Book Review: The Atheist's Guide to Christmas

Crossposted from The Blue Fairy's Bookshelf

The Atheist's Guide to Christmas
Edited by Robin Harvie and Stephanie Meyers, 2010

I loved this book. I didn't love every last one of the 42 essays, a few covered the same ground and a few I didn't completely understand because they depended too much on British Christmas traditions for the humor.

But I still thoroughly enjoyed this book.

The general vibe is what I expected: Christmas is much more about presents and food and family than anything else these days, and it's okay, as a nonbeliever, to enjoy presents and food and family, and not to be a nuisance unless the other person starts it. Simple. way of summary let me say this: if only practicing Christians can use the word “Christmas,” then only Vikings can use the word “Thursday.”  - Mitch Benn,“How to Stop Worrying and Enjoy Christmas”
There are some compelling cases made for everything from why humans have celebrated midwinter since time immemorial to why one might want to avoid the enforced season of good cheer, and then how to do so. There's a piece about the dearth of atheist protagonists in film, and more than one about holiday music. There are a few fiction pieces and some personal stories, including a romantic double dose by both partners of a married couple. There are humorous instructional pieces about defusing family fights and decorations that can be seen from space.

Some of the pieces are laugh-out-loud funny, some of them are sweet, and some of them are downright inspirational. (Inspiration not being the province only of the theistic.)
At some point over the Christmas period switch on an analog radio and retune it so that you are not on any station. Instead of “Jingle Bells” or “Away in a Manger,” all you should be able to hear is white noise. This gentle, calming hiss is the audible output caused by all sorts of random electromagnetic waves being picked up my your radio aerial. You cannot single them out, but rest assured that about 1 percent or 2 percent of these waves are due to microwaves from the Big Bang. In other words, your humble radio is capable of detecting energy waves that were created over 13 billion years ago. - Simon Singh, “The Sound of Christmas”
I'd like to send a shout-out to the awesome Jen McCreight, without whose blog I may not have picked up this fantastic volume. (Plus her piece was great.)

I've always had trouble with the holiday season, between being non-religious and often depressed by the pressure of the season. Keeping this book close at hand gives me a rare shot at keeping my sanity and good cheer intact.