The Confident Christian
12/15/13 at 02:06 PM 41 Comments

Do's and Don'ts for Atheists at Christmas

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It goes without saying that Christmas is one of the top two celebrations for Christians each year. However, it’s also common knowledge that Christmas has unfortunately become a time for nasty exchanges between those who don’t believe in God and those who do.

For Christians, there’s little doubt we could be doing better in engaging people during the holidays and putting forward a more collective loving spirit. There’s really no need to have a conniption when stores choose to say “Happy Holidays” vs. “Merry Christmas”. Further, wrapping our arms around and helping those who have fallen on hard times at Christmas, regardless of whether they’re Christians or not, says a lot more than a stack of apologetics books ever could.

But what about those who reject the idea that God exists? For my unbelieving friends, I’d like to offer some respectful do’s and don’ts for the Christmas season that will hopefully provide more peace between the two sides of belief and unbelief.

Let’s get the negative’s out of the way first.

Don’t Ride the Hatetheist Train

Most atheists I know and have spoken to have absolutely no desire to thrust themselves into the midst of other people’s celebration of Christmas. For them, the in-your-face ugliness exhibited by groups such as David Silverman’s American Atheists during the Christmas and Easter seasons is (rightly) seen as embarrassing.

To those who think differently, let me just say that erecting snarky and demeaning billboards, threatening lawsuits at schools that wish to sing ‘Silent Night’, and working overtime to shut down drives that provide Christmas gift boxes to poverty-stricken children aren’t going to win converts to naturalism. Moreover, no one believes that the motivation behind such things is your love for the First Amendment.

So, while atheism deserves a voice in the public square, hatetheism is something we can all do without. Don’t get on that train.

Don’t Say Jesus is a Myth

While the controversial figure Bruno Bauer put forward a series of widely-disputed works nearly 200 years ago arguing that Jesus was a fabrication, today the myth that Jesus is only a myth has received the equivalent of the death penalty in historical and scholarly circles. Although various internet atheist haunts and projects like the Zeitgeist movie try in vain to resurrect the claim, as Princeton professor Bruce Metzger wrote decades ago, “Today no competent scholar denies the historicity of Jesus.”[1]

A recent example of this surfaced during the series of three debates held in Australia between atheist Lawrence Krauss and Christian apologist William Lane Craig. Krauss began arguing in the first debate (Brisbane) that Jesus never lived and was only a manufactured copy of pagan god myths such as Osiris, while Craig presented the historically validated information concerning Jesus’ life. By the time the third debate in Melbourne rolled around, Krauss conceded that Jesus was a historical figure.[2]

Even where Jesus’ miracles are concerned, it should be understood that while the source/cause of the events can be questioned, the fact that something out of the ordinary took place is not historically in doubt. For example, historian James Dunn says, “What is interesting in this testimony [extra-biblical writings that reference Jesus’ miracles], hardly partisan on behalf of Christian claims, is that the accounts of Jesus’ healing and exorcistic success are nowhere disputed, only the reasons for that success.”[3] 

So if you’re an atheist, please don’t say that Jesus never existed unless you want to present yourself as uninformed on the matter.[4]

Don’t Lecture Christians on the Origin of Christmas

To try and dissolve the spirit behind today’s Christmas celebrations, some atheists attempt to lecture Christians on the origins of the holiday. They talk about the fact that, before Christmas sprung into being as we know it, the early Roman culture already celebrated various holidays on and around December 25 (Saturnalia and Juvenalia), a period sometimes referred to as the winter solstice. They go on to explain that Christianity originally celebrated only the resurrection of Christ, but when Rome instituted Christianity as the state religion in the fourth century, the Roman church converted the pagan celebrations into a Christian holiday in order to commemorate Jesus’ birth.

Which means Christmas as a holiday has only been around for a little over 1,700 years…

If you’re an atheist, please don’t commit the genetic logical fallacy, which is where a current end result is suggested as being based solely on something’s origin rather than its current meaning or context, with the motivation typically being to transfer the negative esteem from the earlier context. Instead, just understand that Christmas, as celebrated today by Christians, is what it is.

Or, put another way, when Charlie Brown screams out in the famous Peanuts cartoon, “Isn’t there anyone who can tell me what Christmas is all about?” the answer that Linus supplies is spot on.

Now on to some suggested “Do’s” for atheists at Christmas.

Do Use Christmas as a Vehicle to Do Good to Others

You don’t have to believe in Christ to use the Christmas season as a reminder that there are people hurting in the world that need help. If you’re an atheist reading this, you might say, “What? I thought you Christians say I have to believe in God in order to have any kind ethics or morals and do good to others.”

If you’ve been told this by any Christian in the past, let me apologize to you. The moral argument for God should never be understood to mean that non-Christians can’t exhibit good moral behavior. Rather, it means that, without God, there is no way to ground objective moral values and duties. Everything becomes emotive, cultural, and subjective without God.

So by all means, use the Christmas season as a time to find others who need help in some way and jump in and make a difference in their lives. But in the process, honestly ask yourself why you’re doing it (i.e. what’s wrong with not helping people?) and see where that exercise takes you.

Do Engage Christians on Why You’re an Atheist

While throwing up insulting billboards about Christianity isn’t a great way to exhibit the ‘tolerance’ we hear so much about in our politically-correct culture, having respectful dialogs with Christians on why you’re an atheist and asking them why they truly believe in Jesus is a great activity in which to engage.

When I’ve had someone intelligently and calmly exchange their atheistic views with me in our marketplace of ideas, I always walk away the better for it because I’ve learned how and why someone holds the beliefs that they do. Wouldn’t you say that having a better understanding of people is a good thing?

Do Examine Your Atheistic Worldview

Participating in the prior point will likely result in this final “do”, which is to use Christmas as a time to honestly examine your atheistic worldview. All of us – and I mean all of us – need to periodically reflect on why we believe what we do and ensure that our belief rests on a bedrock of truth vs. unsupported statements and propositions.

In my library, I have books and binders full of the writings of top atheists. Why? I use them to (1) better understand why atheists reject God and, (2) challenge the bad arguments for believing in God that I sometimes assimilate and hold.

If you’re an atheist, let me ask you, do you do the same? When was the last time you read a work by a Christian apologist such as William Lane Craig, Ravi Zacharias, or Norman Geisler that worked through the philosophical and evidential arguments for Christianity? Have you ever contemplated things like, because our world exists, something must have always existed, and when you point to the universe as that eternal ‘something’ you exhibit a lot of ‘faith’ in the process?

Also ask yourself: is the reason you’re an atheist really based on supposed evidence, reason, and such, or is it more emotive in nature and grounded upon personal things that have happened to you in the past? For example, a recent CNN article about Ted Turner described how he once dreamed of being a missionary, but watching his young sister Mary Jean suffer and die from a disease dramatically altered his early belief in God.

So there you have it – my do’s and don’ts for atheists this Christmas. If you’re an atheist, kindly consider these suggestions and see what following the recommendations brings you. Hopefully, they will provide a richer experience during this time than you’ve had in the past.

Finally, I must add that I also hope and pray that you more carefully consider the One whose birthday we Christians celebrate and think about why He came in the first place, which was to bring us all (including you!) a life that is abundant in forgiveness, grace, freedom, and love.



[1] Bruce Metzger, The New Testament: Its Background, Growth, and Content (New York: Abingdon, 1965), pg. 78.

[3] James Dunn, Jesus Remembered (Eerdmans, 2003): 671.

[4] For a visual presentation that covers an overview of the historical Jesus, see: http://www.slideshare.net/schumacr/the-essentials-of-apologetics-why-jesus-part-1.

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