My first Atheist Christmas

I walked Away from the Manger.

This year, I fully came out as a bona-fide non-believer. I can't say it was an easy or quick decision. I have spent many a Christmas full of guilt and doubt. Nonetheless, this year I finally threw in the towel and admitted to myself and my family that God is nothing more than a bit of indigestion, some uncooked potato, a load of humbug. And while watching the Polar Express, and getting way too interested in trains again, I realized something: Christmas is so much more fun now.

One of my greatest fears when deconstructing was the idea that I would somehow lose the 'Christmas spirit'. I would miss out on the jolly tidings that I held so dearly. In fairness, this is a valid concern, and something that my friends and family who are also deconstructing are dealing with. For me, after I already rocked my most core belief to the ground, it was easier to admit other things too. the culture of Christmas takes itself too seriously, and it's just silly. Christmas takes on these oddly religious shaming: I should listen to christmas music more, I should decorate more, I should have done more grand family activities, I should have bought more gifts, the list goes on. Christmas is this glorious microcosm of Christianity as a whole. It is a holiday that, at it's core, is a multicultural holiday that is spent as a time of giving and family, to focus on contentedness and good health in the dead of winter. Christianity is a religion that, at it's core, is the philosophy of love, empathy, equity and devotion. And yet, both have been entirely Frankenstein'd into these horrific corporate monstrosities.

Once I removed the religious guilt, the never ending quest to find the "reason for the season" and just enjoyed the fucking holiday as intended, it has changed how I see this time of year. I have become more charitable, because I am giving for the sake of giving. Before, I would feel guilty for not giving, or not giving enough, or giving too much and trying to make a show of it. I give because I chose to. I didn't feel compelled by some omnipotent being to do it. I didn't feel the guilt of hell force me to do it. I gave because I could. And wow, that is a nice experience.

Another change that isn't new, but I can finally admit to is the bullshit idea that 'believing is seeing' that innumerable Christmas movies seem to hit on. No. It's fucking not. When I was younger, I still remember questioning this. We have methods of testing what we observe. In fact, these movies demonstrate their characters often doing this, testing the miraculous events around them and seeing what happens. The Polar Express does something that I can't stand. The main character is skeptical the whole time, and tests all of it. The whole adventure is complete, and at the end he still can't hear the damn bell until he checks his brain at the door and forsakes what he has seen to just confess that he believes. This approach is hailed as a success and I just hate it. It feels like a primer to get people to believe in dumb shit, then tell them to not question it, because doubters are scrooges and buzzkills.

All said, I feel just as cheery and cynical as I always have. This year, I feel lighter. I get to enjoy this time of year because I want to. I don't feel the baggage I've been carrying for years, wondering if I was _really_ doing Christmas right.