Having a baby made me an atheist

August 10 | Guest post by Amy Watkins

When I was pregnant, I was conflicted and insatiable: horny and self-conscious, restless and exhausted, empowered and totally helpless. And hungry.

It was the fall of 2002. U.S. forces were fighting in Afghanistan and war with Iraq was imminent. My husband and I attended peace rallies laden like picnickers with turkey sandwiches, bags of barbecue chips and jugs of limeade. We didn't make posters or write protest songs, but if we had they might have said something about the terror of becoming parents in a world where both freedom and safety seemed lost.

In the wake of the Patriot Act, a coworker told me she was happy to give up some freedom in order to feel safe. When I said I felt the opposite—that I would rather face a little danger in order to feel free—she looked at me with a mixture of amusement and scorn and said, "You'll change your mind when that baby's born." No one else was so blunt, but the usual assumption was that becoming parents would make us more conservative.

"Everything changes when you have a baby," our relatives and acquaintances said, but they missed the point: everything had changed already. It was the baby, that fuzzy blur on the sonogram screen, pushing us further and further from our old world view.

We were both raised and baptized Seventh-Day Adventists. We attended church, prayed and read the Bible. We had both had doubts about religion in the past, but we had put them aside, believing that what our faith gave us was more important than the answers it couldn't provide. When our daughter was born, though, those elusive answers began to seem more important.

I read the gospels while breastfeeding, feeling safer in the New Testament with Jesus's reassuring compassion than in the Old Testament with its endless wars and wrath of God, but I was not reassured. Had the Bible always been so inconsistent, so violent, so sexist? Had it always needed so much adjustment to fit with my own sense of right and wrong? I tried to stretch my faith, twisting it like the rubber band I had looped through my buttonhole to give me a few more weeks in my pre-maternity jeans, but it didn't fit. I tried to ignore my questions and doubts as I had in the past, but there was a new question I could not ignore: What am I going to teach my daughter?

When our parents pressed for a dedication ceremony, sort of the SDA equivalent of infant baptism, my husband and I recoiled. We admitted to ourselves then that we could not raise our daughter "in the church" and, eventually, that we could not raise her in the looming shadow of a personal god.

Our daughter is seven years old now. Like all parents, we are still learning how to be Mom and Dad. We don't have a model for raising a child without religion — which is both a challenge and a joy. We named our girl after Alice in Wonderland, the story of a child who follows her curiosity and her courage to a place both dangerous and wonderful. It is only a coincidence that her name also means "truth."

In my progression from faithful follower to skeptical mama, Alice was a line in the sand. The spiritual crisis that lead me to the painful yet fulfilling choice of atheism was brought on by becoming a mother. Without Alice, I might still be in the church pew, dissatisfied but too cozy to get up and search for better answers. My coworker was right: she changed everything.

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  1. WOW!
    This really spoke to me!
    Being pregnant and not being able to actively participate in politcal work on my college campus was really hard on me, especially since I wanted this society to be better for my daughter. I'm still struggling with how I can be a difference in this world, and still give my all to my little Penny.

    2 agree
  2. Love this article, thank you for sharing. My Mother in law as told the hubby that she thinks he will start going to church again when he has kids…I do wonder what it will look like with out religious families when we have kids and the pressures we will face…Part of me is nervous about that and part of me is excited about the possibility of raising children free from restrictive life styles and views to help them think for themselves and be intelligent consumers of all things- religion included. :)

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    • "help them think for themselves and be intelligent consumers of all things- religion included." <— I plan on being the same way, although from a different viewpoint. I plan on taking my kids to Church with my husband and I, but I expect them to reach the age where they want to discover things on their own and I will completely support that. I was raised essentially agnostic, and when I hit about 11, I started investigating a wide range of beliefs to see if I found any that to me seemed factual and reasonable and fitting.

      While I hope my children share my beliefs when they become adults, I do NOT want them to be the kind of people who are ABC religion because their parents are. I want them to believe in something because they fully understand it. Anything else isn't authentic belief.

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      • I am lucky to have parents who taught me to question and think for myself. I know it makes them sad that I have chosen a different world view, but I hope they understand that it is not a rejection of them or their values, but an embrace of an equally authentic and fulfilling choice.

        Sara and Dawn, these issues are so weighty for most people that they are inevitably difficult, but teaching your children love and free thought can't be wrong.

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        • "Teaching your children love and free thought can't be wrong."

          Agree times one million!

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  3. I have to say that it is awesome whenever I find another skeptical/atheist parent who is willing to talk about their experience. I know that even living in Oregon (one of the least religious states) we're constantly bombarded with religious icons and assumptions. Keep it up, and I bet you'll pull a nice following.

