I’m Jess and I’m an Atheist

Once upon a time I was very religious and it seemed like the whole world was out to get people like me. Now I’m not religious at all and yet it still seems like the whole world is out to get people like me. But one thing has definitely changed. I used to be vocal and open and proud of my religion, but since leaving religion I’ve been quiet.

I don’t want to do that anymore. I want it to be okay to be a parent and an atheist. I want people to know that atheists aren’t evil or hateful. Most of all, I made this choice because I wanted to live an honest life, so it doesn’t seem right for me to hide this anymore.

So here it is: I’m Jess and I’m an atheist. Don’t be afraid of me. Don’t hate me. It’s okay, I promise.

atheist Im Jess and Im an Atheist

I Promise I Don’t Hate Religion

Seriously, I don’t.

Think of it this way: if you’re a Catholic, no one’s going to assume you hate Presbyterians, right? It’s just not what you believe. It’s not what’s right for you.

Being an atheist is the same kind of choice. This is what I believe. It’s right for me. Just because I don’t believe in organized religion doesn’t mean I find it abhorrent and want it destroyed.

I am a strong believer in religious freedom. I think we should all be able to choose whatever we want to believe, and that should include choosing None of the Above.

So What Do I Believe? What’s My Moral Code?

For the first few months of realizing that I didn’t believe in God, I really struggled with this question. Ultimately, though, the answer was simple.

I have a definite moral code. I always have. In fact, one of the things that was difficult for me was when my own morals and the morals of my religion were in conflict. My moral code hasn’t actually changed much at all. I’ve always had an inherent sense of what I’ve found right and wrong. I’ve also changed that code as I’ve experienced life and seen the reality of life.

I believe in respecting other people’s lives and their right to happiness, respecting property, respecting the world around us. I believe in equality. I believe in helping people. And I really strongly believe that I have no right to tell someone else how to live their life, unless they are endangering other people or themselves.

I rarely find myself in a real moral dilemma, and when I do it’s only because it’s one of those situations where you can’t predict the future and know how things will turn out. You just have to do your best.

But, Really, There Are No Atheists in Foxholes.

I disagree. I honestly haven’t missed religion. I haven’t missed meetings. I haven’t missed prayer.

Our family hasn’t had the easiest time the last few years. A difficult diagnosis is the kind of thing that would make you want to believe in God, but I haven’t once thought of going back to religion or wanted to go back.

I can’t predict my future, but I find it unlikely that I’d ever return or feel the desire for heavenly guidance.

Isn’t it Sad Not Believing God Has a Plan For You?

No. In fact, I find it freeing believing that a lot of things happen by chance. I don’t have to get angry at God when bad things happen. Instead I feel aware that bad things can happen any time and that I only have so much control. I don’t have to blame anyone. Stuff happens. I just control my reaction.

I don’t believe that I control my destiny. I do as much as I can, but I know my own limitations.

So What Exactly Do You Believe?

If we want to get technical I’m an Agnostic who leans Atheist. I default to Agnostic because I don’t feel like I can authoritatively make any statement about what’s really true. I just know what I believe. I find Atheism more rational and appropriate than Deism.

Basically I’m not coming down and saying God Doesn’t Exist in big bold letters. Who am I to say that? Who am I to make that kind of statement? I just know what I believe, how the universe makes sense to me. I don’t want to tell anyone else how things work or what they should believe.

Why It’s Hard Being an Atheist

Polls show I could never be open about my beliefs and achieve any significant elected office. There is one atheist congressman. One in state office. And that’s it. (There are even state Constitutions that forbid an atheist holding office.) My husband can never be a leader in the Boy Scouts and if my son identifies as an atheist when he’s old enough to join, he wouldn’t be allowed to be a member. The Girl Scouts are more open about their membership, but it’s not a cut and dry issue there, either.

It’s funny being on the opposite side of where I was before. It used to feel like being religious was such a minority because you never saw it on television or in movies. Those people didn’t believe in God. They were open about it. I let that matter way too much. The truth was that nearly everyone I knew went to church, even if it was only a few times a year. They were all affiliated with some kind of religion. Real life wasn’t like television at all.

