If I Wrote An Open Christmas Letter to a Few Disgruntled Atheists…


I sometimes write to expel my inner turmoil or frustrations. I wrote this during one of those moments and thought I’d post it. I’m hoping no one deems this political in nature or condescending. These are just some honest thoughts.


Dear Neighbor,

I must first begin by simply stating that this letter isn’t, 1) political in nature, it has nothing to do with being liberal or conservative, Democrat or Republican, 2) an assault on you, or 3) meant to cause anyone harm or inner turmoil. This letter is simply some thoughts that have been passing through my mind.

Why would I write this letter? The reasoning is simple. We are on this planet together and, while we share literal common ground, some don’t seem to be willing to allow the rest of us to enjoy our symbolic common ground, public celebrations of the birth of Jesus, Christmas. In fact, if I read the signals correctly, a few of you are so opposed to hearing about someone you claim is a mythical figure that, if you have your way, the rest of us won’t be able to do much of anything in our community or as a community to celebrate His birth.

I must be honest and point out that there seems to be some hypocrisy in your stance. And believe me, I know hypocrisy. I’m a Christian and all we Christians are, at some level, hypocrites. After all, being “Christ-like” is beyond reach as Jesus was perfect.

But your hypocrisy on the Christmas issue baffles me at new levels. You don’t believe in Christmas yet you take time off from work as though you do. If you really don’t believe in Christ or this holiday called Christmas, and your work place is open on Christmas Eve and/or Christmas day, would you consider doing your community and your co-workers a great favor and work on these days? Your laboring on these days set aside to celebrate would be a precious gift to those who do find meaning in the birth of Jesus. By doing this, your co-workers who have a passion for celebrating Christ’s coming to earth could be home with their families or at their local place of worship. If you worked these days, days that you believe have no significance, you’d also prove yourself to be communal in spirit as you’d be doing a kind deed for your fellow man. This would speak volumes to those who have come to view some of you as grumpy, Scrooge-like, stuck-in-the-mud disbelievers.

In relation to this, you seem to be most concerned about your children believing in a God you are certain doesn’t exist. Your working on Christmas Eve and Christmas day may be the most potent way to concretely establish your beliefs in your kids. Anytime someone courageously swims against the majority current and proves it through action, those in their circle of relationship see them living, not just talking, their belief system and those people embrace the swimmer’s ideology more deeply.

Bottom line… If you were to work on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day your kids would most certainly respect you for it and learn from it and your community would begin to view you as more communal.

There’s something else that really baffles me. No matter how long I ponder this, I just can’t get a grip on it. Why don’t you want the majority of the people in your community to be able to celebrate publically, at school or in the marketplace, something that has been celebrated in public places for hundreds of years, something that brings a people great joy and unifies a community? For generations the church calendar was what brought communities together. Some might say it’s what made a community communal. The mass majority of people living in a given community, not just pockets of the community, came together in public places to celebrate Christmas and Easter and other Christian holidays. There was food, and laughter, and reverence and an understanding that something and Someone really did transcend the everydayness they were forced into on a daily basis. I can’t for my life figure out why you want to take these celebratory moments and the symbols that represent them away from those who believe, the 71% of adults in the U.S. who identify as Christians?

I understand that you’re concerned that your children will have to see a nativity scene or hear a song about Jesus and be indoctrinated. But you may want to keep in mind that your sensitivity may be keeping you from instilling in your children your beliefs. Let me explain.

One of the ways that we Christians establish our beliefs in our children is by pointing out our differences. We don’t separate ourselves from other ideologies or demand the community change its ways on our behalf, we simply educate our children by pointing out to them that we think and do differently than some others, especially when we’re in the minority.

For instance, if I lived in a majority Jewish community in New York City and had friends that invited me and my family to their child’s bar mitzvah and part of the celebration was taking place in a public park, I wouldn’t demand they take all the Jewish terms for God out of it, remove the Star of David, or sue them so they couldn’t celebrate what is a special occasion. Before my family attended the event I’d have a conversation with my kids. I’d say something like this, “I’m really excited that our family is going to Joey’s bar mitzvah. It’s quite an honor to be invited. Before we go I want you to know that our family has a slightly different view of God than Joey’s family does. Let me tell you what our view is and what theirs is.” I’d then talk openly with my kids and they’d learn a few very important life lessons, 1) We live in a society where multiple belief systems are in play. 2) When we’re the minority we don’t keep our friends from enjoying their traditions or question the validity of their traditions. When invited, we join them and celebrate with them because they’re our friends and part of a larger community. 3) We can be with people of other traditions without embracing their ideology.

My kids would learn some important life lessons, my friends would know that I love and respect them, and we’d all experience the thrill of their celebration together.

My fellow earth dweller… We all don’t have to believe the same things to enjoy life together but we can’t enjoy life together if a few of you are stealing away the traditions of the masses.

Merry Christmas.

Rick Howerton

P.S. You may have noticed that I wished you a “Merry Christmas,” not “Happy Holidays.” Why? Because without there being a Christ there would be no holidays.



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