What It’s Like Elevating A Baby As An Atheist In The Bible Belt

The next was syndicated from Dame Magazine for The Fatherly Discussion board, a neighborhood of oldsters and influencers with insights about work, household, and life.

My son M, 8 years outdated, is rising up in Atlanta. It is a positive factor: Atlanta has fantastic meals, superb pure magnificence, and a number of the most genuinely pleasant individuals you’ll ever meet. It’s additionally the Bible Belt, and regardless that we stay in a comparatively progressive neighborhood right here, the complete environment is way, far more non secular — particularly Christian — than the place I raised M’s sister A, now 21, who grew up in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

In Cambridge, you say you’re an atheist and everyone seems to be like, “So what?” However right here, perception in God — or a minimum of, common attendance to a spiritual service — is far more of an anticipated a part of life. So when M’s classmate requested him what church he went to and he answered, “I don’t go to church,” the classmate cocked his head and mentioned, “Oh, so that you’re Jewish!” (When a Jewish good friend requested M if he was Jewish and M mentioned “no,” that boy mentioned, “Oh, so that you’re Christian!”)

The reality is, M is neither Christian nor Jewish (nor Muslim nor Hindu nor Baha’i), a minimum of not proper now. As a result of proper now he’s 8 and he’s rising up with mother and father who don’t take him to providers or comply with any faith at house. I can’t actually converse for my husband on this (he grew up going to church and is fairly personal about his beliefs), however on my facet anyway, M is being raised by an atheist.

And fairly than feeling like he’s lacking out on one thing essential, I feel he’s fortunate.

That is perplexing to lots of people. A few of them are horrible individuals whose opinions I can mechanically low cost. However even some pretty considerate persons are alarmed or confused by the thought of elevating youngsters with out non secular construction. They marvel how my children can be taught proper from improper, or fear that with out religion they’ll lack a supply of energy to show to when issues get robust.

Regardless that an more and more massive chunk of Individuals identify as non-religious, we’re nonetheless an overwhelmingly Christian nation. And plenty of of these so-called “Nones” think about themselves religious seekers fairly than atheists; they’re turned off by present-day organized faith, however with the best attraction from the proper of church, they’ll come again.

After which there are the mean-spirited, jerky “New Atheists,” lots of who would seem to hate the non secular, whether or not resulting from misogyny, a way of intellectual superiority, a covert anti-Islamic feeling, or rage at a God they as soon as believed in. These will not be my individuals. Nor do I determine among the many individuals who imagine in Science with a capitol S, a substitute God.

For me, atheism means I stay my life with out theism, in that the existence or non-existence of God (or gods) will not be significantly related to my life. Science explains the origins and dealing of the pure world nicely sufficient for me, and as for the religious, I want to “let the mystery be,” because the singer Iris Dement memorably places it.

The components of faith that do curiosity me, and that I do interact in my very own little God-free method, boil right down to morality and neighborhood. I spend numerous time occupied with learn how to be a superb individual — day in and time out, all of the little decisions we make even when no person is watching — and I attempt to be sincere with my children. Some mother and father would possibly really feel that they’ll’t provide ethical instruction to their children with no go-to set of directions, however for me it feels liberating. We discuss treating individuals with empathy and compassion and a way of reciprocity.

We discuss braveness and standing up for the underdog. We discuss messing up, and forgiving one another (and ourselves). I don’t have anybody textual content to consult with when speaking to my children about this type of factor, however there’s a complete physique of fiction and poetry and essays that may assist. Human beings have been making an attempt to determine these things out for a very long time, and we’re by no means, ever going to be carried out. We inform tales to determine learn how to stay — whether or not these tales rely upon a god determine or not, they’re all man-made, and helpful.

When my children ask concerning the large questions faith makes an attempt to reply — What occurs after we die? Who made the world? — I’m completely snug with essentially the most sincere reply I may give: No person is aware of. Then we will discuss what totally different individuals suppose, about creation myths and fables and legends, and about how varied these concepts are, and the way comparable they generally are, too. Which is why I like my children to have associates of many religions, to listen to about their beliefs and traditions, and to deal with them with respect.

I don’t really feel any stress for both of my youngsters to share my (non)perception, by the way in which. My 21-year-old daughter, A, has gone backwards and forwards from atheist to theist. She has spent numerous Sundays accompanying her beloved grandmother to an Episcopal church with a dynamic girl priest, a selection I assist 100%.

M, too, has thought and felt various things about faith, and I count on him to proceed to. The one factor I don’t need him to really feel is that he’ll go to Hell if he doesn’t go to church, as one classmate advised him (children shall be children, however I hope that one’s mother and father tone it down a bit). And it will be good if I might discover him a summer season sleepaway camp that didn’t emphasize faith, which is alarmingly troublesome to do, a minimum of in my area of the nation.

The concept that youngsters can solely develop as much as be morally good individuals if they’re raised inside a faith will not be solely ridiculous, it’s harmful. There are many horror tales about what occurs to youngsters in extraordinarily fundamentalist religions. Josh Duggar’s molestation of youthful youngsters — together with his personal sisters — isn’t an outlier on the earth of Quiverfull families; it’s an extension of that subculture’s inflexible gender roles, silence round sexuality, and privileging of silence.

We don’t know for positive whether or not Michael Jackson abused youngsters, nevertheless it’s fairly clear that his personal childhood was marred by beatings made worse by a Jehovah’s Witness environment of stigma and silence round intercourse, violence, and id. Rape survivor Elizabeth Good, who has remained a Mormon, has advocated towards religion-based abstinence-only sex education. She writes that it was troublesome for her to imagine her household would nonetheless love her and settle for her after her abduction and rape, as a result of she had been taught that ladies who had been now not virgins had been one thing to be discarded like a “chewed up piece of gum.”

I’m not saying that every one faith — even all fundamentalist faith — is damaging to youngsters. I do know many households by which faith is a part of the glue that binds the kids to custom, to heritage, and to a system of morality that informs how they stay each minute of their lives. I’ve attended their sons’ baptisms, watched as their daughters turned Bat Mitzvahs, and despatched silver Christening cups.

However simply as no person needs to be ashamed to proclaim their non secular beliefs, so too ought to atheists come out of the closet. Particularly these of us who’re mother and father. As a result of it’s essential that even within the Bible Belt, different children and fogeys can see that youngsters could be form, loving, robust, and good — with out God.

Kate Tuttle is a e book critic for the Boston Globe. Her work has additionally appeared within the Washington Publish, Salon, NPR.com, and elsewhere. She lives in Decatur, Georgia.