De-Christianizing After De-Conversion?

May 3, 2009 at 12:37 pm 69 comments

One of the things I noticed not long after becoming an atheist was how much christianity and religion is soaked into the fabric of society.

Here are a few glaring examples:

  • Taking Sundays off
  • Blue States where they won’t sell alcohol on Sundays
  • Saying “bless you” when someone sneezes
  • Christmas, Easter, St. Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Halloween, All Saints Day, etc., etc….
  • Common expressions like oh my god, jesus!, jesus christ, damnit, damn, holy anything, etc., etc…

As an atheist, I wonder, is it necessary to remove and de-christianize ourselves as much as possible? My husband sneezed this morning and I said “bless you.” It’s a habit to say it. I apologized and said, “you’re so good looking” instead. (A Seinfeld episode reference.)

Saying “bless you” is a very old superstition. Is it really necessary to say it when we are trying to rid ourselves of this woo thinking?

For holidays, I find that it’s a time to get together with family. Since I’ve gone godless, I wish people happy holidays, not merry christmas, and so on. Most people don’t even notice. But for me, I find that it’s important to de-christianize my thoughts, actions and words. Last christmas, I finally stopped celebrating entirely. While I still went to family functions, we didn’t celebrate at home at all. I’ve been an atheist for 9 years but I’d always decorated a tree to try to be festive. It was very liberating to treat it as just another day.

For some things, there’s nothing we can do. Some states will continue to refuse sale of alcohol on Sundays, the big holidays will always have a christian theme to them for most people. For me, I take notice, but I accept that I’m not going to change those laws or change the beliefs of everyone. But in my mind, I am working towards removing all superstitions, de-christianizing my expressions, and removing religion from the holidays for myself. It’s not an easy process, as I’ve been saying bless you since I learned to talk. Also, some people are hurt if you don’t say bless you when they sneeze.

Which leads me to the next issue. If it can’t be removed entirely, can it be replaced with god-free alternatives? What would those alternatives be?

  • The sneeze “bless you”
  • expressions like goddamnit, oh my god, dear god
  • expressions like jesus christ!, jesus, sweet baby jesus
  • expressions like damnit, damn, holy (anything)

I’ll admit it. I swear. I have no problem with it. I’m polite in mixed company, but otherwise I tend to let my language use the full range of words. But taking religion out of swearing is a serious challenge. One that I have yet to master.

How do you feel about de-christianizing your mind and your life? Do you have any good alternatives for religiously toned expressions and behaviors? Or do you feel it’s a cultural thing and that it doesn’t matter?

- Neece

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Neece’s De-Conversion: A Winding Road to Atheism and Skepticism Breaking the Cycle of Terror

69 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Sandy  |  May 3, 2009 at 1:30 pm

    I don’t stress it. We decorate a tree for Christmas and wait for the Easter bunny but not out of respect for Christianity. It is more of a fun time for my kids. We do try to keep Christian stories out though…for Xmas we tend to read the Grinch more than anything and put our focus on Santa…for Easter it is all about the candy.

    As for language…they are just words. If you don’t want to say them, that is ok…but at the same time I see nothing wrong with an Atheist using bless you or GD. Again, they are just words…just like the holidays are just that.

    There will come a time when we need to explain holidays to our kids and I am aware of that…but I also intend to teach them about what everyone believes and not just one religious sect.

  • 2. Stephen P  |  May 3, 2009 at 1:42 pm

    I don’t worry about most of these much. You can’t start changing everything which happens to have a religious derivation – what about the seven-day week, for example?

    I still celebrate Christmas and I still wish a people a Merry Christmas. It was, after all, a festival well before Christianity annexed it, and I see no reason to stop celebrating it. My preference is to reclaim it as a non-religious feast of eating, drinking, giving presents, visiting relatives and generally having a good time. I suppose I could wish people a Merry Yule though.

    It’s amusing that you mention Halloween as religiously-related. You are of course (at least partly) correct. But last October our local paper carried a diatribe in the letters column against the ‘pagan’ festival of Halloween, which threatened to corrupt our children.

    As for “bless you”: the obvious options are (a) to say nothing (do you feel the need to say anything when someone coughs?) or (b) adopt the Gesundheit / Gezondheid used in German / Dutch, whose literal translation is “health”. (Are there really people who are hurt if you don’t say “bless you”? If I met someone like that I think I would find it difficult to avoid laughing.)

    As for swearing: I understand that many languages (certainly Dutch) use a variety of references to nasty diseases as swear words, a habit which largely seems to have dropped out of English. But frankly, if finding a good swear-word ranks as an issue, you must lead an idyllic life …

  • 3. orDover  |  May 3, 2009 at 1:51 pm

    I do think that, to a certain extent, we should accept that Christianity is a huge part of our society and come to peace with that. I agree with Sandy that most expletives are just words that we say unthinkingly. “God dammit” comes out because that’s what we hear other say around us. Are we actually wishing damnation upon God or blaspheming? No. The phrase has had all meaning removed from it, to the point where it is equivalent to saying something nonsensical. It’s just a part of our culture.

