Posted On Facebook About A Minute Ago
I am an Atheist.
There, I said it.
Furthermore, I am raising my children as Atheists as well.
No, wait. That's not altogether true.
What I am teaching them, I hope, is to find and embrace a belief system that is most compatible with what they feel deep in their hearts. I was raised in a Christian home, by parents who tried very hard to model good Christian behavior. But Christianity has never felt like a good fit to me. It has always felt decidedly uncomfortable, like a pair of shoes that are a half size too small or pair of highwater pants. Not disastrously wrong, just not profoundly right the way I really needed it to be.
Though my parents did a wonderful job raising us, we were never taught or encouraged to explore anything else in terms of spirituality. So I drifted along, not really understanding that there were other religions, philosophies, and schools of thought that just might make sense to me. It wasn't until I was an adult that I realized, I could CHOOSE to believe whatever I wanted. Religious idealogy is not a genetically inheirted trait like curly hair or straight teeth (neither of which I was lucky enough to recieve iin my roll of the DNA dice). It can be altered to suit the way we need to see the world, navigate our lives and make sense of death. I experienced a huge sense of relief when I realized that I could accept or reject any doctrine based on my own personal list of requirements.
It is that more than anything, that I hope I have given my children; the power and the freedom to CHOOSE along with a yearning to learn and know and experience all beliefs, all cultures, all ways of life before deciding what fits. I want them to try things on for size, mull them over, take them for a test drive. And not feel guilt or shame about it.
If that thing is Christianity, then I will accept that and be happy that they have found something to give them peace, solace, and guidance throughout their lives. Just as I would if that thing were Buddhism, Judaism, Islam or Hinduism.
But there's one thing I haven't given them, and that's what this post is really about. I have not given them a sense of pride about who they are, or more precisely, I suppose, who they aren't. Which is....Christians. We don't say we are Atheists, you see. We don't deny if asked directly, but neither do we volunteer that information. We politely bow our heads when public prayer is offered. We do not protest when religion is inserted into every single facet of life here in the South. We smile and nod and make non-commital comments when discussions about spirituality inevitably arise. We grin and bear it when we are bombarded with scriptural quotes and YAY GOD! postulations in secular environments, such as Public School or say.....Facebook.
Why? Because it's just easier that way, to be perfectly honest. We are in the minority here in the South, and like many minorities, we are often judged; perhaps even more harshly since skin color, sexuality and gender are not choices we can make. In the minds of convicted people, we have chosen to live a morally and spiritually bankrupt existence and in their eyes....that makes us less. It's easier to avoid that judgement becauset it's unfair and it hurts. Sometimes it hurts a lot.
After a long discussion with my husband today, we both decided that have been doing our boys a grave disservice. If they were gay or black or disabled, we would teach them to stand up and be proud, be true to themselves, and be a part of making this world a better place for people like them. Why is their spirituality any different? Being Atheist is nothing to be ashamed of. We are free thinkers, examiners; questers, if you will. We want to know everything there is to know, we want it all to make sense and we want it to fit. We are not very good at blind faith, which I choose to see as an asset rather than a liability.
We are good people. We try to live good lives. We love deeply and completely. Just like Christians. And Buddhists. And Hindus. And Muslims. We don't judge you because you are Christian. Or Buddhist. Or Hindu. Or Muslim. On the contrary....we are happy for you, and we even envy you a little bit, because you have the solace of a convicted heart.
I don't love your God. But that doesn't mean I don't love you. It doesn't mean I don't respect what you have chosen to believe. It doesn't mean that we can't be friends, neighbors, lovers, kindred spirits or soul mates. Above all...it doesn't mean I am, or my children are, less worthy of your kindness or respect. Why people believe that it does will never make sense to me. Why people believe that religious idealogy justifies intolerance is equally puzzling.
So there. I'm out of the closet and I suppose, by association, so are my husband and children. I want you all to know this because I've decided that I am not going to remain silent any longer when something offensive, or judgemental or insensitive is said by convicted persons...even in innocence. That means here or anywhere else.
When I speak, or post, I have to make sure what comes out is not offensive to the very wide array of beliefs that are represented in my social circle or on my friend's list. Diversity is a beautiful thing because it makes us so very aware of all the ways that we are the same, but also all the ways we are different. And those differences are MARVELOUS! We can learn so, so much from all the ways we differ from one another! It makes us step outside ourselves and see the world through fresh eyes. It makes us kinder, I think. If I have chosen to be friends with someone, I don't want to insult them. If I love someone, I don't want them to feel there are conditions on that love.
By having me as a friend, either in real life or on Facebook, you have embraced diversity. Maybe you didn't mean to, but you did all the same. Now you have a responsibility to me and to others whose beliefs differ from your own (if there are any...for some of you, I'm quite sure there are not) to be kind, to be tolerant, to be accepting. And to just take a moment to ask yourself...Could somebody who believes differently than I do be offended by this thing I'm about to say? Could someone I care about be hurt? Is that really so much to ask?
If so you can unfriend me right now. In EVERY way. Because I don't need friends or relatives who really and truly believe I am less than they are simply because I do not worship their God, and therefore not worthy of the respect, consideration and kindness they afford those who believe as they do.