Category Archives: Life As An Atheist/agnostic

How to Deal with Religious Bullying and Spiritual Abuse

My oldest daughter, L, is now in the 3rd grade. Recently she brought home a Chick tract, which a girl in her class brought to give everyone in the 3rd grade. The tract is a “comic” designed to appeal to kids and get their attention, turning the story into the story of how to be “saved by Jesus.” Never mind that the school is allowing the tracts to be passed out to the entire grade (and probably the entire school)! That’s a battle I want to fight. But I digress.

L says this girls bugs her regularly because she knows L doesn’t go to church. It turned into bullying in my view when L asked the girl to stop talking to her about it and the girl refused.

I decided to look up the website on the back of the tract for some background information. I won’t post it here, but let’s just say this girl’s dad is a few fries short of a Happy Meal. His website claims that the “power of Jesus” healed his mental illness and it can “do the same for anyone.” Yikes. Shit just got really real.

My husband and I told L to respond like this: “I’m not interested, so please stop talking to me about it.” And if the girl refuses, we’ll take further action. We were clear with L that she should not respond hatefully, nor should she tell the girl that she’s wrong or try to engage in any kind of argument with her. As we often tell her, you can’t argue with stupid. Probably not the nicest way to put it, but just look up a religious Facebook or YouTube comments argument and you’ll understand.

Anyway, it’s been about 2 months since the last time L came home saying that this girl was bothering her, so it sounds like the kid got the point.

The moral of the story? Respond firmly, but kindly. It’s not this little girl’s fault that her dad is pressuring her to bully. But, I hope L can help her understand it’s not ok to do so.

Two posts in one day…I must be coming down with something…*cough*…

Bee

Making Memories at the Grocery Store

My oldest daughter made a comment this morning that reminded me to write today. She was explaining to her younger sister why we were going to the grocery store so early (9:30 am) on a Sunday. She said, “Mommy likes to get all the shopping done before noon because all the church people are in church. That way the store is not crowded.”

I grinned. She knows me so well. We walked into the nearly empty store and both girls exclaimed, “Wow! There’s no one in here! It’s so empty! Cool!!!” And we had a lovely time shopping together. We weren’t rushed. We weren’t in anyone’s way. We just talked about the delicious meals we have planned for the week played together up and down the aisles.

I’ve said it before on this blog and I’ll say it again…Sundays, for us, are all about family time. Memories were made at the grocery store today. Life is so good.

I hope you’re all well!

Bee

They’re worried about my soul…

Apparently I embarrassed my dad on Facebook a few days ago because I stated publicly that I’m a “non-believer.” This led to a belligerent phone call during which I asked him to stop embarrassing me. But he said he was embarrassed of me, and told me I shouldn’t say I’m a non-believer on Facebook. He didn’t say, “where all my friends can see it,” but I know he was thinking that.

He told me he worries for my soul. I know he’s not proud of me and it really hurts. I don’t understand why he isn’t proud of me, though. I work hard, got my degree, and I’m raising two sweet, polite, and kind little girls. I have a great marriage and a happy life. What’s not to be proud of? I don’t believe in his imaginary dude in the sky…that’s all.

To that, I say, “so, what!?” If there is a god (and that’s a big if for me), I don’t believe it’s the god of the Bible. I believe the god will be proud of my life and my actions. I believe this god will not demand to be worshipped, condemn gay people, oppress women, and favor war. If there is a god, he probably won’t care whether or not people believe in him because he’s given us no evidence he exists!

 

Six Year Olds and God – Keep a Level Head

My oldest daughter’s best friend, who comes from a strict Christian home, came over for a play date last week. The girl’s parents are in China on a “give a Bible to every Chinese kid” mission or some such arrogant nonsense. But I digress. I wanted the girls to get a chance to play under my supervision, so her sitter brought her over.

