Sunday, January 11, 2009

Atheist Moms Unite!

Are you out there, fellow atheist mommies?

I know there are lots of Christian moms in the blogosphere and in particular, Mo-moms (Mormon moms) who seem to run the media these days, dispensing domestic and decorating advice amid a sea of children to those of us who can barely manage one.

But where are the atheists among you? I ask. Not for any particular reason, really. This title isn't really a call to arms for atheist moms. Just wondering if you're out there, pondering those inevitable God-driven questions from the tots. Me, I was born to a Christian-born mother and Jewish-born father but both were non-believers. My father didn't possess a yarmulke and when called upon to wear one at some family event, he supposedly had to make do with a handkerchief. My mother wasn't very devoted to God either. She's become a bit Deepak Chopra-ish of late but when I was growing up there really wasn't much of a spiritual vibe in the fam. In fact, the only religious person in the family was me. For a time.

See, I went to a Christian school (a private school that happened to have a Christian affiliation). I first heard the call of God in the second grade when singing the song "Jesus wants Me for a Sunbeam" during music class. That song stirred something deep within. A love of the Lord!

Jesus wants me for a sunbeam
To brighten up his day
In every way try to please Him
With the things I say.
When I sang the words I believed that Jesus really did want me to be his personal ray of sunshine in heaven! I can still remember being amazed at this new feeling. I really loved God! As it turned out it wasn't God I loved so much as singing.

Either way my joyful pious warbling landed me a place in choir and I spent all my school career heaping blessings upon His name in both English and Latin, in both pop-Christian melodies ("If I was a teddy bear, I'd thank you, God, for my fuzzy-wuzzy hair") and in somber classical performances (Benjamin Brittens Requiem in D Minor).

For a while I also attended Sunday school at a local church. I went with another family who gazed sorrowfully at my heathen mother as she waved goodbye to me in her robe. I attended Sunday school because the girl I accompanied had shown me these awesome stickers they gave you for going. Stickers you could stick into your very own cute little Bible! The stickers were tiny and had cute weentsy little bees on them and inspirational messages: Bee kind. Bee nice. Bee good. I went to church so I could get the loot. Bee mine! But once I got them for myself I lost interest in Jesus. And once I realized you could be in the choir without praying, I no longer felt duty-bound to be anyone's sunbeam.

Thus began and ended my conversation with God unless you count the many, many Halleluias I have proffered in churches, standing in my choir girl's robe. I spent a fair bit of my schooling learning about other religions and I think they're all equally sensible in theory and dreadful in practice. So I don't plan to raise Crabkid with any of it. But I know I must also be careful not to be too contemptuous of religion, which is hard for me; yet we all know if we look down upon something, our kids—if they have any spine at all—are likely to revere it.

I'm all for the study of religion from a historical/literary/philosophical perspective. But I'm also with those people who think that atheism's message should be equally voiced in a tolerant society. Gotta love the Brits for coming up with the cash and gumption to run this plug for atheism on municipal buses!

As for Crabkid...God-moms, don't get your knickers in a knot: I'll do my best not to push my atheism onto her and I certainly plan to discuss anything she's interested in and expose her to sources other than her mom. But I can't help hoping she'll nix the God business and be a Buddhist type like her dad...I just think Buddhists are so much more civilized.

p.s. Hot off the presses: come read about my run-in with a Bragdaddy.

25 comments:

Deborah said...

funny that the non-believer ad ran in the UK-where there is supposedly no separation of church and state. teach everything-push nothing. amen! i mean...right on!!

themother said...

We're out there. We are just socially ostracized. While taking my homeschooled children on a walk once, a mom hailed me and told me how great it was that I was striking a blow for Christian values, and would I like to join her prayer group?

The knee jerk reaction to a mom who cares about her kids is that we share their old time religion.

You should have seen the look on her face when I told her I was an atheist.

BTW: The Freedom from Religion Foundation (http://www.ffrf.org/) does put up similar bulletin boards in various cities. They usually get themselves in loads of trouble.

Arty and Allyssa said...

I don't think I'm an atheist, but I don't do religion. I wasn't raised with it, and from what I've witnessed of it, I don't plan on raising my son in a particular religion.

Matter Of Fact Mommy said...

i was raised southern baptist. if anything puts a sour taste in one's mouth when it comes to any religion, it's being raised southern baptist.

now? i don't "do" religion.

but i have kids and i married a jew, so judaism will most likely be forced upon them.

themother said...

I wasn't raised Southern Baptist, but we live there, and I married a Jew. We're working on him, though...

