An Agnostic’s Christmas, by John Ostrander

John Ostrander

John Ostrander started his career as a professional writer as a playwright. His best known effort, Bloody Bess, was directed by Stuart Gordon, and starred Dennis Franz, Joe Mantegna, William J. Norris, Meshach Taylor and Joe Mantegna. He has written some of the most important influential comic books of the past 25 years, including Batman, The Spectre, Manhunter, Firestorm, Hawkman, Suicide Squad, Wasteland, X-Men, and The Punisher, as well as Star Wars comics for Dark Horse. New episodes of his creator-owned series, GrimJack, which was first published by First Comics in the 1980s, appear every week on ComicMix.

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9 Responses

  1. Mike Kwolek, Four Co says:

    As a former Roman Catholic, I know where you are coming from, John. I would recommend that you check out Lee Strobel's book, particularly The Case for Christ. Have a wonderful Christmas, and thanks for continuing GrimJack!

  2. Steve Chaput says:

    While I waiver between agnostic and atheist (depending on my mood) I feel much the same as you do regarding Christmas. I was also raised Roman Catholic, although my family didn’t attend midnight mass. For the past close to forty years I’ve only entered a church for weddings, funerals or christenings.I think I enjoy the ‘idea’ of Christmas more than the actual holiday. To be honest I could listen to Christmas carols all year round and never tire of them. There’s a feeling that takes me back to those simpler days, I guess.I’m also slightly taken aback by pagan friends I’ve had who get all worked up about the season being co-opted by the Church. I bite my tongue to keep from reminding them that they should probably be out sacrificing goats or something if they want to hold true to the whole thing.At this point of my life Christmas means being able to find eggnog at Albertson’s and waiting for the “A Christmas Story” marathon. Ho, Ho, Hooooooooooo!

  3. Marilee J. Layman says:

    Most of my pagan friends celebrate Yule at Solstice. As an atheist, I'm looking from the outside, and the people rushing around, spending more money than they have and decorating every inch, all seem slightly nuts.

  4. Rick Stasi says:

    John, Enjoyed this immensely, and what a nice time to connect again. Very touching, especially the beautiful mention of Kim. Then there's the other memories we share (tho we didn't know it) of those pre-Vatican II days filled with Advent wreaths and Adeste Fidelis. Add to the religious significance of Jesus' birth, the importance of watching Bing Crosby in Going My Way and Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol, yearly must-haves for me, and I'm a kid again hearing reindeer on the roof, waiting for Santa to schlep my Fanner 50 and Greenie Stick-um caps.Merry Christmas, Ostrander. Rick

  5. Bob Pinaha says:

    John, it's good that you recognize Jesus as having actually existed. Jewish historian, Josephus, lived at the time of Christ. His published work, Antiquities of the Jews mentions Jesus in two passages and I believe, in passing acknowledged miracles He performed. If you can accept that outside source as evidence of the Biblical telling of Christ's teachings, then it's not too hard to accept Jesus's own words of His father as being a kind and loving God. If that's a stretch, I refer you to C.S. Lewis's, "Mere Christianity", which offers a series of short essays on the logic of God's existence. (Another good book to read is "The Signature of God.") Try not to associate the Church with the teachings of Christianity. More often than not, the Church has its own agenda, sometimes far removed from the threads and teachings of the Bible.

    • Linda Gold says:

      Actually, Josephus wasn't born until after the usual dates given for Jesus' death so his is not a contemporary of Jesus. Also, many scholars believe that his mentioning of Jesus (which as far as I know do not mention any miracles) is a later insertion from the Christian era. Again, as far a I know, all the copies of his work are just that, copies from a later date. In any case, he is not the most reliable source since he contradicts himself often and was writing in Rome under the patronage of the emperor. I would highly recommend Michael Baigent's books, especially "The Jesus Papers" to anyone who wants an historical rather than theological look at Jesus and the period he lived in.

  6. Vinnie Bartilucci says:

    "church-going agnostic".I think that is the dictionary definition of "hedging one's bets".

    • John Ostrander says:

      The church I'm referring to is not the "church" in general but the specific church — Church of the Redeemer — that I attend. It calls itself a Christian Liberation Church in the Episcopal Tradition. It's where I learned to become an agnostic and my attendance is based on it's pushing me to questions I didn't have before and encourages me on that road. I like the rector and the community. I attend the services without saying the words to which I do not agree and everyone is fine about that.While I have questions, doubts, and outright disbelief aplenty, what keeps me an agnostic rather than an atheist is that I know so many people — people who are smarter, wiser, better than me — who DO believe in a God or Great Spirit or Something Out There. I don't SHARE those beliefs but, based on my own track record, I consider the possibility I just might be WRONG. I'm not hedging and doing what is thought of as the agnostic's prayer ("Oh God — if there is a God — save my soul — if I have a soul."). My doubts simply have doubts. I continue to question.Belief — even lack of belief — is a matter of choice, I think. It HAS to be chosen. What is compelling evidence to one person one way or the other may seem less than compelling to another. What another person chooses to believe or not believe isn't my business. Only what I choose to believe/disbelieve is.So why write about it? Same reason as always — just exchanging notes, experiences, stories. Its how we get through life.

      • Vinnie Bartilucci says:

        One of my friends is a Unitarian. He explained the sect as such:"If you died and on the road to heaven there was a signpost. One sign reads, 'This way to Heaven', the other reads, 'this way to a discussion about heaven'; the Unitarian would go to the discussion."I've always liked the alleged argument by Blaise Pascal as an ROI diagram: Mathematically, it makes more sense to believe in God. If you're right, you get all the benefits – redemption, eternal life, etc. And if you're wrong, ou've lost a few hours in church a year, and you've had be nice to a few people. Compared to the downside if you're wrong, it's a good use of resources.In the british SF series Hyperdrive, Agnosticism is an established religion, with their own prayers and practices. The Lord's Prayer starts, "Our Father, who may or may not be in Heaven…""You can't prove there isn't a God – you just have to take it on faith."–Inside Woody Allen