Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The rainbow lining.

I am thankful for Proposition 8.

Before you wonder what is wrong with me, let me explain. I try my hardest to see the silver lining, even if it's a stretch. Honestly, in the best scenario I can imagine, there would never have been a need for Prop 22 or Prop 8. I would love to have been born into a world where love between two adults was never viewed as wrong.

(Or ten adults, who am I to put boundaries on love?)

But Prop 8 did happen. It happened in my lifetime, in both my daughters' lifetime. And that is inexcusable. But without it, I don't think I would have ever fully walked away from Mormonism. And that would be tragic for me. I am not saying that my fellow Americans being denied the right to marry isn't exponentially more tragic, because it is. I am saying that there is a silver lining, at least in my little world.

Watching Prop 8 unfold in real time over the course of months, listening to both sides of the argument, and seeing the passion from both sides of my family and my husband, led me down my own path of logic. I started to see how people wanted to push their own personal values into state law, and I started to realize how unconstitutional that is.

I have never really viewed my children as 'mine'. They are people, not possessions. I see them as their own individual people. They are always allowed to think their own thoughts and draw their own conclusions. How could I be okay with them growing up only to find they may not be able to marry the person they love? I couldn't let that happen; I won't let that happen.

I feel guilty that it took my own selfish reasons to be able to view gay rights as human rights. I wish I was born into a home where this life was more cherished than an afterlife. But here I am, now, right now and I am grateful that Prop. 8 forced me to view the world in a more loving, open light.

I cried when the numbers came in on November 4th, 2008. I couldn't believe Prop. 8 passed. And for the very first time, I wrote a letter to my Representatives and the Governor. I couldn't believe we were voting on civil rights. How could people claim rights for themselves that they were denying their fellow humans?

I was ecstatic when Judge Walker overturned Prop 8, and I hope in the near future all people will be able to marry in California again. And I am so very happy to see more and more states allow civil unions. And that may be enough for some, but I know I will not be satisfied until we have marriage equality. The love I have for my husband and the strength of my marriage can only become more meaningful when the joys and protections that I have because of it, are available for everyone.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Celebrating Two Years as an Atheist

My Freedom From Religion Foundation billboard.

I am so fortunate to have found the strength and the knowledge to leave religion.

I will be forever grateful to every atheist I encountered in 2009 who helped me, who answered my questions and who showed me where to find out the answers if they didn't know them. Including a few authors, whose writings will be read and reread for many years to come.

I am thankful to every Christian who posed questions on the Craigslist ATFO, without reading all the well thought out answers by Atheists, I wouldn't have been able to start seeing the light.

I am so grateful to have found joy in my life, which has replaced almost all of the guilt.

I am very thankful that my husband, who married me while I was religious, has stuck by my side throughout my journey. He has been a shoulder to cry on, and a wonderful support. I couldn't ask for a better life partner or best friend.

I am so happy that I realized religion was a pile of bullshit, before I started to brainwash my children. With the way I was raised to handle and feel guilt, I don't know if I could have lived with myself if I had walked away from religion after having started my children down the path of Mormonism.

I am so grateful that there are organizations like the Center for Inquiry, UU churches, Foundation Beyond Belief and the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

Want to make your own billboard? Go to www.ffrf.org/out to try it yourself!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Planetarium

For every birthday that comes along in our family, we try to do something special. This past week my husband not only celebrated his birthday, but Father's Day followed shortly after. We decided to head down to the Indianapolis Children's Museum, as it was the request of our two daughters and their father loves them enough to give up his fishing plans.

The Indianapolis Children's Museum is huge. It has 5 floors of exhibits, which could fill 2-3 days full of learning fun. It has a working antique carousel, paleontologists on hand, a theater, a library, and a planetarium. It is absolutely awesome.

My girls recognized the building, even though it's been over a year since we had visited. They kept thanking us for bringing them to the museum and became giggly as we parked the car. They skipped across the bridge into the museum, and waited anxiously in the line to get in.

They posed for a few pictures for me, as the museum had an awesome display of famous paintings made with Jelly Bellies, that I just had to capture.

When we headed down to the Dinosphere to check out the dinosaur exhibit, we passed a Super Croc skeleton. A museum employee had a table set up for the children to see and touch the Super Croc's teeth. The museum employee asked the girls where their teeth are, my girls obliged, opening their mouths for the lady to see.

The employee asked Kate if any of her teeth were loose yet, and Kate said no. The employee then told Kate to keep her teeth when they fall out, as she could put them under her pillow for the tooth fairy to collect in exchange for money. Without missing a beat, Kate looked quizzically at the adult woman in front of her and said, "The tooth fairy isn't real." I know that surprised the employee, as Kate is of the age to believe in things like that. But Kate has no reason to, as I have never lied to her.

When they had a choice between going to the Science exhibit or going to the Barbie exhibit, they chose Science. They love dolls, they love to play, but when given the choice, they wanted to experiment, they wanted to learn. And that made me so proud.

Towards the end of our visit we decided to watch the last showing of "Wonders of the Universe", which goes from the beginning of time to present day in regards to the Universe. It uses images captured by the Hubble telescope, and is full of scientific explanations.

