Santa Made Me an Atheist
It’s the season of love, joy and peace. It’s Christmas time, and that also means it’s the season when I not only stopped believing in Santa, but started doubting everything I was being taught by the Roman Catholic Church. I’m sharing this now because my long journey of doubt, fear and shame began this time of year. My mother, who was trying to be kind, had me in the front seat of her car driving towards our regular Tuesday night karate class had dropped the bomb on me. “Honey,” she baited with caution, “You’re nearly 10 years old and you’re going into middle school next year. I don’t want you to be teased, so I need to tell you something. There is no Santa Claus. Your dad and I are Santa.”
“What?” I started with truthful shock. “What do you mean there is no Santa Claus? There’s no leprechaun or tooth fairy either?”
“No dear. I’m sorry that I have to tell you this, but it’s time you knew.”
I was such a naïve child and trusted my parents for the most part. Sure, I had questioned things I had learned in church before, but I never really truly doubted there was a God. It was something that was just accepted. My parents took me to church every Sunday, sitting and staring at the back of the pew and some relative stranger’s head. I spent more time people watching and trying not to fall asleep than listening to a homily that was so monotonous and preachy, I couldn’t stay focused. It was assumed God was watching me and everyone all the time. I couldn’t and frankly, didn’t want to think about God like that. It was creepy, even to a young child. There’s nothing like picturing yourself in a spiritual panopticon to make you feel more sick to your stomach. I had asked point blank to my parish priest before, “Father, if God made the universe, who made God?
“God was always just there,” answered the priest. Ahhhhh. Just. Always. There. Got it. To give this priest some credit, when I asked him about evolution versus the story of Adam and Eve and all the scientific evidence to support evolution, he claimed the story was just a parable. “There are lots of parables in the Bible. God did not mean for us to take them word-for-word, but rather to learn from the stories.”
Okay, so my mom destroyed my trust in her magical claims, church regularly bored me and my own priest told me the Bible was not meant to be taken literally. Is it really surprising my doubt just grew and grew? The more I learned about science and the workings of the world and nature, the more I began to realize that the God I had been told to believe in wasn’t legit. So began my journey towards atheism, which included dabblings in Wicca, striving to be a better Catholic here and there, episodes of demanding I was atheist, shamings, church again, agnosticism, and eventually a landed atheist. Here I am, a respectful, creative atheist. I’m not going to shame anyone for their religious choices or beliefs. I just want to be respected too for the lack of mine.