I don’t believe in God. There, I said it. It’s not that I haven’t tried; believe me. My family didn’t go to church while I was growing up, but I did attend (off and on) for a period of about three years, with a Christian family in our neighborhood. At their churches (we attended two over the three year period),I attended youth group, participated in discussions, prayed, and sang songs. The pastor of one of the churches even came to my house one day, and I “was saved.” I put myself on a year-long independent Bible Study course, and prayed daily. From the beginning it felt forced, but I continued trying to believe, trying to feel something. Then, at the age of 14, I decided I couldn’t force myself to believe something that I just didn’t. When I prayed, I felt like I was talking to myself; I never felt connected. I’m a skeptic by nature, and having faith in a God does not gel with my need for evidence and facts. Until now, I’ve been pretty tight-lipped about my beliefs. Growing up in a small town, the people who did know what I believed said some pretty nasty things: “You must hate Him,” “You’re going to hell,” “You’re a bad person,” etc. I didn’t know how to respond to those remarks as a youngster, and was often rendered speechless. I was stunned by their quickness to judge my character. For the record, I do not hate God; it is impossible to hate something/someone you don’t believe in. I suppose I could hate the idea of a God, but I don’t. On the contrary, I think the idea of there being an individual who oversees things and has a plan for everyone is comforting, I just don’t believe it. If I am wrong, and there is a God (and an afterlife), I would hope that He/She has seen the way I lived my life, and shows mercy. Being agnostic (I guess that’s what I am- I don’t believe, but feel that there is no way to know for sure) does not take away from the fact that I treat others the way I’d like to be treated, help others when I am able, and do my best not to pass judgment on others.
Now that I’m a parent, I think often about how I will answer P’s questions about religion, life and death, and holidays. I haven’t worked out the exact dialogue, but I plan on telling P that there are many different beliefs about all of those things. If she expresses curiosity about a certain faith/religion, I will explain to her what I know about it (if anything), and do my best to connect her with a family member, friend, or member of our community who can answer the questions that I can’t. My biggest fear is that P (at a very young age) will ask me what I think happens when we die. I believe in being honest with children, so I will tell her. I think that our bodies stop working (we don’t see, hear, taste, smell, speak, etc.), we become part of the earth, and we live on in the memories of the people who love us. I will stress that “what mommy thinks” is not what everyone thinks, and that “mommy doesn’t know for sure.” That said, young children tend to take what their parents say as truth, so I am still a little anxious. I don’t remember asking my parents directly what happens when we die, so maybe P won’t either?
The truth is, I don’t care if P decides to become Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, Quaker, Muslim, agnostic, atheist, etc. If believing in a God or Gods gives her peace and comfort, I will support her. P’s faith (or lack thereof) is hers to decide. My only expectations are that she remains open-minded, respectful of the beliefs of others, and does not think that her way of thinking is the “right” or “only” way. I want her to understand that you don’t have to believe in a God, or be part of an organized religion, to be a good person. That one only took me 12 years.
8 thoughts on “On Religion and Parenthood”
Have you heard of Unitarian Universalism (UU)? People of varying beliefs (Christians, pagans, atheists, etc.) attend Unitarian Universalists churches across this country. We’re a religion that is bound by 7 principles and the belief that spirituality (or lack there of) is an individual life long journey. You can read more here (http://www.uua.org/beliefs/index.shtml). Often, people come to Unitarian Universalism because they are not religious but want to provide some religious education to their children. I grew up as one of those children, and now I am the Director of Religious Education. I can tell you one of the things we often say in our religious education classes is, “Well, some people believe X, and other’s believe Y. What do you think?” So, if your worried about how you will talk about religion with P, you might want to check out a UU church in your area. Just a thought. Great post!
Thank you so much for reading, Meredith, and for the info! It didn’t make it into my post, but when P begins asking questions, we would most definitely consider attending a UU service. It is comforting to know that there is an option out there for people like me (and my family) 🙂
We went to my cousin’s daughter’s baptism last Sunday, and my 7yo asked some interesting questions. I wasn’t 100% sure how to answer them. But we do go to a Unitarian Universalist church (Meredith’s, in fact 🙂 ) and I can usually get help from other members or staff about how to discuss these “delicate” religious issues in a productive, loving way. I want to be honest with my kids but also comforting and reassuring at the same time. Thanks for sharing this post, Kristi!
Seven years old, huh? Whew! That gives me some time to formulate some better responses! A UU church will be our first choice of church, should P need some of those difficult questions answered. 🙂
Is there such a thing as agnostic due to Sunday being the only day I get to sleep past 8? That’s another reason to love the UU church. Around here they start at 11.
Casey, I say “Why not?” Haha. But more importantly, your children let you sleep in past 8? Care to come and train my child?
Actually, it’s my sweet husband who let’s me. But… he gets an entire kid free day off work so it’s not really an even trade 🙂