Can Atheists Celebrate Christmas?


Atheists have no right to celebrate Christmas because they are not Christians.

Q1 Analysis

This statement does not violate Q1 unless you participate in celebrations that have religious or cultural roots but are not part of your religion or culture.

Q2 Analysis

This statement is a Q2 violation if you would object to someone claiming that you should not participate in a holiday, celebration, or practice that they claim for their own religion or culture.


The argument is that Christmas is a Christian holiday, so atheists are not allowed to celebrate Christmas because it does not belong to them. There are two assumptions operating here: that Christmas exists only as a religious holiday, and that a group that starts a holiday somehow "owns" that holiday.

Atheists who celebrate Christmas would disagree with the first assumption. They generally participate in the decorative, celebratory, social, and gift-giving aspects of Christmas without the more explicitly religious aspects of the holiday. If an atheist listens to Christmas carols, it is because they are pretty music, not because they glorify God. If you believe that atheists shouldn’t celebrate Christmas, then you likely believe either that Christmas cannot legitimately be stripped of its religious meaning, that it is insulting to your religion to treat one of your holy days as a non-religious holiday, or both.

If you argue in this way, then would you also argue that it is wrong for other religions’ holidays to be transformed? For example, do you not celebrate Halloween because it has pagan roots? Do you not celebrate Valentine’s Day secularly? And when you celebrate Christmas, do you avoid those elements that were borrowed from Pagan tradition? Do you think it’s wrong that the date for Christmas was chosen so that a Christian holiday could coincide with the celebration of pagan winter festivals? Or that a Christian saint has been folkloricly transformed into Santa Claus?

If you believe that Christians own Christmas in a sense, do you apply that thinking globally? Should only Mexicans celebrate Cinco de Mayo? Only Irish celebrate St. Patrick’s Day? Only American citizens have Thanksgiving dinner? If there are groups that call themselves Christians who you do not consider Christians, do you think they should be allowed to celebrate Christmas? Would it be proper for an atheist and a Christian to exchange Christmas presents? Should businesses that are not staffed entirely with Christians have Christmas parties?

Even if we agree that an atheist can have a secular Christmas, are there lines an atheist shouldn’t cross? For example, if you are an atheist, would it be right for you to have a crèche under your Christmas tree or a star on top of it? Would it be wrong for you to go to midnight mass at a local church?

And how does all of this apply to Jewish people who celebrate Christmas?

You are encouraged to leave your answers to the questions posed in this post in the comments section. This post is based on an excerpt from Ask Yourself to be Moral, by D. Cancilla, available at and See the 2Q system page for details of the philosophical system mentioned in this post.

Posted on January 18, 2011 at 9:55 pm by ideclare · Permalink
In: 2Q

One Response

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  1. Written by Joakim Rosqvist
    on January 19, 2011 at 5:54 am
    Reply · Permalink

    In the past,when a new bright light appeared in the sky, some people apparently went looking for newborn kings. Today, we’d aim our telescopes to find out what it is. In either case, the new light is something interesting and a symbol for it thus deserves a place at the top of my secular Christmas tree.

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