Thursday, December 23, 2010

Happy Jesus Smith day!

With my daughter sick, and my son whining about his must-have presents I thought I would write a quick blog here to distract myself from our traditional, non-religious celebrations that are Christmas.  Today is Joseph Smith's birthday!  Happy birthday, ya old scoundrel!

Many years ago I believed in Santa Claus.  Some atheists are militant opposers to misleading/lying to their children about Santa, but despite my parents doing everything they could to reinforce my belief in Santa, and my massive disappointment in finding out he isn't real, I could really care less.

My son wanted so badly for Santa to be real that I had to sit down with him and argue that -I- was the one who purchased, wrapped, and placed presents under the tree while he was sleeping.  I never discussed Santa with him beyond saying things like, "maybe Santa will get that for you for Christmas" and doing the traditional thing of making presents magically appear under the tree.  That was just enough to reinforce his Santa beliefs that there was no way I was going to convince him otherwise without offering him absolute proof of Santa's non-existence. I think he still believed up until last Christmas.  After being placed on high alert for any signs that Santa indeed was a children's story, he watched me closely for signs that I was the one who purchased and placed presents under the tree.

My four year old daughter, on the other hand, I am not sure.  She seems to believe Santa is a real person, and is somehow representative of the holiday season, but does not seem to associate him with gifts in any way.  She also knows that Daddy dresses up as Santa every year to pass out presents to the children of his friends. She has a knack for finding virtually everything I've purchased for her and apparently her dad has the same problem, so I imagine her Christmas morning will be curiously devoid of presents from Santa.  I am not sure how to explain to her the abstract concept of Santa bringing toys to children while they sleep, so as it turns out, she will never have the opportunity to complain about being a disgruntled ex-Santa Claus supporter who was tricked and lied to by their parents.

I believed in Santa until the Christmas before I turned 9 years old.  Nothing was going to convince me that Santa wasn't real.  My friends tried to talk me out of my belief, but I held firm.  Two years before I had told my father I did not believe in Santa.  Extreme measures became necessary to ward off this Santa-apostasy.  That Christmas eve my dad took us out for a drive to see Christmas lights.  While we gathered into the family car he quickly ran around the back of the house and threw all the presents into the living room.  My snow-bird grandparents assisted by neatly setting up the presents while we were away.  During our drive an airplane flew over and my father declared it was Rudolf's red nose leading Santa to our house!  When we returned, lo and behold, Santa had come!  It was truly a miracle of miracles and I excitedly combed through all the gifts to make sure I had my fair share.  It was two years later that my father sat me down to laughingly tell me how well he had fooled me.  Santa is not real.

Santa is a prime example of how we can convince ourselves and others into believing in an obvious myth.  This Jesus Smith day, I sit and ponder the day I realized God isn't real and how much I had done to convince myself this myth was real.  I had been reading a book called The Goddess versus the Alphabet by Leonard Shlain.  It explores the history of religious belief in a very objective manner.  Reading the book made me really start to wonder how people can be so convinced of their belief (just as convinced as I was), all have spiritual experiences to confirm their belief, and all claim their belief is the only one that is true.  I wrestled with these thoughts throughout my reading of the book and about halfway through I concluded that the only logical explanation is to conclude no religion is true.  All religious belief is man-made, and "spiritual experiences" are nothing more than feelings people generate within themselves as a way to reinforce a belief they already think is true--including my own.  This is why people don't have these same feelings when examining belief systems not their own.

Perhaps my seemingly sudden loss of belief was a long time coming, but the moment I could objectively ask the question, "Is there a God?" I knew without a doubt the answer is no.  I felt a sudden intellectual relief.  I no longer had to do mental gymnastics to reinforce a belief in a deity.  I was empowered to make up my own mind about what is right or wrong.  I could shed the guilt of even thinking of things my religion deems are sinful thoughts.  I no longer had to worry about some all-knowing, all-powerful God watching and judging me.  I could free myself from an authoritarian, oppressive, and misogynistic world view and dissociate from people who viewed women as somehow inferior to their male counterparts.  I was free!

This Jesus Smith day I am celebrating my freedom from not only LDSinc, but from the dogma that imprisons peoples minds.

Merry Smithmas everyone!

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