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  4. Wonderful article. I count myself lucky to have been raised as a secular humanist (for lack of a better term) and fully intend to raise my son to be a compassionate, thinking adult without religious restrictions. Ironically, the only religious pressure on our family comes from my in-laws, who are devout and active Buddhists. :)

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  5. Great article. I was actually raised SDA myself, but I quit believing as a teenager due to life circumstances. We are due in January and while I have always been pretty against the grain, I feel myself wanting to rebel more and more against most norms in society. I don't want my child to be subjected to these things just because other people say that's how it's supposed to be. I have thought a little about how we will tackle the whole god/jesus issue, but haven't really developed a real game plan. I suppose I want to treat it like the Santa Claus myth (I was raised not believing in Santa, funny enough). Tell the story, explain that a lot of people believe in this, and we should respect their beliefs, but here's why we don't believe it. It should be interesting.

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    • Brandi, we probably know the same people (I think it's about 2 degrees of separation for most Sevvies). :) My family didn't do Santa either–it wasn't the "true meaning of Christmas."

      • 2 Degrees is about right in SDA-land. My wife (still x-tian but not SDA) and I (now atheist) met at an SDA boarding academy (GCA). We discovered at our rehearsal dinner (which was almost 14 years ago) that her new step-dad at the time and my dad had been best friends in 7th grade (at an SDA school of course) but hadn't seen each other in 40 years. We've long joked that we shouldn't look into it too closely lest we find out we're related.

        1 agrees
        • My husband and I met at FLA. At a friend's wedding in Florida, my dad ran in to someone he'd gone to high school with in Iowa 30 years before. Small world. Small, weird world.

  6. This makes me so happy. It's nice to hear someone talk about feeling fulfilled by NOT following a religion. It's refreshing to hear!
    I'd like to add that I have nothing against anyone who finds comfort in their faith. I just appreciate hearing from the other side as well.

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  7. Great article, and beautifully written. As a secular humanist who was raised a devout Christian, I am always impressed by stories from people who think critically about the religion in which they were raised. Critical thinking has served me well, and I hope to pass it along to my children.

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  8. Very interesting article, and I appreciate your writing it!

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  9. This really resonated with me, although I'm sure the pregnancy hormones are contributing. I admire your courage, both to acknowledge when the faith you grew up with stopped working for you, and to go against the grain in other ways.

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  10. I loved this. Thank you so much for sharing. My husband is an atheist and I am… well I am not sure what I am but I think about this kind of thing often. It is really good to hear people's stories like this. Thanks.

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    • Abigail, it was (and is) a long road for me. There were a lot of wonderful things about religion and faith that I didn't want to give up. I hope that I've saved the most important. It was a big deal to me to realize that I didn't need religion for morality, I didn't need it for my sense of wonder or community or meaning. I didn't need it.

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  11. Wow! This is pretty amazing.
    I've always grown up in a home that was religious but as I grew older I started to question what was being said to me through passages and masses at church. It probably also didn't help that while finding my sexual identity and seeing friends go through the same thing that we were constantly told that "God hates gays", although at church we were told that he loved everyone.
    I completely lost my faith when my father was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2004. I was 13 at the time, my brother was 11 and we didn't understand how someone who did nothing but help others, who was kind and full of love and joy would have to go through cancer. He passed away in August of 2009. I guess it was my breaking point, that no God would let my father die with so much pain and suffering after everything he did to help everyone else.
    When I met my fiance one of our first conversations was about our religious views. I told him how I grew up as a "perfect catholic" but I have lost my faith and now I rely on what I can see, and basically I don't feel a need for religion in my life. He grew up in a house that talked about a God, believed in a God, but they never practised a faith.
    Since getting pregnant [I'm five months!] we have talked about starting to rebuild a faith because we felt as though it would help us to teach our child morals, however, the more we thought about it, we realized that the morals that we want to teach our child are usually never taught at church or through a bible, and that we can teach him or her to be a great person without having to relate the real world to what a God wants you to be like.

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  12. Thank you for this! I have had a similar experience. I have always gone to church but have been extremely questioning, learning to just keep my mouth shut a lot. Since we got custody of my 9-year-old stepdaughter I have seriously rethought how we want to raise her, and we feel that questioning religion and acceptance of others' belief systems are very important. I found the Unitarian Universalists, who welcome all beliefs (including atheists and humanists) and have never been more spiritually fulfilled.

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  13. I just wanted to recommend the blog Parenting Beyond Belief: http://parentingbeyondbelief.com/blog/

    There's a book of the same name that this guy edited, and it has a lot of great resources for raising your kids as freethinkers. It covers topics like dealing with death when you don't believe in an afterlife, and finding a community of like-minded people. I have no affiliation with this organization, I just think that the book is great!

