care, but Ms. Calluna Vulgaris has a point. Not caring for Christmas in terms of the religious aspects is very different from rejecting the other stuff that comes with it. Christians don’t own gift-giving, the solstice, winter, decorated trees, etc. Those are cultural trappings of the event, and carry no religious significance. Atheists and theists both need to understand that and, for at least a few days in late December, embrace each other with respect due to other human beings as a default position.

Oh, and Happy Flying-Spaghetti-Monster-ivus!

2 Responses

  1. Thank you for educating me (and, I’m positive, others) further on the subject matter at hand. You are right, atheism is a belief. It’s something. It’s not nothing.

    I enjoyed reading your entry. Thanks for reading my post and I appreciate you taking the time to respond.

    Happy Flying-Spaghetti-Monster-ivus! (I also slept through the eclipse, but apparently you couldn’t see it from where we were due to cloud cover. Bummer.)

    22.12.2010 at 10:19 AM

    • Chris

      Thanks :) I noticed several typos when I glanced at my post again post-comment, some of what my brain-finger-keyboard typed out was atrociously broken, so I’ve fixed that. If anything didn’t quite make sense in the original, hopefully it does now :D

      22.12.2010 at 11:08 AM