Godlessness, Morality & Other Important Questions

How can you raise moral kids? How do you explain the origins of the universe to your children? After spending some time on Twitter recently, I realized that these are questions believers ask over and over and over again. (Much to the frustration of the rest of us.) So I’m including an interview I had with Kristen Kemp (KK) of Parents.com to help explain some of these questions for theists and to give unbelievers ideas and language to use in dealing with the never-ending stream of questions.

KK: What does it mean to grow up godless?
DM: It means that you’re not trying to convince your children (or yourself) of myths and concepts that don’t make sense to you. For example, kids want to know how the soul goes to heaven. What exactly is a soul and how is it transported to heaven? It means that you’re not teaching your kids to be fearful of an intangible deity in the sky, a God who can hear every thought and see every action. (God is the original Big Brother!) It means that you are teaching your children, instead, to answer to their own conscience. It means that kids won’t look to a prize at the end of their lives; they’ll find the gifts along the way, in every ordinary day, in every ordinary person. These realizations make us live with a lot more awareness and the feeling that we are in control of our destiny.

KK: What percentage of parents are forgoing religion now?
DM: It’s difficult to measure. Do we include those parents who reject religion but still believe in some sort of god-force? Do we include those parents who identify as Christians but reject church? What about secular Jews and mixed-belief families? There are also people who, due to a negative perception of atheism and pressure from society, disassociate themselves from the atheist movement.

Regardless, it’s clear that parents who want to raise their kids outside of traditional religion and belief is a growing demographic. We need to advance the awareness that not everyone believes in God, and we definitely don’t want religion forced on our kids. On the other hand, it’s also important for our children to know about the world’s various religions and to have respect for other belief systems.

KK: Why are more people passing on religion now?
DM: There are several factors at play. One thing I realized when I started writing about this topic was that parents have been quietly forgoing religion for years. A lot of moms and dads with grown children told me they had raised their kids without god (and they turned out just fine!). Some parents don’t like that religion has become so political, that it judges and preaches intolerance. I think people have responded to the rise of the religious right by speaking up and saying, “You don’t speak for me.” They are starting to come out of the closet now because they’re tired of being bullied. Another factor is that parents are choosing intellectual honesty over unwavering faith. People have questions about God, and they can find answers that make sense. Now, instead of blindly following what the church teaches, people are choosing “boutique spirituality,” skepticism, humanism and atheism. Finally, as parents become aware that religion is not important in raising happy, healthy, moral kids, they feel comfortable “leaving it behind.”
KK: What other ways can we teach our kids morals and good ways to live life?
DM: Morality doesn’t come from religion. It doesn’t come from a distant God who doesn’t communicate with us. It’s a social construct that we learn first and best from our parents. We must teach our children self-awareness, reflection and empathy. They have to understand that their actions and words can harm others, physically and emotionally. When your child hits you, tell her it hurts and show her the mark it leaves on your arm. Use words to explain your feelings. Show her appropriate ways to ask for attention. Children naturally want to please us.

As humans, we have a responsibility not to hurt others and to help when we can. Let your children see you helping; ask them to join you in helping your community through volunteerism. Positive acts and words will inspire others to respond in a similar way. This is how we make the world a better place for everyone.

KK: Why do you care if kids or teachers talk about their church at school?
Unless students are part of a world religion class, there really isn’t a need to discuss church business at school. It places undue pressure on students of different faiths and views. There is a special place and day for worship and prayer. There is also a special place for learning. We don’t bring chemistry and English classes into church on Sundays, so it just seems fair that we shouldn’t bring religion into the classroom.

KK: How do you explain that the universe came from nothing? If there is no God, how do you explain to children how we got here?
I’ve always told my kids, “I don’t know” a lot. And I don’t know and won’t make up answers. I told them what I know about the origins of life, according to the body of knowledge we have right now. One day, they may know much more than I do, or they may have different answers.

