Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Kids and Atheism

I was brought up (after the age of 14 years of age, that is)  with Catholicism: ghosts (holy and otherwise), freaky bloody hearts, angels, eating the "true" body of Christ, and the lot. Happily, I was fourteen when my actions made my dad take the family to church -- because I was old enough to have some skepticism, even though I really quite wanted to and tried to believe.

My kids were not brought up in the guilt of belief.
The bonus for them: they never had to battle the brainwashing.

For my kids, being an atheist doesn't mean much more than hearing mythologies from around the world, cocking an eye, and saying Okaaaaaaaay...iiinnnnteresting...

The kids and I talk about belief systems pretty often, as it turns out. One can hardly hear the news, move through the world, spend time with people, and be present without being bombarded with religious messages from all sides. (I mean, why else would we have to talk about it so much? It's a nuisance.) 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." Will the kids, one day, experience anger from the many ways religion has caused pain, hate, and injustice in this world throughout history? We shall see.

One thing that Elizabeth and John do already notice at their young ages is the manipulative nature of many religious messages and the logical fallacies inherent in the system.  Yay Critical Thinking.

Down here in Australia the kids have had wonderful experiences with putting their atheism out there and having friends and groups be very cool about it. In our familiar circles back home we get the same acceptance and respect. But outside of those circles back home...not so much.

Back home, The Lizzie often says that she feels as though she wishes we could be "in the closet" about our atheism because "when we are 'out of the closet' people judge us. If we were 'in the closet' then more people might get to know us and accept us before they judge us for our atheism." Sadly, she already gets it.

How about you, Dear Friends and Readers?  
What messages do you get from your kids about being in the closet, 
being open in atheism, or about religion in general?

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  1. I'm glad you found a place where your kids feel they can be themselves. I'm hoping one day we'll be able to do that right here in the land of the free.

  2. There are a million other things about me and my family that drive away people who would hate us for our religious beliefs loooooong before we even get to that subject. Lol! Mary C.

  3. You know, I get pretty sick of this attitude, too. I'm not even an atheist, and I get looks wherever I go in America as if I'm going straight to hell. Some people cope with my belief's by saying I'm going through a phase. Uh, no I'm not.

    Why? why do people care what other people believe so much?

    1. My daughter is the one who struggles with the crap we have gotten from people. It makes her want to go into a cave to be away from the religious right. She doesn't want to have to fight it all of the time. All of her friends are wonderful and loving people. We are talking strangers for the most part who have caused her to struggle with this.

      Why do people care? I think you know. The religious texts and groups teach people to fear those who do not share their beliefs...it's sad. And it causes a great deal of intolerance, fear and hatred...

      It IS insulting, isn't it, to claim your change of belief as a "phase". How rude and presumptive. Don't worry. Really educated people would never say that!

  4. My kids are still little so they aren't really worried about the religious identity of our family. I know we will get there and I don't know how I'm going to handle it. My husband is still a believer. He is an emergent Christian, which to us means that he believes Christianity is for making THIS WORLD a better place and making us better people and that it is NOT for avoiding hell or getting into heaven. I love him for this and agree with him in this. But He still believes in the virgin birth, and the physical resurrection of Jesus, etc. Things I'm skeptical about. We haven't yet talked about how we are going to deal with it when the kids start asking questions about that kind of stuff. We should probably talk about that.
    As for me, I like being in the closet with some people. One of my best friends is a missionary. It's her paid job to get people to become Christians. I think our friendship would basically be over if she knew I was no longer a believer. It's nice to still be able to talk without her stressing out over my eternal salvation.

    1. If anyone knows it, Lara, you do. It's a journey. I'm sure your kids will absorb much wisdom from you. And as they get older, it becomes far more necessary to talk about things they have seen or heard or questions. So somehow they will know of the beliefs, disagreements, and questions of both you and your husband. And I know they will be more the richer for having an understanding that belief and disbelief can live under the same roof.

      There are times when I think, 'DANG, I wish we could be in the closet with this person' because it would be so much easier! But, overall, I feel too driven or something to be open about our atheism...

      Also, sometimes the burden of the knowledge of disbelief can be too much for some people to handle. It CAN be kinder to not rain on their parade...

      Do you and your husband have great conversations about this???? My husband and I did before I realized that I was an atheist. While I was on my discovery, which lasted lasted over a year, he never told me he was an atheist. He just let me bounce things off of him and discuss my things...it was so helpful!

  5. Hi Karen, reading your blog always makes me smile. Sometimes I get so upset when people try to influence my children with religion, yet my daughter's (5) totally not bothered by it. What you say shines a light on the situation for me. Clearly I don't want her to have to battle the brainwashing but I forget that as she's never been brainwashed she just finds it amusing. In the privacy of our home she often brings up something someone has said to her and laughs at how absurd it is. Unhindered critical thinking in action. Isn't it beautiful!? Thanks again for your fantastic blog! Eugenia Coy


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