Being an atheist at Christmas, I thought, is a time when obligations that bind and torture the faithful could be thrown behind ones shoulder, to the wind, in the same guiltless pit where the illusions of one’s youth were cast without regret or sentiment. The sceptical brain in growth. Though now I have an unconsidered issue, the bonds are tied too tight between Christmas and family, to discard one would be to offend the other. Especially an extended Christian family containing a minister and his disciples, the warriors of the Almighty Lord, contain – to my knowledge – only one other than myself out nearly 30, that accepts Evolution by Natural Selection as anything other than the ramblings of the unsaved. I am not a closet atheist, my unbelief is well documented in their records, and I have experienced my share of shunning. But at Christmas, the masks come on (one practice I refuse to partake), and I am sincerely(?) welcome to attend and be merry. One practice that is not uncommon at such gatherings is for me to be slowly surrounded or cornered, where every torso is pointed at me, and beliefs discussed in an open and organised fashion. My contribution to this discussion is not wanted. These moments, for me, are thrilling. I enjoy argument to the point of obsession, and have become rather adept, if I do say so….. Idea are propelled in my direction, to here here’d, unconditionally by the rest. I take too much pride in subtle pointing out the differences in their personal beliefs, not to mention the contradictions. I enjoy this unholy tradition for it does have a propensity to sharpen ones wit, if not just scrape the rust from the blade. Some members do object, and their presence often means an end to such affairs, as does someone cursing my existence – “jesus you’re a fuckin’ asshole, mate” – my response was not well accepted by the crowd, “Blasphemy!” And yes, Christians can swear with as much prose and skill as the rest of us blasphemers. Though this is the one and only setting when religion is discussed. For the most part, banal politeness and intolerable niceties fill the air with a high enough concentration of carbon dioxide to send them all to heaven and me to hell. At least the company would be interesting, and I could smoke.
One of the other roles an atheist must play when born in to Christian ceremonies, is to be impolite. The amount of times one must say ‘no thankyou’ in order to avoid hypocrisy.
‘Would you like to join us at the Christmas church service with the rest of the family?’
‘Would you like to join us in prayer?’
‘Would you like to accept Jesus Christ our Saviour into your life and be saved?’
‘No thankyou and please go away, swiftly, please’
‘Would you like to help us slaughter infidels to the god Ra?’
It may as well be. It is truly white noise topped with the feeling of a mosquito buzzing nearby. Though these family meetings happen rarely, and on some topics, the conversation can be delightful. The immense and invaluable awe and curiosity the true wondrousness of the universe and its complexity have been my life’s unmatched joy. To be trapped in this curiosity, my life’s unmatched obsession. There has been such beauty, love, sadness and doubt in this obsession. Though with my ceremonial and audaciously religious family, I feel guilty to say, this is all inaccessible. It is replaced by childish feelings of irrational guilt and hopeless annoyance and boredom. It may be that very guilt that keeps me coming to these moot gatherings. It is a common trade of Christianity (and maybe all monotheisms), guilt. Everything is taken personally and all is offensive. And with any person not related to me, I find it no great bother. Being offended is useless, it offers no argument and a shit is rarely given. But this one circumstance, the unconsidered circumstance, gives me more evidence for my distrust in religious practices. Objectively, it is no problem, aside the brush can swipe, but when it is the ones who were there from your first breath, who have such claims and holds on your psyche, to use guilt as a method of control deliberately is disgusting, to do it unknowingly is seeming more like the methods of religion.