Wednesday, December 27, 2017

losing my religion


The year I was 16 I decided as a result of my evolving attitude towards religion that I would no longer kneel in church in subservience to god. Since we had stopped going to church on Sunday as a family, a result of the social disaster they suffered, and Christmas Eve being the only time we still went, I warned my mother beforehand and, as it turned out, we were late getting there and the only open seats were on the last row in the balcony. Soon after we slipped in and the congregation kneeled and I remained seated my mother made us all get up and leave because I had mortified her, she said, sitting quietly in the last row of the balcony behind everyone well, there was that bit about her trying to force me down by pulling on my arm and me resisting and that was the last time we went to church as a family.

The SDE (social disaster event) changed everything in my family, it was broken and while our parents never divorced, the dynamic was never put back together. My father became angry all the time, my mother depressed and slept all the time, I was not allowed to be friends with anyone unless they were in the right social strata, they became obsessed with maintaining or regaining a certain image but never recovered a large social group. As it affected Christmas dinner, Mother became maudlin and would clamp down on any spirited conversation or disagreement because she wouldn't have 'yelling' on Christmas Eve. Apparently we were just supposed to be all fake gooey lovey dovey.

Us three kids grew up, went to college, got married, had kids of our own. By the time I divorced and remarried, I had rejected Christian theology completely and having married a Jew, decided to raise our kids Jewish so that was the end of any Christmas accouterments. At least in our home. We did Hanukah instead with minimal decorating. We still attended Christmas Eve dinner, now at my sister's house when she took over the ritual as the oldest daughter (and it became a much more relaxed and fun evening), and Christmas morning at my parent's, our children in tow. Eventually the whole family scattered, my brother when he left for college and then to many points ever farther away, the parents to a small community more than an hour away, my sister to Colorado and then to Arizona and her grown daughters as well which left my parents with me and my Jewish family and that was the end of any kind of Christmas Eve family dinner though it did enjoy a brief revival when my sister and then one of her adult daughters moved back to the area. I was in my 40s I guess when the inevitable year arrived and I finally spent a quiet Christmas Eve at home and not with some part of my natal family. That first time was kind of weird.

I had moved away from Jewish theology and really all religion by then and so once the kids were older teens and I felt no pressure to compete with Christmas there was no decorating with casual celebration to minimal gift giving which gave way to a revival when my daughter had her young family who are now all but grown and so once again like a wave cresting and breaking we are back in the trough to minimal recognition, usually a gift of cash to each of the grandkids at some point during the holiday season.

So yeah, I don't do Hanukah either. I think if I was going to celebrate this season it would be for the original reason the celebration exists...the return of the sun and of light and warmth and all growing things without all the dogma. The procession of the planet around the sun is magical enough, the solstice like a release of held breath and then the next breath in.





14 comments:

  1. Exactly, Ellen! The miracles all around us which science can explain are plenty enough magic and miracle for me. I would rather be paying attention and receiving joy from that which I can actually see and feel than to be kneeling in church. Nor do I need a deity or the threat of hell or promise of heaven to do the best I can for those around me.

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    1. I could never wrap my head around a 'loving' god that condemned you to an eternity of fire and pain for being human, for creating humans the way we are.

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    2. That was pretty much it for me as well. However we still do Christmas but it is secular and fun

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  2. I am very Christian in my beliefs (I pray every single day, at least at bedtime if not more), but I don't believe in the need to attend organized church services. My communion with God is most strong when I am in gorgeous nature.

    I'm sorry your family was decimated by The Event, and your parents couldn't find a way out of it. My heart hurts for you and your siblings, even now.

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    1. they became unpleasant people. personally I believe my mother was guilty, she had a need to be the center of every man's attention. it got even messier. the one couple who stood by them and became their best friends, a love affair developed between my dad and the wife though none of us kids (us and theirs) think they ever 'did it' (both being too proper) though at the end my mother was convinced they had and was gathering all kinds of 'proof'. eventually my mother put an end to the friendship out of jealousy.

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  3. My older sister died a few days before Christmas this year. She and I hadn't spoken since my mother died 15 years ago. A line from your blog hit a chord with me, "I guess when the inevitable year arrived and I finally spent a quiet Christmas Eve at home and not with some part of my natal family. That first time was kind of weird." That was this year for me. I am the last of my natal family. For me there was peace in knowing that. I have no one holding the past with me and I can let go.
    Families are strange and mysterious entities. Many times what we "endure" seems like a bad dream, but for me, I am awake now. Free at last, free at last.
    Nature worship has kept me safe from the "forced fun" of the past family celebrations. I love your thoughts on the solstice. So deep and true. xoxo Oma Linda

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    1. letting go is such a relief. xoxo to you.

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  4. When I was eleven I gave up coffee for Lent, which wasn't such a big deal because I didn't drink much coffee. When I was twelve my mother asked me what I was giving up for Lent and I told her I was giving up Catholicism. She laughed, thinking I was joking. But I wasn't. She asked why I was giving it up and I told her that according to Catholic teaching she was going straight to hell. She didn't like hearing that, but she still didn't go to Church.

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  5. My best friends are very religious, but we don't talk about it and they've never asked nor preached. My last belief left when I read in a Lutheran pamphlet, that Easter is based on the old Celtic holiday called Oester or something like that. I realized religion came from men with agendas and thus were the stories they told. Plus, you have to hook them while they are young, which I find odious.

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  6. Families are complicated but I think of those who want families and never have them. Life is complicated and we just have to role with the punches.

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    1. that's true. I do wonder sometimes how things would have been had that not happened. mostly it ruined their lives. us kids grew up and left and then have had our own lives and acts with repercussions.

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  7. I'm with you -- there's enough magic in nature.

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  8. Welcome to the Pagan world, where you don't need to believe in anything but nature, whether it's being a force for good, or not. It just is! Blessed Be

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  9. I am so sorry that you have those sad childhood memories. All families have secrets that are kept behind closed doors but often these can affect the families for generations after.

    As I grew, I questioned much of what I was told to believe. However, for my own reasons I stayed a good Catholic until my 50’s. I moved away from religion because: 1) it was paternal, 2) it was about power over people, 3) it was not kind. I am not a different person because I no longer believe what they call as faith, but I have found peace in nature and and in the present. Eternity makes no sense to me. I think it is a myth used to control us all. I do, though, celebrate Christmas, but in not a religious way.

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I opened my big mouth, now it's your turn.