New book uses atheist’s perspective to explore the histories of religious and secular U.S. holiday rituals
For immediate release
Maggie Ardiente, email@example.com, 202-238-9088 x116
(Washington, DC – Nov. 15, 2013) – In a plea for a world where Christmas and other religious holidays are not a seen as default observances to be accepted in a positive light and welcomed by everyone, author John G. Rodwan Jr. takes a journey through history to explore the backgrounds of U.S. holiday rituals in Holidays and Other Disasters, released today by Humanist Press.
As we enter another holiday season, Rodwan’s collection of insights and stories is a timely and needed antidote to claims made by people like Sarah Palin in her recently released Good Tidings and Great Joy, a book where she laments the made up “war on Christmas” and demands universal acceptance of public religious displays. While Rodwan agrees that Christmas is a religious holiday and should be treated that way, fights against the “pervasive, persistent assumption that everyone – unless he or she belongs to another popular confessional group, and perhaps even then – should carry on at least some traditions connected with Christmas makes itself felt toward the end of each year.”
“I chose to decline all invitations to a ghost’s birthday party and to shun Christmas things as much as possible. I have no religious faith, I have no Christmas tree, and I want neither,” Rodwan writes. “And I don’t believe I’ve missed a thing.”
A book-launch party will be held on Thursday, Nov. 21, 6 pm, at Motor City Wine, 1949 Michigan, Ave., Detroit, MI 48216.
Praise for the Holidays and Other Disasters includes the NY Journal of Books, which concludes, “Combining personal experiences with cultural critique, blending historical analysis with a coming-of-age memoir, this collection of chapters reveals a scholar’s eye for nuance and an essayist’s knack for insight.”
Ken Hada, author of Spare Parts and winner of the Western Heritage Award, writes, “Contrarian, snarky, clever, thoughtful, historically justified, John Rodwan’s Holidays and Other Disasters presents the time-tested personal essay in the egalitarian, humanist tradition that underscores the best of American life.”
Holidays and Other Disasters uses an atheist’s perspective to consider all the major U.S. holidays. It examines explicitly religious holidays, those that have a definite if not always acknowledged religious thrust (Valentine’s Day, Thanksgiving) and secular holidays that had religious elements added on (like Labor Day) by way of personal stories, usually the author’s own. Where other people have especially revealing holiday stories, as is the case with Jack Johnson (the first black heavyweight champion) and the Fourth of July, novelist Salman Rushdie and Valentine’s Day or labor leader Eugene V. Debs and Labor Day, Rodwan tell theirs.
“…the willingness to do, in some form or another, what others have always done because of foundationless teachings that that is what we’re all supposed to do,” is “what aggravates me about holidays and religion,” Rodwan writes.
Of course, holidays aren’t about religion alone, and Holidays and Other Disasters doesn’t look narrowly at them as pageants of piety. Rather, the book considers the various issues holidays raise, including race and class, and discusses other forms of expressive activity, such as literature, music and sports, along with religion and holiday rituals.
John G. Rodwan, Jr. is the author of the previous essay collection Fighters & Writers (Mongrel Empire Press, 2010). His writing has appeared in journals, newspapers and magazines such as The American Interest, Blood and Thunder, Concho River Review, Cream City Review, Critical Moment, Fight News, and several others. He currently lives in the Detroit metro area. Rodwan Writes is his website.
The book is available from humanistpress.com and major online retailers. The ISBN numbers are 978-0-931779-39-8, paperback; 978-0-931779-41-1, ebook.
Humanist Press is the publishing house of the American Humanist Association (AHA). Founded in 1941 and headquartered in Washington, DC, the AHA works to protect the rights of humanists, atheists, and other non-religious Americans. The AHA advances the ethical and life-affirming philosophy of humanism, which—without beliefs in any gods or other supernatural forces—encourages individuals to live informed and meaningful lives that aspire to the greater good of humanity.