Why An Atheist Can Still Love the Holidays Even Without Religion

This time of year is one that’s important for people of many different religious faiths, but what about if you have no faith at all?

As an atheist, I find Christmas in particular to be one of my favorite times of the year.

Obviously, I don’t commemorate the birth of the world’s savior. I also can’t subscribe to The Festival of Lights. But I do love Christmas and the surrounding months of the year when, in the winter dark, we put up Christmas trees and string lights, and cook up delicious food and just spend time with each other. And yes it’s sentimental, but who says sentimentality is a bad thing? In fact, this sentimental notion is built on a solid kindness. Not my own, though.

My mum died when I was ten years old and we had to rebuild our family around that gaping hole in our lives. My Aunt Kath started inviting me and my dad and my brother around to partake in that side of the family’s Christmas festivities, never asking anything from us in return. That meant so much to me growing up, to have a place to go and be around family, and I remain so grateful for it now. It’s a reason without religious or even spiritual significance, but that kindness she showed us, it touched me deeply. It was profound, and I carry that with me and I always will.

So every year at Christmas time I’m reminded of that goodness, of how people really can be kind, and it makes me want to spread that kindness as far as I can. I think that starts with first acknowledging what you’ve got.

Which brings me to being thankful. I’ve heard it said that you can’t be truly grateful without having God to thank, and so this time of year rings hollow and is meaningless. I rebel against that notion in its entirety. I never needed religion to say thanks. I know how lucky I am. I have people who love me. I have a roof over my head. I have friends whom I adore. I have a job I am enriched by. Of course I have problems, frustrations, and mental health issues. But I remain grateful for this chance at life, and I’m thankful to all who’ve helped me along the way.

Should I be accused of sounding a little too much like a greeting card, I should add here that I’m under no illusions and that I’m well aware that Christmas is not a time of happiness and joy for everyone, and joking aside, I’d hate to contribute to the notion of forced cheer because I know how difficult that can be. At the same time, this doesn’t subtract from my feelings about this holiday period. If anything, it enhances it.

At Christmas and around the holidays, even in the midst of materialism, there emerges a focus on helping others, and I take that opportunity wholeheartedly. I think about children who may not have parents, or those people or animals who might be homeless at this time of the year; I think about people who may have lost someone like I lost someone, and how Christmas can be terribly lonely; I think about how there are elderly people who have to make the choice between food or having their heating on; and I think about these things and I recommit to doing something about them.

Sometimes that means donating money to charity as well as committing to the ways in which I can help people for free through click to donate programs. Other times, it means donating an extra gift or two for children who wouldn’t otherwise get presents. Or even thinking about how I can minimize my impact on the world during this holiday time. And sometimes it’s about volunteering time to help with food drives or collections for at-risk groups like veterans or the elderly.

As an atheist, I’ve often been told that not believing in God strips away a sense of what’s good and bad, that it drains the color out of the world and leaves us cold. That’s not been my experience, and while I’d never want to stop someone with a sincerely held belief from praying or expressing the joy of their faith at this time of year, I also hope that others can realize that for the godless, Christmas and the holidays can mean just as much even when we don’t choose to pray or attend religious services. The sense of goodness and charity that the religious feel at this time of year doesn’t just belong to them, but those without a religion feel it and are moved by it too.

Photo credit: Thinkstock.

188 comments

Harley W.
Harley W2 years ago

Suba. JESUS died on a cross to end suffering in the future for all eternity. I believe there is a reason for the suffering all nature and victims are enduring now. I have tried to explain it to you.

We as humans are to be our brothers keeper and I do not understand how you got that only perpetrators of evil are to help others. All human being should be responsible to help as many others human and animal that they can.

Nor am I blaming the victims. That would require me saying the baby or animals brought it on themselves. Which I absolutely did not say. I have answered that is all I can do. So take care of yourself. Bye.

Karen it depends on the Atheist and the Christian. I have worked with nice people who were atheist. I have also worked with some who were hateful and went out of their way to cause problems for me. But some people who call themselves Christians are not nice either. The thing is that these so called Christians are not living to the standard that Jesus set for them. So they are hypocrites. They have failed to follow the moral code they say they follow. Which means they are not Christians.

Live Long and prosper.

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Karen H.
Karen H2 years ago

Part 2 (looks like Care2 ate my first post...)
Magdalen B, Easter is determined by the phase of the moon because it comes from the pagan worship of the goddess Oester.
Suzana O, if you didn’t read the article, you missed the point. And I hope true Christians don’t follow RKH’s example of peace and goodwill toward men.
Harley W, I know many people who profess to follow Jesus who do evil. And I know many people who don’t follow Jesus who do good. There’s good and bad everywhere. BTW, if 40% of people with PhDs believe in a prayer answering God, that means 60% don’t.

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Karen H.
Karen H2 years ago

Part 1:
This was my first Christmas alone after 24 beautiful holidays with my partner. No tree, no music, no holiday movies. Simply reflection and remembering the good times.
I’m not stopping anyone from following their beliefs/faith, and it would be nice if they’d allow me to follow mine. I don’t care if people say “Merry Christmas” and hope they don’t mind if I tell them to have a Spectacular Saturnalia or Wonderful Yule. I say “Happy Holidays” because I don’t want to offend people who know I don’t follow their religious beliefs. And I’m celebrating ALL holidays at that time of year.
What I find interesting here is that some people professing to be Christian are so intolerant of those who don’t follow their beliefs. Jesus accepted people as they were, why can’t you? I agree with Ron C who finds “it amusing that atheists are much more tolerant of Christians than Christians are tolerant of atheists.” They can spout their venom at us, but if we dare respond (or even question) we’re the bad guys. Sigh. If, as a Christian, you want us to follow your lead, please set a good example.

