Friday, April 30, 2010

My Background

My family is mostly English protestant, but on my mom's side my great-grandfather was Eastern Orthodox and my great-grandmother was Jewish. My mother's other grandparents rejected their families' religion. My mother was raised Unitarian Universalist, and explored her Jewish heritage as an adult, mostly through secular things like Yiddish and folk dancing. On the other side, my father's parents, raised nominally Presbyterian, became Quakers. My uncle married a Catholic, and so the most religious people in my family are probably Quakers and Catholics.

When I was little, I went to Unitarian Universalist Sunday School and nursery school. We celebrated Christmas and Easter, and I believed in Santa Claus but not in God. Occasionally we lit candles for Hanukkah, more to offset Christmas than because it's actually all that important. We stopped going to church when I was still pretty young, and I eventually stopped singing Christmas carols that mentioned God or Jesus. I gradually stopped all religious observance.

I alternated between atheist and agnostic over the years, and maintained no involvement with religion. Somewhere along the way, though, my mother managed to teach me a certain respect for Judaism and I ended up taking a Jewish Studies class in college, which left me with a desire to know more.

I started reading a lot of books about Judaism and Jewish history and so forth, most of the ones at my local library. I started going to services on occasion, and found myself enjoying the ritual. This raised a lot of questions, because I had always found religion boring, and I decided to try to believe.

A couple months down the road, I had a kind of epiphany. I had a dream I don't really remember, but I woke up in the morning with a sense of alarm and the thought, "What are you doing? You don't believe in God!" After that, I started reading atheist and agnostic books and I now feel more confident that God probably does not exist.

But it remains that I see value in some of the rituals and traditions, so I'm left trying to incorporate them into my life as an atheist. This blog will chronicle my attempts to do so.