What I Want You to Know is a series of reader submissions. It is an attempt to allow people to tell their personal stories, in the hopes of bringing greater compassion to the unique issues each of us face. If you would like to submit a story to this series, click here. Today’s guest post is by HRT.
I was raised as a Catholic by my Catholic mom. My dad however, was an atheist who had been raised by a strict Southern Baptist family. My dad never encouraged me to accept his beliefs but he didn’t hide them either. I liked being Catholic. It gave me a sense of belonging and I liked the rituals of mass. I still do. When I was in college I started questioning my beliefs. I saw hypocrisy and it was painful. I married a smart, funny, compassionate atheist. I had trouble getting pregnant and when I finally did, I had a miscarriage. My grandmother told me that this was God’s way of telling me that I shouldn’t be a mom. I think that was her way of trying to comfort me. It didn’t work. It broke my heart and angered me. I wondered why she believed that everything bad or good was God’s will. It seemed like a crutch rather than a comfort. Eventually, we decided to adopt a child. I thought maybe the universe was telling me that this was my path. Ten months after meeting our son I got pregnant and this time I didn’t miscarry. My grandmother said that God blessed us and I told her that I agreed but by that time I didn’t.
We don’t raise our children as atheists. We raise them as good moral people. We teach them to see their actions reflected in the hearts and minds of others. We expect them to be kind and honest and they live up to that expectation. I took them to church when they were young but they were unhappy when other children teased them for not knowing bible stories. Our kids understand that there are many different religions on earth and that they should all be respected. What they don’t understand is why their understanding isn’t treated with the same respect. In middle school, a little girl told my daughter that she was going to burn forever when she died. For days she would burst into tears whenever she thought about that. She wasn’t worried about her fate because she didn’t believe it, but she was sad that her friend believed it. My heart was broken again.
I am pretty quiet about being an atheist. I don’t tell Christian friends that I don’t share their beliefs. It’s not that I want to avoid arguments and I know that if they ended the friendship over religion then we weren’t friends to begin with but I don’t want to distress them. They believe what they believe and I don’t want to change that. It is who they are. Religion gives their lives meaning and that is important. I also understand that changing my heart is a tenet of their belief. So here’s the thing I want you to know. My heart is happy. My life is peaceful. I believe in the beauty of the universe. I love not understanding everything in the natural world. My family is moral and kind. We are grateful for all that we have. We believe in being good for the sake of being good. We live by the golden rule. We know that kindness to others is the only road to world peace. Finally, we want everyone to be as happy as we are regardless of what they do (or don’t) believe in.