Freethinkers and Education

I’ve mentioned before that education was not important to my family. In fact, only one other family member has any kind of degree and she was in her 50’s when she went back to school. I am a first generation college graduate and this is a source of pride for me. My husband was in school when we met, and he encouraged me to go back to school to finish my degree. I was skeptical that I’d be able to do it with two kids and a graphic design business, but I found a degree plan at the University of Oklahoma that worked for me and stuck with it. Almost all of my undergraduate degree was online, and the last two years were 100% online through OU’s College of Liberal Studies.

You may think you don’t have time to get it done. You may think you don’t have what it takes, but getting a degree and doing it online was one of the best decisions I ever made. Please don’t think you can’t do it. I managed to use the Pell Grant and subsidized loans to make it out of school with relatively little debt. You can do it too. It’s worth it.

I know this sounds odd, but as a Christian, I thought god would solve all my problems. I thought he “called” me to be a singer, so I deluded myself into thinking I could make a living that way. Some people can, but I never could and should have realized that. I thought I would be in god’s service forever, so I never bothered to better myself for the world. It was a bad thing to be considered worldly, and I wanted to appear godly.

When I deconverted, I realize how important it is to know things about the world. I realized the importance of being able to think critically, to communicate, and to write well (though my proofreading skills might say otherwise!). I’m so glad I learned to value education. Even though a lot of it is just playing the game, that little piece of paper opens up more opportunity for success than pretty much anything else.

I figured, what’s the use in being a freethinker if I don’t know how to think to the best of my ability? So I nurtured this new love for knowledge and now I can’t get enough. I’m going back for my master’s this summer!

Tolerance vs. Acceptance

Tolerance is defined by 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?

Don’t hesitate to get in touch

I get at least one email in my inbox every week from someone who feels like they have no support as an atheist in America. The emails are always thankful, appreciative, and heart-warming. I know I may not offer the most exciting tips and advice on this blog, but I also know what it’s like to feel like no one understands what you’re going through. Simply knowing that other parents out there are facing the same challenges is comforting. You tell me you’re thankful that I’m willing to share my experiences…well I’m thankful you’re willing to send me a personal note to tell me you’re going through the same things. It means so much! Please, don’t hesitate to write. Your thoughts give me ideas for topics, and your words are a comfort in crazy times.

If you have a specific topic you’d like me to explore, please feel free to let me know. Now that I’m free of school I have plenty of time to devote to my blog! 🙂

Thanks again!

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.

Thoughts on Gay Marriage

The Supreme Court hearings on gay marriage have prompted a slew of Facebook status updates declaring “for” or “against.” I’m still friends with a handful of people I went to church with as a teenager, and many of them are clearly against gay marriage. One shared this status update, which he got from a friend:

“With all of the marriage equality focus in the news, I thought I would offer one man’s view on what it means to take a Biblical stance on the issue and still be Christlike In the process. My reason for sharing is that the media refuses to show this side of Christianity, instead making us out to be anti-gay when in fact I am anti-sin of all kinds, including my own. Without question, even a cursory reading of the Bible makes it clear that gay relationships and marriage is wrong and sinful. However, homosexuality is no worse than any other sin. Sin is sin, and we all fall short of the glory of God. So when I say that I am for Biblical values and against gay marriage, it does not make me a bigot or a hater or any of the other words that the media would throw my way. It means that I am a sinner who has been forgiven based upon my faith in Jesus, and that my mission in life is not to single out gays and make their life miserable. My mission is to love them as I do all of mankind, and to hate their sin as much as I hate my very own. My desire is to see all sin cease, including my own, so that my God and Savior will be pleased with what He sees. So you see, when I take a Biblical stand on the issue, I am expressing my right and freedom to practice Biblical values in hopes that the land that I live in will see things the same way. If in the end laws change that show that the majority of people in the land I live in disagree with Biblical values, then it will be my fault as a Chrisitian for failing to show the love of Christ and teaching others to live as He commands us to. But at no time is it acceptable for me to hate others and single out their sins. If more believers would focus on their own sins instead of others, and spread the Gospel rather than hateful words toward others, then maybe just maybe people who are caught in all kinds of sins would be more prone to listen to what we have to say. In short, if you are gay, please know that while I disagree with your lifestyle choice, I love you and will help you in any way that I can if you ever need me. Though your sin in wrong just like mine is, Jesus will heal and forgive you if you will turn to Him in faith.”

There are so many things wrong with this that I didn’t know where to begin. I messaged him privately with a link to this article, You Can’t Quote Leviticus to Prove God Hates Homosexuality, which I found to be an excellent read. It’s a great argument for why Old Testament law no longer applies to modern Christian life. I mean, if it did, and Christians took the entire bible literally, they’d have to outlaw shellfish and pork as food, fortune tellers would be stoned, and tattoos would be against the law.

