Monday, August 20, 2018

Hospitals and My Reality

A few weeks ago my dear friend's daughter had an emergency appendectomy performed here in St. Louis at the amazing St. Louis Children's Hospital. Late in the evening, both mother and daughter came up to St. Louis in a rather long drive of an ambulance. Because my friend has other kids and very complicated life, I stayed with her daughter, who I will call Sapphire. I only saw Sapphire twice during her stay and was very honored to do so, as her mom was there constantly.

As a visitor I would park in the huge parking garage, take the elevator to the tenth floor, and hang with the kid and her mom as long as they would allow. It was pretty cool spending time with this kid because she's really neat.

Anyway, my experiences at that hospital reminded me of one single thing: 
if you and your children are healthy, be grateful.
Be very grateful.

There was not one moment while I was there that I thought there was a deity. If I had thought that, somehow, a deity allowed, caused, or did not do anything for these kids I would have been FURIOUS. The things I saw from the outside, the families and children who were clearly living their lives within these various tragedies and circumstances, now those people were admirable. The staff: WOW. These human beings who dedicate their lives to the care of children and parents when they are feeling at their most vulnerable. Hopeful medical research projects going on. Human beings and helpful groups doing amazing good works. Treatment based on massive medical intervention processes. But not a single sign of help coming from afar.

I passed the neonatal ICU. I passed a tall teen in the hallway with their hair cut off holding onto the waist of her mom who also had her hair cut off. I passed a family in the cafeteria holding tight to a small child in a wheelchair and another family in the cafeteria feeding a very tall young man. I passed a group of kids hanging on to their IV poles while chasing each other around a small play area. I met a girl named Amber who was able to greet the checker in the gift shop by name. I passed a school kid wearing a kerchief slouched on the bench, reading a book. I knew of one toddler who was there without a single adult to comfort them in the night. And I kept hearing ambulances rushing to the hospital, presumably carrying someone's child.

All I wanted to do was rush home and hold my own kids and my granddaughter, and I know that, when my friend was able to take Sapphire home, that is exactly what she did. 💗

 Your thoughts? 

You might also like:
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God Is(n't) Good
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Good Time Johnny Sings the Blues
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Thursday, August 16, 2018

Mainstream Atheism

One of those things that's been on my mind lately...

The other day I was outside with my granddaughter, playing in the water, when someone from the neighborhood came walking up the street. They were walking their dog and talking on their phone, loudly. HOW they weren't huffing and puffing I have no idea because my street is a hell of a hill. ANYWAY, the content of her talking was all about the lord and blessings and whatnot. 

This woman was just going on and on, fearlessly, certain that her conversation was absolutely acceptable to be expressing on my street.
Can you imagine if I was walking up the street in my neighborhood, or nearly any neighborhood in the country, talking that loudly and proudly of atheism?
  • I mean, I spent all of that time in the foxhole and darned if I'm still an atheist! 
  • I'm not a believer, but that Pope Francis is awesome, hey! 
  • And so I told her that I won't miss her when she goes to heaven! 
  • Oh she did NOT! Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, Sister!
  • So yesterday I completed a complicated, for which I'm giving myself thanks for the excellent planning and gumption and giving thanks to my husband for his support! Reality works in completely explainable ways!
  • I won the lottery! Thank you, statistically likely chance!

Add to this thought the other thing that I noticed myself doing. When the kids and I are out in public and one of them makes a fairly loud rational-, anti-religion-, atheist-type statement...I SHUSH THEM! I just discovered myself doing that one day last week and I was astonished with myself!

Here I have raised them to be proudly atheist and then I shush them... Just last week John looked at me and asked Why should I shush?  

Have I lost my mojo? I have NOT.

The kids are actually quite anti-theist, anti-religious. 😄 Which actually makes me proud of them. They are both quite well-informed and knowledgeable. However, they can sometimes forget that about two-thirds of people out in public are shocked by their words. Admittedly, some of my shushing is likely the result of their overzealous volume...but from now on, I'm back to encouraging them to take their anti-theism mainstream. Less PC. Less fear of offending the majority. Honest, reasonable, empowered points of view, and out and proud.