The next day, my daughter declared, “I can spell G-O-D and I believe in him!” This always happens after a visit with this friend. My husband and I calmly explained that, while it’s ok to make her own choices, we believe she is too young to decide for sure if she believes there is a god. We explained that as she gets older and learns more about the world, she might change her mind.

It’s so hard for an atheist parent to hear exclamations of belief from a child. I have to keep a cool head and remember that she’s only 6, she loves her friend, and she is mimicking her behavior. The best approach I can take is to set a good example for her because she likes to mimic me as well. I must give her space to explore her own thoughts. I didn’t have that as a child and I want to make sure she does. I want to steer her in the direction of science, logic, and reason, but she needs to come to her conclusions on her own. I hope that she’ll naturally choose reason over religion, and I think she will. It’s just so tough to hear her say she believes.

If you’re going through this with your child, hang in there. Remember they’re still young, and their minds are developing. Guide them, but don’t try to force them to believe as you do. The best you can do is show them the path and hope they take it after they’ve weighed all the evidence.

 

Go check out this post about an outspoken atheist child…

This is such a great post over on the Friendly Atheist blog about raising a polite but confident atheist child. Check it out here!

Not my normal post style, but I wanted to share. :)

When I’m Gone

What will people remember about me? 

I’m anxious. I get frustrated when things don’t go perfectly. I’m a terrible housekeeper, a terrible proofreader. My mom calls me “opinionated.” I nag her for smoking. I nag my dad for being in a relationship that has caused a rift between the two of us. I’m a tech geek and I love photography. I feel a lot of anger toward religious people that I’m still struggling to let go. I’m not that great of a friend because I’m 31 and I’m just now finding out who I really am. Are these the things people will remember? Are these things even important to who I am?

Will they know I love my family with all that I am? Will they know that lazy Sunday mornings filled with donuts and Starbucks and lounging around the house are some of my favorite moments with my little family? Will my girls know that they are the most precious gifts I’ve ever received?

I worry that most people see me as the outspoken, equal-rights preaching, atheist heathen who is raising godless kids and telling them it’s ok to be gay. People see these things as bad things. To me, they’re good. To me, I’m giving my girls the best chance at becoming loving, accepting, caring adults with successful lives. I worry only my closest family will know that what I’m doing is good for my kids. I want to be remembered as a good mother, but I know a lot of people don’t see it that way.

How will I be remembered? Will my husband have reminders of my unwavering love for him? When I’m gone, will he know that he saved me? Will he know that every day with him was my heaven? I was always taught that you can’t put your faith in people, that people will always let you down. Seven years later, my husband has never let me down. He’s lifted me up more than any person I’ve ever met. I believe in him, and his dedication to our family. I believe he will always take care of us, and if I go first, he’ll always take care of our girls. He puts our marriage and our children before everything else in his life. He makes his life decisions based upon what is best for us, not for him. When I’m gone, I hope I’m remembered for being the wife he needed. Most people have no idea just how much he’s done for me. He truly saved me.

I’ve done a lot of good things for people without taking credit or even telling anyone. I tried to be generous with my time and money. When I’m gone, how will I be remembered?

I’ll do the best I can with this one life I have. I’ll hug and kiss my girls every day. I’ll be a good wife for my amazing husband. I’ll work hard and play harder. I want to be remembered as someone who stood up for those who needed a strong voice in this world. I want to be remembered for raising amazing children. When I’m gone, I want to be remembered for love.

Tolerance vs. Acceptance

Tolerance is defined by Dictionary.com as

1. a fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward those whose opinions, practices, race, religion, nationality, etc., differ from one’s own; freedom from bigotry.

Acceptance is defined as

2. favorable reception; approval; favor.

I don’t like the word tolerance. There’s something about it that makes me think “putting up with” or “dealing with.” Saying, “I’m tolerant of Islam,” is like saying, “I put up with Muslims.” I know that this is probably not what most people mean when they say they’re tolerant of religious people, but that’s what it sounds like to me. We tolerate the heat here in Oklahoma. We tolerate our neighbors who like to fight in the street every weekend. We tolerate things that are irksome, but that we must suffer through because we live on this planet.

