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.

Own it Baby! Work it! *Snaps fingers*

Oh, lol… I do amuse me.

Digression done away with, I’ve been thinking more and more lately about walking away from Christianity. I realize one of the most powerful aspects of leaving my faith behind was finally being allowed to own my feelings. To experience them, keep them, work through them, etc.

What I mean by that is when walking the walk of an evangelical pentecostal Christian, every single emotion/inner experience that you have is given away.

For example:

Grief – say if you were sad because your Mum died – Aw hunny don’t be sad, she’s with Jesus, give your grief to the Lord!

Depressed – You’re not experiencing the victory of Christ! Grasp His victory on the cross!

Angry – The devil is aggravating you, trying to get you to sin. OR! It could be that you’re experiencing Righteous Anger and the Lord is prompting you to action! (You mean like shooting an abortion Doctor?)

Frustrated – Oh this one is fun. It could be because you’re being rebellious and not submitting to God. It could be because Gods put something on your heart He wants you to fix for Him in the world/church/neighborhood, etc.  It could be because God is making you aware of something in your life He wants you to fix about yourself.

Horny – TEMPTED! (If you can’t control that and stay celibate like Paul, then Marry! Marry quickly so you can get your rocks off!)

Happy – The Lord has given you joy!!! Be grateful!

Devastated – The Lord is testing you, but tut tut, take comfort, He’ll never give you more than you can bear.

Anxious – Whatever you’re anxious about you should be giving to the Lord for Him to deal with.

Connection with Something – God has put that something on your heart.

Desire or Yearning for Something – God has put that on your heart because that is where you can do the most good and honor Him.

Jealous – Satan is fuckinwitchu again.

See what I mean? And because you’re so focused on handing over your emotions, wants or needs to God or trying to decipher what God is using your emotions/wants/needs to tell you, there is probably little chance you’re actually sitting and working through any of them. You never fully FEEL anything. What does it mean, what does God want, what is God telling me with this, repent, repent – you’re tempted!!! Fuck that’s exhausting. And a fabulous tool for repression.

When your feelings, wants, needs, desires and thoughts are constantly being attributed to Satan or God or having to be handed over to God you never actually get to know yourself. You never actually stay with the any of it, unpack it, face it, confront it, indulge it, sort through it. And what is even scarier and more exhausting is that so many people claim to be authorities on these topics, you can literally go insane trying to find the “right” answer that you end up like an inbred pedigree dog chasing your own tail until you slam into a door frame.

But that, my non-as-of-yet-existent blog readers, is why so very many depend so heavily on God. He becomes the protective screen so nothing is actually felt or dealt with or even taken responsibility for. I can see why people need that. I don’t judge at all. I just couldn’t hack it anymore. Call me a glutton for punishment but I wanted the ability, better or worse, to experience all that stuff in it’s best and worst and work through it myself and make my own fucking decisions about what it all meant, if anything. And if God is real and I walked away, that is still going to be my answer on my judgment day.

Personally speaking I was overwhelmed but relieved to feel/want/need/engage. It was like getting my senses back. With that came my instincts. Oh how I love my precious precious instincts. The ones I had been taught and encouraged to ignore for years and years. The ones, when acceptable, were attributed to God and when unacceptable were attributed to Satan. “I like this church” “OMG God has led you here!!!” or “Dude I am getting a bad vibe about this” “Oh goodness, you’re Spirit of Rebellion is gaining a foothold!”

I call bullshit.

I have an ex (christian fundie) boyfriend who loved visual analogies. Because I was divorced and he was a crystal clear virgin, his analogy for our relationship was as follows: Mountain has a pristine white castle upon it with a road running away from it to a field which eventually got darker, wetter and muddier. Eventually it turned into a sticky, disgusting bog swamp. Him and his family were up in the castle. Me? I was roooolling like a pig in the mud in the bog swamp. I was tainted and dirtied in my pain, emotions, experiences and *gasp* my sins. He thought I was neat but was desperately trying to figure out a way to send in a hazmat team to extract me from my filth. You can see why this relationship didn’t last.

Still. I took something away from that. That swamp? Is authenticity. Now I revel in it. I don’t want that filter to protect me from feeling, wanting, needing, paying attention to my instincts, etc. Especially since most of it is someone elses projection onto you and how unhealthy is that when they’re filtering feeling anything themselves? It’s like a circle jerk of repression, control and manipulation.

I love the freedom of wallowing in whatever comes up out of me for better or worse. I love not having to try and submit it to God or repent for it or seeking some elder or deacon or pastor to interpret it for me. Because I don’t believe any of it is from God or Satan. I believe it’s just stupid human me with all my glorious experiences, wounds, feelings, needs, wants, conditioning, traumas, passions, etc.

It might just be the best part of breaking free for 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