Sunday, 12 December 2010

A Year's Update

It's been a year and a half since my last post. There's so much to tell about what has happened to me since I started telling people I was an atheist. The past year or so has seen many ups, thankfully less downs and has just generally been terriffic.

I never knew that not being religious came with so many pleasures (sure, I was vaguely aware of it) so many simple things, like being able to eat a hot-dog from a street vendor after watching fireworks. Going to see a movie on a friday night with friends. Going to bars, socialising, reading "forbidden" blogs generally enjoying the better moments of television, stand-up comedy, live music when you're not supposed to listen to it, music in general (I was very frum) and the like.

Stating that I'm an atheist, though, has always been tougher. Declaring yourself an atheist is such a definitive thing to do, that I tend not to do it in social situations. Yes, I'm an atheist, absolutely. But I don't want to talk about whether or not the Man in the Sky frowns upon me for drinking the most delicious tasting non-kosher wine at £5 ($9) a glass. I want to relax.

But I had better start at the beginning, or rather, from where I left off.

The last post had me confused as to how to live out my life now I had decided to be an atheist. I was compartmentalising everything, non Jewish friends on one side, frum friends on the other, then less frum friends, then frum or less frum friends who knew and didn't know I was an atheist. And of course, my girlfriend and her family. I was in a spot of bother because I faced the possibility of some of these very different groups of people about to come together for my graduation, namely my non-Jewish girlfriend and my frum family.

I wanted my girlfriend to be able to attend the graduation, and had bought her a ticket. However, she felt sufficiently uncomfrotable to be alone with my parents for the first time, whom she knew had ideological problems with her, which meant she decided to pass up her ticket and watch the graduation on campus in a dedicated room via videolink (set up by the university to deal with surplus guests who couldn't watch it live).

We then all went together to the university organised after-party (strawberries and champagne, anyone?). This was the first time my parents, grandfather (dad's father) and grandmother (mum's mother), and my sister met my girlfriend for an extended period of time. We all went out to have dinner at a really nice kosher restaurant together. The whole episode was a bit awkward, yes, but I ignored it and pulled through. Everyone was civil to each other, which was good, and my girlfriend bonded with my (less religious, but still a believer) grandad, and that part was great.

Since then, my parents have ignored the whole bit about me being an atheist, and have pretty much accepted I don't share much of their way of life anymore. I don't go to shul (ever), I don't keep shabbat and they know it (though I've never actually told them), I don't believe in the Torah.

I do still live at home, and out of respect for that I don't flaunt the fact that I no longer keep kosher or shabbat. If I break shabbat, I do it when there's no one around, or when I'm out with non-religious friends. I respect meat-milk laws at home and keep kashrut completely when at home. At home, there are little to no conflicts about how I live my life now.

My aunts and uncles tend not to be on the same page as my parents, however. Maybe it's because they're not as used to seeing me without a skull-cap, or not go to synagogue when it's time to. Who knows? But I get a lot of stick for being an atheist from them. Every so often they even try to set me up with Jewish girls despite knowing I'm dating someone. I find this hugely disrespectful to myself, my girlfriend and my chosen way of life and I largely make this fact known. The fact is, they're in denial about the fact that I've chosen not to be with a Jewish girl. But also, they're afraid.

They're afraid if I continue a long term relationship with her, or marry her, I'll set a dangerous precedent for their own children, some of whom look up to me as a kind of "cooler," older cousin. I know this because as much has been said to me directly. The uncle who told me this acknowledged, without a word from me at all, that this may be selfish of them, but hey, self preservation comes first.

As for my part, I believe it is selfish of them to attempt to make me break up with someone I'm happy with. But I can't help but think maybe I'm being a tad selfish too, relentlessly pursuing courses of action that I know makes them unhappy. But I think this is the rub in life. You can't make everyone happy, and neither should you try. There are bound to be people who disagree with my choices, but then, there always will be.

As you can see, coming out of the atheist closet has its ups and downs. There are lots of good points to it. There are also many bad points to it. But we only live once (no, this is not a rehersal) so why not try to be happy? At the end of the day, what you believe in won't save you from your mortality, and the fact that you will no longer be walking upon this earth once you die. So after you've established your definite disbelief, why live in the closet when you can actually enjoy the life you want to lead?

Friday, 20 March 2009


Hey guys, come in. Long time no see, I know, my apologies: but this relationship is a two way thing you know. Your comments get my posts. Ah, maybe that's just me trying to justify my absence, which has been rather long this time. In fact, it's been about 10 weeks long, the entire academic term of my university.

