April 1st as an Atheist Holy Day

An urban legend has been circulating for a number of years that mockingly describes April Fool's Day as a holy day for atheists:

In Florida, an atheist created a case against the Easter & Passover holy days. He hired an attorney to bring a discrimination case against Christians, Jews & observances of their holy days. The argument was, it was unfair that atheists had no such recognized day(s). The case was brought before a judge. After listening to the passionate presentation by the lawyer,the judge banged his gavel declaring, 'Case dismissed.'
The lawyer immediately stood objecting to the ruling saying, 'Your honor, how can you possibly dismiss this case? The Christians have Christmas, Easter & others. The Jews have Passover, Yom Kippur & Hanukkah. Yet my client & all other atheists have no such holidays.'
The judge leaned forward in his chair saying, 'But you do. Your client, counsel, is woefully ignorant.'
The lawyer said, 'Your Honor, we are unaware of any special observance or holiday for atheists.'
The judge said, 'The calendar says April 1st is 'April Fools Day.' Psalm 14:1 states, 'The fool says in his heart, there is no God.' Thus, it is the opinion of this court, that if your client says there is no God, then he is a fool. Therefore, April 1st is his day. Court is adjourned.

This Florida court case never occurred in real life, and the point of the story is to brand atheists as fools. Nevertheless, the idea of designating April 1st as an "Atheist Holy Day" seems to be growing in popularity among atheists themselves. At least, I've seen an increasing number of blog posts in support of the idea.

From a historical perspective, April 1st is an interesting choice as an Atheist Holy Day, because the Christian church has had a complex, often antagonistic relationship with traditions of Foolery. Early christianity held the symbol of the Fool in high esteem. St. Paul described Christ as being like a Fool, and medieval monks aspired to be "Fools for Christ." There was also the Festus Fatuorum, or Feast of Fools -- a medieval Christian holiday observed around January 1. It was a day on which low-ranking clergy would symbolically usurp the roles of their superiors. A mock bishop or pope would be elected and paraded through the streets. The clergy would dress up as women, sing bawdy songs, play dice at the altar, and substitute stinking smoke for the incense. The historian Rogan Taylor described it as being "like a religious chimney sweeping, brushing away the year's repressed and hidden blasphemy, in a riot of filth and irreligion."

However, by the seventeenth century church officials had largely succeeded in suppressing the celebration of the Feast of Fools. The Church was uncomfortable with the symbolism of the Fool. After all, the Fool is usually embraced by opponents of the establishment, but the Church was itself the establishment.

So since the church exiled Foolery from its midst, it would be somehow fitting if atheists were to adopt April Fool's Day as their own. And why not? The values that the Fool represents (mischief, paradox, uncertainty) do seem to be more compatible with atheism than with modern mainstream Christianity.

April Fools Day Religion

Posted on Fri Mar 20, 2009


The Internet anecdote quoted above obviously confuses (or perhaps intentionally conflates) an old joke with a news story.

Anybody who has heard many sermons is familiar with this old chestnut. It has long been retailed as a sermon illustration, though seldom with any claim that it actually happened.
Posted by Big Gary  on  Fri Mar 20, 2009  at  04:45 PM
Every day is Atheist Day!

(Damn, I should put that on a T-shirt!)
Posted by Tommy  on  Fri Mar 20, 2009  at  07:11 PM
Yep. Agree with Tommy. Maybe I will put it on a t-shirt. 😉
Posted by Mandy  on  Fri Mar 20, 2009  at  08:09 PM
Around Father's day, I'd always ask my dad when Kid's Day was. And his reply was always "Every day is kid's day!"

He was right, of course. Pity I didn't realize it at the time.

One year, just for kicks, he bought me a nice Red Sox jacket and said it was for Kid's Day. (He really wanted to get me a different team, but I was really fat at the time and only the Red Sox one came in XXXXL. Make of that what you will.)
Posted by Tommy  on  Fri Mar 20, 2009  at  08:15 PM
I'm tempted to say "sign me up for this" as I am a non-believer, but as a semi-professional media hoaxer, I've always viewed April Fool's Day the way serious drinkers view New Year's Eve.

I DO like the idea, though.
Posted by Cranky Media Guy  on  Sat Mar 21, 2009  at  01:59 AM
oh, God(dess), it's begun... the annual April Fool's gathering of the Foolish Masses at MOH, the jostling for position, the preening expressions of artful wit, the splaying of the tails of the peacock pundits, the ribald screams for attention, recognition and infamy... Let The Games Begin, Oh Prowlers of Profundity, Jousters of Jocularity, and (to quote Mad Magazine), The Usual Gang Of Idiots... The gauntlet is toss-ed and thou art forewarned
Posted by Hairy Houdini  on  Sun Mar 22, 2009  at  05:01 PM
Hmm. if the Atheists were really set on driving a point home, you'd think they'd promote April first as "International Religion Day", as turnabout is fair play, eh wot?

Speaking of April Fool's day, this one might just be a doozy! The Conficker worm is currently controlling over 12 million computers, and it's awaiting instructions to do... whatever it's going to do April first. http://arstechnica.com/security/news/2009/03/confickerc-primed-for-april-fools-activation.ars
just think, the world's largest supercomputer is about to go live, and nobody knows who built it, or what it's going to do.
(Finding the question to life, the universe, and everything, I hope!)
Posted by Captain DaFt  on  Sun Mar 22, 2009  at  07:08 PM
How do serious drinkers (my tribe, but I'm too much a loner, I mean an independent thinker, to know) view New Years? Amateur's night?
Posted by Canadarm  on  Sun Mar 22, 2009  at  09:12 PM
I'd hate for April Fools day to be "adopted" by anyone, because then it would become all about the religion (or lack of) and politics behind it. Just keep it about the pranks.
Posted by Sakano  in  Ohio  on  Tue Mar 24, 2009  at  03:51 PM
Holy days for atheists are an oxymoron. By definition, if you do not believe in a deity you need no day to worship or celebrate it.
Posted by bookman  on  Thu Mar 26, 2009  at  05:59 PM
Ah religion the great beast! Never teach your children a religion. It is the worst thing you could do. In fact it should be a criminal offence to do so.
Posted by winklemonster  on  Fri Jan 29, 2010  at  04:52 PM
winklemonster your woefully ignorant, in our free and plural society kids should be taught EVERYTHING then be allowed to make a decesion for themselves! You sound like a communist keen on censorship. Do yourself a favour, pack up and moved to china.
Posted by Bill  on  Tue Mar 30, 2010  at  06:47 PM
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