Jul 05 2005

I’ve been doing some thinking about kids and religion. It’s a tough topic for me. I was not raised to be religious- my parents sort of let us have a free for all with that subject- and I was thrown out of the episcopalian church when I was 5 and became a die-hard atheist by age 8. That means that I don’t really have an ideology with traditions and stories and crap already built in. So what’s an atheist to do? How do I answer questions my son is sure to come up with so that he feels like he can make his own decisions? Part of why I dislike organized religion is that people get guilted into following whatever their parents believe and they are never taught to question it. I don’t want to do that. I won’t be thrilled if my son decides to believe in god, but I want him to be a free thinker (and I will always love him). But what do I do? Yeah, sure, I can say “well some people think this but other people think this other opposite thing” which only works until he asks what his daddy and I think. I don’t want to lie. These questions are bound to come up before I can hand him a book and say figure it out for yourself and then we’ll talk. Religious people must have it so easy.

I’ve also been remembering one of my favorite stories about my Dad. When I was about 10 years old I decided to cut my hair really short. Since I was too young to have boobs or hips or anything, I ended up looking like an effeminate boy most of the time, something which caused my little pre-teen heart and psyche great pain. One day, my parents had gone out and left me home alone (we lived in a very safe, quiet neighborhood kind of out in the country). I heard a car pull up in the drive and figured it was either Mom or Dad and went outside to greet them. It wasn’t. Instead, it was two bible thumpers. The first thing that was said to me when they walked up the stairs was “Hello YOUNG MAN, is your father home?” I stared at him for a second and then said “I’m a girl.” The old man did a double take and the young man looked ashamed. The old man then launched into a sermon about how women shouldn’t cut their hair and that it was an offense to god and I should be ashamed and never do it again. This lasted a good 10-15 minutes. I stood dumbfounded the whole time (the young man still looked ashamed). I finally found my voice again and told them that my parents weren’t home and that I had things to do. They loaded my arms up with literature and the old man chastized me once more before they hopped into their car and took off. Not long after, my father came home and found me huddled on the living room couch sobbing my eyes out. He asked me what was wrong and, once I managed to calm down, I told him everything that had happened. I have never seen my father so upset in my whole life as I saw him get that day. He was purple with rage. I happened to look outside and see the two guys down at our neighbors house. I told my Dad. He stomped out of the house and across the field and down the hill. Just then my Mom got home and I gave her the quick run through. We stood on top of the hill together and watched as my Dad ripped into those two guys. I could have sworn that he was going to kill them (my Dad is a VERY intimidating guy at the best of times). They were leaning backward and he was towering over them. It was like a cartoon. He ended by reaching into the open backseat window of their car and pulling out as much of their literature as he could reach and ripping it apart and throwing it around. All Mom and I could do was cling to each other and giggle nervously. All the two guys could do was stare. Dad then turned on his heel and stomped back up the hill and through the field and into our house. It was wonderful. Not only did I get my revenge on those men for making me feel horrible but I also didn’t care what they had said anymore. My Daddy loved me. Enough to fight.


  • By Anonymous, July 5, 2005 @ 11:24 am

    A) Why would you have to lie? Your beliefs about the world are well formed enough that you can explain them without making him feel like he has to believe the same way you do.
    B) Let him explore any religious tradition he wants, on his own or with friends. I did a lot of this when I was a kid, but my parents maintained their distance, which let me know that their athesim (which they call agnosticism) was more solid than a lot of the other stuff I was being exposed to.
    C) Organized religion is not important to raising a good child, but I’m sure you already know that.

    I like this story about your dad. :)


  • By heels, July 5, 2005 @ 12:41 pm

    Thanks Hannah. In response (not that you asked for it);
    A) I don’t have to lie and have no reason to. I also don’t really want to rely on half-truths or the good ole “You’ll understand when you’re older” cop out. But it’s not easy thinking of better responses to some things. It’ll just take a lot of work and quick thinking. And thanks, I also think my views are pretty well formed and reasoned (but I would!).
    B) I will, just as my parents did for my sister. She is now in the ranks of the Atheists.
    C) It’s not important, it’s just easier in many ways. You get to say “because god says so” when the really confusing stuff comes up. Not that even organized religion has a great track record for raising “good” children (or good human beings).

  • By ticknart, July 5, 2005 @ 10:50 pm

    The only advice I have about this is to be honest. Sure, he may not understand, but he needs to know that he can trust you and his dad to tell him the truth about things.

    If you ever get tired of trying to explain stuff to him, just hand him over to his uncles Grahek and Anderson, they’ll tell him how it is.

  • By heels, July 6, 2005 @ 5:18 am

    Josh, that is a frightening thought….

  • By Anonymous, July 6, 2005 @ 6:33 am

    I just did a google search on atheist children. There are some books out there, for kids and adults, as well as internet resources and groups. Maybe if you’re worried about community, the thing most readily provided by churches (other than easy answers), perhaps y’all should join a freethinkers group. I’ll bet there’s an active one in PGH. If you ever need to call and bounce things off me I’d be happy to be a sounding board. :) I’ll e-mail you some links later today. If you can kick your hubby off the computer, then maybe you’ll find something that will help.


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