First, where in the bible does Christ command people to live as heterosexuals? Second, you may think you’re not a bigot, but you are, by definition:

“bigot: a person who is obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices; especially : one who regards or treats the members of a group (as a racial or ethnic group) with hatred and intolerance” (source)

This whole status update makes me very sad because these people are so blindly following a religion that seeks to keep certain groups oppressed. He preaches love, but at its foundation is hate, and he doesn’t even realize it.

Christians don’t seem to understand why freethinkers have a problem with their beliefs. This is why. Christians constantly try to force their beliefs upon others because they are told to “share the faith” and “bring others to Christ.” They think they’re doing a good thing by bringing people to Christ, but they’re really oppressing large groups of caring, loving people who want nothing more than to be accepted in society.

Sexuality and Consent for Young Kids

Yesterday a friend on Facebook posted an article about teaching kids consent, no matter what age. This came at an appropriate time for me because I am dealing with yet another situation with the same little girl (who is my daughter’s best friend). This little girl and my daughter bonded in pre-k last school year and were put in the same class again this year. The little girl signed up for the same sports team last fall, so the girls spent a lot of time together. The little girl is very touchy-feely. She hangs on my daughter constantly, pulling at her clothes, grabbing her hands, touching her shoulders, and whispering in her ears. I’ve watched this behavior on the playground from afar, and it’s clear to me that it bothers my daughter, but she loves her friend and does not want to tell her to back off.

We had the little girl over last weekend to help the family out in a pinch (otherwise I would have said no!) and I watched this same behavior. I decided to talk to my daughter about personal space and appropriate and inappropriate touching. We’ve talked about this before and my daughter knows about her private parts and such, but I wanted to discuss consent with her. I wanted her to understand that she is allowing her friend to touch her even when it makes her uncomfortable. I used the article about consent to help guide me on what to say, and I think the talks with my daughter turned out well. She must understand consent, and I worry that allowing this little girl to hang all over her is messing with that concept. I instructed her to tell her friend, “Stop, I don’t like that,” whenever she feels uncomfortable from all the touching. I told her to be sure to tell her teacher if the touching does not stop after that. I hoping this will help.

Sometimes I feel like I’m overreacting, but sometimes I feel like this little girls is a very bad influence on my daughter. Her parents make no attempts to teach her anything real about life, and instead threaten her with hell and teach her to pray. This is very confusing for my daughter, who has been taught to face her problems head on all her life. I’ve tried to encourage her to make new friends, but for some reason, she has bonded with this little girl. I don’t understand it because the little girl doesn’t seem to treat her that well. I think it’s time to talk about standing up for herself as well. Thank goodness for the Internet! How did parents do it before the Internet!?

Anyway, I highly recommend the aforementioned article regarding the healthy sex talk. I think talking to our children about these things is the most important thing we can do as parents. Being open and honest and arming them with information gives them the best chance to make good choices about sex. I hadn’t realized that teaching consent at such as young age would be so important. It definitely is. My daughter needs to understand now how important her body is, and this will only help her grow into a confident woman who can stand up for herself.

Just a quick thank-you!

I just wanted to send a quick thank-you out to my readers who have used my Amazon affiliate links to purchase books (found in the right sidebar). It’s much appreciated, and your support keeps me going! Thanks again, and I hope you all have a great week!

Here are the links of my favorite atheism and atheist parenting books:

Parenting Beyond Belief: On Raising Ethical, Caring Kids Without Religion

Raising Freethinkers: A Practical Guide for Parenting Beyond Belief

Generation Atheist

The Young Atheist’s Survival Guide: Helping Secular Students Thrive

How I feel, being a de-converted parent

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



You may have read about the recent plane crash in Indiana. I grew up with three of the families whose loved ones were on the plane. I heard the news from a family member just hours after it happened, and memories of these loving and supportive people came flooding back.

Yesterday was a very emotional day, and I watched Facebook all day for updates on the status of the people involved. I cried many times. I had no idea what to say to the victims’ families. All the people involved are Christians. All of their families and friends are praying for them. But I’m not. I am, however, thinking of them constantly, hoping for successful surgeries, and hoping the family who lost a loving father and husband can find peace in their hearts. I let them know I’m thinking of them, but that was all I could say. I had no words to comfort because I knew that saying, “He’s in heaven, looking down on you,” would be false. All I could do was think of them – the wife, the daughter who was so close her father, and the son. I hope my thoughts are enough.