Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Getting Out There, and Religion

On Monday night, I went to a used curriculum sale. Not only did I find some great stuff, but I got to scope out a local homeschool co-op for the first time. Well, not counting the "recess" day we went to the previous week at a huge indoor park (Amazone). We had a great time there and I did meet a few nice people, but I wasn't able to have a conversation with anyone for longer than about 60 seconds because I kept having to run off and chase Bug. At the sale, though, I was kid-free and able to meet and talk to several homeschooling moms and pick their brains. This is an area where I know I will constantly have to push myself out of my comfort zone, as I am not exactly a social butterfly. As an introvert, I am generally quite content in my own company and am not terribly outgoing. Although I am friendly, I am fairly shy and socially awkward - I guess that great public school socialization I received didn't quite "take". (Haha) But I feel like I need to get out there and get involved, for the kids' sake, and to have something to offer for critics' questions about socialization. I would be really happy to meet a few families of similar mindset, values, and interests to ours. The biggest hurdle for me is that most of the people I have come across so far are very religious, and we are not. Specifically, there seem to be many homeschoolers out there who are shunning school so they can teach their kids things like Intelligent Design and that the Earth is just 6,000 years old. Which I quite deeply disagree with. This co-op is actually at a large "megachurch" which already makes me a smidge uncomfortable. Not only am I struggling to keep others' differing beliefs from being a deal-breaker for me, in terms of forming potential friendships, but also to keep my views to myself and prevent my beliefs from being a deal-breaker for them as well. I think I can do this, but can they?

I grew up in a Christian family, went to church and all that... but as I got older I questioned the things I was taught more and more. Over time, as I have read and thought a lot about it, I have come to a point where I consider myself to be an Atheist. I am simply not sold on the idea of the existence of an all-powerful supernatural being. I think the human need to believe in such is primitive and unneccessary, and in my opinion, organized religion often functions as an instrument of control, using guilt, shame, and fear as their main tools. And I reject that. If there is any such thing as divinity, I think it exists within each individual, although it seems like most people are unable to recognize this in themselves. There seems to be a general perception of Atheists as angry, hateful, and without morals, which really bothers me. I am probably one of the happiest and most well-adjusted people you will ever meet. (I'm not saying I'm perfect or that I never have a cranky moment - I do have plenty of them! - but overall I'd say I'm on a pretty even keel.) On the rare occasion I have "come out" to someone as an Atheist, the reaction is always surprise. To quote my boss, "You?!? Really?!? But you're so... nice!" I have a strong sense of right and wrong, and I believe in being kind and treating others as I would like to be treated. I think the universe is a beautiful, mind-blowingly amazing place, and I am filled with a sense of awe when I contemplate it. And I just don't find that I need to have a God to feel that way.

Back to the homeschool co-op. It seems like a group of very nice people - I enjoyed the conversations I had and I felt welcome. I think it will be a great resource for us. Although I will continue to keep looking for more secular homeschool groups and events, I am going to try to keep an open mind and see what happens with this co-op too. After all, we do share this great common goal of nurturing and teaching our children, and raising them to be good, happy people.

Oh, and here are the goodies I came home with from the sale:

Many of the books were 50 cents or a dollar; the most expensive book I bought was $5. Not pictured is a cool number flipchart I got for 75 cents and a rotating multiplication/division tube/chart thing that was free. I got some books for the kids, some for me, and some "sample pieces" of curriculums I had been wanting to check out. Score!


  1. Amen, sister! (Hehe). You couldn't have said it any better regarding your thoughts on religion - I agree 100%. It really bothers me that Athiests are labeled as bad people...some of the most morally corrupt people I know are deeply religious. I assume many people in my life would be shocked to learn that I am against organized religion and would suddenly change their feelings about what kind of a person I am if they knew, and that's a shame.

  2. Thank you, Stacy. I am constantly torn between keeping it to myself, for the exact same reasons you stated, or just being myself and putting it out there. It does seem like there's a difference in tolerance between those of different faiths, than between those of faith vs. those without.

  3. Hi jennifer. I got here from a link you left at Friendly Atheist. While I don't have the image of atheists as angry and amoral (being a happy, trying to be moral atheist myself), I definitely have had a picture of home schoolers as fundamentalist christians. So thank you for working to break that stereotype (even as you acknowledge it!).

