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Archive for the ‘family’ Category

At what age is it appropriate to read “A Handmaid’s Tale”?

My oldest daughter is almost 13 and I think I may have her read it soon.  Especially after the past few months of legislation defunding Planned Parenthood, and many states making women jump through hoop after hoop to obtain an abortion (I was going to add more links, but there are too many).

Today during lunch, my mother, mother-in-law and I got into a spirited discussion about abortion rights.  Kind of a heated and strange topic for Mother’s Day (or not).  I was pleasantly surprised to find that my mother is very much pro-choice.  I always thought she leaned more anti-abortion, but I suspect that legislation in recent years, augmented by emails from a very pro-choice friend of hers, has given her the courage to state that nobody has the right to dictate what happens to a woman’s body except the woman herself.

Why is this topic on an atheism blog you may ask?

It is my experience that religion and anti-choice tend to go hand in hand.  The subtle difference between ethics and morals is missed.  Just because your religion dictates a certain moral code does not mean that we all must live by that code.   Your religion may teach that abortion is a sin and wrong and should be outlawed.  I don’t share your religion, so I do not necessarily share your moral code, yet that does not mean I live without morals.   Many on the religious right try to force their beliefs on everyone, despite what the law states.

Margaret Atwood’s novel illustrates what could happen if everyone were forced to live under one moral code, whether or not you believe in it.   My daughter is intelligent and emotionally mature.  She recently read Fahrenheit 451 and Animal Farm and was able to discuss both with me and I sense that she likes to read books that challenge her to think about society and what is accepted versus what is acceptable (not always the same).  Books that challenge one to think and form their own opinions seem rare these days.  These modern classics seem perfect for sparking interesting conversations and often help you see society from different viewpoints.  Any other suggestions for similar books that are captivating reads?

This past year or so has been a trying time for women’s rights.  They are being chipped away at piece by piece, starting with the easiest and most contentious target, women’s health.  Lawmakers like to frame their argument, claiming it is trying to reduce abortions, when they are most likely increasing unwanted pregnancies and STDs due to birth control and low-cost health care being taken away.  I guess if you are a low-income, single woman you shouldn’t have sex.   Ever.  And if you do you are forced to have a child you are unable to care for.  All those people who care so much about keeping your fetus alive care so very little once you have an actual child.  Because now you are a parasite on the system, living on welfare.  It puts a lot of people in a damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation.

Lately I fear I’m becoming a broken record on the issue.  I see myself moving fairly quickly from a sometime feminist (only caring about what directly affected me), to a full fledged cheerleader of women’s rights and a cog in the machine that must make a change in the world for all women.  It has been my intent not to react due to fear, but fear has been the driving force of this evolution of mine.  Fear that my daughters will grow up to live in a world where important choices regarding their health are made for them, without any regard as to circumstance.  Fear that they will live in a world where women are still not given full credit, and still fear to make their opinion heard.  Fear that a world could once again exist where they will be labeled as criminals for taking control of their reproductive health in the way they see fit.

A little fear can be a good thing if it creates a space for us to rise up and challenge the source of that fear.

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It never really occurred to me when I started having doubts that there is a sort of process I am going through towards being fully “out” as an atheist.  Other than my spouse, only one other family member I think really knows where I stand on the whole belief thing.  That in and of itself is a bit of a relief.  As for my parents, I think my mom knows but we don’t discuss it, and I don’t know about my dad.

What I’ve found to be one of the toughest areas is on places like Facebook.  Part of the difficulty is that I went to a catholic high school.  This has resulted in my fellow alumni running the gamut from tree-hugging godless liberals to conservative christian right wing tools (at least in my opinion).  In my info, I played it safe and put in ‘Humanist’ in the religion area.  It’s heartening to see that the people who I feel are the most sane are the ones who tend to be the least religious, and a lot of my former classmates will take on and challenge those who seem to argue from religion first, and facts second.  Over time, I’m slowly letting my feelings be known.  I became a fan of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, Bill Maher, & Richard Dawkins.  We have a 20 year reunion coming up and I’d like to be confident in who I am and who I believe, should conversation steer that direction at all.

The whole process is helping me approach a point in the future where I can answer personal questions about church, god, and faith with an unequivocal answer.  Currently, I tend to waffle a bit due to fear of how my answer will be received.  One of the best interactions I’ve had recently is with one of my cousins.  I am her teenaged son’s godmother.  Her young daughter asked me if I believe in god and I told her I’m not sure.  My cousin asked if I was uncomfortable or offended that I had been asked to be a godparent.  I was pleasantly surprised that it really wound up being a non-issue, and she was more concerned about how I felt than the fact that her son has a godmother that most likely doesn’t believe in a god.

I’m hoping to be a little more active on the blog, as well as commenting on other godless blogs.  I have yet to pop my Pharyngula commenting cherry, but it’s my self-preservation instinct kicking in.  It feels a bit like diving into a shark tank wearing nothing but a shark-bait bikini.

