The Atheist's Guide to Christmas

By Phil Plait | October 1, 2009 12:00 pm

atheistsguidexmasAre you secular? Humanist? Even (gasp!) atheist? Or are you any one of the thousands of other non-Christian religions peppering the planet? And yet, do you celebrate Christmas every year, reveling during the moment, but feeling shamed and guilty on Boxing Day?

Then do so no longer. It’s OK to be non-Christian and celebrate Christmas. And for proof, you can read the 42 essays comprising the book The Atheist’s Guide to Christmas, edited by Ariane Sherine (Amazon UK and Amazon US).

Yes, that Ariane Sherine, the one who created the Atheist Bus Campaign in the UK. Ariane is a humor writer and a journalist, and is also a genuinely wonderful human being who is upset by the way nonbelievers are portrayed in the media, and decided to do something about it. The bus campaign was her first organized effort, and this book is the second.

She found 45 comedians, scientists, philosophers, story tellers, and artists — all of whom find the stories associated with Christmas to be, well stories — and asked them to write a short essay about what the holiday means to them. The result is a collection of funny, warm, and interesting journeys into the mostly secular festivities of the world’s most maligned demographic.

I’ll note that one essay in the book — Starry Starry Night — was written by none other than myself. I was flattered and honored that Ariane would ask me to write for the book, where my musings would sit along side those of Richard Dawkins, Derren Brown, Simon Le Bon (yes, from Duran Duran!), my friend Brian Cox, and many others.

None of us who wrote for the book were paid in any way (well, I got a free copy). All of us who contributed donated all proceeds to the UK HIV charity Terrence Higgins Trust, a secular group that provides information, advice, and support for HIV positive people in the UK. It’s a very good cause, and one that fits the reason for the season, don’t you think?

The history of the book is pretty interesting, too, and Ariane has been blogging about how she got this project started; Part 1 is here and the other parts are linked in her sidebar. She is a funny and warm writer, busting a lot of stereotypes about atheists as the spawn of Satan. After all, just look at this picture of these two notorious examples:


Doesn’t Ariane just radiate evil?

Go buy this book. Give a copy for Christmas, or just get one for yourself. You’ll be helping a good cause, and maybe, just maybe, you’ll find out that Christmas really is for everyone.


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