Category Archives: Life As An Atheist/agnostic

Bullying and Unconditional Love

One thing I’ve mentioned before is my concern that freethinking children growing up in Oklahoma might experience bullying or exclusion because they question faith. I’ve recently started having conversations with my oldest daughter abut different family types – adopted kids, blended families, families with two mommies or two daddies. I have specific reasons for wanting her to understand different family types, which I will elaborate on at another time. It’s just important to my husband and I that she understand that not all families have a mommy, daddy, and two girls, and that not all children “were in the mommy’s tummy” and that sort of thing.

So we were having one of these discussions yesterday, talking about how sometimes two mommies or two daddies fall in love and want to adopt children to love and care for. My daughter said, “Mommy, I know who I want to marry.  I want to marry a girl, and I want to find a baby to love.” It was very sweet, and I explained that she has lots of time to decide who she wants to marry and whether or not to raise children. I told her now is the time to have fun and be a little girl, which she seemed very relieved about.

But this conversation brought up a fear in me. I’m afraid for her. We’ve talked about this before and she’s mentioned she “loves girls” and things of that nature. I realize she’s only 6, but I also realize there may be something to this. Some kids realize they are homosexual or bisexual at a very young age without actually knowing what it is. Honestly, whether she is gay, bi, transgender, or whatever, that’s not what worries me. I love her and she’s my child and that’s that. What worries me is what she will face while growing up in a conservative town and state. What worries me is that she’ll grow up in a place where people think love is only possible between and man and a woman, and anything else is sinful. I have experienced some pain due to “coming out” as an atheist, but nothing like what I imaging many gay people experience when telling people who they are. I worry I won’t know what to tell her.

So my approach is this: to love her. Loving her unconditionally will show her she is worthy of love. It will show her that there are people in this world for whom sexuality, gender, or skin color do not factor into a person’s potential to be loved. No matter who she is, who she was born to be, she will be loved. I know bullying and peer pressure will happen at some point because of something, whether she’s gay, not gay, a band geek, or the popular kid, but showing her she is worthy of love, affection, and success is probably the best thing I can do to build her confidence and help her combat it in the future.

Just some random thoughts from a mommy who wants her girls to grow up in a world filled with love.

 

How to Encourage Freethinking in Children

As freethinkers, we want our kids to be able to examine and weigh evidence and makes decisions based in truth. There are many healthy ways to encourage freethinking and skepticism in your children. Here are a few things I do with my girls.

Read. We read every day, usually multiple times a day. We read “girl” books, “boy” books, science books, and fiction. We read silly stories and serious ones. And we talk about the stories we read. We visit thrift stores to get books for cheap, then donate them back when we need fresh ones. Books give us a fresh perspective on a wide range of subjects.

Explore. We go outside and talk about what we see and hear. I’m not big on playing in the dirt unless it’s my garden, but my in-laws have sandbox time and they let the girls make mud pies. We get them out into the world and try to answer any questions they have. We ask them questions about what they see and hear and try to get them to come to their own conclusions. We look at close up pictures of insects and talk about why they might look they way they do. We want them to see how much there is to discover in the world.

Talk. We talk often, about anything and everything. I’ll tell them about outer space as we’re driving in the car, or we’ll talk about the buildings we see and how engineers design them. This constant dialogue helps my children understand just how much there is to know about the world. Right when they think they have it mastered, new things come up.

Immerse. We like our children to be exposed to different cultures. We talk about Native Americans and their rol in history. We discuss how things are done in other countries. We take them to eat sushi and make homemade miso soup. We talk about other languages. We look at art and do art together. We like them to know that there are people who do things different from our family. This includes Christians, and we talk about what it means to Christians when they pray, noting that “Mommy and Daddy do not pray. We figure out how to fix problems.” Both girls even went to a Christian preschool for a while. It’s important to understand the bible and it’s significane to people who live in our area.

And finally…

Encourage. Teach your children to attempt to answer they’re own questions, even if they get it wrong. Why is the sky blue? Well, why do you think it’s blue? Once they answer, you can explain how Rayleigh scattering causes the sky to appear blue. Encouraging them to answer their own questions before you provide an answer will help them realize that they don’t have to be told the answer to everything. Sometimes they’ll get questions correct, and this build confidence. If they ask something you don’t know they answer to, you can look it up together. Asking and answering questions develops a hungry mind.

The main thing my husband and I do is try not to immediately answer a question without some sort of discussion or assistance in helping them figure out the answer on their own. Our children ask intelligent questions about anything and everything, and they’re thirsty for knowledge.

How do you encourage free thought in your children?