That's right, I study in a university in Britain (a fact I had tried to conceal initially, but I was just too proud to let go of British spellings in favour of American ones, even for the sake of my cover. Besides, who cares that much? Wow, those were long go back and read the sentence again whilst excluding the brackets so it makes sense!) and am going to graduate this year, all being well, with a decent grade.

I would like to turn up to my own graduation ceremony, it's one of those things in life. Perhaps contrary to popular American belief, in every day life the modern British populace do not go around in black gowns and tasseled hats whilst clutching scrolls, meandering cobbled London streets on a chilly eventide, tipping hats to damsels who pass us by. Which is in my opinion, frankly, a shame, as it would be absolutely brilliant to do all those things.

Ah, I can imagine myself now, meandering those London streets, preferably with a cane in hand, a fashion statement in my youth but a useful tool in my old age - a tool for tripping up boisterous children with, that is.

Anyhow, enough of that daydreaming. I graduate. And I have a dilemma.

Seeing as how this is a significant event, I would like my girlfriend to be there. But I'd like my parents to be there too. That is, my non-Jewish atheist girlfriend and my Orthodox Jewish parents. See where this is going? Good.

I've been dating my girlfriend for a year and am still even more madly in love with her than when we started. It really would mean a lot to me for her to be there. But I don't want sparks to fly either...I have a few options, some of which aren't options:

(1) Not invite my girlfriend and (2) Not invite my parents
I have clumped these first two options together as they are both equally insensitive and a rather inane "solution" to the problem. Not inviting either of the parties is out of the question.

3) Invite my girlfriend for after the ceremony
The ceremony itself will be rather long and tedious. I'll be on stage for all of 20 seconds as I shake the hand of someone who is supposed to be important, whilst they hand over my degree [that I've paid for through my own blood, sweat and toil]. Really, there's no reason she should be subjected to that tedium when she can see me after the ceremony at my university still in robes and all.

4) Invite my parents for after the ceremony.
Not really an option for all sorts of reasons, primarily because they're my parents and really ought to be there. They educated me and helped me get into university in the first place, so really ought to be there.

5) Invite both, but give them separate seating.
This is the best solution I've been able to come up with so far. Giving them separate seating would solve a lot of issues, but it still presents others. Who do I hug first? Do I hug my girlfriend in front of my parents? Should they be given room to chat and size each other up? Will my parents even come if they knew my girlfriend would be there?

A lot of those issues can be pre-empted simply by telling my parents that my girlfriend will be there, so it shouldn't come as a surprise when I do hug her, etc.

Plus, this wouldn't really be an official meeting of the parents, as the sole purpose of the meeting isn't to meet: it's to be there for me. It just so happens someone in addition to my parents cares about me (a fact for which I am very happy) and has turned up to this event in my life. But then again, as there will be meetage at some point: it is completely unrealistic to keep them apart the whole time, the idea is just to ensure they're not alone together, hence the separate seating idea for the ceremony.

What do you guys think?

Thursday, 8 January 2009


I asked my girlfriend to write a blog post about what it's like to date a Jewish person, in order for us all to get a bit of a perspective change: we often hear about what it's like for an ex-Orthodox Jew to enter the wider world, but hardly ever what it's like for someone in the wider world to get involved with an ex-OJ. We decided it would be easier and less time consuming to write a blog post if I just asked her a load of questions to which she could reply, interview style, which is what I've done here. This is only a small interview, but some analysis of mine follows. My questions are in red.

Did you ever feel the need to tell your parents that I was Jewish?
not really a need, not at first. but it was an interesting bit of info... so I told my mum, and my friend. later on, when problems started, it was the only way to explain why i haven’t met your family, why I cant stay over at your house etc.

why is it interesting info?
because it’s unusual. There are approximately no Jews where I live…. there’s definitely not a recognised “community”.

are you aware that your way of life is a little unusual to your boyfriend?
I am now… :P

you said that problems started. What sort of problems are these and how do you feel about them?
the only stuff I know is stuff which is viewed through your eyes and then relayed to me. and from what you've told me, they're not at all happy about me being not-Jewish. I think my main problem is one of frustration, because i wouldn't deal with them how you're dealing with them. I’d be much more tempted to tell them what's what.