In the introduction, the narrator said that watching this show was akin to 'being able to see through the eyes of god'. I chuckled a little because it caught me a little off guard and I almost felt like the science behind it was being apologetic to the potential religious folks in the audience.  Like they had to say something ignorant in order to help the devout religious folks retain interest in the rest of the show.

My girls watched in awe as we saw groups of stars, suns and planets, galaxies and the Milky Way, right up through our Solar System. I was a proud momma, besides a few requests for a drink, my preschoolers watched and asked really good questions throughout.

As we were leaving the planetarium, my girls were bustling about with curiosities and questions. That is when the lady exiting in front of us opened her mouth and loudly stated, "That was all based on that no good Big Bang Theory. We all know that God Jesus created everything." Granted, I am sure she directed that ignorant statement towards the 10 year old boy she was with, but my children overheard it, as did everyone within 100 feet of her, which I believe was her intention.

It wasn't difficult for me to keep my mouth shut. I don't like confrontation, and that lady is free to believe whatever she wants to believe. It kinda saddened me that she was forcing that kind of ignorance onto her 10 year old companion, but it's a free country and not up to me to correct her. What I was able to do was pull aside my own freethinking children and start a little discussion on why that lady said those things.

My girls understand that some people believe in a god, some people believe in gods and goddesses, some people believe in Santa, some people believe in a heaven and some people believe in a devil. They know that I don't.

I don't correct them when they do decide to believe in things that I don't believe in, but they tend to change their mind about what is real and what isn't, as they are still only 4 and 5 years old. Which is fine. I am an atheist, they are not. They are too young to be able to know what they believe in. They are still sketchy about dragons and unicorns, how could they possibly know whether or not there is a divine power that controls us all and decides whether we all live and die? Or whether or not there is life after our bodies stop working?

But as long as I am able to teach them that science can prove many things, but not all (at least not yet), I know I am doing a good job raising my freethinkers.

Picture: The dinosaurs in front of the Indianapolis Children's Museum, trying to break in through the roof.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

As life continues on...

Every so often I take a moment out of my busy day and think about how different my life is from how it 'should have been'. Little things will trigger the overflow of happy thoughts, like missionaries riding their bikes up the street or even certain songs on the radio.

I should be married to a return missionary. I should have a calling in the church, I should have at least 2 additional children by now, I should have mastered the art of quilting and I should be staying at home raising my children. But I am not. My time isn't spent planning lessons for Sunday School, it's not spent quilting and practicing hymns on the piano for Sacrament Meeting, like I thought it would be when I was 12.

I have been keeping a journal since I was very young. I have a few journal entries from Kindergarten, but I didn't really start keeping a steady journal until I was about 9 years old. I love going back and reading my young developing thoughts. I love how I was planning on going to BYU, becoming a teacher, marrying a return missionary, having 17 children and being a stay at home mom. I love how I wanted to get married in the temple. I remember visiting the St. George Temple in Utah and falling in love with the building. That became my favorite temple and the one I wanted to be sealed in. (Sealed: Mormon speak for marriage, but a sealing is forever.)

Sweet memories from a life I used to live. I love looking back at how I embraced the life I was born into. I love how my friends wanted to be veterinarians and ballerinas and all I wanted to be was a mommy. I love reading how my story unfolded. I love how different I am from who I thought I would be. I love that I didn't accomplish any of those young goals.

But looking back at those goals I had set, it saddens me a bit that I wasn't taught to look for a kind, loving partner; I just focused on finding a return missionary. I wasn't taught to be responsible with procreating, I was just focused on having as many children as my body could pump out. I wasn't focused on my own education as a way to better myself for my future, I just focused on going to a Mormon University in the hopes I would find my future husband there. But the sting of sadness just helps me teach my daughters to focus their goals more responsibly.

Where I imagined I would be by the sweet age of 30 is so far from where I am. And it's not a bad thing. I don't feel like I failed somewhere along the way because I am not in a 1950's inspired apron wearing heels, baking brownies, cupcakes and apple pie while singing and dancing around the kitchen. Letting that image of my future self die was difficult, but long overdue.

Don't get me wrong, I do wish I would have finished college. I blame not earning my degree mostly on the fact that making any kind of solid decision isn't my strong point. I am not the kind of girl who knows what she wants and goes out and gets it. I just wish the college courses I have taken and mastered would add up to something called a degree, but with time, I can rectify that.

My life has been painful and wonderful. Being a mother is so insanely frustrating and amazingly rewarding. I think that would be true whether I was Mormon or Christian or Jewish or Atheist. So as much as my life has been so very different than I ever imagined, I am sure my enjoyment of it is strikingly similar to how it would have been had I never doubted god.

I am not the person, wife or mother I thought I would be when I was 12. And even though it's been tough at times to let the Mormon parts of me die, I still look back and love the child I used to be. I can't deny that I am so different than who my parents wanted me to be. I am in such a different place and my children are being raised so differently than I imagined.

Being able to reminisce in the thoughts of my childhood as written by myself gives me all the more reason to buy my daughters journals when they turn 9.