I'M NOT REALLY A CHRISTIAN, I'M NOT REALLY AN ATHEIST.
I'll be the first to admit that I have absolutely no idea what, if anything, created the universe. I do not know what, if anything, happens after we die, or which ethnic groups God favors and which lifestyles he hates. I just don't know. Furthermore, I live on planet Earth. There is no more information about God, Jesus, Heaven, Vishnu or Mohammed available today than there was a thousand years ago. I've been to church, studied Torah, raised my hands in the air at Christian rock concerts, let the Mormon kids that rang the bell come into my house and take their best shot at convincing me and still... nothing. I'm no closer to understanding all of the mysteries of humanity and the heavens than I was before. I'm still just a little lost lamb, no closer to anything that looks like a particular truth. So, it occurs to me that, not only do I not know any of the answers to the great mysteries, there is an exactly 0% chance of my ever finding any of those answers. I will never KNOW the truth. There is no way for me to know the truth. There is no path for a mortal to move from here to actual enlightenment. With this understanding, I have stopped any attempt to find it. No more church, no more Torah class, no more missionaries. Thank you, but no. Call me an agnostic, call me a Diest, call me a dumbass, I don't care. It has no affect on my life how you label my religious beliefs or lack thereof, and honestly... anything I believe today is subject to change tomorrow.
CERTAINLY MOST OF RELIGION IS MADE UP, SO FUCK YOU. I'LL MAKE IT UP TOO IF I WANT.
Stepping outside of one's religious upbringing and looking at it with a newly found objectivity, one can certainly see its absurdity and contradiction, but not necessarily in a negative way. Take the concept of an Easter egg hunt for example. There is one type of Christian for whom the kids simply MUST dress up in their pretty little Easter dresses and hunt for eggs. There's another camp that have actually read the bible and know this to be a pagan ritual, the likes of which Jehovah explicitly forbade and therefore the kids must have absolutely no part in it. Then there's me, who doesn't really give a shit. I like the Easter egg hunt. It's cute and it's fun... BUT... I certainly do see the arbitrary absurdity of it. Though I have small kids, I no longer feel culturally obligated to provide them an Easter egg hunt, but nor do I feel religiously opposed to it. I don't give a shit about your religious zeal. I don't give a shit about your altruistic atheism.
I HAVE EMBRACED A NEW doctrine... APATHY. I FEEL LIKE I'VE BEEN SAVED...
...saved from the pit of religious and cultural obligations, while simultaneously saved from smug, self righteous atheism. You are entitled to whichever belief system to which you choose to ascribe, but I hereby declare myself a non participant in either of these games of tail chasing. It's wonderful, my friends. I have seen the light. Not giving a shit has changed my life, pulled me back from the brink of despair. I can see the glory of the coming of apathetic half-assery... and it is good.
I have begun carrying this into pretty much every aspect of my daily life. When the herd goes left, I go right. When it goes back, I go forward. When everyone goes to Church from 10:00 am - Noon on Sunday I go grocery shopping and gloriously have the store all to myself. When everyone goes to lunch at noon, I go at 1:15. There's usually no waiting at restaurants and the lunch special prices are still valid. You'll never catch me taking the kids to an amusement park on a weekend, but we'll be there first thing Monday morning. There will be no lines and we'll get a good parking space. Most importantly, while everyone is Christmas shopping on Black Friday, I avoid stores at all costs. I gas up the day before and make sure we have a stocked refrigerator. I don't drive a car, I don't answer the phone... it's sort of like my own little Shabbos. Furthermore, I haven't just stopped shopping on black Friday, I've mostly stopped Christmas shopping altogether.
So here are my thoughts on Christmas. It's stupid. not only is it stupid, it's an expensive racket designed to separate us suckers from our money.
JESUS WASN'T BORN IN DECEMBER AND HE HIMSELF OBSERVED HANUKKAH, SO CUT THE SHIT.
HE is not the reason for the season. Quarter 4 sales results are. But just because it's stupid and petty doesn't mean I don't want to play. I actually like Christmas. I love the soft warm glow of off-white lights twinkling on the tree, I love stirring my hot chocolate with a peppermint candy cane, I love the piny aroma of my pagan Christmas tree hanging in the air of the living room. I love having all of my closest loved ones in my home and the ambient buzz their voices and laughter make as it reverberates through the house, accompanied by Dean Martin's Christmas classics. You will pry my Leviticus 11-4 forbidden Christmas Ham from my cold, dead, unclean fingers. But most of all, I love the look on my kids' faces on Christmas morning when they tear into their gifts. Maybe that's petty commercialism, but their genuine happiness and beautiful smiles elate me like nothing else.
