Discussions

When I wrote the piece that appeared on CNN, I wrote it as an iReport. I just wanted to get my voice out there about some misconceptions. I wanted to be heard and understood. I wanted people to know that those of us who don’t believe are not bad. We DO have morals. We’re kind, loving people who want the same things as people who believe: we want to raise good children and have good lives.

I was shocked by the amount of response, and even more shocked by the number of people, both from faith and from no faith, who supported agnostics/atheists. If you’re a non-believer, you expect people to be angry. I did not take that personally. Those people lash out because of their own fears and insecurities. But I was floored by the amount of people who felt the same way. I don’t feel so isolated, and I hope others feel the same way.

I was also glad that this opened up a dialogue, and it brought doubters out, made them want to speak up. It’s sort of like immunotherapy: every time we talk about this, each discussion, can move us closer to mainstream acceptance. It means that our children may live in a world where religion does not dominate a political discussion, where they can speak up and say, “No thanks, I don’t believe.” It means that we will never have to worry about Creationism sneaking into our classrooms and textbooks.

For now, I have to admit, I am relieved that I have been able to retain anonymity in my community. Writing this piece has shown me how many kind and thoughtful people are out there, but it has also reminded me that there are a few very, very angry people. These people make nonbelievers fearful. We’re seen as the Devil’s work, and if you believe that the Devil controls people like puppets, then I don’t know what other realities you have trouble with.

One more observation…I see that one popular argument against agnostics and atheists is that “we don’t understand.” Or, we haven’t tried religion. Very few of the people who commented had actually been raised without religion. Most of us have been there, done that. We’ve given a lot of thought and reflection to our stance. We read religious texts and books. We didn’t come to this place of disbelief lightly. It’s a difficult place to be. It takes some getting used to. There are no safety nets. There’s no big guy in the sky watching our backs.

It can sometimes be a scary place, but knowing there are other people out there who have these same views is comforting.

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381 responses to “Discussions

  1. What a refreshing site. Thank you for your insightful comments.

  2. I appreciate that someone has taken on the brave (and I mean that in every sense of the word) task of putting your beliefs out there for all of us to read. I too had no idea until visiting this blog and reading you CNN post that there were so many others out there like you and I.

    I tend to be much more argumentative (downright rude at times) so I chose to keep my sentiments closed off from the rest of the world. However, this has shown me that opening up is okay and for that I thank you!

    • @ Snapper. I like your “name.” THanks for reaching out and commenting. I, too, am relieved to find so many others out there like us. THank God! haha

  3. I “found” you via that CNN posting, forwarded to me by a friend who knows that I am a bit of a kindred spirit. I have a 2 year old and am expecting my second next month.
    For years I’ve been shocked and saddened by the number of people who think that one cannot be a decent, moral, ethical person without being a believer of some sort; the two are not mutually exclusive, of course.
    That being said, becoming a parent has brought with it a whole new layer to this. We are waiting until the questions come, if they come. I hope they do. I do want my kids, while young, to know the magic and fun of Santa and the Easter Bunny. I also want them to become discerning, critical thinkers. I want them observe the world and the people in it, and when they’re cognitively ready to do so, take that information, process it, and find their own way. And if they really think about it and decide that Jesus or insert your favorite deity here is/was a savior, so be it. At least it will be after a thorough examination. I’ll feel OK about it.
    They will be indoctrinated enough without the introduction of some esoteric belief system which does not provide tangible evidence for its existence and which uses the mechanisms of fear and guilt to compel them to behave in a certain way.
    Anyway, sorry for being long-winded. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I look forward to reading more.

    • Hi Larva225. Thank you for taking the time to comment. I hear you and have had similar struggles. I agree with you–if my kids decide that a religion or another belief system works for them, then I’m OK with that.

  4. Ironically I came upon your ireport by accident the day after you posted. I have been struggling immensley with this very subject for a number of years, but more so since I somewhat “came out of the closet” with my beliefs to an inquiring neighbor and “liking” certain sites on Facebook. I live in a very small agricultural community where they live and breath religion to it’s core. We have 2 radio stations. One has The Huckabee report daily the other Focus on the Family. Most people know one another or know something about you or just simply know your name. I have no doubt that the neighbor I confessed to has mentioned it to a few others and of course a few others becomes many. It’s a very lonely position to be in when you feel you are outnumbered and have no one to confide in or just hang out with someone that thinks like you and there aren’t any. There are many secular organizations out there, but for me to be a part of one is 6 – 10 hrs away. So I was very relieved to come across your ireport, post my thoughts and also read about others that, thank goodness think they same! Like you……I am comforted knowing how much I’m not alone! Thank you again for such a well written article!

    • @ mtprairiegirl Thank you so much for reaching out and sharing your thoughts. I know how you feel….and also, feeling that people think you are bad or evil or without morals. I think people react like they do because they are just afraid.

      Please stop by and vent any time.

  5. I learned of your blog through the CNN article, and it really resonates with me. Thank you for putting it out there, as a different viewpoint. I was raised Catholic, my husband Lutheran, and when we decided to get married, it just seemed right to us, to get married by a justice of the peace, in a park that we liked. (Rather than get married in a church when neither of us really belonged to one, nor cared to. We went to each of our childhood churches for a service before we decided, and it seemed very strange to us, as adults.) Then, when we were expecting our first child, I assumed we would have her baptized – but realized it was mostly because of family tradition and expectations, rather than it being important to us. We knew then, that we weren’t going to raise our kids with religion, but rather teach them about the different beliefs that people have (and have had in the past) and let them decide for themselves if they want to pursue it. We have a lot of family members that don’t understand us, but they (mostly) respect us and it’s not much of an issue. We’re just trying to raise good kids, that respect others and tolerate everyone’s differences. We don’t make a big deal about not believing in religion and/or God(s), and would like other people to realize that not everyone is a theist just because they are, but we can all be good people :)

    • @Jenlarson Hi & thanks for taking the time to share your story. I wonder what state you are in? That is great that your family is respectful, even if they don’t agree. It makes all the difference…I say amen (haha) to what you wrote here:

      We’re just trying to raise good kids, that respect others and tolerate everyone’s differences. We don’t make a big deal about not believing in religion and/or God(s), and would like other people to realize that not everyone is a theist just because they are, but we can all be good people.

  6. God is a God of abounding love and just because you don’t believe it doesn’t make you a bad person and any religious group that tells you that your bad is wrong. We are all His creation.and to be in relationship with God means to be connected to the source of His Spirit. At one time I was an unbeliever; . However there were events in my life that occurred that changed my perspective. Jesus did not go to the cross to form a religion for mankind…He went to form a relationship with mankind. God bless you for having good morals in a world that is morally challenged.
    ~Sincerely Cindy

    • @Cindy Livingstone Ministries. Thanks for your respectful comment. It’s much appreciated. I know people’s belief systems change and evolve…I think that is a good thing. It shows we are thinking.

  7. Thank you so much for this! I came upon your blog through the CNN iReport section. It was great and exactly how I feel. I have an 18 month old that I want to raise as a free-thinker and an all around open-minded person. I was raised Catholic although we rarely went to church and both of my parents didn’t follow the “teachings” at all. They also had me attend a private Catholic school since they didn’t like the public schools where we lived and thought it’s just what (somewhat) affluent parents do I guess?! Well, when my father died suddenly I was heartbroken and looking for answers. I grew tired of the comments like “it’s what God planned”..blah blah..I was sick of the blatant hypocrisy. Then, I began college and took several ethics and philosophy classes and I was immediately hooked! It’s amazing what education does for a person. :-) When my son was born, I read Parenting Beyond Belief and it’s amazing. Highly recommend it. My in-laws are very religious and very Republican. Sometimes, they try to make me feel like I am crazy and they are constantly berating other religions saying they are crazy. It’s exhausting. I am fine with people being religious, just please don’t shove it down my (or my kid’s) throat! I really wish religion and politics were not intermingled. But, if people like us continue to stand up and be heard for what we believe in (er…don’t believe in, Ha!) maybe things will change in my lifetime….or maybe at least in my child’s lifetime. I am now a subscriber to your blog and look forward to future posts!

    • @Mattysmama….So nice to hear about your experience! Thank you for sharing. We have a lot in common, actually. There are a lot of ex-Catholics here. At least, with the Catholic school education, you got a good education and your handwriting is probably beautiful! :) I ditto the sentiments about the comments, “It’s what God planned.” And how do you know that? I hope things do change in our lifetimes! (And several people have recommended Parenting Beyond Belief….Thanks!)

  8. What a remarkable and articulate blog you have! Your views are rational, tolerant and well thought out. I truly hope that your words inspire people both with and without a belief in religion to open a mature dialog and allow for greater acceptance of different perspectives.
    I live outside of NYC and the religious cultures here are generally less obtrusive. I often forget that in other parts of the country, the words atheist or agnostic are often considered synonymous with immoral or confused.
    Please continue to keep writing and inspiring..

    • @ Chris thanks so much for reaching out and sharing your thoughts. I lived a while in the northeast, outside of Philly. Religion was not an issue. Yes….I agree–“the words atheist or agnostic are often considered synonymous with immoral or confused.”

  9. I think you might be my new favorite blogger :) I really admire the way you articulate your views and manage to have rational discussions with your commenters who lash out at you. When I post stuff like this on my own blog, I find I have trouble staying nice when commenters attack me for my non-belief.

  10. @dam….Thx! I wish I could stop by and vent anytime, but TX is a bit too far! :-) I know I am a good person. I have to keep reminding myself of that cause the relgious like to make me feel otherwise. My husband (who was somewhat religious when we first married) has told me a few times that he thought I was more Christian than most Christians he knew! I came to the conclusion a long time ago that living a simple life with positive morals, being good to others as well as our fellow creatures and raising kids the same is all a person needs in life. I feel religion complicates life and causes mental anquish much of the time. Curious as to how you have survived being a minority when it comes to this subject? I’ve been trying to think of ways to get non-believers together state by state via internet somehow especially where people live in small communities, but not sure how to do it. Can’t use the local newspaper to broadcast my idea that’s for sure!

    • @mtprairiegirl…No, I would not recommend YOUR local news for sure! That was sweet what your husband said, and no doubt true. You can be Christian without being a Christian.

  11. You are not alone! There are now 12% of us.

  12. “We can all be good people” – that’s the truth! If you feel you need a god to be good, – that’s fine! If you feel you don’t need a god to be good – that’s all right too! Don’t disrespect people for not believing in your god. Don’t press your religious belief down on me! Keep your religion to yourself. There is a lot of god-believing people that disrespect non-believers because they think non-believers lack moral. They think that non-believers are free to commit crime, adultery and so on beacuse “non-believers have no moral”. That’s stupidity. We don’t need a god to tell us the difference between right and wrong. We don’t need a god to tell us what good moral is. We can think for ourselves.

  13. Thanks! We’re in MN (I enjoyed the sun while shoveling snow off our pond, for ice skating today ;) ) It’s a little odd when well-meaning neighbors ask us which church we go to, and we just say “we don’t go to church”. They usually look at us with a little puzzlement, but are still friendly. My father-in-law has told my husband that he “fears for his grandbabies’ souls”, but other than that, he thinks we’re good parents. He’s a wonderful grandfather, so we just agree to disagree on that point.
    Btw – by sharing your article on facebook, I learned of a cousin of mine that has the same views, but it’s never been discussed at family gatherings. She was very happy to learn that there’s someone else “in her corner”. So thank you!

  14. Thank you for this. We are a very “regular” family … Work, kids, sports, community activity & lots of friends … None of whom know or would ever even suspect we are atheists. Small town in the south. I can’t imagine what the reaction would be, even among my long time friends & co- workers. Suddenly we would seem different to them, i know! They just think we don’t like going to church. My family has no idea either. Glad to know there are lots of people out there like us.

  15. LOVE your article in CNN I-Report ! You said it all perfectly ! There are more Atheists and Agnostics than you think. :)

  16. Thanks for the confidence boost. :) Mine is two years old, and I need to start preparing for the culture battle now!

  17. You are Not alone!

  18. Good for you in speaking out. My husband and I are both atheists and are raising our children that way. We tell them to respect other religions but that we simply don’t believe in it. I haven’t had any backlash (at least not to my face :-)) but it’s interesting to hear my kids sometimes have conversations with their cousins or their friends at school. In my family, we have Jewish faith, Catholics, and non believers. It’s an interesting mix but everyone is very respectful of each other.

    • Hi Joyce S Thanks for taking the time to comment. It’s always good to hear there are like-minded people out there, and it is also good to hear that your family is so respectful. That makes all the difference. :)

  19. damn . . . dam,
    you seem to honor the value of all humans and who they are. i experience your posts as declarations of who you are and where you are at (your own belief system) and not an attempt to convert anyone. that is very different than the persuasive dogmatic brainwashing you most likely grew up with. i work on respecting everyone i meet and where they are at on their own road of life’s journey. i just want that same respect as do you i am sure!
    dam the river where needed dam to protect your energy, efforts and well-being that always needs to flow on by. i know you know this but i feel a bit protective.
    the sister you never had,
    dayna

  20. I live in the DFW area of Texas and in this community to “come out” as an atheist would be extreme. Thank you for posting. It feels good to know we are not alone.

    • @ Anonymous Thanks for taking the time to comment. Yes, it is so good to know others feel the same way:

      I live in the DFW area of Texas and in this community to “come out” as an atheist would be extreme. Thank you for posting. It feels good to know we are not alone.

  21. When we die, we die. It’s a cold truth. There is no reason to love or hate. No reason to live or die…the earth would be a better place without any of us. There is no reason for us to exist, or experience love or to have children. It’s just simply not rational. The universe is beyond our comprehension, just like it’s beyond my comprehension that any of us exist. It doesn’t make sense to go on.

    • @ Anonymous who wrote this: “The universe is beyond our comprehension, just like it’s beyond my comprehension that any of us exist. It doesn’t make sense to go on.”
      Yes, the universe is beyond our comprehension, but life IS a gift. It doesn’t matter how we got here–luck or god—we have a chance to take a great ride, no matter how short.

  22. Just a quick note. My spouse and I support you. Best of luck!

  23. I’ll begin by recommending two books which I have read cover-to-cover 3 times. “In Search of Zarathustra” by Paul Kriwaczek and “Spirituality in the Land of the Noble” by Richard C. Foltz. Zarathustra lived about 3,200 years ago and is considered the world’s first prophet. His version of creation lasted a year, not the 6 days in the bible. If you believe in heaven or paradise (Old Persian paira daeza) you follow his teachings. The same is true of the devil (Old Persian daeva), in judgment day, resurrection, the coming of a messiah (Saoshyant) and angels. In addition to these books I also read the entire Avesta, parts of the Qur’an, The Other Bible, and lots of Biblical Archaeology beginning in 1968.
    Every time you shake hands you do what the followers of Mithra (MIthras, Mitra, Mitu) did 3,500 years ago. Every church in the world built with a central aisle, raised seating on each side and a nave opposite the entrance is a copy of a Mithraeum (one was dug up during the reconstruction of London in 1946). He was born in a cave on Dec. 25, had a circle of 12 friends which represent the signs of the Zodiac, had midnight suppers and is sometimes shown with a lamb on his shoulders. He is also frequently shown slaying a bull which is the origin of bull fighting. He was the first man called ‘son of god’ or Sun God. The biblical Peter is from Petra in Jordan which was the holiest site of the followers of Mithra.
    “Good thoughts. Good words. Good deeds.” Zarathustra If you can do this, you don’t need an organized religion that asks for money every week.

  24. Oh I so want to respond to the DAD that raises his children with GOD. I’m a dad that has a wife and how can her disrespect a woman more? Believe me he assumes you are a single mom and if you are where is the father of your child or children? Most missing in action or not know. Appears to me many men are missing in action supporting their children. He is dismissive of the fact that there are women that are head of their household.
    Second he does not admit to the cultural destruction that his faith imposed simply because they refuse to accept anything other than their faith a as history proves with the Americas alone it was not about faith but of gold and sliver for kings queens and bishops. Native people had a god and a faith a culture that was exploited. History distorted my children know this.
    If you need a GOD to provide a parent role you just dismissed your mother and father, grandparents and a slew of aunts and uncles and deny your culture. My list is long but the last part of @RMB78 post is his dismissive statement TXBlue08’s “Much as the alcoholic must “reach a bottom,” he appears to not know some of the most highly quality beer in the world and most expensive come from Abby of deep faith beyond his? Does the human race have to reach rock bottom to find their god yes. My faith is humans do have personal rock bottoms they do overcome and in general pay it forward no strings attached they are women, men. I will never as a man answer to any man that would dismiss any women in my life assures my children we must reach rock bottom to know GOD as humans if by their accounts we have taken up the task he left being a few thousand years ago.
    So as a man kudos to you it proves a very valid point Christian men feel a very real thereat they are being asked and challenged by women then their faith more or less could fall within 50 Shades of Gray.

  25. Maybe you should just move somewhere where people are more educated. I was raised by non-religious parents, and I don’t have any friends who go to church regularly. I work at a biomedical research university, where almost everyone is either minimally religious or non-religious. In my field, we see the effect of evolution everyday, and actually count on it and use it as a critical tool to accomplish our work, from bacterial culture all the way up to analysis of human genetics. To question its reality would be laughable. There are a few small churches and synagogues in town, but no one has ever offered to pray for me. In fact, on the rare occasion when I meet a person who’s very religious, I usually feel a little embarrassed for them. Your only problem is you live in the wrong place.

    • @ Jeremy Segal Thanks for taking the time to comment. I am counting the days when I can moved–unless you can offer me a job there now?

      I have not always lived here. I know that this is not such a big issue in other areas…You’ve seen all the maps of religiousity in this country? It correlates with a lot of other things, too.

      Yet, even if I move, the rest of the kind folks who’ve written to me are still here. So, hopefully things can change here, albeit slowly.

  26. I do not understand what the fuss is all about. Non-faith is faith also, since both operate on unproveable belief systems. Most of us have told lies to our children and to ourselves about God. We forgot to tell our children that Bible is full of cruelty (just think of the horror of the hell), it supports slavery, it is anti-woman and it is self-righteous, bad mouthing all other religions–and this man-made book is inconsistent and unreliable and illogical. It is full of myths (eg, creationism) and pagan beliefs (son of God, etc.) and is anti-science.

    It is not religion but evolution that has given us morality and a sense of right and wrong through the development of cerebral cortex in millions of years of progressive change from a single cell.

    Unimaginable torture, slaughters and murders have been committed in the name of God. To be good you don’t need God. There’s nothing wrong in believing in God though, as long as that God is unconditionally loving and rational and does not impose dogmas and fear. –Ambie

    • @ Ambie….However, I don’t agree with you here:

      Non-faith is faith also, since both operate on unproveable belief systems.

      If you don’t have faith, it is not a correct conclusion to say that is a type of faith.

  27. You have my full support. We never mention the cruelty and immorality of God (slavery, etc). Let us bring up our children with moral values bestowed us by our cerebral cortex–gift of evolution. Abrahamic religions have divided human beings and caused hatred and wars and murders. I do not mind anyone believing in God though, as long as that God is all-loving, non-judgmental, rational and does not impose dogmas. –Ambie

    • @ Ambie Thanks so much for reaching out and taking the time to write. I love what you said here:

      I do not mind anyone believing in God though, as long as that God is all-loving, non-judgmental, rational and does not impose dogmas.

  28. I kinda like that Patrick Henry guy, who says “I may not agree with what you say…but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it”. One believes or not believes, according to their conscience. I’d have to say that I see no problems with your conscience. There are billions of persons in the world who are completely moral by their standards..and it isn’t my place to define what those standards are. Intolerance is not on my list of standards. And if one DOES believe in God, then they also should recall that it is HIS place to judge.

    • @ wendy c Wow. I really appreciate that. It’s really all I’m–and others are–asking for. The freedom just to say, “no thanks.” Or, “I don’t want to be part of that.” I appreciate your tolerance and that you took the time to write.

  29. i think you are doing the right thing,religion is poison,God does not exist,it’s just a brain washung tool created to subside our intelligence

  30. My daughter is 9 years old and Im raising her to not believe. She recently discovered there is no Santa. I was sad to see Santa go but it made it easier to lump god in with all the other fairytales. Nice to see others like me.

  31. I adored your piece on CNN. My response was followed up by Daphne, and I’m so glad I got to put in a few words on my experiences raised by religious extremists. It’s all about healing, and recovering from religion.

    My husband and I are now expecting our first child, and I’m so grateful to have a blog to reference like yours. I find comfort in knowing I am not alone, and commend you on bringing light to this ever important subject.

    • @ Brittany I enjoyed that piece and what you said was really interesting. You must have been scared when your mom performed an exorcism. Yikes.
      Good luck with your first child! That is sooooo exciting!!

  32. I found this on CNN, great work, keep it up despite the nay sayers, the south seems to be worse about this topic than anywhere else, I live in Orlando, Fl. Science has brought a new meaning to life for myself and close friends, I love my need to find out more about the universe, and less about fake historical texts. We are good people, with good jobs, and lead healthy liveso… We should have a voice. Keep strong.

    • @ Anonymous who wrote this:

      I love my need to find out more about the universe, and less about fake historical texts. We are good people, with good jobs, and lead healthy lives… We should have a voice. Keep strong.

      THank you for taking the time to reach out and comment. I agree the south seems to be worse (I’ve lived in several places in the country). And I also agree we should have a voice. :)

  33. I came across your blog via CNN – we’re in a similar position and have been for many years. I “gave up” religion when I was 13 and have fought the stereotype associated with “non-believers” since then. I consider myself agnostic and my wife considers herself an aethiest – I guess I’m just hedging my bets :) But the issue for us is with, and for our children. We’re happy to expose them to other religions so that they may make an informed decision when they are older. Unlike our peers – we don’t want them to blindly follow what we follow, or in our case do not follow. But it is a challenge to help give them the self confidence they require to defend their lack of belief. It’s so ironic, and sad, that we seem to support others’ views and choices but it’s not reciprocal. For religions that espouse tolerance and acceptance it’s mind boggling that in this day and age we are still chided and judged by those that choose to believe in something higher. Congratulations on your blog and sudden notoriety, I’m sure not what you wanted but it is nice to know you are in good company.

    • @ Keith Meyerson Thanks for reaching out and sharing. I definitely agree with you here as those of us on this side seem to be more tolerant than the “other side”:

      It’s so ironic, and sad, that we seem to support others’ views and choices but it’s not reciprocal. For religions that espouse tolerance and acceptance it’s mind boggling that in this day and age we are still chided and judged by those that choose to believe in something higher.

