A Secular Childhood: Letters to My Daughter no.1 “Be Proud” and “Indoctrination”

This pandemic has been hard on all of us. I’m going a little stir crazy, but on the bright side, I’ve had plenty of time to write and have been working on several projects.

One project is a collection of letters to my daughter — things I would like her to learn from her secular childhood. Most of the letters are intended for her to read as a teenager and many include stories from her life today as a four-year-old as well as stories from my childhood. 

I would really like to share these letters with you and I plan on posting one or two of them weekly among other posts.

The first two are called, “Be Proud of Where You’re From” and “I Don’t Believe in Indoctrination” with an introduction letter.


My sweet girl,

As I begin to write these letters, you are just barely four years old, but you already have so many questions. I’m doing my best to be clear and forthcoming in my answers. I never want to see your curiosity fade. Never shy away from asking questions. You’re learning as much as you can about the world around you and I only want to encourage your enthusiasm and quest for knowledge, which I hope will continue for a lifetime. Stay inquisitive as your interests and passions unfold.

I’m excited to see the person you will become.




Dear daughter,

When I first went to college, I was occasionally called “fresh off the farm” due to my country accent. I actually worked pretty hard at trying to sound like I was from the city or suburbs. One word where my accent was particularly noticeable was “again”. I would pronounce it “ah-gee-an”. I didn’t even realize I was putting a whole extra syllable in it until it was pointed out to me. I practiced saying “again” over and over and my accent became less noticeable. I now think it’s pretty sad that I was self-conscious of how I spoke and I regret ever trying to change it.

Meanwhile, I had a professor from Mississippi who had lived in Ohio for decades and still had a thick Southern accent. He didn’t care. It was a part of him and even kind of charming. I should have followed his example. 

Today, I am proud of where I’m from and I know I can’t help how I speak. Now I consider it an endearing part of who I am — just like my professor from Mississippi. 

I know as a teen and young adult you will probably want to get the hell out of Ohio — I know I did. And that’s okay. You are free to explore and I encourage you to go.

Our ancestors were some of the first settlers to the Great Black Swamp of Northwest Ohio and our family has lived here for generations. This is my home and I hope you feel that way, too — whether you settle down here or not. I hope you will have many good memories to carry with you as you find your place in this world.

Wherever you end up, please always be proud of who you are and where you’re from. You will always be welcome here.




Dear daughter,

By now you know that I’m an atheist and that’s something that’s very important to me. It reminds me to live life to the fullest, focus on my recovery from mental illness, and see the world through a humanist lens. Basically, it’s intertwined with every aspect of my life.

I will never force you to be like me. I don’t believe in indoctrination. I hope by now I have instilled in you the value of verifiable evidence and empathy, but you are free to explore the world however you would like. I want you to learn as much as you can. 

Always be skeptical and make informed decisions, but your beliefs are yours to define.





Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *