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Friday, December 7, 2012

An Atheist's Christmas Blessing

I wrote the following diatribe as a response to a Facebook friend's post about how much he loathes Christmas and what a scam it is. The gentleman in question and myself attended the same Baptist church when we were children, and we both have long since left the church and the supernatural world behind in favor of the pursuit of logic and science...

I consider myself an atheist, but I am an atheist who celebrates Christmas. For sake of argument, let's agree that everything you said above is completely accurate. With all that having been said, isn't there *something* special in the air this time of year?

Maybe it's just me. Maybe it's just nostalgia for the great Christmas memories of my childhood - family, good times, a feeling of unity with others, sweet and soothing music, pretty lights and bows, a cozy blanket on a cold, snowy day, the eagerness and magic of awaiting Christmas morning.

Maybe it's all that bundled into one magical month, along with the desire to leave my own children with magical memories of their own to treasure and pass down to their children.

But there's something... There's something in the strains of "Silent Night" that really makes my heart want to burst its seams when I hear a multitude of serene, reverent voices singing it in breathy unison, in a sanctuary full of lit candles. It's not unheard of for me to get a bit teary-eyed by the third verse or so. It could be a result of the mass mentality. It could be all those things I mentioned above flooding my brain at once, creating a tsunami of an emotional overload.

Some would say it's a beneficent, supernatural, holy deity trying to push its way through and make its presence known in my heart, and they would pray for me to accept it. It'll never happen. I'm too scientifically minded and rooted in PROOF = TRUTH to trust much of anything on faith alone, or even that coupled with the "evidence" detected by my own feeble, fallible, manipulable mind. But is it so bad for those people to want that for me?

I readily accept people's prayers these days when they feel that I am in need of them. There's no harm to me, and it comforts those people to put their faith in a higher power.

Many horrible things have been done in the past in the name of religion. John Hinckley shot Reagan in the name of Jodie Foster; I have nothing against Jodie Foster.

Many wonderful things have also been done for humanity in the name of religion. Despite the "sordid past" (and present) of many churches, most of the churchgoing people I know are wonderful, trustworthy, non-judgmental, generous and pleasant people to work and socialize with. I can’t bring myself to attend a weekly church service because when I do I feel like sort of a wolf in sheep’s clothing; I feel like I’m dishonestly representing myself as something I’m not.

But I’m perfectly willing to let down my protective walls a bit during this time of the year, take part in the showmanship and trappings of the season, and enjoy a little bit of Christmas spirit. I happily gather with family, friends and loved ones to exchange gifts and make joyful memories that will endure for years to come. And whenever possible I take my family to a late night Christmas Eve service where we completely enshroud ourselves with a sometimes overwhelming flood of feelings of camaraderie, love, forgiveness, selflessness and joy.

It may all be an illusion, but damn it, it’s a magical one that I’m happy to perpetuate. And from one atheist to another, I am dreadfully sorry that you seem to have lost the ability to be in touch with that magic.