    “Bless you” is also just a learned behavior, but I admit I’ve specifically tried to change that one. The German phrase “Gesundheit” is a good alternative. It’s catchy to say and means simply “health.”

    I also think we shouldn’t shy away from celebrating the mainstream religious holidays like Christmas, which have been so secularized that they can be celebrated without any mention of God at all.

    As atheists, I think we try too hard sometimes to rid our lives of any ritual or cultural expression because they are so tied to religion, often forgetting how much we need those things. There was a recent Pew study that showed that people raised without religion more often than not turned to religion later in life. Several atheists bloggers have posited that they made the switch because they longed for religion’s sense of community and wanted to participate in rituals and holidays that they had previously been excluded from. I think it would be better in the long run, and better for children especially, if we find a way to still actively participate in the celebrations of our culture, regardless of the fact that they are associated with Christianity.

  • 4. Lucian  |  May 3, 2009 at 3:59 pm

    Actually, Neece, that’s just Your former Puritan-Protestant self talking here, and it is THAT that You have to get rid of! 8) Seriously! I mean, You sound just like the Puritans or Protestants trying to get rid of all that “pagan” Roman Catholic stuff that has “crept” into Christianity. Why not adopt the historical Christian tactic of simply letting indigenous beliefs continue, and You’ll soon have zounds of converts, barging in like the animals on Noah’s Ark? ;)

  • 5. ArchangelChuck  |  May 3, 2009 at 4:29 pm

    I don’t remember the last time I met anybody who believed with any degree of seriousness that someone can lose their soul through their noses if they sneezed, and saying “Bless you!” automagically and instantly returns it to its rightful place.

    Those kinds of things are mindless ejaculations in a predominantly Christian culture; they’re completely devoid of any religious meaning in the first place –true even for many of the religious folks — so why put so much effort in removing ourselves from it?

  • 6. neece  |  May 3, 2009 at 7:26 pm

    Ok, good points, everyone. Sorry for hitting the hornet’s nest!

  • 7. writerdd  |  May 3, 2009 at 7:34 pm

    I love Christmas, I say “bless you” or “gesundheit” when someone sneezes, and my favorite curse is “Jesus f**king Christ.” I have no intention of giving up any of these things and I don’t think it’s important either way, in the grander scheme.

  • 8. Quester  |  May 3, 2009 at 8:05 pm

    Sorry for hitting the hornet’s nest!

    I don’t think you’ve upset anyone, Neece. I definitely put thought into these things before deciding how much or how little I’d care– and I think the topic is perfectly appropriate to discuss here. I don’t use religious terms to swear, but never did. I’m more the sort to say an inocculous phrase like “good gravy”, anyway. I say gesundheit instead of bless you, because there is a sort of societal expectation to say something, and I do not get angry when someone “blesses” me. For the holidays, well, my wife and my parents are all Christian, so we set up a Nativity scene in our living room, and sing Christmas carols. In many ways, it’s a matter of conserving your energy and choosing your battles for what really matters to you. Yes, there’s a matter of integrity and not pretending to be what you’re not, but even there it’s important to choose how much the way people may perceive you will affect your actions.

  • 9. The de-Convert  |  May 3, 2009 at 10:35 pm

    This past Christmas, I too tried to say “Happy Holidays” vs. “Merry Christmas” …. Beyond the de-Christianizing, it’s respectful to those who are not Christians. I don’t buy into the arguments that these are Christian holidays so f**k the non-Christians. These are pagan holidays that have been Christianized and we should go through the process of reclaiming them :)

  • 10. John  |  May 3, 2009 at 11:09 pm

    I started this very same process for myself a few years ago, and it’s come along quite nicely.

  • 11. neece  |  May 3, 2009 at 11:39 pm

    I guess what I’m saying is that I want to be true to myself. We don’t have kids so celebrating religious holidays isn’t necessary. Walking around talking like a christian around those holidays feels a bit hypocritical. I don’t mind it when a christian says merry christmas to me, but the point is, it’s now fully a religious holiday (albeit stolen by the christians from previous pagan holidays), and it just feels wrong to perpetuate that.
    Maybe I wish I could be “out and proud” as an atheist, so de-christianizing my language and my behavior seems like a good start, I don’t know. I guess I’m in the minority thinking about such things.

  • 12. orDover  |  May 3, 2009 at 11:44 pm

    Sorry for hitting the hornet’s nest!

    Please don’t interpret gentle disagreement as anger. I agree with Quester, this is an interesting topic and worth discussing.

    This past Christmas, I too tried to say “Happy Holidays” vs. “Merry Christmas” …. Beyond the de-Christianizing, it’s respectful to those who are not Christians.