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  14. I'm becoming a father in 3 months and often hear the same sorts of opinions expressed by people when I make what they perceive to be liberal or atheistic observations. I'm amazed and even bewildered by the 'miracle' of life unfolding before me and my emotions are all over the place, but I don't feel compelled toward religion in the least. As with your experience, I also feel that my atheism is setting root. I commend your intellectual courage in the face of difficult social circumstances.

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  15. What do you do during Christmas time? I too am an atheist and have yet to produce any offspring. My family was not religious when I was growing up but we always celebrated Christmas in a relatively traditional fashion though, religion was never much of thought. I think I'd still like to go along with all the good things that Christmas brings with it but perhaps do it in a way that doesn't really force religion on my future kids.

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    • Maybe if Ariel and co. will let me, I'll write an X-mas post. I really love Christmas! We do the whole she-bang–tree, lights, a few presents, carols–but Jesus and Santa aren't a part of it. Of course, it brings up some interesting questions from the Kid.

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    • Christmastime isn't strictly Christian. Many other faiths and cultures celebrate festivals at the same time. Christianity itself stole the date of Dec. 25th from another white god cult named Mithras which was powerful at it's infancy. If you look into most christian holidays you'll see the original Pagan roots meant to celebrate the changing of the seasons. Change the name of your festivities to Yule or Winter Festival and you've gotten rid of the Christian viewpoint.

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      • On the "other faiths celebrate Christmas" note, my mom's Vietnamese co-worker said that (secular) Christmas fits really, really well with her Buddhist faith. The act of giving is important to them, and even the red/green/gold Christmas colors are meaningful in their culture.

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      • I am sure I am not the only one, but this is part of the reason my husband and I plan on celebrating our version of Christmas not on December 25. We still do Dec 25th stuff with family, but we always planned on pushing our own festivities closer to Jan 6/7 (what many people think of as Ukrainian Christmas). I don't know if we will keep this tradition up after we have kid(s), but I want to. It takes a bit of the price-bite out too… grabbing all the gifts after the traditional day when huge sales are on!

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    • Many of the common Christmas traditions are actually pagan rites that were taken up by Christians. I don't have any children yet, but my husband (practicing pagan) and I (spiritual atheist) celebrate the holidays based on the traditions that we enjoy. I don't think that will change when we have kids. Our approach with them will be based more on a historic perspective than a religious one. "We decorate the ficus* because…", "some people believe…", "during the Roman occupation of Gaul…" ;).

      * We decided a while back to stop doing actual Christmas trees and purchased a ficus that has been dubbed Farcus the Christmas Ficus based on the character from "Christmas Story".

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    • I can see your confusion toward Christmas. We give presents to friends and family (who are mostly Christian), and put a few decorations out, but it's a secular deal for us, pretty much.
      Sad to say, that's not too hard to pull off, considering the consumer culture's made it that way.
      (I'm agnostic, my son's an atheist).

      Great post, btw.

      -guess how I found ya'll? through the catholic forums!
      Is that a riot or what? I like to read and post there, good to get different POW, know what I mean?

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  16. I struggle with this a lot, but I think my concerns are a little bit different. I'm preggo and agnostic, but I was raised Jewish and I still identify as culturally Jewish. However, my father is Catholic and we celebrated Christmas, Easter, etc., but in the Santa-not-Jesus secular way that most religious Christians hate. My husband was raised Catholic, but he's agnostic now, too. And despite our lack of religious belief, I can't help but want very, very badly to raise my child Jewish… not for the religious teachings, but for the identity as a Jew (particularly living in the South, as we do). My husband is all for it–he has this odd fascination with Judaism. We would only join the most liberal/social-justicey synagogue (of which there are plenty), but I still feel like I would be lying to my kid, you know? But I still can't shake the feeling that I want a raise a Jewish baby!

    1 agrees
        • Glad you found it compelling… His resonant point for me is that the celebration of human dignity and compassion and the pursuit of a better world can be powerfully bonding ideas. Too often, the non-religious think they are doomed to go it alone. Epstein seems to think that there's a chance we can come together.

    • Reenz have you considered a group affiliated with the Society for Humanistic Judaism? They are nontheistic.

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  17. We had our first child almost three years ago, born on xmas eve of all days and we decided at that stage to take a stand against our religious parents. Both sides were shocked and upset at first but there was no chance of us raising our son in a system we don't believe in. I did not want to thrust him into a system that makes a child a sinner, and as a scientifically minded parent I would never teach my son about religion other than in the same breath as fairy stories and other cultural throwbacks to simpler times and dropping educational standards.
    from time to time our parents still ask us to pray for things, clearly missing the point, but once you become a parent you no longer have the privilege of following, it becomes your time to lead.