      As for the “sudden notoriety,” fortunately, no one in my community, at my kid’s school, on FB, not even the person I work for, has any idea I wrote this…I’ve been able to retain my anonymous status. I’ve been blogging about this for 8 years, and I feel that I am just a voice. I hope I make a difference…

  34. Not sure what the big deal is over your blog or your beliefs. You’re an athiest (most likely just an agnostic) since true Athiests don’t really exist. You mentioned in the beginning, I think, that you didn’t like making up stories about what Heaven was like. But if you read Scripture you wouldn’t be making it up. Sure it doesn’t tell us everything but it does tell us enough. All you ever need to know about life, including raising your children, is found in Scripture. Oh and what you said about how God can be all-powerful and all loving and yet still allow bad things to happen. Isn’t that the mantra for the athiest/agnostic?? I wonder how the athiests/agnotics would feel if God did everything for us?? I’m sure you would find something else to complain about then too. “God…leave me alone!!! Stop always helping me!! My life is waaaaay to perfect!!” something like that. Truth is, without faith in God, you have no hope and neither do your children.

    • @A dad I’m just going to say two things: Thank you for taking the time to express your views. Second: We are waaaaay too far apart to even start a dialogue.

  35. Very glad to have you adding your voice to those who use their God given brains and God given reason to understand God’s word – being nature and the laws of nature. Spinoza conceptualized the vision of a God that Einstein and so many other great thinkers have embraced, and it leaves the God described by orthodox/fundamentalist Christianity, Judaism and Islam as paltry nothings. Unfortunately, the believers in these man-made figments of their imagination are driven to convert or weed out whoever they see as nonbelievers or infidels. The recent survey that found that atheists/agnostics/freethinkers/secular humanists knew more about religion than muslims, hindus, jews and especially the lowest scoring christians says it all. The rabid believers have been so immersed in their one provincial belief system that they have learned little or nothing about other belief systems. Good system for the church leaders not having to worry about answering any tough questions here, like why does Lucifer, whose roots mean lucid, light-bearing and far seeing – get turned into Satan, the Prince of Darkness? Christianity takes the one that gives us knowledge (the apple) and would also have led us to the tree of everlasting life (Genesis) and calls him the devil. What’s wrong with knowledge? Obviously, people with knowledge reject illogic, and this would destroy the main belief systems. And as Thomas Paine so aptly pointed out in ‘Age of Reason’, a book everyone needs to read, the God described in the Bible is the true demon. Christians have gotten it switched bass-ackwards. Never doubt that religionists could return the world to a dark age period. Who among the Jews is having the greatest population growth? Ultra orthodox. Who among the Christians and Muslims and Hindus? The most conservative and fundamentalist. Ignorant belief systems do not win the war with debate or intellect. They win by amassing overwhelming numbers. Carl Sagan wrote about his fears for the future, and we all, freethinkers/atheists/agnostics/secular humanists as well as liberal/progressive/moderate religionists – have to stand together and challenge those that have been brainwashed into believing their religious text is actually the true word of God. Were Muhammad alive today he would be considered a deviant and were the Old Testament God running the show today we would need far more than the Marvel comicbook Avengers to battle his evil entity insanely intent on genocide, kidnapping and rape or non-believers. Have any Christians actually read the Old Testament and the horrible deeds of their God? Were your minds so numb to reason that you could pass over such monstrous acts and still embrace Him? Unbelievable.

  36. There is a powerful practice which does not rely on stories or faith, in which one sees and experiences for oneself ,deep truth, a release from suffering, and a heart of loving kindness.
    Zen.

  37. I’m raising my kids without religion. I always answered my daughter’s religious questions by telling her what different people believe and asked for her opinion. She told me she didn’t believe in an afterlife at age six, she said you just go in the ground. She has since declared herself an atheist. I’m proud of her, but I’m also sad that she’ll grow up in a world where she will be discriminated against and have difficulty finding the social support religion provides.

    • @ Eric Maybe things will be easier for your daughter. There are humanist groups popping up all over the country. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

  38. DAM…., I cannot believe how courageous you were to submit the article that I read on CNN. I know you won’t be without much scrutiny from many readers, but I want you to know that I connected deeply with your views. I raised three children who are now 23, 21, and 19 with strong morals, tenderness, values, education, respect and love. We have “religious” family members including Christians and Jews. My mother is a minister. Sometimes their approach to me is them telling me I need a church, or that I will not be able to spend eternity with my children if they are not “saved”. I agree that it is probably easier to admit to your family of being gay as opposed to being agnostic or atheist. I live a moral life, work in a caring profession, have strong friendship bonds and have raise three wonderful children who are walking the paths of caring and productive lives. They each were encouraged to study religion and respect other religious views. As adults, they have chosen to identify with atheist or agnostic views.
    Your article has helped me to realize that I do not have to keep defending my views, but to continue to live my life, as I have been, with pride and comfort knowing It’s OK to say, “I don’t believe that way.” I forwarded your article to my children so that they can see that other mothers have the same views for raising children “without God”, and to also feel more confirmation about their thoughts on this subject. Thank you so much for giving those of us, who feel the same way, a connection! –JB

    • @ Jeanni Bergen I think the fact that you’ve raised three great kids is proof that you didn’t need a church. I really appreciate you reaching out and commenting here. It goes both ways–it is great to feel a connection with so many people. Thank you.

  39. I’m very much with you here. I was a single dad and wanted to raise my son the same way. Do the right thing for the right reason instead of a magic man in the sky watching and punishing. I keep an open mind and guess im agnostic. The god issues doesn’t concern me. After several thousand yrs we’re no closer to figuring this out anyway. My son is 27 now and grew up to be an awesome human that is very considerate. My beliefs seem to scare some people.

    • @ Anonymous Thanks for taking the time to reach out. It is so good to hear from like-minded people. Yes, I think our ideas do scare some people, but when I hear others say how well their kids turned out, I know I’m doing the right thing. Thanks for sharing this:

      My son is 27 now and grew up to be an awesome human that is very considerate.

  40. So happy to have found your blog and the recent references to your iReport. Where can I find the original iReport to read it in its entirety? Soldier on!! We’ve got your back!

  41. Thank you, for showing me that others out there raise their children the same way I do! I have a six year old daughter that my wife and I have raised to think critically of things, and never take things at face value.

    This is exceptionally true of religious dogmas from all around the world. We tell her that we do not believe there is an all powerful being, but that we cannot prove to a 100% fact he does not exist. Much like theists cannot prove that he does.

    More to my point though: we have been told by close family members that we are horrible parents, raising our child in sin, on the fast track to hell, etc. on several occasions, but only seems to come up when my daughter is around. As if they are trying to scare her into believing what they say. There is a wedge being driven between my family and ourselves, and is truly disappointing.

    In short, thank you, for on some level reinforcing my belief in my own parenting. It is exhausting being subject to the endless judgment day in and day out. It is stories like your CNN post that pick me up after long days, and restore my sanity. And to you I say emphatically: thank you.

  42. You go girl!
    A recovering Catholic for 35 years, I recently discovered the clarity of BUDDHISM. Its everything I innately knew as a child that was crushed by my religious upbringing.

  43. We are the silent majority. The more we speak up about who we are the better it is for everybody. Thank you for your blog.

  44. I loved your CNN article. I thought it was a very good common sense bullet point of why we don’t believe. It is really hard to when you’ve read the bible and have a true appreciation for history and science. I think you’re doing a wonderful job and I am proud to say that i am atheist. Keep up the good work!! I will continue to follow.

  45. First and foremost I want to say thank you! Like so many of the commentors on your most recent blog I was brought here by the CNN ireport. It is truly fascinating how things come into our lives when we need them to (or maybe we are just paying more attention to those particular facets of ourselves at that time). Either way, I needed your article. I needed to not feel alone in my beliefs. I needed to be reminded that there were people that do not believe in religion, which is not to suggest you do not believe in anything.

    I am a strong minded mother of four in the DFW area and I have felt the polarization of people’s attitudes when they find out that I do not believe the same way they do.

    I can point out so many instances in my life but one that always stands out is as follows…
    A few years back I owned a home in a relatively nice neighborhood. Living in Texas you can’t really throw a stone without hitting a church or religious organization of some sort so there were several churches within walking distance of my home.
    On the weekends my house was *The House* to be at because we had a great yard with magnificent trees for climbing. All the neighborhood kiddos loved hanging out and playing games in our yard. The doorbell ringing started early on Saturday’s and Sunday’s, everyone wanting to play in the yard with my kiddos. One Sunday morning there was a ring at my doorbell which was odd because I knew my yard was already full of kids swinging on the tree swing we made and climbing our trees. A woman dressed in her Sunday Finest was standing at my door with a massive bucket of candy which she held close to her body but you could see plain as day what was in it. Which was her complete intention as a few of the children had followed her to my door to see if they could score some.
    “Well hello and good morning to you” She says with a massive grin and calculating eyes.
    “Good morning” I say returning the same. Pleasantries, lovely.
    ” I have noticed every Sunday you have so many children in your yard!”
    (wondering where this is going but in my gut I almost already know)
    “Yes, I do. They love playing in the trees and I like knowing where they are and that they are …. ”
    “Children are such a blessing aren’t they” She interrupts.” It’s such a shame though that you haven’t directed them to be at church on Sundays like a good Christian woman should”
    (Gut feeling confirmed *sigh*)
    “…safe”
    “Well where are we more safe than in the House of the Lord?!” She exlclaims and rattles on a bit louder so the children could hear her. “At our Church on Sundays we have all kinds of fun learning about Jesus and playing games. We even go on outings to the park and roller rink sometimes!” Swinging around, bucket of candy on her arm.
    “Oooh I like to skate” says one of the kids.
    “That is wonderful!” She says taking a piece of candy from the bucket and handing it over. “You are more than welcome to come and visit us anytime and when we have an outing I would love for you to come!”

    The other children notice the candy being passed out… more gather and she starts recruiting.

    I couldn’t stand by any longer. The shock of essentially being called a bad mother by not taking my children to church on Sunday had worn off when I saw my children reaching in her candy bucket.
    “Put.The.Candy.Back. and go play” My eyes not leaving hers.

    The conversation that ensued after that was not covered by the pleasantries displayed before and it reminded me that there are just truly nasty people out there operating under the guise of “spreading the good word”

    Having read through a good bit of your posts I can say we have simlar beliefs. When people ask me what I believe I have almost always said that I know enough to know that I don’t know everything. In saying that though should I put aside all reason and use Pascals Wager as a basis for structuring my entire life, my childrens lives? No. I am raising free thinkers and they can study and choose to believe what feels right to them.

    • @TXmom I’m glad you reach out to connect here. Thank you for taking the time. That recruiting is pretty common around where I live, too. But it seems there are way more people out there like us then we realized. Your kids may have a much different world than we do.

  46. I valued God and Jesus. I have even spent many years trying to love God more than my family just like a good Christian should. Recently I came to realize that I don’t really believe. I realized I spent my life trying to be a good Christian because it is just what is expected. I believed because of guilt and fear. I now feel free and in control. I have not changed how I live only how I think. The problem I face is how to talk to my children. They pray at school, many of their friends go to church, and my kids have a children’s Bible that they like to read. I didn’t know what to do or where to turn. Your CNN iReport led me here. Thank you for being a lighthouse for people like myself.

    • @ Ginger. Hi, and thanks for sharing your struggles. We can still be “good Christians” even if we don’t believe Christ was the son of God. It is hard raising kids. I understand the position you’re in. I hope you can find the place of truth for you and for your children.

  47. Thank you for giving parents who raise their children to be strong, good, and independent without god a voice! You have opened up a long-overdue dialogue and I am grateful!

  48. Thank You. It was refreshing to read your iReport. Thank you for having courage.

  49. When my children were young, I tried to read them books geared for children about God, but I didn’t believe what I was reading. I felt guilty for not being a Christian because I felt like it would be comforting to them to believe that we go to heaven when we die. But I just couldn’t carry on the facade. When they started asking questions, I started my explanations with “Some people believe that . . . ” and I’d tell them about the various beliefs. I’m agnostic so I’d then say, “It’s possible that there is a God and that could be true. But I believe that it is more likely that we evolved . . . Maybe it is some force that started it all, we may never know . . . ” Now that they are into their teens, we have frank discussions about the subject. As one would expect, my kids are both agnostic as well and I’m so proud that they embrace everyone even though they may have different religious beliefs. Both my kids have been harassed by Christians, but both have learned to say, “I think it is great that you are a Christian but I don’t think we should talk about religion.” They do stand up for others. My 14 year-old daughter is in the 8th grade and often the subject of homosexuality comes up and a few of her classmates argue that it is wrong because God says so, etc. My daughter doesn’t hesitate to speak up and say, “What does it matter? People are people and who cares who they love or sleep with?”

    I could go on and on but I want to relay a funny story. When my son was really young and my daughter was a baby I had them in the shopping cart at Target. It was Christmastime and I was meandering through the Christmas decoration isle. It was very crowded and my son exclaimed very loudly, “Mom, why are you looking at Christmas stuff then you aren’t even a Christian?” Oh my gosh, the stares that I got from everyone in the isle! I was so embarrassed but it was so funny at the same time.

  50. Thank you. I have for so long had this vision of humanity and what we could be, but for too long I could not really find it. But you hit it on the head in your writings. I was raised without religion…. I am not saying I was without knowledge of God or church or anything, but I never went to church as a child, never. In fact, the first time I went to church was when I was in the Navy, just to see what it was like. I have gone a few times over the years, but honestly it never really appealed to me. As a guide for morals and the types of things we should be teaching our children, I find Jesus was right on. Not because he was the son of God, but what he says makes sense. I personally don’t really think of God as anything but superstition, but we can learn from the all religions of how we should act, but it is ultimately parents who teach our children right from wrong. In an absence of religion, I am still a law abiding, loving, caring person. I want success for all and I want to help others. Thank you for writing this blog and I will be favoriting it so I can continue to follow you.

    • @ Timothy Benoit Thanks so much for reaching out and commenting. When you said, “I find Jesus was right on.” I completely agree with you. We can still believe that Jesus was a good role model, a good example, even if we don’t believe he was divine.

  51. I really appreciate your article and was brave enough to share it on facebook lol. Coming from Denmark where religion is not a big part of people’s every day life, I was chocked to discover how Americans are so religious and yet so fast to judge people who aren’t. I had a friend of my husband writing him a 3 pages long email telling him to not marry me because I wasn’t Christian. I had others ask me if I had morals since I wasn’t Christian. In Denmark we are raised among Christian Value and morals which I don’t have a problem with. Most people I know there does not really follow any religion and you will NEVER heard someone tell you “I have been blessed” or “God bless you”, they don’t practice religion. And like I always tell people, according to studies year after year, danish people are the happiest people in the world :-) I have seen too many bad things to believe in any God. When I was volunteering in West Africa I was bothered by all the missionaries who came there to make these people who were suffering in poverty believe in God. But as I got older and realized that in most countries where there is a lot of poverty, there is a high believe in religion. Why, because Religion gives them hope and I realized that these people need HOPE is their lives just to survive.

    It’s funny because they look at me as someone who is lost, but I look at them as someone who has been raised and told what to think and just excepted it without questions asked. Brainwashed sounds bad, but it actually scares me how it is so easy to convince people to believe in something we really don’t know about.

    Besides, I love Bill Maher’s documentary “Religulous”

    • @ maj I loved Bill Maher’s documentary “Religulous,” too. I need to watch it again soon. Yes, I’ve heard/read that Denmark has the happiest citizens! I did not know that religion wasn’t a big factor in your society. As for the missionaries, this probably sounds cynical, but they go to these poor countries and seduce people, as you said, who have little hope. The missionaries think spreading God’s word is their ticket to heaven. Yes, religion is strong in poor populations. Thanks so much for reaching out and sharing your experiences.

  52. I totally agree with you.

  53. Thank you so much. I’m so glad CNN picked up this story so I could find out about you. I will be following your blog. I suddenly don’t feel so alone!

  54. So glad you wrote this. It can be quite lonely when you become agnostic after being a Christian from conservative circles most of your life. If you reveal it, you get rejected. If you keep your thoughts to yourself, you resent that you don’t have the freedom to be yourself. It’s very encouraging to know that I’m not the only mother who dares to think, analyse, read a lot and become a non-believer.

    And when going on blogs of agnostice, atheists, etc., you find they’re dominated by men. So that also makes a woman feel like the oddball still.

    I’m SO glad there are other women, mothers out there like me!

    • @ Lynn Thank you so much for reaching out. I think what you said is true, “If you keep your thoughts to yourself, you resent that you don’t have the freedom to be yourself.” I feel that sometimes, and that’s why I blog. Yes, over the past few years, this discussion has been dominated by men.

  55. Thank you. This is a great idea for a blog. You are not alone in your feelings and how you raise your children. I will continue to read your blog.

    • @ Ashley Thanks for taking the time to comment. I’ve actually been blogging here about 8 years. I guess this was just the right time–attitudes are definitely shifting.

  56. I agree completely!

  57. You inspire me to be as brave as you in putting it out there because it lets others know that they don’t have to conform to the bible belt culture that surround us (I too am raising my son in Texas). Thank you thank you thank you for the great and highly successful iReport. That took guts! I’ve been a ‘moral without religion’ parent since day one, and there are still certain other parents at my son’s school that I won’t admit that to for fear of offending them. Most people are kind enough to never bring up religion or politics but then there are those who want to lace their every word with bless the father or praise Jesus. I just tend to avoid those folks if I can. I’m happy that I was brought to your blog and look forward to reading up on the old posts and hearing from you in the future.

    • Hi Crystalintexas I’m glad to hear of another parent in TX raising children without religion. I had no idea there were so many. You’re right–most people are respectful enough not to bring up religion or politics, but it’s those few vocal and persistent ones that make it uncomfortable for the rest of us. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

  58. Just wanted to also say, I love it when, like a commenter above, someone dares to ask, “How do you know that?” when a believer is explaining how something’s God’s plan or how God did this or that, etc. Also, after becoming agnostic, I did hope that people knew I was still the same decent lady I’d always been. The only change was after years of confusion and worry, I had time to investigate things, then changed my mind about my lifelong beliefs. Of course, then people started to try to get my mind right again. Alas, there was no going back. I had read too much.

    • @ Lynn

      Also, after becoming agnostic, I did hope that people knew I was still the same decent lady I’d always been.

      People who would doubt this aren’t worth the time and energy. Thanks for reaching out and commenting.

  59. Thank you for your blog! I, too, have raised a child without religion and don’t regret it for a minute, but it wasn’t easy. When folks find out that another person doesn’t go to church, they often want to “save” that person or ostracize him or her. It’s tough, particularly in the area I live in, which is very religious. I’m so happy to hear from others who share my views.

    • @ Snubby – I’m really happy to hear from others in the same situation. I appreciate you reaching out and taking the time to comment.

  60. Thank you, Thank you for putting your thoughts on CNN for so many to read! I only wish I was as articulate as you. I’m another mom in TX who has been slowly coming out of the closet with my family and friends. Your article has given me just a bit more courage to talk more openly about my non-belief.

  61. I was reading CNN.com when your article caught my attention. My husband and I were recently married and know that in a few years time, would like to have children. We also know that we prefer to raise our children without the influence of god or religion. I know that our choice is he right one for us, but still felt that we had no map to follow or answers to give to our future children when they ask. I truly appreciate your blog. As a young couple trying to approach this situation as prepared as we can be its a great feeling knowing that there are people who are on the same path. Thank you very much.

    • @ Chris Hi Chris. Thanks for taking the time to comment. It is great that you are already thinking about these issues. I remember the panic I felt when I was pregnant at not knowing what I should do…Good luck to you and your husband.

  62. I recently read your post on CNN – probably because the furor it caused. I have always been an atheist and have found the safest thing to do was avoid discussions on religion because they are often not rational. I am a father of two and I expect that sometime in the next couple years will become a grandfather. I am an engineer by profession and a critical thinker and have trouble discussing religion with fellow engineers because it goes against critical thinking in my experience.
    Several years ago I “discovered” secular humanism (check out wikipedia if you want) and found it to be a great explanation of who I am and what I thought. I now have a label to explain me :)
    Anyway this comment is not about me but rather to compliment and support you on your effort and bravery to bring this discussion to the forefront. I am concerned that the media is helping us to become more divisive and I wanted to compliment you and CNN for their support providing a more level platform regardless of where you stand on the issue.
    Anyway keep up the brave work and know that there are many many out there who are supporting you.

    • @ Rick Hi Rick. I do appreciate you taking the time to comment, and I enjoy reading about other people’s experiences and views. I am familiar with secular humanism and feel that it represents us (our group). I had no idea this iReport would generate so many comments and so much emotion, but I’m glad to see there are so many people out there who share similar views. Thanks for sharing.

  63. Kudos to you, I am a custodial father of 3 children who has raised them without religion from the time they were babies, they are morally responsible, logical and open minded to this day. though they did face many challenges growing up in a very christian based area I was not shy about confronting those who would try to push their personal beliefs upon them, especially those who had direct influence on them such as teachers and administrators of the public schools they attended.
    An important thing I have taught them was acceptance of others, no matter what they believe or who they are, respect of others and for what others believe even when it seems very odd to them, and I taught them to question everything that is presented to them and never just take anything at face value. My youngest is almost 15yrs old, I have a 17yr old and my oldest is almost 20yrs old. all very well mannered and respectful to others.

    • @Glenn Thanks for reaching out and sharing your experiences. It’s really good to hear that your kids have turned out well and didn’t get lost along the way. So many think that Christianity is needed to keep kids good and grounded.

  64. I am so relieved to have found your blog! I was raised catholic. I went to catechism, went through first communion and then confirmation. However, by the time I went through confirmation I was already struggling and trying to force myself to believe. Then, in college I took a class where we studied various religions, christianity, judaism, Buddhism, Islamic etc. taking this class not only confirmed that I did not believe in the catholic religion, it showed me that I didn’t believe in any religion. When I got married, my husband was also an atheist and we both firmly believe that we should not brainwash our three young children. We have never denied the existence of god, but they have also never asked. They are 6, 4 and 2 years old right now but when the day comes that they are old enough to start asking questions about it, we will tell them, some people believe that god made humans and that he is watching over us but it is up to you to decide what you believe. We will then help them to study religions, give them websites, books and teach them the basic principles and beliefs of different religions. No matter what they decide, be it atheism, Christianity, Buddhism, Judaism etc, we will be supportive as long as they have made an educated choice because who are we to say what they can or cannot believe in? We will never brainwash them to believe or not to believe, it is a very personal choice each of them must make for themselves. The majority of my friends and family still do not know I am an atheist, I don’t deny it, I don’t pretend to believe but I am scared to tell some of them, scared of being outcast. At least now I know I am not alone, thank you so much!

    • @ Samantha Thanks for reaching out and sharing your story. I’m afraid, too, of speaking out in my community. Beleive it or not, I don’t think anyone knows as nobody has said anything to me in person, email or on FB. Hopefully, soon, you and I can speak up without this fear. I like and agree with what you said below, and I say Amen (haha):

      No matter what they decide, be it atheism, Christianity, Buddhism, Judaism etc, we will be supportive as long as they have made an educated choice because who are we to say what they can or cannot believe in?

  65. Charles Roesch, Ph.D., M.D.

    Clearly, the universe follows natural, not supernatural laws. Thank you for your stand for rationalism.

  66. Add me to the list of people who found your blog because of the CNN iReport. It was well written, respectful, and insightful.