    I agree. This past Christmas I was back in my home town at the mall with my little sisters, who range in age from late teens to not yet in the double digit ages. Some employee working there said “Happy Holidays” to me as we were leaving a store, and I cheerily said “Happy Holidays” back. A few hours later one of my sisters asked me why I didn’t say “Merry Christmas” instead. Apparently their Christian school was putting emphasis that year on always saying “Merry Christmas” to those who said “Happy Holidays” to you as a form of passive aggressive correction.

    Aside from being considerate of those who do not celebrate Christmas, “Happy Holidays” also lumps together any celebration during the winter months, including New Years and Hanukkah. It’s just a great utilitarian term. It’s pithier than saying, “Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, and just in case you’re Jewish, Happy Hanukkah.”

  • 13. PlatonicMoose  |  May 4, 2009 at 5:44 am

    My brother and I, since deconverting, have had a similar change in our thinking. We decided that “Sorry for your loss” was a fun exchange for “bless you” when sneezing, and now it’s second nature. As for Christmas, we celebrate Saturnalia, a festival of eating and drinking to raise the dying sun, or Festivus. For Easter we dyed eggs, but we never did this as kids, so it has a new joy that is still liberating, same with Halloween, it was Satan’s holiday in our Baptist home, so it’s fun to actually celebrate it, some of those little kids are so cute. For God-damn, etc. I actually never swore for years after a teenage “born again” kind of experience, and I’ve happily taken it up again, often exclaiming things like “Yahweh”, “Allah” and “Zeus” when bad things happen. Happy Holidays is kinda blah, but I use it at work, despite our overwhelming Christmas-ing of the place. As for Christmas carols and things like that, I still sing along, as a fun-and-games kind of tradition, not because I believe I’m singing to a newborn messiah, and if we simply recognize that we’re different and singing for different reasons, rejecting the superstitions, we’ve won our own minds, and it’s not harmful to participate.Same as Christians recognizing that singing about Santa is a fictional game, except people contest our beliefs about Jesus.

  • 14. Tommie Nygren  |  May 4, 2009 at 7:26 am

    With Christmas not being christian in its origins and easter not being christian either… keep going! They are old heathen traditions that were overtaken by christianity – christmas is really the celebration of the darkest day of winter (the winter solstice), easter is simply a festival of fertility…

    So keep decorating the tree. I mean, come on people. Have you seen the christmas tree mentioned in the bible? Santa Claus? Easter Bunny?

    And all that other stuff is inconsequential – the important thing is to stop superstitious thinking and start thinking scientifically…

  • 15. Amy  |  May 4, 2009 at 9:12 am

    Walking around talking like a christian around those holidays feels a bit hypocritical.
    I get that. I don’t like going to church for that very reason, even though I love the ritual and my family and friends are there.

    That said, I don’t understand the problem of wishing others a Merry Christmas even one doesn’t believe in Christianity. Just because I don’t believe in it doesn’t mean I don’t want others to enjoy their holidays.

    An option no one has mentioned as far as the Merry Christmas thing goes is just to not say anything (though it was mentioned re: sneezing). Why even feel the need to wish someone “Happy Holidays?” We don’t wish people a happy President’s day. We don’t wish people a happy Labor Day. If someone wishes me a Merry Christmas, I can just say “thanks” and leave it at that if I don’t want to return the sentiment.

    Going out of one’s way to make a point that they aren’t religious can be just as annoying as religious people going out of their way to highlight that they are.

  • 16. Amy  |  May 4, 2009 at 9:19 am

    Oh, and I did want to add re: cursing. It seems to me part of the appeal of swearing is that one is saying something shocking or offensive–which is why it’s swearing! You’re making a point about how upset/annoyed/irritated/flustered you are by saying something shocking, something that really grabs attention.

    In that vein, using “religious” curse words isn’t a problem. They have the desired shock effect whether you “believe” them or not. I guess if when one was a Chrisitan, one actually believed that God would damn whatever person/object/situation was the source of the curser’s wrath, then using those words after de-converting might be an issue, but most of the Christians I know who curse don’t really think God is going to damn their car for not starting. But maybe I run with more “sophisticated” Christians ;-)

  • 17. Stephen P  |  May 4, 2009 at 12:37 pm

    Have you seen the christmas tree mentioned in the bible?

    Actually yes, to a very good approximation. And guess what the bible has to say about it? It is a heathen tradition, one to be condemned. See the opening verses of Jeremiah chapter 10.

    With a recommendation like that …

  • 18. LeoPardus  |  May 4, 2009 at 12:44 pm

    Stephen P:

    Wahahahahahah! I never noticed that before. What a hoot!

  • 19. LeoPardus  |  May 4, 2009 at 12:52 pm

    I think the only things that I’ve noted trying to change are expressions like, “sure as Hell”, or “My God!” For obvious reasons those phrases just don’t make any sense for me to utter. Sneezing isn’t a problem as I’ve always said, “Geseundheit” :)

    Really though, I don’t need to avoid, “Merry Christmas” any more than “Happy New Year”. The name of the holiday is “Christmas”. So just use it like you would “Labor Day”.