It’s something people tend to keep quiet. Of course, there are a few atheists out there who like to make a big fuss and give the rest of us a bad name. Then again, isn’t that true of everything? If we were more open about our status wouldn’t people see that not all of us are jumping up and down to sue school districts about the Pledge of Allegiance and prayer? My feeling on those issues: sure, it sucks if you are regularly reminded that you don’t fit in, and refusing to say it is isolating. But in the grand scheme of things, this is small potatoes. Still, if a person who believes in God finds it offensive that someone wants to take it out, how would they feel if they had to recite a Pledge saying “without any God”? I don’t ever plan to bring a lawsuit like that, but I find it sad that we’re not more sympathetic towards each other when it comes to this kind of stuff.

But by far, the hardest part about being an atheist is if you’re one of the people who comes from a religious family. It’s hard to make a choice that you feel good about that causes pain to people you love.

So You’re One of Those People Who Worships Science Instead of God?

Nope. I think science is important and amazing. But I also think literature and art are pretty important and amazing, too. I rely heavily on science because it is a search for absolute knowledge and truth. I know enough about scientific research to know that.

But, honestly, if I had to choose between science or art for the rest of my life, I’d choose art any day. (I’m married to a scientist. Admitting this could get me in trouble when he comes home today.)

But What About Your Kids?

Like any kids, mine have been born into their parents’ beliefs. I plan to teach them about religion and allow them to attend church or other services with friends and relatives. I will not try to hide it from them and I won’t lie about my own beliefs. I’m very well educated about religion. I know my Bible backwards and forwards. It does seem kind of weird to me that my kids won’t necessarily know the biblical symbolism that’s all around us in the world. I will encourage them to study it because I think it’s a big part of our society.

Once they’re teenagers they’ll be free to attend any services they like. I may go with them and I will talk about it with them.

Most of all, I will not be disappointed or upset if they choose to become religious. I want them to explore the world and make their own choices.

 

So that’s it. That’s me. That’s what I believe. I’m not going to be afraid to say it anymore. And I hope you’re not afraid of me for saying it.

33 Responses to I’m Jess and I’m an Atheist

  1. Niksmom says:

    Brava, my friend! So incredibly well articulated. What I respect most is your respect for others’ points of view. That’s so sadly lacking all around us these days.
    Niksmom recently posted..What we didn’t know then

  2. Lisa says:

    This was beautifully written. Thank you for sharing this.
    Lisa recently posted..Weary

  3. Sharon says:

    I’m not afraid of you for saying it!
    Do what you need to do mama.

    Great post.
    Sharon recently posted..Blizzard 2013 stops traffic AND the whining.

  4. Kermommy says:

    One of my first few blog posts was on my religious non-belief. You have said it well here. Good to know there are more of us out there. We aren’t alone.
    Kermommy recently posted..Sing!

  5. BostonKelly says:

    From one agnostic to another, a very ironic “amen” to you!

  6. well said, mama. well said.
    this side of typical recently posted..How To Be A Facebook Bully In 5 Easy Steps!

  7. Jim W says:

    Well said.

    I’ll be curious if you get hate comments. People are so defensive about their Gods. I’m more agnostic than athiest…sometimes I feel like that makes me a ‘lazy thinker’…like if i spent more time on it, I could decide. But I think deep down in my bones I know that’s not true. What makes faith FAITH is believing in something WITHOUT proof. So looking for proof that doesn’t exist isn’t going to do anything for my lack of faith.
    Jim W recently posted..We Fit.

    • Jess says:

      Jim, my husband is a militant atheist, while we agree on a lot there are definitely places where we disagree. I think it has more to do with our deep-down-in-our-bones attitudes than our thoughts. I see it as similar to choosing between religions. When you find what you really believe it just… fits.

      • Laura says:

        It would be interesting to hear what specifically he is militant about. Belief without evidence? Supernatural things? Wars/violence?

  8. Laura says:

    Well said, Jess. I really enjoyed reading this post. The theme of atheists as angry and militant really has to be challenged (I’m intrigued by the notion of the term “nontheist” instead), although I do agree strongly with the many rallying cries of Richard Dawkins, so perhaps I can retain a tiny bit of anger ;) My favourite quote is (paraphrasing) that “we are all atheists when it comes to Zeus, and Thor, and countless gods in which humanity has believed over the years–I just go one god further.”

    • Jess says:

      Yeah, I think one thing that can be hard to deal with is that Christians tend to identify with other Christians as believing in the same God, even if they have drastically different faiths. So even though to me it seems like I’m just making a different choice about my beliefs, there tends to be this whole Christian-vs-non-Christian setup that makes it difficult to look at it that way.