And, acceptance, while a bit more favorable, is still a fine line. I don’t agree with Christians, but I accept them as human beings and I realize they have a valid opinion. I don’t accept when they try to force their beliefs on me or force their arcane laws into government, but I understand why they want to live their own lives the way they do. I don’t accept (or approve of) their religion. But I do accept them as people, and there are many Christians I love. I teach my children that religious people have a set of beliefs by which they live their lives, and that ours are different, but I make sure my kids know that loving people is the most important thing they can do in this world to show acceptance.

Tolerance, with it’s inclusion of permissive, says “I’m allowing this to occur.” Acceptance, with its inclusion of approval, says “I approve of this.” So, am I tolerating Christianity or accepting it? I’m tolerating the religion while accepting the person as equal. That’s the only definition that makes sense to me. I would never treat a Christian as lower than myself. I would never try to take away their basic rights (to marry whomever they please, to pray where and when they want, to worship). But because their beliefs pretty much require them to force their religion upon other people, I cannot approve of it. I believe it’s dangerous to do so and it goes against the reason and logic I’ve used to get to where I am now.

Christians, on the other hand, don’t tolerate or accept. Now, there are some exceptions in Christians who believe in equal rights, but many in my neck of the woods believe other religions (or lack thereof) are Satan’s way of stealing god’s flock. They believe homosexuality is a lifestyle choice that bad people make. They refuse to tolerate it, and many refuse to accept them as equal people. This, to me, is where Christianity is failing.

Webster’s online also defines acceptance as: “to regard as proper, normal, or inevitable […]” This is the definition I like. Christianity is inevitable, and atheists tend to treat it as such. However, we watch out for our freedoms. We watch out for those whose lot in life is not as easy as others. We stand up for the basic rights of those who are being oppressed by particular groups. We don’t accept Christianity in terms of approving of it, but we know it’s not going away. We know we must keep a watchful eye.

Christians – homosexuality and other religions are inevitable. Not everyone believes as you do, and thinking everyone eventually will is silly. You can be a watchdog, but you can’t force people to live by your beliefs. Attempting to do so makes you a bigot. You think you’re not a bigot, but you are, no matter what your motivation.

What are your thoughts on tolerance vs. acceptance? Are they different? What are your feelings toward religion? Do you accept it, or tolerate it, or a combination of both?

Atheists and Discipline – Do you spank?

I get a lot of traffic from searches related to spanking and discipline. Some of you are landing on my page looking for spanking videos. Ha! But many of you come here looking for advice on discipline for your freethinking child, and you also come here to find out how religious parents discipline their children. I’ve written about this subject a few times before. You can read about the sleepover incident here, and about the spanking incident here. I’d like to go into more detail about our family’s approach to discipline and why we do what we do.


First of all, as you may have read in previous posts, I was disciplined by spanking with a heavy belt or thin tree branch (a “switch” in Southern terms). I’m sure I deserved punishment for whatever I did, but the punishment I got often left huge welts on my butt and upper thighs. Many times the spanking was done bare-bottomed, and many times it happened several hours after my crime occurred. This meant I had to dread the spanking until my dad got home that evening. I don’t want to make it sound like I was abused, because I don’t feel that I was. I do think my parents could have used punishment as a way to teach and guide me, rather than a way to inflict pain. What was accomplished? I became scared of my dad and his belt. I became fearful. I became angry.