    I see no need to sweat or belabor an effort to “sterilize” me or my language. The most likely result of such an effort would just be to make me self conscious about the whole thing. That’d be a bloody waste of time.

  • 20. neece  |  May 4, 2009 at 1:49 pm

    You’re all making great points. I never noticed Jeremiah 10:2-5 before, that’s funny! Thanks for pointing that out.
    I think you’re right, sterilizing ourselves isn’t helpful.
    I also agree that we don’t want to walk around being obnoxious about our atheism. I certainly don’t do that and that’s not what I was intending with this post. But it’s a great point to keep in mind.

    Overall, I think you’ve all helped me to see this differently. Thanks!

  • 21. writerdd  |  May 4, 2009 at 6:09 pm

    “I guess what I’m saying is that I want to be true to myself.”

    Amen. You definitely should do that! :-)

  • 22. finallyhappy  |  May 4, 2009 at 7:37 pm

    The christmas tree issue is hilarious to me. Growing up, our pastor always preached heavily against having a christmas tree because it was a heathen symbol. He expected the staff to follow his lead and keep their houses “christmas tree-free.” Because my parents were on staff at the church we were always the “nerd kids” that had to put their christmas presents under a manger instead of a tree. You better believe I’m gonna have a christmas tree…from now on! :-)

  • 23. HeIsSailing  |  May 5, 2009 at 6:52 am

    Yikes!!
    Neece, here is my advice: Keep going down this road and you will turn into one angry, bitter and resentful atheist.

    Life is far too short to sweat any of this stuff.

  • 24. Jumile  |  May 5, 2009 at 7:13 am

    I see what you’re saying though I tend agree with comment #23, and it’s why I don’t sweat it. As they say: Don’t sweat the petty things and don’t pet the sweaty things… ;) I try to learn about the various things that are attributable to religion/superstition and their etymology as best understood (kinda person I am), but I normally don’t check myself too much in my everyday behaviour. It’s useful for correcting the inevitable religionist who mocks you for saying/doing something of “theirs.”

    As a humanist I realise that there are more important things than not giving superstitious people inferred legitimacy by recognising their ancient and integrated effects on our culture. I don’t have a Xmas tree at home, but I probably would if I had a wife and kids — for the kids enjoyment and the festive cheer such participatory activities bring; I do buy and accept presents for friends and family, go to Xmas dinners and so on. And if it helps — one can always consider the original meanings of that time of year (winter hardship, the solstice means it’s halway through and will get better from here, etc).

  • 25. Brad  |  May 5, 2009 at 11:17 am

    Hey everyone,

    It has been a LONG time since I last commented. I used to write for Confessions of a Seminarian, but have been still catching up on my d-C reading periodically. I was recently hired to do some writing for Examiner, and wrote an article that cited you all heavily so I thought I’d throw a link your way and let you know I still enjoy giving you guys some good press!

    http://www.examiner.com/examiner/x-8942-St-Louis-Reformed-Christian-Examiner~y2009m5d5-I-love-skeptics-no-really

    Anyway, long-overdue greetings to my old friends Mystery of Iniquity, Thinking Ape, HeIsSailing, LeoPardus, Quester, Justin, and others. I miss our stimulating conversations and hope to return for them more often. Peace!

  • 26. Lucian  |  May 5, 2009 at 1:08 pm

    It was very liberating to treat it as just another day.

    Well, You know what they say: there’s liberation theology, and then there’s liberation from theology. 8)

  • 27. TitforTat  |  May 5, 2009 at 2:31 pm

    I was thinking. In the midst of a really good orgasm, do you think an Atheist yells, “Oh my God, Dont stop, Im coming”

  • 28. ArchangelChuck  |  May 5, 2009 at 2:44 pm

    #27: If someone is thinking about what he should yell (if indeed he does yell) in the midst of a really good orgasm, then I would venture to say that it wasn’t a really good orgasm after all. :P

  • 29. TitforTat  |  May 5, 2009 at 2:48 pm

    then I would venture to say that it wasn’t a really good orgasm after all.(Achuck)

    I guess we can cut the Atheist some slack if they declare G-d at that moment. LMAO :)

  • 30. bluelyon  |  May 5, 2009 at 7:14 pm

    Since openly declaring my atheism, the only Christmas decoration that isn’t put up any more is the creche, although my little village still boasts one. Eh. It’s a story.

    As far as swearing, I’ve begun to remove the word ‘god’ from my verbal cussing, but when I write about something atrocious I love to write ‘Oh. My. Gawd.’ Jeebus on a Triscuit works well too. Of course the might “F” word holds me in good stead. Cussing was never about worshiping, so I’m not that hung up on using religious terminology when I swear.

  • 31. SnugglyBuffalo  |  May 5, 2009 at 11:23 pm

    I’ve always been rather partial to Professor Farnsworth’s exclamation of “sweet zombie Jesus!”

  • 32. Vic  |  May 5, 2009 at 11:43 pm

    Cheese ‘n Rice!

