Not Religious? You Can Still Celebrate the Holidays.

Even if you don't believe in a particular faith, here are tips to help you have fun this season.

BY: David Koepsell


Amherst, NY - A significant portion of the US population is non-religious. According to a 2001 City University of New York survey (ARIS 2001), 14 percent of adults polled defined themselves as "secular" when asked about their religious outlook, and a recent Pew Forum on Religion and Life found that 16 percent have "no religious affiliation." This amounts to some 30 million Americans.

In the midst of the holiday season, how do the millions of us who have no religious beliefs or affiliations deal with religion during the holidays? What should a nonbeliever do when other family members say grace or give a blessing? What if a nonbeliever is asked to lead the family in grace? How should one celebrate the holidays with family and friends while being true one's non-religious views? What should a parent do if the subject of religion comes up at school?

Here are some secular suggestions that the Council for Secular Humanism has compiled from the input of agnostics, humanists, and skeptics in religion:

1) Being non-religious does not mean you have to play the part of the Scrooge.

Even if you don't share religious beliefs with family and friends, you can still sociably participate in the holidays and enjoy the season as a special occasion to celebrate and correspond with friends and family. Send non-religious holiday cards to the people you care about. Give presents in the spirit of simply being nice.

2) Live and let live: don't make your beliefs an issue--unless someone else makes them an issue.

This depends on the situation. Many nonbelievers find that family and friends are open to friendly debates about the existence of God and meaning of life, but if you think these topics will ruin a holiday get-together by spawning conflict, let sleeping dogs lie.

However, this advice doesn't mean that atheists, agnostics and skeptics should make themselves punching bags for family friends and relatives who want to engage in a mean-spirited argument. Be assertive and defend your views if attacked, but never make yourself the one responsible for ruining the holidays by leading an offensive.

3) If you're asked to lead or participate in prayer, respectfully decline or suggest an alternative.

If someone asks you to "do the honors," respectfully decline and allow someone else to lead the prayer. If anyone asks about your refusal, simply tell them that you're not a believer and suggest that the best person to say grace or lead the family in prayer is someone who can do it sincerely. You might also encourage a silent "grace" or moment of reflection at the holiday dinner table. Those who want to pray can do so silently; you can use the moment for secular reflection.

Organize your own celebration.

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