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Merry Christmas from Your Friendly Neighborhood Atheist

12/23/2012 01:04 pm ET | Updated Feb 22, 2013
  • Luis Ruuska Editor-at-large, University of Tennessee, Knoxville

Right off the bat, I understand why my credibility as a teenage atheist can be called into light. Ever since a certain micro-blogging website sprung up -- and anyone who knows anything about teenagers and the Internet knows exactly which one I'm talking about -- teenage atheists, anarchists, nihilists, and the like have been churned out faster than you can say "happy holidays." Being different and even a downright outcast socially, politically, and religiously has now become the new cool. This is a huge shift from the attitude of the '90s and 2000s, and as British comedian Ricky Gervais said the other day in a tweet, "atheism is the new black." But I digress. Before I delve deeper, I'll give you a little background information on just how I got on the "A-Train," so to speak.

I was raised in a non-religious household. Both my parents were raised Christian -- one Roman Catholic, the other Finnish Lutheran -- but I've never been to church a day in my life. Up until I was about 13 or 14, I didn't even really think a whole lot about religion. I assumed a god of some sort existed, but I didn't ever talk to it or pray to it or anything like that. All I knew is that I was free from the CCD classes my friends complained about so much.

So, up until 2011, I was an agnostic. I never flaunted my lack of religion, nor did I try to hide it. If somebody asked me where I went to church, I said, "I don't," and that was that. Then, in 2010, I really started to look deeper. I decided that I was an atheist when I realized that believing in a god -- or multiple ones for that matter -- that has a fan-base that is full of a lot of bullies, allows things like war, famine, and poverty to happen, and that is supposedly "benevolent" but sends people to a Hell or Tartarus -- or wherever you prefer -- for everything from being gay to not being a member of (insert religion here) was just foolish. It was all just very foolish to me and so I transitioned from agnosticism to atheism officially.

So now we're back where we started. Yes, I'm a teenage atheist and yes, I celebrate Christmas. Why? Well, you see I could list off the number of Christmas traditions that aren't even Christian at all from the Yule log to the tree to the caroling to the candles. The list goes on and on. I could point out many instances that prove that even a good deal of Christians themselves have really taken the "Christ" out of Christmas; for instance, when they flood the stores on Black Friday and tackle one another for the last iPad. I could say so many things and try and prove so many points but that wouldn't change the fact that some people -- Christians and even other atheists alike -- see an atheist celebrating Christmas as just wrong.

I'm an atheist and I celebrate Christmas because I believe in the messages it brings. Peace on Earth, good will toward man, all of it. I believe in every last bit. See, I can believe in the messages. There's nothing supernatural or cosmic about them. They're just good messages. I celebrate Christmas because I love the music, the traditions, and just the general happiness that comes this time of year. I celebrate Christmas because it brings families together and makes everyone just a little bit nicer. And guess what? None of those things require me to believe in a god. That's the thing that I hope people will learn about atheism as it becomes more mainstream. You don't need to be religious to have morals and besides, having a religion isn't a guarantee that one has good morals, anyway.

Even if I did celebrate Christmas for no other reason than because I did so for 15 years under my parents' roof in a secular way prior to my atheistic awakening, I'm not going to stop now just because I'm a practicing atheist. Being an atheist is equivalent to being a secularist, anyway, so Christmas hasn't changed for me at all really. Besides, in my opinion, people just look foolish when they try and boycott card stores for selling only 2 "Happy Holidays" cards or make it an active point to call December 25th "Xmas." I mean, Christmas is, at its core, a Christian holiday. I don't try and boycott Valentine's Day because I'm single so why would I try and boycott Christmas because I'm an atheist? It doesn't make sense, and I think that those kinds of people give atheists, agnostics, and the non-religious alike a bad name as people who want to wage a "war on Christmas."

The truth is that whether you like it or not, Christmas has become so much bigger than Christianity in the U.S. and other countries like it. Maybe it has become too much of a secular consumerist holiday, but then again, maybe it's only as secular and consumerist as one lets it be. I know people of other faiths and even other atheists that celebrate it. Why? Maybe for the same reasons as me, and maybe for their own reasons. Ultimately, though, they celebrate it because they want to. Christmas is what you make of it. Putting up one tree or ten, having ham or turkey, keeping the "Christ" in Christmas or not, it's all up to you. Nobody has a right to tell me what I can and can't do on December 25th, and I don't have the right to tell anyone what they can and can't do on that date either -- or any other date on the calendar for that matter.

So merry Christmas. I hope that it's one that you and your family enjoy together. I hope that it brings you all together in happiness, peace, and love. For me, that's what it's all about.

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