At least, not for an every Sunday deal.
I was raised Catholic and went to Catholic school through 8th grade, but I no longer follow this faith, nor do I follow any faith. I will say it right now that I am an atheist. I’ll be damned if I take my kid to any church every Sunday (pun intended).
This weekend, Brandon and I were having a conversation about people we know who were casual or twice-a-year churchgoers who suddenly decided to go to church more often when they had a kid. One of Brandon’s acquaintances even began teaching at a Sunday school this week. A cousin of mine even hinted that she had her doubts, but she was doing the church thing for her kids and her more religious husband. This suggests that she is not being as honest with herself or her family, but I understand the pressure she is under where she lives. I don’t hold any of that against her.
I, however, will not fake being religious for my kid’s “well-being.” I don’t need to do it now, and I don’t plan on changing those ways. There is no pressure for me to lie about my views on religion and superstition. What will I do on Sunday mornings? Sleep in, go to the park, play, cook, read, watch TV, live, etc. What will I do where others would pray? I will see if there is anything that can be done to change the situation or support those who are able (like doctors).
That doesn’t mean that I won’t give some instruction on religions. Instead on focusing on a single denomination, I plan on teaching about many religions that are in the world while applying critical thinking and the Outsider Test For Faith. John Loftus explains:
So let me propose something I call The Outsider Test: If you were born in Saudi Arabia, you would be a Muslim right now, say it isn’t so? That is a cold hard fact. Dare you deny it? Since this is so, or at least 99% so, then the proper method to evaluate your religious beliefs is with a healthy measure of skepticism. Test your beliefs as if you were an outsider to the faith you are evaluating. If your faith stands up under muster, then you can have your faith. If not, abandon it, for any God who requires you to believe correctly when we have this extremely strong tendency to believe what we were born into, surely should make the correct faith pass the outsider test. If your faith cannot do this, then the God of your faith is not worthy of being worshipped.
This is a critical test that can be applied to not just religion, but all ideas, opinions, and claims using a similar test. If the evidence is there, the it is worthy for considering; if not, then it’s not worth the support. Was that really a miracle, or is there really something else happening that we’re missing? Questions on life, the world, and the universe are pursuits that we should continue to examine. Answers to parts of the question can be supported with evidence, reasoning, and critical thinking to a high degree, but the ultimate questions are just that. We may never have the full answer, and I don’t claim to have all the answers. I am not ashamed to say “I don’t know,” but my next statement will usually be “well let’s try to find out.”
The next cry I might hear is “Then what is your basis for moral values, and how will you be able to guide your kid?” There is a great big world out there that is ripe with examples and lessons that can easily be taught without the need for religion. Right and wrong are not black and white. There is a fuzzy grey area, and part of life is exploring where that line is drawn. We are constantly confronted with scenarios where our ethics are challenged.
I also don’t need to threat of hell or the promise of a so-called heaven as punishments and rewards. We have this one life to live, there is no evidence of anything after. Life will be its own punishment or reward depending on the choices we make.
Teaching about other religions, though, cannot be avoided because there is still a large cultural influence that may be missed and is important to understand to an extent. The son of another friend once asked his mom who that guy on the sticks was. I won’t have to force my kid to accept a dogma to be a part of the family or even just understand another religion. Churches cannot be entirely avoided, either. We will surely attend weddings that take place in a church, and I’d like to keep the focus on the wedding, the happy couple, and the friends and family in attendance, but I won’t shut out any questions about the location or ceremony. A lesson in true tolerance can only be achieved if information is provided to allow a better understanding of the scenario.
Being open about my views on religion also opens myself and my family to criticism or even outright hatred. Fear is not a good reason to remain silent, but it doesn’t mean not being smart or sensitive about it. When I make arguments for or against an aspect of religion, I try to formulate the words so that the ideas are what I’m calling into question. Even so, my mere being will cause people to be offended. Add to that being a gay parent, and some people might need a fainting couch.
I am also aware that I open myself and my family to prejudice and discrimination. My hope is to be able to prove to others that I am worth my salt based on my merits, intelligence, and experience. In fact, that is the primary thing that I will be presenting to the world anyways. I just won’t lie when it comes to religion and pretend to be in the fold.