I am watching the evolution of the third generation of our family’s non-believers. He’s 7 years old now, asking questions like “if everyone has a mother, than shouldn’t the first mother have had a mother.” And so he learns about evolution.
He doesn’t ask about god or the first Christmas. He knows the stories. The various creation stories. The various winter celebration stories. He knows that different people believe different things when it comes to all things “god.”
He’s never been to an actual church service, although he might when my 94 year old Catholic mother finally passes away. He understands death as the final human event, and he participated in our ritual when we sent his grandfather’s ashes into the sea. He understands the power of ritual, apart from its religious associations.
What causes him to wonder, to experience awe, are the questions of science. What makes him feel secure are the roots of family. What sparks his creativity is the vitality of this planet’s various mythologies.
I brought up two compassionate, ethical, moral children (now adults) without a belief in in god. If they feel the awesomeness of the divine around them, it is through the natural world and their connection to it. And through their example and teaching, my grandson is sensing that divine as well.
Some people find comfort in faith. That’s OK. It’s just not us.
But we do find comfort in some cultural traditions. Christmas, for example.
It’s Christmas Eve.
For dinner tonight, we will have beet barszcz and three different kinds of pierogi. My daughter has kept part of the family’s Polish food tradition.
We will open family presents tonight in front of the lit Christmas tree, and Santa will come when we are all asleep and fill our stockings. For us it’s a cultural thing, not a religious. After all, stories of virgin births are a part of almost every cultural mythology.
We will set a place for the absent member of our family, way out in Portland, Oregon, who, we hope, will enjoy the box of gifts we sent out to him.
On Christmas Day, we will go to my son-in-law’s family to continue the feast.
Christmas, Xmas, Yule, Saturnalia, Solstice. We celebrate our family and hope for a future in which we all will thrive.