Have Yourself a Godless Little Christmas

When I penned a piece on the latest round of anti-God campaigns for Washington Post’s On Faith column, I observed how the tenor among atheists seems to have softened this year. Instead of trying to de-convert people of faith, most atheists and humanist groups simply want to create a space for themselves to celebrate the holiday season in their own way.  This kinder, gentler tenor is reflected in The Atheist’s Guide to Christmas, a book of 42 stories from men and women who represent a range of professions including comedians, journalists, scientists and philosophers.

Some of the essays seemed a bit redundant; how many times does one need to be reminded that Christmas has pagan roots? While a bit of editing might have helped weed out a few repetitive pieces, I still found a number of gems that helped me to see the holidays from a secular vantage point. Here are a few of my favorite essays:

  • Richard Dawkins took a turn towards fiction by penning a holiday fable titled “The Great Bus Mystery.”
  • Jennifer McCreight (www.blaghag.com) offers up “Gifts for the Godless,” a collection of gifts one can give to their atheist friends. I found myself oddly attracted to Atheist Barbie, who comes with stylish nerd glasses, a flying spaghetti  necklace, and a geeky pro-science T-shirt.
  • Hermonie Eyre, a UK based journalist, reflects in “Unsilent Night” how she always felt isolated as an atheist during the holiday season. Given the secular nature of the UK when compared to Christian America™, this revelation caught me off guard.
  • Music critic Simon Price deconstructs Christmas songs and gives atheists permission to engage in the Christmas spirit, schmaltz and all.
  • Graham Nunn, designer of the Atheist Bus Campaign (AtheistCampaign.org) in London explains the oppositions to this infamous campaign that garnered international news and led to similar ad campains in the US and elsewhere.

Now that I’ve finished with the book, I think I’ll pass it on to my avowed atheist brother and his like-minded kids—looks a lot more hope-filled than the usual junk I get them every year.

Becky Garrison is a satirist/storyteller whose most recent book is Roger Williams’s Little Book of Virtues (Wipf & Stock, March 2020). Also, she edited Love, Always: Partners of Trans People on Intimacy, Challenge and Resilience (Transgress Press, 2015). Her six books include 2006’s Red and Blue God, Black and Blue Church (PW, starred review).