It does come in handy, when your kids are forced to jump rope to "Jesus Loves Me" or to sing Christmas carols in Spanish class (I swear to the spirits of the universe, both are true, in public school)—if you tell the school that it's wrong because you are atheist/agnostic, you get nowhere. If you tell the school it's wrong because the family is Jewish, they see lawsuits decking the halls. Jewish just gets more respect.

The sad thing is that the religious DO NOT understand people like us.

Also sad: only a few posts on such an important topic. I guess most moms are afraid to come out of the closet.

Andromeda said...

i am agnostic, bordering on athiest. i can't say for sure there is no greater force out there. i don't put a face, or a name, or a belief system to it. how am i to know? i am but a speck, on a speck of dust, orbiting a bigger ball of fire.

that is about all i relate to my son on the topic. i keep all of it as scientific as possible. facts. when we die, our body gets eaten by worms and we recycle ourselves back into the earth. we take and we give. it helps that we compost, and that he's a boy (thus the idea of becoming worm poop is ridiculously cool).

i worry about when he starts up in school because i'm not sure how big of a deal it would be that we don't do religion. from the recent election, i get the sense our area is predominantly christian. oh, and the saturday morning jesus salesmen (and women, and elderly and children). i also hate the idea that if someone doesn't go to church it must mean they are christian, but without a church. like christianity is the "default".

i suppose i do have some sort of religion when the boy starts asking about it. it's The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster (Arrrrggg!), and i highly recommend checking into it. you will be grateful to have be touched by his noodly appendage. RAmen

tonypark said...

Religion can have an important place in a child's life, Crabmommy.

I went to church religiously (did I just say that?) for three months when I was 14.

I went to a catholic school but my family never ever went to mass. I was searching for some answers after my favourite uncle died, so decided to go by myself one sunday. I didn't emerge any wiser.

What I did notice, however, was that the very fetching girl from just down the road was there. Unable to work up the courage to say hello to her at the bus stop every day I finangled my way into the pew behind her the following sunday and was able to not only talk to her, but also touch her when the "peace be with you" handshaking bit came up.

After 12 weeks I was very close to saying "hello" on the street after the service, when God took her away from me.

Her family moved house.

The Redheaded Lefty said...

Here I am! Although I am more comfortable identifying as Agnostic, because there's really nothing more annoying to me than a person who claims to know what happens after we die. I find it stressful---I was raised in a Christian-ish environment. We weren't religious in any God-ly sense though. In the South, a lot of what church is about is social connections and support. And status, too. But I just don't buy into manbeing-as-caretaker-of-world thing.

My husband and I often joke that it would be a hell of a lot easier if we did! T

Matter Of Fact Mommy said...

@themother-- you are SO right. when i have said - in various social circles - that i have no ties to religion, was raised southern baptist, but harbor feelings of disdain toward religion now due to the fact that i was told i would burn in hell for whatever reason, etc., i get the *blank stare*. HOWEVER, if i say "i married a jew", i get the opposite - loads of respect, concerned nods and lots of questions; "will you raise the children jewish"?, etc.

ergh.

why can't we all just get along?

kellyache said...

After thirty years of religious marinade, I woke up and said "Hmmm." The past ten years have been god-free -- woohoo! All that being said, I don't look forward to my children's questions about gods and religions, because I'm afraid I'll be cynical despite my good intentions. For instance, I found a lovely painting of that virgin Mary in a very cool tramp art frame (art trumps religion). I hung it over the toilet. [Now that I see that in print, frig, I sound terrible. But it is meant to be funny. If I *did* believe in gods, I'm damn certain mine would have a wicked sense of humour.] Our daughter calls the painted lady 'Princess Mary' and I'm not so sure I want to tell her otherwise.

The Mother said...

@kellyache:
Please don't be worried about your kids. I have raised four boys, all with the same sense of skepticism about anything religious. They all have their heads screwed on perfectly straight—which is more than I can say about many people who were raised steeped in religious ferver.

Which would you rather have: a child who believes everything he's told and is firmly convinced that he'll go to hell if he screws up, or a child who THINKS?

PersonalFailure said...

I'm not a mommy, but good for you! Kids don't "need" god, they need good parents. And schools that teach actual information would be nice, too.

~me said...

I'm here *waves hand furiously*. Preacher's kid (eveangelical) and slowly making my way in the non-believer world. Recently moved to the bible belt (I miss CA) but finding it's not as bad as I'd thought.

Found you through the Friendly Atheist and putting you on my reader. Glee!!!

Julie said...

