My Christmas plans for 2013 were finalized at the Thanksgiving table with my extended family.
This Christmas, I will be at home with none of my extended family around.
It all started at Thanksgiving with a simple suggestion from my simple living, retired mother-in-law to another of my sickly relatives to visit a faith healer. She explained that she had been reading up on the miracles some guy could perform, and it certainly couldn't hurt to give it a try, could it? Could it??
It was just a suggestion. My mother-in-law had neither loudly expelled gas nor announced plans to become a roadie for Marilyn Manson, and yet there were plenty of not-so-subtle glances of shock and incredulity shared around the table.
To "lighten" the mood, I stated supportively, "Well that makes as much sense as getting on your knees and asking an invisible God in the sky to heal you. At least you can look the faith healer in the eye when you ask for your money back."
"Bravo to me. Well done," I thought. Then I thought, "Uh oh."
I did follow up quickly with a "no offense - just my humble opinion" disclaimer. But it was too late. One person excused herself from the table, another was "not going to go there", and my mother's face turned Christmas-Sweater-Red in anticipation of a fight. It was time for me to sit back and enjoy the awkwardness, less I start a jihad with a turkey leg and sarcasm.
We live in a society where we are expected to deal with adult topics every day. For example, as a parent, I may need to explain to my children what a "Pussy Riot" is, and what homosexuality and bestiality are and why someone would compare the two. Yet, the mere hint that religious beliefs can be irrational, has a real risk of destroying or weakening family bonds.
It's no longer acceptable that families are torn apart because one member has decided to choose rationality over faith. So, for this Xmas, I will avoid my extended family, but build bonds with my immediate family, learning about love, giving, sharing, compassion, and the importance of family.
I hope that you will be able to do the same! If you cannot, I have heard of a faith healer who is apparently quite good.
Mike Johnson is an atheist blogger and a father of two children living in the middle of the US. Read more from Mike at http://archatheist.com/.