God always gets all the credit.

I hate it when someone recovers from a medical condition and god gets all the credit. It’s a miracle! He’s either good or mysterious, right? If I was a doctor that would infuriate me.

But there’s something even worse.

A few years ago, a friend of mine overcame a hardship at work. This friend – who had never been religious in the past – credited god for her success. She said she couldn’t do it on her own so god must have been helping her. Well, obviously she could do it and it’s absolutely heartbreaking that she couldn’t recognize her own inner strength.

People are resilient and should take credit for their personal accomplishments.

Of course, this inspired me to write a poem…

 

You Didn’t Need God

You said you couldn’t do it alone
But you did.
We are all powerful
In our own lives.
Scale that jagged cliff,
Surf those tempest-swept waters–
You are in charge.
You’re secretly surefooted,
Resourceful with undiscovered confidence.
What you think is strength in god
Is really strength within yourself.
You are more capable than you know.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reproductive Rights for My Daughter

I am a strong pro-choice supporter. Toledo only has one abortion clinic left, and it struggles with everything from vandalism to Ohio’s backward legislation. But they are hanging on with everything they’ve got for the reproductive rights of us here in Northwest Ohio.

Abortion in Ohio

Separation of church and state is a nice idea, but in Ohio, it’s painfully obvious that it doesn’t exist. Ohio has passed some of the strictest abortion laws in the country, and now many of our state senators are urging the Supreme Court to revisit Roe v. Wade.

The Religious Right Destroys Our Future

Without access to abortion, the religious right holds women’s fate in shackles. Since women are the ones who bear children, it is so important to our future that women are able to choose when and if they will have children.

The only reasoning for these laws comes from scripture. If you don’t like abortion – fine. Don’t get one. But don’t use your religion to control everyone else. You’ve been doing that for centuries.

Rights for My Family in Ohio

Ohio is my home and I don’t want to be anywhere else, but sometimes I feel guilty raising a daughter here. She deserves better.

When I was 16, I spent a year abroad in Denmark so I know first hand that there are places where reproductive rights aren’t contested. I don’t want to leave Ohio to attain rights and equality. This is my home and I want it here.

As a mother, I want what’s best for my daughter and I feel like I shouldn’t have to look far from home to get it. Reproductive rights are so essential to our future. I hope progress will be made and one day our oppressed reality will be the distant past for my daughter.R

Midwest Mom Coming Through!

Play Date

In a quiet neighborhood
Tucked between accountability and appearances
I live among you – the outwardly faithful

With my soccer mom SUV,
Weekly gymnastics classes,
Over-the-top birthday parties,

Picky eater battles,
Car seat wrestling,
And inevitable grocery store meltdowns.

My silent anger presses
Behind my warm, neighborly smile.
Your small talk is carefree and careless.

Would you let your bratty kid
Play with my bratty kid
If you knew I was an atheist?

 

 

 

 

 

The Inner Turmoil of Questioning God

I grew up thinking something was wrong with me. My family has lived in Northwest Ohio since before the Civil War and yet I’ve never felt like I fit in here. My feelings towards religion have always been a glaring difference between me and other people in the area; however, this difference was more painful and destructive in my childhood. Everyone else was obviously seeing something I couldn’t. No one wants to be different as a kid, so I kept my thoughts to myself. (Although, that changed when I was a teenager.)

Skepticism as a Child

It seems like many question the existence of god as an adult, but did any of you question as a child? I have always been skeptical but then again I didn’t have much religious influence from my immediate family growing up. I felt pressure from classmates and their families.

The Struggle of Questioning in Secret

I would go to church with friends and try to “force” myself to believe. My fellow churchgoers were probably unaware of my inner turmoil, but now as an adult, I wonder how many of them were in the same boat. There are more of us than we know. This thought inspired a recent poem of mine:

 

Stuck in the Closet

There are crowds of atheists
cloaked in the long shadows of steeples –
even more than we know.

They swallow the truth
Because they think they have to,
Because maybe they were raised that way.

One, two, ten years
In a dark closet –
Their thoughts echo in the loneliness.

They secretly question as
A tortured mind now liberated
But another voice suppressed.

They’re scared
But even more angry.
I know that innermost turmoil.

