Posts Tagged ‘children’

Religious Compromise In a Down Economy?

When my husband and I met 10 years ago, the plan was for him to stay home with the kids and I was going to have a wonderful career.  I blame society for things changing tracks – boys generally make more in boy-laden fields than girls who tend towards fields that lift up our young and help our sick  (I stick my tongue out in petulant protest).

After 4 yrs of being home with my kids full-time I am ready to get back to work. I am ready to feel multidimensional and our balance sheets could use an influx of cash. But what’s  a girl to do when the mama drive to work again is timed with a bad economy? And, short of start-up web companies, there aren’t any fields more desperate right now than Higher Education in California.

So, I apply to everything in my field that is local. I get a call back and set up an interview at a small private school. Cool.

As I research the school I see, deeply imbedded in the website, that they hold MASS daily! What have a I gotten myself into?  Apparently everyone but me knew that their name was synonymous with Catholicism. I consider canceling the interview, but decide that the experience would be professionally valuable.

As I park on campus I try to insulate myself with a bit of humor. I send a text to my friend asking whether the Catholic cross is done left to right or right to left?  I imagine myself pulling it out if things get really rough in there. My husband sends me a message saying “good luck and god bless.” I most enjoy seeing their mascot, which had to have come from a bit of respectable self-deprecating humor Catholic Penguins? This actually encourages me. Maybe we can be friends after all???

I felt a weird heaviness just walking around this beautiful campus. The inside of the buildings were old, dark and empty – with big tables, drapes and carpets. As I was given a bit of an architectural tour, I almost asked whose “sisters” my guide was talking about. hmmm. My interview panel was very dull –  exactly the characters I had anticipated. This was disappointing as I was hoping something about the interview would shake up my expectations (like the penguins).

I’ve thought a lot about both the ethics and the realistic aspects of taking this job. I read an argument that it is unethical to contribute to an institution that perpetuates such a damaging lie. I agree in theory, but this economy sucks and I don’t know when the next opportunity will arise.  Perhaps I would even be a great help to skeptical students on campus – As a Visible Atheist I could be a bastion of hope to other Atheists!

There is a part of me that thinks this would be an interesting professional experience and maybe I could approach it as a bit of a scientist – you know, if I make it all about my gain then it is justifiable. But, they were nice enough people and I don’t feel quite right taking the piss either.

So, I got a call today saying I was one of the finalists and they just had a few follow-up questions. Huh? Didn’t my non-belief create an aura around me that made them equally as uncomfortable? I haven’t heard about the poor job market challenging people’s personal ethics, but here is an unconventional case-in-point.

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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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Top 10 Ways to Be Visible

I am starting a list of the top ways that everyday Atheists can become visible and promote positive inclusion for non-believers. Ways that each of us can help to de-stigmatize Atheism and non-belief, promote inclusion in politics, public policy and general dialogue. I welcome your ideas, stories and anecdotes. Do we shout from the rooftops, wear quiet signs, make news, become activists???

I’ll get us started and add more as I hear from others:

Top Ten Ways to Promote Visibility and Inclusion of Atheists and Non-Believers

1) Teach your children about non-belief and provide them with language to understand the family values and how they are different or similar from the major religions around us

2) Write your congressmen/women as an Atheist. Find ways to relate your topic of concern (i.e healthcare, education, Darfur, etc) to the values that you hold and how it reflects on your personal Atheism 

3) Wear a sign. I jest, but not really. As an Atheist I am encouraged by signs of community – Darwin Fish, Atheist Unicorn, bumper stickers, etc. and am more inclined to be visible myself when these signs of “safety” abound. Others have suggested small jewelry that sparks conversation (One person commented that they wear a small ‘A’ on a chain.

4) Have Parties on Sunday Mornings.  Maybe subversive, but I love when others have birthday parties or gatherings on Sunday mornings. You are sending a message that part of the weekend is not off limits due to religious services.

5) Say the word “Atheist” a LOT. “Atheist, Atheist Atheist!”It is not a dirty word and the more others are used to hearing it enter the space between two people, the more they will understand, if not embrace the term. We all know those non-believers who defensively step-in with “well, I don’t believe in god, but I’m not an Atheist”. What an opportunity!