    Atheism doesn’t have to mean anti-theism, and I think you got that across quite nicely..

    Again, well done.

  67. As a young atheist without any children I thank you for making that post on CNN. Very wonderful to read and very interesting to see how a mother deals with atheism. We should take your advice and simply be a little more respectful and tolerant of each other.

  68. Like many other people, I found your blog through CNN. I have been atheist/agnostic since high school. I am now 36 years old and I have a three year old daughter. She has only been in a church three times in her life. The first was when we chose to baptize her in the family church for traditional reasons. The second was for a wedding, and the third was for a funeral. The reason why I mention this is because we of course are raising her as an agnostic, but I noticed something quite starling at her great grandfather’s [Catholic] funeral. It was of course, at a very large Catholic church, and I found the ceremony to be beautiful, moving and appropriate (hey, I’m not a heathen). One thing I suddenly realized as incredibly disturbing was the VERY large crucifix with Jesus on it hanging in the sanctuary. I thought nothing of it until my daughter, in the middle of the ceremony of course, asked me what that man was doing up there! I quickly shushed her and explained that it was just a decoration and it wasn’t real. Still, she peppered me with questions about what I now realized was an extremely morbid tradition in Christianity until finally my husband’s cousin explained to her that the man would be getting down very soon! Of course this incident made me wonder- because of course all I wanted to do was shield my little girl from this horrible depiction of torture – why is this image so central to Christianity? I’d like to hear other people’s opinion on this.

    • @ Diana. Thanks for taking the time to comment and share your story. That’s an intersting story about your daughter, and it’s amazing how different things look from a child’s eyes. One reason the Protestants split off from the Catholic church was because of their use of symbolism. Churches from the former denomination don’t have the image of Christ. I’ll try to post later about this topic. Thanks for bringing it up.

  69. Thank you for opening the discussion and for bearing it. I only offer my comments that they might prove somewhat helpful to those with young children because my children are 22 and 23 and were raised by atheist/agnostic parents.
    I grew up a Presbyterian and was very active in my church until the age of 19. All my family members are deeply involved in their churches (ministers, missionaries and born again!) Then there was me. As atheists, my husband and I agreed to tell our children they could attend church with friends or I would take them to any church at any time if they were curious or interested.

    As they grew up, I repeated the offer many times and they were certainly surrounded by my family’s influence, but they have so far chosen to not believe in any religion or any god. Maybe it is because of where we live, though it is a fairly conservative state and town, but my sons did not have to grapple with the issue much. This may be in part because we tended to keep our beliefs relatively quiet and private (out of choice not fear). But as my sons approached their middle school years, they weren’t shy in expressing their logic and were firm in their convictions.

    Some may say that they would not have been able to decide otherwise without the benefit of having been raised in a religious household, but my sons know that they are free to pursue their own beliefs without any interference or repercussions from their parents, which is more than I can say for so many children that come from religious households. I was fortunate that my parents believed in choice, even though they would prefer I “came back to the church.” It was the greatest gift they have ever given me.

    • @ psb — Thank you for sharing your experiences. You said, “I was fortunate that my parents believed in choice, even though they would prefer I “came back to the church.” It was the greatest gift they have ever given me.” My parents were the same way, and you and I have given the choice to our kids. I think it does help other parents see that kids turn out just fine….

  70. Fantastically brave woman who lands on the right side of these issues. I raised my daughter as a single daughter without religion and she’s turned out great!

  71. I have no children by choice, and am also agnostic. Believe me, living in the middle of the Bible Belt, neither decision was easy…and more often than not, I just keep my mouth shut when it comes to religion. Otherwise, I’d waste a lot of time defending myself from one or the other position. Even in my own family, one of my sisters is always worried I won’t go to “heaven” if I don’t get “saved.” Thanks for speaking up, and letting others know we are NOT alone!

    • @ Cara Thanks for writing. I usually keep my mouth shut, too, but can be frustrating. Some people have no problem telling me the same things I’m sure you hear as well about god/bible verses/being saved…

  72. I’m a third generation atheist raising a fourth! Everyone of us are law abiding, college educated, hardworking folks who volunteer, love their children, their pets, celebrate Christmas, pay their taxes and have many, many religious friends. None of us have been arrested or even committed a crime to the best of my knowledge, and none of us have any interest in trying to convert any of our friends or colleagues.

    However, few of my friends know I’m an atheist,and I tell my son to avoid the question. I’m not afraid of people trying to convert me–I’m afraid they’ll think of me as immoral and decide they don’t want my friendship. When I was a kid I told some classmates I didn’t believe in God. The looked at me like I was a child molester and said then I must worship the devil. I’ve never gotten over this.

  73. DAM, the hubby and I are big fans of TED talks. We watched this video last night and I had to watch it again this a.m. It’s ‘how to start a movement.’

    I wish I had the entire transcript of what Derek Silvers said. It is so simple and yet so strong. The whole video is only a couple of minutes and it will have you laughing. In the context of the video — and the response to your CNN post — I believe we can definitely say your status has changed from “the lone nut” to the leader. hahaha! :) It is encouraging to wake up every day reading comments from around the country of people who are free thinkers, with morals, who are trying to raise their kids right — “good without god” (LOVE that expression).
    It may be a long way off but one thing I’m already thinking about is this: When “we” are in the majority, how will we treat the “god” people? Our response will be all important. It goes without say, we do not want to follow the example of “the church.”

  74. Thank you thank you thank you for making our voices heard.

  75. I couldn’t find your email address on your blog, but I just wanted to say that I just discovered your blog and I am so very thankful for it. My husband and I both grew up in the church, but we are no longer Christians; we have discussed how we will raise our kids, and it’s been a hard topic because I don’t know what it looks like! We both want to be 100% honest with our kids (when we have them), and your blog is so helpful and inspirational as far as how to go about it. Honesty and goodness and love. I wish I had found your blog sooner! I’ve spent the past 2 hours reading through nearly all your posts! Thank you so much. —Bailey Bowman

  76. Thank you for this blog. As a new dad, I’ve been happy to read your thoughts – very helpful.

  77. I read about your blog on CNN and decided to check it out. Good for you!!

    When we moved to Georgia I was actively recruited by some people at work to join fundamentalist churches. I was also shunned by some coworkers because we are agnostics. We joined the Unitarian Universalist Church and it has been very valuable for us. We found people who are on their own spiritiual quests and are looking for answers. We also found people who are happy not having all the answers and enjoying the questions.

    Keep up the good work!

  78. “Or, we haven’t tried religion.”? Trying religion is not a path to God. That’s silly. God rejects man’s religion all throughout Scripture. He particularly hard on those who manipulate others through religion. But many do not know this, because they do not take the time to read/understand what they’re attacking (straw man). Many feel that they’re developing these arguments for the first time, and thus reject God on the basis of the wrong others do– which is flawed logic. God will judge those who “try religion”, he will especially deal with those who manipulative others with it. God admonishes Job’s friends for this (Job 38:2; “Who is this who keeps darkening my counsel without knowing what he’s talking about?”

  79. Thank you for a well thought and written piece. Not believing does not make you a bad or uncaring person. One of the most compassionate persons I knew was an agnostic ( my father).

  80. Concerning the remark about the morality of non-believers. There are non-believers who have better morals than believers, and would make better Christians than believers as far as God’s law is concerned. Many of the saints did some appalling things by worldly standards. So, it cannot simply boil down to having better morals- most stumble over this point. I’ts accepting Christ as Lord, not about good deeds. If that were the case, none of us would measure up. Gentiles are the non-believers in the following context. Romans 2: 14 (Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, 15 since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.).

  81. I also found you from the CNN article. I was raised in a Catholic family, Catholic school, but left religion when I left home and went to college. I am sure much of my anxiety that I’ve lived with in my 61 years came from having the fear, guilt, and constant judgement oppressing me from the church during my childhood. I happily raised my son alone, unmarried, and without religion. I tried going back to the Catholic church when my son was four years old, thinking I may need to reconnect for him, but it just reaffirmed that being an agnostic is my choice. My son is ethical, moral, and a good and compassionate person. I’m glad you spoke out about this on your blog. We are not alone in being good parents who don’t believe in God.

  82. Thank you for creating discussion – it’s always great to see similar beliefs (or we can say lack of belief) expressed in a polite and logical way.

  83. Thank you thank you thank you! That’s all I want to say. I have been saying the same things over and over. Morality does not come from religious belief. I respect believers but at the same time expect them to respect me back. I also moved away from belief and live a more rational and, in some way, “moral” life by accepting all beliefs and lifestyles. Thank you once more!

    Mario

  84. Most of my family lives in the south, and most of them I am sure are “praying for me” and my husband and child. I am often frustrated by the lack of like minded mommy voices out there. I am often tempted to think that they just aren’t really out there…it is comforting to know others like me are out there and speaking up. More comforting than some big guy in the sky watching my back. I would prefer to know that there are other human beings out there, watching out for each other…that should be the priority, in my opinion. The human doing for human, instead of “praying for.” Thanks for your bravery, from a fellow mommy heretic. :-) P.S. I may just have to increase the volume on my speaking up as well.

  85. Thank you for your last point, about us “not understanding”. I was raised going to church 3 times per week, christian summer camps, went to a religious high school and college. I understand it. For the first 20 years of my life, I believed it all. Then I started to see holes, realized the contradictions and judgement, and slowly could not bear it anymore. If there really is a God, I hope he will understand that he gave me this brain, and this brain just doesn’t believe it all anymore.

  86. Let me begin by introducing my background… i am a 30 yro medical student who moved to this country from Iran about 15 years ago. I was baptized catholic… from Islam (which i was born into)… So many who will read this may think that i am “saved”.

    My parents are both atheists and i didn’t know that until about 3 months ago! i always thought that my parents were just non-observant. but the topic of religion never made our conversations and frankly i didn’t miss much and i am glad about it.

    I am an agnostic because as i declare, i preach the gospel of the doubt. I just don’t know enough to judge for myself, if there is a “god” or not. I believe in a divine being, a beginning if you will. So i cannot go about and trash other people’s believes as wrong. For many christians out there who have responded with hate toward this post i must say: Jesus said to treat your neighbor and enemies the same as you wished to be treated. We always take everything else the preacher says or jesus has said, but leave out the most important parts. the part that teaches us patient and tolerance. I cannot believe you being a christian when you cannot follow the basic teachings of jesus.

    I couldn’t agree with your blog more. I was always brought up with one principal that i cherish to this date and hope that one day pass it on to my children. My dad always said: “there is no point in being good, because you are afraid or you expect a reward. You have to be good because it is the right thing to do.”

    Every religion at its heart preaches tolerance and love for one another. And every religion labels god as kind and loving. If that is true, then god knows that a good person is a good person. That a person doesn’t need to show himself by going to a church every week or whatever. If that person that has never wronged anyone and has helped humanity to best of his ability happens to show up at a golden gate, i doubt the loving, all knowing god, would send him/her away.

    I do refuse the idea of a god… a loving and just one. I have seen a lot of things in my life, from children with leukemia, to starving children and thirsty ones. I do not believe in a just and loving god, because there is no justice in the world for the poor and weak. It hasn’t been since the dawn of humanity which dates way back before jesus. Where was god when the Nazi were burning them alive? you cannot tell me that those poor people didn’t pray or beg god… you cannot tell me that god needed more angels so he/she let the children burn in those ovens!

    Calling ourselves believers is the biggest hypocrisy! We need to start being humans and begin by understanding ourselves, before judging other people, or attempting to justify our gods.

    And for all those who believe in this great nation and the men who founded it: this isn’t a christian nation, it never was! the founding fathers were in fact by today’s standards “non-believers”. There is a reason freedom of religion is inked in our constitution! it is because someone being a believer isn’t a better or more right than those of us who aren’t. All men are created equal!

    Thank you for your brave blog. We do need more children with values that teaches self reliance, honesty and righteousness. I am sure you are a great loving mother and understand that those who insult, don’t know any better.

  87. Where to begin??? Perhaps a place to begin is to say that the believers and the atheists are both equal branches off of agnosticism. Logic can only take us to agnosticism; neither the atheist nor the believer can walk over, whip open some green curtain and say, “There!! See!!! There HE is”, or “There he isn’t”. To be a believer or an atheist, one needs to make a leap of faith or of non-faith, but in either case, one must jump to their conclusion. Then the foibles begin to kick in.

    Us pathetic, small-minded, insecure, humans have a need to feel that we’re right and in turn that anyone who disagrees with us is dead-wrong. Then we feel the need to recruit others to “our side” in order to bolster our feeling of “rightness”. Then intolerance begins to kick in. Just ask Galileo how he felt he was treated.

    Well, to keep the manifesto short, let’s just cut to the suggestion: How about just accepting that we (our self and everyone else) are on ~some~ sort of journey and then, rather then rate someone else’s goodness and morality by what book is by their bedside, we instead judge them by their actions and by what is in their hearts (if we’re lucky enough to get to know them well enough to do such)? I think that if there is a god that He… or She… or They, would respect us for behaving so Humanely.

  88. I too don’t believe in a particular god who will save me even if I wrong things.

    But I do believe in myself. There is an inner voice which tells me not to lie, not to harm others. Don’t get me wrong, I do wrong things sometimes (I hope) but then the same inner voice tells me to correct it the next time or not repeat the mistakes. Some other religions of the world called the inner voice as god (that god resides in every one – Bhudhism, Hindhuism, etc)

    Some people think that if you do something wrong, you will get punished in afterlife or the next life. I don’t think that is true. You get what you sow, in this life itself.

    I do want my kids not to believe in a specific god or idol. But I do want them to believe in themselves and that they are the best judge of their own deeds.

  89. Thank you Deborah. It’s refreshing to hear the words of a mother who is unafraid of telling her children that she does not have all the answers. None of us do.

    Jon

  90. Yeah, I’m in Tennessee and its ridiculously hard!

  91. Loved your piece on CNN and love the blog. I live in East Texas and am trying to raise my kids as aetheists. Every day is a struggle.

  92. I love the way you think and couldn’t agree more.

  93. I’ve raised a godless child. Result: A well-educated, moral, well-adjusted graduate student who relies on critical thinking, not religious superstition, for making decisions.

    Thanks for your blog and your piece at CNN.

  94. It takes bravery to live without religion; it is by no means an easy way out. I am so glad that you started this blog and have garnered so much attention and support. We need to stand together for reason, for reality, and for moving our species forward instead of backward. Know that if any religious fools decide to be un-Christlike and give you trouble, so many of us true non-believers (^_^) will help you in any way we can. Peace and love!

  95. I am also an atheist living in DFW, and have always found it challenging to express my point of view when the topic of religion comes up with friends and family. Your writing is an inspiration. I am proud to be an atheist. Thanks for your help reaffirming that!

  96. Thanks for doing this. Your courage in speaking up, knowing the dirt that would be flung your way, is an inspiration.

  97. Thank you so much for writing! I (father of 4) really appreciate it. If my kids are gonna get dunked in water, it’s to take a bath or learn how to swim, not to wash away imagined transgressions. Like you, I’m teaching my children to be thoughtful, considerate, curious kids, and I simply don’t see the benefit of adding religious ideology to their childhood. Again, thank you, there needs to be more positive stories about atheist parents doing a good job raising their kids. Kudos!

  98. I so admire your courage! I’ve never had the nerve to announce outright to friends and family that I’m an atheist. Raised Presbyterian in Oklahoma, I wasn’t about to “come out.” I went through the motions with my son, but considered his religious instruction in the same category as Santa and the Easter Bunny. I wrote once on my blog that I’m an “atheist by default,” and I think everyone is. We are all atheists on the day we are born, with no beliefs or ideas of our own.

  99. RE: God is a bad parent and role model.

    As much as I agree with what you wrote, many others would just fall back to either the, “He works in mysterious ways” argument or else say that their God isn’t meant to be a nice friendly earthy-crunchy “parent”, but rather that He is angry and vengeful and strict and that He has given us our orders and now b/c YOU are part of HIS army you must work to getting OTHERS in line…. OR ELSE…

    RE: God is not logical

    Again, right back to “mysterious ways”. Also, our logic abilities would be woefully inept and understanding His logic.

    RE: Newtown CT, and “How can we fix this”

    One could argue that God is watching to see “how we fix this.

    RE: God Does Not Teach Children to Be Good

    Parenting is tough and not everyone is even half good at it. I actually feel that the “God is watching” threat/argument isn’t a that bad of a way to cause a little self-reflection.

    RE: God Teaches Narcissism

    That might depend on your religion, denomination, and/or home values. Some religions make it pretty clear that God is more likely to punish you than to reward you. Conversely, depending on the upbringing, an atheist could just as easily be taught that there isn’t any afterlife, so best to just get while the getting is good – go, stomp on toes, watch out only for #1, greed is fine.

  100. THANK YOU!!!!! This is the second article in the past 3 weeks I have read where I don’t feel so alone (first was in New York Times). I’m a mom living in Texas and feel ostracized by my non-belief. I have SO much love in this world for my child, my husband, family friends, and every pet and animal creature in this world. I, like you, understand why people need or want to believe. And maybe there is something which did create good. But, I don’t believe it, but just because I don’t doesn’t mean I don’t want other people to believe what helps them. But I DO get scared when some own family members try to “convert” me and insist I am wrong and they know they are right. If my child, when he is old enough, wants to attend church, I’m fine with that, but I don’t want other people making him believe or feel certain things and tell him he will be going to hell if he doesn’t believe. I cannot, for the life of me, think that if there was a God, God would want people telling other people this horrific thing for having their own beliefs or non beliefs. Living in TX is quite difficult and I always think I would be better living E or W coast or north, but reading some of these other comments makes me think I will have this wherever we go. I thank you for having the courage to say what I believe 100% but am not strong enough to express as openly as you. Thank you for not making me feel so alone.

    • @ TAN And thank you for reaching to share your experiences. I know it is frustrating when people don’t respect the way you want to live or want to raise your children.

  101. Great site – keep at it!

    I’m the father of three young boys, and both my wife and I were raised in very catholic families. We’re not religious, and in fact, keep a very watchful eye to keep religion out of our household. It’s tough – a babysitter can start bringing over books to teach the five year old that he needs jesus to avoid going to hell, etc. A karate instructor can start telling the kids in class that jesus is the true savior and will save them, too. Random books from the library can be interwoven with religious themes and references that we simply want no part of, especially when our children are very young.

    We’re fortunate to live in a tolerant community with a great set of friends where we generally don’t have to worry about it that much. We don’t get disapproving stares, or people telling us they’ll pray for us, or that our gay friends can’t actually be married and need to repent, etc. (We do have some friends that might feel that way, but I think they sense that we really, really don’t agree with them, so they keep quiet). We’ve also learned that you still have to be very careful and vigilant. And unlike lots of things that I want to protect my children from, religion is so socially acceptable I feel like I need to be especially careful to keep it away from my kids.

    Keep at it – I know in some parts of the country it’s incredibly hard, but know that in others, it’s much, much easier. And by the way, those other parts of the country can be wonderful, supportive places to raise a family.

  102. I’m raising my 2 boys (14 and 10) as humanists.The 14 year old is agnostic (open to the possibility of a deity, but doesn’t buy that any hierarchy of humans is worth his blind allegiance,) the 10 year old is completely atheist, and has to be reminded not to be condescending to his friends of faith. My goal in raising them is to help them develop into exceptionally honorable, open- minded, loving young men whose moral compass isn’t based on threats of an eternal cosmic spanking, but on how they would want others to treat them.

    • @Cheryl Sounds like your boys are already thinking, having decided for themselves what they believe. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

  103. Your CNN iReport has given me the vocabulary to express who I am, what I believe and why we’re raising our children without religion. Thank you.

  104. my boyfriend and i both loved your article and hold many of the same views. i recently had a discussion with a co-worker (who faithfully attends an evangelical Christian church and takes many opportunities to discuss God without concern for the feelings of others) about how i live my life trying to do the right thing because i was taught that it’s the right thing to do, not out of fear of God’s response to my behavior, and i was also given the “you’re not getting it right” lecture. i’ve also wondered how people can be selfish enough to think that God “heard their prayers” and put those shoes they really wanted on sale this week??? it’s a complicated world for sure. if i’m just not understanding, then i honestly hope i never do. i also live in a part of the country where the separation between church and state seem to be followed rather loosely, as i see teachers in the public schools openly praising Chik Fil-A for being a “good, Christian company” in front of their 6 year old students, and handing out “Jesus loves me” pencils to their class. I’m comforted to know that there are others out there who share our viewpoints!

    • @ danielle Thanks for taking the time to write. It’s good to know so many others are out there. This is disappointing to hear:

      i also live in a part of the country where the separation between church and state seem to be followed rather loosely, as i see teachers in the public schools openly praising Chik Fil-A for being a “good, Christian company” in front of their 6 year old students, and handing out “Jesus loves me” pencils to their class

  105. Bravo for your CNN iReport. I read an excerpt today. As an atheist I applaud your efforts to bring the very valid option of raising kids without religion. Let’s hope more parents (and uncles, aunts, granddads and grandmoms) connect with you and voice what they think, respectfully so if they disagree and encouragingly so if they agree (like me).

  106. Dam, I found this through CNN. You and all of the others on here have every right to your own beliefs. You have clearly thought about this. One big concern would be: if I, as a believer, am wrong, then the result is that I have led a wholesome life in trying to live by the precepts taught in the Bible. And then I die. Too bad, but no one is worse off. If you are wrong, you have taught your child that there is no God, and when she/he dies, they go to an eternal hell to be tormented for ever, separated from a loving God. It would be hard for me to be that flippant with my child’s eternity. If you made a mistake and gave him/her the wrong medicine, they would survive. If you are wrong here, it is for ever.

    For Diane, why not just tell your daughter the truth? That the man hanging on the wall, according to others, subjected Himself to that horrible death to pay for the sins of others because He loved them so much. And that according to their beliefs, He rose from the dead and lives with His Father in Heaven until he returns to get those who are His believers here? That would be intellectually honest. If you must, tell her you don’t believe. Those of us who are Protestant don’t focus on the crucifixion but instead on the risen Lord because we believe that is the miraculous nature of Jesus, the resurrection. That is the saving power, not the death.

    • @Bob: I obviously cannot speak on behalf of anyone but myself, but the only risk to my children in being raised in a secular household is that they face criticism and intolerance. I have absolutely no concern that I have condemned them to any form of eternal hell, because I don’t believe that such a place exists. In response to your comment to Diane, it isn’t that easy. It is sometimes difficult to explain the details of others’ religious beliefs while still being respectful of others’ beliefs, especially when children are young and still ask a lot of questions in public.

    • Bob wrote:
      “One big concern would be: if I, as a believer, am wrong, then the result is that I have led a wholesome life in trying to live by the precepts taught in the Bible. And then I die. Too bad, but no one is worse off.”

      How do you know that your god is the right god you believe in? There are hundreds or maybe thousands of gods people believes in around the world, and everyone of them is claimed to be “the right one”. If it was allah that was the right god, you will burn in hell after you’re dead.

