July 23, 2012

I’m an atheist, as you’re all sometimes painfully aware, and lately, I’ve been struggling with something based on my lack of belief. Well, two things actually, but they tie together.

I haven’t told my father I’m an atheist. He knows I haven’t attended church in a long time (like 12 years, aside from the occasional wedding and funeral), but think he’s under the impression that I’m having a “crisis of faith,” one similar to what he went through when I was a kid.

I vaguely recall my dad telling me one day when I asked him why he didn’t go to church with the rest of the family that he was angry with God and he didn’t want to believe in someone who makes bad things happen. Being a child, I really didn’t understand him, so just went along with it. After all, my was the smartest man alive and if he had a reason not to believe in God, I’m sure it’s a good one.

He eventually returned to the fold and began attending with us again. We even started having family devotion time where we’d read from the bible and whatnot; you know, stereotypical Midwest Lutheran behavior. Very Normal Rockwell.

I’m scared to tell my father about my atheism. Knowing my dad, I have a sick feeling in my stomach that he would end up disowning me, since as of the past few years, he’s become extremely religious. He makes little jabs at me, asking me if I’ve found a church to go to, that he’s praying for me and hopes I return to the Lord soon. I awkwardly shift from foot to foot, averting my eyes from his and mumble some response.

I don’t like this feeling that my father would possibly cast me aside because my beliefs don’t match his own. I hate to equate being a gay/lesbian child coming out to their parents to being an atheist admitting to their family their lack of religious stance, but in a weird way, it is. You are either going to have understanding parents who will be fine with your decision, or those that blame themselves for this abomination.

I read something recently that struck a chord with me, and it’s something like this:

“I don’t understand why people think having a gay child means they failed as a parent. Disowning your child means you failed as a parent.”

I don’t want my father to fail me, but in his eyes, I’ve failed him, How can either of us live with this notion?

I choose to stay quiet and try to artfully dodge the topic when it comes up. So far, 12 years later, I’ve done a fairly decent job.

Now, on to the second topic that’s been bothering me.

I’ve been trying to date again. It’s a tedious thing to do and I’m finding myself to be to quirky for most men around these parts, which is fine. I’m not serious about yet, so it’s all just a matter of me branching out and socializing.

However…I do realize that hopefully, some day, I’ll meet someone, do the whole song and dance again, and with any luck, and believe you me, I need luck here, have a child.

(Recap: long story short: I have growths on my internal lady parts that may severely limit and/or prevent me from conceiving kids.)

This child is pretty much already doomed.

Dear Possible Future Baby, I’m terribly sorry to put you through this. You’re just a baby. The most important thing you should be worrying about is diaper rash and teething, not what I’m about to talk about…

I don’t want my children baptized.

I don’t want them subjected to what I view as a senseless ritual. I was taught that we are not children of God until we are blessed by the Sacrament of baptism. We are just rotten, horrible, filthy, adorable, tiny sinners in God’s eyes until some scary priest doused our heads with a cup of water.

Now hear me out; if, when these kids grow up and are able to form solid opinions of their own and they decide of their own volition that they want to be good Christian followers of Christ and be baptized, that’s great. Good for you, offspring. If that’s what you want for yourself, by all means, please do so.

I will not criticize my child for wanting to believe. I will not be like my father in that regard. I refuse. I will graciously and willingly accept whatever this kid wants to do in terms of his faith because it’s his right, his choice, and his life.

This is the point I want to make with my dad. He hasn’t failed as a parent because I’m no longer a Christian. The only thing he’s failing at right now is that he’s not seeing what a well-rounded, intelligent person he helped raise. My parents taught me to be my own person, do explore things that make me happy, but because atheism is so despised in our culture still, he think he let me down, or didn’t do something right, or didn’t try hard enough, when the exact opposite is true. He and my mom did everything right, they tried their best, and the only time I’ve been let down by them is I never had a tree house growing up, but that’s an entirely different blog post.