Let that anger fuel progress –
A passionate fire that lights the way.
The most liberated life is an honest one.

 

How common is Skepticism?

Humans are curious creatures and skepticism seems natural. You would think questioning god would be a normal part of growing up. It’s unfortunate that feeling skeptical at any age can be a painful experience – no matter how common it really is.

I wish I had the ability to tell everyone that has secretly questioned (including my younger self) that there is absolutely nothing wrong with him or her. Imagine how powerful that would be.

 

Did any of you have a time where you were questioning god in secret? Has being skeptical ever been a painful experience?

Thoughts on Baptism

We didn’t baptize our daughter. We didn’t give in to family and we didn’t do it “just in case”. I think it’s disrespectful when people know you’re atheist and think you should baptize your baby anyway.

 

 

I love to write poetry and I hope you don’t mind me sharing a poem I wrote on this topic:

 

Baptism

 

Every innocent baby
is born tainted
new to the world
but on a direct path to hell.

A cold splash of submission
followed by pictures and cake
saves their blank slate souls
and fulfills a family’s outdated duty.

The child has been marked
for indoctrination, brainwashing,
and conformity –
A fresh young mind in chains and shackles.

Water should just be water
in a meaningless ceremony
but it becomes a deadly weapon
recruiting for a dangerous army.

Let the well dry up.
Let the children free.
Let’s defeat the army
that has imprisoned us all.

 

 

Baptism is such a bizarre ritual. I’ll never understand it.

 

 

 

Uncomfortable Conversations at Work

I really don’t think it’s anyone’s business what anyone believes in at work, but let’s face it; many people see their beliefs as an important part of their identity. They carry it with them everywhere.

Most people where I work are Christian and they’re not afraid to very openly express their beliefs. There have been more than a few discussions that have left me feeling uncomfortable. I fear discrimination and ridicule so I keep my mouth shut. At the very least, throwing my two cents in would make things extremely awkward, and there’s no escape – I need this job.

There’s been so many times where I felt I should stand up and address the issue – being an advocate in my own life could pave an easier way for local atheists in the future – but I always choose to just go about my business and say nothing.

Sometimes I think that maybe I’m too sensitive and it’s not as big of a deal as I’m making it out to be. However, deep down I fear that’s not the case.

 

How do you guys deal with situations like this at work? Have you ever faced discrimination?

Denmark Made Me Who I Am Today (20+ Years Later)

I grew up in rural Northwest Ohio and although my family has lived here for several generations, I’ve always felt like an outsider. I struggled with my feelings towards religion throughout my childhood and frequently dreamed of moving far away.

A Year Abroad Defined My Values

When I was 16, I was given an amazing opportunity to study abroad. I spent one life-changing year in Denmark. When I say life-changing, I really mean it. I’m now 37 and my experiences in Denmark still affect me today. It shaped my values – how I feel about parenting, working, politics, social issues, human rights, and just about everything else.

In Denmark, I met people who were openly atheist for the first time. That had a huge impact on me a few years down the road. I had never met anyone who wasn’t Christian let alone an atheist.

Even though Danes are often known as quiet, I came back to Ohio pretty outspoken. Just knowing there’s a whole big world outside of Ohio gave me confidence. I was counting down the days until I could leave.

My Exchange Year Had Lasting Effects

I had one more painstaking year of high school left when I came back from Denmark. It was the longest year ever. I was constantly protesting at our absurdly conservative “public” school. I even got a detention for walking out during the prayer at one of our football games. I was pretty proud of it. (Still am, actually.)

When I was in my early twenties and finally called myself an atheist, I thought about my experience in Denmark and I knew what I was doing was okay. I knew that there were lots of good people who were atheists – almost a whole country full actually. Just because I don’t fit in at home doesn’t mean it’s wrong.

Now that I’m a mother, I’m really hoping my daughter will get a similar opportunity one day. It would be hard to send her away just like it was for my dad, but I feel it’s an extremely important experience that can potentially shape a person’s future. I just hope we will have the resources at that time to make it happen.

Life Back in Ohio

Today I’m pretty shy. I tend to avoid social situations. I would love to be fearless again like I was as a teenager.

