When I go home to America next week for Christmas, I’ll go to church – the one my family and I used to attend every Sunday, a few towns over. I visit intermittently throughout the year when I’m back home, but I always go on Christmas Eve. The routine is the same: I sit quietly in the pews, sing along to the carols, and hope to have a second epiphany.
I had my first epiphany – that God exists – when I was a child. This, I’m sure, is the result of having two religious parents who raised me in the church. When I tell my British friends that I was brought up a Methodist, they tend to flash me a nervous look. I must assume that going to a Methodist church in the UK means something different than it does in liberal Connecticut. Mine is the kind of church where people hug you longer and harder if you haven’t shown up in a while; where the pastor tells you that hell is more of an allegory than it is a place any departed soul actually ends up.
When, as a teenager, I was confirmed, I ‘accepted Jesus into my heart’ as they asked us to do. But this was a formality. I had already accepted God’s existence years ago. Believing in a higher power has never been the hard part. It’s everything that follows as a consequence of having faith which I find difficult.
For many people in my life, their faith in God gives them strength and comfort. For other people I know, not believing in God also seems to provide some degree of assurance: there may be no light at the end of the tunnel, but they feel no pressure to reach it either.