News / USA

Some American Atheists Celebrate Their Own Holiday

Multimedia

All over the United States, people are celebrating Christmas. People of other faiths also have their holidays. But a minority of Americans who do not believe in religion can feel left out during this time of year. One group has created its own secular holiday and they are hoping it will catch on.

Phil Kalmanson deep fries a whole turkey at his home in Laurel, Maryland.  He's preparing a feast, and wants to make it a special one.

Dozens of guests have gathered in his home to celebrate a secular holiday called "Humanlight."  It falls two days before Christmas.

His wife, Jenny Kalmanson, says this can be a lonely time of year for humanists and other kinds of atheists. "Everybody's got their Hannukkah parties and their Christmas parties and their Kwanzaa parties, and it's easy to feel a little bit left out," she said.

Humanists believe in the supremacy of human reason. They say they are not against religion. They just don't believe it's necessary to make the world a better place.

Kalmanson is an aerospace engineer who has worked on the Hubble Space Telescope.  She says Humanlight celebrates the light of human knowledge. "The whole point of humanism is that it's possible, and in fact desirable, to live a good life, a moral life, a happy life, and you don't need God to do that," she said.

Around Christmas time, most Americans everywhere partake in the Christian holiday's traditions - especially giving presents.

But a recent survey by the National Opinion Research Center found that 17 percent of Americans don't identify with any faith.  Another poll among first-year university students found that the figure was almost 25 percent.

Roy Speckhardt of the American Humanist Association believes that's a cause for celebration. "The numbers are growing dramatically. We've doubled almost over the last several years the number of people who say they don't adhere to a particular religion, also those who say they don't believe in God or a higher power," he said.

Speckhardt's assocation has stepped up its publicity campaigns in recent years. This year's campaign had ads on bus stops and in the Washington Metro, and a national TV ad featuring Richard Dawkins - author of the bestseller - The God Delusion.

Speckhardt says America has changed in the last generation. "When I grew up the idea of atheistic or non-theistic way of thinking wasn't even an option. But today with books from Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens, with billboards and advertisements here and all around the world, you can't not know that it's an option," he said.

But all you need to do to be reminded of religion at this time of year is step outside the Kalmansons' home, and see the dazzling Christmas displays that light up their neighbors' homes.

In an earlier version of this story we incorrectly reported that Jenny Kalmanson worked on the Space Shuttle, instead of the Hubble Space Telescope. VOA regrets the error.


Jerome Socolovsky

Jerome Socolovsky is the award-winning religion correspondent for the Voice of America, based in Washington. He reports on the rapidly changing faith landscape of the United States, including interfaith issues, secularization and non-affiliation trends and the growth of immigrant congregations.

You May Like

Obama: Alaskans Feel Signs of Climate Change

Alaskans experiencing bigger storm surges as sea ice melts, more frequent and extensive wildfires, deteriorating glaciers, and swift shoreline erosion More

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

Magical Photo Slides Show Native Americans in Late 1800s

Walter McClintock spent 20 years photographing the Blackfoot Indians and their vanishing culture at the dawn of the modern age More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs