An atheist mom

Apparently, a lot of people who don’t know better think my husband and I are Mormon. I can see where they might get that impression: we got married and had a child quickly, and at a relatively young age compared to our college-educated peers. I’m a stay-at-home-mom. My husband wears glasses and unstylish button-down shirts. I don’t drink caffeinated beverages.

If you’re one of the readers who clicked over to INTP Mom from my old blogs, Leaving Eden and Peaceful Atheist, you might know me as a former evangelical Christian who became an atheist while attending a renowned Christian college. A lot of people ask me if I’m still an atheist. I am, but atheism takes up surprisingly little residence in my mind now. I rarely read or talk about atheism or religion anymore. I would happily discuss it if asked but I don’t feel the need to initiate conversations about it.

My husband KJ is an agnostic and skeptic who never dabbled in religion. For him there was never a God, never the promise of eternal life, never a divine plan for his life. All of these things were once central aspects of my life, and when I became an atheist, I had to deal with the absence of them. KJ and I have very similar philosophies about life, morality, and values. For him, skepticism has simply always been the obvious, common sense way to live. That’s why, even though our beliefs about God and the supernatural are the same, he calls himself agnostic while I call myself an atheist.

Atheism is simultaneously very important and very unimportant in my life. I don’t think about it, but it affects every area of my life. Here’s a little bit of what being an atheist looks like for me:

Because there is no divine plan, I know that I am responsible for what happens in my life. I don’t expect things to be accomplished in my life unless I accomplish them. I don’t make decisions lightly because I know there is no such thing as fate. I know that there are direct consequences for all of my decisions and actions (and all of my indecisions and inactions), from my career choices to the amount of polyunsaturated fat in my diet.

Because there is no God to sin against, I know that the only forgiveness I need for my transgressions is from the people affected by them. I spend my time and energy on trying to do better instead of lingering over my unworthiness.

Because there is no afterlife, I know that the time I have with my family is limited. I savor every moment with them and I never miss an opportunity to give my husband or daughter a kiss.

Because there is no God, my husband and I know we are our child’s best supporters, advocates, and protectors. We do everything we can to keep her healthy and safe. We make sure she gets all her vaccinations on time, save and plan for her future, and keep up with the latest developments in pediatrics and child safety. We make every parenting decision consciously because we know that the molding of her character depends on our guidance, not divine guidance.

Eventually I would like to blog more about atheism, especially as it pertains to parenting. So far it hasn’t been a subject of focus because my daughter is so young and other concerns have taken precedence. If there are any specific topics you would like me to blog about, let me know.

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4 thoughts on “An atheist mom”

  1. I would LOVE to hear your perspective on atheism and parenting. I expect that my atheism will eventually start to come up more frequently as my 9-month-old daughter ages, and since I was raised Catholic, I don’t have a mental picture of what it looks like to raise a child without religion. I think this comes easier to my husband, who is in the same boat as yours (he’s always been agnostic). There’s a lot that we haven’t figured out, from the inconsequential (what will we tell her about Santa Claus?) to the more significant (how will we handle it if her Christian classmates tell her she’s going to hell?). So I’m definitely up for hearing advice and/or how other folks are doing it. And if you’re up for it, one topic that I’d like to see covered is resources for atheist/agnostic/nonreligious parents – books, blogs, communities, etc. I think this is a major advantage that religion has over atheism, and I’d love for this to change.

  2. I’m definitely interested in hearing more about atheism as it relates to parenting. It is quite an undertaking to weather the existential inquiries of a child, reluctant to offer any absolutes as to what does and doesn’t exist, struggling with an appreciation of fantasy: do faeries exist? Humanoid aliens in space ships? Santa Claus? Etc. – the fleeting instant in the life of an individual in which credulity might be anything other than reprehensible. Maybe it prepares the child for a life of openmindedness (build up that Ni!). Maybe later when they realize that it was all a story told in fun it will give them some insight into the way many adults continue to believe in stories, and innoculate them against naivete in their own lives. And maybe it’s the best way to cushion the blow of dealing with death (“maybe they’re ghosts now?”) Until they’re old enough to get a good handle on it.
    Then again, maybe children who never grow up with the expectation, a sort of entitlement, to cheat the great unfairness of mortality by means of an afterlife, will never bear the great disappointment of reformed christians. Maybe their existential angst will be less because they were never set up with false hopes to begin with.

    1. I think children will always harbor thoughts of the supernatural/ phantasmagorical. After all it’s human nature to do so; religious tendency is an artifact of evolution, and atheism didn’t really become possible before science gave us tools for understanding the unknown. I think a childhood growing up without religion would be like a microcosm of the evolution of human thought. As the imagination develops, so does superstition and supernatural fantasy, then learning to think rationally, learning about natural explanations for things, and developing the ability to let go of superstition.

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