Introduction

I grew up within Catholicism since the age of 6years during the 70's, my parents were not practicing religious folk, they were freethinking in all respects. Like all good parents they wanted to send me to the best school, this was a roman catholic school with nuns. My journey was obviously very separate to my parents beliefs. These things, at this age was not spoken about. In fact now my mother is into Daoism & my father before his death found inspiriration in the Buddhist way of life. So it wasn't my parents and their influence that thrust me into Catholicism it was the school I attended. I can only imagine children with parents who were practicing Catholics may not of even had the mindset to even think differently. Guess this is what dogma is all about.

Being a good girl

Prayer & weekly worship was a way of life. My sister dared to do a ouija board outside of school with friends & got suspended. I was never convinced by the religon around me, from my early years I just didn't believe in it all. I just wanted to be myself, at one with nature, climbing trees & enjoying the outdoors. Without religon I was still a good person, I thought, but society dictated I had to be part of a religious group. From early on I just wasn't convinced, something wasn't quite right.

I remember going to confession after our weekly mass & making up that I had hurt my sister, just so I could have my sins forgiven. I had to be a sinner, I didn't feel I could say 'Yes I've been a good girl this week!'. 10 hail mary's later I still didn't feel any better about it. All around me were people that just weren't good, sinister undertones of hyprocricy, not oodles of love or selfless giving. I didn't like the priests either, not the warm father christmas type men you could relate to.

Going against these beliefs or asking questions would make me an outcast. People would treat me differently, like I wasn't good..and I was. Children wouldn't of been allowed to play with me. It was enough my mother was French and foreign, but she made good food, different to the sausage, egg & chips my friends had. The point is different was not good, being an individual was not good and being a girl was not good. The school kindly gave us the skillset of typing and sewing so we could make our way in the world. If we didn't want to get married and wanted a working life we always could be Catholic secretaries that sewed socks!

Being a Christian

It was my mindset for a long time that if I was born in England I was Christian. It was like being English. Any form I filled in or when I was asked, I was a Christian. What else was there? The whole empire was built on Christianity. If you came from Europe you were Christian, if you came from the middle-east your were Muslim. It was that cut & dry.

I left school at 15, it was like a weight lifted from my shoulders but felt I still had to conform. I still had to be Christian to conform with society, if you were an athiest you were bad. Then started my journey into spirituality influenced by mother. Now she hadn't been an influence spiritually to this point, I guess she was on her own journey and probably went through the exact same experience I did at school. I became interested in buddhism thinking it was my only route out of religon. This continued throughout my twenties, trying to find myself, going to mind, body & spirit fairs. Investigating the holistic approach to life. But at the end of the day on that piece of paper I was still Christian.

Throughout my twenties & into my thirties I labelled myself as agnostic. If I didn't believe in god & if he was real then what would I do?. The possibility of ending in damnation was a real one. So many believe right? what if I got it wrong? I would debate with my friends & it would always come down to 'but how do you really know?' and I didn't. I still didn't have the answers to those important questions even if I did believe in god. I was still a Christian on that piece of paper.

The transfomation begins

The internet is a wonderful thing, so much knowledge at your fingertips, I was always curious & loved research into subjects about the human journey & ice ages. I remember writing about how our fear of nature during catastrophic events & natural disasters moved us to worship nature, which turned into religon. All this stuff got me thinking.

I started to look up the definations of labels such as agnostic, humanist & atheist. I went to google one day & typed in 'is it ok to be an athiest?' and started watching videos on youtube of Richard Dawkins & Carl Sagan, this is when I knew it was OK to be an atheist!. I cried. All these great scientific minds who are atheists! It gave me validation.

But that wasn't the end of it. ok now I'm an atheist, so as an example, does that mean I can't celebrate Christmas? I had so many questions, and now begun my settling in years into atheism. So much of our society is built upon Christianity, an atheist still needs to find their place within it. This may have been the toughest time yet. There isn't an atheist handbook. In time I sought answers, loosened the belt of fitting in a box. I could enjoy Christmas & didn't have to have Jesus involved. I became a militant atheist hating all things religious, seeing people who were religious as weak. I then started feeling sorry for them, then after came acceptance.

Life is a journey

life is a learning journey for everyone, an evolution. Just as religon is part of the human journey of evolution. Do I wish I could have been an atheist when I was younger? yes most definately, it's a way of life I would have been so comfortable in. Perhaps if humanity had stuck with nature we would still be there. The truth of the matter is,no matter what we believe in we are all human & from the same place.

More spiritual as an atheist

Years on into atheism and I'm over 40 years old. I'm older & wiser now and have embraced atheism like a comfort blanket....and it's cosy & warm. There are some great minds that campaign for atheism. Being atheist means I can get rid of the rubbish & look with reason at all the information we have now. I can embrace my life & humanity with passion. I see us and the universe as all connected, all living things coming from the same place. There is an overwhelming amount of beauty in nature & science. I have all the answers to life that I need. And it's not cold, it's not dark, I'm not an outcast & I'm still a good girl.

The next generation

The battle and the cycle begins again...

Now this is the bit I was cringing about and you'll see why. My daughter started school last year, we live in the country with one local CofE school, the nearest non-religious school is an hour away, I also work. My choices were home-schooling or an hours travel. My daughter is an only child & needs other children around her, she also gets very car sick 10 minutes down the road. She has grown up with the children of the village that attend this school. They do daily prayers, religious assembly, teach creationism & evolution only in later years <rolls eyes>. Could this of been the same struggle my parents had?