Spanking, Private Parts, and Religious Discipline

You’re probably getting tired of hearing about the situation with my daughter and her friend, but we’ve had yet another incident. My daughter has mentioned in the past that she and her friends play “house,” and that one of them is the mommy or the daddy or the kid. Through discussing this playtime with my daughter, I learned that her friend, whom you can read about here or here (or even here) has been routinely “paddling” my daughter. It happens when they’re playing outside, sometimes during P.E. in the gym, and sometimes in line while they’re waiting for things. It’s not a one or two time deal, according to my daughter. She says it happens almost daily. Kids have a crazy sense of time, but based on the different situations she’s described, I believe her that it’s happening regularly.

Now, to be clear, I detest that word – paddle. It reminds me of my childhood, when threats of a-paddlin’ were how I was kept under control made to behave. We rarely spank in my house. It’s just not how we dole out punishment. My husband and I reserve it for rare moments when immediate action must be taken to correct a terribly offensive behavior at that exact moment. And my girls are generally very polite and well-behaved, so those moments are few and far between. There are no threats of spanking. Agree or disagree, but that’s how we do things in my home. But, I digress.

So I hear about the “paddling” that’s going on and I instruct my daughter to tell her friend that it is inappropriate to a) hit someone and b) touch someone else’s private parts. We talk about personal space and privacy a lot because I want my girls to understand when touching is and is not appropriate. This is a big deal. I know that sexual abuse can really mess with a child. I’ve personally never experienced it, but I have friends who have, and I’ve seen how difficult it is to overcome. So, I tell my daughter to tell her friend these things, and I hope that this will stop it. At this point, I know they’re playing and I don’t want to make a huge deal out of it.

Fast forward to this morning, when my daughter tells me “paddling” happened again yesterday. I dug deeper. I asked if my daughter was doing any of the spanking. I asked if she had been touching anyone’s bottom. She said no and no, that it was her friend and it was happening when her friend pretended to get angry with her child. I wrote a note to her teacher, briefly explaining the situation, and she called me this morning. She told me that she didn’t know anything about it, which isn’t surprising. The problem is that my daughter didn’t understand that anything “bad” was going on. I hope now she understands that it’s inappropriate. I don’t want her thinking it’s ok to put her hands on another kid’s rear end. But now her teacher knows, and my daughter knows that it’s wrong.

I hope that addressing it with the teacher will solve the issue because I haven’t spoken to the girl’s mother in a while. I’m pretty sure she got the point after our last conversation. But if I have to contact her about this, I will. It’s one thing for their home life to affect their child. It’s entirely different when it starts affecting mine. I can only hope they are in a different class next year…and I will probably request it.

The thing that makes me the angriest/saddest about this whole situation is that this little girl is subjected to religious discipline. I remember what it was like. I was spanked with a heavy leather belt. I can still remember being bent over the bed while my dad lashed me. I remember the marks. I remember being spanked for the smallest things. I remember having to pick out my own “switch” for my grandma to smack me with. All it did was make me fearful and resentful. I hate that this little girl is growing up this way. I hate that her “loving, Christian family” uses violence as discipline. I believe this regular spanking of my child is an indication of what she is experiencing at home.

Ugh, drama.

 

The Talk

If you’re a long-time reader of mine, you may remember I’ve been dealing with the very religious parent of my daughter’s best friend, as well as the sleepover incident. Well, it finally happened. We had “the talk.” And boy, was it hard! Here’s the story.

The mother called me to ask if my daughter could have another sleepover. At this point, I’d been avoiding her like the plague, hoping my excuses would drive her away. No such luck. I decided to get it all out in the open. I explained that that my daughter had become very concerned about god and spirituality – something I believe a 6-year-old is too young to deal with. I told the woman that it is difficult for us to encourage her to be a freethinker when she is exposed (at such a young and vulnerable age) to religious dogma. And then, the most amazing thing happened…

She said, “I understand. If you were telling my child that god doesn’t exist, I’d probably be very angry with you. I get where you’re coming from.”

Whoa. Totally unexpected. The rest of the conversation consisted of her asking questions about atheism – what I believe happens when we die, how did I “become an atheist,” and how I explain death to my children. It was mind-blowing. She then explained why she needs religion, and things began to make sense. The woman is broken. She struggles with co-dependency and depression, and her god makes her feel alive, and helps her cope with life. I get that. I’ve been there. I’ve just learned to deal with my struggles in a different way.

The whole experience went much better than I expected, and now she no longer asks if my child can sleep over. We agreed that if the girls see each other outside of school, that both of us will be present to address any religion issues that come up. It’s a good solution, and I’m so glad I told the truth. Who knows? Maybe this woman’s mind has been opened. She sees that I’m a good parent, a responsible person, and that I give of my time and money when I can. I hope she sees that atheists are good people. I hope I’m giving non-believers a good name.