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  18. I was raised in a non-religious home. I went to sunday school when I was very little, but my parents stopped forcing it before I was old enough to have really clear memories. My dad will go to church with his mom on mothers day and some holidays…but no one has been very churchy. I joined a few youth groups of different churchs throughout my adolesence, but still I'm not religious. Here's my issue now….I feel guilty for not getting my son baptised. I have NO idea why. I've never believed in any religion strongly enough to think it would really bother me, but why can't I shake this feeling I'm failing my son because I haven't had some holy man dunk him in water…or put water on his his…or whatever they do??? Social constraints getting me down? I dont get it!

    • Maybe what you're missing is a sense of ceremony–some ritual to welcome your little one into the world and the family. Maybe you could do something personally significant rather than religious. We didn't consciously set out to do this, but I remember my daughter's first trip to the ocean as a profound moment. We dipped her feet in the water–almost a baptism.

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    • Another option would be to have a baby naming ceremony performed by a humanist officiant. Some are associated with Ethical Culture Societies others are independent.

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  19. I was never baptized as a child, something which shocked my future MIL to the point that she offered to sponsor me through her Catholic church. My Boy and I have had many discussions on religion and how we would raise children in it. He stated that he wanted the offspring to have knowledge of religion, but wasn't going to force it on them – and then balked when I suggested he teach them about other religions that aren't Catholic, like Buddhism. Ha! I love to tease his inner Catholic. 😉

    I agree, though, that it should ultimately be left to the child to decide when they are ready for religion. I decided long ago that my faith was better utilized in believing in myself and the people that I love and support and love and support me in return, but that was my decision and I don't force it on anyone else. If my child wants to be Catholic or Buddhist or whatever, that's fine – until they try to force it on others. And then they're grounded, haha.

  20. I really enjoyed this article; thanks for sharing your experiences and perspectives. I know that I will also be raising my children free from organized religion–I was raised in a very Catholic family and I know that I do not want my kids to have the same experiences I did, especially with parochial schooling. My husband and I have talked about how we will address the reality of religion as a cultural force in our household, especially since our kids will have grandparents and other family members who are very religious. One aspect of religion that I DO like is the cultural currency–being raised to have a familiarity with the bible and religious iconography gave me a much deeper understanding of literature and especially art that I encountered as an adult. (I am an art teacher with a background in art history.) I am also a huge lover of tons of different mythologies, especially Greco-Roman, and I absolutely intend to share these stories with my kids.

    We have essentially decided that we will introduce our children to a wide variety of religious mythologies from various cultures, and focus primarily on the aspects that teach lessons about morality and the human relationship with the natural world. Our kids will be absolutely free to attend church with their grandparents if they are interested; but at home we will explain that Christian biblical mythology is just ONE of many things that people believe in the world. Ideally, I hope that our kids grow up with a well-developed sense of cultural currency surrounding religious ideology, while maintaining an understanding that they are free to identify and explore the elements that hold personal significance for THEM.

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  21. Can I chime in in favour of some kind of structured religious upbring? I was raised Greek Orthodox. As you all might have guessed, my mother had major problems with certain points of Orthodox dogma, particularly with regards to gay people and women. She always talked about these things with us. When asked why she didn't leave the Church and why we had been baptised (Eastern Orthodox infants are baptised, receive their first communion and are confirmed all at the same time), she told me that she felt her Church was like her family. You don't just leave your family if someone says something you don't like. You stick around and try to change it, because you appreciat that what is at the center is bigger than anything you might disagree on.

    I didn't stick around in the Greek Orthodox Church, but I did stick around Christianity. Today I am a pretty liberal Anglican. I appreciate that I was raised with a faith. It has given me a little light to see by every now and then when I have needed it. I know religion is not the only thing that does that but sometimes it can be.

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  22. Thank you for writing this article. I am glad I am not the only one who came to a realization after giving birth to a child. My son made me question religion but when my daughter was born and became sick 3 weeks later, I realized my questions gave away to trusting religion to believing in my self, my family, and the doctors. I figured there is a God(s)and if they have a hand in life and death they will play the card as they wish but I will fight for my daughter because I am her Mother.

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  23. I'm so glad Blag Hag pointed out this article. While I was pregnant I started a real and true evaluation of why I believed and what I wanted to teach my daughter and I realized that I didn't actually believe (long story based on Catholic fairy tales) and that I didn't need to frame what I wanted my daughter to know in a religious context. I also realized that most of the religious teachings I looked into had areas of glaring contradiction to how I want to teach her to think of herself or to act towards others. I do hope to find or build a sense of community similar to that which is often (but not always) found in religious communities.

    • Community is important! I can only speak for my family's experience, but we have found community by getting involved in local art and environmental activities, and we keep our friends and family close. Building is the key word, I think.

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    • I think that community is very important and as Amy has pointed out it can be found in many places. If you want a religious, but nontheistic community you might find one at an Ethical Culture Society or a Unitarian Universalist Church.

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      • The UU Church has been the only one I've considered and the last I checked our local one was lead by an atheist.