      The truth is that there is no evidence for a god, no proof at all. The bible and all the other “holy” books such as the quran, tora etc. are only books of fairytales, written by people who lived in a time where they didn’t have that much knowledge of the world and the universe as we do now, and they tried to explain it all by these fairytales. They also tried to bind people with fear of an imaginary creature in the sky, using religion as an instrument of power.

  107. Just because someone is godless, it doesn’t mean they lack values!

    I am an inarian immigrant (about 15 years now, i’m 30 now). i was born into islam, and converted to Catholicism when in high school. I didn’t know until about a month ago that both my parents are atheists. I am an agnostic, because frankly i preach the gospel of doubt. i just don’t know enough to justify it either way for myself.

    I was brought up with one core value from my dad: “you have to do the right thing because it is right. if you do a good deed for a prize, it doesn’t count for much. You have to do the right thing, because you want to do it, no matter the consequences.”

    I am astonished to see some negative feedback on your post, especially from the “religious community”. Part one of being a good christian as jesus has said it himself: love and tolerance! it’s a shame to see many christians respond to a free mind like this. Remember that no that long ago, earth was flat and the center of the universe! things change.

    I agree with your point about the “mean guy” in the sky. Where was god when Jews were burnt alive, or where is he when every second there is a child dying from lack of food/water or … The argument that god needs more angels is an absurd one! if there is a god who shows his/her love to us like this, with all this pain, then i rather him/her not being a role model for any of my kids.

    If a good person, believer or non-believer, happens to show up at a golden gate one day, and the god is as loving and merciful and great as he/she may be, i doubt that person will be turned away.

    I was raised without ANY religion OR god. but a simple value of being respectful to others and doing the right thing as i expect to be done toward me. I am at no time a person to judge another human being.

    You are a fantastic mother, who is introducing reality to your kids and letting them choose. For all those people who think she is doing a wrong thing here is a new flash. America was NEVER a Christian nation, and never meant to be one. The men who founded this country, inked the freedom of religion for a reason. To show tolerance toward others. And if you read your history, majority were deist.

    This world and country of ours needs more mothers with you, who teach values and respect along with common sense to their children. Not ignorance and fiction.

    I was raised without god, i am a physician, i am a brother, i am a son, i am a great friend (or try to be) and to each their own. I do my best to be a good person no matter what. I didn’t need god to tell me what is right and wrong.

    • @ some guy Thank you. Thank you. I appreciate the kind words and the insights. So many things you said are spot on–this country was founded by men who wanted religious freedom. They were not all “Christians” or believers, contrary to what some think. I, too, agree that it is hypocritical for people to say they follow Jesus’ teachings, but they spew hate and intolerance. I agree with everything you said, actually, and love what your dad said here:

      “you have to do the right thing because it is right. if you do a good deed for a prize, it doesn’t count for much. You have to do the right thing, because you want to do it, no matter the consequences.”

  108. Keep up the good fight. You have the support of a dad in Atlanta with two children. I get all the questions….

  109. You should be very proud of your decisions and I really appreciate your voice. There are thousands of young parents (including me) who lead a secular like free of religion, but are under constant pressure from parents (mine are Catholic) who feel that because our children are not baptized and going to Church, our lives are somehow incomplete. It is very reassuring to read blogs like this. Thank you !

  110. Thank you for writing this article. I wish I had the courage to voice my opinions publicly. I agreed with everything you wrote. It’s as if you were reading my mind.

  111. I had it figured out by the time I was nine years, or so. There was nothing that my parents, or I couldn’t provide that a god concept could.

    My little friends couldn’t understand my ideas, and kept repeating “Who made you?” and “What happens when you die?” Fifty five years later, I hope that they have finally discovered why sex is around. As to the second question, I’ve always said “who cares?”. I didn’t understand ego at the time, but my take on religions and god concepts is that they prey on people who cannot imagine worlds in which they do not exist.

    At twelve, I refused to be confirmed into my mother’s church, an hace been living god concept-free for more than fifty years.

    GunBunny

  112. Hello.

    I read the story of your iReport a few minutes ago and I just want to say thank you.

    My husband and I just got married and one of the first questions that was asked by our family members was how we are going to introduce our children to religion, knowing we are not believers. When we said we would not introduce it, the family member was very upset, saying “we needed to give up our silly childhood beliefs.” It makes me very happy to know there are other people that agree with me. It is nice to know we are not alone.

    • @ Anna You are definitely not alone, and your ideas are not silly. It’s frustrating to be told you can’t think for yourself, that your ideas are not important. I–and many others–know how you feel.
      Thanks for taking the time to comment. Good luck with your new marriage.

  113. It is very brave of you to share your view point and I admire that. It is important that people find what works for them and equally important to be sensitive to what works for others.

    There have been two books that have shaped my thinking over the last 5 years on this topic – one is “Did Man Create God? David E. Comings. The second was “Why God Won’t Go Away – Brain Science and the Biology of Belief” NewBerg, Rause & D’Aquill.

    As for my own opinion: None of us chose our ancestors or the place of our birth. People don’t choose the very things that impact the rest of their respective lives from Day 0 onward. We spend the rest of our lives asking the “Why” only to receive the “Because” as an answer.

    If someone believed in some deity – power to them. And if they don’t – power to them. That works for them and I’m happy for them. But the danger is that our vestigial behaviors are to protect and that can extend into savings someone (for example) from an eternal hell or some other scientifically unprovable place. Sincere as it may be, it can cause great damage and rifts where none need not exist.

    Whether we like it or not, we are all biological cousins (some more removed more than others) and there is no reason why people can’t practice spirituality which works for them without trying to proselytize others who don’t agree. There are plenty of ways to be a friend, to help build neighborhoods, to lift up humanity and be the change we want to see in the world. But it starts with us.

    True Story

    I have one friend who believes in God. I have another who doesn’t.
    They both experienced losses of loved ones recently.
    Losses that I was there to see through the end.
    My children were with me on both occasions and had many questions about death and dying. I asked them “What do you believe?”

    “I believe I go to heaven.” said my daughter. “Great!” I said.
    And to my son “How about you?” “Well … I really don’t know!”
    “Great!” “I don’t know either!”
    “But here is what I believe – when my time comes and my body experiences ‘death’, I will likely see everyone I love again. It will be the last thing I experience and it may as well last forever. The oxygen that depletes from my brain will cause me to experience an everlasting peace and joy. I will see everyone again and even though it may not be real to anyone else – it will be real to me and that is all that will matter.”

    “Is that heaven, Dad?” “I guess, but everyone experiences heaven or hell in their own way. And lots of times, they create their own”

    I could say to both of my friends with confidence “Your loved ones are in a better place.” I could hug them, cry with them and be with them. I could reassure them based on the science as I understand it – they would be together again. It will certainly take the sun billions of years to consume our planet, but we become one again with that which created us. Star dust we are, and to star dust we return.

    And in their brains as they dream at night or before they die, they have that hope of seeing those they love again. The human brain is unable to differentiate between realities (which reflection is really the real reflection?). We evolved that way after all – and it is a strong advantage because we gain comfort and encouragement even if those dreams don’t match up to the conscious reality we experience everyday.

    The important question now is how to live with one another in the ‘conscious’ reality of everyday life.

    And I can only hope that society (namely, myself) matures and evolves to the point where the focus is no longer on dogma or religion or belief or teachings or science. Namely – we learn to live in peace with one another. We learn to love one another. We invest in ourselves and in other through education. We learn that each and every soul on the planet that is invested in can grow and increase the collective pie of prosperity. We learn that there is a place for logic (quantum anyway – see http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=humans-think-like-quantum-particles) and there is a place for faith. The latter should be driven by the imperatives of of the individual without pressure on other individuals. The former dwells in the ‘conscious’ reality and must therefore depend on observation, repeatability and more traditional forms of logic.

    And even then, you can’t expect a color blind individual to see things the same way. I am learning to enjoy the inherent and inescapable inconsistencies in our species where the exception was really the rule.

  114. CNN-Response: Raising Kids without God – (This is very sad but apparently true!) – 1/16/2013

    For the atheists among us: Although you may be sincere in your beliefs (or lack thereof)…I beg you…please don’t push your error ridden and pessimistic views of unreality upon your precious children. They deserve better. Here’s why.

    There have been atheists and agnostics making arguments challenging the reality of God since man began to write…and before that I would suspect as soon as he began to speak. Interestingly enough, although man has come up with many bizarre notions of God, in general mankind has overwhelmingly always believed that there is indeed a power (or perhaps more than one) that created and ordered the universe…a power he has called God. Why? It’s simple really…mankind has clearly seen an order and rhythm in the universe that he cannot account for. Man has a voice in his heart that he cannot account for. In fact despite our tremendous advances in science and technology, there is still much more that we can’t account for than that which we can.

    Why do we have a sense of right and wrong? How can combinations of atoms (material things) that form a human body imagine things never seen? Why are there laws of physics and mathematics? Why are there any principles or laws of nature? Why do we have a conscience? Why do we have a memory? Materialism cannot account for these (and a myriad of others). Science can tell us how many things work…but fails miserably to tell us why they work or even why they exist?

    We know from our material world that if you dump a load of lumber on an empty lot it will never become a house (not even in a billion years) unless an intelligent designer with a clear purpose (and the proper skills and resources) decides to make it a house.

    Of course the biggest problem for our atheist friends is pulling a rabbit out of an empty hat. Since nothing that we have ever been able to observe is responsible for its own existence, we cannot explain how or why anything exists at all (without God that is). I suggest reading St. Thomas Aquinas. The Big Bang again may explain how but not why? I could go on and on since the preponderance of the evidence for God is so massively overwhelming but I will now turn to the author’s assertions.

    The author seems unimpressed with the reality that she is created in God’s image. On the contrary, she seems very disappointed that God is not created in her image. She seems to have a few things that she can teach the Almighty. So did good old Job. A thoughtful reading of the Book of Job could be very helpful here.

    But let me respond to some of her specific disappointments with our Almighty God.

    Author’s assertion: God is a bad parent and role model.

    My response: She says that good parents don’t allow their children to inflict harm on others. This isn’t true. Children of good parents lie and cheat and steal and yes inflict harm on others every hour of everyday throughout the world. And yes good parents (just like God) do not condone it. They tell their children it is wrong and they often make them suffer the consequences of their bad behavior. When a child goes terribly wrong (i.e. commits rape or murder or denies God), is it the good parent’s fault? Would we argue that the good parent never existed because the flawed child abused his or her freedom?

    She says that regardless of the free will argument, good parents “still step in and guide them”. Clearly so has God. He has intervened in history on many occasions. He gave Moses the Ten Commandments (a super set of principles for justice). He gave us the Bible and the Prophets. He sent His Son to show us the way. He gave us the Church established by His Son and told us that the gates of hell would not prevail against it. That Church still exists after two millennia…just like He said it would. No…I would say God has clearly stepped in and guided us. But just like belligerent children, many refuse to accept His guidance. Instead they deny His existence.

    Author’s assertion: God is not logical.
    My response: God is very logical…He is the Author of logic. Logic is an abstraction that is essentially impossible to explain without God. Why would a cluster of atoms be able to abstract logical conclusions? This is very much like the pile of lumber on the empty lot. Unless a designer wills it, why would it exist?

    She uses the Newtown tragedy as an example of God’s lack of logic. God has commanded us “Thou shalt not kill.” It seems to me it is we that have not obeyed God’s very good and just and logical command. She argues that if God is good, it is not logical that He would allow evil things to happen. Let’s get down to the Nitty-gritty here. God has given us free will so that we can truly love. Love is only possible with free will. (You cannot be forced to love or it would not be love.) Could God have made us to be mindless robots lacking any will of our own? Of course He could. He gave up a lot of control when He decided to create a creature that could love others and could love Him or could hate others and hate Him.

    There is one other little problem here. God is an eternal Being. He is not trapped in time and therefore He sees everything (past, present and future) all at once. He knows the ultimate outcome of all of what we see as good and bad events. He trusted us with His creation but we were not trustworthy. We sinned. He obviously knew we would sin be but still He gave us the opportunity. Why? Because He loves us enough to put up with all of our wickedness to allow us to experience love…His love…a love He had no need to share with us but still did. This is why the Apostle says “God is Love”. He is trustworthy…probably the only being alive that truly is. Trust that God can make a human tragedy into divine triumph. What have you got to lose? Nothing! Oh yes…I forgot for a moment…atheists believe with religious fervor in “nothing”.

    If you have had a loved one who has met with tragedy, you really don’t know that God has not provided something wonderful for them beyond the reach of the wicked among us who have perpetrated their evil designs upon our loved one. When an about-to-be-born child is squeezed through the birth canal, the rush of trauma and pain ends in great joy! Out of pain comes our greatest joy…new life! God has given us so many glimpses of His great love and wisdom. Although I have seen and read a lot of the unmitigated pessimism of atheists, I frankly am still surprised each time I read the same old tired arguments anew…that they have not been able to see what those with the eyes of optimism and faith see so clearly.

    I could take each one of the author’s arguments and point out the errors of logic, the pessimism and the hypocrisy in them but hopefully you have gotten the idea from my dealing with the first few.

    The main point that I would like to make here is this. I believe this author is sincere in what she says. But by raising her children godlessly, she has robbed them not only of the Truth and of reality but also of a great hope. The real tragedy inherent in all atheistic and agnostic belief systems is their great hopelessness. All God fearing people have hope. Christians have a great hope because our God has sent His Word (Son) to dwell among us and to save us from the very thing the atheists dread…death. Jesus overcame death and clearly showed us this when he rose from the grave. You see when an atheist dies; she ceases to exist (at least by her own belief system). What a terrible fate…to become non-existent. When a Christian dies, she is simply squeezed through the birth canal of death into a new, abundant and eternal life with God Himself. What a great hope! Please do not deny your children the great hope and love of authentic Christianity or should I say more precisely…reality. (Don)

    • Don wrote:
      “We know from our material world that if you dump a load of lumber on an empty lot it will never become a house (not even in a billion years) unless an intelligent designer with a clear purpose (and the proper skills and resources) decides to make it a house.”

      If you see a house and think “there is a house, somebody must have built it”, you only show a typically human way of thinking. You think the same way when it comes to the world and the universe, “the world and the universe exists, and somebody must be the creator” and then you put a god as this “creator”. But if all existence have a creator, who created your god? And who created that who created your god, and so on. You can’t say that your god wasn’t created, that “he created himself” or “god is for ever”. You can’t make exception for your god.

      “There is one other little problem here. God is an eternal Being.”

      No, there is a big problem with this; there are no proof of a god! There is no proof of an eternal being. There is absolutely NO evidence that a god exists. The bible was written by people using their imagination and fantasies, no god.

      “What have you got to lose?”

      Atheists have a freedom you who believe in a god never are able to experience as long as you believe. We have the freedom to live as we want, to think what we want and to do as we want, without any concern of what this “sky daddy” of yours think of that.

      “Oh yes…I forgot for a moment…atheists believe with religious fervor in “nothing”. ”

      No! To NOT believe in a god is NO religion! There are hundreds or thousands of gods you don’t believe in yourself; is it a religion to NOT believe in every one of those? As an atheist I do NOT believe in those, just like I don’t believe in yours eighter.

      “But by raising her children godlessly, she has robbed them not only of the Truth and of reality but also of a great hope.”

      No she has not!
      On the contrary she gives them the only truth, that there is no evidence of a god, that people only believes there is a god.

      “The real tragedy inherent in all atheistic and agnostic belief systems is their great hopelessness.”

      No, the real tragedy is people like you who shows so much disrespect to people who do not believe as you do. And yes – you show disrespect! Atheists are not without hope, the difference between atheists and you is that atheists have other hopes in their lives than you do. Atheists hope is NOT of less value than yours! Atheists focus on this life, not an “afterlife”, because we know that there is no proof of “life after death”.

      “You see when an atheist dies; she ceases to exist (at least by her own belief system). What a terrible fate…to become non-existent.”

      No, this is the nature; we live and we die and that is it! No god, no “afterlife”, no hell, no paradise, no jesus, no “holy spirit” – nothing! And that is exciting!
      All of your answers here shows that you are full of prejudice regarding atheists! Remember you have been a non-believer yourself. You were born as a non-believer like every other human being on this planet. Being a non-believer is the most natural way of living, being a believer is unnatural.

  115. I spent 25 years in the evangelical community- Bible college, degree from an evangelical school (of which Dinesh D’Souza is now president) and years in a like-minded church. 12 years ago, I found myself single and confused. Old friends said that God would bring my wife and me back together. Somehow, we both knew that wouldn’t happen. Fast forward, my ex-wife and I are both remarried, and much happier; I abandoned belief in God long ago. We’re having a granddaughter (our first), and there’s the problem. Everybody in the picture except my (current) wife and me are Christian believers. How do we handle the inevitable questions about Jesus from our grandbaby? should we come clean now with the family?

    What do you think?

    • @ Mike DeSimone Thanks for taking the time to reach out and share. You’ve had quite a turn around from evangelical to atheism! How does your son/daughter feel about your religious beliefs? Do they support you or do they wish you would come back to the fold? If they want to raise their daughter in the religious community and are not open to your views, you should probably respect how they feel and keep mum…

      • dam: Thanks for your reply; yes, my daughter and son in law will raise their child in their faith. They are both deeply committed to it, as are almost all of their friends and other family members. I myself know the feeling of support you get from this community, and just like you I have no problem with them teaching their beliefs to their children.
        In reply to your other question, I have not discussed my non belief with my daughter directly. I think we both have a pretty good idea of our different views on faith. I am sure that they would like to see me back in church, but neither of us is doing missionary work with the other. Of course I will respect their faith with their family; my dilemma was prompted by realizing that young children will inevitably have questions about all sorts of things, and will generally ask them of the nearest adult. When that question comes regarding something from the bible or Christian beliefs, I think age appropriate Santa Claus / Easter Bunny answers are fine.
        I guess my dilemma and that of other non-believing grandparents is sort of the opposite of yours. You raised your kids to be moral, caring and decent human beings without religion, and got “prayed for” by well meaning family friends and strangers. My daughter and son in law will raise their children to be moral, caring and decent human beings in their faith, and they will be praying for me and my wife. Maybe that’s not so bad after all.

        • @ Mike DeSimone…I’m with you on that. If all they do is pray for you, it’s doable. You and I know when that when people say that, they really aren’t respecting our choice, they are discounting our abilities as rational humans to decide for ourselves which belief systems work for us, but they don’t see it like that. They think they’re being good because their god wants them to save others. In the grand scheme, that’s not such a bad thing.

  116. I was brought up in a catholic country and taught by priests until university. I think I was around 16 when I suddenly realized that it was all basically a scam. I remember feeling both shocked and liberated. Of course there isn’t a magic man in the sky who controls things! Religion and god and the devil were just created by (mostly) men who wanted to control a largely uneducated people. It’s still the same unfortunately in many countries and although religion can create social stability it can also cause a great deal of pain.

    Re my own family: I had my kids baptized to keep my parents happy. With baptism my kids were not aware of anything and so I was ok. I refused holy communion and confirmation though and I never took my kids to church. They are old enough now to ask questions. So now when they ask if there is a god I tell them that many people believe there is but that I don’t. I tell them that some people believe in other things like reincarnation. I tell them that many of the social rules created by religions are great rules to live your life by. I tell them that Jesus and Mohammed are very important people in history and were probably very good people. But I also tell them that blind faith and intolerance has caused a lot of hurt throughout history. Basically, I want them to grow up educated and capable of making their own decisions. I am very lucky in that my parents are fine with this. I now also live in New York where people don’t get too worked up over religion. My wife is not religious either so we have not had the pressures you have had to face.

    I worry about the US sometimes when I hear about people wanting to teach “creationism” in school. I really do find that sad. Same with people rejecting the fact that man is causing global warming. We owe it to our children to see that they get the best education possible and that they inherit a world that is safe for them and future generations. Religious fairy stories that lead people to hurt others and a rejection of science that hurts the planet eventually hurts our children.

    I’m happy to see another person stand up and tell it as they see it and not just go along with what they have been told to believe. As you have found out, you are certainly not alone. You should also feel proud that you are doing the right thing for your children.

  117. You are indeed a brave human being. This is not an easy thing to be open about when one can feel quite threatened after being open about his or her non-belief. I am grateful to you for putting yourself out there. There are indeed a great number of us who share some level of this view. As I believe you mentioned in your iReport, religion should be a personal thing–not to be aired in public. My wife is a devout Christian but she keeps it in a personal place; I love her with all of my heart. She is also well aware of my views and loves me right back. The only thing we struggle with is how to raise our children. I find it difficult to lie to them and she wants them to share her faith. We will continue to work our way through it. We both adore our children and each other, so I am confident we will find the answer. Or, perhaps, our children will find it for us:) My very best wishes to you!

    • @ jtsomm77 That’s very nice…With the respect you and your wife have for each other, I have no doubt your children will turn out well. Thanks for taking the time to reach out.

  118. Thank you for your post. My husband and I see religion as societies
    “behavioral control.” I don’t need the church to tell what us what is right and wrong…I’ve got that handled. And, I am raising my children to be the same.

  119. Bravo! I applaud this blog and your efforts to remain true to yourself, your convictions, your beliefs. What a refreshing viewpoint. I look forward to reading your blog.

  120. I have never believed in God, and my parents didn’t either. My father was agnostic and my mom was atheist. This meant that all my friends’ parents thought I needed to be saved, and as a result I’ve been baptized 6 different time in different churches.

    Not that I had an issue with that, in fact it was fun for a kid to be the center of attention like that. But it didn’t make a believer out of me.

    Even going to a Catholic school didn’t. I learned a lot about religion, gained a real interest in mythology, really liked the priests and nuns, thought they were almost all extremely kind-hearted people. And yet, I was born with a scientific mind, which means I have questioned EVERYthing since I was old enough to talk. I tried very hard to believe. I thought that would help me fit in better. It just simply didn’t work.

    The truth is, that pressure doesn’t go away when you’re an adult. When I had my kids I decided to stay home with them for a while, and tried to be part of a couple different mom-groups. It was a complete failure. The fact that I was absolutely NOT religious was a major reason for the other moms to shun me and shut me out, just as if we were in middle school. It was horrible. I really, really needed connections, friends, someone to talk to, I was very depressed (post-partum?), and these women were MEAN. And they called themselves religious. That is the ugly side of religion. I won’t bother with these folks, or people like them, ever again.

    Thanks so much for opening up this topic!

    • @ climatelurker I always hate to hear about women being mean to other women…I hope you find some like-minded people.
      At least, going to a Catholic school, you got a good education and you probably have beautiful handwriting.
      THanks for reaching out and sharing your story.

  121. My husband and I are out atheists raising two children who we hope will use the tools we have given them to think critically and make their own independent judgments on what they believe. I read your piece on CNN and thought about sharing it on my Facebook page. I hate that I didn’t, solely due to the reason that I am just tired of hearing Christian friends’ defensive justifications for their own beliefs, as if my lack of belief is somehow a judgment of them. But I thank you for taking the risk to “come out” so publicly. I would like to find more like-minded people locally.

