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

At Khmer Rouge Court, Long-Awaited Verdict Approaches

First phase of trial, which is coming to an end, has focused on forced exodus of Phnom Penh in 1975 - and now many are hopeful justice will be served More

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities More

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

Downing of Malaysian airliner, allegations of cross-border shelling move information war in war-torn country to a new level 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.
Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
July 31, 2014 8:13 PM
The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict in Gaza, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities. Probably the most important destination is the local bakery. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Gaza City.
Video

Video US-Funded Program Offers Honduran Children Alternative to Illegal Immigration

President Obama and Central American leaders recently agreed to come up with a plan to address poverty and crime in the region that is fueling the surge of young migrants trying to illegally enter the United States. VOA’s Brian Padden looks at one such program in Honduras - funded in part by the United States - which gives street kids not only food and safety but a chance for a better life without, crossing the border.
Video

Video 'Fab Lab' Igniting Revolution in Kenya

The University of Nairobi’s Science and Technology Park is banking on 3-D prototyping to spark a manufacturing revolution in the country. Lenny Ruvaga has more for from Nairobi's so-called “FabLab” for VOA.
Video

Video Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelter

Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Rapid Spread of Ebola in West Africa Prompts Global Alert

Across West Africa, health officials are struggling to keep up with what the World Health Organization describes as the worst ebola outbreak on record. The virus has killed hundreds of people this year. U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders are watching the developments closely as they weigh what actions, if any, are needed to help contain the disease.
Video

Video Michelle Obama: Young Africans Need to Embrace Women's Rights

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama urged some of Africa's best and brightest to advocate for women's rights in their home countries. As VOA's Pam Dockins explains, Obama spoke to some 500 participants of the Young African Leaders Initiative, a six-week U.S.-based training and development program.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.
Video

Video Study: Latino Students Most Segregated in California

Even though legal school segregation ended in the United States 60 years ago, one study finds segregation still occurs in the U.S. based on income and race. The University of California Los Angeles Civil Rights Project finds that students in California are more segregated by race than ever before, especially Latinos. Elizabeth Lee reports for VOA from Los Angeles.

AppleAndroid