Christmas Day on the New York Times opinion page meant two pro-athiest pieces, but no column to reflect the view of Christian believers on one of their two biggest holidays of the year.
Mark Bittman, a food columnist for the New York Times magazine, took a hostile tone to start off, “An Atheist’s Christmas Dream.”
“I’ve spent much of my life trying to ignore Christmas,” Bittman wrote. “As a secular Jew, an atheist and a progressive, my reasons are common. It’s a commercial, obnoxious, even dreaded holiday. But it’s not changing anytime soon and we should make the best of it. (Hanukkah, I might note, is no better, although it gives us an excuse to eat latkes.)”
Bittman went on to write that religion hasn’t prevented war and mass killings.
“This, of course, is one of the reasons to dislike organized religion; each person thinks God is on his side. Perhaps turning the other cheek is too much to ask,” Bittman wrote. He concluded, “The historical Jesus was a nonviolent revolutionary. Let’s celebrate that. And the lengthening of our days.”
T. M. Luhrmann, a professor of anthropology at Stanford University, wrote “Religion Without God,” in a much softer tone, pointing out: “This Christmas our family will go to church.”
But, she explained, it’s a Unitarian Universalist church, whose statement of principles does not include God.
“As it happens, this kind of God-neutral faith is growing rapidly, in many cases with even less role for God than among Unitarians,” Luhrmann wrote.
She said part of the reason for going to church without a faith is for community.
“Religion is fundamentally a practice that helps people to look at the world as it is and yet to experience it — to some extent, in some way — as it should be,” she wrote. “Much of what people actually do in church — finding fellowship, celebrating birth and marriage, remembering those we have lost, affirming the values we cherish — can be accomplished with a sense of God as metaphor, as story, or even without any mention of God at all.”