  122. I’m a little late to the party. I’m atheist, married to a deist who was raised catholic. We are very open that there is no religion in our home, although I have friends of all faiths and respect their right to believe whatever they want. I have other, particularly evangelical acquaintances that are so amazed that I don’t believe in a god. I’ve been told I’m being prayed for, to which I reply, “no thanks!” cheerily. I find it so patronizing that others think I am such a wretched person I somehow need their prayers – that they are so much more than I. I explain that I have the same standards of behaviour for myself and my family and the same morals, I just don’t believe in the god-dictated version. I would have thought that if there were a god, they would judge on actions rather than words anyway, so I’m perfectly happy on how I live. I find evangelicals on the whole to be very un-Christian – so many of them are hypocrites, it irritates me. We are quite open with our son, who is only 5 so really doesn’t get anything about religion. When he’s older, I would prefer he do his own research and follow a religion because he believes in the teachings, rather than because he’s been brainwashed from early childhood. Thanks for speaking out.

  123. I struggled just as you have. I was raised catholic and was never really into it. I walked away and was fine until we had kids. We joined an UCC church and had the boys baptized, but have not been back since. My struggle was the same; How do we raise children in something we don’t believe? I loved the community, but not the theology. I personally feel there is something greater than myself out there, but do not see it as a religious thing. Thank you for your voice and courage to speak up. I have found your blog because of CNN, and have become a fan. You write with honesty and heart. Please keep it up.

  124. I admire you for posting your beliefs.

    I was raised Catholic by a Catholic father and Lutheran mother. My parents are still married after 65 years. The difference in religious beliefs did cause conflicts throughout my childhood. I went to catechism and was told my mom was going to hell because only Catholics go to heaven. I was told the trinity is like an apple pie cut three ways. That’s the only way they could explain it. I went to confession because my dad said I had to go. I didn’t think it was any of the priest’s business to know what I’d been up to, so I made up sins to just get it over with. The beginning of freedom set in when I was 16. I got my driver’s license and drove around the lake for an hour instead of going to church. I’d sometimes drive past a house in the neighborhood because it had a red light in the window like the one behind the altar in church. The priest said the red light meant God was present. I thought it was neat that God was present at this house, too, and wondered what it would be like to have God in my house. I later found out that the neighborhood house was actually a whore house and when the red light was on, they were open for business. Ironically, the new renters later called in a priest to exorcise the place.

    I later checked out the Baptist church. This group really couldn’t tell me what they were about except they thought Baptists shouldn’t do five things: drink, smoke, gamble, dance, swear, or play cards. I know this is six. They said pick any five. I decided to leave the church instead.

    I later checked out the Jesus People Church and heard speaking in tongues. That freaked me out and I never went back.

    Today I don’t attend any organized religious group. I refuse to live by any person’s rules, laws and regulations. I’m an independent, logical thinker. I read my bible and speak in tongues to myself. I believe God gave every person a brain and he expects us to use it. Yet some refuse to think for themselves. I believe God gave every person free will to think what they want to think and act how they want to act. I believe that God can’t control anyone’s thinking or actions. Instead he expects us to take responsibility for our own thoughts and actions; to reap the benefits of good decisions and bare the consequences of bad decisions. Yet some blame their bad luck or lack of self accountability on God. I believe that life just plain stinks sometimes. Innocent children and adults are murdered, babies are born deformed and the human body gets sick and eventually stops working. Yet I believe that God is fair and just and in his time, people will be healthy and death won’t exist. And for others, I believe peace for them will be found in a grave. And that’s fine, too.

    I am a parent of two adult children. When I was raising them, I believed God expected me to raise my children to be logical, independent thinkers. I decided to take on the responsibility of keeping them safe. I decided to take on the responsibility of teaching them right from wrong. I did my best to be an example of kindness to others – family, friends and strangers. I taught them how to communicate respectfully with others whether they were in agreement or not. I taught them and still remind them that they decide what they want their lives to be. That they are responsible for their future. No one else. This thinking has given all of us a lot of freedom and peace of mind in our lives. I took on the responsibility of a parent. It wasn’t easy a lot of times. But I signed up for it and knew the years would fly by and someday they’d be on their own, like they are now. I didn’t hand over the responsibility to someone else or something else.

    Religion is man made. For me it was prison. Yet, I’m thankful I was raised Catholic because now I know what I don’t want or need in my life. I don’t resent my parents. They did what they knew to be right in their lives and for their kids.

    In my life, God is the furthest thing from religion. I don’t equate the two. Religion is still doing what it has done for centuries; it drives people into complacency and apathy, a life of existence, sometimes mere survival or victim mentality. On the other hand, I choose to live and thrive. God has given me a brain to logically think, critically question and freely decide. He gave me this ability and thankfully, I’ve decided to use it.

    • @ MSP Winter I hear you. You believe in God, but not man-made religion. That works for you. I appreciate that you shared your views so respectfully. Thank you.

  125. Brit in North America

    Fascinating. This conversation wouldn’t be happening in Europe. At least, not for the past hundred years or so since it has been socially acceptable to not believe in any God (which includes, by the way, the vast majority of English folk). Interesting, there the arguments are opposite, and individuals who are strong believers are looked at sceptically and with criticism. Delighted you are writing this, and keep up the good work.

  126. Thank you for writing this! We live in Knoxville and are non-believers. At times the religious doctrine can feel overwhelming here and it is challenging to raise our kids in this environment. Your blog reminds me we are not alone and I really appreciate that.

  127. I read about your story on CNN. I want to say that you should raise your children however you see best and truthful. Personally, I think it is better to raise a child without religion. A child can always turn into religion when he/she become an adult. To indoctrinate a child is no different than brainwashing. Some may say that it is not brainwashing, but only to share the “truth” with the child. Really? If you are a Christian, and someone else indoctrinates your child with the “truth” of Islam, do you think it is sharing the truth? Vice versa.

  128. I grew up catholic in Georgia. I now live in Dallas, Texas. I have two kids with who I’ve shared my lack of faith in any religion, deity, or belief since they were old enough to ask. My youngest sister died almost six years ago when my older son was barely two years old – the questions resulting from that has made the rest of raising them without any religious beliefs pretty easy so far, we got the big stuff out of the way early. They ask questions, I explain why I believe (or disbelieve, as the case may be). I think if I was going to label myself, I’d call myself a humanist – my only “belief” is that we all need to live our lives the best we can, doing what good we can and helping others when we’re able.

    Of course, nothing will ever stop my mother (who doesn’t even identify herself as catholic despite having lived married to one for almost thirty years and attending catholic services!) from telling me that I need to have my kids baptized. I still don’t understand the logic, why some mythical deity would damn my (innocent) children to hell if someone hasn’t sprinkled some water over their heads. /sigh

    Thanks for your story on CNN and thanks to them for publishing it. You’re not alone, although I think you’ve noticed that by now. ;)

  129. Major kudos to you for getting this perspective out. Perhaps one title should be morality without religion.

    At about 4, maybe 5, I remember my aunt getting her two kids ready for bed and having them each say a prayer. When my aunt then approached me to say a prayer, I remember asking to who? The idea of talking to someone/something like that didn’t seem make sense. This remains my earliest memory of religion. To this day I remain atheist. I have read the Bible and I would be lying if I didn’t think it contained relevant wisdom, but I would also be lying if I didn’t think it contained junk, mean concepts and immoral practices. I encourage everyone to read the Bible to gain wisdom and perspective. I want to read the Book of Mormon and the Koran to further understand the division we create amongst ourselves. Perhaps someday. I believe reading the Bible and similar significant works provides one the wisdom to make an informed decision about religion. That said I can’t help be amused by the snide, if not arrogant remarks coming from so called deeply religious people, when religion or lack thereof gets discussed. As someone mentioned insecurity, the depth of insecurity can be measured by the voracity of the remark.

    Keep up the good work!

    • @Steve I am with you about reading all religious texts. It is good to be knowledgeable. As for the following comment, I 100% agree:

      That said I can’t help be amused by the snide, if not arrogant remarks coming from so called deeply religious people, when religion or lack thereof gets discussed. As someone mentioned insecurity, the depth of insecurity can be measured by the voracity of the remark.

      Thank you for taking the time to write!

  130. Ricardo Druillet

    Thank YOU for letting me know I’m not alone, I appreciate your great coments and I admire your Bravery, May the Force be with YOU !

  131. Thank you for your blog post – you put into words exactly how I feel & how I hope to raise my child. My son is too young to ask any questions yet, but I know eventually they will come. I also live in Texas, and often feel in the minority by not being religious – I find that it’s assumed that you are Christian around here. I appreciate not only your honesty, but your respect for others and their beliefs. It’s how I try to be! Thanks again for sharing your thoughts.

  132. Thank you for sharing your story. I have two children – ages 2 1/2 and 5 – and this issue recently came to a head for me with all of the post-Newton posts about the negative effects of “taking God out of our classrooms.” For what it’s worth, this is the facebook post that I posted in December. I share this here only as a show of support for others and a hope that it will make others feel less isolated and marginalized.

    “Over the past week, I have heard many people blame the shooting in Connecticut on (among other things) “taking God out of the classroom.” This idea was easy for me to dismiss initially, but it seems to have gained momentum. Perpetuation of this idea has done much, much more damage to my faith in humanity than the actions of one person.

    I have never spoken openly about being an atheist, but my lack of belief in God has been a source of much ridicule and, as a child and teen, exclusion. As a parent, I emphasize to my children the importance of tolerance. My family is not perfect, but I would challenge anyone to find a 5-year-old who personifies patience or caring towards his peers more than my sweet son. As he comes into his own and starts asking pointed questions about religion, I emphasize the importance of diversity and understanding of others’ beliefs and traditions. Does he believe in God? No. May he someday? Perhaps. But I am confident that regardless of his views on spirituality, he, like his mother, will be instilled with the importance of integrity and being kind and compassionate towards others.

    Each time I hear someone perpetrate the myth that a lack in religious faith leads to moral depravity, it eats away at my hope that my children will be met with the same kindness they show others. I can only hope that parents, and anyone else whose life includes children, see the value in perpetuating tolerance rather than hatred or blame.”

  133. I, too, found this blog from CNN. I was raised without religion for the most part, by an Atheist father and a Catholic mother. They didn’t agree on which religion (or no religion) to raise their children in, so instead they encouraged us to keep an open mind and to educate ourselves. It wasn’t mandatory, but I found myself curious and attending various youth groups with their support, (Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, Jewish – you name it, I went to it!). I later found my own path and became quite religious, going so far as to convert officially. I am not a Christian… and my family accepts me. I always appreciated that they gave the tools and skills to make my own choice, instead of doing it for me. It taught me to be tolerant of those who do not agree with me or share my views. Being raised Agnostic, technically with no religion, allowed me to make my own choice. Thank you, truly, for sharing your story and experience.

  134. I am grateful for your post. I have a 2.75 year old daughter, and just last week I was wondering to myself what I will do about church. I just caught a glimpse of your CNN piece and really only skimmed it, but immediately I felt relieved that I am not the only one who does not want to send her child to church. Of course luckily, I am a single parent, so I don’t have to argue with anyone about it either. My daughter has been asking “who made that?” alot, and when she gets to things like trees and sunshine, I tell her “the universe” made them. I am pretty well over my own childhood religiious trauma, and I refuse to put my daughter in that environment. Though sometimes I am not always crystal clear about what I believe or what I don’t, I do relish the fact that I can make up my own mind in my own time, and that is what I want for my dear sweet innocent child. Thank you for the encouragement!

  135. Jesusthewaythetruthandthelife

    Religion Kills. Relationship with God Saves!! Most don’t believe because of the examples Christians leave. They aren’t wholly committed! Forsake sin with the Power of God! I pray for all. God Bless and Love to all In Jesus

  136. My wonderful wife is a practicing Christian and I am an atheist for just about every reason you list in your CNN essay. We have 2 well balanced kids because we were able to come to terms with the simple recipe that: Good values, wither they are written on stone tablets or in the Good Book (her side) or pure logic (my side) adds up to a basic set of rules that worked well in our case. I understand that my wife needs the structure that comes with her beliefs, the ease of mind religion gives her when something goes wrong (can’t be someone’s fault… God wanted it that way). She is very tolerant of my atheism and I support her beliefs. We did have our 2 kids baptized and have taught them that they will be able to make their own religious choice when they grow up. As young adults, they are ready to make their choices and we will both support their decisions.

  137. Thank you so much for this! It’s so easy to feel alone as an atheist parent. I don’t have any friends or family who are atheists and therefore have no real support system with regards to this matter. Thank you for talking about it so articulately, thank you for putting yourself out there so others will realize they are not alone.

  138. I really appreciated your blog and reading your article. I too, was raised in a very relgious home where we went to the Assembly of God. I even taught Sunday School when I was in high school. Then every time I questioned the Bible or religion, I got anger instead of answers. I took many World Religion classes in college, went to any manner of religious meeting from Buddahist to Mormon. But I just don’t feel that I believe any of it. My oldest child is now 19. I raised her to know about God and the Bible, but I told her to keep an open mind and to form her own opinions. I taught her all I know about other world religions and we have been to many, many churches. The main thing I wanted her to learn was the one thing I was never taught or shown in any church – tolerance. Tolerance, acceptance and knowledge that nobody has all the answers so we should respect everyone’s right to believe how they wish, worship how they wish and read whatever book they feel is holy. Through her own experiences to date with overbearing, judgemental and just plain mean “Christians” she has come to the same conclusion as I. I am now raising two more children behind her and it will be interesting to see if without the pushing of these beliefs down their throat from a young age, if they come to the same conclusion as the rest of us. I never EVER want my children to believe something because “I said so”. I want them to have deep critical thinking skills that come from questioning everything. If any of them decide to turn to faith I will support them. But as long as religion demands all or nothing – I doubt they will.

  139. Just the other day my 5 year old came and asked me “Where is heaven?” I assume he learned about it either from school or from his grandmother. My wife is an eclectic Pagan and I consider myself agnostic at best, but we choose to raise our son in a non-religious manner.

    I explained that is something some people believe in. He asked me if it was real. My response was simple: “To them it is.” He accepted this and went back to playing with his toys.

    When I grew up in a Roman-Catholic household, I quickly fell into the whole “jesus is the lord” camp, and felt very fulfilled by the church’s teachings. However as I got older and was reminded how horrible we are as humans and we should always feel guilty for our sins, I started to get anxiety attacks so severe they would keep me at home. Why? Because I was convinced I was going to hell. I would not see my family that died, I would not see my friends. I would burn. Every little lie I told as a child, every disobeying moment, any impure thought kept nagging at me.

    I would never subject my child to that, however, when he is old enough to decide for himself what his path will be, I will support it. If he chooses to follow a religion’s teachings, he is welcome to. If not, that is alright too. But I agree, I feel he needs to learn it is important to be a good person for the sake of being a good person and personal fulfillment, not because some all powerful being wags a finger at you and threatens eternal torment.

    Good on you, and I would love to share stories sometime!

  140. It’s so refreshing to hear about a parent who is unafraid to tell her children she does not have all the answers. None of us do. Thank you for raising some logical thinkers. We need all we can get!

  141. I just wanted to say thank you for writing the article on CNN. I tried so hard to believe in god when I was young. It seems like life would be easier if I could just be christian but the truth is that I just never really “bought it”. I felt so liberated when I finally decided to admit to myself how I really felt but I am still fearful of letting anyone else find out. Reactions have rarely been good and now that we have relocated to the southern part of the US I don’t see it improving. My biggest worry recently is how to handle children. What will I tell them? I would fully respect any decision that they make regarding religion and their beliefs but I can’t lie to them and tell them that there is a god and heaven when I don’t believe that. My husband and I have decided to tell them what WE believe and to also tell them what others believe. I just worry about how they will be treated by others when it is clear that their family does not attend church. I think that almost any taboo would be accepted over “I’m an atheist”.

  142. Bravo, kudos and a hip-hip-hooray for being bold enough to tell the internet world that you are an atheist and not bring up your children in a shroud of religious, um… lies. Sorry, but they are. I’ve been an atheist for over 20 years. Well, probably always was as religion never felt right nor made sense. But admitted as such 20 or so years ago. I’ve always been very tolerant and respectful of other’s Christian faiths, but lately, I am finding myself to be less and less tolerant. So i am just more mindful of what I read and watch. If it is definitely going down bible-alley, I quickly close it out. (I rarely watch TV, so just internet media).

    LOL… I commented on the CNN article about you, started off with Bravo. And was quickly replied to by those who definitely did not agree with me. I have to share one comment and my reply. She said, “If it weren’t for God, you wouldn’t exist to write your post.” My reply, which I just now saw was removed, was “No, my mom and dad has sex.” That’s inappropriate???

    Anyway. subbed your site. Love it!

    • @Michelle Funny, but true, comment! Can’t beleive that was removed!! Thanks for reaching out and taking the time to write.

    • I bet that answer was inappropriate to some christians… LOL!
      When the truth don’t match their belief, of course the truth must be wrong… :-)

  143. I must commend you for your bravery. This right wing v left wing country, christians v “heathens” country is quick to segregate people who chose to not believe in a Christian god, let alone any god. Just because you chose to not raise your children with any specific doctrine in mind, doesn’t mean that your children are without morals. I say that, “conservative” Christians tend to be the ones who sin the most, Christian extremist have been known to kill people in the name of god, they tend to be the first to judge and “cast the first stone”. I’m not saying all Christians are the same, there are those who TRULY follow the teachings of their religion, of acceptance, forgiveness, tolerance, and love. I see many with all of the aforementioned qualities and no religious ties whatsoever. I feel that YOU and your family might be an exemplary family model that many need to follow

  144. Thank you for being so brave..I wish more people would realize that this belief in ‘God’ is no different than other Gods in past history..ie: Thor, Isis, Zeus, Neptune and Ra. The list is endless of make believe gods and what they do for humanity. There is absolutely no physical evidence that a ‘God ‘ exists…NONE…Why is it that anyone who doesn’t believe, is marked with a scarlet letter and preyed upon, (no pun intended)?
    I personally have a more agnostic view, show me and I’ll believe, otherwise, face the cold hard facts. There is more evidence to disprove god’s existence than there is to prove he/she exists.
    I only hope that those of us who wish to proudly say that we don’t believe will get treated as equally as those who do.
    Again, thank you for your bravery and keep up the good work.

  145. I really hate blogs and subscribe to exactly one. . . this one as of five minutes ago. Thanks for putting yourself out there.

    I live in a small town in the bible belt and have many great friends that are evangelical Christians. I also face discrimination for being an agnostic and or unitarian on close to a daily basis. I have several friends that I suspect believe as I do but am afraid to even bring the subject up with them.

    Has anyone else had the experience where someone launches into a religious tirade against non-believers? Or cringed as someone took three minutes to ask God to help their 12-year-olds win a soccer game? Then you catch someone making eye contact with you as if to say “I know this is crazy but it”ll be worse if we say anything.” Coming out is always a risky proposition.

    • @Kyle Thanks. That’s a huge compliment. I can undertand why you don’t like blogs. Yes, coming out is risky, especially if you have kids. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

  146. Dam
    Wanted to comment on your thoughts on your kids becoming religious. I totally agree that if religion becomes important to them I would never stand in the way. I try to expose my kids to different faiths on a semi regular basis so that they can have some foundation on which to make that choice.

    I have several good friends who are quite devout evangelicals. What I love about them is that before inviting my kids to church they took the time to have a chat with me one on one. They were very respectful and never questioned my beliefs in front of the kids. When they ask to include my kids is youth activities sometimes I decline but more often than not I agree.

    Christians out there who follow this model of mutual respect and kindness are very much appreciated. Sometimes, we laugh at how far we go out of our way to demonstrate respect for each others beliefs. I wish I had more relationships like this. I think this blog could help move folks in that direction and want to thank you religious types that are reading with an open mind.

  147. Right here with you. Three kids, no church, no grace, but lots of rational discussion and talks about science. When you are an atheist, you don’t tend to waste days as if you’ll have eternity. Each one is a gift.

    Incidentally, people are always complimenting me on how kind, compassionate and thoughtful my kids are. And they don’t have a clue that we’re not religious. I think many people assume we are based on how involved we are with charities, the community, and generally making a positive difference.

  148. Just wanted to drop you a quick note thanking your for sticking your neck out on CNN. As somebody raising three kids in rural Virginia, I too am faced daily with the hate and ignorance of the religious. Kudos, and keep up the good work!

  149. Thank you for writing. It is refreshing to see another atheist speaking up. Don’t worry about those who object-as you noted, they are afraid.

    I’d also like to point out that Physics teaches us that energy never disappears, it just shifts form. So to the religious-just because I don’t believe in heaven doesn’t mean I think everything ends the second you die. I just don’t believe in old white dude with a beard sending me to a scary pit of fire because I didn’t follow some outdated mythology…I’m also not worried about an Egyptian crocodile eating my heart if it’s heavier than a feather.

  150. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. I consider myself having been “religiously abused” growing up. I am now a Unity member because we focus on teachings of great leaders – Ghandi, Jesus, Buddha, Louise Hay, Wayne Dyer, etc. – and on human connection. I catch a lot of crap from family members who offer to pray for me as if I am doing something wrong. They’re afraid I’m headed straight down the path to hell. I have to laugh because I don’t believe in hell!

    • @ Judy Thanks for reaching out and sharing. Hell is just one of the ways religion keeps people in line. I’ve heard several people mention “Unity” churches and they sound interesting…Glad you found your place.

  151. Friendly Persuasion

    I appreciate your courage in writing your piece. Logical and straightforward. Many of the arguments you put forth also fit what many of the Founders thought and what made them deists. These same Founders who are constantly trotted out to prove we are a “Christian” nation. Whether there is a God or not one things seems sure….we have no way to comprehend God. To believe that books written long ago and clearly edited repeatedly by very flawed men are “inerrant”, or even in the ballpark, word of God is sad.

    Thanks again for your writing on this subject. You definitely are not alone.

    • @Friendly Persuasion Thanks for reaching out. Yes, I agree with you. These books that were recopied by candlelight over and over and over again, that were handed down as an oral tradition first. It’s also frustrating when people say that all of our Founders were Christians. Some were, but some were not. Too bad we don’t have to read their actual words in school….if we read what some of them–like Ben Franklin–had written, we’d see they had much different ideas…

  152. Dear Fellow Atheist,

    “The fundamental faith for [humankind] is faith in the result of a brave, honest, and steady use of all [its] faculties:

    Let knowledge grow more, but more of reverence in us dwell;
    That mind and soul according well may make one music as before
    But vaster.”

    Author: George Elliot

    You are not alone in this realization.

    A friend in New York.

  153. THANK YOU !! As a minority in my community with this ideal I thank you! I thought I was on an island and for a few years have been teaching my children without religion for this VERY reasoning. I kept asking many things, this for example, what makes people do the “right” thing -in THEIR heart- if religion/God is removed? Parenting from this perspective has made a difference toward guiding their thoughts, actions, reactions, etc… So thank you for posting, thank you for showing me I’m not on an island!! —don’t even get me started on the lying about Santa deal.