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My brother and his family are visiting for the holidays.  They are polar opposites than my husband and me.  We recently got a card signed “God Bless”, which was understated for them.  Last year we got cards that illustrated the extent of the indoctrination their kids have received.  Not many people in my family know the full extent of my heathenism.  My husband knows of course.  My mom is pretty clued in while my dad is pretty clueless.  One of my aunts gets it I think.  Other than that, it’s a big unknown.  My family is not known for deep conversations.  Not surprisingly, there seems to be a correlation between those I’ve had in-depth discussions with and how accepting I perceive them to be.

Every year, my husband and I suffer some mild to moderate irritation at the not-so-subtle holier than thou attitude from a certain someone.  Now, I can talk a good game, but when push comes to shove, I tend to bite my tongue to avoid any ugliness, I lean strongly towards diplomacy.

Year to year, I seem to be gaining more self-confidence.  With this wonderful gain comes a tendency to speak my mind more and more.  I worry that the next time something asinine and self-righteous comes out of this person’s mouth that I’m going to dump a big stinking atheistic turd on the dinner table, you know, sort of accidentally on-purpose.  But that would only gratify my immediate need to not hear total stupidity and would hurt more others in the long run.  So I’ll probably keep my mouth shut, or stuff it full of food.  If I gain 5 pounds over the holiday, I’ll know why.

It does bother me a bit that I can’t be “out” about my atheism.  I wish I had the courage to, but I don’t.

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My oldest daughter no longer believes in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, or the Tooth Fairy.

You might ask why we introduced the concepts at all, and that’s a fair question.  Mostly because I grew up with them and I like to think that the only time in life that fantasy and magic is allowed in such a big way is in childhood.  Just by the very nature of growing up and life experience, the magic fades from such childhood experiences.  I kind of knew for the last year or so that she was going along with it for my younger daughter’s sake, and she admitted as much.  She wasn’t disappointed at all, and it didn’t make her the pariah for being the one in her school to burst the bubble of all the other kids.

I know I’m bowing to societal norms, but I also think that it can serve as a jumping off point for future discussions of what people believe and why they believe.  And also to look at something and try to see what is really the truth.  Just because I don’t believe in god (and my husband is a doubter as well, but more hedging his bets), doesn’t mean I want to do away with Christmas.  There is something about the lights and the music that time of year, that if done right can be downright magical and full of wonder.

When my daughter informed me (out of earshot of her sister) that she knows that Santa isn’t real, I tossed in god when asking about the tooth fairy and whether she believes they are real.  Tooth fairy – no.  God?  She said “I don’t know”.  And that was good enough for me at the time.  She was reading and I didn’t want to distract her, but I did want to get the topic out there, even a little bit, so if or when a bigger discussion about it comes up, I can encourage her to try to figure it out for herself.  I’m sure that the question will come up eventually, since a good number of her friends go to church (or temple), but a surprising number don’t attend church at all on a regular basis.

Which reminds me that a while ago, my mom found my brother’s old Dungeons & Dragons starter kit and my oldest daughter glommed onto it.  She has a friend that she plays with and another girl played with them for a little while until she mentioned it to her uncle, who informed her that it has demons in it.  This girl was also homeschooled for a while and now goes to a private school.  This is in a relatively affluent neighborhood with top-notch schools.

My daughter explained to her that there are no demons, just dragons and adventure, but the damage was done.  Now my daughter doesn’t play because they need at least one more person to play and the other girls at her school are so not interested.  Who knew that 5th grade girls were so….girly.  She will probably have to find a boy to round out their group.

I am so proud that she finds D&D interesting and didn’t just dismiss it as a “boy thing”.  Unfortunately, her tendency to do that does not make her social life any easier.  She has seemed to get a reputation among the more girly of the girls as being a bit of an odd duck.  She dresses more tomboyish and other than her pierced ears, isn’t very girly at all.  Which is just fine with me.  Along with a lack of religious indoctrination, I did my best to avoid any kind of gender indoctrination as well.  If she wants a toy that is in the “boy” section, I don’t discourage it.  Her sister, on the other hand, without any help from me, is all about the dolls.  OMG, the baby dolls.  They outnumber us 5 to 1.

This year, I can have someone help me wrap the gifts from Santa for my youngest daughter (and even pick them out).  And it’s not as hard to keep the secret from one when I have one of them in on it.  It’s a bit of a relief actually.  One of the things I didn’t consider when starting the whole Santa thing was how long it was going to last.  Who knew that it would be nearly 10 years before I could spill the beans?

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Funny, but as the fact that I’m an atheist has less and less importance in my life (meaning that I don’t think or obsess about it as much as I used to, it’s just part of who I am), I must be getting less careful about hiding that part from my loved ones.  Although I’ve never come out and said to anyone (apart from my husband) that I don’t believe in god, I usually say that I’m not religious.  Looking at that statement, it’s pretty obvious to anyone of decent intelligence that it’s code for “I’m a doubter”.