These are amazing kids, kids that I am extremely proud of. Kids who make me proud to have them out there representing our family. And if, in public, someone called them out, I would be delighted to hear what my kids would say to them.
(P.S. My kids are 21 and 17.)

They deserve a voice as loud as anyone else's.

Besides, I'm not not an anti-theist...


What do YOU think? 

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Thursday, August 9, 2018


Can we teach our children 
to recognize indoctrination attempts 
by the religious believers?

I'd love to be able to tell you that, yes, there is a magic bullet, a way to make 100% certain that indoctrination attempts do not reach our children's ears or minds. Alas, there is not. What we do have, however, is time and reason.

Raising children is a journey.
Along the way we will enter Mordor as often as we enter Narnia; it's not really possible to avoid all detours and I'm not sure it's necessary. I can recall dozens of times when the issue of religion raised its alluring head to my children, times when they felt attraction to the tales and saccharine of various beliefs. As a freethought parent, a true skeptic, parts of me wanted to hide the kids in caves until it was over. But we all know that that isn't possible, nor is it preferable. 

If there are going to be mind games being played, and there are, we want to be in the forefront of defense. And, delightfully, that isn't all that hard to do. No, we can't compete with cute zucchini singing songs or other magical allurements.  But there isn't really the need to. Because we have reality on our side.

Learning about the reality of the planet on which we live is enough.

Our children will go through the normal stages of childhood, including those years of truly wanting to believe in magic. I remember my daughter, one time, sending me to the library to pick up books on how to do magic. When I brought home a nice selection of books on magic tricks she said No, Momma, not tricks, real magic!  Of course, I had to take her to the library and show her that there are no such books and I had to explain why. Because magic isn't really real. 😢  I agree that it would be fun if it was real, but, alas, it is not. 
That is why we pretend.  😃 

Sadly and surely, there will be concerted efforts by someone  to indoctrinate your child. The Sweet Tiny Baby Jesus story. Noah. Heaven. The Lord who will put you into HELL if you don't believe, etc.* Even with little extra-familial conflict there will be those who attempt to tell these stories to your children behind your back. It is inevitable.

The challenge at those integral moments will be to remain calm.
You will want to do what I did.
Freak out.
Get angry.
Feel like fleeing.

Want to shield your child.
But what I finally realized is this. There is no way around it, there is no healthy way to forbid it or avoid it; the only way is through it. Magical thinking is a completely normal part of our children's cognitive development, which is probably why they are so targeted at such young ages. Our children will learn by exploring the ideas and by rejecting them one by one.

Here's what it looks like when we remain calm: we look at the various weird claims and ask Hmmm, I'm not seeing any sign of that. Let's look it up.  😃
For example, hell and heaven. We looked through telescopes and saw absolutely mindblowing planets and stars and other objects, objects completely amazing and worth knowing more about - but no heaven. We looked deep into the earth. We saw strata and dirt and rock and minerals, more stuff that was interesting to learn more about - but we did not see hell.
Shrug. Hmmmm. Wonder why that is..?

For a fairly long while my children believed in various magical ideas. And I had to allow that.

Why? So that they could figure it out themselves.

In the meantime, calmly and fun, we are learning about various bits of scientific reality. The water cycle. Fossils. Dinosaurs. Animal lives. The human body. Weather. Chemistry. The stars. Plants. Fish. Etc. We are learning what is real. Continue to learn more, continue to be curious, continue to explore anything at all that interests you and your children.

And enjoy the journey.

Is this helpful?

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First Generation Atheist Parenting
On Being an Atheist Parent
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Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Resisting Temptation is Too Hard

This week I've been in a constant state of astonishment about the Trump family and their compatriots, and their seeming inability to resist getting more money, cheating, hiding secrets, serious breeches of personal and professional ethics. I truly don't understand how fearful a person must be to feel as though they never have enough cash and as though they must cheat the system to get and hide more, to take the cash from other parties, or to feel entitled to the lion's share. It's a temptation that I can't relate to at all.

But it's there. The news these days is inundated with people in the financial upper 1% who want more, need  more, can't seem to stop themselves from gaining more at the expense of others. I truly wonder if that need to have 
more more more a temptation or a disorder ??? It seems like such a destructive drive, an enthrallment that brings nothing but disorder, anxiety, imprisonment, banishment, personal and professional collapse.