I'm an atheist mother! In fact I'm an atheist adoptive mother, which seems to be a rare creature indeed.
I keep meaning to read "Parenting Beyond Belief", which is a guide for us non-believer parents.

*mary* said...

How fitting- This was posted on my birthday! Is that a sign from God?
Not if you ask me.
But anyway, just found your blog and wanted to say that I am an atheist mother. I don't really blog about it, since on other so-called "mommy" websites the most ridiculous arguments were directed at me because of being atheist, in attempt to save my soul and all. It was just a silly way for some people to pass their time I guess, but it really got to be stupid.
Also,try singing long to "Jesus Doesn't Want Me For His Sunbeam" by the Vaselines. Much more appropriate, I find!

Dee said...

Thank you for posting this. Im glad I stumbled on your blog. We've had similar experiences with going to church with people other than family. My best friend was a ministers daughter, I went to Sunday school with her for a long time. My parents weren't non-believers they just didn't go to church. I jumped in and out of many religions over the years thinking I was looking for guidance of some kind, when in all actuallity I was just fascinated with religion all together. Im an athiest who loves to learn about religion, Haha!

I have an atheist child. He was in middle school when he decided religion was not for him. And a few years later I followed his lead and put a label on my beliefs, I became a proud atheist.

We recently moved smack in the middle of Mormon land. Life is even more interesting now. Im expecting a cross to be burned on my lawn at any time. :)

Im really happy I found your blog. I feel less alone now that I found some more atheist mommies!!
:D

The Mother said...

Dee: In my experience, it is the Atheists who spend their time studying religion. We find it fascinating. The "believers" just believe. They don't bother to learn about how this all got started.

Of my four boys, I have two confirmed atheists and one "deist" (he doesn't like the label "atheist"). The fourth is pretty quiet on the subject—probably because he can't get a word in edgewise!

cool mum said...

hi there. a little late to the party, but found this post very interesting! it came up when i searched for atheist moms in nyc. i'm a believer, but just posted about my experiences sneaking into atheist society meetings back when i lived in fl.

i am so frustrated and sorry that we believers have often done a terrible job treating others with respect and love. let's keep trying to keep the lines of communication open--we have a lot to learn from each other!

Kira Franz-Knight said...

HI...late comment...just looking for other athiest bloggin moms...I'm actually proud of my spiritual stance (but wish we had nice big gothic buildings), it is nice to know there are others out there (while respecting mo-moms, christian-homeschoolers, jewish-waldorfers, etc...it'd be great to have a little lcub of our own wouldn't it?)kira www.tangarangblog.blogspot.com

Sara said...

Very late poster here--I am a non-believer. Yet, I fake it and go to church here in the South. I moved here from up north and it has been tough moving down here. Going to church has been the best way to meet educated young parents. I often feel like an impostor, but mostly I just want to feel like I belong down here. I do often feel like a fraud, though...

Sela said...

I am a non-believer (Christian/Muslim/Catholic..etc.) and found your site. I am also not a mommy but interested in hooking up other atheists. I turned away some years ago after neglect and abuse from our home church. (An Alliance Church in Canada)

I'm writing because I just wanted to point out that there is a script virus on the immediate link to the Attack of The Redneck Mommy site you have listed. Not sure if this is new or meant to be, but thought I'd warn you and others.
Sela (In North-West Canada)

artsymom said...

I've been an atheist for most of my life. My father was Presbyterian and my Mom wasn't affiliated with any religion. I sort of figured out there were an awful lot of religions in the world when I was in middle school and I didn't think any of them was 100% correct. Believing in supernatural beings and occurances seemed bizzarre to me. I'm raising 2 children without the belief in any particular religion. If they decided one day that they wanted to follow one, it would be fine with me but I am 100% atheist and have explained to my children why I don't attend church and why I don't see the necessity in belonging to a religious group. I think it will help them make a better decision for themselves.
It is difficult to be an atheist in a community of mostly Catholics and Christian religions but I'm proud of what I believe and stand by it with perfectly clear reasoning. A person can be good without God and that's what I hope I instill in my children.

Domestically Challenged said...

Hi, I just found your post as I was looking for the Atheist Mom's blogroll. Why don't we have one???? Everybody else does and I am tired of loosing readers every time I discuss religion, politics or sex! We should start one... are ya in? (big grin)

Serah B. said...

I'm an atheist mom! I found your blog after googling "atheist mom blog." Glad to find you! I just started entered the blogosphere myself, after deciding we need more voices out here!

regina said...

I enjoyed reading this post, very thought provoking for me as I was raised Catholic. Thanks!