The topic is: Should atheists celebrate the Winter Solstice?

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this was the starting letter:
Hi Everyone!

I debated with myself over the weekend if I should actually write a message about this on here or not, but the ranting part in my won over, so here it goes:

I *can't* believe I am getting a message from our atheist group regarding the celebration of winter solstice! This redefines the definitive definition of illogical and nonsensical.

What is Winter Solstice? Well, in the context here it is obviously the cultural event we are talking about, because the astronomical event is for all of us who have a computer (which is pretty much required to do this Meet-Up thingy, right?!?) meaningless since we don't need to count down the days until we plow the ground and lay the seed to grow somethin'. If you are a 21st century human, with a calendar/computer, you don't need to wait until earth's axial tilt is farthest away from the sun and start counting days from there, simply because most of us don't really farm that much and even IF we do, we tend to go more with calendars and meteorological data. Modern science - remember?!?

So, we are obviously talking about Winter Solstice, the cultural event here. As atheists. A cultural event celebrated by, well, basically every naturalistic religion / wackadoodle belief system out there as "a recognition of rebirth" - see where I am getting at here?

As an atheist one is not only not a christian, a muslim, or a jew, one is also not a wiccan, a pagan, or a "spiritual person" - any of these would contradict the definition of atheism in the true sense of the word's meaning.

Suggesting an atheist should even acknowledge the cultural event of Winter Solstice is just outrageous. It is counterproductive to the whole purpose of a group which considers its long-term goal to further the understanding of the public that people who don't believe in fairy-tales and wackadoodle mumbo-jumbo theism are just as ethical - if not more so - and hence capable to act in a social environment as any religious person. By acknowledging and even *celebrating* a day that has NO true cultural meaning, but only a meaning to counter-culture religions we open ourselves to the common biases of "atheism is just another religion" and "atheists just want to further the influence of paganism".

If you consider yourself "spiritual" and/or believe that there are unspecified "energies" out there which can be channeled by schmonzes like rubbing crystals, lighting candles, cooking the hair from the chin of a toad, or dancing around bonfires, then an **atheist** group might also not the right place for you. I am sure there is a very welcoming group of "spiritualists" out there where you can channel energies towards that sage-colored aura of yours, rub crystals until your thumb falls off, wear that black velvet cape, and burn the names of people who have wronged you in that copper kettle in the shape of a skull...

If you are a true atheist and you want to sit around a campfire and talk about your deep true emotions "right here right now (dude!)" while holding hands, well, that's nice and I encourage you to do it, just not on a day - like "Winter Solstice" - when the general public, already afraid of, and biased towards atheists will perceive your gathering as a simple counter-culture event contradicting everything atheism stands for.

So much for my rant. Have a truly wonderful free-to-use-your-brain day!

Kindest Regards,
Sasha
Sasha,
The winter Solstice is an actual event which is scientifically accepted. It is the shortest day of the year. As atheists, we do not attribute anything supernatural with it. It is a day to have a celebration on and is as good as any other day. We are not making any claims other than that. What day would you choose to have a celebration on?, Using your argument, wouldn't EVERY day be scrutinized. We no longer have dependence on England, so should we no longer celebrate Independence day since we are independent? Since we have Civil Rights in America, is it still necessary to celebrate MLK day? Gays celebrate "Stonewall", but since cops no longer raid gay clubs, should we ridicule this celebration?
FLASH is not the only or even the first "atheist" group to celebrate a solstice. FLASH members seem to enjoy social events such as this and the summer beach picnic and if we need a day to have these celebrations/events why not the solstice? Or is your argument that we should not celebrate anything? Atheists are humans and all humans enjoy socializing (to a degree), so it's the picnic, not the day that is important, the day is a marker, a naturally occurring event that we cannot deny. Did you not see the Billboard news? It matters not what "they" think about us, it is up to "us" to show by example, who we are. No matter what we do, the religious will not see it as we do, so, why care? In the 21st century, with the internet, we no longer need the moon phases marked on calendars, Yet some people still like to know.
I guess my point is: "what's your point?" FLASH wants picnics, the solstice is an actual event that none of us deny and a "winter solstice campfire" sounds a bit better than "a random picnic during the winter months" at least to me.
A simple RSVP of no would have been fine, did you really need to try an spoil a picnic/event. One of the misconceptions about atheists is that we are anti-social, is this not a way of letting them see us celebrate something. We are clever enough to describe WHY we have a celebration for anything without sounding "supernatural" about it.
WHile we are on the topic of useless celebrations, are we wasting our time (in your opinion) celebrating Charles Darwin on his birthday? or Carl Sagan on his? If we do not have celebration regardless of the days, then atheists are relegated to dark pubs "preaching to the chior" and I have no interest in that. If I cannot have part in enacting changes, then I am wasting my time. I didn't start this group or become involved because I needed friends or because I had "time to spare". I will continue to do what it takes to make atheists feel more comfortable to be "out" and the inject a voice of reason in our community and part of that is to create social and public events.