Science is not always right, but it admits to its errors and its uncertainties, and makes adjustments. It can be updated, recalculated and rewritten. Religion doesn’t have that same sort of flexibility because, if religion says it’s wrong, it may no longer exists.

KK: Do you teach your kids that religion is bad?
DM: No. I don’t teach my kids that religion is bad. I teach them that belief is a choice. Our family doesn’t find that there is any proof for the existence of God but others feel that there are reasons to believe and that’s okay. We can still find a lot of common ground with those who believe. We’re all on the same page, in reality, and we all can work together to make the world a better place, regardless of what we believe.




49 responses to “Godlessness, Morality & Other Important Questions

  1. I don’t stop by a lot but when I do I always find what is written here very enlightening.

  2. Nicely expressed, Deborah. I have one quibble, however; you say

    it’s also important for our children to know about the world’s various religions and to have respect for other belief systems.

    I teach children to respect the person but the beliefs and belief systems they might hold are very much worth criticizing if they are used to justify harming real people in real life. If children are taught to respect beliefs and belief systems because they are based on sort of a sacrosanct principle (Thou shalt not criticize beliefs or belief systems) then we make it very difficult for kids to even recognize the root problem (if indeed beliefs and/or a belief system motivates this harm…. I’m thinking of equality rights for women contrary to many belief systems) that must be changed to bring about the stoppage of harm.

    • deborah mitchell

      Hi tildeb– That is a good point and has been expressed to me before. I agree that we need to teach kids to respect the person but not the particular belief that brings harm to others. Criticizing and analyzing what others believe is healthy. But it would be wrong of me to say that no good comes from other’s religious belief. At the very least, it is a source of peace and hope for many. I don’t want to teach my kids to go into grandma’s church and be disrespectful. When we go to church with her, we sit and stand with the others. And we go to church because she is old and it brings her comfort for us to attend–occasionally. Of course, I don’t teach them to respect the parts of the religion that encourage discrimination of women and LGBT.

      The root of problem is rarely one single thing like a belief system. For example, I don’t believe that, if we eradicated religion that “religious” wars would stop because at the heart of many conflicts is not just religious belief, it is also ego, power and greed. Land grabs. Money.

      Religion is one tool used to subjugate people. Education, critical thinking, awareness, empathy–developing these things will help humanity and weaken the ability of religion to do bad.

      • deborah mitchell

        It is also interesting to me how many unique conceptions of “godless” there are. I mean, just look at how many different words we use to identify those who reject religion: skeptic, atheist, agnostic, agnostic atheist, humanist, nontheist, secularist and many more….

      • I kinda think you have a false dichotomy here. Not automatically respecting a belief does not mean that one has to be disrespectful or even hurtful.
        I do not mock people at their church (should I ever venture to such a place) but when religion is brought out on the open it’s fair game. I have told our children that they should never belittle or ridicule the beliefs of their friends or classmates – nothing good comes out of that. We grown-ups can debate and question those issues because we are capable of standing our ground whether right or wrong.

        • deborah mitchell

          Konsta–I understand what you are saying, and it is a good point. I guess it’s more the individual’s behavior we are reacting to anyway….

  3. As always, your answers were simple, logical, and non-judgmental. However, I was a bit uncomfortable with the phrase “atheist movement.” To me that implies organization and intent, and I don’t think there’s any such thing. I’m simply a “religion dropout” of long standing. It was a personal choice and had nothing to do with anyone else.

    • deborah mitchell

      @PT Noted. Good point. I should have just said some don’t want to be identified as “atheists.” Or something like that…

  4. You’re right. A belief system is not usually a root problem in and of itself but the result of a method used to justify belief claims. The problem becomes acute when there is confusion between which of these claims is a belief claim – often immune from reality’s arbitration of it – with knowledge claims – arbitrated to be the same for everyone everywhere all the time. I find this confusion to be endemic. Not only does the same method inform and justify bits of religious beliefs that very often harm others but I find it in use to inform other non-arbitrated beliefs… such as the raft of them found in naturopathic and alternative medicines but usually on bold display regarding all kinds of claims to justify denialism – from anti-vaccination to climate change to fluoride to wi-fi to evolution and so on. Again, the potential for harming others increases with this use.