  • 33. neece  |  May 6, 2009 at 12:50 am

    HeIsSailing: I really don’t see how questioning what I’m thinking and how I’m acting leads to bitterness, anger and resentment. I feel we need to be mindful of our thoughts and actions.

    I have learned a lot and have changed my perspective with this infusion of different ideas. I think maybe it’s not so important to change too drastically, but I still think there’s nothing wrong with thinking about such things. That’s what philosophy is, isn’t it?

  • 34. Crystal  |  May 8, 2009 at 4:34 pm

    Actually, you can rest easy on the “Bless You” which predates Christianity. Ancient Romans and other pagan religions used it to ward off evil spirits. So really it has little to do with God. When you hear it said again, you can know that really it’s a pagan hand-me down. :)

    Don’t get me going on how much else was stolen from Ancient Rome and other polytheistic religions. The list is lengthy and pretty much includes most of the key things that Christianity has at the core, including baptism, communion (wine and crackers were used at every animal sacrifice) and even resurrection (the Goddess Cybele’s son died and was resurrected as was Isis’ husband. Many other deities also have resurrection myths).

    My parents are fundamentalists and my mom has declared me as a prodigal daughter who is destined for hell (that’s what I get for voting for a black man). It makes me very sad because I don’t know how we’ll reconcile it. I’m willing to accept her for who she is, but she isn’t willing to accept me. The all or nothingness of the situation is what bothers me the most. And the fact that the God/Jesus that she taught me about growing up was accepting of all people, taught by example and did not judge. This is not the God she seems to worship now.

  • 35. writerdd  |  May 8, 2009 at 5:06 pm

    And the fact that the God/Jesus that she taught me about growing up was accepting of all people, taught by example and did not judge. This is not the God she seems to worship now.

    Have you asked her about this? I try to talk to the religious people in my life from a point that they can understand. Not because I necessarily respect their views, but because I really think many of them can’t comprehend different ways of thinking. Sometimes I worry that I’m being condescending but for the most part I stick to this technique because it seems to work.

  • 36. LeoPardus  |  May 8, 2009 at 5:23 pm

    I really think many of them can’t comprehend different ways of thinking.

    DING!DING!DING!DING!DING!DING!DING!DING!

  • 37. faros  |  May 9, 2009 at 10:19 am

    celebrating festivals is good. Because God only asked the people of israel to celebrate festivals but only after coming out of egypt. He did not ask them to celebrate festivals when they are in bondage. So we are free to celebrate the festivals if we have come out of our sinful life.

  • 38. ardelong  |  May 12, 2009 at 8:56 am

    I know how you feel about Christmas and all that jazz. I get gifts for my immediate family because they haven’t accepted the fact that I don’t believe in God so I celebrate with them. All of my friends respect the fact that I don’t though (and are glad for it as my birthday is so close to Christmas). I’ve found that if you replace “holy” or “god” or “jesus” with “buckets” it makes for a good swearing. Plus most people find it amusing as well and are like “what did you just say?” I tend to say “bloody buckets” instead of “bloody f***ing christ”. And I don’t feel that saying “hell” is necessarily a Christian thing as the term was derived from a Norse Goddess. Obviously that falls within the superstition thing, but it’s a nice bit of trivia to have on hand when you get into an argument about “hell” with fundamentalists.

  • 39. Fred Micinskavich  |  May 13, 2009 at 7:07 pm

    Wow I can’t believe the discussion on such a topic. I hope that you realize that it takes as much faith to believe in nothing as it does in a religion. I would encourage you to look at some of the intellectuals who are choosing to believe in faith and acknowledge that the sheer complexity of life and how the world works could not have happened by accident. Yes much of faith has caused problems in the world. However, I see that faith providing hope and to read these posts I see many different reasons for resenting faith. I am sorry that you feel that way. I hope that things will get better for you.

  • 40. LeoPardus  |  May 13, 2009 at 7:21 pm

    mmmmmmmmVROOOMMmmmmmmmmm

    Drive by; throw out a tract.

    Yawn.

  • 41. Lucian  |  May 13, 2009 at 7:27 pm

    Drive by; throw out a tract.

    Well, … that’s why I (always) do … You know me … ;-)

  • 42. Hugo  |  May 14, 2009 at 5:03 pm

    Here is a link to an article on the state of religion in a couple of the world’s most non-religious countries, which might add some interesting thoughts to the discussion:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/28/us/28beliefs.html?_r=1

    Summary: some of the most non-religious countries in the world, did not de-Christianise. So that is one way of approaching the matter, the way I personally prefer and recommend. However, I also recognise that America finds itself in something of a different situation or culture than Europe…

  • 43. Eddie  |  May 23, 2009 at 9:48 pm

    Neece

    Perhaps you can still say “bless you”. Just think to yourself that you are blessing them with your non belief. Works for me :)

  • 44. Susan  |  May 24, 2009 at 12:24 am

    I haven’t read all the posts but yes Christianity is such a part of our society. Our calender is based upon the “birth” of Christ. Our money says “In God we trust” I am a theatre teacher/director and I had to research the actual history of theatre and it all has to do with the church.
    Whatever you believe you have to admit it is amazing that someone who lived or didn’t live over 2000 years ago has such an effect on our everyday lives.

