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date: 03 December 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter observes that secularist and atheist objections to the Christmas festival have been remarkably sparse since the nineteenth century, noting that while overall church attendance in Britain continues to decline, attendance at religious services during the Christmas period is actually increasing. A number of theories about this are discussed, including the view that Christmas services evoke a ‘Chain of Memory’, that the pull of family traditions is involved, and that it is because Christmas itself does not substantially contain the messages of sacrifice, sin, and atonement that characterize other aspects of the Christian calendar. Robert Ingersoll’s nineteenth-century campaign to take Christmas back from Christianity is described. Whilst atheists and secularists have to co-exist with Christmas, this chapter notes how they acquired the impetus and ideas to rebrand this holiday for themselves, invoking both religious indifference and the right to freedom of choice. This involved a greater effort to note that Christianity’s grip on the winter festival may be fleeting and transitory, giving secularist and atheists a glance into their secularized future. This, it is argued, may not be fully secular but instead may entail offering many alternative choices, a stance that has characterized atheist and secular approaches to other rites of passage.

Keywords: atheism, secularism, secularization, Chain of Memory, church attendance, family traditions, Robert Ingersoll, free choice, indifference

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