What I don't like are the long lines, violent outbursts from overwhelmed shoppers, acts of actual violence, grumpy faces, people bitching about people saying happy holidays versus Merry Christmas and what stupid cup Starbucks is using or whatever molehill the hyper Christians and the social justice warriors have collectively conspired to make into a mountain. I hate everything about black Friday. I hate the buying of a ton of pointless gifts that individually are pretty cheap but collectively become excessively expensive. Gift giving makes sense for kids. They have no means of income for themselves and rely on us entirely. Go ahead and get them gifts, that makes sense. But it doesn't make sense for us adults to make one another feel obligated to get each other some $10-$50 thing we each think the other might like. There's at least a medium to high likelihood that we could be wrong and we both end up hating the gifts and we've both wasted our money. We feel obligated to extend cultural niceties and claim that we love the gift from the other and the only one that wins is some faceless retailer. Furthermore, when any $10-$50 trinket is well within both of our financial means to acquire for ourselves, giving these items as gifts to one another makes even less sense.
As it turns out, all of these complaints I have about Christmas were all things that were in my own power to avoid or change. All I had to do was be honest with myself and (gulp) honest with my family that I just didn't want to play.... or more accurately, that I wanted to cherry pick the parts of the Christmas rain dance in which I did want to participate.
THIS YEAR, MY WIFE AND I DECIDED THAT WE WOULD NOT BE BUYING CHRISTMAS PRESENTS FOR ANYONE OVER THE AGE OF 17.
We bought our kids one big gift each and several minor gifts to extend the Christmas morning gift wrap shredding session. We bought a couple of gift cards for some nieces and nephews and that was it. Instead, we hosted a Christmas dinner at our house as our gift. Below is a slightly embellished version of the excerpt from our Facebook invitation:
We will be hosting a Christmas evening get together at our house. We will roast a Christmas Ham and a Turkey. We will have beans and taters and some form of bread. We'll have some nice snacks, gourmet desserts, rich coffee, artisan teas, adult libations (beer and booze), etc. Just a heads up, we will not be buying any gifts for adult people, none whatsoever. We'll have gifts for our kids on Christmas morning and for nieces and nephews but no one over the age of 17 will be on our shopping list. We'd much rather that Christmas be for the kids. Please don't bring us any gifts either. If you do, we will kindly accept them as social graces require, but please know that this is not our preference. Thank you, but we'd honestly rather see you save your money or donate it to charity. We just don't need anything. We certainly don't mean any offense by this, so please know that we really do appreciate the thought. The gift of your company would be wonderful and would enrich our lives much more than any trinket or token ever could and would make Christmas 2016 a very special holiday indeed. This event is our gift to you, dear family and friends. Skipping the pretense, skipping the stores, skipping the hassle, skipping the frustration and getting straight to the fellowship and joy (and pie) sounds to us like a much better way to spend this holiday. Feel free to start coming by and hanging out around 4:00 PM. Dinner will be served at approximately 6:00. It is my sincere hope to see you there. Please, only bring us your Christmas Presence.😃
We originally met with some resistance in the weeks before Christmas day. But, when it came down to it, we had a huge turnout and only one person brought us a gift. The other adults brought gifts only for the kids and we all enjoyed the smiles and laughter watching them open each one. We ended up saving a little money but ended up spending nearly as much as we had last Christmas, but the difference was that this time everyone actually liked the gift. Everyone really enjoyed the food (they went back for seconds and there wasn't much in the way of leftovers), and moreover enjoyed the gathering of souls.
OUR GOAL WASN'T TO BE ALL BAH HUMBUG ABOUT IT, JUST TO SHOW THAT IF YOU SImply REFRAIN FROM TRAMPLING OTHER PEOPLE TO DEATH over $5 off of A PLAYSTATION THE DAY AFTER GIVING THANKS FOR THE BLESSINGS IN LIFE, IF YOU JUST ENJOY THE PRETTY LIGHTS AND FAMILY TIME, CHRISTMAS IS AN ENRICHING, BEAUTIFUL, AND EVEN RELAXING TIMe.
I think that this approach really appealed to the spirit of Christmas that the more devout family members carry. Interestingly, it seemed to appeal to everyone else as well. So even in my crazy mixed bag family of Methodists, Anglicans, Jews, atheists, agnostics, hippies and hillbillies, ultimately all understood that we weren't saying we didn't want to play at all, just that we wanted to distill Christmas back down to its good stuff, and that it was possible to recognize that our cultural rituals are indeed absurd but that we can allow ourselves to enjoy them nonetheless.