    The problematic method is to first insert beliefs we hold (our desires and preferences and wishful thinking) into the reality we share and then assume it accurately describes our personal reality… as if our personal reality were in some way fundamentally different (and operated by different physical and chemical rules granted by our belief) from the common one we share. I call this method faith-based because it is dependent of how much we believe it to be true and not on how much merit reality arbitrates it to be.

    This leads people inevitably to grant the same ‘right’ to others – as if to suggest that you should feel free to believe whatever you want and I will accept it as your reality as long as you permit me to do the same! – and then feel persecuted if legitimate (and even innocuous) criticism is raised against the assumption (believing in something doesn’t make it ‘true’). For example, perhaps I don’t believe in germ theory and so this assumption is then used to justify why I’m not going to inoculate my children… as if my belief arbitrates their reality!

    Belief is the foundation upon which actions are undertaken and so the accuracy of these beliefs matter a great deal in how much or little confidence we should grant to them. And when acting on these beliefs harms others, we’d best make sure that we have done our due diligence before assuming the belief really aligns with the common reality (that germs really are a fiction, to keep to my example). We have to do our part not to enable our faith-based beliefs to be confused with evidence-adduced beliefs (germs are real and can be demonstrated to be so regardless of how much or little belief I bring to the inquiry).

    I think children need to be taught this difference in methodology not by some master list but with a tool box of various ways to think about stuff. The buzz word is ‘critical thinking’ but all this aspect really means is to be able to award degrees of confidence to any belief claims on merit independent of what one might prefer. The notion of creative thinking is similar in that there are ways to look for and find ways to make connections (even unique ones) to better understand all kinds of disparate stuff (which then fosters a deeper appreciation for them).

    Religion – like Reiki – is not ‘bad’ in and of itself. But the methodology used to promote these kinds of beliefs into knowledge claims doesn’t work. Harming others in its name I think is a real breakdown in critical thinking and this can be rectified.

    • I assume by “respect” you mean “don’t ridicule no matter how illogical, unscientific or stupid”. OK. But of course not all religions are created equally violent. Is there a way to compare and contrast the violence inspired or excused by a given religious tradition to the comfort it brings? Has anyone tried? I assume monotheists are deadlier than Buddhists. But is there evidence?

      • deborah mitchell

        @Aaron Freeman I do mean that by respect, but in theory, it’s awfully hard to do when you have people that confront you with the most asinine ideas and comments. Buddhists have been violent, too, but whether they are more or less so, I don’t know. That’s an interesting question. I know that Hindus are supposed to be a religion of peace, too. (Aren’t they all “supposed” to be, as a general rule?)

        • I don’t think Judaism claims to be a religion of peace. The Israelites were instructed to go to the holy land, not make any agreements with the people living there then kill “everything that has breath.” OK it’s a certain kind of “peace” but not what most of us mean by the term 🙂

  5. I think I finally have to unsubscribe. Once again, you have a lot of good thoughts, but yet you start them out with your first paragraph ridiculing the religious, and then you later go on to say you should respect those who are religious even if you don’t respect their beliefs. As for believing that religion brings contention into school, it is no worse than any other contention. Going to a school in Washington State, my children were told that they had to be in an assembly supporting the Seahawks and to participate in a 12th man celebration last school year despite believing that football is a violent sport played on the Sabbath that should not even be supported. And one child (not one of mine fortunately) was beaten at school for wearing a Broncos shirt to school. Most humans will always find a way to persecute others and do not need religion for this. Religion actually sometimes suppresses the worst in others. After all, if you truly believe that you will at some point be punished for what you have done, you tend to find a way to control some of your behaviors.

