Despite what many detractors may say, Christmas is about Jesus. It makes little difference that the date many associate with the birth of Christ is completely arbitrary and is likely not even close to his actual birthday. It also makes little difference that December 25th was traditionally a Pagan holiday.
None of that matters, because ultimately, dates are meaningless until there is some meaning attatched to it. So the atheists should just let Christians have their day and go on doing whatever. Besides, how many atheists don't celebrate Christmas? Who wants to be that guy who doesn't buy presents for his children and what not?
Be that as it may, Christmas has taken on some different meaning and nuance over time. Yes, at its core it's about Jesus' birth. But 2,000 years ago, December 25th was just December 25th (relatively speaking, since it took quite some time to shift from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar). And today, December 25th is a time for people to praise their savior, but also a time for giving and togetherness.
I was in the shower this morning, contemplating how I will spend my day today. Divorced, I usually don't have the kids on Christmas Eve. I generally don't like hanging out with my family all that often, so I skip the Christmas Eve festivities, saving all of my holly, jolly spirit for Christmas Day. Then a thought occurred to me: perhaps I should do the whole mass thing. An image of sitting in the pews of my parish filled my thoughts, breathing in that "church smell" that you get whenever you walk into any Catholic church (the protestant ones smell differently, I've noticed).
And then as those things swirled around in my brain, another faint thought came to me that helped me to decide why I would not go. It was not a thought that I forced--in fact, I sort of don't even consider it to be a thought because it just sort of happened.
It would be silly for me to go because, I thought, "I don't believe in God."
I'm not an atheist. I can't say that I know, definitively, that God does not exist. I suppose I could be called agnostic, but the term seems silly and pointless to me. I truly hope that there is a God, really I do. I hope against hope that there is something beyond this bleak, mortal coil. In fact, I think there's a high probability that God exists. How else did existence come into existence if there was not some impetus, some originating force that brought it all into being? But none of those things necessitate "belief." None of them give me any faith whatesoever.
For as long as I can remember, even back to my early adolescence, I've always had that nagging feeling in the back of my brain. My dad's side of the family are all Protestant. Some Presbyterians, many Baptists. Along with my Catholic upbringing, I was exposed to the "other side" of Christianity. I always found the Baptists to be fairly silly. Putting their hands up in the air, shouting "praise Jesus," and of course the stereotypical, "can I get an amen?!"
"AMEN," they all shouted in unison, joy and elation on their faces. It was somewhat similar to Catholics, who all uttered the same phrases in unison, but the difference was that the Baptists actually meant it. You could see it on their faces--that stubborn faith that could never be shaken by science or trauma. Of course, their fixation is not so much on God, but on Jesus: because he is their savior. Somehow, God is extremely petty and required a sacrifice for us to enter into heaven.
What's funny about it all is that their faith in Jesus is so strong, that God himself could reveal himself to the world and tell everyone that Jesus was not the savior, but most Christians wouldn't believe it. They would believe that it's some sort of Satan-trickery.
That's a faith and a conviction that I will never have. As I watched them all being happy and content that someday they'd all be sitting on clouds chillin' with their bro Jesus, I knew in my own heart that I'd never feel that way. Ever. I figured this out when I was a teenager, probably about 16 or so. To this day, I still don't feel it.
But I still celebrate Christmas, because it's a time of giving and togetherness. I'm not a bad person because I don't believe in God. In fact, I'm willing to bet that I am a far more compassionate and moral person than most Christians. I just don't feel it. I just don't believe it. I'd rather go through life not kidding myself, or forcing myself to ignore the doubt.
But I hope to those that do believe that you have a wonderful time celebrating the birth of your savior (and I mean that). You are lucky because you will have a spiritual fulfillment that I never will.