It’s been a while since I’ve posted, but I can tell you that Easter this year was probably one of the worst I’ve had to endure yet. I had already called my parents and told them my husband and I wouldn’t be coming “home” for Easter, but that didn’t stop the questions from them and many of our friends:
“Did you go to church?”
“Which church did you go to?”
“How was the sermon?”
I feel like such a schmuck as I sidestep the questions, giving vague replies so that I’m not out-and-out lying, but it still leaves a bitter taste in my mouth. I hate lying to people I care about, but the very reason I do lie to them is because I care too much to distress them with the truth.
If I tell them I didn’t go to church, they will want to know why, and I will either have to make up another lie, or I will have to tell them the truth – that I don’t believe in God. I imagine how my mother would react. The crying; the horror; this disbelief. I just can’t do it, but I’m left feeling slightly dirty and very dishonest. I hate this duplicity and the annual “Easter Charade” For me, Easter is the worst holiday of the year, even worse than Christmas, because it focuses more on the miracle of the resurrection and is a more spiritually focused holiday. Christmas is an overwhelming jumble of religious, secular and commercial where details like Faith and Belief can get shuffled aside. Put simply, it’s easier to fake it at Christmas.
Once again, as I listen to Easter music in the week leading up to Easter Sunday, I’m reminded of how much I miss the music and ceremony of attending church. Liturgical music is uplifting, inspiring and comforting all at once Iand I miss hearing it and singing it. Occassionally I attend services with my parents when I visit them and I always sing enthusiastically. I love the hymns and I sometimes feel something that might be a remnant of my old faith. I discover that I still yearn for that sense of certainty and belonging.
The odd thing about lying to my family and friends about believing in God is that it bothers me a lot more than most people would think. Let me assure you, just because I’m an athiest it doesn’t mean I don’t have a moral compass. In fact, I find that I hold myself to a higher standard these days. I believe that I have to strive to be a better person and to do what is right because I need to better myself in order to better the world. And without God putting restrictions on our behavior, the only thing that can hold us to a higher standard is . . . ourselves! Some people refer to this as “Humanism.” I don’t know enough about humanism to judge yet, but I’ll be reading up on it in the coming days. If for no other reason than to find a label for my belief system now that God no longer exists for me.
So if you’re a believer, would you want to know if someone you loved was atheist? And if you’re a closet atheist like me, do you feel guilty about “faking” your beliefs?
…And so it begins! The Lenten season is already in full swing, but these last few weeks leading up to Easter are always difficult for me. Particularly since I live in a town where there is an unusual number of people who are regular church goers, are Catholic and take these liturgical seasons very seriously. While they celebrated Fat Tuesday in style, giving up something for Lent was serious business and much more important. I was asked several times by friends and even acquaintances at work what I was giving up for Lent. My simplistic reply was, “I’m not Catholic.” It covers the question without being a lie. I’m NOT Catholic, but that’s not my real reason. My real reason is that I just don’t believe that giving something up for six weeks is simply a gesture, not a commitment. If I really want to give something up, it had better be for good.
My parents have already asked me what I’m doing for Palm Sunday and Easter. I live in another state, so it’s easy to say, “I’m sure we’ll go somewhere with friends.” It’s the usual dilemma I haven’t solved yet – lying bothers me, but telling them the truth – that I simply don’t believe the Easter story anymore – would be so hurtful that I can’t do it. My mother and grandmother would put me on prayer chains, meet with the minister and pray for my soul. They would lay awake at night worrying that I will suffer in Hell for all eternity. And in their minds, this would be a very real possibility. I love them too much to do this to them. They are too old for such debates and I don’t want to weaken their faith in any way since it’s such a solace and anchor for them.
At this time of year I feel more like an imposter than ever because when I was a believer, I preferred Easter over Christmas. It was so much more hopeful and far less commercialized. And the music! The Hallelujah Chorus, “Up From the Grave He Arose,” “Were You There?” “He Lives!” The list goes on and I love those hymns to this day. They still have the power to move me. “But how do they move you if you don’t believe?” you may ask. Because I’m moved by the power of the imagery they evoke. I’m moved by the faith and emotion it gives to others. I’m moved by the strength of sacrifice that others made long ago. But I do not believe. And it makes me feel alone in the crowd.