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(“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, they will seek to diminish religious
influences and instead develop their own celebrations.

The big number:

The big number on the calendar, 2016, 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 their 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, 2015; 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 basis.

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 its religious importance.

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

Although atheists lack the political power to remove government endorsement of religious holidays,
they are free to develop their own special days.

Atheist emphasis:

As atheists develop their identity and pride, it is natural that they also develop their own celebrations.  
The Winter Solstice is probably the most widely recognized  day in the atheist community.  It allows
atheists to retain cultural traditions they 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.

Other celebrations developing a following in the atheist community include:

  • Atheist Pride/Freedom from Religion Day, February 12 (Darwin’s birthday);
  • Everybody Draw Mohammed Day, May 20 (protesting Muslim violence toward artists who draw
  • National Day of Reason, the first Thursday in May (on the same day as, and in response to,  the
    National Day of Prayer);
  • LGBT Pride Day, June 28, (in recognition of the shared struggle of LGBT people and atheists
    for equal rights).

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 their identity and pride, it is natural that they
will refuse to honor destructive religious myths and instead focus on celebrations with meaning to


1. “Abraham Lincoln Online: Speeches & Writings, Proclamation of Thanksgiving,” October 3, 1863,