Hey, That’s Our Holiday!

Question from Marilyn:
Why do Atheists celebrate Christian holidays?

Answer by SmartLX:
By and large, we don’t. Take a look at this list: atheists don’t celebrate Lent, Pentecost, The Assumption of Mary, Christ the King, All Souls’ Day, All Saints’ Day or over 20 others. And that’s without considering the individual saints’ days that occupy literally every day on the calendar.

You are of course referring to Christmas, Halloween (All Hallows Eve) and possibly Easter. There are two main responses to this.

1. In most Western countries, Christmas and Easter have state-designated vacation periods including at least one public holiday each, often several. These are holdovers from attempts by governments to emphasise their religiosity in eras gone by. Atheists in these countries get these holidays too, whether they value the reasons behind them or not, so they usually just enjoy them as time off work.

2. Atheists do often actively celebrate Christmas and Halloween, and in some cases Easter. This is because these holidays have developed cherished traditions that have almost nothing to do with their religious origins: the gift-giving, the novelty costumes, the chocolate eggs and so on. To support these traditions an encyclopedia of secular mythology has sprung up around each, not believed at all by anyone over a certain age but still enjoyed as a shared seasonal game. Santa brings the presents in December, the Easter Bunny brings the eggs in March/April, and all manner of monsters break loose in October. That’s all fun no matter what you believe.

I do hope that no one reading this thinks the honest answer to Marilyn’s question is, “because atheists secretly believe in Christianity”, but I know for a fact that many do think so. Some people just won’t live with the thought that there are others who disagree with them about an important thing.

Mopping Up After Fátima

Question from Jacob:
Hello, So I think I am finally starting to get over the miracles thing and I would like to thank you Since you played a large role in it. However, there are still 2 things that bother me and that is the fact that war has declined since the end of the cold war, look at the statistics. And that Russia has become largely Christian since then.

Answer by SmartLX:
We’ve discussed these specific points in other articles, but let’s go over them once more.

Full-scale war between nations has declined since the collapse of the Soviet Union, but this doesn’t really indicate that things are more peaceful. All of the world’s superpowers are now nuclear powers, so even if the same animosities have never gone away everyone’s afraid to act upon them on a large scale in case the world is ended. Ongoing conflicts like that between Israel and Palestine bleed thousands of lives without the “war” label ever fully applying. Many warlords have learned the merits of attacking the superpowers without a nation behind them, so that their actions instead fall under the banner of terrorism and it’s almost impossible to fight back effectively. This geopolitical climate does little to fulfill the spirit of the prophecy. And of course at any moment it could explode into an all-out war that dwarfs anything that came before and completely invalidates the prophecy.

The moment the anti-religious regime in Russia collapsed, it created a huge vacuum where the sudden lack of suppression allowed religion to flood into the Motherland. Surprise surprise, the majority religion among white people won out. The prophecy’s guess wasn’t very impressive since it would only matter if the expansionist regime did collapse.

The Targets of Atheists

Question from Frank:
Why do atheists always talk about how Christians are fake, but never mention Islam as a really fake religion?

Answer by SmartLX:
Atheists have all the same reasons to deny and oppose Islam as they do Christianity, but they will naturally challenge religion in the form in which it appears in their own community.

The atheists you have the opportunity to read or listen to mostly live in countries with a Christian majority, or at least where the majority of religious people are Christian. Christianity is therefore the religion with the greatest impact on their daily lives, and the religion whose apologetic is the most prominent in the arena of debate. Therefore they most often inspired, provoked and otherwise motivated to discuss and criticise Christianity. In Muslim countries, it’s different.

There is also the fact that in many countries devout Muslims have threatened (and often succeeded, say in Bangladesh) to persecute and even kill critics of Islam. Though unfortunate, it is perfectly reasonable for people to withhold their criticisms of Islam if they believe their safety to be at risk.

The important thing to remember is that most the criticisms of Christianity apply just as well to any other faith, including Islam. The core supernatural claims at the heart of the scripture are unsupported by available evidence. Believers who gain political power in numbers invariably attempt to legislate in favour of their religion, and in particular to enforce religious morality upon non-adherents. People spend vast amounts of time, effort and money doing things which have no purpose except to please an invisible entity for an intangible reward, supposedly withheld until after death.

Why Israel Is

Question from Jonathan:
So tell me, how do you explain Israel’s continued victory over its neighbors despite being heavily outnumbered?

Answer by SmartLX:
A lot of faith and a lot of help. Many of its inhabitants, and importantly many others around the world, believe they are fulfilling a Biblical prophecy just by having it there. For one instance, the incredible amount of military aid it receives from the United States is due at least in part to a parade of religious American politicians who have accepted its importance in that respect. Thus I’ve previously referred to it as a self-fulfilling prophecy.

To look at it another way, none of this is lost in the mists of time. You can go back through the entire history of the state of Israel since its declaration in 1948 and research exactly how and why it survived each individual or ongoing conflict. You’ll find that it just had the right resources and political goodwill at the right times. (Sometimes it literally came down to Israeli heavy artillery versus Palestinians throwing stones.) It didn’t need any miracles, or else some actual miracles would have happened on the world stage and been hard to ignore.