Ahh, the holidays. The time for Thanksgiving table arguments, secret Santa screw-ups, and slapping those factually baseless “Keep Christ in Christmas” stickers on your parents’ van. But it can also be a time for telling your family one very important piece of information—you really don’t care that much about God or religion.
Before I tell you how to gently let them know, I must make an important distinction between being an atheist and being non-religious. I am an atheist, therefore I do not believe in God. I am also non-religious, therefore I do not practice or follow any religion. One does not necessarily entail the other, but being non-religious is increasingly becoming a major social force in our country.
The number of non-religious adults in the U.S. is on the rise, but many still live in fear of expressing their indifference. So what better time to let your family know than while sitting around the Christmas tree, Hanukkah menorah, or whatever?
Here’s some talking points to get the conversation going without your dad flipping over the dinner table…
Like God, we’re everywhere
In early November, the Pew Research Center published an extensive report on the current state of religion in the U.S.. Here are the major statistical changes from 2007 to 2014: the percentage of U.S. adults who believe in God dropped from 92 to 89 percent, the percentage of adults who are religiously unaffiliated rose from 16 to 23 percent, and the percentage of those who are religiously affiliated dropped to 77 percent from 83 percent.
Younger millennials (according to Pew, those born between 1990 and 1996), are by far the least religious age group our country has ever seen. Last year, just 38 percent of them said that religion is important in their lives, while 80 percent said they believe in God.
A couple of interesting correlations over past years are the increasing availability of information through the Internet, the increasing number of college-educated citizens, and the increasing use of fanny packs on college campuses. Nothing says “God doesn’t exist” like taking money out of your disgusting, artificial, neon kangaroo pouch.
We’re nicer than your neighbor Pastor Bill’s kids
It may seem counterintuitive… wait, no it isn’t. A recent study in the Current Biology journal shows that non-religious children were more generous when it came to sharing with anonymous peers than their religious counterparts.
Over 1,100 children from six different countries took part in the “dictator game.” An experimenter would present a child with 30 stickers, and tell them to pick their 10 favorite to keep. The child would then be told that the experimenter would not have enough time to play this game with everyone else, prompting the child to either offer to share his/her stickers or keep them. Guess which kids were much more likely to share?
One explanation for this is a psychological phenomenon called moral licensing. This means that if a religious person believes they are not sexist due to their moral teaching, they are more likely to hire a man for what they believe is a traditional male job because they feel a type of safety in their beliefs. “Being sexist can’t be immoral because I am moral and not sexist.”
Obviously, this is just one study and not indicative of humanity as a whole. But first, this is an awesome study to wave around the Christmas Eve dinner table. And second, it is an extremely interesting conclusion which has real-world adaptations, considering there is one extremely religious political party in our country that loves capital punishment.
We’re funnier than Pastor Bill, too
Earlier this month, a Massachusetts woman won the right to wear a colander in her driver’s license photo, citing religious freedom in the process. Lindsay Miller, a self-proclaimed Pastafarian (of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster), invoked her First Amendment, God-given right to wear the headpiece of her faith after being initially denied by the DMV.
We also have an awesome, humorous lineup on Team Godless. It includes Ricky Gervais, Seth MacFarlane, George Carlin, and even the divine Keanu Reeves.
So non-religious folk are not morally-depraved, religion-hating heathens. The holidays are a time of secular joy and cheer—we just want to keep it that way.
Featured image credit: Toby Hudson