    • deborah mitchell

      Well, kidnike, I don’t get paid for writing this blog. I write it as a way to connect with others who think similarly, to share ideas and to help others come out (“normalize atheism”). I’m going to continue to write regardless of how you–a theist–feel. You’re welcome to read if you want–I won’t stop you–but you’re not doing me any favors either way.

      As for religion in the schools….Proselytizing has no flipping place in the school system. Religion should only be discussed in historical terms–and the good AND the bad should be taught. Why? Because kids will believe what you tell them. So if you tell them that Santa is real–or god is real–they’re going to believe that. That doesn’t compare to going to a “Seahawks assembly.” Principals and teachers should not endorse religion or belief. It’s not their place. Religion has a special place–and that’s church. You can teach your kids whatever superstitions you want there. You even get a tax exemption. But I’m going to continue to push for secularism in the schools.

      You want respect but not criticism. You want to bring your religion into the schools, regardless of the fact that there are many religious beliefs–and some who have none. How respectful is that to others? That’s a little hypocritical, is it not?

      Finally, this is very telling: “Religion actually sometimes suppresses the worst in others. After all, if you truly believe that you will at some point be punished for what you have done, you tend to find a way to control some of your behaviors.” If you NEED someone looking over your shoulder to do the right thing, please continue to believe. I don’t want to take the chance that you and your family are some sort of loose cannon.

  6. I come from a mixed-belief family: I myself am an atheist, my wife is Christian, and we have two children. Your first answer is basically a summation of the conversations we have. If I’m asked about the soul, I shrug my shoulders and claim that some people believe in a soul and some people don’t, and that I am one of the people that don’t. My wife gives the Christian answer.

    The school our daughter attends is a public school but the kids all get the Jewish holidays off due to the demographics of our neighborhood. The last day off was Roshashana and Gwen (the oldest) asked me who Adam and Eve were. I quickly responded that it was a myth about a garden, which she responded saying that her teacher said that it was a kind of fairy tale. I was glad that I didn’t have to get into a long discussion that undercut what her teacher said, but that is really the danger of having religion in secular schools.

    By the way, concerning your last sentence in your previous reply: I know it was a typo but I think the thought of a “loose canon” is hilarious.

  7. deborah mitchell

    Hi rdxdave, First that IS funny–and it would be even funnier if I had intended to write that!

    That’s interesting that your public school recognizes the Jewish holidays because of the demographics of your area. And it’s interesting that your daughter’s teacher took the secular approach with the Adam and Eve story. (You must not live in Texas.)

    Does it get confusing for your children sometimes with parents of different faith?

  8. I live in a suburb that is heavily Jewish, I guess the district figures that the students aren’t going to show up if they don’t have the day off. I disagree with their motive but up until last year the University I attend gave us the same holidays off.

    My older daughter is six and things do get a bit confusing. She seems to understand that her mother believes one thing and I believe something different. She’ll ask me a question about religious stories and I just respond that they are stories that people tell. My wife doesn’t exactly like that, but she understands that I have to be honest. We don’t have any large conflicts, we teach that someone ought to be good for the sake of being good and not for external reward (it doesn’t always work, but she’s 6 so I don’t expect her to understand that subtleties of ethics). I don’t know what the older daughter thinks about the disagreement between us but the difference doesn’t really come out that often.

    • deborah mitchell

      rdxdave- That’s interesting. I guess as long as there is no conflict, and the kids feel loved, it doesn’t matter.

      My mom was a Catholic and my dad was an agnostic. My dad always used to say that he didn’t believe as my mother did, but he agreed in the beginning that she could bring the kids up Catholic. (The church required this before they got married.) I also have a similar situation with my kids and their father (a devout Baptist).

  9. The church required the same of us when we got married, my wife was Catholic (she considers herself Christian but doesn’t go to church) and I didn’t feel like having the fight with my parents at the time. The only thing se tells me about it is that I can’t refer to the Christmas story as a fairy tale.