Update:

I’ve graduated from college (YAY!) and I found out yesterday I’ve been accepted into the graduate program I’m interested in. I start this summer! I’m well on my way to teaching!

Also, I’ve added Feedburner to my site, so you can subscribe in a reader or via email! Do it!

An Atheist Parent’s Thoughts on Tragedy

Well I don’t know about you guys, but I’ve seen enough anti-atheist status updates on Facebook to last a lifetime. It’s so bad, in fact, that I’ve decided to clean up my friends list a bit and weed out the bigoted, offensive people who are claiming that godlessness is the reason for the tragedy at Sandy Hook elementary.

What we really should be discussing is the early detection of mental illness and access to health care, not gun control or religious affiliation. While I do think gun control does need to be discussed, that is not the issue here. The issue here is that a deranged person committed a horrendous act, and no one knew he was that mentally ill. Or if they did, they did not help him get help. But the religious folk I’ve known for years and have tried to stay friends with via social networking have decided to make ill-informed and ignorant remarks about how they think not allowing prayer and religious worship in schools is the cause of school shootings. I’ve had enough, and I publicly and politely asked my friends to refrain from insulting me. Basically they’re saying that because I don’t believe in their god (or any god), I am capable of murder. They are saying that I’m evil…yes, one “friend” actually said I’m evil.

And Christians wonder why we get so angry! They wonder why we see religion as harmful. It’s harmful because it excludes. I’ve never told my Christian friends that they’re stupid or ignorant for believing what they do. I’ve never tried to convert them to my way of thinking. I’ve never told them they don’t matter to me because they believe differently from me. Christians, this is why we’re angry. You are so blinded in your faith that you fail to see that other people do not, and will not ever, believe they way you do. You fail to understand that we are still people, and good ones. We love, we give, and we help. But because we don’t believe mythology is reality, you call us evil sinners and say we are going to burn in hell.

These tragedies are only going to drive the two sides farther apart. I didn’t even have time to grieve for the loss of lives because I was too consumed by the hatred and ignorance being spouted by Christians online, but I felt morally obligated to try to combat it. I’m just shocked that people don’t understand the real issue and are so quick to place the blame on something completely unrelated.

Atheists, agnostics, and freethinkers, we have to stand together. We need to do good things as a unit. We must fight for freedom of religion, and the lack of it. We must speak out for reason and logic. I am tired of being quiet. The world needs good examples of freethinkers doing good things and making a difference in the world, and I will no longer stay silent, even if it means losing friends.

Awkward Moments for Non-Believers

I’ve told you before about my daughter’s best friend and her very religious mother and the incident that happened at a sleepover. Well the girls ended up on the same soccer team this year and the mother and I had a chat at the end-of-season party. She asked me directly what faith my husband and I are, and I told her directly that we do not believe in gods. This surprised her, and she asked what led me to decide I no longer believe. She knows a bit of my history of growing up Southern Baptist, so this was shocking to her.

I explained my story of finding the truth. A few moments later, our girls ran up to us exclaiming that my daughter had gotten a bump on the head and her friend had prayed for her, resulting in my daughter’s head feeling better. I held my tongue, though we’ve explained to our daughter before that praying does not help anything. The mother then said, “[Daughter], why don’t you pray for [my daughter]’s Mom?”

Ok, no. What am I supposed to say to that? “No, little girl, don’t pray for me.” This happened right in front of my child. I chose to keep quiet, and then later explained to my child that mommy and daddy don’t believe in praying to solve problems. It was awkward, embarrassing, and uncalled for.

This is what we’re up against. *sigh*

The Church of Atheism – Family

I’ve heard fundies say that atheism is a religion, which is complete bullshit on many levels, but it is a (lack of) belief that brings like-minded people together. I’ve found that group of people on the Internet. The problem with atheism is that it can get lonely. There is no church family to support a freethinking family when times get tough, when someone dies, or when the kids need social interaction. Church families are truly tight-knit, and there’s a support network for church members when something unexpected or bad happens. There is no church of atheism, except for what exists virtually. I used to think that wouldn’t be enough, but I’ve since changed my tune.

It was suggested that my husband and I join a local Unitarian church so that we would have the support of the church family. But we decided two things:

1) Going to  church and hearing all about a god we don’t believe in is uncomfortable for us, even if the faith accepts all people of any creed. It feels like a waste of our time. And…

2) We really enjoy spending Sunday mornings together as a family.

