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I’m more comfortable being pro-something, anything, but my conversion to antitheism was inevitable. For I am discerning, intelligent. Not that I was ever all that devout. I am a recovering Catholic, as they say, or Cathological, as my friend Tom Snyders puts it, though lucky enough to have escaped parochial school, unlike my mother. However, the sight of a nun still elicits an immediate and visceral reaction; my body stiffens, I cast my eyes to the ground. Thank god, such sightings are rare. There, you see, it’s practically in my DNA, though I have stopped capitalizing god. I also resort to “Christ” a lot and I’m as deeply infused with guilt and shame as my parents, taught that I was born tainted with original sin, for I didn’t escape Sunday school. Even as a child, a part of me knew it was all a crock, distrustful and dismissive of a fearsome and vengeful deity. Due to innate stubbornness, I never succumbed completely to indoctrination, attending church mainly to sing in the choir. I fled a home bereft of imagination, becoming the consummate bad girl, gleefully and with panache. Some would say I’m still at it, but I grow weary of good girl/bad girl talk and figure, who are you to judge?

I wasn’t rabidly anti-Christmas but if, or how to observe wasn’t an issue before I had a kid. My riot grrll self would do as many Jews do, go to a movie followed by Chinese food. But when I had my son, depriving him of the experience didn’t feel right. I had fond memories of a time of year when my folks were actually nice. They were drunk of course. I grappled with the hypocrisy of Advent calendars and tree trimming, even tried attending midnight Mass. Such rituals can be awfully moving, Catholic iconography beautiful, appealing to my sense of aesthetics. It didn’t work. We both squirmed. I did teach Junior who Christ was, his historical significance, and counseled, that as sound as Christ’s teachings are, he was a regular dude, not a god. The only Christmas perk I can see, one I am glad to partake of, is time off work, which affords friends and family a chance to get together.

I’m no pagan either but isn’t it interesting that Christmas is celebrated right around winter solstice? Isn’t the real significance of the season the return of light? Sharing light, the opportunity to take our lives in a different direction? Reflect. Renew. Amend. Try again. In any case, my son is a young man and this year we’ve planned the to see the new Sherlock Holmes and dinner at the Dragon Gate. Do what we want, what is right, for us, which brings to mind Vaclav Havel and Living In Truth. Fortunately, we’re not imprisoned for believing, or not believing in whatever we like. RIP Vaclav.

What a week! I was also saddened to hear of Christopher Hitchen’s death. I’m not going to address his stance on the Iraq war, except to say I didn’t agree. That war was as fucked up as any US intervention, but thank god, they’re finally out of there. From “shock and awe” to slipping out under the cover of night. Ironic, Hitchens isn’t around to comment. Punditiate. Quip assholeic quips. I’m sure his detractors are feeling the void. However controversial, Hitchens was honest-albeit brutally-uncompromising, courageous; a provocateur, but no devil’s advocate, since he didn’t buy into such nonsense. An eloquent antitheist, I will miss his voice of reason on the subject.

In general, along with parenting, I try to avoid religion as a topic, but our existential challenge becomes unavoidable, as inevitable as grey hair and wrinkles. I believe we invented religion to assuage our fears. Why don’t we call a spade a spade? Belief in god(s) is belief in the supernatural. Most Christians consider magic-black and otherwise-blasphemous, so how do they justify the dichotomy? They don’t. My favourite Hitchens quote: “What can be asserted without proof can be dismissed without proof.” Believers call it faith, I call it delusion. The world would be a better place if people understood just how precious life is, what a fantastic fluke. One life. One chance. Act accordingly. My boy and I discuss at length the strife caused by organized religion, resonant this time of year with platitudes of peace and goodwill ringing in our ears.

Naturally skeptical, part of me is a scientist, an aspiring anthropologist at one point. Just the facts M’am. If you can prove there’s a god, I’ll take it under consideration. At age six, as I recall, I received a valuable life lesson from my best friend Nancy’s older brother. I had a huge crush on Dean, so when he asked me if I wanted to play 52-Pickup, I was thrilled. “Yeah!” He promptly threw all the cards on the floor and explained what had just happened, to my utter humiliation, adding, “Don’t believe anything you hear kid, and only half of what you see.” So I have found my own nascent path to enlightenment, which is not to say I don’t have a long way to go.

I suppose I was heartened to hear of Dear Leader Kim Jong Il passing, but feel as apprehensive as the rest of the world as we wait to see what will develop. What will they believe in now? Scary, huh? These are interesting times indeed.

So, happy holidays. Let us feast with loved ones. Share the light.