    • deborah mitchell

      The church still requires that, eh?
      If that’s the only “restriction,” it sounds like a fair way to parent between people of different world views.

  10. Hi Deborah. I was substitute teaching a high school English class here in upstate NY yesterday, and the CNN letter to your son was included in a course reading packet. It was my first time hearing about you and your blog.

    I did not grow up in a particularly religious or church-going family, though I suppose we could have been described as Christians by association and lineage — my great, great grandfather founded a Lutheran church in DC. Nevertheless, I have always had a natural leaning and curiosity towards spirituality and, yes, even religion.

    When I was about six years old, I found myself distraught over whether God really existed. I went to my mother for counsel, asking her how I could know for sure, and she told me she didn’t know. Her answer left me unmoored, but only briefly. With my six year old brain, I reasoned that if God did not exist, I wouldn’t be so worried about whether He did. While that certainly wasn’t the end of my faith journey, it was the end of my need for outside proof of God. He planted a seed in me (1 John 3:9), and I just know that I know that I know.

    I don’t imagine that I’ll become a regular reader of this blog, but as you continue your thought-provoking discussions here, I encourage you to not confuse (and therefore cause others to confuse) the Bible with religion. It seems, to me, that you have sometimes portrayed the two as one — and they are not.

    Additionally, I would encourage you to be careful that you don’t inaccurately or incompletely portray the God, in whom you don’t believe. I’m speaking specifically here about the Christian God (as opposed to the God of Islam), because that’s the one you seem to focus on in your blog writing. In your most recent post above, you refer to a “distant God who doesn’t communicate with us.” But the God of the Bible is anything but. It tells us God is over all and in all and through all (Ephesians 4:6) and that He knows us completely, having knit us together in our mother’s womb (Psalm 139:13). He gave His Holy Spirit to be our helper and teacher in this life (John 14:26; Romans 8:26). He promised to guide us and not forsake us (Isaiah 42:16).

    I respect your commitment to allowing your children to form their own beliefs. And as they continue on their belief journeys (because belief in nothing is still belief in something), I pray you’ll continue to supply them with sound information from all kinds of people with all kinds of perspectives. I would encourage you to encourage them to read the Bible, from cover to cover. It’s one of the best books ever written – even if you place it in the fiction category. Tim Keller’s book, The Reason for God is also a wonderfully insightful and educated read – for believers and skeptics alike. No matter our religion, no matter our beliefs, we all should “be prepared to give a reason” for them, and to do so with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15). Mostly I pray that your children will ask bold questions and be courageous searchers, an endeavor I believe God himself wills (1 Corinthians 2:10).

  11. deborah mitchell

    Hi Amy,

    Well, I appreciate your dedication to your belief system, but I don’t really appreciate your evangelizing. Please let me explain.

    I wrote that piece you read to advocate for those of us who don’t believe in god. We know what you believe. I was trying to help you believers understand why I (and others) don’t. It’s clear to me that you did not understand what I wrote. All you heard when you read it was the story of you.

    Let me address some of your misconceptions.

    1. “He planted a seed in me (1 John 3:9), and I just know that I know that I know.” This is wonderful news for you. At six years old, you were scared. You had a moment of existential dread, and you wanted to know about your mortality. I get that. You then had a feeling about something, and with your six-year-old reasoning skills, decided once and for all that god was real.

    You know, my son was worried about monsters. But wouldn’t it be crazy if he reasoned that, “If monsters did not exist, I wouldn’t be so worried about whether they did.”

    Do you understand what I just wrote? That is how you reasoned your god into being.

    Now, apparently, you’re good with that. And I don’t care what you believe. But the fact that you share your story and all your bible quotes tells me that you think people like me are wrong for our lack of belief in your god.

    2. Of course, the bible, the Qur’an, the Vedas, etc. and religion are separate things. But they’re all man-made, in the opinion of a great many of us. If you were a regular reader of this blog—or of any of the people who comment here—you’d know that we all understand religion pretty well, most of us have read the bible (and other religious texts) and many of us have a better understanding of theology than church goers.