  154. whitewaterhelix

    We are raising two young children without organized religion and are quite confident they are well-rounded with strong values and morals. The best thing about this approach is that we refer to examples of positive values and morals from the Bible as well as other religious and non-religious texts and stories (Dr. Seuss for example!). You don’t have to “believe” in Christianity to draw values from it’s teachings! It is so refreshing to NOT have to buy into a rigid fable that excludes others while at the same time appreciate and practice the values and morals contained in some of the stories. I think this is what many ‘religious’ people actually do but they just aren’t ready (and their leaders aren’t brave enough) to move beyond the dogma. Focusing on dogma in any religion can lead to intolerance and violence, two negative values I plan to make sure my children DON’T adopt!

  155. ina puustinen westerholm

    On a wonderous day..for our country, our many hued, and viewed..cultural perspectives..I found this fresh and viable gathering of other, questing people. Thank you. As we had reaised our two sons….who are now 45 and 47..we were always on the edge of good people..who felt my husband and I, and esp. the sons..must..be saved. It was..for both of us were teachers..a delicate walk..in those early years. Upon looking at the growth, the educations of the sons..none find them anything but wonderful, educated, nurturing human beings..always willing to help, to listen..to share burdens in their communitys, and to help enjoy the joys and goodtimes, celebrating good health and always..an interest in the welfare of the Community, the Nation. In..those early years..we many times..walked along..with our sons..teaching them the history of myth, teaching them the amazing wisdoms to be found..in the outdoors, and from always living upon the gnerative edge..of the wilderness. My heartfelt thank yous..go out..to all those who are making these journeys today, and forward. Be brave, be joyful..and well. A 75 year old mother. ina

  156. Thank you for writing this piece. As a mom of two young kids, raising them in the deep south, this is a constant struggle for me. I was raised in SC but have since attended grad school and traveled the world. My husband and I are atheist and agnostic respectively. We currently live in a very rural, conservative baptist part of NC. My children frequently come home from their public school with Jesus and god comments. Only yesterday a gentleman I just met prodded me about being a born again christian. I gave my standard response of “I am an Episcopalian” (life is just easier here that way). My response was not met with a nod and a move on. His behavior continued to be not only unnecessary but was quite simply, rude. I struggle everyday with the knowledge that so many ignorant and uneducated people, who are barely able to survive, are preached to that all will be better in the afterlife and to just settle for their current predicament in life with absolutely no motivation to improve themselves. In this regard, religion is an absolute disservice to the people god so purports to love. I left the deep south in 1989 and returned in 2010. I’m alarmed that religion has replaced personal conviction to such a degree.

  157. Thank you!! Its so nice to see so many others! But am curious, what do you (or have you) told your children about death and dying? For me personally it plays such a large role in my life and I am at such a loss over what to tell my children.

    • @Nicolina I just told them, I’m not sure what happens after we die, but I suspect we are like a computer. Once the plug is pulled, and the energy stops flowing, we don’t have awareness. Our bodies can become fertilizer for other things to grow. They seem to be OK with that. They are still figuring out things for themselves and what it means to be mortal.

  158. Thank you so much for sharing your views. It’s so refreshing to see someone have the courage to speak out so publicly on this issue. I know I sure haven’t .

    My own path toward agnosticism began about 15 years ago when it became harder and harder for me to reconcile the actions of organized religions with the message they proclaimed. It also became increasingly difficult for me to see the bible stories as something any more vaiid than fairy tales. I began to read books by Bart Ehrman, Christopher Hitchens, and Richard Dawkins and found something that made much more sense than an irrational belief in a supernatural deity. It was a huge weight off of me to let all of that baggage go and I’ve never looked back.

    My wife and I are also raising two teenagers in Texas without god and I so appreciate you sharing your thoughts and creating a forum like this. Thanks!

  159. Thank you for your CNN article. My husband told me about it after a very difficult and HURTFUL visit with my best friend who tried to “save me” this weekend. Your words are refreshing.

  160. I am so proud of you to speak up for moms like us and parents in general who do not herd their children down that path! As parents, we always answered our children’s questions honestly and gave them our equivalent view/belief that we should always do the right thing, maintain our integrity, be good citizens of the world, and to never stop asking and pondering what their beliefs are. Thank you!

  161. Keep up the good work. Even though, as a child, I went to church every Sunday – I decided to raise my kids without a God or supreme being in their lives. We are a very tight-knit family that is very active in our community. For now, we keep our religious preference to ourselves – hopefully, someday, atheism will be accepted in our society.

  162. @ DAM: I realize this may be “preaching to the choir” here (ironic pun intended), however I couldn’t go on without making sure you were aware of the late great Christopher Hitchens, whose many writings and debates are to be found on the Internet and youtube, will serve as a constant inspiration and anchor for those who wish to hear and understand the anti-theist position spoken about in the clearest and most eloquent of terms. An entire collection of Hitchens videos is available on the video section of http://www.buildupthatwall.com Prepare to be mesmerizied!

  163. I’m so glad I found this website. I’m raising my kids without religion because that’s how I was raised. But, I also teach them, as I was taught, that they need to be respectful and tolerant of others’ beliefs. I hope as they grow others are respectful of theirs.

  164. thank you for your wonderful post.

  165. I don’t usually feel the need to justify my secular life. If eternal damnation is my destination after I die, that affects me and me only. There’s really no point in debating it, and I don’t even feel the need to defend my beliefs on that account.
    But it does strike a chord with me when someone suggests that we can have no morality without God. My brother and I were both raised in a secular household, and while neither of us is perfect, we both grew up to be ethical human beings and achieve success on our own terms. We both have clean police records and graduate degrees, and we coincidentally both went into fields of service to others. My brother is a firefighter, and I am a police officer.
    On a daily basis, I go into homes decorated with crucifixes, rosaries, and Virgin Mary statuettes, and I arrest husbands and wives who beat each other while their children play amidst a mess of empty liquor bottles and trays of drugs and paraphernalia. At the end of the shift I come home to my house with no crucifixes or mezuzot, but also no domestic violence or drug abuse.
    My wife and I have no children yet, but we will one day soon. I am confident that we will be able to teach our children morality just as my parents taught me, without God as the central feature.

  166. Very nicely written blog – you expressed that very beautifully. I believe arguing with people who rely on faith is not productive at all. As is often mentioned, faith is belief without proof, and I dont personally know what makes people of faith stick to their guns so steadfastly when the evidence points to something completely opposite. I understand their need for community and structure and leave them alone. It will take generations for people to realize and accept what wild lies religion and god are.

  167. Thank you for creating this blog. My wife and I are raising two girls in a similar way to you.

    We are both agnostics and will embrace whatever decisions our children make. We believe is that anyone who is indoctrinated into a religion as an impressionable child, as opposed to coming to their beliefs on their own, will have difficulties. In our experience, such children will ultimately face indecision and confusion as they grow up. As a result, we work hard to help them understand what “some people believe” without judging and at the same time without forcing beliefs upon them.

    At the same time, we combat the “sales pitch” from religious groups in our area. Our five-year-old was told that good people go to heaven, and bad people go to hell, by a “well-meaning” evangelical group at the local fair. In many ways we combat these guilt-laden images the same way that we try to protect them from pictures of skinny models and violent movies – we work against anything that will erode their sense of self-worth.

    I agree with your assessment that being good should come from within, and both of our children are, we hope, turning out to be very good people. They embody much of Christ’s teaching… but without judgement, blinders or a false foundation. This may sound self-congratulatory, but the credit isn’t ours – our children have built their own strong belief system, and our job is simply to guide them in roughly the right direction.

  168. Thanks for starting this important dialogue – clearly it struck a powerful chord for like minded non believers like myself with which to reaffirm and express themselves – good work, I plan to check in on a regular basis

  169. You wrote an excellent piece on CNN. There are more people than you think that agree with you 100%. As for the rest…who cares. :)

    • @Debra Macleod Thank you for taking the time to write. I am so amazed at the number of people who came out and said they agreed…What a huge relief. :)

  170. Thanks for your insightful remarks on your blog and in your CNN I-Report. I fully share you beliefs, with one exception: I believe organized religion is the root of most bigotry and evil in this world, and that we would be better off without it. But then again, people would create another crutch with which to comfort themselves.
    I am an urban, East Coast person. My wife and I moved to western South Carolina a number of years ago for a business opportunity. At one of the first social events we attended, we were immediately and pointedly asked by the wife of one of my new associates: “And what church do you attend?” Clearly, this parochial Bible-Belter needed to know where to pigeonhole us in her strict social hierarchy: Epsicopalians on top, followed in order by Methodists, other Protestants, Baptists, and way, way down the list: Catholics, Jews and African-Americans and other dark-skinned minorities of any religion. I didn’t stay in the Bible-Belt for long.

    That experience affirmed in me my athiest bent, and I was glad I had raised my children without religion in our home. Not surprisingly, my now adult children show the same disdain for organized religion as I do. Intolerance, you might argue? Perhaps. But what do believers have to fear when they represent 95% of the world’s population? That statistic is something I just don’t understand, and I guess I never will..

    • @ Anonymous: You wrote: “And what church do you attend?” Clearly, this parochial Bible-Belter needed to know where to pigeonhole us in her strict social hierarchy…” No doubt. She was trying to figure out how to relate to you. I, too, don’t understand that statistic. It does seem to be changing though. Thanks for taking the time to write.

  171. Thank you for writing this blog. I chose to raise my children (now 21 and 20) without religion. Because we were not involved in church, my children were left out of many activities while they were growing up. I have had people actually comment on how surprised they were about the high morals of my children since god was not an influence in our lives. I work as a teacher in a neighboring district where my coworkers have no idea I am without religion. I am not brave enough to “come out” to them. Even though I work in a public school, religion is very prevalent in the school and community. The nonbelievers are given a very hard time and I just don’t want to deal with the constant pressure and invitations to visit their church. Again – thank you for giving a voice to all of those who aren’t brave enough to speak up.

    • @anonymous It’s always good to hear from people who raised their kids without religion. Thanks for taking the time to reach out. It’s too bad that you are not free to say, “no thanks.”

  172. Thank you for starting this site.

    I was more fortunate than most because my father was the first non-believer in a multi-generational family with an extremely religious tradition. He really took the big hit from his family, but it brought “not believing” into the realm of possibility for me. However, I lived with my mother and she continually tried to get me involved in religion.

    I rid myself of religious delusion some time after leaving home when I was in my 20s. I did it as part of a process of attempting to rid myself of any delusions I could uncover in myself. This was essential to my psychological health and maturation. I am now in my 60s and am happier than I have ever been. I attribute this to a continuing attempt to learn, and to uncover and discard delusions.

    I am not interested in changing other people’s beliefs, but I have been responsible for guiding my children in life. This means I’ve had to challenge questionable beliefs they developed from time to time.This is for their own happiness and safety, and religious belief falls into this category of questionable beliefs.

  173. Count me in as another agree-r! Like sarikarkus above, I wavered in my teens but finally broke free in my 20s (Jewish background) and am now 54. I have an 18yo and 17yo son and they are wonderfully open-minded. I always told them I am perfectly fine if they choose to become religious but it would have to completely be their own decision once they became legal adults. P.S. I thought I wrote well but, sheesh, you put me to shame! :-)

    • @SLTsherey I always like to hear about success sotries like your 17 and 18 yo children! I, too, am fine if my children choose to follow a certain religion. Thanks for the nice words, but they are too generous. I appreciate you reaching out to comment here.

  174. Thank You! I’ve been struggling with this for a long time and have finally found a group of supportive non-believers to lean on. I’ll anxiously await your future thoughts. B.

    • @ Brian B THanks for taking the time to reach out and leave a comment. I’m really glad to find there are so many of us out there….:)

  175. Your not alone dear ;-) I refuse to use fear of hell/heaven to scare my own children into a belief.. If they chose one later on that will be their doings.. I will not ram it down their throats…

    Besides, I feel as though no church should be required to appreciate your god. Many churches imo are just business under false pretenses

    • @Joseph I wish churches–or at least the pastors who receive a salary–would pay taxes. If they really want to help, they can help by paying the same taxes as the rest of us….Thanks for taking the time to comment.

      • Indeed. Or at least donate their tax equivalent to charitable needs. Real ones, not fake ones designed to look like something beneficial yet not… I’m tired of people using loopholes personally..

        Anyways, take care, and good luck!!

  176. I would have so many things to say to you. Like, move to Finland! We don’t care if you believe or not. We will NEVER ask you, or your children, I promise! :D (I did not know if my sisters believed in god until I was 25, and I still don’t know if my parents do)

    I’m a non-believer, but my friends consist of believers and non-believers. In my opinion belief in god is founded upon faith, and faith is something you feel. If you feel faith, then it is easy to believe in god. If you don’t, it is very hard.

    One of my closest friends is a very strong believer, she and her family share a religion which is borderline a cult (in my opinion), but she and I have never had problems expressing our faith or lack thereof to each other. We accept each other, and she said that for her religion is love, and though she wants to share it, she doesn’t understand why it should be forced onto others. That’s not love, because love is respect and caring. And love does not exclusively belong to one religion or one group. She also said:

    “it’s just stupid to put labels and forget what is really human you know?”

    • @Kopa I would love to move to Finland! Yes, I couldn’t agree more with your friend–it’s stupid to label people. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

      • The irony of the situation is that I’ve heard numerous times, as a non-believer, “The US is a Christian nation! If you don’t like it, move!” It’s only land of the free if you think like they do. That being said, I’m not moving, and sooner or later they’re going to have to accept that things have changed. I think for the better.

  177. Thank you for your bravery to share the iReport on CNN. I’m another who agrees with you, since 30 years ago at age 14 when I decided to not be confirmed. Although obviously I certainly have opinions about religion, I don’t judge others for their beliefs and I’d hope we could live in a world where they didn’t judge us. I’ve become a follower … of your blog!

  178. thank you for posting on CNN. We are raising our son Agnostic/Athiest, and you’re right, we are constantly bombarded by religious sayings and “teachings” and trying to be saved. We’re just normal folks who beleive religion should be kept at home, not broadcasted to everyone and everything. Good Luck!!

    • Hi dani in tx! So glad to hear of others out there who believe the same way. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

    • Being a parent, you’re really hit with this stuff. The kids say God every morning at school in the pledge, my girl says God in the Girl Scout pledge. I don’t mind when we go to our friends’ houses and they have grace before dinner—that’s their home, and I get that. But when God keeps getting mixed in with government, that really bothers me.

      BTW: CNN has an article up about how animals have morals, (like I already knew that ages ago), but since they don’t believe in a God, how is that possible?????????????? Exactly.

  179. hi!
    wow – so glad to find you! add me to that list – you could have been writing about me instead of yourself. though i am pretty vocal about being a non-believer and am lucky to have friends who are the same as me. i raised my boys (grown and gone now) just like you are doing and both are thankful and appreciative. i am now raising a daughter (6) and will do the same for her. i think the thing that always gets me the most is when people equate having no religious belief as having no morals. like the two are somehow tied when i feel the same as you – i do the right thing because it’s the right thing. just like i raised my children to do the right thing for the sake of it being right not because they were afraid of me and i was watching. because then, when they think no one is watching, they wouldn’t know how to do the right thing. i see religion as very much the same thing. or worse – don’t bother to do the right thing, do whatever you want and then just go to confession. THAT was the single biggest thing i could not accept and walked away from my childhood religion. going to confession and saying a few hail mary’s afterward does NOT make immoral actions suddenly ok.

    • @ marti (pezadoodle) You must have been a Catholic. There are many of us here who were raised like that. It’s interesting how many! Thanks for taking the time to comment, and it’s really good to hear other parents say their children turned out well without religion!

  180. My dad is the one who shared your blog with me. I have an 9mo old and a very religious family. As a matter of fact I think it is only my dad and I who are more open minded. I need to look up your article on CNN, but without reading that I want you to know that I appreciate people like you speaking out. I whole heartedly believe that we can raise good an moral kids without the influence of religion. I believe teaching kids the difference between right and wrong, and how action impact others feelings can be more helpful. This country has suffered too much ignorance and in that ignorance it tends to segregate or even annihilate people with a difference of opinion. I am also agnostic and in a family of deep rooted Christians, I find it hard to hold my tongue when they get in heated debates of how “wrong” or “immoral” something is. I’ve spent the last 15 years sifting through the bible and any other religions I have come across, and finally have came to the conclusion a few years ago that it doesn’t matter what you believe in. As long as you do good to people, animals, and the planet it shouldn’t matter if you are Christian, Jew, Muslim or Buddhist. Why a religious group persecutes those that believe differently then them still baffles me, isn’t that what they fear will happen to them in the “end times”. I believe that everyone has the right to believe in what ever they feel like, as long as they tolerate other peoples’ beliefs. Though history does tend to repeat itself. So when a believer complains incessantly about the actions of another, or speaks of how every bad thing happens because we are a country without morales I tend to want to shout and scream “What about the crusades? What about all the blood that has been shed in the name of your god?” But instead of getting in an argument I simply listen an try to shed lights on the true cause of the “sinful action”, like perhaps mental illness is the cause. So again I appreciate your well thought out and articulated words, your spirit and motivation behind shedding some light on us non-believers. Well said and I will follow this blog!

    • @anonymous Thank you for sharing your experiences and for taking the time to comment. I agree with everything you wrote….Your 9-month-old will be asking questions one day, and you will find a lot of gratification in raising your child to think about many possibilities…At least, I found it so. :)

    • Coming from a religious family and living in a religious community, I will tell you that it comes down to protecting one’s children. In my lifetime, I have seen many great things done by religious organizations, however, at the same time, I see religions telling people not to question, not to use basic logic, to just close their eyes, cover their ears and have “faith.” I can’t do that to my kids. I want their minds to be strong and as sharp as they can be. If they decide later that they need religion, then I will respect their decision. But, if they have a good, logical foundation, it will be hard for that type of mindset to take root.

  181. As an atheist with 2 kids in Spring, Tx. I feel your pain. And yes it was wonderful to know that you and others like you are out there. Not being part of a church or religion in an extremely religious environment can be isolating. Thanks for writing this.

  182. I want to thank you first, for your very thoughtful CNN essay on its Belief page. it took a lot of courage writing that, and exposing yourself to the wrath of those with closed minds and hearts. Second, like you, I lost my faith a while ago. I was raised Jewish, and struggled with my own religious (and cultural) upbringings. One of the things that opened a new door for me was the writings of Joseph Campbell, particularly the series in the late 80’s he did with Bill Moyers called “The Power of Myth.” It opened my eyes to a lot of things, and helped me come to terms with my own non-belief in a literal God. I’ll leave you with two of my favorite sayings of his:

    “For it is simply a fact – as I believe we have all now got to concede – that mythologies and their deities are productions and projections of the psyche.”

    “God is a thought. God is an idea. But its reference is to that which goes beyond all categories of human thought.”

  183. Hi, I am so glad to find your blog. As I am sure is the case with most athiest parents when it comes to home and friends, i surround myself with other like minded folks. I can handle a little religion in another person, just don’t need to hear about it. Let it be their dirtly little secret for a change! Mine is not a secret anymore. LOL. We have 3 little girls (1,4,5) and they are doing well so far. But we are in the south(NC) and do have to contend with the little religious zealots in kindergarten from time to time and I have to set something straight. LOL.

    • @Anonymous My good friend wants me to move back to NC. She has found a group of like-minded people, too. Thank you for taking the time to comment!

  184. I read your iReport and thought you did such a nice job of presenting your views while not insulting the views of others. You make us nonbelievers look good!

  185. I loved the CNN iReport, thanks for posting it, you are not alone! What I have always found interesting is that people of varied religions that do not sync with each other can all get along understanding that they each have their own view on God (talking about here in the U.S. workplace, I realize people kill over this in some places), but if they come into contact with someone who does not believe in any God its chaos. I do not attack people when I find out they are religious why must they attack me if i let it slip that I do not believe. Somewhere in my Catholic upbringing was “Do unto others” I really wish someone would practice that, its good rule to follow.

    • @ Chris. Totally agree with you….And I, too, was brought up Catholic. I’m so surprised by how many ex-Catholics are here. Thanks for reaching out and taking the time to comment!

  186. I’m not a parent yet but I plan on advocating what you have done so far with your kid when that day finally comes. I was raised in as hardcore-Christian a home as you could imagine. My mothers side is full of pastors and theologians, while my dad is also a Christian extremist. Parents met a small Christian college in Florida. My grandfather has been president of a few Christian universities, has a university named after him (Cohen University and Seminary), and built the giant model of Jerusalem at the bible theme park in Orlando. I have several uncles who also went to school to learn the bible and have doctorates in Theology and now play roles in churches spread out across the country. My mother is now the bible study leader where she teaches a group of over 400 women. You can probably imagine my childhood. Church every sunday obviously, and bible talk daily. I hated church, I hated the people at church, I hated the music at church, I hated the fake personas of all the hypocritical bigots at church, I hated the youth group kids and their fake lifestyles. My mother read the bible to me at the kitchen table every morning as I waited for the school bus. I wasnt allowed to watch certain shows, alcohol has never been in the house, and certainly speaking against the bible or Jesus was greatly frowned upon. I came out as an Atheist when I was about 20 or 21. My family took it pretty hard, lots of tears. Months later I remember mom telling me I was an evil person because I had satan inside of me. That was about 4 years ago, now I openly debate my family, they have become more comfortable around it, but they are so blindly engulfed in the bible that their is no hope in changing their minds; facts, in their world, do not exist. Dont even mention science. I could go on and on about how my childhood was so dreadful and dull and boring and forced, but one thing I can be thankful for was that natural selection and evolution allowed me a brain to question things and think rationally. I still get angry when I think about how my mother could indoctrinate me as a child, how one could just shove this shit down an innocent childs throat. It upsets me daily, but its something I can learn from and make useful in the future. I’ve made it a promise to my future kid that I wont influence him either way, but I certainly wont lie to him or makeup things when he asks questions. I will just ask him what he thinks, and if he wants to believe something then thats on him. If my kid wants to go to church when he is a teenager then thats on him, I wont prevent it. But I certainly will not mislead my child so that he will be limping around on a crutch that is religion and god for the rest of this life. Not everyone is as lucky as an Atheist. We actually have something to live for. Thanks again for your blog, I will certainly hope to find myself reading it several years from now when I start a family.

    I’ll leave my favorite quote from an Atheist, something I try and tell people after they blabber on about praying for me: “Don’t trouble deaf heaven with your bootless cries.” -Hitch

    • @ Skeptikal Love that quote. Thanks for writing and sharing your experiences. I imagine is was hard for your family–they were probably scared for you. As a parent, we try to raise our kids the way we think is right. I think I understand how she might have felt, but I know it must have been frustrating for you.