    • interestingly, having no local family and being late to the parenting game, my husband and i were feeling an absence of community and i have recently and surprisingly delightfully found it by searching on meetup.com for an atheist parenting group. i figured the "no god" philosophy people would be just as effective bonding foundational ground as the "god" stuff, and it's thus far been the best gold mine i've found after a couple years of deliberate searching for compatible peers.

  24. I'd just like to say that it is possible to be raised in a religion, be a critical thinker, and maintain the faith you were brought up in. I get the distinct feeling that many of you do not believe in that possibilty, and yes it is a little bit insulting.

    I can appreciate that many of you would not want to give your children an upbringing that is forced or inauthentic. Seeing such infleuntial figures (parents) half-heartedly partake in religion for the sake of their children might be harmful to their overall spiritual health. Just please consider that religion is not the opposite of free thinking or critical thinking, and you are not making a choice between those two things when you choose secularism for your child.

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    • I'll refrain from speaking on behalf of everyone else, but for me, so long as you don't believe in a literal view of the Bible and you're not running around using excerpts to judge others, there's a pretty good chance we'll see eye to eye on most things. However, being faithful is by definition equal to being irrational because faith is the acceptance of, or belief in something in absence of evidence. That doesn't mean a person of faith can't think critically; only that they don't come to their religious point of view via critical thinking. The problem for me is that most churches don't celebrate reason or critical thinking and so, they are not environments that I am particularly compelled to expose my impressionable child to. We're all telling stories of personal nature and I think you should be cautious of taking personal offense to them. I'm not offended by your choice and I don't believe you should be offended by mine, in spite of the fact that we're both basically telling eachother that we're wrong.

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      • Jeremy – I am also a Christian and was feeling the usual pit in my stomach reading these entries. Living in a liberal city with educated "thinking" friends, I am used to people demeaning religion and can completely understand why GRich feels insulted.

        Most posters to this thread seem to be celebrating their anti-religious feelings, rather than marveling that there is space and tolerance for both in this country.

        One CAN think critically and still believe in one's faith: by thinking through and accepting what one believes, and what one doesn't believe. I have CHOSEN my faith, I don't follow it blindly, I CHOOSE to believe, even in those things that cannot be proven.

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    • Religious belief is not the opposite of critical thinking. While I can't help but be an atheist, one of the people in my life I respect tremendously is a childhood friend who was raised as an evangelical fundamentalist Christian but, after much study and reflection, has dramatically moderated her beliefs.

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    • I get the distinct feeling that many of you do not believe in that possibility, and yes it is a little bit insulting.

      I don't think anyone's denying that it's possible, nor do I think the intent of this post is to trash on religious parents. The author has merely shared her experience — yours will no doubt vary. And that's awesome.

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    • G. Rich, I am sorry that you feel belittled. I hear this a lot from Christian friends who are used to being admired for their intellect — that they think atheists don't respect their brilliance enough. The interesting thing is that what I hear is an assumption on their part about what atheists think of them, not a statement of what atheists have said to them, so maybe what's going on is a little bit of projection not actual disrespect from atheists. Just a thought.

      • Mkb I have read and re-read your post. I have considered the possibility that I am projecting something. It is possible that is the case. It is also possible that this is a community of relatively like-minded posters and my different perspective sees things in what some have said which they do not see. I will resign that it is a little bit of both.

        I don't feel a personal injury or insult and have never expected people to admire my intellect ESPECIALLY ON THE INERNET! :) . That would be a bit self-important, and I know how small I am in the grand scale of things. I am a big picture kind of gal. (Probably because I am a Sociology teacher) The insult I perceived was to religious experience in general.

        The notions expressed in many of the comments(not so much the post itself) here are really very modern and seem to take for granted the role that organized religion or less organized belief has played in the vastness of human history. Modernity does not wrongness make, but the historian in me hates to see institutions that do have a long rich cultural and intellectual history tossed aside as un-intellectual, stifling, restricting or a hindrance to self-actualization.

        I take no issue with any of you being atheists or agnostics and feel no concentrated disrespect from those two really diverse camps. It would be quite silly to come to a place like this for a conversation like that. As I said in a previous post, I find it admirable that you would NOT raise your kids in a way that is inauthentic or forced on your part.

        I am not trying to be anything other than conversational and polite, but I do not think that is the impression I have made to some of you.

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        • Personally the historian and anthropologist in me thinks that we should be looking at past institutions as examples of what not to do. To say that the tradition of organized religion is intellectual is to dismiss vast swaths of history and even modern culture.

          There are more liberal churches that are not as opposed to curiosity or as anti-intellectual, but all religion requires a blind spot in your critical thinking in regards to faith. If you could prove for yourself with evidence that your religion is true then you wouldn't have faith, you'd have a rational belief. The two things are mutually exclusive.

