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Even among many atheists, Christmas strikes a chord

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Non-Christians, it seems, are okay with Christmas. Nearly half of adult Americans report they personally know someone who doesn’t believe in God but will celebrate Christmas this year anyway, according to a recent study by Scripps Howard News Service and Ohio University.

“Historically, it has been a struggle for America to find meaningful holidays that include a sufficiently broad number of people. But Christmas seems to have many modes of interpretation upon which we can set our own personal needs,” University of Texas historian Penne Restad, author of “Christmas in America: A History,” said in a Dec. 9 Scripps Howard report.

“Christmas has become as much a celebration of community as it has a celebration of religion,” she said.

The true meaning of Christmas, however, is rooted in Jesus, noted James T. Draper Jr., president of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. “Christmas is about God breaking into the arena of human life,” Draper noted in an e-mail devotional. “He pitches his tent with us. He walks with us. He is with us wherever we go and whatever we do.”

The Scripps Howard/Ohio University survey of 1,001 people conducted in October found that more people will set up a Christmas tree than will attend a worship service on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. Americans also overwhelmingly believe Christmas has become less focused on the birth of Jesus than it used to be, the report said.

“As a free thinker, I believe the holidays are a great tradition regardless of the underlying basis for them,” Ron Barrier, a New York leader of American Atheists, a 2,500-member national organization defending the rights and interests of atheists, said in the report.

Atheists like Barrier are likely to enjoy celebrating holidays such as Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and even the winter solstice.

The survey also found that younger people and people living on the West Coast are more likely to know others who are atheists but will celebrate Christmas anyway.

Draper, meanwhile, exhorted fellow believers, “Do you know someone who is hurting during this Christmas season? Reach out with the love of Christ. Give the gift of hope that is only possible through a relationship with the Savior who came to earth at Christmas.”

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