Hello. My name is Atheist Mama, and I'm an atheist. I also homeschool my only child. When people hear the word "homeschool" the image that is frequently conjured is one of a mousy mother in a denim dress. Her 8 children, all perfectly scrubbed and tucked, sit around a big table and hold hands while prayer is said. People envision handwriting consisting of copying scripture and long lunches of tater-tot casserole.
Homeschooling is outside the norm. Having an only child is outside the norm, and having an only child who is homeschooled is even more rare still. But to be an atheist on top of that is a lonely prospect. Fortunately my area is homeschool friendly and it's pretty liberal, so I'm not the only homeschooler in my scope who is not homeschooling for religious reasons. I belong to and run a co-op that is secular, but a vast majority of the members are Christian. Only a few of my closest friends know that I'm an atheist. It's not something that I'm comfortable announcing to the homeschooling world because I don't want to lose friends, for myself or my child. I don't want to get into a debate with a Christian over my non-belief, and I don't want to be seen as trying to shatter someone else's faith.
My co-op offers classes now and then, and those classes have crafts. That means we need a classroom type space that offers sinks, tables, hard floors. Since we don't charge membership dues and are not a Not For Profit, we also need a space that will accommodate us for free. In the past we've used the community centers, but they've recently change policy so that only non(or not-for)-profits and schools can use the rooms for free. The rest of us have to pay $100 an hour.
After much searching, a location was secured in a church basement. I thought long and hard about whether or not I was comfortable participating in a class that is held in a church. The class is one that my son and I have been involved in for two years and it's something that he would miss terribly. However, I hated the thought of being in a church. The thought of crosses and crucifixes filled me with dread. And knowing that my kid would be exposed to that imagery bothered me too. The knowledge that I would be utilizing a space that stands for inequality, intolerance and hate made me feel sick. In the end I decided that it was only two hours a month, there would be no preaching, and it was just a room, so I agreed to attending the class. A fellow homeschooler, who is not atheist (to my knowledge), but is not Christian, declined attendance. The back-lash has been insane! People are calling her intolerant. They are saying that it's unfair that she refuse to be in a house of worship (wow, I nearly spelled that "warship") while they are expected to keep their Christianity quiet in public. Our forum has been invaded by anger and as an Admin, I've had to come in and try to keep the peace. But what I've wanted to do is scream at everyone to shut up. This mother made a decision based on her moral convictions, and that is something we all need to be tolerant of. I have had people tell me that if the class were in a Planned Parenthood they wouldn't attend. If it were held in a space that allows pagan practices or ceremonies, there'd be no way they'd let their child go. Yet a woman makes a decision not to take a class in a Christian church and she is intolerant and closed minded. It's insane and I hate that there is this division.
As an Atheist homeschooler, I hate that my support network cries "Intolerance!" and "Persecution!" whenever someone disagrees with them, yet are unwilling to be tolerant and accepting of someone else's strong beliefs. They become the persecutors and don't even see it. As a homeschooler, I have a fairly small community from which to glean support. Two of my very good friends are Christian and know I'm an atheist. They have been wonderful and accepting, and I started feeling more confident and had even considered coming out of the Atheist closet a little more until this witch-hunt erupted around me.
So here I am, back in the closet with the smelly winter boots. I don't really fit in anywhere, but I hold hope that someday I wont' be the only happy, hippy, liberal, atheist, homeschooling freak.