Anyway, I was shopping with my mother the other day and happened accross an interesting Christmas tree topper (yes we celebrate Christmas, but as a secular holiday, not a religious one).  It was a peacock.  Not a star, not an angel, but a bird.  And not a dove either.  I thought it was kind of neat.  My mom, in a little acknowledgement that she definately knows her daughter, says “That’s perfect for you little miss atheistic”.

It was said in a light teasing, totally accepting way, and I was floored.  It’s not like I’ve gone to great lengths to hide what I believe (or don’t as the case may be), but I haven’t even come close to advertising it either.  Typical of my family though, unless I made it an issue, it will never be talked about in mixed company or at family get-togethers.  Our family avoids deep discussions like the plague.  It’s not even a conscious decision, it seems as though it’s just the way my family operates.  Like only pleasant things will be discussed.  Plus I have a few family members who can’t take anything seriously and feel the need to make a joke out of every little thing.

Still, it had been a long time since my mom showed so much insight into who I am in such a simple little sentence.

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I was visiting an aunt the other day and we were joking about how certain family members are more “infused with the holy spirit” than most of us. Then she said that she herself isn’t sure she believes in god, but her strict Catholic upbringing puts enough fear into her that she can only go so far to say that she isn’t sure what she believes. Sort of hedging her bets. In some ways I wanted to pursue this topic of conversation, but on the other hand, it wasn’t surprising and I think out of all my family members, she is most like me and probably knows more about me than I realize.

At least I can talk freely with my in-laws, and I don’t edit myself when the kids are around. That’s one that may eventually catch up with me though. I can just imagine some conversation happening with the more religious in my family and having one darling child decide to announce that mom says there is no god. I think in some way it’s intentional my not editing so much around the kids. Eventually they will know what I believe (or don’t) and if it’s a big deal to them so be it, because it isn’t such a big deal to me anymore. Now that I’ve had more time of godless living and thinking, it’s not on my mind as often. Yet it’s entertaining to watch what goes on in the religious world and the ethical and moral gymnastics that are performed to rationalize or excuse a way of behaving. I guess my hypocrisy meter has gotten more fine tuned.

Eventually I’d like to post here more often. I really don’t care about readership or having the most popular blog. I did that before with a personal blog and you know what? It’s exhausting. If I want to do a brain dump I will, and if I come across something interesting or newsworthy that will be posted too. I am going to try to keep the focus on atheism and religion. In respect to my husband, I will try not to give away too much personal information about ourselves. I’m off to dust off and peruse my blogroll.

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I just returned from visiting my brother. The difference between the two of us religiously and politically is getting further and further apart. Where I am slowly but surely turning away from religion and the fairy tale I believe it is, my brother seems to be more and more immersed in Christianity. I listen to Air America, watch Bill Maher, read a lot of liberal authors and feel very strongly about women’s rights. My brother listens to Rush Limbaugh, voted for Bush (twice), has multiple bibles in his house, and I’m sure is anti-choice given his beliefs.

We went to their church, and while it was one of the most pleasant masses I have ever attended, I couldn’t help but feel a bit like a fraud as I went through the motions and rituals of the mass (save communion, that would have not just seemed wrong, but been wrong). I hadn’t been to church in ages and seeing it with my newly atheist eyes and hearing it with my “new” ears was an experience. I realized how much is made of “confessing your sins”, “asking Jesus’ forgiveness”, “praying for salvation”, “ours is the only God”, that I had never really noticed before because it was just something I did every weekend and had stopped actually listening to what was being said. It seemed odd to me that there was so much reverence for something I believe to be a fairy tale. There was also a interesting feeling of surprise that I didn’t miss any of it, and that I didn’t believe it. Not just thought I didn’t believe it, but really didn’t believe it. Of course my mother noticed that my kids enjoyed it and said I should expose them to it more. What they enjoy is the songs and the singing, and I answer any questions they have as best I can. I’m in a tough spot where I don’t want them to be indoctrinated, but I don’t want them to have no knowledge, and I also don’t want to pass my beliefs (or non-beliefs) onto them and have them accept them without question. I don’t want them to think that only one way of thinking is “right” and the others are “wrong”. I have a hard time with that myself. One thing I realized is that I don’t think I’m going to be a closet atheist for long because I sometimes have a hard time keeping my mouth shut, especially after going through childhood and early adulthood never questioning anything.

There’s no real point to this post other than a brain dump. It’s this kind of thinking that sometimes keeps me up at night. I have a difficult time shutting down my thought processes so I can fall asleep, and sometimes talking or posting them gets rid of them. Sort of how passing an earworm on to someone else tends to get rid of it for myself.

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