Friday, August 15, 2014

What do little freethinkers believe in?

My eldest daughter started at a new school this year for third grade.

As with most schools, she spent the first few days setting up her desk, meeting new friends and getting to know her teacher.

Her teacher passed out a 'getting to know you' type assignment that was decked out with conversation bubbles that had prompts and empty lines for the students to fill in their answers.

The topics covered most topics that these things tend to do. Favorite color, favorite food, favorite animal, pets in the home, family members, etc.

But something on this mundane, average assignment stood out to my daughter. One of the bubbles had the phrase, "I believe in..."

While it didn't strike her as odd at first, when the class gathered to share their answers, it was clear that she was in a room full of theists. Almost every single child in her classroom had followed the above prompt with 'god' or 'Jesus' or 'god's love' or other various religious type things.

This struck her as odd. She herself had written down the word 'myself'. But the first thing that her classmates thought of was 'god'.

I am not saying that third grade theists don't believe in themselves, or that the third graders didn't honestly feel like that would be the best thing to write down. I just found it wonderful that my child believes in herself over a pseudo-higher power.

The surprise in her voice while telling me this quip led me to think about the things I teach my children to believe in as freethinking children of an atheist mother.

I have taught my daughters to believe in themselves, to believe in love and to believe in me and their daddy. I have taught my daughters to believe that people are good, that life is beautiful and to believe that no matter what happens, there is always a silver lining.

We believe that even though there is no thing as literal magic, that magic surrounds us in the form of 'karma' or 'fortune' or 'souls', those feelings and forces that are difficult to describe, but easy to feel. We believe in forgiveness, strength, and bravery. We believe in Science, not because we really want to, but because it is transparent and we can question the validity of hypothesis and understand the basis of theories.

We believe that good people will do good and bad people will do bad, not because the devil or demons, but because of life experiences, and poor decisions. We believe that kindness can conquer all and that in order to be wonderful people we need to exude that love and understanding onto others. We believe in loyalty, friendship and honesty.

We believe that this life is all we get, so we take care of our Earth, of each other, and of those less fortunate than ourselves (it's their only life too). We believe that after we die, our energy will continue on, as energy never ends. We believe that through everything, we are stronger with each other and that we need to fill this life with as much wonder as we can because before too long, it will be over.

We believe that there is more to life than politics, religion, and hate. We believe in people and the inherent goodness in people's hearts.

I know a lot of people want so desperately to believe that atheists don't believe in anything, but that couldn't be further from the truth. I believe in so much more now that I have shed Mormonism. I don't just believe in a god and doubt the sinners around me. I believe in the people who surround me and doubt the existence of mythical creatures.

Not all atheists are alike, just like not all theists are alike. And it makes me so happy that even though my third grader realized just how many children in her class are theists, it didn't stop her from finding three new friends in class during the first week of school.


Anonymous said...

I may lose my job after spending the last several hours reading every single post on your blog, in chronological order. Worth it.

I'm 31 and began doubting my LDS faith 3 years ago while I attended BYU Law School, of all places. The deep intellectual atmosphere led me to question more than my opponent's argument, I began to apply reason, logic and intellect to everything in my life. The first part of me to go was my political upbringing (yes, of course, Republican), so I now tell everyone I'm apolitical. But soon after, doubts as to my faith began.

Less than a week ago, I told my wife I no longer had faith in God or religion of any kind. She clearly laid out that she'd likely divorce me, since she meant to find her an eternal companion and my leaving the Church wouldn't fit the plan. Since that evening, we haven't discussed it, so we'll see.

I wanted more than anything to find someone who could describe their journey, and this is where I ended up. Thank you for everything you've shared. I don't have as judgmental of a mother as you've described yours to be, but my father will likely never forgive me, nor will several of my siblings. I guess that remains to be seen.

Thank you again. Your posts on raising your children as freethinkers are especially enlightening, I myself have a 4 year old boy and 2 year old girl, plus another on the way, and I'm wondering how to approach their upbringing. Every story helps.

C. L. Hanson said...

This post has been nominated for a 2014 Brodie Award in the category of "Most Interesting Interfaith Interaction". Please go here if you would like to vote for it! :D