Archive for the ‘Atheism and Children’ Category

An Unsolicited Reality Check – From The Plumber

Last week my daughter proudly flushed the toilet paper holder down the toilet, which she saw as a great experiment. After a full week of wishfully thinking that the toilet would just start working again, we finally called the plumber.  He is nice enough and after 15minutes we have water that responds to gravity again. I feel relieved that the bill is not twice the amount. Ok, “bye bye and thank you very much”.

Not so fast.

Our homes are meant to be a safe place where we can protect our loved ones from  violence, war, god, racism, bad wine, etc.

But then the plumber walks in and bursts my bubble while I am still in my pajamas. This stranger reminds me that our world is full of people who assume everyone is like them, one of the majority – part of the club. Of course someone as respectable as myself, with a nice yard and a decent car in the drive, has to be part of their club. Certainly not an immoral non-believer. They are so sure, in fact, that they are comfortable making small talk about god and race in a stranger’s kitchen!  

Out of nowhere this plumber decides to talk about a hill of crosses nearby that seems to upset some people. He, however, is pleased to have them as a reminder of the “sacrifice and loss that makes god so sad”… I give an awkward grin and move toward the door. (BTW, I  have no idea what the crosses stand for, but my guess is its a pro-life statement).

But thats not all. Oh No. He decides to explain how the “cross hill” is in a nicer neighborhood than mine. He realizes that this may be rude, so he backtracks saying “well Oakland is getting better all the time. Its becoming a lot more White.” My mind was spinning, thinking of my two eldest children, who happen to be Black. He was insulting my babies and had no idea. I somehow doubt he would have assumed I was in his club if I wasn’t White like him.

Now, I know my husband would have handled this better, with some very dry, witty response in the style of Eddy Izzard. But I just felt like my personal space had been invaded by a racist religious freak and I just wanted him out. Oh, and of course the irony of a racist Christian do-gooder is only lost on him.

It is often in the most mundane times of life when I am rudely reminded that the comfortable bubble I have fashioned for myself is fragile. I am reminded of why deconversion was hard, partly because most people assumed I was a believer. Anything else would have been aberrant and socially unacceptable.  Of course it is those times when I’m caught with my guard down that I wish I had taken a firmer stand.  So, after this man comes into MY kitchen sullying MY home with HIS beliefs, I am left feeling both wronged and GUILTY because I didn’t make him aware of how misguided he was.

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Flailing About – Atheist Parenthood in A Time of God and War

As I am driving my kids to school today my 6yr old asks me the simple question about whether airplanes have guns. Of course, I leave nothing unexplained in my household and it never ceases to get me in trouble. This simple question leads to war planes, which may seem fair, then to Iraq and Afghanistan.  

Then my older daughter gets afraid that war could happen in the US.  She wants to confirm that war can’t happen here because “California is the best place”. Not wanting to promote blind  nationalism (or state-ism), I don’t feel ok letting this go. I get myself in deeper as I explain that “we are such a strong country and people don’t usually mess with us on our own turf”. The topics are  getting very jumbled up here and I am swerving in and out of traffic aware that I am confusing their minds even more and still feeling like I have an important opportunity to make an impression here. Of what, I don’t know.

And as I am giving a Kindergarten explanation of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan I find myself spouting rationale that is way to conservative (think how Bush used to explain things, as if to a two year old…) and my sensibilities won’t allow me to leave them with this either. So I get into the whole Twin Tower disaster and try to explain what happened afterwards which led us into a war that Mama and Daddy didn’t agree with. I mentioned Muslim extremists here and of course their eyes really glazed over.

So, my sweet 7 yr old asks why anyone has to go to war. With my limited capacity to recall  history I think of a few recent examples. l tell them that with so many people believing in god in so many different ways, people often get upset and even go to war. I use the examples of Christians, Muslims and Jews, who all believe in the same god differently.

A lightbulb turns on for me and I seize on the point that I am going to try to salvage out of the past 25 minutes. I point out, “Isn’t it silly to go to war over god, something that isn’t even real?”  Such a good point but apparently a miss. The next thing I know they are saying so and so “doesn’t look Muslim, they are nice” and “I know a boy who believes in god, but no way is he a Christian!” 

Ah geez, now we are running late for the bell, climbing out of the car with our multitude of bags, jackets and lunches, and I have my kid thinking that a girl  in her class is a bad person because she wears a head scarf. So, I kiss them on the cheek and I try to sum it all up:

Just remember that lots of people believe in god – most of them are nice, even if they are wrong.  I point out a few of their favorite people who happen to be Muslim or Christian and watch as their eyes turn into saucers. No Way!! The bell rings and I send them on their way.

 Now, I am reminded that well-intentioned people always make things worse with their big mouths (think Harry Reid).  I have some back pedaling to do over dinner tonight. Next time perhaps I will take a page from my husband’s approach around topics like family dysfunction and pedophiles and just say, you don’t need to know about this yet…But probably not.

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