Do's and Don'ts for Atheists at Christmas

By Robin Schumacher

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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]

Continue to Part 2

1. Bruce Metzger, The New Testament: Its Background, Growth, and Content (New York: Abingdon, 1965), pg. 78.
2. From the discussion "Life, the Universe and Nothing.
3. James Dunn, Jesus Remembered (Eerdmans, 2003): 671.
4. For a visual presentation that covers an overview of the historical Jesus, see "The Essentials of Apologetics: Why Jesus?".

Image credit: freepik

TagsCelebrating-Holidays  |  Other-Religions  |  Theological-Beliefs

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Published 12-20-13