I’m in several Facebook groups with other non-religious mothers, and these have been a lifeline for me. Lately I have noticed a few posts asking how to handle Halloween because they don’t like teaching about magic and make believe. These people seem to be solidly in the minority, with most people commenting that it’s just a time to dress up, get scared, and pretend. Considering Halloween is my favorite holiday, I tend to shake my head a little at how some people seem to think that exposing children to make believe leads to beliefs in the supernatural. I was raised by atheists, and growing up we knew Halloween was pretend and make believe, and we still had fun. And what I think parents are missing when they stress out about Halloween and imaginary play is that it is important for child development to engage in pretend and imaginary play!
Someone asked a good question about how my parents introduced the concept of religion to me and if I ever experimented with religion. When I was five I think my parents realized it was time to explain the concept. I was starting to socialize more for one thing. I remember going to a friend’s house before I knew anything about religion and a friend showing me a coin with Jesus on it and talking about how important the coin was and how mad her mother would be if she gave it away. And then, for logical reasons that only make sense to a five year old, she said she wanted to give it to me. Ever the goody-two shoes, I demurred. She insisted. I pointed out that my dress had no pockets and that won the argument.
As I was walking Buddy to his new school, my husband emailed me that our city was having a big homeschooling convention. A few minutes later he emailed me, “nevermind.” I smiled, knowing exactly why he lost enthusiasm for the convention.
I found out I was right when he got home. He explained that when he investigated the convention, he found they were staunchly conservative Protestant. And while it’s a given that as an atheist I wouldn’t be down with the agenda, as a Catholic, he’s not too fond of it either. And he went on for awhile in exasperation with how out of sync their educational goals were to our own (me being familiar with the homeschooling culture in our area was not surprised).
I don’t think I could have made an interfaith marriage work with a conservative Protestant. But a minimally practicing Catholic? Yeah. It works. And I think a big reason is because it doesn’t affect us much on a day to day basis.
Here are the reasons Andy is not fond of religious based homeschooling, or religious based schooling, period. He believes that it should be left to the church to teach religion. Andy wouldn’t even consider sending our children to a Catholic private school. In his mind, schools should teach academics, and religious instruction should happen solely within the church. This is a mindset I really wish more conservative Protestants would adopt!
The other reason is because Andy, like me, loves science. We read Discover and Scientific American magazines. We love Neil DeGrasse Tyson and watch his shows together. Andy doesn’t see any conflict between evolution, cosmology, and his religious beliefs. And he values science literacy and wants our children to have a firm grasp of how science and the world works.
And while he’s not a history buff like I am, he is concerned about the revisionist history that goes on in those circles. He wants our children to have a firm understanding on how the separation of church and state is fundamental to our government. He also understands that it’s important to acknowledge when our country was wrong, such as the issue of slavery. He does not want to whitewash something as horrible as the Civil War by reducing it to a mere matter of “states rights.”
Andy is able to compartmentalize his beliefs from his day to day life. In some ways I think this is easier for Catholics, because their faith focuses on acts (going to Mass, partaking in the sacraments, etc) than many Protestant sects which focus on belief. But whatever the reason, it works for us, because the educational goals we have for our children end up being the same. We want them to be scientifically literate, have a good understanding of history and how our government works, and believe that religious instruction is best left to the church.
One way to get me to hate a movie, tv show, or book is to incorporate the aliens helped build the pyramids nonsense into the story. This is the reason I hated “Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull.” I was reminded of this while reading an article in Scientific American about the process of building the pyramids. Turns out, Egyptologists know a lot about how this was done because we have primary written records about the pyramids being built. Humans built the pyramids without alien intervention. Period, case closed.
Why does the idea that aliens helped build the pyramids bother me so? Because essentially when you’re saying aliens built this or that, you’re discrediting human ingenuity. You’re saying humans aren’t smart or resourceful enough to have accomplished the amazing things we have accomplished. This isn’t mere pride on my part, because it has implications for our modern problems.
One of the factors in building the pyramids that the Scientific American article touched on was the power of human social networks in building the pyramids. Communication, cooperation, sharing ideas and discoveries. These were all vital to the pyramids construction.
And these are all things that we are going to need now to solve the problems facing humanity. Global warming. Terrorism. Mass shootings. Cancer.
These things scare me. But this is where the faith of a Humanist comes in. I firmly believe that if our ancient ancestors, who with the primitive technology they had could build things as wondrous and incredible as the pyramids, then we can confront the challenges that we are currently facing successfully.
Aliens, gods, and prayers aren’t going to save us. We are going to have to save ourselves.
People who believe in a creator look at the world as see something so perfect that it makes intuitive sense that there’s a creator. People who believe there is no creator look around as see that there’s a lot of work that needs to be done and that this world is far from perfect. Today I was reminded of this when I found that I have a UTI. What is amazing is that I’ve never had one before, so I guess I was overdue.
I did not realize how painful or debilitating they can be. Yesterday I had a lot of plans but had to cancel them as I lay in bed, cramping, thinking I had a strange stomach bug. This morning my husband scared me by suggesting it might be an ulcer, and considering I’ve been under a lot of stress lately I couldn’t rule it out. So I went to the doctor and was relieved to hear it was a UTI, because frankly there are a lot of things it could have been that are a lot scarier. And while I’ve never had one myself, I’d say pretty much all of my female friends have had one, so it was something familiar and a lot less scarier than an ulcer.
Yet the reason it is familiar is because, frankly, the way female anatomy is lends itself to infection. With the anus and urethra being so close together, bacteria that should not get in the urethra tends to find it’s way there. Sure, defenses have evolved against it, and in my case those defenses worked rather well for 33 years, but it still does not negate the fact that female anatomy lends itself to UTIs.
If we were intelligently designed, this wouldn’t happen in my view. And if you look at the human body, you’ll find plenty of other things that tell of a rather shoddy design. Which is why it makes more sense to me that we evolved without the oversight of a creator. Nature is concerned with merely surviving, not perfection. Some of the things that evolved work incredibly well, others not so much, but it gets us through the day.
All told Andy and I have been together in some form or fashion for twelve or thirteen years. We met in college, started dating about a year after that and things quickly progressed once we were dating. So here we are now, 8 years of marriage, two kids, a cat and a dog. And most days the fact that we’re also a mixed faith couple doesn’t come in to play. We’re too busy living life to notice. But other times it does.
If you’ve met someone who has different religious belief than you do and want to pursue a relationship with them, let me share with you what would have made this journey a helluva lot easier. Honesty. Even if it’s difficult, even if it hurts, even if it may mean ending the relationship. Be honest. Because while there are a lot of good things in our relationship, it could all come crashing down because of the dishonesty that was sown at the beginning of it.