    3. For example, when you write “the christian god” “as opposed to the god of islam” you reveal your bias towards your christian god. Muslims do not consider their god different from yours. God, Yahweh, Allah are all the same god. Jesus and Abraham were their prophets, too.

    4. I call bullshit on your god of the bible communicating with “us.” You, yes. Not us. Perhaps you see god in nature, as the transcendentalists did, or you are experiencing pareidolia. Regardless, this is YOUR experience and not anyone else’s. So don’t superimpose your divine spy and lawmaker on the rest of us.

    5. If you respected my commitment—or any of the rest of our commitment—to allowing our kids to form their own beliefs, you wouldn’t be writing to tell me to let my kids read the bible. You have no idea what we teach our kids. It is your opinion that the bible one of the best books ever written. My opinion is that it is violent, bloody, misogynistic, racist, hypocritical and inconsistent. Is it interesting? You bet. It’s a reflection of the time and the people who wrote it. But that’s it. It should not be any sort of moral guide or rulebook. We’ve way out grown it.

    6. This: “because belief in nothing is still belief in something”. I gotta tell you. I’ve been over this many times. Look. This is one of those silly platitudes that just is not true. I don’t believe in unicorns. Do you? No? Is that a belief in something? If so, what?

    7. I have a list—a long list of books for you to read, but I doubt you’ll read them. Theists (that’s people who believe in a god) always pull that prayer card. It’s arrogant. You pray because you think that, via your requests, god is going to produce some sort change—as in god “wills,” drives or effects our children to ask questions that will lead to him.

    My kids ask bold questions. That’s why they are not believers.

  12. Deborah,

    I think the problem sometimes in communicating in writing is that tone, and even intention, can be misinterpreted. For example, your response sounds really angry to me; but maybe that’s not the case. As for me, I didn’t mean to use your blog site as a way to evangelize, and I’m sorry that’s what you took away from what I wrote. As an attorney, I’m just used to citing references to claims I make. I’m going to resist the urge to address your numbered responses, because, frankly, I’m not interested in a debate, I’m interested in safe, open-minded conversation.

    I would, however, be genuinely interested in the names of some of the books you mention in point #7. And I’m sure your regular followers would be too. Maybe not the whole list if it’s really long, but some of your favorites. Instead of doubting that I’ll read them, why don’t you give me the information and leave it up to me what I’ll do with it. I like to read and I like to learn.


    • deborah mitchell

      It’s not anger. It’s impatience with people who are intellectually dishonest. I’ve been writing for a long time, and I find people come here pretending to be concerned Christians when they really want to preach or convert. Won’t god be proud of you?

      People can pretend on the Internet; they can be whatever they want. What are you doing substitute teaching if you are an attorney by trade? If you’ve had legal training, then you know the characteristics of strong evidence. You don’t cite the same unproven “reference” over and over, attempting to pass it off as valid merely by quoting it repeatedly. You know that an unsigned document, written piecemeal and edited and rewritten many, many times is not proof of anything. You know the bible would not be admissible in court. If you are an attorney, then law school taught you to be skeptical. You require proof. You require more than hearsay.

      I’ve already talked about a lot of these books and essays in previous posts. You can start with these, if you are really interested: Bertrand Russell, especially his essay “Why I’m Not a Christian.” Clarence Darrow, “The Delusion of Design and Purpose.” HJ McCloskey, “On Being an Atheist.” Daniel Dennett, “Breaking the Spell.” Keith Thomas, “Religion and the Decline of Magic.” I regret that I don’t have any female authors for this list, but just like theology, a-theism has been dominated by the male voice. However, considering that you’re praying for me to guide my kids appropriately (to belief, of course), I doubt you’ll be open reading things that conflict with the beliefs you hold so tightly.

      So you can have more awareness, if you are truly willing to listen, this is why I am suspect of your intentions:

      You wrote: “Additionally, I would encourage you to be careful that you don’t inaccurately or incompletely portray the God, in whom you don’t believe.”

