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I’m not a religious person, and so when asked why I wasn’t in the ‘Christmas spirit’ this year, I was surprised.  Yes, I do normally participate in all of the pagan rituals of Christmas, without the church-going.  But this being a tough year for me, and with my aversion to leaving my safe apartment and actually going out into the world and being around people, I really don’t want to shoulder any of the shame or feel the retributions of others who feel I should be ‘in the spirit.’

I’m not; and regardless of the many reasons, why should I feel bad about that?  Why am I required to feel a certain something just because it’s December?  This may be a national holiday and it may be a long-standing tradition, but that in no way impels me to participate.  I’m not bitter. I’m not opposed to anyone celebrating any damn thing they please.  I’ll give to charity and I’ll gift my family members.  But my spirit will be what it always is, one that is always giving, one that is a non-believer.

I’m the Charlie Brown of Christmas: I know I should feel something, but I only feel let down.  This is the same feeling I had when I actually realized that I was in fact, an atheist. I used to feel like I should feel something, but it just wasn’t there.  It was a lie that I told myself.

And I’m allowed to feel what I feel, right?  This is another frequent argument I have with others.  Don’t tell me how I should feel; I have a right to feel whatever emotions that come, regardless of what others want me to feel.  I think this is where empathy is very important; allow others to go through their emotions and stop dictating what you think those emotions should be.  Stop saying “Oh you shouldn’t feel that way!” and start allowing emotion to run it’s natural course.

Allowing me not to get the ‘spirit’ is only fair, to be honest.  I don’t go around proselytizing to you about becoming a non-believer, so stop pressuring me to participate in your religious rituals.  I feel this is a good compromise.

And, considering all the times I wrote ‘feel’ in this post, I feel I should end it here.

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Winter Solstice (today!) seems the perfect day to write about The Atheist’s Guide to Christmas (Harper Perennial).  This little book is full of humor, a bit of whimsy, and a whole bunch of fun facts.

Some of my favorite essays are the ones which marry pagan rituals with modern day Christmas.  The tree?  The star? The date?  All borrowed from pagans and from the winter solstice.  (Those Christians, always appropriating stuff!)  None of the essays are preachy or pedantic; most are lighthearted accounts.  One thing to note is that most of the authors seem to be English; not many American writers here.

There are gifts for the godless, an atheist quiz, and lots of philosophy and science; there are also essays imploring you, the atheist, to not feel guilty about enjoying Christmas without  being religious.  Or, you can get some lovely tips on how to avoid the whole shebang altogether.  Your choice.

There is some science included:  the creation story should not be overlooked.  Brian Cox writes an entire essay explaining, briefly, the big bang.  I’m not exactly a science geek, but my favorite TV show is The Big Bang Theory.  When I saw the title “The Large Hadron Collider” my inner geek went wild.

So.  A bit of xmas humor for the godless.  A lighthearted read for the hectic holidays.  Happy Saturnalia, folks!

(And PS:  I want the Atheist Barbie.  Srsly.)

Just thought of a horrible joke: A&E should air the show “Obsessed” three times in a row for those of us who do things in three’s. Don’t worry, I’m only poking fun at myself, no one else.

Tonight is a repeat of the first “Obsessed” episode that aired at the end of May. Something Scott said at the beginning of the show really struck me: he said he didn’t ‘feel worthy.’ Seems to be a common thread amongst people I know who suffer from OCD. Another related commonality is the guilt and shame that OCD brings with it. Why is this? I know there is a certain stigma attached to any mental disorder, but it seems that with OCD, the person suffering from it will judge themselves more harshly than anyone.

Believe me, it’s hard enough just dealing with the disease itself: add on a good amount of guilt and unworthiness, and it’s a wonder that a person can get out of bed. But why do we feel this way? Why is there such guilt attached to something that initially is not under your control? Sure, you can do therapy and ERP and CBT, but for most people the disease never completely goes away. You gain lots of coping skills, but you never rid yourself entirely. But this guilt… I know one person with OCD who was raised in the Irish Catholic tradition (which he luckily escaped) and he claims that is where is guilt stems from. Where does mine come from? From my mix of 7th-Day Adventist & Southern Baptist upbringing? Surely that would have subsided given my subsequent turn to Atheism?

I don’t really have an answer for any of these questions just yet. But I also can’t think of any reason that we are not all worthy of being happy, content, being in loving relationships, being successful in life. I just wish someone would remind me of these things every now & then.

Years ago, I had a small, brief episode of scrupulosity.  Of course, I had no idea what scrupulosity was, or that I was experiencing a form of obsession.  All I know is I had a sudden, inexplicable episode of obsessing over my belief in God.  You know God:  the Christian, white male, dark haired, bearded, blue-eyed God.  The one I actually don’t even believe in now.  But back then, it was a different story.

Brief, but extremely intense:  just one day of obsessing over whether or not I was a good person.  It was only years later, when I discovered I had full-blown OCD that I even knew what I had experienced back then.  I wish I could describe it in a way that would match the experience, but I don’t think I can.  Here is my attempt to relay that experience.

*god sometimes you just don’t come through

I sat on the edge of the bed, eyes pressed tight, hands together, rocking
back and forth.  The bed made a tired sound every time I rocked back; the springs were old, creaky.

I prayed hard, hoping and fearing that God would hear me. But how
could he hear me?  Millions of others prayed to him all the time, how could he
possibly hear one girl over the din of so many others?  And really, who has time for the
whimperings of a young girl in the backwoods of Tennessee?

I kept on anyway, I had to make sure I was a good girl, a good person.  Good people prayed,  good people had good intentions, good thoughts.  God, if you’re listening, you know I believe  in you, right?  I am certain I believe in you.  I was raised to believe in you.  No other.
Just you.

I repeated the phrase from a song, over and over in my head, being as
sincere as I was able.   A  duet, a pop song.

“Ebony and Ivory, live together in perfect harmony…. side by side on my piano keyboard oh lord why don’t we…”

I’m a good person…. I believe in God…. I’m a good person… I believe
in God…. I’m a good person…. I believe in God….

No I really believe, I’m genuine in my belief I really believe [but what if you don’t what if  you’re lying you don’t really mean it]  I really believe there is an all-seeing all-powerful white   man with brown hair and blue eyes who knows what my future holds.  He knows the hairs on  my head.

But what if I don’t believe?  What if I really don’t believe in God, I just
think I do, I’m not a good person, I’m going to hell because I don’t believe in God, I’m going to hell hell hell I don’t wanna go to hell I’m scared how can i be any more sincere i’ve believed in god all my life went to church got baptized i’m not perfect but i’m not a bad person why can’t i believe that why can’t i believe i want to believe i
want to believe believe believe….

[god lyrics by tori amos, ebony & ivory lyrics by paul mccartney]

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