  187. I was raised as a heathen…..that’s what my mom called us. My mom was raised Protestant and my father a Catholic. She called us heathens for years, even though it was their responsibility to educate us in the ways of the world. So, you could say I was not raised in a home that was faith based. It was unhappy and passive agressive based. That was our religon. I always felt out of place and odd that I didn’t have that second family, the church family. My parents were too busy focusing on each other and not my sister and I, for any type of life lessons to be instilled. When I was a teenager, I went along to various friend’s churches in hope that something would click and I could find more family, friends. Churches didn’t really do much for me, I usually stayed because there was a cute guy. When I was in college, I found out about other religions outside of my little slice of life. I found one to be completely fascinating….Buddhism. It’s less of a religion and more a world view, a philosphy. I hold it dear in my heart. It’s the only thing I have found that is even close to being truth in this world. I try to nurture it and I do talk to my kids about it. They went to a Christian preschool, and learned about Jesus. I like to give them choices and will let them decide what they choose to believe in. It’s funny how my 5 year old daughter questions things that don’t make sense to her….even religion. I was never that smart at such an early age. I just went along with whatever my parents/adults said. She is smart as a whip though. I am lonely alot, because where I live, Buddhism is not acceptable and minds are very closed. Our infant son died at 13 months and I can’t tell you how many times people said, “Everything happens for a reason” “God has a plan” I wanted to scream at the top of my lungs how God’s plans WILL NEVER include the death of my precious baby boy. NEVER. Such a horrible thing to say to someone. I am not comforted by your or anyone else’s plan. I agree with the lady on ireport…it would be easier to come out as gay than as an atheist. I have lost so many friends because I am not a Christian. All I can think is that is so NOT a Christian thing to do. Turn your back on your friend, because they are looking at the world in a different way. Anyway, thank you for being willing to put yourself out there and know there are more of us and we support you.

    • I’m a Buddhist in a small town. Talk about lonely! But I love the philosophy, and it’s non-theistic. Works for me.

  188. I have to thank you for the wonderful article on CNN, I am a parent of a 6 year old who has come to me with plenty of questions regarding God and heaven which have always been a challenge to answer, I was also raised Lutheran and Catholic (my mother was catholic and my father was Lutheran) but my parents believe that once I was old enough I could make my decision about religion, we never really went to church and we were never very active in the church. My son’s ex-husband’s family is extremely catholic (no belief in common sense at all just belief in fairy tales) so I would get a lot of “but Grandma says that if I don’t pray I won’t go to heaven”, or “Mommy grandma says that she is sad for you because you don’t believe in god and that you won’t go to heaven”, it is hard enough to raise a child in this world as it is and I was already dealing with the ramifications of having a child from divorced parents I certainly didn’t need them to add more fuel to the fire, thankfully they are no longer in my sons life and yes I do say thankfully because my ex-husband’s family was militant and extreme Catholics. I remember on one occasion my ex-mother-in law and mother of 12 children saying to me: “Children are gifts from God and you have to accept as many gifts as God gives you”, to which I replied: “Well I will accept 2 of “God’s gifts” any more “gifts” after that will have to be return to sender”. I do not have a problem with people that believe in God most of my dear friends are religious, in fact when my son has any questions regarding God and religion I always tell him that we do not believe in God but that other people do and that no matter what we have to respect their beliefs. I do however have a problem with people that want to shove religion and their beliefs down my son’s and my throat. I’ve had family members telling me that they feel sorry for my son because I am bringing him up atheist. I’ve lost plenty of friends and family members because of my views on religion (their loss not mine). I just wanted to thank you from one mom to another, from one atheist to another for the wonderful article, respect, love, accountability those are the things, among others that need to be taught to our children not fairy tales……

    Thanks again

    • @Pamela Sigfridsson THanks for taking the time to write and share your experiences. That’s was a funny comment you made back to the mother-in-law. I can’t imagine having 12 children…Two is hard enough! :) I hope, after seeing how many people think like you, you realize you’re doing the right thing for your son.

  189. it’s so funny too. At times I wish I could have absolute faith that everything would be okay. That I could just turn off my brain and blindly walk a path and assume it will work out, that its all according to some higher plan. All of that would make my life so much easier… but I just can’t seem to accept that.

  190. Thank you for your courage and honesty. As another “godless” parent, it makes me feel good to know I am not the only one.

    • Far, far from it! I live in a small town. So, there’s the old conservative aspect to the culture around here. And yet, I can’t think of a single person on my street who attends church regularly. God isn’t even part of anyone’s conversation. We’re more concerned about how the schools are for the kids, how everyone’s pets are doing, parking snafus, which plants do well in the area. This is the best neighborhood I’ve ever lived in. I think people are just underground about it at this point. But the Internet is changing that, eh?

  191. For what it is worth – I was raised without religion. We still had Christmas and Easter – but it was used as a learning opportunity. This is what Christians believe, this was the pagan festival that coincinded with it. It certainly made the eggs and Christmas tree make more sense. (A symbol of life continuing on the shortest day of the year – the evergreen, and the rebirth of spring symolized by the egg.) I think I turned out OK. Never did drugs, never got in any trouble. I just didn’t want my mom or dad to be disappointed in me. I think my upbringing fostered my sense of independence and curiousity of the world around me.

  192. Thanks for writing this blog. You are brave and sincere and it saddens me when religious critics exercise arrogance by putting others down. I just read about your blog in a news article and look forward to reading it in its entirety.

  193. All religions are based on fear of unknown. Most of mankind no longer needs a god of fire or a god of good harvest or something similar. But we still fear death and can’t accept that it is THE END. It is a great comfort to know that after all is said and done you go to a nice place in the sky, and, as the blog states, not believing this makes one’s life more difficult.

    Now, there is a big difference between agnostics and atheists. Atheists reject the idea of existence of god. Period. Agnostics on the other hand believe in some sort of a supreme being, but don’t accept any specific religion as they find each story as unbelievable. Agnostics may still be open to religious beliefs if they find a tale they would be comfortable with.

    I am an atheist. And I keep telling religious people who want to convert me that it is great that they have their belief because it is much easier to live with one, and that, unfortunately, my brain lacks that area that allows me to believe a fairy tale or, on the other hand, that it has the area that questions everything.

    • It doesn’t matter if your brain lacks the area that believes in fairytales. Your brain is filled with common sense, rationality, skeptisism and knowledge instead, and that is much better!

  194. Douglas Morrison

    Read your CNN piece, decided to look at your blog, and felt compelled to comment. If you had titled your blog “why I am raising my kids without regligion”, I probably would not have felt compelled to respond. However, as a person who was raisied without God, I believe I have a need to comment.

    I grew up as an atheist, person of science, and pursuer of the truth about everything, God included. My journey, therefore, to a belief in a spiritual God of the universe has not been in a straight line.

    Although I puzzled over many of the same questions you posed in your piece, it was not until I understood what Pascal in the 1600’s meant by “you can not get to faith (in God) through reason” that I started to reframe the questions I was asking from being only reason (man) based to being open to a different dimension of thinking, understanding and achieving wisdom about the spiritual world.

    Spinoza, an excommunicated Jew, also talked about the spiritual God including everything in the known universe. Many today refer to Spinoza’s “God” as “Nature”. I sometimes put “God” in quotation marks because, like the early Jews and many other spritual believers, I do not believe we as humans can descritbe this “God” using a language created by man. The early Jews, I understand, did not even have a word for “God” and were not allowed to speak the name. This understanding about a spiritual God of the universe is consistent, I believe, with Native American, Buddhist, Hindu, Christian, Jewish, Muslim and most long established spiritual traditions recognized today.

    The “God” you question in your piece, it seems to me, is a “God” invented by man. I do not recognize the “God” you question as the one I know from the Old and New Testament and other spiritual teachings I have studied. It is not the spiritual God of many Jews, Christians, Muslims, and other people of faith in the world.

    Clearly, if you asked your questions of “Nature”, you would receive no answer. You asked your questions to a God that does not exist and therefore, rightly, receive no answer.

    Perhaps a better starting point to talk with your children about the nature of a spiritual God is to help them understand how the earth – a glorious miracle in everyone’s belief system I hope – was created and how we are supposed to treat the earth and the living things on it as human beings. I’d be surprised if we didn’t agree on the answers to this question and perhaps have some “common ground” for having a conversation about the nature of our spiritual God and the discovered paths to understanding the spiritual dimensions of our lives, the earth, nature, and the universe.

    Looking forward to your response to these comments.

    By the way, your’s the first blog I’ve ever responded to.

    A “Big C” Christian Spiritual Believer in Texas

    • @Douglas Morrison, Well, I’m honored that I’m your first. And, the fact that you’re a Big C doesn’t matter. I do understand your argument and have had this discussion several times. The God you refer to may not be describable by human language or understanding. I’m familiar with Spinoza and Pascal, though it’s been a long time since I’ve read either. But, I have to ask this, if you DO believe in this “God outside our understanding,” why do you refer to yourself as a Christian Spiritual Believer? Isn’t that contradictory? I mean if God sent his son, Jesus Christ, in the form of man, to do human works and speak the language of man, isn’t that right back to where we started with the traditional view of God as human-like? And, yes, we’d probably agree on how to treat the earth and all living things….

  195. Just read your article on CNN. I loved it!! I grew up in a very conservative Baptist family & for a while I was pretty religious too. Around senior year of high school all the doubts I’d ever had just came to a head & I started realizing this just wasn’t for me anymore. Once I got to college & could finally think for myself I realized I was an agnostic & I have never been happier. And much to many people’s dismay I am still a good person! Anyway, I want to thank you for writing that essay b/c you expressed everything I have ever thought about why raising kids w/ religion is not the best. Thank you for giving me hope that when I have kids someday my agnosticism will help them, not hurt them. I know I will face so much rebuke from my family & even some of my friends which is why I have only been truly honest about my beliefs (or lack thereof) w/ a very select group of people. Someday I hope to have the courage to “come out” w/ everyone in my life. Thanks for inspiring me & making me feel like I am not alone.

  196. Thank you for having the courage to say what so many of us out there think, but are afraid to say!!!!

  197. Hi,

    I read your article on CNN titled “Why I Raise My Children Without God”, and I would like to focus the attention on a specific paragraph toward the end of the article. It reads:

    “When we raise kids without God, we tell them the truth—we are no more special than the next creature. We are just a very, very small part of a big, big machine–whether that machine is nature or society–the influence we have is minuscule. The realization of our insignificance gives us a true sense of humbleness.”

    This paragraph exposes the fatal flaw in your worldview. If the above is true, then any of the “truth” that you proclaim in the article is as minuscule and insignificant as you are. Your moral, logical, and truth claims are reduced to mere opinion, and are therefore, arbitrary. One could just as well assume the opposite. You are irrationally assuming that morality, logic, and truth are universal, but that cannot be known because we are a “very small part of a big, big machine”.

    Your claim that God is immoral falls apart because it is impossible for you (or anybody) to justify what is moral. So does your claim of the existence good, bad, and innocent people. Further, your claim that God is illogical is similarly absurd. How do you know? You are a “very small part of a big, big machine”. Perhaps the logic you think you know is illogical. How could you (or anybody) know?

    Despite your attempt to raise a generation of “free thinkers”, you are teaching them a philosophy that is holding their minds captive in a worldview where truth, morality, and logic cannot be known.

    • @jschmo123 I’m sure we all have fatal flaws in our worldview. The thing with the article is, I was writing about a god that I don’t think exists. So that makes an argument over this moot. Thanks for taking the time to write, though.

  198. I loved your article. It’s exactly how we have taught our children. This goes for religion and advertising — really you should question any claim of fact. We pause our DVR to talk about marketing techniques and it’s amazing how many religious concepts parallel those techniques.

    I come from a religious household and my father is a retired minister. Both my parents take little accountability for what happens in their lives because “it’s in God’s hands” or “It’s God’s plan.” This has actually been a great learning tool for my children to witness what giving up your personal accountability does to someone — they don’t worry about life on Earth because they live for the Pearly Gates and an eternity of healthy and financially-secure living.

    Our daughters have never been told what to believe. They’ve attended Sunday School with my MIL and have religious friends. I have never proclaimed to be an atheist to them, but I do ask them if they believe stories. We then analyze the story and discuss how such a story could be created (angels in a burning bush, lambs blood over a door, etc.). In the 5th grade, my oldest proclaimed she didn’t believe in God.

    I was shocked that she would make that stand so firmly then realized she hadn’t been subjected to our social pressures. Our city is headquarters to dozens of international religious organizations, so such a statement is sure to upset people. I wish I could be so open about this topic, but I know I would incur a negative professional impact with such statements. I simply tell people, “let’s not talk about religion, I like you and don’t care what your beliefs are.”

    Our children have established themselves as honest, hard working kids who take accountability for themselves. EVERY teacher they’ve had has praised their behavior and work ethic. Kids don’t need fear of eternal damnation to be good people.

    One of my favorite quotes that I have shared with my daughters:

    “When I do good, I feel good. When I do bad, I feel bad. That is my religion” – Abraham Lincoln

    • @ JR I love the Lincoln quote, but also what you said here:

      I simply tell people, “let’s not talk about religion, I like you and don’t care what your beliefs are.”

      Also, it’s funny but I used to do the same things with my kids–analyze commercials and tv shows!

      Thanks for reaching out and sharing your experiences with your children.

  199. Just wanted to drop a line and add some more support! I grew up in a Jewish family in south, and it was almost as bad as being an atheist. I got no end of people pushing their brand of Christianity on me, or people hating me for not being Christian–neighborhood parents telling their kids not to play with me because “all Jews go to hell” and the kids crying to me, begging me to be “saved” so we can all just play again. Oh, and not being allowed to be friends with Muslims was even better [sarcasm]. In my life, religion poisoned everything. I escaped the south in the 90s and I’ve been an atheist for many years now, and it’s wonderful. Having lived in Europe and in other parts of the US was eye-opening. We’re not the freaks they make us out to be in the south, we’re just fine.

  200. Phillip in Virginia

    Add me to your “supporters” list.

    I’m a dad without any god as well. ‘Scary’ does not capture the full scale of emotions one has to deal with when they decide to speak openly and frankly with their children about this topic. Realizing that you don’t have the help of 80% of society to back up what you say, that you have to constantly explain the concept of empirical thought (rather than just saying “It’s God’s plan.”, and you don’t have a “church family” to turn to to help educate them about how things work and why things happen the way they do – is a VERY hard thing for the religious masses to digest. I was a believer for 25 years, so I can say with conviction, believers don’t have the capacity to understand how we think and exist. Religious belief imbues every thought and action and to simply remove that filter and see how WE see things (through science and reason) – is not possible. Believers like to “bear their cross” and say that the walk they walk is a tortured one…I wish they could put on the shoes of a non-believer sometime! :-)

    Keep up the good work in Texas – count me as one more cheerleader out in cyberspace who appreciates your guts and tenacity. Glad to be riding this speck of dirt with people like you.

  201. Hello. I’m Eryk. i have a degree in Anthropology and spent a number of years studying comparative religion. I am agnostic and have struggled with GOD since the age of 6. I am 43 and I still struggle with God, not the state of the church. I do not attend church and if I do I can attend any church i choose (religions are listed in second paragraph). My children are allowed to make their own decisions from their heart if they want spirituality. It is not my choice. I can only help answer questions, provide support and give guidance (if needed) to them and my wife. My wife believes in God and she agrees that the choice for our children’s spirituality is their own.

    I noticed that all religions have beautiful historic stories that attempt to provide the same answers that we look for even today. It does not matter if it be Chinese or Japanese Religions, Judaism, African or Native American religions, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism or Christianity…their stories all have similarities. I’ve noted, in my studies, that the idealistic person of each of these religions struggled internally about their God(s). One of my favorite stories is about Siddhartha. I applaud everyone whether you are atheist, agnostic, or a true believer if you struggle with God. It is an individual challenge and your conclusion, for you, what is right.

    My struggle with God…
    – My father left when I was 2. Only 3 times in my life has he reached out to me. He sent me a bible on 12/25/75 and quoted John 3:16. The other two times he sent me Jesus ‘pep rally’ cards for my birthday. My conclusion is that he gave into GOD and didn’t pursue the struggle. I’ve never opened that bible.

    – My mother remarried and we moved (Atlanta), I was 4. Her new husband was an alcoholic and became physically abusive to me, starting at age 6. My mother would send me to her friends house. Unfortunately, I was being sent to a house of a pedophile. Sodomy and captivity were introduced to me at a very early age. By this age I had been taught to pray and PRAY, i did. Every night I prayed and I prayed hard and long. The problems went away, but it was not because of praying. The pedophile and family moved, the alcoholic was divorced. NOTE: By this point in life I really questioned religion. At such a young age I began a struggle, I already did not believe in God.

    – A number of years later I told my mother about the pedophile and she never discussed this matter with them or any type of authority. She decided to remain friends with this family. I decided when I was an adult to report this person to all proper authorities (I even told the FBI), nothing ever happened. I still pursue to this day to get this pedophile caught, arrested and off the streets. Note: God is not going to make things right, neither were the people around me. There are children, right now, in very uncompromising situations and God can not help them.

    I have more of these experiences, each leads me to the same conclusion. I struggle with God. If there is a so-called ‘GOD,’ it has never, ever, been there. I hold no grudges, need no sympathy and I have forgiven everybody from my heart. These folks, if they believe in God, gave into him and stopped their struggle.

  202. My husband emailed me the CNN article you wrote and now I find myself absorbed in your blog. Thank you, thank you. I was raised Catholic and live in SC where being atheist/agnostic can be a very lonesome place. The religion that creeps into politcs and schools is frightening to me. I have no intentions of passing this onto my 2 year old son. I am a big believer in questioning everything and believe morality can be taught without god.
    Thank you for speaking up; the non-religious in this country are truly in need of a voice.

  203. Just stopped by to say thanks for your i-report, and the discussion it sparked. My experience has been very similar to yours: I told my oldest son lies for his first year or so, said bedtime prayers, etc., until it occurred to me that I didn’t need an excuse to have a conversation with my son at bedtime, and that I might just save him a lot of trouble fifteen or so years hence, by sparing him all the mental energy necessary to deconstruct the religious mythology that I was mindlessly passing on to him as truth. So I stopped.

    For some time thereafter, I worried occasionally that I was doing my children a disservice – the old, “they’ll have no moral compass” canard. Without religion, I worried, my kids would wind up on drugs or in juvie.

    I needn’t have worried. Now that my oldest is 12, his younger brother 9, and their baby sister 6, I have no regrets. In place of bedtime prayers, we read stories, or just have extended conversations – about the day’s events, or tomorrow’s, or big ideas, or just funny stuff. Some of the biggest belly laughs I’ve ever shared with my kids have come at bedtime. We’ve also had discussions about God, religion, and motors, among other subjects.

    So, to you, DAM, thanks again for reminding your fellow non-religious parents that they are neither alone nor negligent. And to you parents in the early, worried stages of ditching the baseless, albeit comfortable practices of your parents, fear not: if your kids do wind up in juvie, it’s won’t be because they weren’t inducted into the fairy tale business.

  204. I have just read the CNN article and purused your blog.. I too was raised in a mostly religious family, if perhaps a little lacking in faith after my father the devout cathlolic left my mother with 5 kids under the age of 10 for another woman.. I have “been there and done that” and am in the process of raising 3 kids two of whom have reached adulthood and one still walking the adolescent path. I have always given them the best answers I know to religious questions, have told them about the Bible, and what those who believe in it say about sins and heaven and hell.. I have also taught my children a deeply rooted sense of tolerance. While I am free to not practice or beleive in religion, those that do are free to do the same and should not be ridiculed for doing so. When the older ones were invited to youth groups with friends as teens I never prevented them from going, I checked in with them afterwards and asked them what they thought, we discussed it, shared thoughts and in the end they made their own choice. I will continue to do the same for my last child. I have lost loved ones far to soon and strongly beleive that some part of them stays with me in some sense.. you know that moment when I am having the worst possible day a song comes on the Radio that was popular as my 39 year old brother in law died of Brain Cancer.. It’s called Live Like You Were Dying.. It routinely happens to come on when I am feeling particullarly sorry for myself and I always feel like its him telling me to suck it up.. life could be worse.. But I don’t think some all powerful being is in control, I think it’s my subconscious mind reminding me that life could be worse.. I carry them in my heart and my memories, they are not carried by a supreme being of any sort..I respect those with faith as long as they respect me and don’t judge me by the rules of their fait.

    • @ Bonnie Hi Bonnie. What you wrote was very touching.

      That’s too bad about your dad. I agree that we carry the memories of those with us…that’s the only immortality I know. I’m with you on how you raised your children–mine have and are welcome to join others in church. I’m so glad to meet another parent with similar views. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

  205. Dear Mom,

    I’ve found myself so frustrated by believers that feel compelled to tell me the one way to get to heaven and exactly what I must do in order to be saved. I am an alcoholic, and I went to the church praying for a miracle, as I could see the end was coming and it was going to be bad. Very bad. I did everything those people asked me to do, but I could not find a way out. Finally someone came to me and said “you have a real disease and perhaps this miracle stuff just isn’t going to work for you. perhaps you should consider something like AA”. I went, mostly because I had no other options left. I was greatly dismayed to find God smattered up in the 12 steps on the wall and I thought “I’m screwed”. However, someone took me aside and let me know that I could define my own conception of God. I need only believe that there was something out there more powerful than me and alcohol. I chose to believe that, and I prayed with blind faith that I could recover. Of course, I also did what was suggested and found to my amazement that I could live life without drinking. It truly was a miracle. In the process, my whole view of religion has been changed. Today I believe that it is easier to find god when you are desperate and broken. One of the examples of this was how I found that prayer worked. I prayed for the people that I resented and/or had wounded me greatly. After a short time, I realized I no longer had any anger towards them. Prayer works, it really does. Today I have found a higher power that is practical and very believable. I do not subscribe to much of the theology of any religion, but rather to one that was personalized through my own ability to find a faith.

    No matter what you choose to believe, know that there are many of us who will be perfectly happy to let you find your own path, whatever that may be. I too agree that Politics and Religion are a dangerous mix, but I also believe God is good and prayer works and I am grateful that I found Him through AA.

    I wish you and your family well. (and no, I won’t end this with God Bless, but instead, how about…”go in peace”).

    • @Anonymous who wrote this:

      No matter what you choose to believe, know that there are many of us who will be perfectly happy to let you find your own path, whatever that may be. I too agree that Politics and Religion are a dangerous mix, but I also believe God is good and prayer works and I am grateful that I found Him through AA.

      First, I really appreciate that you took the time to write and share your story. I’m glad you found a belief system that works for you and has helped you…And I wish you peace, too.

  206. thanks for this article. I am 27 yo, my parents did not push religion on me (they are Buddhist), and though I take some of the teachings with me I, lean more to science. Being a doctor, and studying science I can’t comprehend certain things about religion on leap of faith. Don’t be discourage about the negative comments, like you said it is the insecurities they have b/c to them you are attacking their religion. Your kids will thank you in the future for not lying to them or making things up. have a great day and thanks for the article

  207. Glad that CNN chose you to get in your say. A couple of years back, they had a session on atheism on Wolf Blitzer’s show — with two believers criticizing atheists (“Why don’t they just shut up?!”) and one lamely defending us. Hey, CNN, there are a lot of us out here. It’s not hard to find us!

