Agnostic Parenting and Education

It’s an interesting new challenge.

While Christian you raise your child in absolutes. There is a God. These are His rules. You must do this to gain Salvation. God is the creator of everything. We exist because God say it fit to make us. Values, Ethics, Morals are all dictated by the Bible/Christian culture.

As an agnostic this is very much not the case. Oh there are a few absolutes. Don’t hurt another being, etc. I am going to have to go away and consider if there are any deep and abiding absolutes while being agnostic as I raise my child.

The biggest difference, I find, is encouraging a love affair between your child and critical thinking/free thought. Teaching them to question authority, even yours when appropriate. I understand that many Christians will resent my claim that being a believer means leaving out the critical thinking in child rearing, and in very few cases I have seen Christian parents instill this in their child. Very few. I have come across 2 in my whole Christian walk.

Back on point though. Ignoring the us and them mentality of Noner and Believer, even in everyday life where you wouldn’t expect to find religious divides it is very seldom that I come across parents who are fully onboard with raising their children as free thinkers or seek to instill critical thinking skills. Regardless of faith, many parents and their children are walking through life with an intensely apathetic attitude to most things around them. They’re drones. Cogs in a bigger machine. Religion may numb the mind and control the masses but to be quite frank humans are more than capable of being numb sheep all on their own. I find VERY little support as a parent who seeks to raise an aware and questioning child. Christianity, in my experience, (and probably most religions to be fair) uses this aspect of human nature to their benefit and seek to fill the void with their religious absolutes. If you’re not paying attention and involved, before you know it certain things are just accepted as fact and never questioned. And that’s a scary reality.

Growing up I was always an inquisitive child. I quickly found that many, many people considered me rude or abrupt or down right intimidating with my questions and curiosity. For years I felt like I was a walking offense to people. The few who loved this aspect of me were like an oasis for me. Sitting in class and questioning the information we were given to regurgitate onto a test to prove the information had seeped into our brains just wasn’t cutting it for me. Luckily I had the rare few teachers who embraced this in me and encouraged it. Again, an oasis.

One clear example where my questioning was not welcome, surprisingly, was a philosophy class. The teacher handed out an assignment where we were to write an essay that answered the question “Does Evil Exist?”. As someone who was raised going to church since day one, my instinctual answer was yes. Despite this the urge to play devils advocate took hold and I decided I would answer No. That was the best damn essay I ever wrote. I put the most time and research into it that one essay than anything else I had written. I argued that no, evil did not exist and that it was a construct of society to enable it to function. I got a 55%.  I thought maybe I had written it shittily. I asked the teacher and he looked up over his glasses with disdain and remarked “it’s offensive”. It was a huge blow to me and I quickly realized that I might as well stfu and regurgitate.

After leaving school and my home country and settling abroad, I realized how incredibly subjective my whole education had been. Stuff I had taken for granted as The Truth or The Way It Had Happened, was simply not true in either my country or other countries I visited. I was stunned. How could this be possible. Education was supposed to teach you who, what, where, when, why, how, etc. It was a stunning revelation to me. that it could be so deeply subjective. Lets not even touch on the fact that evolution and creation were taught as mutually valid. It caused some strange dissonances in my youth.

The realization about how miserably my education failed in terms of teaching me to be objective, to use critical thinking skills, to question, to dig deeper or to step back and try to grasp “the big picture” set me on a question to educate myself as an adult. It’s a quest that will never end, which is a GOOD thing. It was part of the process in me losing my faith as well.

Now that my daughter is in mainstream education I have been floored at how subjective education still is. It is worse in Ireland were almost all schools are either protestant or catholic. The prods seem to have a bigger chip on their shoulder and push religion more than the catholics schools do. I find that fascinating in and of itself. What REALLY makes me wonder is if they are teaching my child that God exists and created the world, how the hell are they going to explain evolution as part of a modern education? I’d love to sit in and watch that one. Maybe the kids won’t question any of it since they too are being taught to simply regurgitate rather than learn.

