I was raised to be welcoming. I was raised to do good. I was raised to help others, love others, accept others.
I was raised without God.
As a child, we piled into the car nearly every Sunday to attend a service at the local Unitarian Fellowship but there was no mention of God. No talk of scripture, no bibles from what I can remember. As a child, we talked about different faiths and drew pictures and lit candles. We discussed what it means to be a good person and how our choices affect those around us and we memorized ‘principles and purposes’. The few I remember ...
Respect for the interdependent web of which we are all a part
Free and responsible search for truth and meaning
What we didn’t do what talk about that search. What truth and meaning meant to us. I was taught to accept the beliefs and practices of others but not what to believe for myself.
I guess that’s the point though. To choose for yourself what you want to believe. I want that for my children. I want them to grow up in a home accepting of all beliefs and religions and for them to decide for themselves which path leads to their truth and meaning. But is that enough?
I remember learning about various religions. I was fascinated by the concept. I sought out extra religion classes in both high school and college. I considered for more than a moment, majoring in religious studies. I was also steadfast in my atheism. Choosing to believe that there’s no higher power but acknowledging and accepting that most others prayed to God in some form or another. This also lead to hiding my atheism. I’d accept invitation to junior high school friend’s bible study, sing hymns at elementary school confirmations. Accept the cross necklaces from my grandmother every year at Christmas. It wasn’t until I had children that the issue of my atheism even came up.
Over the past 5 years I’ve been inundated with questions as to how I can raise my children responsibly without God. How I can share religion with them in a way that allows for them to choose for themselves. How?
I scroll through Instagram and Pinterest am bombarded with bible quotes and affirmations. Photos of beautifully styled bibles, t-shirts ‘All I Need is Jesus and Coffee’ ‘Faith & Coffee’ ‘Pray, Coffee, Repeat’ (do all religious folk drink as much coffee as I do?) and I wonder if something is missing in my life. If I made a wrong turn somewhere along my free and responsible search for truth and meaning. Maybe I was meant to be a believer. Maybe we all are. Because what’s the big deal? Believe in God and there is a God, you’re all set. Believe in God and there’s isn’t a God, oh well. Don’t believe in God and there is a God, you’re kind of screwed right? Isn’t it just safer to believe and be done with it?
Belief is a tricky word.
I’ll be honest: I still do not believe in God.
I’ll be honest: Today I purchased a bible. And for the past 5 months I’ve been doing daily guided bible readings on my iPhone.
I’ll be honest: I wish I believed in God.
Because being an atheist is hard. Being an atheist is isolating. Hiding my non-belief is exhausting. Standing up to explain myself is scary. And mostly, because I want to believe there's something higher out there. Something connecting us all, something to hold us accountable, to keep us grounded, humble, kind.
I wish I knew how to believe. Wish I could find the switch to turn on somewhere in my mind, in my soul, in my heart. Everywhere around me there are people so full of belief, overflowing with confidence and I wish I could have just a little in me. Somehow soak up a bit of what they’re having and maybe it’ll change my mind.
Every day I drop my son off at his Catholic Preschool and read their daily prayer. I’m filled with the most incredible sense of confliction. I’ve conditioned myself to be apathetic to things like this, while at the same time, I feel an overwhelming sense of longing to believe the words I’m reading, to force them to have meaning, to feel what the rest feel when they read them.
I thought I was weak, wishing I believed in God. I thought I was giving up on my principles, walking away from my Atheism. But I’m realizing now that I’m still on my search for truth and meaning. It didn’t end when I stopped going to Sunday School at the Unitarian Fellowship. It went on, and I just found my way back to the path. I don’t yet know where this path will lead me. Maybe back to where I started, maybe someplace new. But I’m finding now that I’m much more open to new and different ideas of faith. Hoping I find somewhere I feel at ease.