  4. Hi Jennifer!!!
    I am a christian but I really enjoyed how atheist are nice people. I think this is a misconception all over... ;) I encourage you to continue on this journey of blogging. I look forward to reading more about you and your family and the life of homeschooling in your home!

  5. We went to our first meeting w/our Christian-focused group this week. We had a moment, like you, when a mom talked about taping together the pages of a science book because it showed a "half-man, half-ape" picture. They will be attending the Creation musuem in Kentucky. We will NOT. But--there were a lot of generous, friendly people. I thought of us as non-Christian missionaries among the Christians--you know, to show them that people of other beliefs (or lacking thereof) can get along and are not evil.

  6. Look like you got some great deals!

  7. Hi Jennifer
    Thanks for putting yourself out there. You sound like a really nice person. I can understand why you've been turned off religion. It's true that a lot of religions and religious people are judgemental and controlist. I am a Christian but I don't believe in the "earth was created in 6 x 24 hr days" theory. We homeschool through a secular school of distance enducation. Even though we believe in creation we did not stop our daughter from learning about the evolution theory in science. She came to her own conclusion - that she does not believe in evolution. I look forward to following your blog.

  8. "There seems to be a general perception of Atheists as angry, hateful, and without morals, which really bothers me."

    Some of that might come from you doing things like mocking Christianity (e.g., see distorted ichthys symbol just to the left of the comment box). Also, some of it might have to do with the average atheist being more accepting of things like divorce/remarriage, homosexuality, premarital sex and polyamory.

    In my experience, though, one's basic ethical outlook is formed in childhood and the negative consequences of atheism/agnosticism are most keenly felt by the poor and future generations. Religion in the US, despite all the faults of the religious, has a profoundly beneficial effect on the disadvantaged and future generations. Also, as Dr. Ariely of Duke has demonstrated, even atheists are influenced by recalling the edicts of a God they allegedly don't believe in. In other words, it is not the behavior of individual atheists living amid a wider religious culture that worries people nearly as much as widespread atheism that would remove the solid ethical foundation and protective benefits to society that religion provides.

  9. " might have to do with the average atheist being more accepting of things like divorce/remarriage, homosexuality, premarital sex and polyamory."

    True, I don't have a problem with any of these things. (Okay, I might not *get* polyamory, but what consenting adults choose to do with each other is none of my business. I am, of course, against it being imposed on minors, and/or against one's consent - which has been done in the name of RELIGION in the past)

    "...even atheists are influenced by recalling the edicts of a God they allegedly don't believe in."

    This statement is offensive to me. When you say that we "allegedly" don't believe in god, are you saying that you don't believe Atheism is possible? It may be hard for a person of faith to understand, but we really, truly, just plain don't buy it. By saying that I "allegedly" don't believe, you are effectively calling me a liar. Why would I lie about this? It's not something one generally receives a positive reaction for, in most circles.

    Also, I do realize that religious organizations are responsible for many charitable works in the world, but what about the many multi-million dollar "megachurches" that are built, whose funds could have instead fed a great many hungry and clothed a great many poor? It's downright obscene. Also I have to wonder how many religious people are out there doing charitable works, only out of fear of eternal punishment or in hope of eternal rewards? Is it really "moral" to control people in this way? I say no.

    How much farther ahead could the human race be, without all of the wars, hatred, killing, etc. caused by religion (and differences thereof) throughout history? Not to mention the blatant stifling of science and reason that is perpetuated by certain religious groups.

    Religion may be responsible for some good, but it is also responsible for a lot of very bad stuff too, and I personally don't believe the good outweighs the bad.

    Also, I can believe and live by the "Golden Rule" (i.e. treat others as you wish to be treated) without needing a mythical/supernatural being to command me do so.

    "With or without religion, you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion." - Steven Weinberg

    "Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from a religious conviction." - Blaise Pascal.

    "I'm not convinced that faith can move mountains, but I've seen what it can do to skyscrapers." - William Gascoyne

  10. “ By saying that I "allegedly" don't believe, you are effectively calling me a liar. Why would I lie about this? It's not something one generally receives a positive reaction for, in most circles.”

