Although they do not believe in Christ, that does not stop many atheist students from celebrating Christmas much like their Christian counterparts.
Many atheist college students spend their Christmas holidays in manners similar to those of traditional religious Christmas celebrators; however, the only part they seem to leave out is the “Christ” aspect of the holiday. Despite their disbeliefs in religion or God, the celebratory parts of atheist students’ Christmas holidays consist of many of the same traditions as Christians. Christmas trees, holiday dinners and Christmas gifts are all typical characteristics of many of the things enjoyed during the holidays by students who identify themselves as being atheists and their families.
Many atheist students feel that even though their families celebrate the Christmas holiday with similar traditions, they tend to focus more on celebrating family and friends rather than the birth of Christ. Some of the students admit to experiencing a significant amount of discomfort or stress when hearing holiday songs about Christ and some do not feel comfortable proclaiming their atheist affiliation in front of traditional religious believers.
Due to social stigmas associated with atheism, similar to the feelings of some homosexuals, some student atheists feel the need to remain “closeted.” They hide their non-belief from those close to them for fear of being rejected, persecuted, ostracized and even at times feared due to their non-belief. Some proclaim that they have been labeled as being incapable of love and even accused of “waging a war on Christmas.” Also similar to homosexuality, even though atheism is becoming more accepted in American society, it is also still widely looked down upon and condemned, even though a lot of atheist students say they long to be more accepted in their communities.
The terms “igtheist” and “ignostic” are other terms some nonbeliever students have chosen to identify themselves with. Organizations such as the Secular Students Alliance and the Atheists, Humanists & Agnostics have been developed with the hope of educating the masses as to what atheists are really about. They hope to do away with some of the misconceptions associated with their non-religion and to ultimately be able to make student atheists feel more comfortable with their non-beliefs. Such atheists claim they no longer wish to be regarded as a stereotypical immoral and God-hating group because that’s not what their non-belief represents.
Based on the findings of a Pew Research study done in 2012, 33% of the American population under age 30 (which is the age bracket that the majority of American college students fall under) do not consider themselves to be “affiliated” with any organized religion. And although atheist students are currently the minority, the community of those who consider themselves to be “religiously unaffiliated” is definitely growing.