Surely there is an underlying sense of omnipotence, being above the law, being entitled, but there must also be some sense of fear, inadequacy, something that is being run from... All resulting in these people, and others of course, making decisions that they can't seem to resist...

This blog post is actually about that claim by some believers that atheists are atheists because we find it too difficult to resist temptation and we, therefore, avoid religion and its wisdom regarding the struggle of enticing things and behaviors, and we embrace the temptation...a claim that I strenuously reject.

Resisting Temptation is Too Hard

Inherent in such a claim is an underlying belief that atheists actually do believe in a deity but reject that deity for various character flaws or weaknesses, temptations. Also implicit in the Christian and religious view of temptation is that temptation leads one to sin, that we are broken, and that we are sinful by nature. 
All of these claims I reject strenuously, again.

Human beings are imperfect, all of us, those who believe and those who do not believe in supernatural things, all are imperfect and striving. We are all in this world where unhealthy or unwise allurements surround us and we all must find our way to the healthiest and happiest existence possible and that means we must learn how to avoid unhealthy, hurtful choices.

What do I mean about temptations?
I'm thinking of things like sexual behaviors that bring us or others pain, taking drugs or any other substance that brings us problematic health situations, stealing, greed, purchasing unnecessarily or extravagantly more, invasion of the privacy of another, wearing sweatpants every day, another Snickers®️, eating my fries across the table, getting yet another cuddly kitten, dangerous weight loss fads, giving up. These are all examples of very real temptations that all humans must figure out how to handle. Especially in this culture, we are teased and taunted and seduced continuously with unhealthy options. These are generally issues of consumerism rather than of demonic temptation.

These temptations are normal.
I have experienced nearly every one of these myself, minus the cats. In fact, I'm wearing sweatpants as I sit here typing this.

These temptations and allurements are not evil demons trying to ensnare you; they are a part of being alive and we are wise to learn mature and healthy ways to deal with them. Some believers will say that atheists truly know that a deity exists but that we, the atheists, do not wish to avoid temptation and so we reject their god. No, they will say, we want to live in temptation.  Our relativism is a mask for our overindulgence.
Good grief.
What nonsense. Again, the fear is so obvious in beliefs such as this.
I'm glad that not all religions push such agendas of fear.

Allow me to give you several truly helpful behaviors that are truly not too hard to help you through the unfair cajolery of certain substances and behaviors:

Yes, secular AA-rejectors, these are helpful to you:

  • Be aware of those things that are potentially tempting to you and deliberately create options. Know when you will be in the presence of things/people/behaviors that entice you to distraction and make a plan for getting through the moment.
    This is simply self-preservation.
  • Or simpler, avoid those places.
    Remove yourself from places where temptation lives. You are a powerful being with the ability to make choices and you deserve to create healthy places and spaces for yourself.
    This is simply good planning.
  • Be as truly honest with yourself and others about those things that are problematic for you. This honesty sets the stages for personal interventions and empowerment in the face of strong urges. Because you can become stronger and stronger in the struggle each time you find your way to a healthier decision.
  • In down time, create scenarios and scenes in your mind where you address the temptation and succeed in making other choices that are healthier and more full of integrity.
    This is simply self-empowerment.
  • Remind yourself of your goals and of your values and of the positive consequences of making decisions of health, sobriety, integrity, personal power. Imagine the success of those moments where no one is watching you and you do not give in to another kitten or problematic behavior.
    This is simply getting conscious that a decision lies before you.
  • Create a full life. Friends, hobbies, activities, work that is meaningful. All of these things, and more, fill in the spaces of boredom, depression, self-pity, even of celebratory moods that might lead one to ignore moment of choice that one is facing.
    This is simply finding supportive places and people.
  • Remember that you are on a journey. Life is a journey and you want to create the best life possible. In this moment.

But still, the point, atheists are not atheists because we are embracing temptation. We are atheists because it makes sense.

As for temptation...
No guilt.
No shame.

No sin.
No name calling.
So self-flagellation. 
No demons luring you to your doom.
Just one human being making the most of their life.

