Monday, October 15, 2012

Raising a Pirate: Why You Don't Need God to be Good

I was raised in a strict, Irish Catholic household. We went to Church every Sunday, said our prayers, and had my first communion. I went to CCD classes, said my Hail Mary's, and even sang in the Christmas Choir. I grew up believing everything I was taught until I was old enough to question things and really have my own opinion. Then I decided Catholicism was not for me. It wasn't just being bored during mass or not liking the taste of communion. It was a feeling that I couldn't be a part of this group that had such strong opinions opposing mine.

I know religion is a touchy subject, so I want to be clear that this is my personal experience and how I felt/feel. Your beliefs and feelings are probably different, and that's ok. In fact, that's kind of the point I'm getting to.

I vividly remember the day I didn't want to be Catholic anymore. I was sitting in mass with my family when the priest began a part of mass where we all prayed for others. He would mention people in the community who were ill or people affected by a natural disaster, etc. Then, lumped in with these prayers, the priest said "Let us pray for those who are blind to the evils of homosexuality." At that moment my heart skipped a beat. I had that feeling you get in your gut when something isn't right or you've been done wrong. How could you call love between two people evil? This brought up a whole slew of internal questions. The Catholic Church is kind of an all or nothing organization. There were other things that I didn't agree with, so I wasn't considered Catholic if I didn't believe or practice everything they preached. This was just my final realization that it wasn't the place for me.

My sister and I staged a dramatic exit shortly after this revelation. We stormed out of the side door during mass in tears after our parents forced us to go to church. We had asked nicely not to go and stated our concerns, but they were ignored. Finally, once we showed how passionate we were by walking out, they complied. I don't think it should have had to go that far. It doesn't make sense to force someone to believe in religion if they don't want to.

I learned a lot from this experience, and it taught me a lot about how I want to raise my child. I would never force my child to go to church, worship God, or partake in a religious ceremony if he didn't want to. Religion is a personal choice, and he can make that choice for himself. I will not prevent him from choosing religion either. If he wants to read the Bible, or the Torah, or the book of Buddha, I will support him. I will not baptize my son, because that is something that cannot be undone. I often wish I could be un-baptized. I will allow him to choose what is right for him, and what he is passionate about. I will not force him to believe in higher power. 

What I will teach my son is how to be a good person and kind to others. I will teach him about love, even between people of the same sex. He will say "please" and "thank you" and "excuse me". I will raise him to respect other people and their opinions. He will also learn to form his own opinions on things. I will also teach him to be proud of who he is. I am a proud atheist, but that doesn't make me a bad person. I still have morals, just like Catholics. I don't need God or religion to know how to treat people. 

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