    A) The comment I made was not specific to you, but to large statistical samples of atheists.
    B) I never called them liars. Such a thought never crossed my mind. I don’t doubt for a minute that they sincerely believe what they say. That said, I’m not sure many self-identified atheists are as atheist as they claim to be just as I’m not convinced many Christians are as Christian as they claim to be.

    I guess I was getting at what I consider to be a fact of human nature: we don’t really know ourselves all that well. It is no surprise that “know thyself” has been an aphorism used by Plate as received wisdom from before the age of the Greek power. It’s just a fact of human nature: we take lots of positions that we don’t reflect on deeply, and even when we do, it is not uncommon to change sides later after further reflection. This is evidenced in all sorts of ways. For instance: over half of Americans identify themselves as pro-life. Yet, a majority also wants abortion to remain legal and when faced with the possiblity of giving birth to a Down’s Syndrome baby, 80-95% of Americans abort (there is some controversy with the precise statistic, but it is an overwhelming majority).

    When it comes to atheism, it is not uncommon to wonder how strongly many atheists hold to their viewswhen faced with old age or death.. Getting older tends to temper many atheists, as does tragedy. While some religious people run from God when faced with tragedy, people also often run the other way. We, as human beings, tend to lead unexamined lives. Throw in the fact that it is a huge topic, far more complicated and nuanced than any engineering course I’ve taken, and this is a perfectly understandable response.

    Atheists also have the worst retention rate of any belief system. In my experience as a Christian, those whose children don’t follow in their footsteps do so either because they don’t respect their parents’ lives or they perceive in their parents an indecision about what they really believe and go off in search of something they can trust more fully: for some this ends up being a mixture of materialism and science, for others Mormonism, other people never really settle and end up agnostics, etc. It is certainly a fair question, though, to ask how fully large statistical samples of people embrace atheism when 70% of their children reject it.

    Certainly, lots of people who make a concerted effort to deeply examine the issues end up switching sides from atheist to religious and vice versa.

    This does not even begin to raise the topic of self-deception which both religious and atheists experience.

    Anyway, I never called anyone a liar (that’s jumping to unwarranted conclusions). I just meant to point out that studies have shown even atheists change their behavior when asked to recite the Ten Commandments before making an ethical decision: I think deep down (often at the subconscious level) many are conflicted.

    I would think that any thoughtful atheist would want to consider these topics as open for discussion without taking offense. After all, their children certainly will think about them.

  11. I assure you, I do know myself quite well and came to be atheist after much thought, study, and reflection. As I said in the main body of the post, I was raised in a Christian household. I began questioning things somewhere around the age of 13 and it was a slow but consistent journey from "believing" - because that's what I was taught as a child by people I trusted - to finally going "Wait a minute, I just plain don't believe this stuff" in my thirties. When I read the Bible (and I have, and do!) it is very clear to me that the stories are exactly as real as those in any book of Greek mythology.

    And I can understand why people have "death-bed conversions" - because death is scary. The idea of there being something afterward is lovely and quite comforting, but just because one desperately wants something to be true, that does not make it so.

    Also, while I know that it does happen that people occasionally convert from atheism to religion, I think it's much rarer than you state - I'm sorry but I have to say that I'm quite skeptical about the "study" you linked to since it was done by a religious organization. (CARA = Center for the Applied Research of the Apostolate, a Catholic non-profit) If you could present some data from an unbiased source, I would be interested to read it.

    And finally, as a moral code, the Ten Commandments are a joke. Well, half of them are anyway. Sure, I can get behind "Respect your parents, don't murder, don't steal, don't cheat, and don't lie" but the rest? Meh. How about "Don't rape", "don't abuse/molest children", or maybe, "be kind to others and take care of those who are in need?" I could have a lot more respect for that. The first half of the ten commandments sound more like the words of a petty, jealous, HUMAN character than a divine being. Perhaps they were created by humans who had an interest in controlling the masses and keeping them pacified and obedient?

    One point we do agree on:

    "I’m not convinced many Christians are as Christian as they claim to be."

    Me neither. I honestly don't see how anyone could rationally and logically examine religious beliefs, and still retain them.

  12. Hello. I stumbled upon this today. I am a mother of three and happily married in Chesterland Ohio. We are considering a move to sagamore hills and I was looking for home schooling, e schooling, un schooling moms who may share similar interest. Could you email me at if you hold any groups/get togethers? Thank you! Noelle


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