My family didn't go to church when I was a kid. But things got decidedly rocky in the family my Dad decided that he needed to get us to church to help deal with the painful things going on.
At the age of fourteen or so, I was introduced to Catholicism: Ghosts (holy and otherwise), freaky bloody hearts in the wall art, angels following us all over the place, eating the "true" body of Christ, and the lot. In retrospect I am so grateful that I was a teenager before being introduced to the dogma of the religion because I truly wanted to believe. I tried to believe. My internal nonsense meter never did stop trying to get my attention, so I was old enough to have some skepticism.
The brainwashing of the Catholic church, though, is formidable. It took me years of doubt and questioning and the FEAR of doubt and questioning before I was finally able to find my way through that crap.
For my kids, being an atheist doesn't mean much more than hearing mythologies from around the world, cocking an eye, and saying "Okaaaaaaaay...interestiiiing..." I am proud to have raised them without the brainwashing.
The kids and I end up talking about belief systems pretty often, as it turns out. One can hardly hear the news, move through the world, and be present in the United States without being bombarded by religious messages from all sides. Happily, my kids don't have to battle the internal religious guilt or the many levels of frustration with the believers of the world spreading their particular brand of "truth" and "love." While living in Australia the kids had wonderful experiences with putting their atheism out there and having friends and groups be very cool about it.
Our family is a homeschooling family. One of the lessons that we do regularly is to read biographies. In the last few weeks, one of the people we read about and listened to was Christopher Hitchens. The kids both enjoyed his particular brand of hard core atheist speak. We listened to a few TEDtalks as well as a few talks on YouTube.
The Pay OffOne weekend we hosted a family of friends in our home in Brisbane. This family had recently moved quite a distance away from us and had made a six hour drive up for a nice, long visit. Let's call these friends the Cravats.
The Cravats are a family that practice homeopathy and that have a nice, lucrative online business for homeopathic remedies for families, pets, and livestock. The family considers themselves spiritual and maintain some pretty unusual claims in their world view.
Mother Cravat told me that she actually diagnosed a young man with cancer of the uterus, her diagnosis being accomplished by waving a necklace over the man's picture and putting her hands on her spell book (or whatever she calls it). She sent the man a homeopathic remedy for his uterine cancer that she simply labeled "vitamin" so as to not shock the poor man with the diagnosis. She was very proud of this one and her kids consider her a hero for her work.
In spite of our vast differences of opinion we have enjoyed one another's company for the most part and our children have become good friends.
One particular night during the visit, while I wasn't listening very closely to the conversation that the kids were having, I did notice the volume begin to raise and the language start to get a bit anxious. The Cravat teens were insisting that one of their claims of chakras or auras or something was absolutely true.
My son, a thirteen year old skeptic of the highest order, listened to the volume going up and listened to these unsubstantiated claims being made by his friends. In rebuttal, in his wise little old man voice, I heard him clearly say, “What can be asserted without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence.”
The room was silent. My son simply smiled.