Raising freethinking kids in a mostly Christian society isn’t easy. We are looked down upon by our religious neighbors. Many people I have talked to have been shunned by family and friends when they have come “out of the closet” as atheists.
We are lucky to have family that supports us, even agree with the way we are trying to raise our kids. We don’t come right out and tell our kids there is no god. I am tempted all the time. Like most parents I want them to believe what I believe; to see the world the way I do. But I know they have to come to their own conclusions.
Instead I spend my time balancing the religious learning they are getting at their Catholic school. Yes, my heathen children go to a Catholic school. It was a matter of circumstances that lead us to the school (the same one that one of my best friends attended). The school is nice. It is small, one classroom per grade. All the teachers know the names of all the students, even mine who have only been in the school the one year. Even the principal knew their names (and, no, they have never been in the principal’s office).
I don’t try to dispel any of the teachings the school imparts on the kids. When they ask questions about what they are learning or even mention in passing I just tell them that not everyone believes that and that they don’t have to either if it doesn’t make sense. They know I don’t believe in a god, they know Daddy doesn’t care about religion, they know Papa doesn’t believe either.
I know it will get harder as they get older. Meagan is already worried about making her First Communion with her classmates, which she will not do since she isn’t baptized and we don’t plan to get her baptized. I had to go through the same thing in school. At least she will have someone there to tell her it is okay to not believe. I didn’t have that despite my dad being agnostic my entire life.
Owen says he doesn’t believe. He is still too young to really come to any conclusion but if that is what he says he believes/doesn’t believe then I let it go. Meagan says she does believe in god and heaven. I don’t try to change her mind. I periodically question her as to why she believes that. I want her to question everything. I have little respect for people that have blind faith in anything. I question Owen also.
The hardest part for me, sometimes, is feeling out of place. Even though no one at the school knows we are atheist I feel completely cut off from them, like I have a giant glowing scarlet “A” on my forehead. It is hard to make friends when you are worried about others bringing up what church you attend or why you haven’t been to Mass all year.
My goal for my children is to teach them to be good, upstanding, productive citizens that have empathy for all people. To teach them to never be afraid to stand up for what they believe, to never be ashamed of what they are or what they believe. I want them to think for themselves, be critical and analyze everything they come into contact with. And to find love and be happy. I don’t see how god has to be a part of that.