Don’t look at me as a failure or as a lost sheep.

Look at me as a woman who has found a way more suitable for myself.







  1. Kelyn · July 24, 2012

    Three cheers Erin! You are strong willed & independent & your decision only reinforces those facts. It’s a tough road to hoe, but those who love you will never let you do it alone.

  2. kirkaug · July 24, 2012

    I was never really adamant about my skepticism of theism with much of my family before I had kids. I was not exactly secretive about it either. If religion came up, I would lay out whatever my position happened to be at the time. But after I had kids it was necessary. I have to make sure no one expects us to baptize them or lie to them about fat elves coming down the chimney. It creates a divide in a lot of ways. I guess I always have felt that the truth is always more important, no matter how uncomfortable it may be (despite my own violation of that principle at times).

    My mother watched as I reasoned my way out of the silly old traditions of most of the rest of my family. She and I were at least that close. I like that. Sure, the result has her disappointed, but I do not feel any need to be secretive about the way I feel about anything. Religion, sex, drugs, etc. I have usually been pretty open with my mom about all of those societal provocative topics. I was not trying to be provocative. I think those topics are probably only provocative because there is something wrong with the way society views them. They offend people. The thing is, my mother is very much catholic. She loves and understands my position the best she can. Maybe she is even coming around, but she still acts adamantly catholic. She just does not try to push me back toward the church anymore. Sometimes I feel she thinks I am a lost cause. I am not sure how I feel about that.

    My father is another story. I cannot talk to him about these things much. He knows my position. He knows that I have experimented with a variety of drugs, to an abusive level, in the past. He know that I reject religion and afterlife. He knows that I think believing in things which have no empirical evidence is detrimental to everyone, even if the person thinks they are keeping it to themselves. (Hint: Belief does not actually work like that. One can only pretend to keep beliefs to oneself. If one truly believes something, they act in correspondence with those beliefs. We do not live in a vacuum. Actions of one affect everyone. I digress.)

    The thing with my dad though is that he agrees with that last part. He values science and knowledge. I think his problem is one of who has authority to say what is true. He is very we versed in astronomy for example. He, as is typical of the entire history of the catholic church, has problems accepting recent scientific findings, no matter how concrete the evidence. If he had been me in the age of earth in which I grew up, I am convinced that he would have come around to atheism as well. I am not certain, but I think I know him pretty well. He has a respect for knowledge that he instilled in me. Much like your story, he helped me to this path. But I fear the same sort of rejection as you do if I discuss it with him too much.

    I guess I am rambling. I did not mean to. However, as you tend to, you hit a nerve once again. I can relate. I think if you are the sort of person who wants to always be honest with your child or children, eventually you are going to have to face this. Eventually you are going to have to at least make it known to you father who you are. I mean, if you are not, who is your father’s daughter really? Maybe it isn’t you, but whatever you let him believe you are. Is that any better than being completely rejected? I really do not know.

  3. ahapxnct · July 24, 2012

    I was raised in a fundamentalist Lutheran school/church.
    How fucking awful, really. So long as you were white, Lutheran, and…white, you were accepted, in my town. Anything else was anathema.
    I don’t attribute my atheism to that church or school, nor to their intolerance of… well, pretty much everything. I do attribute it to their dogmatic theism and belief in religious texts, not to mention a host of other nonsensical ideas.