And also, regarding how atheists prefer temptation:

You might also like:
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Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Perspective: You Matter

It's a thing that you can't wish for; you have to find it, sometimes in unexpected places. Have you ever seen that moment in Grand Canyon, a Kevin Kline movie from 1991, when the young troubled teenager sees the Grand Canyon for the first time? 

I didn't love the entire movie (though I might check it out again in case I missed the real meaning of the film), but one thing that struck me to the absolute core while watching it in the 90s was that moment, the Grand Canyon moment, that moment that slapped me with the grandeur of our planet, of our solar system, of our universe. That moment still gives me a major hit of perspective. All of those struggles of my life are, in fact, small things in the grand scheme of it all. And that, somehow, comforts me.

But there's more. Do you ever find yourself in a crowd of people and feel a part of a mob until, suddenly, some individual catches your eye. Then you realize you are a part of a group of humanity. That each of these people has an incredibly complex web of life, at least as complex as our own life. It's kind of a crazy thing, to realize that each person we meet or don't meet is living within a network of complications, relationships, past, present, future, finances, memories, likes and dislikes, conflicts, expectations, inadequacies, successes. And that's cool and also gives me perspective.

But there's more. It's how we are each a part of that complex network. How do we keep ourselves from feeling completely tiny and insignificant while knowing that we are a part of such a huge reality? It's a completely human struggle, to feel important, meaningful, significant while walking in that mob, while sitting at home, while moving through our days. Because, the thing is, it's not just a thing we want, it's a thing we need, to feel necessary, needed, respected. Like we matter. I honestly think I need to feel some sense of this each and every day. 
Do you?

Weirdly, I have an answer to this.

I have given this one quite a bit of thought in my life. It's a human thing, right? And I've figured out the single best way for myself to find ways to feel significant and that is to BE significant to others. This is a thing that I can do and do do every day. I tell people that they matter to me, why they are important, what I love about them. I touch people with my hands. I look at people in the eyes as I talk to them, when I tell them that I appreciate what they have done or who they are. It's that old adage the more you give the more you get
I guess.

Give it a try. Start today. Tell the people in your life that they are meaningful to you and why. Find a lovely pause in your day and do it. Make someone's day. Make your own day.

You will feel significant.
Because you are.

I hope my friend doesn't mind that I used her image.

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Friday, July 27, 2018

My Senior Moments

The other day I was watching some really cute video somewhere on social media that gave me all of the feels. It was a group of senior citizens sitting together and dancing and swinging arms and singing and just enjoying their music. It was adorable. I'm sure the music was by Duke  Ellington or Bing Crosby or Nat "King" Cole. Or maybe I'm a decade early and it was probably Elvis Presley or Glenn Miller or Frank Sinatra or The Platters. Either way, the seniors were glowing, positively glowing with the love of their music.

Music is a miracle of time travel. We can listen to a song and, before we realize it, it has transported us back in time to a specific moment. Somehow, it's magical. And each of us has our own specific songs that transport us. There is one song that actually takes me back to some awful fight my parents were having one time; the song makes me cry even though it's not a sad song. I once told my sister about that song and she said that she has the exact same response to it. Weird, huh?

Yes, music is a time capsule that transports us.

I got to thinking about the music that gets me out of my chair and dancing because I figure that these will be the songs that I would be sitting in my wheelchair and listening to one day. The songs of my generation are many and varied, but they are definitely specific to me and my contemporaries. Disco, funk, hair bands, hard rock...

Imagine it. It's several decades in the future and I'm wearing my teal track suit. My side table is covered with pill bottles and iced tea. My walls are covered in electronic frames flashing memories past me at a new one every three seconds. It's a lovely quiet afternoon and someone turns on some tunes that get me moving. It's not likely to be Frank Sinatra or Elvis or Duke Ellington. It's more likely to be AC/DC, Ted Nugent, Queen, Led Zeppelin, Rush, Salt-n-Pepa, Rose Royce, Molly Hatchet, April Wine, Def Leppard, Bon Jovi, Guns N' Roses, Ozzy Osbourne, KISS, Motley Crue, Chaka Khan, and Twisted Sister. I might also be swaying and snapping my fingers to Quiet Riot, Black Sabbath, Pearl Jam, Heart, Santana, Bob Seger, Billy Idol, Loverboy, or Lynyrd Skynyrd.

