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?