from the genius that brought us “Tide comes in, tide goes out. YOU CAN’T EXPLAIN IT!”

“Christianity is NOT a religion, it’s a philosophy!”

Substitute “Buddhism” for “Christianity”, and Bill-O sounds like every stoned college freshman I ever met, myself included.

While it’s always fun to see someone make an ass of Bill O’Reilly, I actually think that protesting the display of Christmas trees in public spaces is a classic example of atheists, both as individuals and in organizations, not being very good at picking their battles.

For one thing, and I know you guys probably don’t need me to tell you this, but Christmas TREES (I wouldn’t be writing this entry if Silverman had gotten upset with Nativity scenes) are not Christian. The practice of bringing evergreens indoors at the time of year when the days are the shortest predates that religion by thousands of years.

For another, and more importantly to me, the assumption that no one who isn’t Christian celebrates Christmas in this country has been incorrect for at least as long as I’ve been alive. I and virtually every atheist I know celebrates Christmas in a secular fashion. My stepfather, who is Jewish, grew up with Christmas trees in his house, although they jokingly called them “Hanukkah bushes”. His mother thought they were pretty, and they obviously had nothing to do with Jesus, so why not?

For atheists it’s about family and food and presents–basically a holiday to break up the winter blahs and something to look forward to. In the same way I take pleasure in cooking for my loved ones and seeing them enjoy what I made, I also like buying gifts for them. I think about the kinds of things they like, or if there’s anything they need that they wouldn’t buy for themselves, and when they tear off the wrapping and smile, I feel good.

I have family members that I only see at Christmas; there are foods we eat only on that one day of the year and have done so for years. All humans take comfort in ritual; the difference between atheists and theists is that we don’t mistake that comfort for magical thinking. I also collect rosaries* and own a deck of tarot cards, but it’s because I appreciate the symbolism and the art that goes into them, not because I think they allow me to talk to an omnipotent creator or predict the future.

*Rosaries were originally intended as a meditative aid, it was only when the church started assigning them as punishment for petty sins and thoughtcrime that they lost most of their meaning.

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