  208. To Diane and others

    Diane, the reason you see Jesus on the cross in some churches is because as Christians this reminds us of the ultimate sacrifice (his life) Jesus paid on the cross at the crucifixion at Calvary. In the Old Testament, sacrifices (such as animals) were made to God. Then, God sent Jesus, his Son, to be our Savior. Jesus died for us, paying for our sins with his blood so that we can have everlasting life with the Father in Heaven when we die. John 3:16 says: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.

    I encourage you to go to a site like http://www.biblegateway.com to read more & investigate further. Also, have you ever read The Case For Christ by Lee Strobel? It is an interesting read about his quest to prove Christianity false. He was an atheist. If anyone feels led to read it, it is a good quick read.

    Everyone is entitled to their opinions about how to live their life and their beliefs. I am unashamedly a Christian but want to respond in love and not hate. I just encourage everyone who is not a Christian to investigate further and read the Bible for themselves.

    • @ To Diane and others Thanks for expressing your views respectfully. I’ll post this if anyone wants to check out the sites/reads you’ve recommended. I’m pretty certain that all of us who are nonbelievers have given a great deal of time, attention and learning to our decisions.

  209. I appreciate your CNN article. I never had a question in my mind about raising my son (now approaching 4) without any semblence of religion. Both my wife and I are atheist, so there isn’t an immediate family conflict. A member of extended family did say, upon seeing a picture of him : “keep that child beuatiful, take him to church” and I almost lost my mind over the ignorance, but I said nothing in return. Sometimes it’s so very hard to not say something.

    • @ Chris Moran….I know what you mean. Sometimes it’s hard not to say anything, but it’s probably the kindest option. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

    • Well, for starters we moved out of state. That helped lots! But when the church issue is brought up, nod and smile. I feel badly for people who are that stuck. They’re stopped at a place in their intellectual development, and that’s a shame. Just be glad you’re not. It’s not worth the argument, because you’ll never convince them of your side, ever.

  210. Wow – I just saw the second CNN article. 11,000 comments! Seriously? I am absolutely shocked by the hatred spewed by Christians (reminds me of that song we used to sing in church, “and they will know we are Christians by our love…”) I can not comprehend the amount of anger and hostility that has been shown to you, your children, and to Atheists. I was also shocked at how CNN made it sound like you only had a ‘few hundred’ supporters. I know there are far more than that.
    I live in Flower Mound, and my kids go to a public Charter School. But considering it’s good ol’ Texas, all their history and science books have religious references in them (terribly simplistic explanations). I’m livid, and it’s a battle I continue to fight with the supposedly non-religious school. Luckily my kids know that what they are reading is a total fairy tale, so they just laugh as they do their homework. It’s about all we can do at this point. I’d love some day to be able to chat and share stories, but it seems you currently have your hands pretty full!
    Thank you!!

    • @boadicea Wow. 11K comments. Yeah, I know people can be mean. Very disappointing. You’re not too far from me. I would not like that the history and science books have religious references. I think I wrote about that before…Texas has a lot of pull in the textbook industry, and they add in whatever they want.

  211. This was a somewhat surprising find for me, as someone raised without religion its always good to hear that others were/will be raised that way. The only people in my family that would regularly practice religion was my great grandparents who were southern baptist, so I had some small influence towards Christianity when I was little and asked queations about death, heaven, and God, but otherwise my parents or grandparent never tried to influence me towards a secular religious practice. As a child this wasn’t a big deal to me, I grew up in a military family so we met people of all types of people from different backgrounds and religion, and they always welcomed us to any religious events they held and were very nice about not pressuring us about permenatly joining or which religion was the ‘right one’. It was always about spending time with family and friends, forming ‘connections’ with the people around us than God, and being part of the community as a whole. In a military setting it was more about being patriotic and supporting the armed forces and the families often left behind while the soldiers were off fighting. In fact I didn’t even discover what some would consider religion until I was in my teens and my friends invited me to their youth group, and if I’m honest I remember spending more time and feelings being with my friends in a fun and safe enviornment than than the actual religious practice. I now consider myself agnostic and don’t like the church for personal reason, and I’ve luckly not experience a lot of people pushing their religious views on me, but the only complaint I have is that in south Texas-were I live- is pratically saturated in Christianity so it’s always had some influence in my life in some way and if I decided to raise my future kids here I’m going to have to explain some things to them in a Christian context otherwise things like prayer before games or public events might not makes sense to them. I think what your doing is pretty honorable, your kids can discover their own religion when they’re ready no matter the age and it also helps integrate them into a mixed enviornment when they get into school and they’ll be less discriminatory.

    • @ Sara Hi Sara, Thanks for reaching out and sharing your experiences. That’s interesting that military families were not more religious–only because of the constant fear of losing a loved one and all the uncertainty.

  212. I’ll be brief as I know you now have a lot to read…

    I was raised Southern Baptist and know the Bible backwards and forwards. I also read the entire thing cover to cover and proceeded to get a PhD in physics. Raising my 4-year old son, I’ve had to endure several tearful conversations with my folks about my son going to hell because we are not raising him in faith. I could go on and on…

    The most disappointing part of this is that an atheist person will probably be the last non-criminal to be elected president. This blog and your post on CNN is wonderful and helps move this conversation more than anything else could at this point.

    I’m going to subscribe. Let me know if you ever need anything.

    • @fd Thanks so much for taking the time to comment. I know it’s frustrating when your family doesn’t support you. Maybe the country will soften on this issue…And I agree with you about the atheist president–probably not going to see that for a while.

  213. Caught the story on CNN. I, too, lived in the Bible Belt for a while. I can relate … Your story reminded me of this quote by Yassir Arafat that said “Fighting over religion is like fighting over who has the better invisible friend.” May we each be respected in our choices.

  214. No, you are not alone! We’re told, Eve, used her free will to transgress, which led to our current condition. But, how does one choose to do right… not disobey god, if they have no understanding of right vs wrong. It was the partaking of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil that gave her the understanding to differentiate right from wrong, good from evil. We’ve been fed a lot of hooey. And the administrators of such, well, they’ve been laughing themselves silly far too long.

    You just keep wielding that big old stick of truth. By the way, is it hickory?

  215. I’m a 45 year old, married father of two. I was raised catholic by a catholic father and jewish mother; so I have some perspective of diversity. I married a woman of lutheran faith and together we practiced lutheranism for about ten years. I’ve read the bible in entirety and I’ve spent a lot time exploring my faith. In that journey ultimately, I debated the idea of whether God created Man or Man created God. My rationale led me to the personal understanding that it is the later.

    As a parent though, I’ve struggled with how to reconcile my beliefs with raising my children to be aware (and respectful) of alternative faiths and the choice of being agnostic or being atheistic. I shared my belief structure with my 12 year old son earlier this year when I determined he was now at the emotional maturity to begin his own journey in understanding and rationalizing these choices.

    As one parent to another, thank you for opening the door and the discussion. As an atheist I don’t need to be ‘saved,’ I find my moral compass through what my parents taught me and through the examples of others, and I am not superior or inferior to those who choose religion. I’m just a simple being on this earth who seeks to live a balanced life. May we all be able to engage in a respectful discussion where together we have the freedom to follow our own beliefs and to learn from one another.

  216. There can be three “wills” in this world.

    a. God (The Good),

    b. Satan (The Evil One)

    c. Human will.

    Human will can align with God or Satans will. We can all agree that there is good and evil in this world. Human beings needs to be tested inorder to be proved good. We accepting testing for education, jobs etc. By accepting God we are doing good and by rejecting him we are doing evil. After Jesus Christ returns and establishes his kingdom, there will not be evil. You can read about this glorous time in the book of revelation in the Bible. God has to be God before he can be framed to be as a parent. God is a role model based on his own definition, not based on the human one. God is loving and is a righteous judge to be holy, pure and worthy of honor! If God created us like robots without allowing for free will, the same folks would complain that God is a tyrant that he does not allow free will. Free will comes with responsibilities. If a person escapes from their responsibilities, makes choices that are evil, it is not God’s fault.

    http://godandhumans.wordpress.com/

    • @Sam Please know that the majority of us here do NOT believe in God and Satan and would like for you to respect our beliefs. Should you wish to engage in a respectful discussion, that’s fine.

    • “By accepting God we are doing good and by rejecting him we are doing evil.”

      No, by rejecting your god we do only one thing; we’re using our common sense and that is good.

      “After Jesus Christ returns and establishes his kingdom, there will not be evil.”

      Your jesus is only in your imagination, not in the real world.

      “You can read about this glorous time in the book of revelation in the Bible.”

      And you can read about your evil god there too. Your god is not good, your god is evil.

      “God is a role model based on his own definition, not based on the human one.”

      No, it is just the opposite; your god are made by humans.

      “Free will comes with responsibilities.”

      You don’t have free will as long as you believe in a god.

      “If a person escapes from their responsibilities, makes choices that are evil, it is not God’s fault.”

      And that is simply because your god does not exist.

      • The evangelicals (and I mean this for all stripes of religion, as in to evangelize) never, ever get it. No amount of trying to strike fear into our cores will work, because we logically know there’s nothing in the sky to be afraid of other than acid rain, drones, errant asteroids and really bad weather. So, if you can’t get someone to be afraid, try to make the weak argument that there are no morals without a god. We also know how untrue this is.

        I was listening to a country station yesterday, and a woman was moaning about how “this is just our temporary home.” This is a hugely problematic way to view our lives and world!!!! Everyone knows you don’t love a temporary home as much as your forever home…so you don’t treat it nearly as well.

        I have accepted that when I die, that is it (I actually already died three years ago after a surgery–there was nothing, zero, zip). And having already died, I am less scared than ever. It was a total absence of everything, and that included pain, suffering, everything. It is nothing to fear, therefore I don’t. So, they don’t have a hold on my mind.

        • @Mom of Three Amen to this:

          This is a hugely problematic way to view our lives and world!!!! Everyone knows you don’t love a temporary home as much as your forever home…so you don’t treat it nearly as well.

          The Bible also encourages man to use and abuse the planet.

          Must have been scary as hell…If you don’t mind me asking, was it the anesthesia? You obviously have recovered all your mental faculties…

          • I was placed in my room without telemetry post-op, suffered from respiratory depression, and died before two doses of Narcan plus a O2 bag brought me back.

            • @Carrie Marino-Ank That is horrible. And no memory of seeing lights or any of those things some have reported?

              • When I say there was nothing, I mean, there was NOTHING. I had no idea I was dying. No idea I was dead. But you know how even when you’re sleeping very deeply, there is still that connection to your body, the bed, etc? NONE of that. And when I was brought back BAM, it was that jarring. Interesting experience.

                • @Carrie Marino-Ank That is very interesting….Wonder how many experience death like you do. The other folks, the ones who claim to “see the light,” they get all the attention. But those of us who are skeptical…we’ve wondered about that phenomenon. Is it wishful thinking as they are coming back to consciousness? Is it the lights over the table?

  217. Oops…I see that my first post did make it onto the site, but not under ABOUT. It was user error on my part. Hopefully, there’s no issue with it being on discussions. I decided to check out a blog (not something I do) after reading the article on CNN. I liked it. Thanks.

  218. What a refreshing approach to a rather surprisingly static topic. I remember when I “came out” about being an athiest to a group of friends and they looked at me like I was the second shooter on the grassy knoll of the Kennedy assasination. Some shocked because they knew I was raised a staunch Catholic. Others just surprised because they just made the mistaken assumption that all people believed in God. I think what struck me the most is that most of the women in the room had not attended church or any other institution alike in several years yet they were extremely venomous about their so called convictions. Its hard to take someone elses beliefs and values at face when you have been endoctrinated for so long to beseach strong belief in something. It is very similar to the way people feel about guns and gun control. They have a very strong attachment to their guns. Not as a material object in it of itself, but as a representation of the rights to own guns and their insecurities that someone may take that right from them. Belief is a strong virtue. One in which the beholder has an innate desire to control and fixate upon. Any attempt from others to contradict so are deemed as wrongdoers. I prove my point by reading the responses here on your blog. Using fear and damnation as a tool, most religious viewers will condemn us becasue of their own desire to preserve what they believe in.

    • @Rachell Yes, I agree with so much of what you wrote. I think people do assume everyone believes in God, though we are reaching a point where people are going to think twice. People get so “venomous” out of fear, I think, and as you said, for what their ideas represent (a right to worship as they please). It’s intersting that so many of us were raised Catholic. THanks for taking the time to reach out and comment here.

  219. I found your blog through your CNN iReport. As many lovely people have commented, you are not alone. I am a mother of two and raised my children to understand science. I enjoy the history and philosophy of religion, but I don’t seem to have that part of the brain that makes one feel or believe in a deity. My parents took us to a Baptist church, and I could never understand why. We had nothing in common with the church members. I discovered that my father’s family had been Presbyterian, but my father had simply decided to go to the closest church. Digging into my mom’s genealogy, I discovered many branches of Protestantism, and that my ancestors came to America to freely practice their faiths. One of my ancestors was burned to death for his beliefs. That didn’t give me faith in the goodness of the Church. Another became a Quaker after witnessing the execution of three Quakers by the Puritans in Massachusetts. My mother’s family became Baptist because my great grandfather was a professional singer and happened to be hired by a Baptist church in the 19th century.

    The whole Born Again surge occurred during my childhood, and I felt bewildered that the people in our church had such different values from my family. I left the church at age 10 and have never missed it. Although I understand why people want to believe in heaven, it doesn’t bother me or my kids that our bodies decay and become part of other things after we die. What lives on are our writings, our children, the good things we have done in this life and the good memories our loved ones carry after we are gone.

    I’m lucky to live in a very diverse community on the East Coast. I don’t usually discuss my beliefs with my neighbors, but I am not afraid of persecution. One thing I can’t stand is the merging of religion and politics. Not that religion hasn’t always been immersed in politics, but our country was founded on religious freedom and tolerance, and I feel that we need to respect each other’s beliefs (or non-belief) and not impose our beliefs on our neighbors. My mother and I recently had a discussion about a war memorial in the shape of a cross. She didn’t understand why some people were upset about it. I asked her how she would feel if the memorial were a Star of David instead of a cross, and she agreed that a memorial representing people of different faiths should not be a christian symbol.

    I worked for a time at an institution in which members of a church kept hiring their churchmembers for any vacant positions. It became very oppressive. My boss once said he didn’t understand how I could be such a good person and not be a christian. I said that I didn’t need faith to understand ethics and morality. After they fired a co-worker who had AIDS, I wondered if these christians even understood Jesus’ compassion.

    One thing I would like in my life is a secular community where I could meet with other atheists, have discussions and share humanitarian projects. I find the internet is a marvelous place for connecting with other people and learning that not everyone lives the same way. I lived in Africa when I was a teenager, and I think that if every American could have the experience of living in a different country for awhile, they would have a better understanding of the value of our freedom of religion and freedom of speech.

    Despite the negative comments you have received, and the flagging on CNN, you are brave for sharing your beliefs and have opened to door for others to stand up and be counted as part of our society.

    • @Silver Thanks for taking the time to reach out and share your experiences. Your family history is really interesting. I can’t imagine living in early America with all that Puritanism. As for merging of religion and politics (whether government or office politics)…I hear that a lot and feel the same way.

  220. Thank you so much for giving voice to what so many of us, myself included, have felt for so long but weren’t always comfortable putting in words. I was raised in a Quaker church among others (oh, the stories I could tell), converted to Catholicism when I married, and was even a pagan for a brief time. None of it ever felt real to me, never fit and I always felt like a fake and a liar because what I was being told didn’t jibe with my inner truth. I never liked the notion that I was supposed to believe blindly without asking questions, and to me, “because God said so” doesn’t make any more sense than your parents brushing you off with “because I said so”. I’ve never felt comfortable expressing my atheist beliefs, although I have a lot of Christian friends and family and respect their right to believe what they choose. I just never felt that courtesy was extended to someone with no beliefs. I’m tired of being “in the closet” with my beliefs, and I know that someday I’ll have the courage to come “out”, but for right now, it’s just good to know that I’m not alone. Thanks again :)

    • chelle52370 Hi and thanks for taking the time to comment and share your story. I know how you feel here:

      I just never felt that courtesy was extended to someone with no beliefs.

      I hope that does change, so we all feel comfortable coming out of the proverbial closet. But, you’re definitely not alone, and there are so many nice people here in this group.

  221. My partner and I are Athiests and are planning to start a family. We are fully behind the idea of having children who question and who wil be educated enough to make their own choices regarding their beliefs when the time comes. I’ll be following this blog with interest! Kudos to you and keep up the good work!

  222. @dam & carrie marino-ank…if you look up DMT or N-DMT (Dimethyltryptamine) you will find that this is a naturally occurring substance in plants and traces are found in the animal kingdom (humans included). DMT is known to be ‘the white light’ experience humans encounter when they have met death and are revived.

    Unfortunately, when you look this up you will also find that its is also made synthetically for recreational drug use. If you ever hear your children talking about DMT, you may want to chat with them. But, please know that DMT is not a drug that is easily available on the streets or in schools.

    @carrie m-ank….hate to hear about your experience.

    • @Eryk Very interesting. Thanks for sharing! I found this on Wiki:

      ” Several speculative and yet untested hypotheses suggest that endogenous DMT is produced in the human brain and is involved in certain psychological and neurological states. DMT is naturally occurring in small amounts in rat brain, human cerebrospinal fluid, and other tissues of humans and other mammals.[28][50][51] It may play a role in mediating the visual effects of natural dreaming, and also near-death experiences, religious visions and other states.[102][not in citation given] A biochemical mechanism for this was proposed by the medical researcher J. C. Callaway, who suggested in 1988 that DMT might be connected with visual dream phenomena: brain DMT levels would be periodically elevated to induce visual dreaming and possibly other natural states of mind.”

  223. “we logically know there’s nothing in the sky to be afraid of other than acid rain, drones, errant asteroids and really bad weather.”

    I once had an experience with a pelican and if you consider their diet and imagine what their output may taste/smell like, you would be wise to be afraid of pelicans too! Much more real than an invisible entity that may strike me down.

    My response to a bible reference is always the same — did God himself write it? After the response of “no, man did, but it is God’s words,” I ask them if they’d like to play the telephone game we all played in 1st grade. You know the one — a message is whispered to someone and they whisper it to another. After 8-10 whispers, the last person says out loud what they heard. The final message is never close to the original and that didn’t have the obstacles of time (sometimes decades or centuries) and language translations the bible had.

    Even IF (a big if) the original were God’s own words, today’s bible does not reflect that message.

  224. My mother was declared dead by 3 different doctors. She was not religious and she had the white light experience, too. However, I believe there is a TED talk online that explains the light experience is simply a function of the brain/lack of oxygen, etc. I see it as being like dreams: an internal comfort system.

  225. “Brainwashing occurs when any cultural, political or religious idea is repeated until people begin to believe what they hear.” Think of the people of North Korea who treat their ‘dear leader’ like he’s some kind of god. The word god is a variant pronunciation of Goth. There are 2,363 named gods on earth. “What you believe is not nearly as important as knowing where you got your beliefs.” “All the world’s gods were created by human minds not yet capable of logical thought.” “If all the world’s peoples would get beyond the brainwashing they received as children and learn to think for themselves, peace and security would surely ensue.”…pir faqir

    • @pir-faqir. Interesting comment. So then by your definition of brainwashing, even adults would have to remain vigilant to ideas that are oft-repeated….I guess if you are given the right set of skills early enough, critical thinking and discernment are part of your routine thought processes.

  226. Yes, even adults must pay attention to what they hear. I was trained as a journalist in the early ’60’s and one of the first things I learned was to question anything you read or hear. Why should I believe that? What made that person an expert?
    I became an atheist when I was just 12 years old walking down a dirt road that led to a General Baptist church. (You can find baptism in the writings of Zarathustra, and his idea of virgin birth, as well.)
    I decided that it was impossible for some ‘spiritual being’ in the sky to create the ‘heavens and earth and all therein’ in 6 days. At the age of 13, I had gone through puberty and my Mother told me it was time for me to join the church–but, I was never told that I had to believe what I heard. I joined the church and washed some adult’s feet but was never baptized because there was no suitable water source nearby. I have not attended a church since I was 18 years old and only went once because my Mother wanted me to go before I left for Korea as a US Marine. I have always been a logical thinker and studied philosophy at the graduate level and then began reading biblical archaeology in 1968 but finally gave up because it all seemed to want to prove the bible to be perfect recorded history.
    In 1966 after I returned from 2 years as a Peace Corps volunteer in Iran, I began writing under the name ‘pir faqir’ which means ‘old poor’ and it has been my pen same since. eg: “Every man must make for himself his own image of god for he can be true to no other.” This resulted from my studies to become a broadcast engineer and is based on the Scott case with the FCC in which many people were asked to describe god and now two people wrote the same thing. “And man created himself a god, truly in his own image he created a Him.” (In some cases it’s actually a Her.)
    “”If you can put a name to your beliefs, those are borrowed beliefs and you are nothing more than a hammered brass mirror offering up faulty reflections of the beliefs that you borrowed.”…pir faqir

    • @pir faqir Fascinating history you have. You learn (or at least I do) so much from others. That’s one reason I like the Internet is because, here, I get to meet people I would not meet in my town. That quoote is beautiful:

      “”If you can put a name to your beliefs, those are borrowed beliefs and you are nothing more than a hammered brass mirror offering up faulty reflections of the beliefs that you borrowed.”…pir faqir

  227. “No human being on earth has the moral authority to tell any other what to believe.” If you can’t accept this concept, then I HAVE the moral authority to tell YOU, the Dali Lama, the Pope, and every brain-washed monk, every brain-washed mullah, every brain-washed preacher, every brain-washed priest, and every brainwashed rabbi on earth what to believe.

    The idea of virgin birth was common in the Middle East. The Hebrew version is a direct translation of an Ugaratic text dated to 1,300BCE except where the Hebrew version uses a word meaning ‘virgin’, the Ugaratic text uses a term that means ‘young woman’.

    Muslims recite a memorized prayer in Arabic five times each day just at the followers of Zarathustra recited a memorized prayer in Old Persian five times each day. Coincidence? I think not.

  228. “No human being on earth has the moral authority to tell any other what to believe.”

    @pir faqir (old poor)….WOW! Thanks.
    @dam….you go girl!….Thanks.

    So simple, yet so hard.

  229. The quotes from pir faqir I have put here are from a forthcoming book that I almost finished before christmas and titled, ‘pictures, poems and pir faqir.’ The biblical story of Jesus is basically a poor re-telling of the life of Mithra whose name occurs in Vedic texts that are at least 3,500 years old. Every church in the world built with a central aisle, raised seating on each side and a nave opposite the entrance is a direct copy of a Mithraeum.

  230. Thank you for writing about this!

  231. @Mom of three I love what you wrote and I agree.

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