These days we are swamped with strident atheists. They are popping up everywhere. On the web. On the best seller’s lists. We even see them on ‘free to air’ TV. Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, even comedians and actors are ‘coming out’. Ricky Gerveis and Steven Fry to name just two. The list seems endless, and yet somehow, it is still growing.
Even so, I for one do not think it will last. I believe that this is just a post hoc reaction to the ending of the last century. Don’t get me wrong, I find many of these rabble rousing trouble makers entertaining, and my dad is a vociferous ‘sceptic’, so I have an affection for at least a few of them.
I myself, am not an atheist, never was, never will be. The day my dad finally leaves this mortal coil, I think that will be the day that the last atheist will have died.
When I was a child I was a believer in the supernatural. I believed firmly in the holy trinity. Santa, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy were very real to me. Now my belief was no matter of mere wish thinking or faith. I had first hand evidence for the existence of each and everyone of these supernatural entities. Each had manifested in my life directly, in fact I have spoken to Santa personally.
I guess it was December, 1996. Me, mum and my brother had just given dad a new mobile, a blue Nocia ‘flip’ phone. It was an early Christmas present and he was chuffed. It was much smaller than the one it replaced and it could even take photos, albeit small grainy ones.
The family was having an impromptu gathering in our kitchen, I think it must have been a Saturday afternoon. I, who would have been five years old, was there, as were my grandparents, Aunty Gabby, mum, dad, my older brother Redmond and two of my cousins were there too.
It was chaotic, as all such gatherings are at our place. My brother was running around in his cricket whites, annoying everyone, my Aunty, mum and grandparents were engrossed in a loud discussion in Hungarian, dad had wandered off to work out how to use his new mobile and I was at the table sneaking chocolate truffles.
Suddenly the home phone rang. Although really, when you stop to think about it, that is about the only way a phone can ring. Everyone else was busy and I was in reach of it, so I grabbed the hand set, pulling at the white coiling cable, and answered in my best grown up voice “Hello?”
There was a moments silence on the phone, and nothing but noise in the kitchen, then a strange man’s voice said “Hello Jessica, I was hoping to speak to you.”
I looked about the kitchen but mum was busy listening to Mapu, and dad was nowhere to be seen, so I decided that it would probably be ok to continue the conversation. Well, at least nobody was trying to stop me anyway, and that is pretty much the same thing.
“How did you know it was me?” I asked, I remembered that I had not said my name.
“It is my job to know these things Jessica, I am Santa. I have been checking my list, and I noticed that both you and your brother have been pretty good this year. Well, shall we say, more good than bad, at the least.”
This was pretty serious stuff. Santa had a big impact with five year olds. I listened on intently, there was no way anyone else was getting the phone now.
“I am reading your letter, the one you just sent me, and I just wanted to make sure I get it right. You already have a Woody doll and you wanted to get a Jessy doll. Is that right, or is it a Buzz Lightyear that you wanted me to bring you? I wasn’t sure.”
“Yes Santa, that’s right. I am pretty sure that mum and dad are getting me a Buzz, so I really need a Jessy.” I told him. “If you can do that.” I added, remembering to be polite.
“Great, thanks Jessica. Say hello to your brother and cousins for me. And no trying to stay awake on Christmas Eve now, either.” Said Santa.
“Sure Santa. Thanks.” I replied, and with that the phone went silent. Santa had hung up.
I suddenly remembered where I was, but nobody had noticed a thing. Mum, Aunty Gabby, Momma and Mopu were still talking away in Hungarian, Red, Cilla and Andrew, were jumping on the couch in the sunroom and dad wandered back into the kitchen waving his phone at mum saying “Got it sorted. It works a treat.”
It took me a few minutes to calm down enough to tell everyone what had just happened. Red was angry at me, that I had not called him over. My cousins did not believe me, but for some reason I could not understand Santa did not visit them, so I guess that sort of made sense. And mum and dad were just impressed with Santa’s efficiency. Although they then told me that I was not supposed to answer the phone, and even if I did I was supposed to get one of them straight away.
Being partly European, my family does it’s gift giving on the night before Christmas. Sure enough, when we tore open our presents that Christmas Eve, I found that mum and dad had got me a Buzz Lightyear.
Then, when Redmond told me that he was going to stay awake and catch Santa, I suddenly remembered Santa’s last warning, so I said to Red that this year I would rather just go to bed and wait for the morning.
Christmas morning, and Santa was true to his word. Under our tree the box with my name on it contained a Jessy doll’ with gun and hat and everything. He have even drawn a winking eye on the card next to my name.
As to my dealings with the Easter bunny and the Tooth fairy? Well, they did not go anywhere near as smoothly, but then, they are other stories for another time.
I am an adult now, living in my own home, and even though my most recent Easter egg hunt at mum and dad’s place was only a couple of years ago, I obviously no longer believes in Santa or the Easter bunny, and the tooth fairy is all but forgotten.
But unlike my dad, I do not disbelieve in a personal God, or a vengeful God, a loving God or even a creator God. The truth is not that I am not an atheist, more correctly, I am not even an atheist. For me, the question just does not even arise. Why should it? I have had no reason to even consider such entities. To be honest, they just never cropped up.
Do not get me wrong, I had my wealth of childhood magic. My parents made sure of that. I lived with, and loved, and eventually grew out of the loving and simplistic world of childhood delights. No, as for magical beings, the big three were more than enough.