The wee one coming home and telling me “God made the whole world” and then arguing with me when I posited other theories of how the world came to be made me realize I have my work cut out for me. She became especially frustrated when I told her that her teacher did not, in fact, know EVERYTHING. I addressed that one with pulling out a world map and showing her the various countries were she would be taught different religious tenants as True. With that experience I’ve realized that to combat the whole drone/cog mentality they instill right from day one in mainstream education I am going to have to subvert at home and be just as involved, if not more so, in her education and instill in her the realization that she needs to question, think critically, analyze and dig deeper. I have already mourned and raged against the realization that education is not objective and that the mental skills I value most in life are not taught or valued in mainstream education and now it’s time to counteract that.

It’s a big big challenge and one that is not strictly that of the agnostic parent. Hive mind is not a pretty thing.

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Shock to the System

When writing about losing my faith I decided to break certain parts off and dedicate a post to give those areas more attention.

Bigger than the process of questioning and losing my faith is a realization that slammed into me while sitting, reading, in a carpark while I waited to collect my daughter.

I was reading The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver and was getting more and more angry at the fundamentalist father, but even more so at the Belgium’s for their part in decimating the Congo. I could have that wrong – my memory of the specifics is a bit hazy. Anyway. I was getting more and more angry at how unjust it all is, how exploitative the west was and still is, how greedy and abusive, etc, etc.

My first thought was something about there is so much injustice in the world. Then, out of no where, so suddenly it sucked the breath from my chest – my faith imploded and died.

All the stuff I had been questioning and analyzing, all the different doctrines and perspectives and questions – none of them were enough to bring me to a conclusion one way or another. Looking at the state of the world, the abuses, the human rights violations, the sex trafficking and child abuse and rape and murder and whole nations starving to death and us with our big flat screen tellies and mind numbing riches while the rest squirmed in their squalor… God Did Not Exist and Was Not Involved In This World.

No being with even an ounce of empathy or love or emotion or justice could exist, and having created this world, just let it be.

Even now I cannot re-create that feeling, that realization or the impact it had on me. It was a blinding moment of absolute realization and it was like being sucker punched and the wind knocked out of me.I just knew God wasn’t there. The bible made so many promises of a loving God who would lift up the broken hearted, heal the wounded and wipe the tears of the mourning. Bullshit.

Where is God? Where is God in Darfur where women are raped and their breasts cut off and their babies thrown into the fire before their very eyes. Where is God in China where infanticide occurs regularly and boy babies are deemed more worthwhile then girl babies? Where is God in the child sex trafficking? Where is God for the homeless and the helpless and the abused? Where is God in the Tsunami? Where was God in the Holocaust when his OWN FUCKING PEOPLE were slaughtered in their MILLIONS? Where is God in the thousands of starving children all over the world? And WHERE the FUCK is God when people commit horrible atrocities in His name? Where. The. Fuck. Is. God?!

I came home and told one of my closest friends who I could discuss the deep stuff with and I explained what had happened, about how my faith imploded. And then another realization that brought me to gasping tears. There was no justice at the end of it all. There would be no retribution. The wounded, hurt, abandoned, abused, neglected, starved, murdered, betrayed and left for dead would never see justice. God would not be waiting to wipe their tears and hold their hand. He didn’t do a damn thing on Earth to help them and they would receive no vindication after death either.

There was no justice.

I cried myself to sleep that night and several nights after.

There is no justice.

There is only what we stand up and do ourselves. I have heard many Christians say with a kind of smug self righteousness that without God there is no morality and no ethics or values. Lies. Humans will be moral with or without God depending on who they are. There are Christians that I have seen first hand readily admit that if their was no God there would be nothing stopping them from raping women.There are non believers who risk their lives every day to make a difference to those who need it most.

As for me? Losing my faith and the realization of there being no Judeo Christian God to make it all right at the end means I am accountable for everything I do or do not do on this Earth. I am accountable to me and to anyone I don’t protect, defend or hurt with my inaction. I can’t do everything but I will damn well do everything I can.

It’s still the single most disturbing realization I have ever had in life and the one that haunts me.

My inability to stfu.

Why am I here?

I am here because of my inability to keep my mouth shut anymore.

Ten years ago this month I made a commitment to Jesus. I became a born again Christian. I went to church and soaked up the welcome.

Previous to this I can wholeheartedly say I was no where near a path to Christianity. In fact I was on a path to becoming a fierce little activist. Now I can clearly see I would have been on a path to becoming a feminist and fighting for social justice.

