by mr dan
Two years ago I got myself into some trouble when I sent the following request to many people in my life, specifically the ones who were in the habit of giving unnecessary gifts to me in the more wintery months of the year.
To my family and friends,
I am writing this letter to all who have been generous enough to think of me in the past at Christmastime. I am always grateful for your generosity and thoughtfulness. But as most of you know, I am not a Christian and have not been for most of my life. The celebration of Christian holidays, as well as receiving gifts in honor of them, has always been unsettling to me. Oddly, the increased commercialization, and by default secularization, of this and other religious holidays only serves in fact to amplify this discomfort. Additionally, it has always seemed ironic to me that, less than 12 hours after celebrating a holiday dedicated to the spirit of thankfulness and thoughts of the less fortunate, our thoughts immediately meander to this year’s hottest toys, bigger and better than last year’s.
It is with this in mind that I respectfully ask that you take me off your shopping list this season and instead aim your generosity in a more worthy direction. This is the same request I make every year and am always unanimously ignored; perhaps having it in writing will help to inculcate my objection. If you really feel the urge to give, in this or any season, consider making a donation in any amount to a worthy and respectable charity. Below are six of my favorites; if you do not agree with their aims feel free to choose your own. Making a donation by credit card is easy and takes only a few minutes.
And I provided information on Kiva, the Save Darfur Coalition, the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, the Iraq War Veterans Organization, and the ONE Campaign. All causes and charities can be offensive to some, but I had hoped these were innocuous enough to appease those members of my family whose views are more antipodal to mine (compared to, say, CVA or American Atheists, which I am sure I could not convince any of them to donate to).
There are thousands of worthy and trusted charities, and even more causes that need your attention and assistance. Certainly these causes are more important than Christmas gifts.
Thank you, and terrific holidays to all.
Some were polite in their responses, but others were livid. I was, in their view, ungrateful, unAmerican, anti-Christian, anti-capitalist, anti-family. It was disrespectful to my uncle, who had died around Christmas seven or eight years earlier. It was upsetting family tradition. It was me trying to show that I’m better than everyone else. It was petulence. It was blasphemy.
I couldn’t understand how asking for something was the societal norm, but asking for nothing could be considered so apocalyptic.
As the economy has slumped even further in the last few years, requests like mine have become more popular. While much of it is charitable, many people are finding that a $20 donation to the American Cancer Society is a more affordable gift in this flaccid economy than a waffle iron, digital camera or particle accelerator. Either way, it’s still better to give than to receive. I know exactly where I learned that, too, and it wasn’t from Jesus.
I hope you’ll all think about making a similar request this season. It doesn’t mean you can’t still spend the holidays with your family, or that you shouldn’t get them any gifts, or that you should feel bad for having the day off of work, or that you should go around telling children there’s no…ahem…you know. But there are so many things more important than consumerism. I’ve got enough socks and I don’t want a Wii. Consider instead a donation of a small sum, or a few hours of time volunteered, or a bag of groceries to your local food pantry or shelter.
Of course, a donation to CVA is always a nice gesture, too.
mr dan is the vice president of Connecticut Valley Atheists. The views expressed in this posting are his own and do not necessarily represent those of Connecticut Valley Atheists or its individual members.