  • 45. neece  |  May 24, 2009 at 1:30 am

    43 Eddie: That’s a great idea! Thanks!
    44 Susan: Susan! You said what I was getting at! It’s amazing, isn’t it, how much influence christianity has in our culture, and throughout a huge part of the world!

  • 46. Quester  |  May 24, 2009 at 3:27 am

    Susan,

    I often find it amazing what we pick up and never let go of, especially in regards to time. Days of the week named after Norse deities. Months named after Roman emperors. 60 minutes in an hour because the ancient Babylonians used a base-60 counting system. And, yes, years counting from a close approximation of when Jesus was supposedly born. Then there’s theatre! The temple of Dionysus and his satyrs! How many thousands of years later and we still love our satire, the name of which we derived from those mythological goatmen and didn’t bother changing all that much.

    Whether you follow a Greek pantheon, a Norse pantheon, the Judeo-Christian three-in-one package, ancient Babylonian astrology, or none of the above, our language and culture is cluttered with remnants from when these concepts were powerful parts of people’s lives.

  • 47. neece  |  May 24, 2009 at 5:38 am

    Quester, that’s great perspective, and makes my whole question rather a moot point.
    I guess the only difference is so many people still believe jesus was born of a virgin and the holidays are special because he rose from the dead. (gee, that sounds so silly when I write it out, doesn’t it? LOL!)

  • 48. Quester  |  May 24, 2009 at 3:15 pm

    Neece,

    It’s still a good idea to think about what you’re saying and what it means to you, but I, for one, don’t want to get into the atheist equivalent of the situation some had in the states where they were calling french fries “freedom fries” not too long back. Cultural detritus accumulates in weird ways, like junk from our childhood, until someone makes a concerted effort to finally clean out the attic. Even then, a few days later, there always seems to be at least one pair of bellbottoms hiding in some closet, waiting to catch you unaware.

  • 49. ArchangelChuck  |  May 25, 2009 at 5:52 am

    Please never cite “In God We Trust” as religious influence on our society.

    While it appeared in the Civil War due to increased Christian sentiments, it didn’t appear on all currency and it wasn’t a national motto until 1956. That was a politically — not religiously — motivated move, in an apparent effort to separate us from the “godless Commies.” (Ironically, socialism is the closest matching political ideology to Christian values.) Since then — when religion has been equated to patriotism, and the wackier the better — our country has been in a downward spiral of religious lunacy.

  • 50. ArchangelChuck  |  May 25, 2009 at 5:54 am

    Ugh, socialism is not a political ideology, it’s an economic system. My bad.

  • 51. Jools Chadwick  |  September 9, 2009 at 12:22 am

    I live in England and we have the same problem but it’s made even more stupid by the fact religion is all but dead over here. I go to a 24-Hour Asda (part of the Walmart company) late saturday night and it’s shut because they don’t do 24 hours on Sundays. It wouldn’t bother me as much if there was a single christian working there.

  • 52. anti_supernaturalist  |  September 16, 2009 at 12:45 am

    The de-deification of western culture (including the sciences) is our task for the next 100 years.

    the anti_supernaturalist

  • 53. Joe  |  September 16, 2009 at 1:25 pm

    Anti— (#52)

    Voltaire said basically the same thing in the 1700′s. :>)

  • 54. Blue  |  September 16, 2009 at 2:42 pm

    Joe -#53

    And look how far we’ve come in secularizing western civilization. It goes faster and faster. ^_^

  • 55. Joe  |  September 16, 2009 at 3:20 pm

    “Another century and there will not be a Bible on earth! “–Voltaire, appx. 1762

    He was a great philosopher but a lousy prophet. :>)

  • 56. Blue  |  September 16, 2009 at 7:18 pm

    True. He violated the first rule of prophecy. Never be specific.

  • 57. B-Girl  |  September 19, 2009 at 4:09 pm

    Thanks for my laugh of the day, bluelyon. “Jeebus on a Triscuit” has to be one of the funniest things I have ever read. I have heard “Christ on a cracker” many times, but that is a new one.

    I never was a xian or a participant in any other religious tradition, so the words have never really held any real meaning for me. I learned the words, because they were what I heard others using. The fact that “god damnit” was really offensive to some people always confused me, especially since it seems more like asking god for help, than saying something against him.

    As far as removing xian terminology from my language, I still use the words when swearing. Since swearing is about expressing anger (and sometimes saying something “bad” that offends others helps to do that), “taking the lord’s name in vain” works. My favorite is “Jesus H. baldheaded f^cking Christ” (sometimes throwing in mother before f^cking). It is enough words to really vent your anger and feels like something really bad to say.

