As I have stated elsewhere on this site (and on my own blog, LotusGeek.com
), I am an "out of the closet" atheist. I am a bit unusual as an atheist, and by that I mean that
1) I have been married (mostly happily ;) ) for 25 years this June (that's twenty five YEARS
, in case you missed it), and I have five amazing kids (and one grandkid already!). Most of them are agnostic/atheist, and the rest I'm not sure about (I don't think they're sure either - they're 11 and 12). When people find out that I'm I've been married so long and have five kids they always ask:
-- are you a (Mormon/Catholic/Fundie Christian of some sort/some other religion who has tons of kids)?
-- are they all both of your kids? (I guess most people who have more than 2 kids are "blended families")
-- are any of them adopted?
-- did you figure out what causes pregnancy? (I get really annoyed with this question)
-- and so on (you get the idea)
2) I am also a Unitarian Universalist (UU), and I used to teach RE (Religious Education)
3) I am not only out of the closet, but I proclaim my heathenism (and my love for the FSM - may his noodles stay al-dente and his meatballs stay warm!) - if you don't believe me, look at my avatar pic - that is my work computer (MacBook Pro - MBP), and I speak at 4 - 5 conferences a year, where the attendees see my MBP decorations. I also have a Darwin Fish prominently displayed on the back of my car.
So you now know a little bit about my background, let me get to the heart of this blog entry...
I live in the Deep South (I live in a town called Flowery Branch GA - and it is as small and rural as it sounds), so I am definitely in the minority here. Since I am fully immersed in the Bible Belt Culture, I silently participate in certain traditions down here - and even commit some of them myself.
For instance, my son's football coach has the team cite the Lord's Prayer after every practice and game. I don't mind it, it is a tradition for the team, and I know that my son is very cognizant of their beliefs and doesn't mind either. Keep in mind that my son's football program is NOT a part of the school system, it is managed by the local booster club - which means that saying a prayer does not violate the separation of church and state.
There are many times down here where a prayer is said - and once again I don't mind, I simply feel it is ok to respect other's beliefs even if I don't participate (I do not bow my head or anything).
Another example is a simple one - I say "bless you" when someone sneezes. Once again it is a part of our culture, and it doesn't refernce any particular deity, so I could just as easily be giving an FSM blessing ;)
When my kids visit a family that attends church, and my they are spending the night, I don't mind them going to church; once again I know they have a grounded, objective knowledge of xianity, and are respectful of other people's beliefs. (and sometimes it is fun for them)
There are probably other examples of religion creeping in day-to-day interactions, and I try to respect them.
Now, let me make this clear - if someone overtly tries to force their religion onto me personally, I do not tolerate that. Furthermore if someone around here tries to single me out and overtly prosthelytise to me or my kids, I will not tolerate it.
Now all of this leads me to my question for this august, intelligent community:
What religious customs to you tolerate?
I know that, in a perfect world, we could tell people that we're not comfortable with their custom, or we can't participate because of our (lack of) beliefs - and there would be no repercussions.
But this isn't a perfect world.
And often we must interact with the members of our community on an ongoing basis, and we want to keep the relationship positive and thriving.
So, what do you tolerate? What do you balk at? For you parents, did you tolerance change once you had kids, especially if they're participating in extracurricular activities? What do you teach your kids about religion and tolerance?
OK, OK, so this is more than one question - but you get the idea.
Let me know your thoughts!