Atheism Remains a Minority & Why They’re [Always] Piggybacking on Christmas.

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It’s become routine for online atheists and atheist organizations like The American Atheists to piggyback on Christmas (and perhaps, to a greater or lesser extent, other traditional Christian holidays).

The reason many would likely employ to explain this behaviour is that of publicity and exposure. Atheism, particularly online, makes a noise, but it remains a vocal minority. It also remains a minority in practice, which likely testifies why a maximum of 10 000 people turned out at a Reason Rally in 2012, and that such a figure was dubbed “the biggest gathering” of non-religious people in American history (1). This figure decreased to 5000 as of 2016. 

However people view these statistics, most would agree that they are quite small, especially if we compare them to religious events such as in the 6 000 000 attendees in Manila who gathered around the Pope when he visited, or the 30 000 000 Hindus who gathered during the Kumbh Mela pilgrimage.

Apart from several atheist authors who have sold their books very well, there is not too much else in the way of publicity. Consider, for example, a documentary featuring Richard Dawkins and Lawrence Krauss, two big and influential names within contemporary new atheism. Their documentary appears to have performed rather badly grossing no more than $14 400.

Perhaps this would explain (or constitute one of several reasons) why atheists piggyback on the Christmas bandwagon.


1. Winston, K. 2012. Atheists Rally On National Mall; The ‘Reason Rally’ Largest Gathering Of Nonbelievers (PHOTOS). Available.


17 responses to “Atheism Remains a Minority & Why They’re [Always] Piggybacking on Christmas.

  1. Re: ” It’s unfortunate for them, however, that they have to jump on the popularity of a festive holiday that has absolutely nothing to do with atheism.” …. You’re no doubt aware of the fact that Christians invented Christmas to align with pagan holidays that had absolutely nothing to do with Christianity – subsuming many of the pagan traditions in the process.

    • I am aware though I don’t care too much about it. Rather, independent of origins, it has come to stand in as a Christian holiday. So, pagan or not, atheists have to jump on a holiday that has come to represent Christian beliefs.

    • Of course it cant actually be said that Christmas has ‘absolutely nothing’ to do with Christianity in the same way it can be said of atheism

      • You’ve both missed the point. Saturnalia had nothing to do with Christianity, until Christians jumped on it, and co-opted it for their own purposes.

        • Richard, I understand what you’re saying but I think you’ve misunderstood my point. It’s what the holiday has come to present, namely Christian beliefs whether the foundation of Christmas (that Jesus was born on the 25th) is biblically based or not. At this moment it is a “Christian” holiday and it is that of which atheists are piggybacking on.

          • Not sure why I have to keep repeating this, but before the early Christian church started piggybacking on Saturnalia, it was a “Pagan” holiday. There’s really no significant difference between the two cases, other than that the Christians re-named the holiday (but kept most of the Pagan traditions). Their motivation, of course, was to make Christianity more palatable to the Pagans. So they put their label on it, but it was still a Pagan celebration – and therefore it’s arguable that it STILL is today, since nearly all of the traditions came from Paganism.

            So let’s all put the “Saturn” back in Saturnalia, shall we?

            • Not sure why everyone has to keep repeating this, but the pagan symbolic reasons are absent from Christmas. The reasons it is celebrated are now quite different although some of the traditions are kept the reasons for them are different with many traditions now that had nothing to do with paganism. In order for atheists to be able to celebrate Saturnalia they would have to be willing to worship the pagan gods which kinda of goes against the definition of being an atheist.

              So let’s all put the “Christ” back in Christmas, shall we?

              • Pagan symbols absent from Christmas???? Yeah, I guess that’s true if you ignore the choice of the festival aligned with the Winter Solstice, the Christmas Tree and other evergreens brought into the home, the Yule log, and the giving of gifts.

                Why is it so different for atheists to turn Christmas into an an atheist festival, than for Christians to turn a pagan festival into a Christian one? The answer is that there’s no difference. What’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

            • Pagans don’t a have monopoly on the winter solstice or festive greenery, but I do agree that Christians intended to displace pagans practices as atheist would like to also to do Christianity. It may be accurate to say atheist are piggybacking, because they have don’t have much to displace Christianity with or have no intention of doing so. Also in Christianity we have numerous feast days, celebration and prayers for every hour of the day, so ideally we want to displace a lot more than one or two days in the year.

            • I can see why you are getting confused so easily you are not taking the time to read very carefully.

              The pagan symbolic reasons are no longer recognized, and there are Christian symbolisms for each thing. Giving of gifts was not a pagan tradition period that was implemented well afterwards.The three holes for candles in the Yule log representing the trinity. The Christmas tree came back well a while after the pagan celebrations. Lights on the Christmas tree representing light of Christ, ornaments taking what used to be apples symbolizing mans fall, and the tree staying green representing eternal life.

              The difference is that Christians moved a celebration to coincide with the date, atheists do not have a real celebration to move to the date. What’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the empty pit.

              • I’m not confused, and I did read carefully. But that’s a nice try on dismissing my comments.

                a) What does it matter whether the Pagan symbols are still recognized today? The point is, they WERE recognized and commonly used when Christianity co-opted the traditions.

                b) The fact that the symbols evolved long after they were adopted by Christians is also irrelevant. The original point is that Christians co-opted the holiday and many of the pagan traditions (as they were defined at the time).

                c) You’re simply wrong when you claim that the giving of gifts was not a Pagan tradition. It WAS a tradition of Saturnalia. And it WAS initially adopted by Christians of that era – though it fell out of favor for quite a while, to return later during the Victorian era.

                d) And why can’t we atheists celebrate whatever and whenever we want??? Who are you to declare what others can choose for “real” celebrations? Christmas didn’t exist as a celebration until it was invented in 336 CE. Until then, it wasn’t a “real celebration”.

            • My point on the confusion was that you were arguing against points that I was not making, such as that pagan traditions are not still used in some capacity, when my point had been that the reasons behind the traditions were no longer present. In case my confusion remark was needlessly offense, I apologize for and retract it.

              The article was not arguing against atheists celebrating Christmas, but rather discussing atheists using it to promote atheism. Going back through the article it does seem like it could be rather vague on that point if you are not already on the same page as the author. You are welcome to celebrate Christmas.

  2. It’s normal for larger atheist organisations to piggyback on Christmas, or on the back of any Christian holiday? Really? If by “normal” you mean what I do — standard, typical, or usual behavior — then I’d appreciate a few more examples. As it is, you have provided only one in over 950 words.

    Truthfully, I see Christians piggybacking on atheism every Christmas – every time they loudly protest the war that we apparently wage against it.

    I celebrate Christmas. Sometimes, I even attend Christmas services with my Christian friends. I know several atheists who do. Is that what you mean by piggybacking?

    • Its not a once of kind of thing, Chas. Atheists organizations do it every year at every Christmas. Not to mention Easter too.

      Regarding going to services with you Christian friends: No, that’s not piggybacking for you’re not using that time to promote atheism based on the popularity of the event/service you’re attending. Simply put you’re attending an event/service which is open for all, including atheists.

  3. I agree with a lot of what you said about atheism being a minority. In addition to being a very unpopular opinion, given the bigger picture of American psychographics, I believe that it is an extremely misunderstood position. Since atheism is the simple statement of a lack of belief in a god, the rest of the beliefs and opinions that different atheists might hold can vary greatly. My blog, theclosetatheist39.wordpress,com, gives my perspective in an attempt to paint a realistic picture of what atheism can look like on a day to day basis.

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