What happened? I have no fucking idea.

I think ultimately I got discouraged from being told I was too mouthy, too opinionated, too argumentative, that I thought too much or was too contrary. I was 16, a baby and sadly saw acceptance in group think and off I went. I mourn that decision and the lack of strength and support I had.

However. Water under a fucked up bridge.

Fast forward ten years and I’ve been through a LOT of stuff. An abusive marriage. Both physical and that sickeningly insidious emotional stuff. Birth Trauma. Ill health. Rape. Divorce.  Depression. Bulimia.

Omfg that list is enough to make anyone cringe.

All of those things occurred in my life while I followed the Son of God. I accepted many of them under horseshit spiritual guises. God was trying me. God was testing me. God was only giving me as much trials and tribulations as I could handle. I accepted the rest because of fear and insecurity. I thought to myself, it isn’t THAT bad. I must have done something to deserve it. My suffering is nothing compared to x, y and z. I must submit! I must pray harder.

Bla bla fucking bla.

The things we tell ourselves in a desperate attempt not to face the truth in life.

When I was raped I didn’t call it what it was for over a year. After a year I only whispered it to 3 people. 3 years later if I hear a rape joke I am apt to tell you “Hey, that’s not fucking funny. Why? Because I was raped. Is it funny now?”

When I was abused, I fell silent. I did not speak out. I did not fight back. I didn’t think what was happening was right but I was so isolated I felt I had no other choices. When I was physically attacked I knew every god damn thing every pamphlet I had ever seen told me to do in case of physical abuse, but I didn’t. Because of fear. Because of spiritually submitting to my husband. For fear of besmirching his name. For fear of retaliation. For fear of losing my child.

When I was spiritual abused… I was already starting to snap. In fact it could have been the straw that broke the camels back. I was told as a divorcee even though God didn’t blame me for the divorce nor hold it against me (gee, thanks!), I could never remarry as I would be committing adultery. Fabulous. So single struggling mother who must not only spend a life alone after being abused but be condemned to a poverty trap and a social outcast. Gotcha. Fanks Jesus.

I began to question. Everyone had a different story. Which was true? I went to the beginning. Was the Bible the Word of God? That’s where I got stuck. After a year of research and deep deep contemplation I realized I, personally, could not accept the Bible as the infallible word of God. And if I couldn’t accept it as the Word Of God then I was bullshitting myself by calling myself a Christian anymore. I adopted the title of Agnostic. An apostate.

Suddenly I was free. Free to question. Free to ask all the questions I had been ignoring while I reveled in my cognitive dissonance. Free to reject. Free to dig deeper. Free Thought. What a gift.

I also had to face the discriminations and abuses I ignored or justified away while following Jesus. Discrimination against the LGBT community. Against those of other faiths. Against… fuck I am ashamed. There are too many. Awhile ago I reposted this and was like… soooo everyone… this is what I wish I could write as elegantly. Read This

And that brings me why I am here. I am here because I refuse to allow cognitive dissonance in my life anymore. I am here because as much as I deeply believe in self sustainability and eco-friendly and organic and family and bla bla bla I also believe in social justice, feminism, equal rights/human rights, etc. I always did. I just lost my god damn voice along the way and I am ashamed of myself for that. And so now, I refuse to STFU. I want a life ideology that is whole. Whole for my family, whole for me, whole for my community, whole for the world. I am still sorting through this but basically that wholeness means standing up against inequality, against sexism and racism and against so many -isms, against the destruction of our earth, against corporate greed, against discrimination, against people dying in a war for oil, against patriarchy, against bullshit and tyranny and abuse and lies to keep the sheeple docile and in line while we all suffer so a tiny portion can profit (and forfeit their souls). And for family and for individuals rights and for REAL education and for choice and for communities and for justice.

Why blogging? Because it’s what I can do right now. With limited options and the responsibility of raising a child, this is what I can do right now. So I am doing it.

I am opinionated. I will question. I will debate. I do think too much. I will learn. And I’m doing it all out loud and refusing to stfu anymore. The topics will be far reaching and varied. Lets hope it makes some kind of difference.

~GP