Reason number 2 for not joining the church is really the most important. We’ve come to love our Sunday mornings together. We cook breakfast together, we run errands (while others are at church and therefore places are less busy!), and we spend time just hanging out as a family. Our family has become our church, and we are tight-knit. We are lucky to have other family members who love us and help us when we need it, and we do the same for them. We may lack the community of a church family, but our family unit is close, happy, and rich in love because of the time we spend together.

The point of the story? It may feel lonely at times, but raising freethinkers is rewarding. Honestly, I could never go to church just for the fellowship. I’d rather put my time and energy into raising my girls and nurturing my marriage.

The Sleepover Incident – Please Weigh In

I’ve mentioned before that my daughter, who is 5, has a best friend whose parents are extremely religious (Christians). I allowed my daughter to have her first sleepover with her best friend last weekend. In the house were the two girls, and the friend’s older brother, who is autistic. I do not have an autistic child, but I realize they can sometimes be difficult to handle. I also realize that they are very sensitive and need special care when it comes to behavior.

When we were getting ready for bed the next evening, my daughter began using the word “paddle,” as in “spank.” She told her stuffed animals that they were bad and were being “paddled” and sent to their rooms. She began to spank them on the bottom and tossed them onto her bed. My husband was in the room and promptly stopped the behavior, asking her where she heard the word “paddle.” It’s not a word we use. In fact, we rarely spank at all and had recently decided that we were going to stop spanking completely. We never tell her she is “bad,” so this was not something she got from us.

She explained to my husband that she learned this while playing with her best friend. Then she told him a story about the brother. She said that the brother was bothering the girls in their room, and that the boy’s father came to get him. When he wouldn’t listen to his father, the father slapped the boy in the face…within the sight of my daughter and his. Now, I’m not an expert, but there are several things that bothered me (and my husband) about this story.

First, I can’t believe he slapped a child of no older than 8. Secondly, I can’t believe he thinks it’s ok to deal with an autistic child’s behavior this way. Thirdly, I can’t believe he allowed my child to witness it. It obviously made an impact on her because she felt compelled to tell us.

I’ve heard stories of Christian parents being abusive, but have never witnessed it. I was spanked with a belt as a child and vowed never to spank my children in that way. They never explained what I did wrong or how to correct it, and as I got older I realized the ineffectiveness of this mode of punishment. So, I ask you, readers, what would you do? Would you allow your child to see her friend again? Would you allow your child back at this house? Would you tell anyone? Is this abuse? Is this the proper treatment for an autistic child’s behavior (I highly doubt it!)? Does the “paddling” scenario bother you? Am I overreacting?

I would love to hear your thoughts. I’m so torn because my daughter loves her friend. But I don’t want her to be around violence toward children, especially those that cannot help their behavior. I also don’t want to get a family in trouble if they don’t deserve it, but my gut tells me that I should speak up. Please weigh in.

The Bunk Stops Here

Geez, I hope that title hasn’t been used before. But it’s the truth, and I wanted to say it. The nonsense stops with me. My kids will not be raised to accept mythology as truth. Honestly, I’m exhausted by those around me (both virtually and IRL) who fill kids’ minds with nonsense.

“Say your prayers!” “Thank god for your good life!” “Get your heart right with god!” “God has a plan!” All lies. All harmful. It teaches kids that they don’t have to take responsibility for their choices, that god will work things out for them. It teaches kids that some people aren’t good enough to receive god’s blessings, like children whose parents are deadbeats or those who are starving in the streets. This nonsense teaches kids that death is more important than life. I can’t stand it. It stops with me.

It kills me to let them go on believing that the tooth fairy is real, that Santa is real. But the difference (and it’s a big one) is that Santa and the tooth fairy don’t send you to hell when you do something they say is wrong. They don’t bless some people while ignoring others. They don’t allow pain and suffering to go on in the world. That’s how I justify it anyway.

I like to think I’m helping to raise a new generation of freethinkers. I’m not afraid to raise my kids this way, and I won’t be afraid to stand up when I know their freedoms are being compromised. I’m sure you’ll hear more on this later because the public school in our district is said to basically be a Christian school.  Just wait. You won’t believe it. But, I digress. I know a lot of parents around my age who are raising their kids to be freethinkers. We’re saying the bunk stops here. The lies, the money-grubbing, fear-mongering,  denying of the real truth…it all ends with my childhood. I commit to never giving up or giving in, and to always fight for what is right and verifiably true. Let’s do it. Let’s raise a new generation of kids who value our planet, and scientific exploration, and discovery, and equal rights for all. Let’s raise a generation of kids who care about the greater good. I commit. Do you?

My Truth Saves “Testimony”

I didn’t even realize they put this online! :)

http://truth-saves.com/brianna-from-tulsa-oklahoma/