      Why would this matter to someone who doesn’t believe? I’m expressing my opinion about why I don’t teach these myths. Belief is a very personal choice. I’m sharing why many of us choose not to believe. If I don’t believe in your god (and incidentally, each Christian has his or her own conception of what god is), then why does it matter if I portray your god “inaccurately or incompletely”? Could it be because you take my lack of belief personally? I’ve offended what you believe god should be?

      You wrote: “I pray you’ll continue to supply them with sound information from all kinds of people with all kinds of perspectives”
      How arrogant is it that you come here, to a place where these discussions have been going on for years, and tell me that you’re praying we allow our kids to have “sound information from all kinds of people with all kinds of perspectives.” Would you allow your kid to sit down and speak with members of ISIS? A devil-worshipper? A Wiccan? Why not? Aren’t those beliefs just as valid as yours? We can and should monitor the information that goes into our kids’ brains because they believe what adults tell them. That’s why they believe in Santa, the Easter Bunny and angels. And that’s why teachers should not speak of their religious beliefs in school.

      You might fool yourself but you do not fool me. If you’re as clever as you think you are, you’ll go back and reread your original comment and ask, “What was my intent in writing this?”

      • Wow Deb! That was suh an eloquent reply that (not yhat you need it) you made me proud to kinda know you. I wanted to reply to Amy yesterdaty but then I thought that you should have the first say and reading those replies I’m glad I waited.

        Amy (please correct if I’m wrong) strikes me as a person of utter condescence. Educated and well-versed but as shallow as the pious come. What was particularly odd was her fan-girly portrayal of the Bible. Other than being rather popular the book has few redeeming features. As an historical artefact it is not worthless but as literature just crappy crap. Incoherent and silly – what is odd is that even in the 1800s’ similar garbage had novel market (the book by Joseph Smith).

        Like you said, the pious do not have to worry that our kids would not be properly equippexd to meet the world – not knowing the Bible intimately is hardly a prerequisite for that 🙂

        • deborah mitchell

          Hi Konsta- Well, thanks. You know I don’t want to be too harsh with people but when they’re so dishonest and clueless it’s a little irritating. Unfortunately, nothing wakes them from their slumber–certainly not words from us. This is so true: “As an historical artefact it is not worthless but as literature just crappy crap.”

      • You sure do sound angry to me. And who cares if she is substitute teaching and has a law degree? Didn’t realize that was a bad thing. Let’s just hope she isn’t a doctor either! That would be scary. Can cross this blog off my list. Totally left a bad taste in my mouth…must be all the bs. Love, your fellow non believer!

        • deborah mitchell

          @Anonymous. Oh brother. Really? Isn’t it so ironic that both your comment and Amy’s came from Syracuse, New York? Imagine that. Oh, and by the way, you never had this site on your list. This is your first visit, so you’re doing us all a favor. Yes–I sure hope your friend/wife/girlfriend/sister ISN’T a doctor. Gawd that would be scary!

          Isn’t it funny how Amy came here to let me know she respects our decision to raise our kids free from brainwashing religion?

      • Deborah, I’m going to exit the crazy train here. (And, no, I’m not calling you crazy, but this exchange we’ve gotten into is). Before I do, though, I want to be clear that while I have nothing to prove to you, I also have nothing to hide. I practiced law for several years and then decided to write for children (on secular issues btw). I substitute teach for extra income. I also volunteer at a child advocacy center going into schools to educate children about sexual abuse awareness and prevention – since it was a similar program that gave me the courage to speak out about my own abuse by a neighbor when I was a child. That’s pretty much the scoop on me. I’m not sneaky, or vicious, or out to hurt or make fun of anyone I don’t know.

