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Growing Up Godless

One thing many people would not guess upon meeting me is that I’m part of a growing “Nones” demographic in the United States. You wouldn’t guess it by seeing my children either; but we don't identify with any one religion and question everything. If pressed to categorize myself, I typically answer as agnostic.

Growing up I sometimes felt like the odd one out from my friends. While they had church services and Sunday School to attend on the weekends, I had normal, run-of-the-mill activities. My parents chose not to baptize me when I was a baby. This knowledge was often met with strange looks and jokes about my “original sin.”

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Occasionally I attended church services with other family members (mostly out of curiosity), but religion was not an integral part of my childhood. I even recall attending Vacation Bible School one summer. Church and religion were just kind of … there. I could go if I wanted, but it was completely optional. There have been times I’ve “gone through the motions” so as not to offend others, but I do not regret growing up without being part of an organized religion. (I did find it interesting enough to minor in Religious Studies in college though!)

I really feel that spirituality is something my children need to discover in their own way.

The decision to raise our children in a secular family was not made lightly, but it follows our beliefs and values. The majority of my husband’s family are practicing Catholics, so our way of doing things is quite a deviation from his family’s norm. Our wedding set the stage for change by having an outside ceremony officiated by a non-denominational pastor.

When my husband and I had got pregnant with our first baby, we consciously made the decision not to have her baptized. We were not sure how this would go over with his family and discussed it at length. Despite being confident in my decision, I was nervous what they might say. To me it was not worth baptizing my children just to appease others. We didn’t belong to a church and it wasn’t something I believed in.

My own belief system is a tad more complicated and hard enough to explain to myself. I really feel that spirituality is something my children need to discover in their own way and not something that comes across as forced upon them. When I question the existence of God, it feels false to lead them to believe in the existence of something I cannot prove or disprove.

Accepting yourself and others for who they are and not feeling the pressure to conform is an important message we are imparting on our children. Looking to my kids’ futures, it’s encouraging to know that according to Phil Zuckerman, a professor of sociology and secular studies at Pitzer College, some studies have found that secular teenagers are far less likely to care what the “cool kids” think or express a need to fit in with them. They are likely to grow up more accepting and tolerant as well.

We do not say prayers during our bedtime routines or read Bible stories to our children. We don’t take our children to mass or attend church services except on rare occasions to support family or friends. When the questions come from our children about God and our existence, we’ll answer them to the best of our ability. And I know—the biggest questions are yet to come.

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We are loving and giving to our family, friends, and community. We strive to teach our children the importance of empathy and compassion. To treat others with kindness and respect.

The values we find important and teach to our children aren’t so different, whether you’re family is religious or not.

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