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Merry Christmas.

December 25, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

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.

Merry Christmas.

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Categories: Introduction
  1. December 25, 2010 at 1:01 pm

    Hi there, I subscribe to your blog by email and I really enjoy your writing. Wishing you and yours a merry swim around the pool and some yummy tamales. Merry Christmas!

  2. zach
    December 25, 2010 at 1:46 pm

    Merry Christmas! From one Jew to…how do you identify now? When you got baptized as a Catholic, was it as a kid or an adult? I thought I remembered reading something recently about you going to church recently, but maybe it was a different blog…

    • December 25, 2010 at 1:57 pm

      It must have been someone else. I only go to church for weddings, it seems. I was baptized as an infant, by a concerned nanny. I am definitely NOT a Catholic. Nothing personal against Catholics, just something personal against the concept of the Church. Reading over this now, I can see that I didn’t really explain that I was “kidnapped” and baptized as a baby…

      I’ve been accused of identifying as Jewish only “when convenient”. It’s more that I only lay claim to that identity to reference my distance from “Christian values”. Really, I don’t identify as Jewish at all. I take comfort in certain things – lighting the candles for Hanukkah this year, a “Seder” with my queer friends (usually just Matzoh ball soup at a local deli…) – but nothing serious or deep enough for me to really truly consider “Jew” an identity.

      If describing my religious identity, I would probably say “atheist”, then “nothing”, then “secular” – before I finally got to Jew…But, the history is there, so I don’t like to erase it completely.

  3. J-Rob
    December 27, 2010 at 11:38 am

    Nice post, I love hearing about other people’s secular traditions around the holidays.

  4. Kaitlin
    December 29, 2010 at 1:24 pm

    I feel so similar to this. “I don’t attribute it to anything, I just know that it is.”
    Well said.

    My family’s Christmas traditions are the same. They have nothing to do with religion, at all. It’s just about spending time together, eating great food, enjoying one another’s company, and drinking boozy coffee ;)

  5. L Dub
    January 4, 2011 at 4:17 pm

    I cannot even fathom the idea of someone baptizing you against your parents wishes. Not in the ‘I don’t believe you’ sense, but in the ‘what the hell is wrong with people’ sense.

    It floors me kids would ask you if you were a Nazi. My last name is as German as it gets, and no one has ever even thought to ask me that. I guess it’s more fodder for the what the hell is wrong with people pile.

    • January 5, 2011 at 9:00 pm

      RIGHT?!?!?!?

      It’s humorous because I was an infant and my parents are non-believers. But I can’t imagine how thunderstruck they would be if say, they happened to be more Jewish or more…something.

      As for the Nazi thing…I can only explain this by saying that the population of my school was predominantly Jewish. In my senior year, the exchange student was German and someone asked her during “Modern European History” whether her grandparents had been Nazis. It was offensive.

  6. G
    January 6, 2011 at 8:21 pm

    This is such a foreign concept to me in the respect that my entire family’s holiday centers around religion and God. It is intense sometimes.

    I really liked this line: “My relationship with spirituality is so private. I don’t talk about it with anybody. Not even myself, really.” I haven’t sorted through all the ideas I was brought up to believe in, so it’s just easier for me not to think about it.

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