November 23, 2017

Conformity and Tradition

turkey
I've never been terribly good at conformity. There were plenty of times during my childhood when I desperately wanted to fit in; I just wasn't skilled at doing so. I was too curious, asked too many questions, and resisted doing things I didn't want to do unless the reasons I was given for why I needed to do them made sense to me. By the time I reached adolescence, this often looked oppositional. I wasn't intentionally trying to rebel against authority, at least not initially, but it had to have looked like that to others. The more pressure I faced to conform, the more questions I asked and the more I pushed back.

I'm still not good at conformity, and I continue to resist doing things that don't make any sense to me. The difference is that this no longer has much of a rebellious edge to it. I don't think others perceive me as pushing back against convention as much as they perceive me as indifferent to or uninterested in much of it. This accurately reflects how I feel. When I opt out of convention or tradition, it is because I don't enjoy it.

Thanksgiving is one time of year when I often find myself thinking about this sort of thing because it is an example of a tradition I skip because I've never enjoyed it, see little point in it, and would prefer to use the time in other ways. I feel the same way about Christmas (although I do enjoy participating in the war on it every year) and most other holidays.

When it comes to gods, I have no evidence that any exist. This lack of evidence is always the primary reason I'd give when explaining why I am an atheist. But this is only part of the story as to why I do not participate in religious rituals, ceremonies, or beliefs. These things hold no appeal for me. I don't enjoy them. Much like the traditional Thanksgiving meal with which I grew up, the religious beliefs with which I grew up are something I'd prefer to skip. And as an adult, I get to skip them.

I am perfectly capable of participating in Thanksgiving or Christmas celebrations. I could dress appropriately, plaster a fake smile on my face, and join others for these occasions. I've done it plenty of times, and while I don't enjoy it, I know I can do it if I have to. I could do the same thing when it comes to religion. I could attend church, falsely profess god-belief, and go through other motions aimed at convincing the locals that I was one of them. I wouldn't enjoy this either, but I might derive some benefits from it that I might enjoy. But much like the holiday celebrations, I'd rather not put myself in those situations.

Whether you are celebrating Thanksgiving or not, I hope you have a good day, enjoy yourself, and manage to avoid the sort of tribalism that detracts from too many holiday celebrations.