“You’re taking him to church, aren’t you?”
If I had a dollar for every time I’ve been asked this question whilst raising my sons, I’d be a millionaire.
The answer to that question would be both yes and no. My children have been to church. They understand what religion is about. However, I do not practice any religion, and so no, my children were never taken to church on a regular basis. We went when they wanted to explore their own spirituality, and back before I fully embraced myself for who I truly am, I followed the teaching of my church and had my children baptized as babies. Rituals aside, I’m just not a religious person, so I eventually left my indoctrination at the doorsteps and never turned back.
Have my children suffered because of this? Ask that question of some people about my children, and the answer would be yes. Ask me and other like-minded individuals, and the answer would be not only no, but definitely not.
Here’s the thing, just because I have no religious affiliation does not mean I condemn religion. Yes, I believe most organized religion is divisive and leads to atrocity many times over. No, I do not believe there is any room in my personal life for religion. No, I do not want to be preached to about my afterlife damnation. No, I do not need anyone to save my soul. I am spiritual in my own unique way. I believe myself to be a minute speck in the universe—only a tiny portion of the world. My job, I think, is to stick with what I find to be true in order to create a genuine me. Fake is never good for the world. Not that my opinions regarding religion really matter much in the grand scheme of things. My opinion is not the alpha and omega, but I wish others could value my right to my opinion as an individual just as I value theirs.
See, I don’t think religion is outmoded. It’s just not for me. The fact that I raised my children with the ability—and my full permission, to explore spirituality and choose what resonates with them, does not make me a horrible parent. I’m not mother of the year by any means, but I absolutely think I never “abused” my sons by allowing them the freedom to find their genuine selves. I also never disallowed religion in my home, as some might say.
Of my three sons, one is atheist, one is undecided, and guess what? One is Christian. They’ve all made these choices by their own journeys through research and discovery. They’ve taken a philosopher’s journey by asking questions, reading, thinking, and visiting different religions. Moreover, whatever they chose was welcomed and accepted at home. We respect others and their choice of religion in my home because spirituality does not begin as a group activity. It is deeply personal and private. So to reject someone for their religion is to reject that person’s autonomy. It doesn’t matter what I think of certain religious groups who might be off-putting to me personally. It matters that not all individuals act as a certain group conducts themselves. That’s probably the one thing I did express to my children about religion. One does not equal all and all does not break down to be identical individuals.
Some might categorize me as either an atheist or agnostic. I tend not to group myself at all. I’m just who I am. Labels are, I think, unnecessary. My kids are who they are, too. They’re happy, healthy individuals who learned to respect and value the opinions of others. Maybe, since they each found their own belief systems without me forcing ideology on them, their beliefs are even more pure and strong than if I had. There was no rulebook complete with punishments if they didn’t follow one certain path. They forged that path for themselves, and they’re happy where they stand.
Parents raising their children as I did catch a lot of hell (pardon the pun). People would like the world to think that folks like me are the cause of worldwide woes. Some think we’re the bringers of eternal woe. I beg to differ. Maybe what’s wrong with the world is not enough tolerance. Maybe people with open hearts and minds, are the solution.
Tammie Niewedde shares her life with 24, 21, and 16 year old sons. She also has a 2 year old grandson whose energy level reminds her exactly how old she is (40, and she owns that proudly!). In her home, you will find a 120 pound fur factory named Dexter and a few cats whom have decided that she is merely their staff. The root of her love for books, writing, and animals comes from being a child whose only siblings were books and her animals. She is a full-time student, mother, coordinator of all that is chaos, and a hopeless list maker. Most of her writing is creative non-fiction that describes her real life adventures. Her acerbic, biting sense of humor may capture your heart, or it may induce rage. Nonetheless what she writes is true to life. You can often find her hanging out with the kiddos, studying, reading, writing, and making lists…of everything! You can find her on Facebook!