    As far as acknowledging a sneeze goes, I too take the German route, and say gesundheit. It makes more sense to wish someone “good health” than to generically ask for them to be “blessed”. I have a couple of friends (they are sisters), one Pagan, one is non-religious, who both say “Godzilla” to acknowledge a sneeze.

    As for the holiday thing, I say “happy holidays” for the December holidays, since I have friends of many religions. I celebrate xmas in that I buy presents, put up shiny stuff and a decorated tree, and eat like I may never see food again. I love to dress up for Halloween. I won an egg decorating contest at an old job (got a nice basket containing candy and gardening stuff).

    As far as replacement terms if you really want to remove the religious terms from your swearing, there is always sh!t, f^ck, assh*le, and all their variants and the almost swears like crap (another Pagan friend says “craps” when she is mildly angry or in a situation where a real swear would be inappropriate) and darn. There is always nonsense terms and non-swears too. The Pagan friend that says Godzilla uses “Frack!” (stolen from Battlestar Galatica, I think), I use “Shazbot!” (stolen from Mork and Mindy). “Shoot!” is a good replacement for “god damnit. My grandmother hates swearing and before she would have kids she made my grandfather stop swearing (he was a military man, and apparently swore a lot), so he made up terms like “Jumped up roarin crimus”.

    Neece, I hope you find some balance with which you are comfortable. Remember, swearing is a way of venting anger, and you can make what ever you want out of holidays. (The sisters I mentioned earlier have an xmas tree with a ceramic Buddha on top and there xmas party last year was mostly spent viewing a slide show of one sister’s trip to Sweden.)

  • 58. spriggig  |  September 20, 2009 at 12:58 am

    Life-long, born and raised atheist here. (Being “raised atheist” just means that my parents never took me to church or spoke about religion to me. The topic wasn’t taboo, simply uninteresting to them.)

    I say nothing when someone sneezes, same as when someone coughs or farts.

    I actually enjoy Christmas but see it as I always have, as a celebration of a fairy-tale. I’ll happily say “Merry Christmas” to anyone and everyone. And, I’ll just as joyfully say “Happy Halloween” because I think it’s fun. I don’t care whether strangers think I’m Christian anymore than I care if they think I’m Pagan.

    I was 12 before I realized that *anyone* actually believed that gods and devils existed. The common-among-atheists comparison of a belief in gods as equal to a belief in unicorns and fairies was literally how I thought of religion–to me, as a child they were all on exactly the same level, and still are today.

    Welcome to the light.

  • 59. Richard N  |  September 20, 2009 at 8:35 am

    “May your pasta never dry”

    Gets some odd looks and a few explosive LOL’s.
    I do try to curb my overly post-xtian expressive things. We still do gift exchange at xmas but don’t decorate anymore. What a huge waste of money. No kids in the house anyway, so we aren’t causing anyone to feel alienated socially.

    It all seems to fall into the category of: “your mileage may vary”. What you are most comfortable is what you should do.

  • 60. Nattybug  |  September 20, 2009 at 11:47 am

    Hi Neece! I just wanted to let you know that we celebrate the “christmas” season and the others as well, but as a family gathering. We don’t add any christian flare to it. As a matter of fact, we talk to the kids about the origins of the holiday tree and what it symbolized ( decorating for bringing back spring etc) and we decorate it with snowflakes, darwin fish (I added that last year :D) and other cutesy frivolity. We discuss other peoples reasons for celebrating, but we use it as an excuse to connect with the rest of the family for the most part. I too, have a hard time trying to de-christianize my vocabulary and making sure we keep our lives purely secular. It’s not easy with a hubby who likes the holiday foods and decor, lol. To be honest, there’s nothing “christian” about the “true” reason for the season. Keep up the good work! :D

  • 61. Jenn  |  September 22, 2009 at 5:08 am

    I spoke with a long-time atheist once, and asked him what he thought about continuing to celebrate Christmas. He said that in his family, they still decorated a tree (pagan tradition, anyway, which I love to point out to Xians!) and enjoy giving gifts. For most, it’s not about religion, anyway. I haven’t had a tree for years but find that I miss that, and no longer believe that I’ve got to quit enjoying holidays just because I’ve realized that religion is ridiculous. I’m going to decorate this year, though of course nothing religious! I’ll never again celebrate Easter, though. (Coloring eggs was never THAT much fun; I just liked the candy.)

    As for saying “bless you”, I still do it. I realize that it’s pointless but it just seems like the polite thing to do. “Gesundheit” is a good substitute, as someone else mentioned.

    RE: cursing, I do it. Christians HATE terms like “Jesus H Christ” and “goddamnit” because they believe them to be blasphemous. Perhaps it’s immature, but that rather makes me want to say them even more. LOL. ;-)

  • 62. Konraden  |  September 22, 2009 at 10:11 pm

    I’m a fairly “militant” atheist as the fundies like to call me, but I haven’t taken leaping steps to rid myself of social Christian influences.