          I was raised in a church and I don't have a problem with most religious people in America, but it is sad that anytime someone advocates a lifestyle without religion there is someone else who takes that as an insult against them.

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          • I think this comment makes G. Rich's point.

            "There are more liberal churches that are not as opposed to curiosity or as anti-intellectual, but all religion requires a blind spot in your critical thinking in regards to faith. If you could prove for yourself with evidence that your religion is true then you wouldn't have faith, you'd have a rational belief. The two things are mutually exclusive."

            There are a lot of judgments, assumptions and generalizations in that statement. People who have deeply explored spirituality find plenty of real-life signifiers of the possibility of God through biology, mathematics, and more. I am agnostic myself but married to a devout Catholic, and while I will never have the sort of faith my husband has, we have some incredible conversations about pieces of the world that intimate a God.

            I wouldn't make a claim that atheists are close-minded or too lazy to do the work involved in making a spiritual connection, and it is off-putting to state that raising your kids with a religion requires instilling a blind spot in their critical thinking. And there is no ban on critical thinking in our Catholic church; most saints go through periods of deep reflection and questioning.

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          • GreenbyNature, you said, "but it is sad that anytime someone advocates a lifestyle without religion there is someone else who takes that as an insult against them."

            I think you unwittingly hit the nail on the head, "ADVOCATES a lifestyle without religion."

            It doesn't insult me that my friends/posters on this blog/etc. choose a non-religious lifestyle. It is insulting when they ASSUME they are right, belittle my faith, and ADVOCATE for their point of view. I would never try to convert someone or insult someone for not being religious. But I'm pretty darn sick of religion being trashed.

            A lot of it has to do with the current PC culture of our society. Christianity is not perceived as a faith deserving of considerate dialogue by many "open minded" people.

            I would suggest the following to any atheists who are unsure if their speech could be perceived as insulting to a Christian (I'm assuming that the goal for most is NOT to insult): when speaking of Christianity, or about Christians, try to imagine you are speaking about a group you would never want to insult: racial minority, different sexual orientation, other religion (Jews, Muslims, etc.) If you'd be offended listening to someone else use terms or tones towards those groups, don't use them towards Christians.

            1 agrees
  25. My apologies for any confusion. I did not find the post to be anything but a sincere account of her experience and I enjoyed reading it. My comment was more about the vibe of the comments I read in response to the post.

    Also, yikes, so much for anonymous. That must be the itchy trigger finger mentioned in the commenting policy, outing the person with their name. Either that or you only get one anonymous post and I used it up months ago.

    1 agrees
    • When it comes to anonymous comments, I see it as one of two options: you can use some sort of recognizable handle, or you can avoid saying something potentially inflammatory. If you're going to take a stand in these parts, you need to do so with a name.

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      • I understand. Thank you for changing it to contain less of my name.

  26. Having a baby made me reconsider everything I believed. I think the tipping point was original sin/human depravity vs. the total innocence I could plainly see in my child, and the good intentions I believe, as a parent, are inherent and intact. I have these logical conundrums now I never used to, and no one else around me seems to see the inconsistencies.

    Because, my whole family is still religious. My husband. All my friends — at least 98% of the total, and 100% of the ones I see regularly. And, frankly, I have a lot of good feelings toward and memories of growing up in the faith. So for me to abandon my faith is setting myself apart from my community and my own desires, and so I waver, dissatisfied with both possibilities. It makes me really sad.

    1 agrees
    • Lauren, this is so much how I felt at first! My husband was also moving away from religion, but he seemed a lot less conflicted about it. A common misconception is that everyone who leaves religion leaves in anger. That was not the case for me.

      Another common misconception about nonbelievers is that we're searching for meaning in our lives, which it's understood will eventually be found in some kind of faith experience. For me, the opposite was true: I was searching for something when I was involved in religion, and once I found it, I was able to leave religion and feel fulfilled.

      My point is not to convert anyone to atheism or insult anyone who finds their religious life satisfying. I think people are uncomfortable with atheism because we don't talk about this very much, so I want to talk about it. I am interested in showing an honest example of life lived in wonder without god. How's that for a mission statement. :)

      2 agree
  27. Whew, took awhile to get to the comment box! I love this post. Seriously, I find nothing more inspiring than two people asking questions, becoming curious and confused together, and making choices that work for them. Alice is a lucky girl and I love her namesake!

  28. I loved this post… largely because it resonated with my leaving Catholicism. I got to a point in life where I just did not believe anymore.

    But there were things I missed. One is that I valued growing up in a church but having the critical thinking skills to leave it whe I felt it was not right for me. As you mention in a comment that you miss some aspects of faith, may I recommend Unitarian Universalism? Their dogma-less, with an emphasis on caring and questioning, which sounds like you and yours are really concerned about.

    But yeah, go you for following your heart.