As a new mother, I started out spanking my oldest daughter as punishment. However, I read a great book that was given to me by my in-laws called John Rosemond’s New Parent Power!. Actually, my copy is very old and is just called Parent Power, but it’s an excellent book with great tips on getting your kids to go to bed without fussing, dealing with common issues, and, of course, discipline. Rosemond says in my copy of Parent Power that spanking should happen immediately when the incident occurs, and it should always be the parent’s hand to the child’s butt. One swift smack to get their attention. This worked well for me in the beginning, but I began to use spanking for every. Little. Thing. I realized that it was becoming a problem and that my daughter wasn’t learning anything. She became scared of my hand. I was a new mom going off what I learned from my parents. But my husband rarely got spanked, and encouraged me to find a more effective and less traumatizing mode of discipline.

When my second child was old enough to get into trouble, my husband and I took a different approach. We now reserve spanking for only the worst incidents, and only to get the child’s attention if we can’t do that any other way. We’ve found that we spank very little (and almost never) these days. In fact, I don’t remember the last time I spanked.

Some people will say that not spanking is the reason children grow up with mental problems, but I believe that’s a whole other parenting beast related to parents simply not being there and talking to their children the way they should. Trust me, I struggle with this daily since my dad rarely talks to me. It’s been this way for years. I can understand how that would mess a kid up. But, I digress.

Not spanking has given us a chance to teach our children how to be polite, sensitive, and thoughtful people. We take every opportunity to get them to mind their manners, be kind to others, and respect their elders. We use time outs. We ground them from the iPad and iPod, which, by the way, have been integral to our oldest daughter learning how to read. I’ll do another post on that very soon. We get compliments on how well-behaved and polite our girls are, and I know it’s because we use discipline as a way of guiding, rather than punishing.

I don’t know why spanking seems to be a religious parenting thing, but I intend for the belt lashings to stop with me. It’s just not the way I want to do things. As an atheist, I approach child-rearing with the intent to teach and guide, rather than dictate and rule. Does this make sense?

That being said, I do not think there is anything wrong with spanking if it is used appropriately. I do not think my parents used it appropriately. I think they spanked out of anger and also because they didn’t know how else to get us to do what they wanted.

Do you spank? How do you discipline your children? Are there any discipline-related topics you’d like me to explore?

Generation Atheist, by Dan Riley – Book Review

21pppQJKrbL._SL500_As you may or may not know, I denounced Christianity in adulthood. I was raised as a Southern Baptist and this is what I always knew. It took courage and time to break the ties I had with Christianity, and even though it’s been years, it still isn’t easy. In fact, the thing I struggle with the most is finding people to whom I can relate. In Oklahoma, this is very difficult, but the Internet has made it possible to read the stories of people who, like me, came to realize the truth. In these stories, I find comfort. I find advice. I find common ground.

Generation Atheist, by Dan Riley, is a collection of stories about how and why 25 young people came to be atheists.

Two of the stories in the book are those of people I consider personal heroes in the atheist community. The first is Jessica Ahlquist. I first read about Jessica at The Friendly Atheist (who is my other hero mentioned in Generation Atheist, but we’ll get to that in a bit!). Her story is one of bravery and strength, and there were details revealed in Dan Riley’s book that I had not read on the interwebs. As a parent, her journey gives me hope that there are young people who see the danger of bringing religion into schools. Her story gives me courage and makes me want to speak out. I only hope my children are as brave and strong as she is. Living where we do, they’re going to nee all the courage they can muster!

My second atheist hero whose story is in Generation Atheist is Hemant Mehta, speaker, atheist blogger at The Friendly Atheist, and author of I Sold My Soul on eBay: Viewing Faith through an Atheist’s Eyes. Hemant is outspoken and comfortable in his lack of faith. His blog was one of the first resources I found as a new atheist, and his advice was always helpful and comforting in a time of such confusion.

Riley’s book is a great read for anyone who wants to know why and how people become atheists. If you need to relate to other atheists, if you need to read about their struggles and victories, Generation Atheist is for you. For more information on Dan Riley, and to read excerpts of the book, visit his website. Or if you’re already intrigued, head over to Amazon and buy it now.

Note: This is a non-paid book review.

How I feel, being a de-converted parent

How I feel being a de-converted parent, via Reddit.

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