At work last week, to build company morale in this holiday season, there was a contest — abbreviations for Christmas song titles were e-mailed out. Employees could puzzle out what the abbreviations stood for, and put their answers in a can at the lobby desk, where a winner would be selected each day.
It was all a bit of fun, though I thought it was a little tricky when “The Christmas Song” was sent out as CROAOF.
One of my colleagues decided that he would go to Human Resources with mock indignity; the song titles chosen were all Christmas songs. Standing at my cubicle, he pointed to me and said to the other writers, “What about Allyn here? He’s an atheist, maybe we should have ‘Imagine’ be one of the titles.”
“Umm,” I said, “you’re missing the point. ‘Imagine’ isn’t any sort of holiday song.”
“Your beliefs are being oppressed!”
“Umm, I don’t have beliefs. That’s sort of the whole point.” I scribbled out my answers on a piece of paper; I needed to go down to the third floor anyway and prod someone for not doing something or somesuch, so when my coworker decided to make his mock-angry rant, I could be there for moral support.
We went downstairs, and he launched into his rant. Hannukah songs. Festivus songs. Saturnalia songs. Mithras carols. (Okay, I made that one up.) Ramadan songs. (Wrong holiday; he wanted Eid.) “We’re not being properly multicultural! We have atheists like Allyn here; how does he feel about all these Christmas songs!”
I shrugged. “Actually, I’m okay with them.” Someone else was waiting to talk to the HR person; I turned to him and said, “No, really, I don’t know this ranting person.”
And then the HR person said to my colleague, “You’re not the first person to complain.”
My colleague became quiet. “I thought I was having a bit of fun.”
I turned to the waiting person. “It’s all fun and games until someone loses an eye.” Then I said to HR, “Look, I promise, I’m really not offended. I’ve been answering these puzzles every day.”
But Baltimore is a multicultural city. Christians, Jews, Muslims, and a dozen, even a hundred more religions. Even in a company as small as mine, there’s bound to be someone to take offense, even at something as trivial as a Christmas song contest.
What I found amusing about the whole thing was how I had become the token atheist in the argument, much like Joe the Plumber was the token moronic everyman in the McCain/Palin campaign this fall.
The thing was, I wasn’t indignant about the non-inclusiveness of the songs chosen. Heck, I really like some of the songs. And I have a nice personal collection of Christmas music. As I’ve said before, Christmas is different things to different people, and speaking for this atheist, it’s a winter festival of, I suppose, universal peace and harmony where people send cards, give and get presents, and eat ham.
Of course, that’s beside the point I’m looking to make.
The point is — while it’s fairly common knowledge that I am, in fact, an atheist, it’s not something that I go out to my way to tell people. If asked about it, I’m completely open about it, but at the same time I’m not militant like The Mole in South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut who was grounded because “he said naughty things about god” (his mother’s words) and whose dying words were the most perfect curse against a deity ever uttered.
However, I was reading this article by Richard Dawkins on the OUT Campaign. Dawkins has had a number of ideas on helping atheists feel more secure in their non-belief and more accepted by society, from coining the word “bright” to refer to non-theists to creating the OUT Campaign for bloggers to identify themselves as non-theists online.
I’m not entirely sold on the “bright” idea (because the converse of “bright” in normal usage is “dim,” which, at least to my thinking, suggests that theists are “dim”), but organizations that are looking to bolster atheists and help them feel less threatened by society are, in my view, a good thing.
To that end, I snagged a little bit of code from the OUT Campaign’s website, and put their symbol, a red A, in my sidebar, to join in solidarity with thousands of other atheists and non-theists.
And for the record, while I got all ten song titles correct… alas, I won nothing at all. :-/
Still, it was all in good fun.
And someone needs to record an album of Festivus carols.