Religion and Christmas. An agnostic point of view.
I've had a few eye opening experiences in my life when it comes to religion, probably more than a few.
I was raised a catholic and spent 11 years in catholic school from kindergarten through tenth grade. When I was young, we went to church every Sunday. That’s my mom and me. Pop never went to church except for weddings, christenings and funerals. I think the first time I ever questioned my religion was when I was around ten years old. My mom got pregnant with what would have been my second little brother, but he was still born.
Now, in the Catholic Church they teach that if you don’t get baptized, you have original sin on your soul and you go to hell. And this didn’t sit too well with my ten year old self. The thought that my little brother was going to hell for something that was done in the Garden of Eden was just wrong. But I dared not question it. The wrath of the nuns at Our Lady Star of the Sea could be brutal! So, I kept my mouth shut and just kinda stewed on it for a while.
In 7th grade, when I first realized what a virgin was I asked my teacher, a nun, how a virgin could possibly have a kid. The answer came in the form of a backhand across the face. Like I said, the wrath of the nuns at Star of the Sea could be brutal. It may have been my smart assed tone that got me the smack, but that’s beside the point!
We were also taught evolution right alongside of creationism and no teacher ever tried to reconcile these differing points of view. We were left to figure it out ourselves I guess. I went along with the theory that we didn’t really become people until we stood up straight and that happened about the same time as we discovered the garden and the apple tree. Hey, I had to figure something out!
Around eighth grade my mom stopped going to church, but I was still into it. There wasn’t a Catholic Church within 10 miles of where we lived so I started going to church with my grandma who was a Methodist. Totally against the Catholic religion, by the way, to attend services in a non Catholic Church, but I was really into it. The Methodists only did communion once a month. It was a little white bread square and a shot glass full of grape juice.
I had been going to church with my grandma for a few weeks when we were walking up to church one Sunday morning and she asked me if I was going to take communion that day. I told grandma I couldn’t take communion, I hadn’t been to confession! Grandma told me that in her church, if I had something to confess, I spoke straight to God. There wasn’t any reason to go through a middle man! Wow! What a concept! I didn’t have to be embarrassed by the priest behind the screen who knew who I was even though I was behind a screen? I really liked that idea! I took communion that day and a few more times at the Methodist Church, until they started a Catholic parish near where I lived and I started going to Catholic services again in a public school down the road from my house.
I went on to be “confirmed” in that parish and there’s a plate in St. Anselm’s from that first confirmation ceremony with my name and the name of a bunch of other kids at the church to this day. Part of the ceremony when I went through it is the bishop of the diocese asking a bunch of questions about Catholicism. The bishop actually told me to sit down because I knew the answers to every one of the questions he asked! Like I said, I was into it. And you get to take a confirmation name! I never had a middle name until then! I don’t use it, but I have one if I want it!
During this time I rode several different school buses to and from school. I got on a bus that went to the local Public HS, the one I ended up graduating from, then it picked up a bunch of middle school kids. From the middle school I transferred to a bus that picked up 2 different Catholic grammar schools. At one point during this time I met a girl on one of the buses who told me she wasn’t baptized. I was shocked! How could her parents do that to her? What if something happened? She’d go straight to hell! She told me that her parents thought it was a good idea to wait for her to be old enough to decide for herself if she wanted to join a particular religion. I thought this was another great idea. It’s why my daughters aren’t baptized.
There’s more eye openers, like when they said at St. Anselm’s that every working person in the family should be giving $50 a week and I was only making $75. The thought that my grandfather, who rarely, if ever, went to church wouldn’t be in heaven because he never went, when I knew in my heart that he was the nicest guy on the planet. Couple that with a stillborn baby brother who never did anything wrong and it was pretty much about all I could handle. And how much the church paid for the property where St. Anselm’s is located. Property that used to belong to my grandma…
Anyway, there is a point to all of this…
Through all of that, I never gave up on Christmas! I like this holiday! My girls like it too. It’s a fun time. Yeah, it’s stressful. Especially when you don’t have a pocket full of cash to get the ones you love and care about everything they want, even though that’s not what it’s all about anyway. I still wanna do it! I had a car repo’d one year because I wanted to make sure my girls had Christmas and didn’t really care about all the other stuff. I know, a little irresponsible Andy! So what!
When breaking out a 30’ ladder didn’t tweak my back I used to love doing the Griswold thing and lighting up my house so Santa could find it in a blizzard! I’ll still sit down with a cup of hot chocolate and read “’Twas the Night Before Christmas” to my 22 year old daughter on Christmas Eve! And she’ll still love it just as much as me. I hope that never changes, although I know it will someday.
There’s also the nice family dinner. And in my house it’s not like Thanksgiving when you get together with all your extended family, it’s pretty much always been just us, me and the girls. There were times when we were around a lot of family, but most of the time, because we always lived so far from home, it was just us.
I know a lot of people have differing views from the one I’ve bought up here. But the point is, just because you wanna be Ebenezer Scrooge doesn’t mean you have to take the fun away from everybody else!