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Karen H.
Karen H2 years ago

Part 2
Magdalen B, Easter is determined by the phase of the moon because it comes from the pagan worship of the goddess Oester.
Suzana O, if you didn’t read the article, you missed the point. And I hope true Christians don’t follow RKH’s example of peace and goodwill toward men.
Harley W, I know many people who profess to follow Jesus who do evil. And I know many people who don’t follow Jesus who do good. There’s good and bad everywhere. BTW, if 40% of people with PhDs believe in a prayer answering God, that means 60% don’t.

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Harley W.
Harley W2 years ago

Saying I have not answered does not make it true. I have answered you just reject my answers. The parents are responsible for what they did. But you want to make GOD responsible for it.

Animals were made originally to be our companions and pets. But humans are the cause of their suffering.

Paul speaks of this.


Romans 8:22

For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.

So yes I and the Bible recognize that all are suffering. I admit that. You do not wish to serve the GOD of the Bible who allows it. That is your right. But we and Satan are to blame in my understanding. So you do not worship any god and I worship the GOD of the Bible.

One day My GOD will restore all creation to perfection except for those who have chosen hate. This is my hope.

I have stated an answer. You can say I am wrong or my answer is not good enough for you. But that does not mean I have not answered.

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Harley W.
Harley W2 years ago

Suba The We I was referring to is humanity, all human beings suffer in this world. Do you disagree with this?

Yes animal suffer, because all who can feel in this world suffer. Do you disagree with this?

I believe that our suffering is the result of GOD allowing us to make our own choices and that we must live with the result. That is an answer that you reject. But that does not make me and all those who believe in GOD wrong.

In my understanding GOD made this world perfect as you wanted it to be. But we mucked it up and He allowed us to make our own choices. That we not GOD are responsible for the condition of this planet. We have a choice to work on being part of the cure or being the problem. I too wish He had already come and fixed it. But I trust Him like I trusted my parents to do what is best.

That is my view.

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Harley W.
Harley W2 years ago

So Suba

God sees the baby and knows that when he grows up He will kill and hurt people. When should GOD kill him so he will not hurt others?

Also is a person guilty of a wrong they have not done?

I do not think that I can give you an answer you will accept. Since this world is filled with pain GOD did not create the world you wish for. I believe he did not for a good reason. I am a member of the Seventh day Adventist church and we have a understanding about this question which we label "The Great Controversy". It is based on our understanding of the Bible and nature of GOD. We believe that we are on trial about who GOD is before the Universe. That GOD is not just concerned with us but the entire Universe. I can give you no proof of this. Nor can I explain it in a few words.

There is a book online which is called the Great Controversy. In that book on Page 492 Titled Origin of Evil is the reason we believe we are suffering. You have the freedom and I wish you no ill to believe as you wish.

I hope your New Year goes well.

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Harley W.
Harley W2 years ago

Suba So all animals and people are innocent victims? That is not possible. Because you admit some people are hateful and evil. You are correct many who call themselves Christians are not loving which makes them hypocrites and not Christians. Others who are not Christians can be nice people. But even they are evil by the standard you have set.

But the heart of your contention is that by existing we cause harm. All people then by this standard are evil and so it would be better if humans did not exist. This is not an argument against GOD it is an argument against your understanding of what the only god you deem worthy of worship would be.

I believe someday that all people who are loving and kind will live as vegetarians in a new world created. I hope this is true. But my job now is to try to make the world I live in as nice and kind as possible.

Live long and prosper.

I believe in GOD but the god I believe does not meet your criteria as being worthy of worship.

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Harley W.
Harley W2 years ago

What about the millions who have decided to follow Jesus and give up evil? Have you anyone you love who is doing wrong? I do. I also did wrong till I came to know Jesus. So GOD loves these people and wants them to be saved and turn from evil.
It seems on the other hand you would have just murdered Adam and Eve so that no one would be saved.

“My whole position can be summarized with my original sentence. Can you just give a logical answer to this? If god is both all-LOVING and all-POWERFUL, why would he allow innocent victims to be harmed by anyone, for any reason?”
Because he loves us. When parents have children they want them to do well. But we all know that many children in fact do evil. So GOD gives us a chance. I believe that is better than never being born at all.

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Harley W.
Harley W2 years ago

Hello Suba

Your first option is for GOD to get rid of all self-centered individuals.
At what point in time should GOD start executing these people. Also should He not give them a chance to change? JESUS who is GOD came and died so that people can change and to give them a choice. One day He will execute all those who choose to be self-centered and hurt people. So yes He will do as you suggest when the right time comes.

If He made people so they had to be good and kind then they would have no free will. Which some atheists also say humans have no free will. But I do not agree with that.

Step into protect them. But is that not what we are supposed to be doing. If we are of those who are good and kind are we not supposed to be trying to help others and protect them. So you are saying that we bear no responsibility for sitting idly by and doing nothing?

Forty percent of people who have PHD's in the United States believe in a prayer answering GOD. Did you know that?

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