      I haven’t actually read any Dawkins, though Eric does so I leave that to him. ;)

  9. Laura says:

    I think The God Delusion should be your next read. I would love to talk about it!!! Or better yet, listen to a Dawkins podcast or youtube next time you’re washing dishes or something. His way of explaining things is so worth it!

  10. Laura says:

    The other thing that gets me is when people believe so strongly in their particular orthodoxy, and say they don’t mind when others believe in something completely different as long as they believe in something. Even if those beliefs are contrary to their own. And are not science.

  11. Alysia says:

    I love this and I love you.
    As an agnostic leaning Jew married to a militant atheist, I am completely with you. The Boy Scouts thing hit home – I know KNOW my boys would enjoy those kind of activities, but neither my husband nor I can get past the religious side of it (and some of the other civil rights stuff, but I digress). But we don’t force our way in, we just recognize that it isn’t for us. If our boys choose otherwise when they get older, then more power to them.
    I love that you remind people that you aren’t angry, or “out to get” people for their beliefs. It is just how you feel. And how we feel. And if we all can respect each other for that, then the world would be so much happier.
    Alysia recently posted..The Sun Will Come Out…Tomorrow

  12. BakingSuit says:

    You might be surprised that there are many of us out there. Growing up Roman Catholic I knew it wouldn’t stick with me once I was old enough to make that decision for myself, but I appreciate that mom made us go.

    My husband was an Eagle Scout but we agree that our kids won’t be joining any group that is so blatant exclusionary.
    BakingSuit recently posted..Monday purple blues

  13. Jenny S-A says:

    I heart you. I heart this post. This is how I feel – I wasn’t religious before – I was raised Catholic, but stopped believing late in elementary school. But I strongly believe that everyone should be able to choose their own religion, as long as they don’t persecute others or try very hard to convert them. I also lean more agnostic b/c I don’t think I can make absolutes on religion. No one really knows – they just believe.

  14. Jennie B says:

    I loved growing up Jewish, and I still celebrate holidays and try to carry on the traditions of my childhood. But when it comes down to it, I’m with you – I just don’t believe in God. Sometimes I wish I did. I wish for a higher power I could find strength in, could believe that there was a bigger plan in all of this. But I just don’t.

    Thanks for sharing your perspective on this.
    Jennie B recently posted..Choosing an AAC Device: Part 1

  15. Great post, thank you for writing this.

    For what it’s worth, I am an atheist. Not an agnostic, an unapologetic atheist, and proud of it. I did at first think that might be an arrogant view point, but atheism is not just “a belief.” It took reading a lot of books, watching a lot of shows and having a lot of in-depth discussions with others, before I really got my head around it all, because it raises interesting points of logic and argument and science that can be quite challenging at first. Having said that, I have many highly religious friends and I love them just as much now as I did when I was religious. I respect them too, religion makes them happy and I want them to be happy, and they’re not harming anyone, so it’s all good by me :)
    Autism and Oughtisms recently posted..Mainstreamed

  16. Rae Sherk says:

    Well said! The key lesson here is tolerance. I believe in God, I believe in prayer, and I believe in tolerance for all beliefs. Wonderful post!

  17. Cheri says:

    http://atheism.about.com/od/religiondefinition/a/definition.htm.

    Interesting blog, interesting comments. But by definition, being an Atheist is a religion. Yes? No?

    • Jess says:

      I think people are split on this one. It’s a tough call. I mean, if the whole world was atheist, there wouldn’t be any religion. But yeah, that’s a question that’s beyond my pay scale.

  18. Beth Armstrong Leahy says:

    Count me in! I took my kids to a neighboring church a few times so they could see what it was like…they are adults now and both atheists as well. Welcome to the “dark side”. (Of course, as you so eloquently pointed out, it’s not dark over here at all.) Love you. You are my new favorite blogger because of this post.

  19. Wow, what an incredible post! Your words are so eloquent. Your message clear and wonderful. We have so much to talk about. This is crazy good. Thank you for sharing your journey. This is powerful, and you should be very, very proud. Well done.
    Nikki | Days With Us recently posted..ONE YEAR OF BLOGGING

  20. Yes! Why is it that so many religious people feel it’s perfectly appropriate to cram their beliefs down our throats, yet when we casually mention being an atheist, it’s “offensive”?