    1 agrees
  29. Sometimes the posts here fall outside my comfort zone. Sometimes I just don't even care about the topic. And sometimes they make me say "YES!!".

    So… YES!!! I love this post.

    2 agree
  30. Thanks for this article! I'm a proud agnostic, and I always fear that becoming a mother will make me a religious person. Glad to hear it can go both ways!

    1 agrees
  31. Becomming a parent made me ebrace catholocisim…I even got confirmed in the church when I was pregnant with my twins (baby 3 and 4). Mostly because I realized that the design of the human (and most everything really) was no accident. I believe we defenitly had a designer. And I think Catholics are the only Christians that don't take the bible literally.. (7 days to create the world wasn't exactly 7 days.. ) so It was the one that resonated with me most.

    3 agree
    • Many former christians wrestle with how to raise their kids without the built in community of church. That's why Amy's essay is so remarkable. There are other options for parents who want to raise ethical, intelligent kids. Thanks Offbeat Mama, for sharing this story!

      1 agrees
    • The Catholics are most certainly not the only Christian church that doesn't believe in Biblical literalism! (Some examples: the United Church of Christ, the Metropolitan Community Church, and pretty much any of the other liberal mainline Protestant churches.)

      2 agree
  32. I very much identify with this. My partner and I had issues with the Christian traditions we were part of before we had kids – especially the fundamentalist traditions we grew up in, which were incredibly hateful and judgmental. But it wasn't until we became parents that it slowly began to dawn on us that we couldn't be Christians any longer. It wasn't an instantaneous thing. We did go to church for some months afterwards, but when we really started questioning why we were still doing it, things fell apart pretty quickly. Neither of us could stomach the thought of raising our kids to believe one religion was more or had more of a corner on morality than any other, when we didn't believe the former and the latter was SO obviously false. We also began to think in more detail about aspects of our religous upbringings that we hadn't really considered for years, and realized that, well, some of the stuff we were raised to believe was abusive and really f@%$ed up. And as a feminist and progressive, I really couldn't justify staying in a church, much less raising kids in a church, where the official teachings were so misogynistic, homophobic, transphobic, and the culture was so often classist and racist. So now I'm an agnostic and my partner's an atheist.

    3 agree
  33. Thanks for sharing your experience. Similarly I was raised in the same cult (SDA) and escaped (barely). I was determined NOT to submit my kids to same mental and spiritual abuse that I suffered. (Not to mention the resulting necessary therapy). They are now both grown, adult, happy atheists.

    1 agrees
  34. Wow, very well written. It's great to see something like this. It seems like all the mainstream parenting sites and groups, even the more natural ones, are all pretty heavily dominated by religious people.

    I was raised a christian and my husband wasn't raised anything, and we are both strongly atheist. I don't have any worry of how to raise our baby (first pregnancy now) as it seems very natural to me to be atheist, but I worry about finding other families with similar values to befriend!

    I left my religion when I was very young. I remember most of the stories in sunday school being very disturbing to me. The story of Abraham did it for me. I remember something in me breaking that day, when I realized my mom would follow the word of god even to that extent. I wanted out right then and there!! Everything that was taught made me feel uneasy and I always felt like I could see right through it, and I just could not understand how everyone around me could all be so into it! The church we went to went as far as to show abortion videos to us young kids though, so there were a lot of things going on there that left me scared.

    Still not close with my religious mother, and I actually worry my child would become super religious, and how distant that would make us.

    1 agrees
  35. This was an interesting post, but the comments were even interesting to me. Everyone has a a different story on how they decided how to handle religion with their children, whether they were believers or not themselves. Its facinating to read how you all came to that point.

    I attended Church from birth until I was old enough to refuse to go (around 11). Although being indoctrinated from a young age I never related to any church or teachings. Religion has never made sense or felt right to me as an individual. I appreciate to some people it does.

    My husband is more athiest and I am more agnostic. As close as those two views seem to be, we do disagree slightly on how to raise our children.

    He would like to teach them that there is no God and that you can only trust theories/facts based on evidence. I feel that this would be as unhelpful as teaching one religion as true; closing their minds to possibilites and not giving them the space to explore and think for themselves.

    I would like to teach our children about all religions and beliefs and that even though we (their parents) dont beleive in any of them, it is up to them to decide what they believe.

    There are good things and bad things about religion. I hope we can bring the good things into our child's life (sense of community, sense of place in the world etc) without bringing in the bad (intolerance, exclusivenes etc).

    2 agree
  36. All these posts are fascinating to me. There are so many different life experiences. I was raised Catholic, and my faith is still strong today. There was a time when I relaxed some if my beliefs to suit what I wanted. I had so many questions about what I should do, and everone I knew offered answers. Few had solid reasons for their opinions, though. So, I sought the Church's teaching on the matter. Never have I found more love and solid logic from one source. I heeded the way of the Church, and I have never felt more free. I feel like my renewed faith makes everything I do more beautiful. Catholics often get a bad rap because of the fanatics who misrepresent our faith. I think if people actually studied Catholicism, they would find answers, love, and forgiveness. That's not what all the crazies will tell you, so I'm here to tell you the truth.

