By Chloe Lister
Despite the fact that my parents have been wholly committed to raising my sister and me Jewish due to the stipulations of my Holocaust survivor grandparents, my mom still clings to her Catholic origins.
She used to round up my sister and me, load us into the car, and take us to complete the ancient holiday ritual of taking a picture with “Santa” at the mall.
When I was seven, I heard some of the scandalous rumors circling the recess yard in first grade and I decided to get to the bottom of the issue.
I don’t recall the exact conversation that went on between Santa and me that day at the Sherman Oaks Fashion Square, but I do remember walking away from it convinced that he was a fraud and Santa was a lie. There wasn’t any big, spiritual epiphany when I realized that there was not in fact a jolly old man who, with a fleet of flying reindeer, delivered Christmas presents to all the children of the world; I simply ceased to believe in him and went on with my life.
Subsequently, I began to apply this superstition to other holiday symbols and religious icons: the Easter bunny, Elijah on Passover, and so on. When I stopped believing in God, it was much the same.
The thought of some higher power just didn’t seem logical. Since then, I’ve classified myself as an atheist, meaning I reject not only god as he is set forth by conventional religions, but all notions that there is any kind of deity in existence.
My family took this revelation surprisingly well; my dad will only occasionally make a snide quip about the money that went into my bat mitzvah, just to have me reject religion completely.
However, I think I’ve been pretty good about saying my “baruch ata Adonai”s and going to church for Christmas mass if my mom has a fit of nostalgia.
I could even muster a cheery smile when the homeless woman I gave five dollars to last weekend told me “God bless you” as if God was the reason I was helping her rather than my generosity.
A few weeks ago, the topic of religion came up while I was chatting with an acquaintance. I identified myself as an atheist, and she promptly launched into a story about an intense depression she went through and how “finding Jesus” was what finally helped her to recover, heavily implying that I should do the same.
I’m fully supportive of this girl’s choice to believe in God and I’m happy that she found in Jesus whatever it was she needed to turn her life around.
However, while I try my best to be accepting no matter how ridiculous the ideas of others sound, she was unabashed in her conviction that I needed to think the same way she did.
Most of the time, I am pleasantly surprised how accommodating to different beliefs our generation is, especially at school.
This incident and a few others, though, have caught me off guard and made me realize that there are people in the world who will judge you and think less of you for what you believe or don’t believe.