        I actually blame myself for the conversation that’s ensued since my original post yesterday. I read your CNN letter (which I actually enjoyed), and later a few of your blog posts, and felt it was safe to share my thoughts. But if I had put my research skills to better use before posting, I would have realized there are some comments that are off-limits here, and I never would have written. I’m not looking for a fight. Life is busy and hard enough without such drama. This article of yours, especially the second to last paragraph, better helped me understand your impatience with what I wrote. I wish I had read it beforehand: http://www.faithstreet.com/onfaith/2014/03/20/how-to-spot-an-atheist/31363.

        You once wrote in another article I came across that “my demons are my own creation,” and on that I couldn’t agree with you more. Not everyone is out to get you. I hope you’ll at least believe that.

        Thanks for the book list, which I’ve copied and pasted to my email for future reference. I’m interested in looking into them in the near future.

  13. Amy, of course I am not writing or saying anything for Deb since she is much better at defending herself but did you read what you wrote on your opening.
    It was an open invitation to fight and judging by your apparent intelligence you knew it from the get-go. This has been a forum FOR unbelievers to discuss the issues we face in everyday life as men and women, husbands and wifes, spouses and above all parents. Theists have appeared, some stayed but most have been drive-byers. What has differentiated them is the amount of arrogance and condescence.
    You unfortunately could not handle getting s*it thrown back at you but took the martyr route. Boo-effing-hoo.
    I wish nothing but the best for you, by your own admission you are a remarkable person. I just wish you had it in your heart not to judge those of us who do not share your faith.

  14. I’m sure the irony is lost on her.

    And for those who really don;t grasp why some of us atheists are angry, this article might be of some service.

  15. Greta is a treasure. Although I haven’t read her book about this topic (Why are you atheists So Angry? 99 Things that Piss Off the Godless), I have followed her writings about atheism for many years to my benefit.

  16. Bravo, Debbie! You speak so eloquently and express my thoughts perfectly. Thank you for being a wonderful example of what a good citizen and a respectful, honest debater should be. I’ve got my grown kids reading your blog now, and they all want to meet you 🙂 Too bad we’re half way across the country.

  17. deborah mitchell

    I didn’t know about her either! I’m going to add her page to the list of resources on this site, along with some other reads. If you guys can think of any “must read” sites or articles for atheists and/or their kids, please let me know!

  18. You might refer Amy to any of Bart D. Ehrman’s well researched and thought out books. Particularly “How Jesus Became God: The Exaltation of a Jewish Preacher from Galilee” which shows the evolution of Jesus from a nobody to a part of the Trinity in 250 or so years. Also “Forged: Writing in the Name of God–Why the Bible’s Authors Are Not Who We Think They Are” which shows the path of the writings of the New Testament.

  19. You probably know all about Ophelia and her blog Butterfliesandwheels. She’s another very good author and I’ve followed her writings for many years,

  20. deborah mitchell

    Unfortunately, I did not know about that blog either. It doesn’t have an “about” page. Is it the blog of one person? There are so many writing on the topic now. The more the better–it helps desensitize people and brings people out of the closet.

  21. Totally irrelevant to the topic at hand but funny. These comics are big hit in Finland.


  22. Ha! These are funny, Konsta! Thank you for sharing the link!

  23. I’m terribly late to this, but excellent interview, Debbie. You have a gift for expressing so succinctly and rationally what so many of us think and feel.

    I still really struggle with the “belief is a choice” issue, though. I think we choose what evidence to look at, what doubts to explore, and so forth, but that gut-deep belief – in whatever – isn’t a choice. I can’t just choose to believe in god anymore than I can choose to believe that the earth is flat or that Santa Claus is going to deliver a Ferrari to me next month.

  24. @Lisa, I understand what you are saying, and I have to think about that a bit more. My reasoning was that, people know what faith means (belief in the absence of proof). They know there are no monsters. No boogeymen. No Santa. No Superman. They don’t make sense. But they won’t (or as you said, perhaps, can’t) let go of God. Their immortality is attached to this deity. God who can supposedly do all, hear all, create all. Just doesn’t make sense to believe.

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