If you know me at all, you likely already know that I’m an atheist. So you might also be wondering why someone who believes as I do would have so many “Birth of Jesus” tracks in my Favorite Christmas Songs playlist. And today, I’m taking the time to explain.
When I was a little boy, raised mostly by my Catholic grandparents, I certainly believed in God and Jesus. My life away from them was chaotic and painful, and I took comfort in knowing that there was a greater power watching over me. It brought me peace and shelter when my life had none of that. And, of course, the Christmas songs that celebrated the Prince of Peace, the Messiah, and the King of Kings resonated with me. I needed to believe that all would one day be good for me.
As I grew older, my questioning nature became problematic for me. I wondered why God would allow horrible things to happen to children, for example. I just couldn’t accept that an all-knowing, all-powerful God would let the world exist as it was. After a time, I couldn’t align my worldly observations with the promise of a loving God. My empirical beliefs began to fall, but I still clung to the emotional feelings it gave me. It was almost like I knew better than to believe, but my heart longed for the love and peace of Jesus. So I accepted the reality but still held the promise in my heart.
Fast forward more years and even the idea of Jesus became painful. Listening to anti-gay voices from the Church screaming on corners that I was an abomination and would surely burn in Hell ultimately severed any feelings and any respect I had for organized religion. I saw anything church-related as adversarial, and it was easy to do. The hateful, angry voices that claimed to speak for God drove me completely and fully away. Even if God existed, he hated me, so fuck him. Fuck all of that and anyone who hid behind their faith while attacking my entire existence. As they say, “there’s no hate quite like Christian love.”
But time goes by. Hearts change.
Be clear. I still feel complete disgust for organized religion and the charlatans who use their interpretation of a holy book to fleece the trusting, berate the non-believers, and attack anyone different. But those are not the people that are still in my life.
My life is filled with people who are not lead by “religion.” Instead, their hearts are full of love. They care about other people just as those others are, without demanding they change to align with their own beliefs. And most importantly, they live their faith instead of wielding it like a weapon.
Those people will not convince me there is a god, of course. I am a grown man comfortable with my beliefs at this point in my life. But these friends of mine, and often friends of theirs, walk in the spirit of their beliefs. They love other people as the invaluable and magical human beings they are. They don’t demand change or obedience. Instead, they meet people wherever they are and bring love and kindness to those interactions.
What does all of that have to do with my playlist? It’s simple. These amazing people are my bridge back to those days when the idea of God and Jesus was a comfort. They help me appreciate the spirit of the season - peace, joy, and love to all people.
In other words, because so many of you show me and others like me kindness, love, and true acceptance just as we are, I can appreciate the message that Christmas brings to all mankind. You let me sing of angels, forgiveness, and a hope for tomorrow. So I sing the songs again, appreciating them as calls to love more, to give more, and to be more to those around me.
I’m still an atheist. But these songs help my heart open up just a little wider. And I choose to believe that is a good thing in itself.
Merry Christmas, all. My wish for you is that today brings you peace and joy, whether we believe the same or not. My humanity is surely made greater by your own.