Before I was able to read the Bible (or even speak or walk) a man dribbled some water on my head and all the sudden, I was a Lutheran.
Yet, aside from being baptized, religion didn’t play a huge part in my childhood: My family rarely attended church, I went to Sunday school a grand total of one time and we only said grace at Thanksgiving.
While God may not have occupied a huge presence in my household, my family definitely believed in his existence -- that part I knew for sure. But even at a young age, something didn’t feel right for me. Once I was old enough to understand the meaning of fantasies, I found separating fairytales from Bible stories to be a difficult task.
I had no idea that not believing in God was even an option until I was a teenager. In high school, my one-pierced-ear English teacher shed some clarity unto me. One day, he spent the entire class period telling us why he considered “The Wizard of Oz” to be a metaphor for Atheism.
According to this theory, the yellow brick road symbolized life: a journey that Dorothy and her friends believed would end with a great and powerful being (God) that would solve their problems. But, at the end of this journey, this great and powerful being ended up being fake — simply smoke and mirrors. The moral? The only person who can liberate you is yourself.
Not only did I feel as though I had finally found clarity and comfort within my controversial views, but I also felt better able to understand the other side. I understand the relief in having faith in something bigger than myself. I simply choose to reserve this faith for myself.
So, now I had a label. I was an Atheist. By definition, I rejected the belief in the existence of any gods. I was an Atheist and others were not, but, much like Dorothy, I understood the perspectives of other people, so they would surely understand mine. Right?
“You have no idea what that even means,” my father said. “So, I’m going to be in Heaven without you?” my mother said.
The most popular opposition I met came from origins of “Then where did we all come from?” And my consistent answer was, “I have no idea.”
I don’t claim to know all of the answers. But I cannot pretend to have faith in something I don’t believe — although it would be much easier. Atheists typically meet a lot of hostility from believers. Many believers feel that Atheists must worship the devil since we don’t worship a God.
Because of this, my religion has been something I’ve kept mostly to myself. Even some close family and friends have no clue about my beliefs, mainly because society nudged me to feel ashamed about my choice. When they prayed, I bowed my head, closed my eyes and thought about what was for dinner as I pretended to be a part of the masses.
Everything changed six months ago when I had a baby. I brought a little girl onto this planet who would look to me for guidance. I could not let the example I set evoke the notion that it’s okay to hide your true identity because society may not approve.
Nothing scares God-fearing people more than Atheist parents. Those who now know my faith always have the same concern:
“What if you’re wrong?” My mother asked this question the day I told her I did not believe in God. She worries that since I don’t believe in God, I don’t believe in Heaven. So, if I’m wrong about my faith and there is a Heaven, my name probably won’t be on the list.
I will not baptize my daughter. I will read her fairytales. I will teach her evolution. I will not shelter her. She will say the Pledge of Allegiance in school. I will treat her colds with medicine. I will teach her to accept everyone. I will teach her the morals and values in Bible stories.
And when, one day, she asks me about God, I will tell her that I do not think there is one. Then, I admit that I could be wrong. I will urge her to read the Bible, the Torah and other holy texts.
I will encourage her to attend many different churches and places of worship. I will play as big of a role in her spiritual voyage as she wants me to. And I will expect people to be kind to her along her journey.
No matter her decision and no matter what she chooses, I will expect the world to accept her. Because while I may not believe in God, I will always have faith in people.
Top Photo Courtesy: We Heart It