I continued to cherish Christmas well into my adulthood, probably because it conjured up so many happy childhood memories. I never dwelt on the religious aspect. In fact, during my sophomore year of college I fell into an existential crisis of faith. As I teetered on the edge of disbelief, I called my father looking for reassurance. Instead, he confided to me that as much as he had struggled to believe—and at times had possessed a genuine, but fragile faith—he had come to the unhappy conclusion that God wasn’t real.
I was suddenly untethered, and I felt as though I could barely breathe. But there it was: If my father—the most brilliant man I knew— didn’t believe in Christianity, then it couldn’t be true. And so I fell away, too.
By the time I was in my thirties I found the idea of religion, and particularly Christianity, utterly preposterous. I had moved from Washington to New York, and my professional and social lives were rooted in Democratic politics. I didn’t know anyone who wasn’t liberal, and the majority of my friends and colleagues were atheists.