    It’s tricky raising a kid as an atheist. We have a policy of never lying to our son, so I find myself avoiding the topic because I don’t want to teach him anything that he’ll be branded as “offensive” for repeating. Up until he was three and a half, he called the churches we drove past “statue stores,” and I didn’t correct him. He eventually heard the word “church” and asked me what it was. “Um, it’s a building where people go… and… talk to each other.”

    from Honest Voices)
    Jenn @ Something Clever 2.0 recently posted..An Awkward Wake

  21. Well done!

    I’m agnostic leaning Jewish. But saying that to my in-laws in particular (who are fire and brimstone Christians) is absolutely impossible. In my family (and faith in general), being Jewish and believing in God are two entirely separate things. Lots and lots of rabbis don’t believe in God. And most days, I’m a Jew who doesn’t believe in God.

    But I’m always a person who identified strongly with 6,000 years of shared culture and history and genealogy.

    Thanks for sharing. :)
    Becoming SuperMommy recently posted..Curtain Call

  22. I’m so happy to see that you aren’t getting any hate or anyone trying to convert you so far. I’m very ambivalent about religion – it was my college major, but it taught me far more about human beings than about God. The best I can do is the sense of connection with all the energy in the universe, that my cells are made out of stuff that maybe used to be in dinosaurs or volcanoes, or stars. That, I can feel reverent about, and I can actually find ways to express that through my religion of choice (Reform Judaism). I have a profound distrust of people who claim that their religion holds all the answers, though. Ditto for anyone who claims to need religion to have a strong moral code. You should be a good person regardless of whether you believe anyone is watching. Good for you for being honest!
    Kathleen (Middletini) recently posted..Meeting the Girlfriend

  23. I’m Diane and I love Jess the Atheist.
    Dollops of Diane recently posted..Please Don’t Buy Me Flowers

  24. MamaP says:

    Wow — I recently wrote something similar (though I’ve yet to go into what I DO believe and all that jazz… it’s still a process for me). Just found this through your comment on Honest Mom and thought I’d leave a note and let you know that you’re not the only one! :)

    http://pentenriederhaus.blogspot.com/2013/01/thursday-thoughts-shift.html

  25. tash says:

    Good on you for spreading the word. Its sad that the country you live in is so religious it must be hard to be an atheist. I live in Australia and i don’t think anyone has ever asked me if i believed in god! Our current prime minister is a woman AND an Atheist!

    I wish there wasn’t a word for not believing in a god. I don’t believe in fairies or leprechauns either but there is no word for that!

    I myself think religion is dangerous and should be abolished. Look at all the fighting going on in our world today and in the past. How many wars have started with the core reason being my god is better than your god and if you don’t believe in my god you don’t matter.

    If you delve into the worlds of Richard Dawkins and Lawrence Krauss you will find yourself drawn into they’re fight for science and knowledge!

  26. [...]  A Blog Post by a Mom  about her atheism.    No I am not an atheist, but this was too good not to share.  But, my Valentine Day’s hope for the you and our world, is that we will grow in our love of one another, stand strong against the belief bullies, and move the world closer to Peace on Earth. IMAGE BY AND BLOG POST Half of my readers are very religious, either Christian or Jew; the other half are atheist, secularist, or agnostics. This post asks us to love one another and to leave who is saved or damned to a Higher power.  [...]

  27. This is the very definition of an honest post. Finding truth and beauty in life is the end game. Interesting perspective. I see things differently, but I respect your point of view. Erin

  28. L says:

    Great post. I think a lot of people don’t understand what it means to be Atheist and see Atheism as a threat, which is just silly. No religious belief (or lack thereof) should be considered threatening. Thank you for sharing this. I strongly believe that having moral values is not contingent upon believing in a deity but have faced such narrow-mindedness many times.
    L recently posted..We Don’t Parent in America

  29. I’m a Christian, but let me start with- this isn’t a hate comment!

    While I do believe strongly in my faith, I am often bothered by some who think that a moral code and our religion are so tied that if you don’t have religion, you’re missing the moral code. Now, I personally believe that God put that moral code in us, but I don’t think that someone who doesn’t believe in God is morally corrupt, vile, etc. etc. which is sometimes the thinking.

    Love the honesty and bravery.

    (now the comment from someone saying that religion should be abolished…)
    Anita @ Losing Austin recently posted..Stop the Stigma

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