Doubts came relatively early to this former Roman Catholic girl’s mind.
One night, maybe around age 11 or 12, my parents were out for awhile. It may have been a date night or a simple trip to the grocery store but, by the time they returned, I announced that I must be Jewish.
While they were gone, I had gotten to thinking. This whole “Jesus” thing – it all of a sudden started to seem not very plausible. I’m supposed to believe that this guy got here the way he did, for the purpose he did, and left the way he did? After years of brown-and-yellow plaid school skirts and knowing all the words to hymns, after memorizing the Ten Commandments and attending mass most every Sunday, I had started to entertain doubts. I began wondering: how reasonable does the whole thing really sound?
The very thought was rebellion, I knew. But it struck my young mind like a ton of Torahs. If I didn’t believe in Jesus, that could only mean one thing: I must be Jewish. (All I knew at the time about the Jewish faith was that its followers didn’t believe in Jesus. The distant suburbs of Chicago in the 1970s and 80s weren’t exactly havens of religious or cultural diversity.)
I informed my parents of my newfound realization when they got home. The news did not go over well. I can’t remember what specifically they said, but basically they nipped it in the bud. And there went my religious questioning for the next five or six years.
By the time the sacrament of confirmation came around at 16, my heart wasn’t in it anymore. College and more critical thinking brought me to the conclusion that I wasn’t just not Catholic. I wasn’t just agnostic, either. I was a full-on atheist, though I cringe at the label to this day.
Since then I have explored the thoughts of thinkers much smarter than I’ll ever be. Most atheists or free thinkers who have kids are like me – we aren’t likely to sue the school district or campaign to omit “God” from the Pledge of Allegiance. Although those paths may be right for some people and for some situations. Most of us just want our kids to be treated with respect and for them to reciprocate that respect with their peers. We want to expose them to lots of different thought so that, one day, they can make a choice that reflects their own evaluations.
In this series, I hope to relay the journey we’re going through, from the everyday questions about life and death to the proactive, hands-on exposures to world religions. I want to introduce you to other parents raising their children without religion and I want to meet authors who are exploring this topic today.
It’s scary out there as a first generation atheist. There’s no roadmap. But it’s time for me to be just a little bit brave and step out from the safety of private thoughts and into the world of responsible education.