    Also, question…I understand there are many belief systems out there. But the UU church…how is it a church if it is led by an atheist? I would honestly like to know. Thanks.

    3 agree
  37. There are places between the church and atheism. I was raised informed to choose, and I'll do the same for my daughter. My mother is an ex hari krishna, and my father follows shamanism and was raised Irish catholic. But, we were always taught that God is what you make it.

    2 agree
  38. As someone who has always eschewed organized religion while still enjoying "religious" texts as quality literature, I've always debated with myself as to whether or not choosing to be atheist–to have "no faith"–isn't actually just another form of faith.

    • I appreciate where you're coming from, but I disagree. Being an atheist is a choice, just like being a catholic or a muslim is a choice, but it is not another form of faith. Unlike the other choices, being an atheist is based on evidence.

      • I agree that being an athiest is a choice the same way as being religious a choice, however athiesm is not based on evidence.

        Athiesm is based on the lack of evidence of there being anything else. There is no proof or facts to suggest there is no higher power any more than there is facts to suggest that there is.

        If the human race could prove with evidence that there is no God or anything supernatural in the world (or that there is) I'm sure there would be a lot less debate on the subject.

        That being siad, Faith is defined as "a strong belief in a supernatural power or powers that control human destiny", so I would have to agree with Amy that athiesm cannot be considered a faith.

        4 agree
      • I have to lean towards what Jesscar said. I chose my religion based on evidence, so I don't think one could say atheism is a choice based on evidence where as religion is not. I think we all look at the evidence, judge it against our own experiences and in some peoples case, "gut feeling" and arrive at different conclusions. I think many Atheists find that there isn't sufficient evidence to have faith in a religion and thus choose to believe that there is no higher power (maybe believe is the wrong word, but I think y'all know what I mean).

  39. While my mother wass pregnant with me her mother told her the same thing; that church would become more important or that she would feel differently after i was born. My father being an atheist and my mother being a no longer practising scientologist agreed to not raise me "in the church". But they didnt limit my views to the non-religious. My parents were alway open to answering any questions I had about religion. By the time I started high school I visited every church in my little town (we have 13) and read books on almost every religion I could find and i dont really fit with any religion but i have my own beliefs and that is good enough to me. Just believe what you believe as long as it makes sense to you and screw the rest.

    1 agrees
  40. "Just please consider that religion is not the opposite of free thinking or critical thinking, and you are not making a choice between those two things when you choose secularism for your child."

    The commenter may not have intended this, but I don't think we should be choosing for our children (whether it be to raise them athiests, secularists, Christians etc). It's just my opinion, but I'm going to make sure my child is free to learn, question, and explore, and while I'll set them a good example of the values I think are right, but I want to be careful that they acquire critical thinking skills without me telling them how to think, even if it means they come to different conclusions to me.

    3 agree
  41. We too are lone atheists raising children in a christian community. My children are still young, but I constantly worry about the challenges they will face. Nice article!

    1 agrees
  42. Thanks for the great feature! A touching story and beautifully written.

    "But what are we going to teach our kids?" is a question I find clears things up for a lot of people. Some people get back to religions they've drifted away from when then have kids, and those are the stories we hear most often. It was so lovely to hear an opposite story–someone whose child made them examine their religion and find it wanting.

    I was raised as an atheist, and I can't express to you how fulfilling it has been. It was a great way to grow up–I'd recommend it to a friend. :)

    2 agree
  43. "Rather, we, as parents, have the obligation to teach our kids critical thinking based on reason, logic and evidence; specifically we need to teach them to put religion into the same category as superstition and fairy tales, i.e., it shouldn't be given any serious consideration at all (except in the context of historical man-made mythologies, concocted out of ignorance, in an attempt to explain nature, without the advantages of modern science). "

    I question anyone who tells me I "need" to teach my children that religion is in the same category as fairy tales and superstition. Granted, I don't have kids yet lol, but as I have previously stated, I will raise my kids in the context of my belief system. When they reach the age where they question that (which if I teach them properly, they will do so) I will support that process. If that means they leave my religion… well, I would be disappointed, but I would still be supportive.

    I guess I take insult to your comment mainly because even the religions I don't believe in and I do think are false still hold great value to me. While many people take the stance that religion has brought nothing but trouble to our world, I believe that religion has given us great contributions (and I think atheism has too… so don't worry, I don't leave anyone out on this one, except for extreme fundamentalists in religions) and shouldn't be reduced to "fairy tales".

    4 agree

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