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12.17.2010

Atheism At Christmastime.

I guess by definition I’m a true atheist. My parents were raised Christian and started churchgoing with my older brothers but by the time it got to me and Katrina they’d lapsed completely and Christmas was all about the toys and food. I never entered a church until I was a teenager. In public school when we had to put our religion on forms we filled out, I put RC without a clue what it meant. That’s what the other kids put. After all of us were grown and gone my mom returned to the church but none of my siblings ever became practicing Christians.

I will never be a Christian in the sense of believing that Jesus Christ was the son of God. My mind is too pragmatic and I can’t wrap my heart around that concept. It doesn’t mean that I can’t accept that it could be true, it’s just that I can’t believe it myself. At the same time, I do accept that Christ was a great man and his inspiration is genuine. I live my life by his standard as much as anyone can, flawed human being that I am.

Here we are again facing Christmas with children who aren’t really Christians and I struggle with that each year. Tish is a catholic and while our children made their first communion they didn’t grow up in the church, either. But I really would like to be able to celebrate Christ in some real way. I’d like the boys to understand who Christ was and why his birth is worth all this attention two thousand years later.

But without believing in divine birth, how do we create a sense of wonder and majesty? We don’t bake a zillion cookies and make gingerbread mansions, pickles, and chocolates for weeks on end, with countless gifts to buy on a list longer than 5th Avenue, and 300 cards to send out before a million visitors show up for a weeks worth of eating and ho-ho-ing. Our lives are not turned upside-down in an attempt to recreate the Christmas we grew up with a half century ago. We have a tree, modest gifts, and celebrate on Christmas Eve. Even then the nativity doesn’t get much play.

I’d like to introduce a couple of new Christmas traditions now that we have our family here year round. If anyone has any favorite Christian Christmas passages we might read at our table, I’d love to hear them.

Maybe I’m not so much of an atheist as I think.