I have a blended family comprised of myself, my (second) husband, my 15 year old daughter, and my 11 year old stepdaughter.  As I sat with them all at dinner a couple of nights ago, I realized that our family unit is comprised of four different types of atheists.  Being new to blogging about my atheism, I am certain that there are defined terms for each subtype, but I don't know them nor do I care.  Descriptions always mean more to me than labels.

Because of my inherent narcissism, I will begin with myself.  I am a victim of childhood indoctrination from birth until I saw the light in my early 30's (now 39).  I was "all in" with full endorphin rushes that were interpreted as "worship" and "spiritual ecstasy." Because of this, I daily experience vestiges of that indoctrination in ways that are insidious.  My mind can often begin to revert to irrational ways of thinking or solving problems, or even to a slave mentality.  I have to be vigilant about my thinking.  My most annoying core belief is that I simply "can't do it on my own."  While my frontal lobes know that is not true, something buried deeply in the emotional centers of my brain still believes that falsehood.

Secondly, there is my husband.  He had a brief stint of christianity after being accosted by campus crusade for christ during a particularly low time in his high school years, but essentially "got over it" in his early 20's for many very rational reasons.  He was never "all in."  He has an easy going nature and  gets very fired up whenever he hears about church/state violations and hypocrisy.  He takes great pleasure in posting snopes articles in response to ridiculous claims by conservative facebook friends, and is occasionally "unfriended" by them.

Thirdly, my daughter.  I victimized her with indoctrination for around three years while still in my questioning phase.  I take some comfort in knowing that it was a liberal, feminist, pacifist church that didn't teach anything about hell.  She came to her own non belief at around age 13. She is very creative, and often has a wish for an afterlife...but sees this in a similar way as her wish to hop into the tardis.  She sees afterlife as a fantasy, although has normal anxiety about death and wishes someone would find evidence of a conscious afterlife.  She seems to be coming to a comfort in knowing that kindness and inspiring others can be her way of making her days meaningful.

Fourthly, my 11 year old stepdaughter is the only one of the four of us that has never had a belief in god.  She has never been indoctrinated.  She has a wonderful innocence and frequently is shocked when she hear about certain teachings of the bible.  Both daughters are completely flummoxed by the concept of discrimination of people who happen to love others of the same gender, or were born with genitals that disagree with self perception.  In fact, my daughter heard a friend talk of going to the "drag races" and she genuinely thought they meant a race where everyone involved dressed in drag, since her dance teacher is a talented drag queen and she has seen him perform.  

Somehow the concept of biblical genocide happened to come up at the dinner table (I don't know how these things happen.)  The girls often ask me to tell them "funny stories" about my weird, ultra religious family.  My husband and I brought up the terrible story of one of the slaughters that happened after the Israelites tricked the "enemy of the day" into getting circumcised, then slaughtered them while they were "recovering."  Yikes!  My daughter was only vaguely familiar with the genocide stories because of "Noah's Ark" and "The Battle of Jericho".  

The conversation went something like this, although I am paraphrasing according to my poor memory...but this captures the spirit.

15 Year Old: 

"How can anyone think that was a good thing?  Are they stupid?  I hate religious people.  I hope none of that really happened.  It's worse than Hitler!"

11 Year Old:

"What's circumcision?  And they think god wants that?"  


(After awkward description of circumcision)  "That was one of those things I never could quite get..."


"I remember having it explained to me in a way that made sense to me at the time, that somehow people deserved all of this for worshipping the wrong god or something."  And I wracked my brain to remember what the rationale had been.  

Then the realization hit me.  I no longer needed intellectual backflips to try to make sense of all of that.  I had spent so much mental effort in my twenties trying to be a christian and make sense of feminist scripture, genocide, anti-gay rhetoric, songs about being "washed in the blood", hell, and general inconsistencies.  I listened to gay christians attempt to have debates with right wingers about how the bible needed to be taken in "cultural context."  I tried to read the original Greek in the verses about women to try to understand what god "really" meant.  I joined a pacifist church.  I wept.  I prayed.  I consulted with any number of "experts."  Why the violent atonement?  Why is sacrificing a child okay...or even necessary?  Why "without the shedding of blood there is no remission?"

Then I heard my dear stepdaughter say..."what's the point?  It's not real anyway."

"Out of the mouths of babes."  I gazed at those around my table with immense gratitude to be surrounded by reason.  They help me heal every day.  

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Comment by Ted Foureagles on August 17, 2013 at 2:40pm

..."Then I heard my dear stepdaughter say..."what's the point?  It's not real anyway.""...

Just beautiful, and a moment ( & child) of which to be proud!

Since we're appropriately talking descriptions rather than labels, I'll attempt to describe another type of atheism.  That's when someone ascribes Truth to only one of the many gods that have been proposed.  They fit a definition of atheism in their attitude toward all the others, and differ in one small (?) step from those of us who revere no god.

My Dear Nephew spent 2nd & 3rd grades in a private Christian school, not because he or his parents are religious, but because it was academically superior to local (South Carolina) public schools.  I asked him what he did in the daily Bible study class, and he said, "Oh I just listen and don't say anything.  It's kind of like Harry Potter, isn't it"?  I've never been more proud of the little guy!




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