Most Popular Choices
Share on Facebook 38 Printer Friendly Page More Sharing
OpEdNews Op Eds    H4'ed 3/3/20

Religious Holidays Without Religion

By       (Page 1 of 1 pages)   No comments
Message James A. Haught
Become a Fan
  (1 fan)

This piece was reprinted by OpEd News with permission or license. It may not be reproduced in any form without permission or license from the source.

Easter came on April Fool's Day in 2018. No wisecracks, please.

Across America, many communities hosted festive children's Easter-egg hunts with all sorts of games, treats, bunnies and hoopla. It's wholesome family fun. But one aspect was absent: any mention of supernatural gods rising from the dead.

Part of the reason for the omission is that local governments cannot endorse religion, under America's separation of church and state. But another factor is the secularization process: In modern, educated, science-minded societies, former miracle claims wither away. Old holy days lose their magic claims and become simply times of human enjoyment.

For example, the National Retail Federation says Americans spend $16 billion on Easter, including $2.2 billion for candy and more than $1 billion for flowers. It has nothing to do with angels and vacant tombs tales that fewer thinking people believe. It's just family togetherness.

In reality, Easter is more about the returning warmth of spring green buds and sprouting flowers that lifts the human spirit. A 2010 Barna poll asked Americans the significance of Easter, and fewer than half mentioned a supposed miraculous resurrection.

Christmas likewise is losing its supernatural component. Increasingly, it's more about Santa and Rudolph and Frosty the Snowman plus billions in spending for gifts and gatherings that build family closeness.

Strangely, the Christmas season has psychological power to induce feelings of kindness and human closeness. It's a cultural phenomenon affecting even scientific people who don't swallow magic tales.

A 2017 Pew Research survey found that 90 percent of Americans celebrate Christmas but an ever-smaller share of them think it's about a virgin miraculously giving birth to a god.

"There has been a noticeable decline in the percentage of U.S, adults who say they believe that biblical elements of the Christmas story that Jesus was born to a virgin, for example reflect historical events that actually occurred," Pew reported. More than 80 percent said they would spend the holiday with loved ones, but only 51 percent planned to attend a worship service.

Conservative politicians often rant about a "war on Christmas," a secular plot to diminish the season for instance, by saying "happy holidays" instead of "merry Christmas."

Actually, nature itself--the winter solstice--provides a more profound meaning for this season. For millennia, prehistoric people in the Northern Hemisphere dreaded the worsening cold and dark as the sun sank lower each day and nights grew longer. Then, joyfully, the sun began returning in late December, and daylight lengthened. Happy celebrations and sun god worship erupted. Life had hope again.

Early Christians didn't know a date for the birth of Jesus, and observed various times. But in the fourth century, Pope Julius I pulled a clever ploy: He decreed that Jesus was born on December 25, which allowed Christianity to co-opt the merry festival period, taking it away from previous gods.

Happy holidays, everyone.

(from Patheos / Daylight Atheism, Dec. 26, 2018)

Rate It | View Ratings

James A. Haught Social Media Pages: Facebook page url on login Profile not filled in       Twitter page url on login Profile not filled in       Linkedin page url on login Profile not filled in       Instagram page url on login Profile not filled in

James A. Haught is editor emeritus of West Virginia's largest newspaper, The Charleston Gazette-Mail.  Mr. Haught has won two dozen national news writing awards. He has written 12 books and hundreds of magazine essays and blog posts. Around 450 of his essays are online. He is a senior editor of Free Inquiry magazine, a weekly blogger at Daylight Atheism, (more...)

Go To Commenting
The views expressed herein are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this website or its editors.
Writers Guidelines

Contact AuthorContact Author Contact EditorContact Editor Author PageView Authors' Articles
Support OpEdNews

OpEdNews depends upon can't survive without your help.

If you value this article and the work of OpEdNews, please either Donate or Purchase a premium membership.

If you've enjoyed this, sign up for our daily or weekly newsletter to get lots of great progressive content.
Daily Weekly     OpEd News Newsletter
   (Opens new browser window)

Most Popular Articles by this Author:     (View All Most Popular Articles by this Author)

Feeding 7.7 Billion

Megachurch Mess

Religion-Tinged Politics

deadly labor struggles

The Dreams that Stuff is Made Of

Coal Mine Wars

To View Comments or Join the Conversation:

Tell A Friend