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Dec 25 2011

It’s a special day for another reason

I almost forgot to mark this, as anniversaries don’t really mean much to me, but it was December 25th, 2007 when I finally ‘came out’ to myself as an atheist. I had been a de facto atheist for a few years before that, but it was during Christmas mass, seated next to my still-Catholic parents, that I finally turned that corner in my mind and said that, in all likelihood, there were no gods.

I’ve talked about this in greater detail previously.

I still attend Christmas mass with my family – an event that fills me with dread in the weeks leading up to it, and angry nausea for the 90 or so minutes I am actually forced to sit in a church without the option of saying the word “bullshit”. Every time I attend is worse than the last. The latest assault to the sensibility was the new hyper-cultish language in the Catholic service. That, coupled with the homily (“do you allow God to be bigger than yourself? Can you live a God-centred life?”) raised every skeptical hackle I possess – I definitely pulled my David Silverman face more than once:

 

It is, I suppose, a sign that the skeptical arguments are persuasive – I cannot participate in, or even be present for, a Christian worship service without seeing a brainwashing death cult. It casts an appalling light on the earnestness and gaiety with which young people participate in the readings and hymns; my mind immediately bemoans that fact that this energy and enthusiasm is being wasted in the service of an imaginary friend. Imagine if that hour spent verbally jerking Yahweh off (in the hope of being splashed with a droplet of his divine spunk after we face our own ‘happy ending’), was instead spent by every person in that church doing something nice for a friend or neighbour – what a Christmas that would be!

If there is any similarity between theist paradise and church worship, YahwAlladdha could not devise a better hell for me than sending me to heaven – I can’t help but imagine that this is indeed “a boot stamping on a human face – forever”. Now that I am free of these obligations (my annual Christmas attendance notwithstanding), I revel in and savour my atheism as it has put me securely in the driver’s seat of my own life, free of the cloying spectre of clergical busybodies attempting to insert their cold fingers into every private inch of my thoughts.

I am now the maximum number of days away from having to go back to church that I will be for the whole year. That is a tiding that brings me both comfort and joy. Hoping that this day, and all the ones to come, are merry and bright.

Rawwwwr!

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11 comments

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  1. 1
    Givesgoodemail

    Suggestion for next year: DON’T FUCKING GO!

    Show the courage of your convictions (that’s your convictions screaming at you every December) and just don’t fucking go.

    Disappoint your family? Probably. Earn their displeasure? Maybe. Regain your self-respect, remove ulcers from your future, and quit giving the lie to your moral stances? Absolutely.

    If you can’t not go, feel free to yell “Bullshit!” when you cannot *not* do it. Tell your family I’m to blame.

  2. 2
    Jesse

    Your writing (which, I hasten to add, I have always enjoyed and admired) has been improving tremendously. I love “the cloying spectre of clergical busybodies attempting to insert their cold fingers into every private inch of my thoughts.”

  3. 3
    Tisha Irwin

    I have to ask…if it makes you so miserable, why do you go? Your parents know you’re an atheist, right? Do they know you’re so unhappy there? I mean, I have no problem refusing my father’s invitations to mass. But then I’m a jerk. Although not as big a jerk as he is.

  4. 4
    ChrisG

    For many years, when visiting my parents, my wife and I would go to mass with them on Sundays, and I’d come out fuming and spitting bile and the pompous, self-important, overweening messages that got spouted from the pulpit. I guess she finally had enough of my chewing on the ecclesiastical nonsense one day, and said to me, “You, know, you don’t have to go to mass, if you don’t want to.”

    My wife is a very smart person. She was right. In the mistaken belief that I was preserving some family harmony, I was just allowing my blood pressure to rise, for no good reason. So I stopped going to mass when visiting the ‘rents.

    Nothing happened. Sure, they weren’t pleased, but, hey, I was over, way over, 18 and there really wasn’t anything they could say. I think we actually got along a bit better after I made this decision. You might be surprised at your folks’ reaction if you “missed” church the next time. If nothing else, you’ll get rid of the sour stomach!

  5. 5
    Crommunist

    We go from what is my favourite part of Christmas (gift exchange with my cousins) straight to church (from the cousins’ place). My options are a) go, or b) sit in the car in the parking lot and freeze my ass off to prove an obscure point that is meaningful to me only, and that has the rest of my family convinced that I am a 12 year-old having a tantrum. If I had the option to not attend, I would in fact not attend – the logistics of driving make non-attendance somewhat untenable.

  6. 6
    Crommunist

    Thanks, Jesse. I am redoubling my efforts to improve my English-fu in absentia Hitchens. I figure he got the jump on me, but I’ve got lots of years of catching up still ahead.

  7. 7
    StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return!

    Merry Christmas, Hannukkah, Sol Invictus or whatever you choose to celebrate to all here. Wishing y’all a great day – & remember the day is what we choose to make of it!

    (If making it the longest numbers of days before you next set foot in a church works for you then whatever floats your boat.)

    Oh & happy Atheist~versary. :-)

  8. 8
    James Sweet

    It is, I suppose, a sign that the skeptical arguments are persuasive – I cannot participate in, or even be present for, a Christian worship service without seeing a brainwashing death cult. It casts an appalling light on the earnestness and gaiety with which young people participate in the readings and hymns; my mind immediately bemoans that fact that this energy and enthusiasm is being wasted in the service of an imaginary friend.

    We went and saw a children’s nativity the other day, because a local music school was putting it on and the music is supposed to be pretty good (although we didn’t end up staying for the actual mass, which I guess is where the awesome music is, but whatever…) It was pretty cute, mostly not taking itself seriously at all: I rather liked the scene where the angel comes and tells Joseph that Mary is pregnant, and he grasps his forehead in worry and starts pacing around saying, “Oh no, what am I gonna do?” And an “Occupy Hochstein” (that’s the name of the music school) joke, and a few other funny things.

    My wife commented afterwards that it was weird because she kept flipping between “Oh what a cute funny story” and then realizing “Wait a minute, they are all telling these kids that this all is totally real and they can only get to heaven if they accept it.” Indeed. She said it kinda creeped her out, and that was one reason we didn’t stay for the actual mass.

  9. 9
    James Sweet

    That post you did the other day that was supposed to be in the style of Hitchens, I thought you mostly nailed it. I envisioned his voice speaking the words (as I do with all of Hitchens’ columns) and it totally worked.

  10. 10
    abeille

    I suppose there likely isn’t a nearby restaurant or store open on Christmas day, either, to hang out at instead.

  11. 11
    pyrobryan

    I suppose you could just find a seat in another room where you could read a book or play a game on your phone for a bit. Every church I attended (none of them were small) had couches or benches in the hallways or foyers outside of the chapel. Just a thought.

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