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The Incredible Years (Part 1)

Transitioning from being a religious parent to a secular parent has been interesting. I used to “rely on god” to provide me strength in my parenting and somehow I did feel better believing that I was being guided by a higher power in raising my children. The reality is I was failing to address some of the issues I was having by simply putting a band-aid on the problem (by praying and trusting in something that wasn’t there) so I could feel better. But, I don’t want to beat up on my former self, I simply wish to learn from my mistakes so I can be a better parent today. The reality is, whether you’re religious or not, parenting is the hardest job you can ever have. Scary Mommy says it so well:

Now, as a freethinking, secular parent, I aim to have a more scientific approach by educating myself about evidence-based parenting methods and building a toolkit of resources and support systems. I hope to glean information from multiple sources and do my best to choose what’s right for my kids, myself, and my family as a whole.

My starting point…

We will be going through the book The Incredible Years by Carolyn Webster-Stratton, PhD

We will be going through the book The Incredible Years by Carolyn Webster-Stratton, PhD

Today I began attending a support group for parents of children ages 2 to 8, it’s called The Incredible Years. Apparently, with all its tears, guilt, anger, laughter, joy and love, these early years are remembered by most as pretty incredible. The group meets for 10 weeks and is focused on helping parents sort out issues they face with young children in order to set the stage for sensitive, nurturing and competent parenting.  Today I was thrilled to sit with other parents, knowing we are all in the same boat… we don’t know what the hell we’re doing as parents!

Play, Play, Play

Playing with my 2 year-old, Drew

Playing with my 2 year-old, Drew

One of the things we were challenged to do in the upcoming week is to play with our kids for 10-15 minutes per day. This regular play is meant to cultivate bonding, positivity and fun, laying the foundation for a solid relationship now and in the future. Sometimes I get so caught up in life that I forget to sit down and play with my kids. And I almost never take the time to sit down individually with each of them because that has it’s own challenges. So, today, I sat down with each of them individually and played, and it was A LOT of fun! We built towers, knocked down towers, and played with play dough. I really enjoyed taking the time to listen and talk with each of my kids individually. All the people who talk up the importance of play… they are on to something! I look forward to more special time with my kids as we build this habit of playing together often.

Wish me well on starting this journey to build my parenting toolkit and support system. If you have any resources to share please put them in the comments! Until next time, I leave you with some wise words from an English poet:

Before I got married I had six theories about raising children; now, I have six children and no theories.
John Wilmot

This was Day 6 of the Zero to Hero Challenge. Learn more here.

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Losing Faith

What was that fledgling idea I had when I decided to start this blog? Well, I really wanted a comfortable place to communicate honestly my reasons for coming out of the faith.  Though I had planned to write a post about my long journey to becoming an atheist months ago, I admit I have been dragging my feet. So, even though it’s really hard for me to be this intentionally vulnerable (it’s like pulling teeth without pain medication)… I will saddle up and share the story of how I lost my faith.

If you missed the brief history of my religious background, check it out here.

Questioning Sin

I would say that my deconversion from Christianity began about 8 years ago, in early 2006, when I was newly married. We moved into a small basement apartment of a house in “Old Town”. Several people lived upstairs and across the hall in the basement there was one other apartment next to ours. That’s where Nick lived. Nick was purposefully and awkwardly funny, he introduced us to the world of Ultimate Frisbee, and frankly he turned out to be a great neighbor. We swapped keys at some point and if we were out of town Nick would sometimes call and say, “Can I borrow some milk? O, and can I hang out and watch the game at your place?” And he offered the same hospitality to us. That’s really the best kind of neighbor.

Ultimate Frisbee Costume Tournament (Nick, Matt, me)

Ultimate Frisbee Costume Tournament
(Nick, Matt, me)

The first time we had Nick over for dinner we initiated our common ritual, praying before the meal. Right after the prayer Nick said, “So, you guys are Christians, huh? You ever seen Broke Back Mountain?” I laughed at his intentional prodding but even though I hadn’t seen the movie, at the time the idea of a film “promoting homosexuality” made me feel uncomfortable. I certainly would struggle to admit it back then, but I was homophobic and I thought homosexuality was a sin. I believed you should love the sinner and hate the sin of gay sex. In a later conversation Nick, my husband and I got into a more in-depth discussion about being gay and there were a few things Nick said that struck a cord with me, big time. He said:

  • Most of the stuff that is in the bible makes sense to me because it usually forbids hurting someone in some way, but I’ve never understood what it says about being gay… if you’re gay, you’re not hurting anyone.
  • Imagine if we lived in a world where the “normal” or common thing was to be gay and everybody discriminated against or looked down on straight people.
  • Why would someone choose to be discriminated against by choosing to be gay?
  • Why would god let someone be born with homosexual tendencies and then punish them for those tendencies?

