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|The Atheist Calendar
("Happy Holy Days" Demonstrates Religion's Influence)
Despite its natural origins in the orbits of the earth and moon, the calendar has been commandeered by
powerful religious forces. As atheists grow in power and pride, we will seek to diminish religious influences and
instead develop our own celebrations.
The big number:
The big number on the calendar, 2013, supposedly reflects the number of years that have passed since
Jesus' birth. The designation "A.D." stands for "Anno Domini," or "in the year of our lord." So momentous was
the supposed birth of Jesus, Christians have mandated that we number the years before this "event"
backwards and label them "B.C." for "Before Christ," making Jesus' alleged birth the most important date in
human history. Christians, in debate with atheists, even point to the copyright date of atheist books to "prove"
that even atheists structure our world around the Jesus myth.
Some atheists have suggested a new numbering system, starting with the creation of the earth or the dawn of
man (which would result in some pretty big numbers) or more recent events like Darwin's publication of On the
Origin of Species or the end or World War II.
Awaiting atheists developing enough power to renumber the calendar, a significant but subtle change has
taken some of the power from the B.C./A.D. designation. Although religionists still provide the year, 2013;
atheists, scientists, and non-Christians have united to make BCE and CE the generally accepted designator of
the year. BCE simply stands for "Before Common Era" and CE stands for "Common Era."
The holy days:
In recent years, "happy holidays" has been thought a more inclusive greeting during the solstice season.
However, "holiday" is a contraction of the term "holy day," so the "happy holidays" greeting includes only those
who recognize holy days, like Christians, Jews and Muslims. Atheists are left out.
Christ's Mass--Christmas, dominates the Western calendar and gets government protection as a federal
holiday. The incredible religious and commercial emphasis on Christmas ignores the significant number of
atheists and non-Christians for whom the day has no special meaning. Some atheists transfer seasonal
traditions to the Winter Solstice. They may give solstice gifts, send solstice cards and have a solstice
evergreen. Others simply use the federally and culturally enforced holiday to go for a hike, work on a project,
or note the power of religion.
Easter, another Christian holiday, falls on a Sunday, so it has not been designated a federal holiday. Easter,
which celebrates the myth that Jesus died and came back to life, holds no meaning for atheists and non-
Christians. And, on more careful examination, closing government offices on Sundays also has a religious
Although "Sunday" may have its origins in recognition of the importance of the sun, Christians have linked it to
their "holy son" and label it the "lord's day." Historically, Sunday "blue laws" prohibited all businesses from
operating on the "lord's day." Although most such laws have been ruled unconstitutional, some states still
prohibit car sales on Sunday and many states limit alcohol sales on Sunday. There is no reason for treating
the first day of the week differently from any other day of the week, except for the importance religionists
attach to it.
Thanksgiving is another holiday with a significant religious component that gets government recognition.
President Lincoln first directed Americans to observe a national "day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our
beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens." Although atheists can be thankful to family, friends and
neighbors and enjoy a good meal, the Thanksgiving holiday is intertwined with thanks to a deity–an antithetical
gesture for atheists.
Strictly religious holidays like Good Friday and Passover remain important on the Western calendar, while
Saint Valentine's and Saint Patrick's day have lost much of their religious meaning. Halloween is a mixture of
pagan and religious myths that receives no government recognition and is such good fun that atheists have a
hard time objecting to it.
Religionists have recently created the National Day of Prayer as a demonstration of their ability to influence
government to endorse religion despite legal and constitutional prohibitions against doing so.
Although atheists currently appear to lack the political power to remove government endorsement of religious
holidays, we are free to develop our own special days.
Along with the development of atheist pride, it is natural that we also develop our own celebrations. The
Winter Solstice is probably the most widely recognized day in the atheist community. It allows atheists to
retain cultural traditions we enjoy but to put them in a strictly secular context. Perhaps because of the
importance of the Winter Solstice, many atheists also note the Summer Solstice. On a personal basis, I note
the times and locations of the sunrise and sunset on the Winter Solstice, but do little else. The Summer
Solstice is more important to me, as it is a great day for camping and celebrating the longest period of daylight
in the year.
Other celebrations developing a following in the atheist community include:
Religion has had enormous influence on the Western calendar, from making the number of the year a
recognition of Jesus' alleged birth, to making the "lord's day" the first of the week and religious holidays the
most important of the year. As atheists build our identity and pride, it is natural that we will refuse to honor the
destructive religious myths that form the basis for religious holidays. Atheists will instead focus on celebrations
that have meaning to us.
1. "Abraham Lincoln Online: Speeches & Writings, Proclamation of Thanksgiving," October 3, 1863, http://showcase.netins.