And as I'm sitting there listening to my tunes, will the next couple of generations of people think how cute and adorable I am?
Those little whippersnappers!

 What will your senior moment 
 music be? 

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Thursday, July 19, 2018

There are Hateful People out There

I know.
It's true.

There are truly unpleasant human beings out there in the world. The angry, the racist, the selfish, the intolerant, the lout. They're there and they're generally loud. My Facebook feed can overwhelm me at times when I see the hateful things that people post, that people find humorous, or that some people spout. I think that we see these people only because they are loud and in places easy to see.

But the truth is, there are more wonderfully loving people out there. The people who follow their passions and who enjoy their lives to the fullest. The people who take pictures of the blue, blue sky. People who give their lives to the care of their loved ones. People who always make a point to look you in the eye when they greet you, right in the eye so you know that you are being seen. People who lay out pennies for the luck seekers.

There are  humans who dance to their own tunes. People walk our sidewalks with goodness in their hearts and with coins jingling in their pockets, paying the parking meter of strangers. People who research and built and create. People who speak up for the pets in need of love and family. People whose very jobs , their very livelihoods are taking care of the neediest among us. There are people who speak the truth with trembling hands and voices, yet they speak it.

There are people who greet you with a kiss, people who sing on the bus, people who leave a larger than necessary tip, people who notice your mood, people who look to the stars and learn their names. Our world has people who hide a little for their own protection but who also show tremendous courage when seeking connection. There are people who exhibit extraordinary courage by their very brave actions and revolutionary hearts. 

There are people who are frightened beyond belief but who still stand up and say the truth. There are people who will stop and step over the earthworm on a rain soaked sidewalk. There are people brave enough to forgive someone who is not apologetic. There are people who are brave enough to say I'm sorry. People who are willing to go the extra mile whether anyone else notices or not. People who do the right thing because it is the right thing. People who seek truth and justice. People who pay for the guy behind them in line. People who ignore your errors. People who stop to notice the beauty of the trees or the clouds. People who sing at the top of their lungs in their cars. People who stand in front of the bully. People who wear purple. People who tat up for the fun of it. People who leave sunshine where there is rain. People who find ways to share their freshness. People who pick up ugliness left by others. People who care. People who smile in spite of it all.
There are people who, when you ask How are you?  will tell you and people who, when you ask What are you up to?  will tell you about their passions. And some people show love, love in the face of all. More and more love.

Be one of these people.  Be the reason that some people can again believe in the goodness of humanity.

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Monday, July 16, 2018

Atheist Kids

Being a first generation atheist and raising children was, for me, a challenge. Many times I found myself having to reconsider things that seemed, at first glance, to be simple, but were actually life mired in religion. It was eye-opening to clearly see how ensnared in religion our country actually it. I realized that I had to continually engage my skepticism and research inclination, kick it into high gear, in fact. 

My daughter's first year in school, kindergarten, she was a very active listener, a child who was looking for real magic, a child who saw every single incidence of religion in the world around her. I will never, ever forget being a volunteer in her classroom when they were all standing for the Pledge of Allegiance, she spoke the words, then turned and shouted to me across the room See, Mom, one nation under God... 

Another time, the librarian read Jesus stories to the kids THREE WEEKS IN A ROW! I'm not the complainy type, but after the third week of Jesus, I did contact the Vice Principle of the school and discuss the matter with her. My daughter's teacher thanked me, but the librarian never looked at me again.

My point is that religion is absolutely normal in the world. It is everywhere. Deliberately raising children outside of the norm is truly a challenge.

My daughter told me about several occasions between the ages of five and twelve, because those are the brainwashing years, she said, where she was on the playground with new friends who asked her if she believed in god, capital G. When she would reply that, no, she did not believe in God, the other child would stop playing with her. She tells me of more than one occasion where the other child would say My mom told me I couldn't play with other children who don't believe in God.

Yes, you heard that correct. Parents were already teaching their children to fear and reject people who were different from themselves. 