    I like holidays, for the same reason you do: it’s a time to get together with family. We can still celebrate holidays without having to make it religious. It’s a cultural event, not a religious one.

    I get sick pleasure from saying “God dammit” to those who are truly offended by my blasphemy. Aside from that, it’s cultural.

    The most anti-religious action I’ve actually taken is using “CE” and “BCE” in dates rather than BC or AD. I’m told Conservapedia was started after Wikipedia mandated the use of CE and BCE in all of its articles. I summarily used CE and BCE once I realized they weren’t Christian. (Common Era for those that miss it.)

    I’m way off topic.

  • 63. MB  |  September 24, 2009 at 9:06 pm

    An atheist friend of mine likes to say “I acknowledge your nasal discharge” when people sneeze. It is particularly funny if a believer has just said “bless you.”

  • 64. Tyler  |  October 3, 2009 at 4:45 pm

    Too many comments to read. But personally I like to add non-existent in the middle of a blaspheme whenever I let one slip, or whenever someone says it I echo with the non existent part.

    Ex. friend says, “Jesus Christ!”
    I mumble, “Jesus non-existent Christ.”

    Similarly, I put a “ne” in acronyms like “omg”

    “OMneG! that’s so stupid!”

    But usually I just avoid it all together and try to make my personal diction more fruitful.

    As far as sneezes go, one of my favorite things that I’ve heard, but never been in a bad enough mood to do is say “no thank you” when someone tells me “bless you” Then the believer can get pissed off but not do anything because you said it politely lol.

    As for christmas goes, I take a step backwards and celebrate yule. Which is the same holiday, but part of my celebrations is telling believers why jesus would hate them for celebrating christmas

  • 65. Roy  |  October 3, 2009 at 4:55 pm

    Tyler,

    I have a Wiccan friend who says “Bless You” when people sneeze. Whenever everybody in the group knows his religion, I usually facetiously say “Be careful which blessings you accept!”
    :-)

  • 66. Mystery Porcupine  |  October 3, 2009 at 11:39 pm

    I am REALLY trying to avoid celebrating Christmas this year. I would love to just celebrate life or love or the snow clouds or something! Plus, the children in my extended family have so much STUFF that presentS are just fluff to them, and most of the time they are not even thankful. So if I go visit my family, I have to buy a lot of stuff that no one appreciates, then go make it through sermons and songs that make me feel nauseated. It is a consumer holiday wrapped up in religion that makes me feel ill. UGH. Let’s hope I can avoid it. The only thing that really pulls me to go visit is my old grandma…I know it would make her day to see me. But then I will have to participate in all the rest of that stuff! I am thinking of opting to go visit a week after Christmas.

  • 67. Roy  |  October 4, 2009 at 1:04 am

    I have the same problem with birthdays in general, not just Jesus’.

    Jehovah’s Witnesses are notorious for not participating in all that stuff. I visited a Kingdom Hall once. The people were very nice and I found some of their beliefs fascinating, but they were far to regimented and legalistic for my taste.

    Speaking of Jehovah’s Witnesses, I was having a conversation with a neighbor over the Witnesses coming to my house periodically. This lady does mission work in Colombia and Brazil. She got really freaked out about the fact that the Witnesses do not believe Jesus is REALLY the son of God and that they don’t believe in hell (they are annihilationists). I guess in her book, they (and I) will be at the front of the line, since God must prove to us that it REALLY does exist.

  • 68. George  |  October 4, 2009 at 4:14 pm

    Hi Roy, I’m back. A new and improved version.

    Slapped around a bit. I did go over the top a bit.

    The de conversion monitor is fair though.

    I had no right to get so impassioned, but that is me.
    Passion is not the issue, but how you present Christ is.

    I was wrong.

  • 69. Kiyah  |  March 25, 2010 at 1:22 pm

    Old post I know, but I just wanted to weigh in a bit on my trek through the archives :)

    My parents are vaguely-practising pagans, so when I lost my Christian faith I went what I call “culturally pagan”. Yule cards, solstice bread, “Blessed Yule”, the lot. (I also developed a collection of Buddhas, but that’s probably beside the point!) Dor some reason I find it comforting to have traditions and special days to look forward to, as my partner and I are pretty much alone with my cat and I can make up whatever traditions I like :)

    When people sneeze, I too go with “Gesundheit”, or “Yeched”, which is Breton and means health too. It surprises people, and I guess I have an attention-seeking streak that likes that. Ah well…

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Attention Christian Readers

Just in case you were wondering who we are and why we de-converted.

de-conversion wager

Whether or not you believe in God, you should live your life with love, kindness, compassion, mercy and tolerance while trying to make the world a better place. If there is no God, you have lost nothing and will have made a positive impact on those around you. If there is a benevolent God reviewing your life, you will be judged on your actions and not just on your ability to blindly believe in creeds- when there is a significant lack of evidence on how to define God or if he/she even exists.

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