What IS what?
It’s not acceptable to reject your son on the grounds of his choices with regards to religion. and it's not even that. it's like you're a clan, a community, and it's nothing to do with religion. it's sticking to what you know and who you know and outsiders are some sort of evil force. there's no regard for me as a person and my attributes. nothing is thought of me other than " she’s not Jewish"

how does that make you feel?
Offended and more than a little annoyed. though they’re probably only able to think that because I live far away and because i haven’t met them. If I wasn’t just an abstraction, a faceless name, i wouldn’t be so easy to dismiss.

Why don’t you blame me for any of this?
because you’re in a position where its really HARD to take action. they’ve put you in that position.

do you think I put myself in that position by being involved with you?
i don’t think you should take any of the blame. i don’t know who's to *blame* or even whether blame is the right word here. i don’t even really know how your parents feel about the whole matter, because nothings ever directly dealt with.

how does it make you feel that you may never meet my parents?
well, i wouldn’t let that happen... i don't think anyone should just sit back and let that happen. If they refused to meet me and it got to a serious stage, with marriage etc., id spring it on them.

how do you like kosher food?
some is good, some is not so good, same as non-kosher food. I liked the tuna bagel we had last time…

do you find it strange that I don't know about a lot of popular culture?
not strange... its understandable considering your upbringing

Is there anything about my Jewishness that's a problem for you or your parents?
No, but my dad gets frustrated with your family some of the time. He doesn’t really get Orthodox Judaism, because he doesn’t know anything about it. i guess my parents just presume that ill meet up with your family eventually and it’ll be fine. When that doesn’t happen, like when I say I can’t stay at your house, they just don’t get it.

i have a hard time explaining it to them because i feel like i have to defend your parents/family’s actions, but in reality... i don’t really feel like defending them.

a few weeks back they wanted to send a Christmas card to your parents… I was like, i don’t think that'd go down well, but he said “well i wouldn’t object to a Hanukah card being sent to me”

Does this seem to be discriminatory in some way to you?
discriminatory, yeah. definitely intolerant.*

Why do you put up with this intolerance?
You know why :P

A Thought
There's a lot to be said on this interview, but for now, I'm going to limit myself to the following thought. If anyone wishes to analyse any other bits, feel free.

*This brings up an interesting and important issue. The mistrust of Christian festivals may be due to centuries of persecution of the collective European Jewish people, culminating in the Holocaust in modern times. However, whilst this may be true, we have to decide for ourselves how far that argument is valid, or if disassociation from any social groupings is a tactic of social cohesion - and whether the persecution argument is being used to cover that up. I'm of the opinion that it is a valid argument, but can be extended only so far. Jewish people must realise that the entire world isn't anti-semitic, and there really are people who don't sit about plotting how to make the life of a Jew miserable, and others who are actually friendly. For those Jews who do know this, I believe the 'persecution' argument is used as a cover-up: all OJs/ex-OJs reading this are most likely familiar with the idea that the "new" form of persecution and wish to "destroy the Jews" is by accepting us into society, in order to mix with everyone, intermarry, and lose our Jewishness. Clearly, this is just untrue and what's going on here is that the idea of persecution is being used to cover up what is nothing more than a tactic of social cohesion.

Saturday, 20 December 2008

Mis-Nagid On Chanuka

Today, there are many profound Jewish sceptic blogs.

A few years ago, there were even more. Mis-nagid is a legend. The blog may be gone and his posts deleted, but his spirit and name lives on. This is my tribute to the legend: a post Mis-Nagid's I managed to find after much searching on the internet. I found it 8 months ago and have kept it ever since to post on Chanuka. Chanuka is all but here. Now settle down and hear the words of the profound.

Thus spoke Mis-nagid:

Frum Fantasy or How a Legend Spawned an Industry

The frum world is thoroughly suffused with fantasy and ignorance. Frum people know pathetically little about their own history and practices, and what they do know is usually wrong. In general, frum institutions never teach any history at all, or at least nothing that deserves the name. Most yeshiva bochurim have no idea what was going on in the world at the same time as any Jewish event. All "history" is seen through the gauze of fantasy. The frum view of the history of world revolves around Jews and includes lots of myths, which makes for a witch's brew that has little to do with real history.

The root cause of this lack of rigor in understanding the past is the need for ignorance. After all, if you ask "What was going on in the rest of the world during Noach's Great Flood?" you may be surprised to find out that great (undisturbed) civilizations in Egypt and China were already writing stuff down, and never mentioned any flood. As the frum dogmas are not grounded in reality, so too the history must be kept floating above the ground, never attached to anything of substance, lest it come tumbling down to earth.

