Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg got some flak over the festive period, after innocently posting a “Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah” message on Facebook.
Despite having previously defined as an atheist, Zuckerberg explained, in response to comments under his post, that: “I was raised Jewish and then I went through a period where I questioned things, but now I believe religion is very important”.
Having been raised in a Christian family myself, I wrote for Independent Voices about why I can relate to Zuckerberg’s change of heart. I recently lost someone special, whose love, warmth and openness were a big influence on my life, and whose funeral really made me rethink the value of having a faith like hers.
Despite the headline (which I didn’t write), I’ve never really considered myself an atheist, although I’m not sure I believe in a God. I guess humanist probably comes closest to how I’d define my views. But I do also believe that my Christian upbringing played a big role in shaping my values and outlook on the world, and I can definitely see the importance of religion – or faith, or spirituality, or whatever else it may be – when it’s based on love, compassion, openness, tolerance and respect like my Aunty Grace’s was.
Of course, with eye-watering predictability and zero sense of irony, a small number from the band of anonymous, militant Twitter atheists saw my thoughtful, personal reflection on the compassion of my late relative, and responded to it with caps-lock, abuse and name-calling. Which doesn’t make all atheists tw*ts any more than all Muslims are terrorists or all Christians are “God hates fags”-placard-waving, abortion-clinic-protesting, science-denying creationists. I did have to laugh though!
(Please don’t bother getting in touch to insult my intelligence or the memory of someone I love.)
*Incidentally, my byline on the Independent website is Sarah Graham-Cooke to differentiate me in their system from LGBT activist Sarah Graham, who has also written for them previously. I’ve no plans to make it a regular pen name – I’ve never used my husband’s surname except as a collective noun (the Graham-Cookes) – but it seemed less confusing than having the website group two writers’ articles together under the same name**.
**With hindsight Sarah Graham-Cooke would almost certainly have been a better SEO choice than either Sarah Graham or Sarah Cooke, but I’m now pretty well attached to the name I’ve always had!