What is something to surprise an atheist

science : Christmas for atheists

People who do not believe in God are no longer a tiny minority. According to an Emnid survey, one in four people in Germany describes themselves as an atheist, and another quarter of Germans are unsure whether God exists. But what do atheists do for Christmas? A look at the celebration habits of prominent unbelievers shows that many of them have no problem with Christmas - as long as they don't have to go to church. They appropriate Christmas in their own way. Not as a Christian, but as a secular festival in which the family is the focus.

Richard Dawkins, the pioneer of the new atheism, for example, has a demonstratively relaxed relationship to Christmas. The biologist, whose book “Der Gotteswahn” caused a worldwide sensation, is not only an avowed admirer of the pious church musician Johann Sebastian Bach, but also admitted to the BBC that he sings Christmas carols and has no problem with Christian traditions. If they are threatened, then not by atheists, but at best by rival religions. “Many of my friends call themselves Jewish atheists. I admit my Christian roots, I'm a post-Christian atheist, ”says Dawkins.

Sam Harris, neuroscientist, author ("The End of Faith") and a kind of American Dawkins, had to admit at one of the last Christmas festivals that he had a Christmas tree at home. Albeit a rather poor and sparsely decorated edition. “Even atheists can make friends with a tree like this,” he justifies himself. "Everything we appreciate about Christmas - handing out presents, celebrating the holiday with the family, all the kitsch around it - all of this is now part of a secular world, just like Thanksgiving or Halloween."

"We celebrate the way our children like it, with an Advent wreath and gifts," says Michael Schmidt-Salomon, author of an atheistic children's book ("Where do you go to God?") And spokesman for the humanistic Giordano Bruno Foundation. "Christmas is just folklore anyway - many Christians no longer believe that the supposed birth of their Savior took place on this day."

The British journalist and author Christopher Hitchens (“The Lord is not a Shepherd”) is less conciliatory. For him, Christmas has totalitarian features: "I feel like I'm living in a one-party state," he said in an interview. Christmas music gets on Hitchens' nerves just as much as the compulsion to be happy and the celebration of virginity (“She doesn't deserve to be celebrated”). But he too has to admit that he bought a Christmas tree for his children. However, one made of plastic, to be reused. He admits that assembling it with his children is fun.

Perhaps the New Testament also contains a message for people who are evolutionists rather than creationists. It is not without reason that the intimate relationship between Jesus and his mother Mary is perhaps the most popular, most emotional element of Christianity. Behind this there is also an evolutionary biological insight: Every living being owes its existence to other living beings - that is, primarily to its parents. This is especially true for Homo sapiens: Without the intimate, hard-hitting and long-lasting care of our mothers, great-grandmothers, great-great-grandmothers and so on back to the early epochs of life, we would not exist. The nativity scene with Mary and Joseph is a haunting picture for this. This is a message that biologists can also relate to. And maybe a secret motive for evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins to celebrate Christmas - even without religion.Hartmut Wewetzer

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