Ken Loukinen
Ken:

a) "as good as any other day."
Many scholars have argued that the date of christmas was selected to correspond with the winter solstice, which in ancient times was marked on December 25.
-- I wouldn't call the event, which was most likely to be choosen to be chrismas day simply to appease the pagans who were used to celebrating this day and to convince them to join the christian religion "as good as any other day" - it has obviously a religious meaning even beyond christianity.

b) Independence Day, MLK Day, Stonewall Day
These are all days referring to an actual - not religiously tainted - event. The fact that the sun is at a certain position in the sky has no actual meaning to us today anymore, while the signing of the Deceleration of Independence, the day on which MLK was born, and the day the people rose up against unjust treatment by police are indeed significant.
BTW, if you in all seriousness argue that we have achieved full "civil rights in America", and that "cops no longer raid gay clubs", then you should maybe follow the news and the actual world a little more.
Civil Rights: http://tinyurl.com/nb...
Gay Clubs: http://tinyurl.com/yk...

c) "why not [celebrate] the solstice"
I guess my argument was not clear enough, so let me boil this down:
Winter Solstice has been since ancient times understood to be the day on which you pray to pagan gods for "rebirth" (i.e. that the spring should come soon), so much so, that christianity had presumably even to put its second highest holiday on a date corresponding with it, so for atheists to celebrate this day says to the public "Atheists simply don't want to be christians, they just want us all to go back to pagan days". As a psychologist specialized in marketing messages I understand the efforts of atheists organizing as public relations efforts. Sending such a message simply screams "atheism is just not being christian, but they still have wacko religious beliefs, like that the position of the sun in the sky has a special meaning." YOU might not understand it this way, but that is really not what your view point should be, it should be PUBLIC PERCEPTION.

d) "it is up to "us" to show by example, who we are"
Exactly my point. We are showing, by celebrating the day early christians obviously found so important to "disarm" to win pagans over by celebrating a major holiday on this day (thereabouts, ancient astronomy was not as precise as today's), that we ALSO put a special meaning to this day, hence signaling to christians "by example, who we are" essentially pagans. GREAT EXAMPLE. Again, public perception, public perception...

e) "we should not celebrate anything?"
Nope, that's obviously not what I am saying, you did not get this message from me on "Carl Sagan Day", did you?

f) "A simple RSVP of no would have been fine" / "did you really need to try an spoil..."
This just kills me. So, an educated person with an insight on what a mistake is being made here (again, I am specialized in public relations, marketing psychology) should not share, in a group that describes itself as "freethinking" his concerns? Really, how, eh, freethinking of you to then accuse me of spoiling something here. Ken, this is not kindergarten, we don't just point at someone and say "you are so mean because you speak the truth". The question is PURPOSE. What is a group of atheists good for if not for improving the public perception of atheism, you confirm that even by saying "it is up to "us" to show by example, who we are". If that is the purpose of this group, well, then you should not chastise someone with your "you spoil it for everyone", but you should welcome a healthy and valuable discussion. Not so much, eh?

g) "One of the misconceptions about atheists is that we are anti-social"
Really, is that so? I thought the most common misconception about atheists is that we want to destroy the christian value system. Well, what better to counter-act THAT misconception than to dance around a campfire on an ancient pagan holiday.

h) "clever enough... without sounding "supernatural" about it"
Oh, yeah, hence using a pagan holiday for it and then also titling it after said pagan holiday... Great. What impact has it on us that the sun is in a certain position relative to earth on said day? None. But we still need refer to this "special" event by using it in the title of our event description, hence implying exactly the opposite. REALLY "clever" that one...

In closing, if you really want to do "what it takes to make atheists feel more comfortable to be "out" and the [sic] inject a voice of reason" then you might ask yourself if THIS atheist would waste his time on a busy workday to write you this message if he would really feel comfortable to be associated with people calling themselves atheists while using the most important pagan holiday to celebrate it with a fire and even referring to it by name. You are, by insisting that "Winter Solstice" is just a day like every other, not injecting any reason into society, you alienate further and you disenfranchise yourself, and even worse, everybody who is indeed "out" and is open about the fact that he is an atheist.
a. "Any other day": Yes we are familiar with the pagan origins, yet as atheists we do care for the truth and to educate, so actually what better day to choose than one where we can explain the origins of especially this particular day. Regardless of who started and who stole it from who, isn't it better to explain why it was started? Religions needed a story to go with a natural event and adapted it to the god figure, Pagans used it to mark time and many others use it for other things, but one thing they all have in common with even us atheists is that it is a real, naturally occurring astronomical event that we can explain, by celebrating it, does it not give us an opportunity to explain it? Possibly educating others as to WHY religions choose this day? Did the solstice not occur before the first asshole assigned to the supernatural? The Solstice is very real and predates ALL religions and is only considered a religious season to those that allow it to be a religious only holiday.