After a huge amount of research I knew my legal standing, I entered her into the school as a freethinker & wrote to & spoke to the head mistress before she started there. I'm glad to say it's nothing like my school was, despite being a church school they are open-minded and good people. My daughter has options and doesn't have to be a part of any religious prayer or ceremony. What's different also is me as a parent, my daughter understands God is a story. But I still get a pit in my stomach feeling from time to time when I think of the indoctrine that comes her way. When they tell stories like Noahs ark, a story of mass genocide no matter how sweet the animals are. Or when I ask her teacher if she believes in creationism and she says yes. What kind of 'intelligent' teacher is teaching my child? <rolls eyes again>

Needless to say, to this day I still have one foot in the school and one foot considering home schooling. Only time will tell. However with a mum like me I hope to be enough of an influence to waft away any lasting harm indoctrine can inflict.

The future

I'd like to see church schools get rid of prayer in the classroom because a classroom is for teaching . My experience suggests to me that at least half the children that attend & their parents do not practice their religon or go to church, but they still put down Christian. This is where it all starts. Maybe if they didn't it would come down to supply & demand.

BUT in this generation I'm pleased to say it's OK to be an atheist!

And what about that peice of paper? ...I put atheist or none of your business. I am no longer Christian!

Views: 128

Comment by Belle Rose on February 25, 2015 at 9:59pm
Good for you Mai, way to stand up to the school like that. That is exactly what I would do in that situation. I think that continuing to write the school of your concerns, and even talking to other parents may begin a grassroots movement towards change. Drawing attention to issues that are important to you is the best way to create change.

From one Mother to another - keep it up girl!

I would also release any guilt you carry around (if any) about not being able to homeschool. Your teaching and influence and the things you talk about with your daughter at home will always take precedent in her mind. The more you educate her at home about what she is seeing, the better equipped she will be to withstand it. And the more you reach out to others, the more you'll realize that you are not alone :)

Hugs
Comment by Pope Beanie on February 26, 2015 at 6:54pm

We decided that, if we were going to homeschool, it would have to be with a group of homeschooling families for socialization and sharing of duties. Ironically, most of those groups around here wanted to homeschool to get more religion into their children. We got lucky in our choice of public schools, and then lucky with scholarships to attend a private, secular school. (We even considered a Catholic school or two.)

Meanwhile, yes, the pressure is to conform to or at least tolerate other people's beliefs, which is especially evident in our choice of politicians on the ballots. The choice is often an easy lesser-of-two-evils choice, based on how proudly pro-Christian the candidate claims to be. Some prayer in school happened to us, and we helped (as much as we could) our kids feel ok to be themselves rather than feel overly pressured by peers. At least Sharia law isn't imposed! I have sympathy for those who are even more heavily pressured to belong to a sect... until of course they start acting like they're better than the rest of the world and highlighting lines between friend and foe "others".

Comment by Mai on February 27, 2015 at 6:51am

Thank you Belle, such a lovely comment. it really helped that the school were informed before she began & the head mistress catches up with me from time to time to make sure everything is ok. they know she can't be forced into anything. The great thing is their motto: Aspire, Believe in yourself, Care for others...which we can all relate to. I keep it to myself with the parents but I do get a bit of 'time off' envy when my daughter doesn't attend church visits. Think this only shows that not all christians want to attend church or are bothered with their religon. My big stumbling block is creationism, at just 4yrs old I had to try & explain the complicated subject of evolution. There is a lack of materials for children, even a simple version of the tree of life. So thought I'd concentrate on getting something together and one day sneaking into the school library :) hugs

Pope Beanie - Thank you for your comment :) yes we are very lucky indeed not to be part of the Islamic state. One thing positive is it puts people off, we will only get more atheists because of it. Things will get banned for being harmful & hateful & for going against human rights. Politicians will become secular because a multi-cultural society dictates it. Let's see it as an evolution towards a secular government & society, maybe it's what humanity needs to wake up, after blowing eachother to bits first of course. Sometimes you will get the bad before the good, much like the dark ages. Here's hoping :)

Comment by Davis Goodman on February 27, 2015 at 10:09pm

Extremely beautiful and very well written. Keep your posts coming :)

Comment by Tom Sarbeck on February 28, 2015 at 12:12am

Mai, may the world's best be yours and your daughter's.

Several weeks ago I found an evolution for kids site on a website connected with the Univ. of California at Berkeley. It was organized into lessons that kids might like.

As I recall I found it at the website of the National Committee for Science Education, a non-profit organization of science teachers that takes part with other organizations in lawsuits to keep creationism out of public school science classrooms.

Their website is NCSE.COM and would have been NCSE.ORG if another group hadn't taken it first. They have a free email information letter written for interested adults that tells of attempts by state legislatures to put creationism material into schools.

My best wishes to you.

Comment by Mai on February 28, 2015 at 4:07am

Thank you guys :)

In the UK creationism has been banned in free schools & academies. But not in church schools, however recently the law/curriculum has changed and they have to teach evolution but not until 10yrs old. Unfortunately this won't change in  the near future, but there are campaigns led by the scientific community to change it ie. keeping religious teaching to religious education classes. What this means is children are still being indoctrinated between the ages of 4-10yrs. How confusing for both sides! It was to my 4yr old.

Tom - thank you the same to you & yours. Thanks for the information, very interesting & I will certainly go and investigate :)

My passion is to bridge this gap in our children's education by writing books based on evolution & non-religious principles. I have already made the school aware of the golden rule which they are incorporating into their ethos as it covers everyone, religious or non-religious.

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