Chanukah, one of the few Jewish holidays based on a true historical event, is, ironically, no exception to this. Grab a frum person and quiz him or her: In what year was Chanukah? Who was Antiochus? Who were the Yevonim? Who were the Chasmonoyim? How long did the war last? You'll get the most pathetic answers (if you get any), because frum people have no sense of history. Shoot, most frum people don't know what the word "frum" means, or where it comes from! [*]

There is one aspect of frum Chanukah that truly brings this sense of ahistory into sharp relief. Case in point: the Bais Yosef's Kasha. To those of you lucky enough to be uninitiated in the frum cult, this peculiar obsession of frum Chanukah takes the form of a question. The Bais Yosef asked, "If the oil could have lasted for one day, but lasted for eight, only seven of them can be termed miracles. So why celebrate eight (rather than seven) days?"

This "difficulty" occupies a special place in the frum universe; it's a "true" classic. Gallons of ink were poured to answer this stupid question. Virtually every frum commentator since his time has had a crack at it. There's even a very large sefer consisting of nothing but answers to this one question. However, every single one of those answers is wrong -- completely, utterly, and totally wrong.

Before I get to the correct answer, let's understand why they're wrong. Don't worry, I don't have to refute them all, one at a time. The reason they're off-base is simple: it's a legend. The story of the miraculous oil was made up approximately six hundred years after the events of Chanukah. Of course the rabbinical legend has inconsistencies -- it's fiction. There's no point in trying to "fix" them. It's like reading Curious George and trying to explain how so few balloons could lift a monkey of George's heft.

Now, to the real answer to the Bais Yosef's Kasha.

Due to their aforementioned lack of history sense, most frum people have no idea that there are books written from the era of the Maccabees. Nor do they know that these books make no mention of any miracles. Ask a frum person what is says in the two[**] Books of Maccabees, and they'll say "Books of Maccabees?" I'll not get into why those books are invisible from the frum world, but I'll note one piece of irony. Virtually every frum child knows the Chanukah story of Channah and her seven sons. Where's the story from? The Book of Maccabees 2.

Were you to read the actual history of Chanukah, when you get to the part about the rededication [chanukah] of the Temple, you'd find the following:

10:5 Now upon the same day that the strangers profaned the temple, on the very same day it was cleansed again, even the five and twentieth day of the same month, which is Casleu [Kislev].
10:6 And they kept the eight days with gladness, as in the feast of the tabernacles [Sukkot], remembering that not long afore they had held the feast of the tabernacles [Sukkot], when as they wandered in the mountains and dens like beasts.
10:7 Therefore they bare branches, and fair boughs, and palms also [lulavim, hadassos, aravos], and sang psalms [Hallel] unto him that had given them good success in cleansing his place.
10:8 They ordained also by a common statute and decree, That every year those days should be kept of the whole nation of the Jews.

That's right, the very first Chanukah was a delayed Sukkot. Sukkot traditionally required going to the Temple, but on the correct date for Sukkot, the Temple was still under Seleucid control, so it was not celebrated properly. The Maccabees cleverly scheduled the Temple's grand reopening on the anniversary of its sacking, and celebrated Sukkot like it's supposed to be. It was especially poignant due to the fact that the transient and ephemeral living embodied in the story of Sukkot was so resonant with them, having just spent so long hiding in mountains and caves.

Furthermore, the book opens with a letter to the Jews in Alexandria, telling them to celebrate this new holiday:

1:9 And now see that ye keep the feast of tabernacles [Sukkot] in the month Casleu [Kislev].

That is the correct answer to the Bais Yosef's Kasha. The reason Chanukah is eight days (instead of seven) is because it was a delayed Sukkot, which has eight days. It was always eight days, and the rabbis made their legend match the extant practice, leading to the slight inconsistency noted by the Bais Yosef.

Before I close this post, I'd like to add a piece of speculation. The Mishna nevers discusses Chanukah, even going so far as to give a grave warning against reading the Books of Maccabees (Sanhedrin 10:1). In the only Gemara to discuss Chanukah, history gets three lines, while ritual minutaie get more than three pages. However, there is one interesting link in this rabbinified version of Chanukah that may hint at their knowledge of its true origins.

