You don't need to be right with the Lord to be alright with Easter. Everyone knows it's not about Jesus, anyway -- it's about peeps and the damned Easter Bunny!

I lost my faith sometime between the ages of 18 and 19. It's hard to say when, exactly. Unlike many of the atheists I've met (those who weren't raised without God anyway), the realization that there is no God did not accompany a terrible, life-altering tragedy and did not result in tears.

Okay, that's not entirely true. There were tears, but they weren't exactly the lonely tears of a man whose God had abandoned him. They were the tears of a teenage atheist who was still living in a Southern Baptist home and whose parents encouraged him to go to church every time the doors were open. In Kansas. In the 90's.

Why couldn't I just be agnostic, like everyone else?

I was torn between elation and sadness. Elation, because I could finally stop trying to reconcile what I knew to be real with what I had been raised to believe, with all my heart, all my life. "What would Jesus do?" could finally become the intellectual exercise it was always intended to be instead of a weapon of guilt wielded by bible-thumping fire-and-brimstone types. Sadness, though, because my own mother (if she found out) would believe with all her heart that she was doomed to an eternity in Heaven without the company of her first child. An eternity! It's true what they say: not even God'll help a young man who'll make his own mother cry.

Anyway, I had to get out of there.

Getting out of there, it turned out, took a few years. A few years of fucking up in school, changing jobs every six months, and watching as previously-pleasant theological debates with my father rapidly degenerated into arguments that laid bare untenable differences.

At one point during those years, while probing the labyrinth of my mind with psychedelic drugs, I wondered (maybe aloud; I don't know) whether it was still okay for me to observe the Christian holidays I'd grown up with. Now, there are certain devout Evangelicals who refuse to celebrate Halloween, but my family wasn't part of that group. Every Halloween, I'd dress up like a ninja or whatever, hang a green glo-stik around my neck, and go trick-or-treating. So maybe Christmas still gets the green light.

However, it did seem weird that a guy who didn't believe in Heaven or Hell would celebrate the birth of Christ. Plus, I was always taught that atheists all led a lonely, joyless existence. Despite the fact that this was counter to my own experience, I felt for a short time that maybe I wasn't allowed to have any fun.

Then the LSD wore off. What was I thinking? Even Buddhists celebrate Christmas! For Christ's sake, indeed... And what would the holy trinity of candy holidays be without Easter (the other two being, of course, Halloween and St. Valentine's Day)?

That was all I needed. Easter is a time when Christians in every nation acknowledge the price Christ paid for the world's sins. They go to church and they pray. Me, though, I go to the Seasonal aisle at the corner drug store, and I spend money. Nothing against the God stuff, of course -- no hard feelings. But I'm just here for the candy.

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