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I roll with some atheist and agnostic friends. At a fundamental level I consider [a lot of things] this question a defeat. It doesn't need to be. I lack the faith to speak the answer with conviction-- that the church grabbed pagan holidays and said "ah ha. we'll make this one be about Jesus" is ... not genuine, in my opinion. As opposed to, say, "we know this is when Jesus was born because blah blah blah and so we celebrate it..."

What's a good response?

  • I'm surprised your non-religious friends feel that way - perhaps your response encourages them to tease you. I know that most atheists are happy to enjoy Christmas festivities. Even in China, where Christians are a small minority, you will find the stores full of Christmas offerings at this time of year. – Dick Harfield Dec 13 '14 at 20:06
  • I know this isn't the same question as the one I marked this as a duplicate of, but the answer addresses your issue. it was either close this as a duplicate, or close it as "primarily opinion-based" because we all have our opinion on what a 'good" response is. – David Stratton Dec 13 '14 at 22:04
  • By the way, welcome to the site. I'd like to recommend you see How we are different than other sites? and the help center – David Stratton Dec 13 '14 at 22:05
  • @DickHarfield so far, I have not given a response. Perhaps you all do not have experience with my generation, but many of them (particularly those with weaker pedicure) are borderline antagonistic. They haven't exactly thought through why, but they don't like you giving them gifts: "because it's Christmas" – john17 Dec 13 '14 at 23:07
  • @DavidStratton those potential "good" responses are what I'm looking for here – john17 Dec 13 '14 at 23:12
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If you are looking for an answer that says "We know that Jesus was really born on December 25th and here is the evidence", you are going to be disappointed. There is no such evidence, and we don't know his birthday. (There is some circumstantial evidence that it was in Spring, but it's far from conclusive). December 25th was indeed arbitrarily chosen, and probably deliberately to coincide with popular midwinter festivals.

There is however no reason why this should be taken to invalidate any part of the Christian faith. Nothing in Christian belief requires us to know Jesus' birth date, and there is nothing to say that if we choose to celebrate his birth then it has to be on a day when nobody else is celebrating anything. If you are going to celebrate his birth (and it's surely worth celebrating) then you have to pick one day or another.

You might like to compare this with people who don't know their own birthday. That's certainly no reason to disbelieve their existence, and quite frequently people in that position choose an arbitrary date to celebrate their birth. They might well choose a convenient date, possibly one in which another celebration is already going on. That would not make the celebration, or the birth, less valid.

Alternatively, you might think of it as an "official birthday", like those celebrated by Queen Elizabeth of the United Kingdom - it's isn't actually her birthday, it's just a special time set aside to celebrate.

  • Exactly. "the church grabbed pagan holidays and said 'ah ha. we'll make this one be about Jesus'" is essentially exactly what happened, but that doesn't make the existence of Jesus Christ, or a desire to celebrate his birth, any less valid. – Mason Wheeler Dec 13 '14 at 19:33
  • I'm surprised your non-religious friends feel that way - perhaps your response encourages them to tease you. I know that most atheists are happy to enjoy Christmas festivities. Even in China, where Christians are a small minority, you will find the stores full of Christmas offerings at this time of year. – Dick Harfield Dec 13 '14 at 20:05
  • this is a good answer. Would you mind also including the point @curiousdannii made above? – john17 Dec 17 '14 at 21:40
  • @john17 Done as asked. – DJClayworth Dec 17 '14 at 21:49

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