In the discourse on how to light the Chanukah candles, two opinions are proffered. One says to start with one candle on the first night and add one each night, until you are lighting eight on the final night. The other says to start with eight and remove one each night. Where it gets interesting is the reason offered for the latter position. The justification given is that the candles represent "parei hechag," the bulls of the holiday. By this he means the bulls offered on Sukkot. As recounted in the Torah, those bulls were offered in decreasing number each successive day.

The commentators struggle to explain why that Sukkot practice is relevant to Chanukah lights. Some of them are almost amusing in their tortured logic. I'd like to offer a possibility; that this could be a partial remnant of the earlier explanations for the custom of the Chanukah lights.

email me: [mis-nagid_AT_hush_DOT_com]

[*] It's a Yiddishization of the German "fromm," meaning pious. Admit it, you didn't know that.
[**] The other Books of Maccabee aren't about Chanukah, and are somewhat misnamed

Relations with Relations

Life is hard. In particular, choices we make in life are hard. It's difficult to know precisely which choice will elicit which reaction from whom.

In fact, if Life were a video game, Choice would be the evil monsters you have to kill along the way, with some sort of Choice Big Boss at the of it, who you had to defeat using nothing but your words, whilst it threw rocket propelled grenades at you. A difficult task indeed.

Obviously, real life is nothing like a video game. There's no answer book, no walkthrough, no Dragons of Eternity guarding the Mountain of Doom that we have to defeat, afterwhich our overall purpose is revealed. We have to find our own purpose in life, and be happy with it.

No-one makes their choices in a vacuum, because we're all connected to people somehow. Therefore a sceptic being sceptical about religion may very well have the effect of upsetting said sceptic's religious, Ultra-Orthodox family. You'll notice I didn't say the sceptic has a choice in whether or not they're sceptical: I think scepticism is something thrust on people, rather than an actual choice we make.

The choice comes in what we do with that scepticism. We have to decide to live life and we either live it in line with religion or we don't. There's no halfway house: you're either going to turn on the computer on the Sabbath, or decide not to because it's the Sabbath. There are similar choices for sceptics in other religions to make like this. In other words, life isn't agnostic. Life is one way or the other. No-one can rightfully be said to teeter on the brink of Orthodoxy and Atheism, though this is what the tag-line of my blog claims, because there's simply no halfway house to teeter in. You can be an atheist and doubt you're right, but you're still atheist until you realign your values and subsaquently your actions: if there's no change in actions, I'd very much doubt there has been an actual change in values; people act on the values they hold.

I believe this to be true in a general sense. Where it gets skewed is where there are other people concerned. Say, your family. Though my values have changed compared to when I was growing up, I choose not to act out on all of them whilst I still live at home, because I don't want to offend my parents. Therefore, when at home I keep kosher and don't ever admit to them I don't keep kosher out of the home, or in any way lead a life which isn't in line with Orthodox Judaism.

Obviously, they're not silly and because they know my views and know that I have a non-Jewish, atheist girlfriend, can guess that not keeping kosher is the least of my transgressions. But this is something which hasn't really been spoken about until today.

A relative decided to confront me about my beliefs and lifestyle around the Shabbat table at lunch time, something I didn't exactly appreciate. I didn't appreciate it because apart from it being inapropriate to deny god at the table of any Orthodox Jewish family, I'm trying to protect everyone from my views, especially my younger sibling.

I'm not going to be convincing anyone in my house that god doesn't exist, neither do I seek to. But I do know that arguing for atheism will cause anguish and pain. To explain why I have a non-Jewish girlfriend means I have to outrightly deny all that which my family hold dear, out loud.

True, it's something I've done bit by bit through the past year.
True, the very fact that I have a girlfriend who isn't Jewish is already a denial of every Jewish value ever established.

But until now, there was some sort of tacit agreement that life is what it is and I'm making different choices to those my parents made. Now, however, I'm being forced to reveal all my cards on the table in one go. I feel that doing so would irrevocably damage the relationship I have with my family.

But why do I have a non-Jewish girlfriend?
Because I don't believe there's any inherent difference between a Jew and non-Jew, so to justify the fact that she isn't Jewish isn't really meaningful to me beyond the understanding that my family are demanding an explanation. Because I don't want to bring up my children in any sort of religious life-style. Because I want to be an all-in atheist and it's unlikely a non-Jewish atheist girl from a secular home is going to be reverting back to religion any time soon, something which can't be said from a tight-knit community of Jews.