As Elizabeth's mother, I always knew that she was out there with her eagle eyes and logical brain looking for inconsistencies, facts, and most importantly magic. She wanted to believe. But she was also burdened with a natural fully functioning bullshit detector that would not allow logical fallacies to slide by. That made my job super important. I knew I had to be as coherent and as constant as possible because she was learning every single moment.

Because, in reality, we're not raising ATHEIST kids. We're raising kids who will be atheists - because it makes sense.

You might also enjoy this:
How to Talk Religion with Children as an Atheist or Skeptic
How an Atheist Discusses Religion with their Children
Raising Atheist Children
Death, Grief, and Loss: Atheism Style
Books for Your Skeptical Children 

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

I Couldn't be a Millionaire or a Billionaire

If there is one thing I don't understand as I read the news these days, it is the upper crust, the top 1% of people who have insane and savage amounts of cash. I simply don't get that. Surely there is some mental illness label for people like this, people who can hold onto obscene amounts of money, who even collect and desire more, at a time when so many humans have such need.

I simply could not be a millionaire or a billionaire, because I couldn't keep that money. I COULDN'T be a millionaire. I already give away far too much money. My poor husband is always having to add large sums to the GIFT$ section of our budget. I cannot help it; I get far better feelings giving it away than I ever did having it. I know this for I have done it again and again...

I cannot fathom how a human being can have reserved cash when other human beings are homeless, in need, unable to pay for necessities, kids with needs, humans living in poverty, entire countries struggling, incredibly worthy opportunities to support research or cool projects, investment in people and ideas, and on and on. I have about two dozen friends who could each use a million dollars or more. I know of about a dozen very worthy groups who do amazing good in their communities who could use another million. I know of entire cities who need essentials such as clean water, electricity, safe and adequate schools, health care, services for veterans, civic projects, humans of all age who could use my billions. 

No, if I was a millionaire or a billionaire today, tomorrow I would not be. 
And I would be happy.

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Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Are You a First-Generation Atheist or Humanist Parent?

Escaping the mind prison of religion is a grueling, effortful, celebration-worthy event. There should be Hallmark cards. The thought liberation is a tremendously life-changing event that few people have the strength, courage, and integrity to accomplish. Myself, it took me over two years to find my way out once the journey toward freethought began. 

So, New and First-Generation Freethinking Parents, gather round because I have some words for you.

I know the stress, the anxiety, the fear: for I have been you. I know the awareness that you are blazing an entirely new trail, the knowledge that loved ones will not and cannot understand and may not support you, the stress of feeling unable to trust believing loved ones with the hearts and minds of your children, the brightening world that is still unknown to you. 
It is a lonely path to liberation, this flight toward freethought, one fraught with anxiety that our hearts and minds walk without certainty in the beginning. But stay tuned, for soon you will experience the light.

The old way was well-worn, well-supported, extremely public, highly-sanctioned, popular, easier...choking, false, cloying, limiting, bloodthirsty, malignant. This new way is honest, cleansing, saving, liberating, essential.

So how do you do it?
How does one move forward into this unknown territory, albeit into the freedom that one craves, when our parents and friends and other loved ones begin circling the wagons? How do we PROTECT THE MINDS AND HEARTS OF OUR CHILDREN? I believe that this is a major task, to raise freethinking children.

Did we expect the battle of integrity that would erupt?

Fully knowing the massive division of belief systems between our beloveds and ourselves, most of us leapt into freethought and/or humanism with sheer relief. The religious systems of belief were too unpalatable, too intolerable, too objectionable. Knowing we would be entering into a completely incomprehensible place to our loved ones, we vaulted into the fresh and clear air. Aware that we were leaving all that we knew behind, 
we bounded into the light of freedom of thought.

Moving Forward

So you are ready.
How to move forward?
Please stay tuned. I will be writing tons more for you in the next days and weeks.

For now allow me to leave you with one suggestion: find a community. Online, in real life, whereever you can find them, a community of freethought or humanist parents who can support you, from whom you can learn, who will understand your fears, and with whom you can be honest. This journey into the light is just that, a journey. 
You will continue to learn. 
You can do this.
And check back soon!

I welcome your questions!

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