The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Our Readers Speak

December 12, 2012

Our Readers Speak — Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2012

It’s true, most atheists celebrate Christmas

A recent letter encouraged readers to pray for atheists during the holiday season, but was rife with misconceptions. Most atheists (myself included) celebrate Christmas. The lights, trees, gifts, and many other Christmas traditions are embraced by the atheist community.

While Christians may attach religious meanings to such displays, it is important to note that many Christmas traditions are rooted deeply in pagan rituals, but were assimilated into Christians celebrations as a way to help ease pagan converts into the Christian religion.

Biblical scholars acknowledge that the birth of Christ would have occurred pretty much any time other than Dec. 25, but early Christians opted to celebrate Christ’s birth on this date because it roughly corresponds with the winter solstice, and thus a plethora of pagan celebrations centered on that particular astronomical event.

In short, converting people to Christianity was easier for the early church when the converts could maintain their culture and traditions.

Also, just so you know, the “X” in Xmas is a Greek abbreviation that stands for “Christ,” and the Obama family has a number of Christmas trees. Michelle Obama even hosted a Christmas special a year or two ago, and yes, called them Christmas trees.

Stores that encourage employees to say “Happy Holidays” are simply catering to their entire customer base, as several major religions other than Christianity also hold celebrations this time of year. There’s no ”war on Christmas” originating from the White House or anywhere else.

Finally, as a secular member of the community, let me tell you what Christmas means to me. Christmas is a time to demonstrate love and charity, it is a time to be with family and friends and it is a time of generosity and gift-giving. It’s also the one time of year that I get to eat fruit cake. Christmas truly is the most wonderful time of the year, even for atheists.

John M. McCormick

Athens

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