Christmas Day seems as good a time as any to share my religious heritage with you. I was baptized in the Catholic church against my parent’s wishes. I went to temple with my grandma about once a month for Shabbat. When I was seven, my parents asked, “Would you like to go to Hebrew School?” Being an ethical seven year old, I said, “I don’t really believe in God, so I think it would be intellectually dishonest to go.” I have a very Anglo-Saxon look and a very German last name, and in elementary school, kids would ask me if I was a Nazi. My mom (who was bat mitzvahed and went to Hebrew School, and actually looks Jewish), told me to slug them and inform them that I had family on her side killed in the Holocaust – as far as I can tell, a claim with only the evidence of statistical probability on its side – and grandparents on all sides who fought the Nazis. When my grandma died, I stopped going to any kind of services. One of my girlfriends was Jewish and, at the time, I identified as Jewish as well. She was ecstatic about it and took me to temple on Yom Kippur, despite my insistence that I wasn’t “that kind” of Jew. That was when I learned that I have a strong emotional reaction to religious services. Actually, it’s more like a panic attack. I’ve been an atheist for most of my life. And recently, I’ve even strayed away from that title because I feel that atheists are just as dogmatic and insistent on their beliefs as everyone else is. I want more freedom than that.
Nobody in my family is Christian, and not everybody is Jewish. My mom and I have the strongest connections to that faith, and each of us lost that connection when my grandma died. Christmas is a day that my family has traditions built around – we swim a lap in an unheated pool, we play poker, we give each other gifts, we eat tamales (Explanations abound for each of these things). Mostly it is about knowing we’ll be with each other. That’s it. No church, no Jesus, no God. Just us and song and food.
My relationship with spirituality is so private. I don’t talk about it with anybody. Not even myself, really. I rarely even think about (a) (G|g)(-|o)d(s|dess(es)). Sometimes I feel something bigger than me, or that the world is beautiful, or that I have purpose. That magic/love/spirit/joy exists. I don’t attribute it to anything, I just know that it is.