b. and c.: MLK day, Stonewall are days referring to real events... that is the point of a solstice celebration, it is a REAL event and even though religions have "tainted" the day, it is still a real event and celebrating it takes away the religious ideas that go with it, it doesn't support religion or paganism, it shows they adopted it to fit them.

d. Who we are: we are a group of people who are already atheist that cares to educate the public. Wouldn't this allow us a chance to show why pagans and religions celebrated? If we can teach the "astronomy" part of it, then someone might fit it all together and see how religions work. Have you ever used the stars to explain the "christ birth" story, to a child, it's easy to see the comparison and to develop questions regarding faith.

e. Correct, I did not hear from you about Sagan day, then again, I have not anything from you about anything, positive or negative. That being said, have you attended another FLASH event? A solstice? which brings us to...

f. "so, an educated person with an insight..." While you may have knowledge of how pagans celebrate the solstice, you obviously lack the insight to how FLASH celebrates it. You made comments about dancing around a fire, holding hands and singing songs, this is the 6th Winter Solstice picnic, there's a video of the last one. Maybe you should have asked about the picnic, got some insight first and if you really gave a rat's ass, offer some input in planning events. You are more than welcome to share your thoughts, this is a freethought group, I could've easily deleted your post. But when you post something like this, be prepared for the responses. I will stand by my comment about "trying to spoil it for others" , you could have voiced your reason for not liking the celebration, but you went on to compare it to a religious holiday so we can "feel included".
The part I particularly take offense to is you're accusation that I am censoring freethought or your ideas. Did others read your letter? are they responding? in what way is this effecting your ability to get your message through?

g. one of the misconceptions... Yes, this is so it is ONE of THE misconceptions... there are many misconceptions and I listed one, you also listed ONE of the many.

h. clever enough? : yes, taking a naturally occurring event, coincidently also called the solstice and celebrating it... which do you assume came first, the winter solstice event or the pagan holiday of the same name? It is only the "most important pagan holiday" if you allow it to be. If you celebrate it as they did. However, if you celebrate it with reason, logic, science and truth, then the Solstice is a great Atheist holiday!

In closing: you should consider that I have met a great many atheists from all over, and in 7 years and 500+ atheists signed up that I would not have been elected and maintained as the President. But a majority seem to like FLASH, it's events and progress in a rather short time. In your expertise, how would you promote atheism in America... there is room on the board of directors, committees and volunteers.

FLASH is a non-profit, I am the elected president, not a dictator. If you don't like the direction, get involved.
Sasha, as a psychologist, you probably understand the concept of projection, and might entertain that you are ascribing to the population what are uncommon reactions (yours) and perhaps you are also intellectualizing.

Everybody know about Christmas, and if they paid attention in science they might remember what a solstice is. The number of practicing pagans is significantly less than the number of atheist or Jews or Muslims. Most people have no idea that pagans observe these rituals or that other holidays have adopted these rituals. Most Christians will tell you that December 25 is Jesus' birthday, and that god said so. I submit they won't think, "Oh those atheists -- they are celebrating a religious holiday!"

Consider that in most places north of here, the changing of the seasons is a more significant event in people's lives. Some even suffer profound emotional effects. Florida, not so much. Aside from that, I'm surprised you totally disregard people's emotional needs at this time of year. Should those that want to avoid religiously themed events just sit home while everybody parties?

I saw it recently, but it bears repeating, "SOLSTICE is the reason for the season!" It's a natural event, like the running of the grunion. The Wiccans don't own it. (By the way, I am in contact with local pagans, some of whom identify as atheists, and hang out because they like the rituals and celebrations. I was invited, but chose to solstice party with FLASH. Better food, not to mention conversation.)

I don't think that anyone will think about this as you do. You might, take solace(!) in knowing that your thinking on this matter is unique.

I'll also agree with Ken, that atheists are not known for partying, but feel free to supply contravening data. And planning parties for seasonal events is sooo predictable. I'm going to recommend events for National Pickle Week (which actually runs for ten days,) and International Talk Like a Pirate Day. What do you think we should celebrate?

I hope you are enjoying your holiday season.
Humorless people can stay home. Those of us who enjoy gathering with friends and family, regardless of the reason, will come out and chow down, drink up, sing songs, and watch for gators while drunkly peeing in the canal. :)

I am a hard core, there is no god or gods or alternate reality atheist. And I celebrate Christmas, Easter, and Festivus.

Happy Christmahanakwanzika everyone!
hey man, we missed ya at Markham park!
too cold for gators

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