Huh, I had never thought of it from that point of view before. It’s amazing how these questions planted a seed in me that I mulled over for years. I really struggled with the thought that I was discriminating against people that had done nothing wrong, even if my discrimination was frowning at them in silent judgment of their lifestyle. But on the other hand, the bible was the infallible word of God, it was God breathed! My insides were telling me “I don’t like this dogma that I have been brought to believe about gay people” but the bible was telling me “Do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? … Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men … will inherit the kingdom of God.” 1 Corinthians 6:9-10

My response to all of this was: well, I will just set those types of verses aside and try not to worry about them. At this time I didn’t fully throw them out because that begs the question, what other verses can be thrown out? This was the start of my cognitive dissonance and for the time being I was able to keep my doubts at bay.

Questioning God

Gradually, over the next 5 years I transformed from a conservative Christian (biblical inerrancy belief and devout religious practice) to a liberal Christian (personal biblical interpretation and relaxed religious practice).

But then, at the end of 2011, the floodgates opened and the questions just started flowing. Below are some of the things I could not reconcile with my god belief. Keep in mind that I may have asked some of these questions earlier in my life but this was the first time I asked them without assuming I already had the right answer from god.

  • Why are there so many religions? There are many good people of various religions but they can’t all be right. If I put my belief in the wrong god, yet I live a good, well-intentioned life, why is it justified for me to go to hell for eternity?
  • How is it that god is all knowing, all powerful, and all good and still he allows evil? Read more about the Problem of Evil
  • Eternal torture for not believing in the right god is an exceptionally vengeful punishment, is it not? Eternity is a REALLY long time. Read more of my thoughts on hell
  • It’s self-centered to look at my situation and say, “I am so lucky to have been born in this day and age in America, thank you god”, when so many terrible things have happened and continue to happen all over the world. Why does god allow all the terrible stuff to happen to people yet he gets credit for a successful surgery completed by a trained medical doctor?
  • Why does god get credit for things that have another explanation?
  • If I don’t know why something good happened, why should I just assume “well, it must have been god that did it”? If I attribute good things to god, why don’t I attribute the bad things to him as well?
  • Why is it necessary to “catch ’em young” (teach religion to our youth)? If something is true it shouldn’t matter when or how someone encounters it, it’s still the truth.
  • When I look around and see beautiful and magnificent things in nature, just because I don’t understand the mechanisms that happened over time to make it happen, why should I attribute it to a god?
  • Why does the holy spirit say contradictory things to people?
  • Why does the bible contradict itself?
  • How is a bible verse good evidence for god? Why should I believe the bible just because the bible says so or Christians say so?
  • Why does god need our financial help to do his work?
  • Why is god so sneaky? Why doesn’t he just reveal himself to everyone on earth and save us all?

While some may be able to come away from all of these questions with some justification for god, ultimately, I can no longer suspend my disbelief. If I am to put my trust and belief in a god, I need sufficient evidence that such a god truly exists. So far I have found no such evidence.

A big thanks to Nick for helping me start to question the bible. An even bigger thanks to my husband for helping me question throughout the entire process. Lastly, I am grateful to myself for resolving to say to god, “If you are real and you created me, I trust that you want me to freely use my god-given brain to question and process information in an honest way, without fear”.  It was that statement that allowed me to let go of my fears and ultimately be set free from the chains of religion. Can I get an amen? 😉

sagan quoteThis was Day 3 of the Zero to Hero Challenge. Learn more here.

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Hell and Sneakiness

Gazing upon the dawn of reason

I am trying to remember when it happenedwhen the light turned on, when something clicked in my brain and I realized I don’t believe there’s a God. As is true with many others, my journey out of religion (specifically Christianity) was a gradual process over time.

But there was one moment that sticks out in my mind, a conversation with my husband Matt. Bear in mind, this conversation came up after months of discussing the existence of God. We were standing in the kitchen after our two young sons had been put to bed. As we talked I remember being so fearful to ask questions and push myself to wonder if God and hell might be conjured up by men.

A bit of the conversation:

Matt “I don’t think there is a God and I don’t think there is a hell”.

Me “Do you feel scared that you might be wrong?”

Matt “If I am wrong, I just sort of want to stick it to the man, you know? Hell is such a bad idea, to get sent there because you don’t believe in something/someone when real evidence is lacking… that’s stupid and a bad design. Why be so sneaky?

He was right, WHY be so sneaky? Why not clearly reveal yourself to the world? Why utilize an ancient text and the holy spirit, both of which can very easily be manufactured by men? You’re God! You’re supposed to be all powerful and all knowing.

Eternity in hell is an unparallel punishment for unbelief

And why is hell such a bad design? To allow (and thereby send) someone to burn in hell for eternity for not believing is entirely unreasonable and absurd when a child abuser can ask forgiveness, profess belief in God, escape the fires of hell and proceed to heaven after death.

Needless to say, the token theistic phrase “God works in mysterious ways” was just not doing it for me anymore. His apparent mysteries were seeming more and more like a distraction from truth and a bad excuse to believe. Yes, I was still scared and fearful of hell as I pondered all these questions. But this was the first time that I was allowing myself to truly question my faith and my fears.

The new road of Life Sans God

I justified my questioning by telling myself that a good God would want me to use my God-given brain. As if there needs to be a justification for asking questions… Thankfully, 1-1/2 years after this conversation, I feel free to ask whatever questions I like.

I hope to share many more glimpses of my journey on this new road I find myself on. Welcome to Life Sans God, I’m glad you’re here!