  4. Hugh C Hunter · July 24, 2012

    Erin, you and have got to know each other this past while and I know your Dad is your hero. You have an unconditional love and admiration for him which comes across loud and clear in the many times you’ve mentioned him.
    In short, he is your Superhero.
    Well, he did a pretty fantastic job of raising a Superheroine, and if your lady parts get treated, which I sincerely hope they do, then I have no doubt you too will one day raise your own little Caped Crusader or X-Vixen.
    So; we’ve established there’s a Superhero genome in the Hoffmeyer genetic code. Yay for that, but when your Dad takes his cape and invisibility shield off when retiring to bed at night, he’s a man, flesh and blood, with all the flawed humanity inherent in every single one of us.
    In short, he isn’t perfect. He never was. He never said he was. You just thought he was; like all little girls think their Daddies are.
    This very fact should be the starting point of any logical or moral solution to your on-going dilemma.
    Now I’m about to digress, but if you stick with me you’ll eventually see why.
    For my part, my little girl, well known to everyone, including yourself, as Her Young Gorgeousness, is unequivocally the best thing that has ever happened to me in my whole harum-scarum life. Without exception.
    I love her with an intensity and depth that I never knew I was capable of, and every day she says or does something that stops me in my tracks, totally awestruck. She is my inspiration and the reason I keep going when times aren’t so good. My laughter and smile lines, becoming deeper and more pronounced by the week, are all down to her. This level of love and admiration is reciprocated by her. We love one another. She regularly tells me I’m her Hero. Clark McKent.
    She is, and always will be, my little Superheroine.
    Do we see a pattern emerging?…….
    But if at some point in the future she sits me down and says – “Dad, I’m a Lesbian/ I want to renounce my Scottishness and become an English citizen/ I need every single bit of money you have available in the next 24/7 hours/ I’m marrying a guy the same age as you/ In fact, he’s your best friend/ I’m an Athiest….” – then regardless of any personal or moral oppisition I may have to her dilemma, OUR dilemma; my first instinct would be – this child turned my life around, I owe her my tolerance.
    Erin, I have no doubt that this is how your Dad also feels about you.
    Superhero reciprocation. Just like me and HYG.
    It’s a two-way street, and as such, any compromise will consist of both parties shifting their particular prejudices to the side and accepting that this other person they hold in Superhero status, actually has very human issues they struggle with.
    If you find the courage to take that step out to the half-way line and announce your Atheism, it’s then up to your Dad to meet you out there. You have no control over him doing this; you can only make your own journey Erin.
    So make it and trust that he makes it too.
    If he doesn’t… well that’s his dilemma to struggle with. You’ll have dealt with yours.
    I hope this helps in some way and also that you and your Dad come to a mutual understanding, if not immediately, then, in time.

  5. Robin · July 25, 2012

    Hey I wasn’t baptized until I choose to be. And you and I have this talk. Like I have always told you if this is bothering you that much then you really need to have a heart to heart with your Dad. I don’t think you are giving him enough credit he might just understand. As for me your Mom I love you no matter what you say , think, or believe. XOXO

  6. madalchemist · July 25, 2012

    hi ex neighbor! i can totally relate to your post. i have decided to claim my beliefes that i have had for the past 10 years pagan. up until 2002 i was a very active christian methodist /fundamentalist. i finally a few months ago told my mother, she nagged me and nagged me about how much she wished she knew me better and was closer to me and what not. So i thought i would tell her how i don’t “believe in jesus, or shall i say him being the messiah. I told her why do don’t believe things in the bible and she informed me that she didn’t know that much about the bible to debate with me….. a few months later my mom tried to convert me back christianity and my mom got in my face saying ” there is no way to the father with out the son” i told her i don’t believe the father or the son” lol soooo and told her ( well my wonderful sister in law did) to stop. my mother didn’t disown me, she didn’t like it at first but i think she is more open to the idea. I never intended on telling her at all but she straight out asked me what i believed (because i have such a love for eastern philosophy) and i told her that i the only reason i told her was because she wanted to know me better and i told her if she gave me a hard time then i wouldn’t share things with her. Now I’m not an atheist so thats where we differ the way my treated it i may as well have been. Good luck Erin and me personally i wouldn’t tell him unless nessasary. ( and only you know what nessarary is)

  7. Gene · July 25, 2012

    Erin, you’re wonderful. I know your dad thinks so.

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