Why this particular girl?
Because I love her and she's a rare catch. Because she shares my values and opinions on life. Because, in a nutshell, I feel we can have a good future together.

I love my family dearly, neither do I seek to deny the Jewish heritage of which I'm very proud. In an ideal world, I could have my family and heritage, and still get involved with this girl without anyone minding. But this doesn't seem to be a very realistic aspiration.

It's ever so difficult to have to choose between the girl I love and my family who I love. But this is the position I'm being pushed into from all sides, explicitly or implicitly, and it is quite pressuring.

I always knew there'd be a time when it became impossible for me to live at home, if I wanted to act on my values. I wonder if that time is now. I wonder if leaving the home is the right choice: some distance, so as not to flaunt my lifestyle, may be better than the daily reminder or heresy that I seem to have become.

Indeed, choices are hard.

Friday, 3 October 2008

Credit Crunch Madness

"Credit Crunch" sounds like a cereal, or possibly some sort of game like pac-man, except the little dots you have to eat are dollar signs.

Obviously, though, it's what the world is calling the recession without actually using that hair-raising, completely horrifying term.

One Rabbi has been paying attention to the economic downturn, however, and one of his sermons included a little bit about it. The credit crunch, he explained, is religiously significant. That's why it happened on Rosh Hashana!

This is obviously untrue. The credit crunch has been in the making for many months, the economic bubble of goodness was popped when everyone realised some @ssholes on wall street were granting and then selling on sub-prime mortgages.

I am saddened, therefore, to see a relative who has some connection to the city and is trained in the way of finance to suspend his training and logic and accept, even defend, this Rabbi's words as true.

I wonder if this Rabbi actually believes his words, or if he got caught in the moment of what he saw as a good sermon, and exaggerated.

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

The Rabbi

"Come in" said the smiling face, one hand motioning me inside, the other holding the front door. "You're here for the meeting? Good, he's expecting you, please, come right inside." The answers seemed to follow the questions by themselves, I smile politely and step inside the house, not yet uttering a word.

It smells of cooking. Who knows what was being cooked: maybe a chicken, maybe a chulent, maybe one hundred other things or perhaps nothing at all. But all around, the house smelled of cooking, the sort that wafted through my house and a million other Jewish homes on Friday evenings. How was it that a Rabbi's house maintains that smell all week around? As I was lead into the study, I wondered whether it was because the cooking lingered on the walls, whether he would notice my Tzitzis hanging on my sides, what the weather was going to be like tomorrow, what the words the Rebbetzin was saying that I wasn't hearing, was my Kappel on or did I forget, where should I say that I davened this evening if I was asked, should I--

"Oh, I'm sorry," I reply, apologising for the day-dreaming. What was it she asked me? Probably something about a drink. "Thank you for offering," I smile "but I'm fine" - I could really use a drink, I think, as I sit in the chair she's pointing at. She'll be back in a moment and the study is cluttered, books everywhere, papers everywhere, especially papers, the desk the chairs the bookcases the floor the walls the ceiling, the cup by my side. "Thank you" I smile, picking it up, almost forgetting to make a brachca before drinking. I need to focus. I try and focus.

After a short wait, I hear a key going through a lock on the front door. It slides in, turns and slides out. The door closes with a bang and I know the Rabbi is home. Greetings occur.

The door opens and a bearded man, about as tall as me, older, wiser, walks in.

"Ah!" he says, as if seeing an old friend. "Who are you?" I tell him. "Of course, of course. Tell me" says he, sitting down in his chair "what are you doing now?" And so the pre-sparring begins. Each sizes the other up. I purposely fiddle with my tzitzis, he notices, watching my actions, assuming it's my nerves and not a plot to get him to believe I'm more of a Yid than I am.

"So" he says, "what's your question?"
I start small, questioning tiny spiritual matters, but quickly progress to the big picture. I don't say I don't believe it, but neither do I commit when he asks. An hour goes by.

I survive. I offer no proofs for atheism, that is not my aim, but I manage to rebut his answers. They are simple ones, the sort I've answered many times before to many different people. He appreciates the diversity of my answers, he notes that I merely challenged what he says, not what he believes.

I am given a book to read, to discuss until next we meet. He pledges to rebut my questions, when next we meet. I am dismissed. I am whole and complete, I am still me, not plunged into doubt about my choices from his words at all, I can leave with a smile. I have long made my peace with who I am and I trust I will find my place in time. I am happy with who I am.

If only everyone could be happy for me too.