I did leave Ohio but only to return a couple of years later. Now I absolutely love living in Toledo. I have all the opportunities and conveniences of a city but I’m still close to my family in the outlying area. Plus, Toledo’s just a neat place. The city just has this spirit or attitude about it that’s hard to describe – gritty yet hopeful, maybe? We’re in the rustbelt but still kicking.

Sometimes I still feel like an outsider in Ohio, but you know what? This is my home, too, damn it.

 

 

I’m an Atheist with a Mental Illness.

I am so happy to have this opportunity to write for Free Thought Blogs. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a while.

An Atheist Writing About Mental Health

Before coming to FtB, I wrote for a popular mental health site. I would use my own experiences living with schizoaffective disorder to write articles that were hopefully uplifting and helpful. Some of my articles were painfully honest when it came to describing my own ups and downs in recovery. I always tried to keep it positive and I tended to stress the importance of medication and treatment.

Having schizoaffective disorder and being atheist seems somewhat unique, but last week a commenter showed me that I’m not alone. I thought that was really cool. Most others I meet with schizoaffective disorder and other forms of schizophrenia tend to be religious.

Religious Influence on Mental Illness

Many people associate schizophrenia with religious delusions, and it does seem somewhat common. I have seen this and it’s definitely eye-opening. I feel very fortunate to be doing well and not suffering from these kinds of symptoms.

What causes religious delusions? I mean, the original ideas of religious beliefs must have been planted at some point before the delusions developed, right? I’m assuming this happens before the person is known to have a mental illness.

However, I feel religious influence after a diagnosis is just as frightening. A mental illness is a serious condition that requires treatment. You can’t pray a mental illness away. Religion often gets in the way of people getting the help they need. People with mental illness are just another vulnerable population oppressed by religion.

Mental Illness Requires Medical Treatment

Sometimes you don’t see how sick you really are until you’re feeling better. It’s an important revelation in recovery, but you have to be willing to accept treatment.

I am so grateful for modern medicine and science for developing treatments to alleviate my symptoms. I’m not saying every day in recovery is easy, but for me, most days are. I take a few pills and go about my day. I don’t have to do anything strenuous or time-consuming to feel better. I don’t mind taking pills. It feels like a simple solution to a complicated problem. A lot of people look down at psych meds, but why suffer if you don’t have to? I know how much they have helped me.

Will My Mental Illness Affect My Credibility?

One thing I was scared about when I decided to write about atheism is that religious people would be quick to discredit me based on my mental illness diagnosis. Just like with the religious delusions, people with forms of schizophrenia are stereotyped with some horrible symptoms and behaviors. For many sufferers, these stereotypes just aren’t the case. Also, recovery can be quite transformative. Years of recovery have taught me how to quickly recognize when to ask for help but also how to help others. I actually feel the skills you learn in recovery make you a little saner than most.

An Important Commonality

I’ve noticed that atheists and people in recovery have something very important in common – the ability to express empathy. I choose to make that a guiding force in my writing as well as my everyday life.

 

Thoughts? Feelings? I would love to hear from others with a mental health diagnosis. How does your illness affect your atheist views?

 

Exposing Your Child to Religion

My daughter is our only child and she’s only three, so we’re definitely learning as we go. In many ways, my daughter’s childhood is already very different from mine which makes me feel like I have even less direction. I spend a lot of nights worrying about what’s to come.

Reasonably Protected vs. Overly Sheltered

I’m very careful with my daughter when it comes to religion. I just don’t want her around it because I know religions prey on the young.

However, I also don’t want my daughter to grow up ignorant and afraid. I want her to at least know what religion is.

How do I balance between protecting her and adequately exposing her to the world around her?

I would like to think that young people are less religious than my generation and my parent’s generation, so maybe this won’t come up, but what if my daughter’s friends from school go to church and she wants to go with them? Peer pressure is a powerful thing. I want to say no but I also don’t want people to think I’m an asshole.

For the most part, I enthusiastically celebrate diversity, but I feel religious beliefs are one area of a person’s life that we can unapologetically judge. You can’t judge someone based on their skin color or sexual orientation because those are things you are born with. They are not a choice. However, religion is a choice and we criticize bad choices all the time.

However, I really do want my daughter to see and experience the world around her. I want her to have knowledge of different religions and cultures. I don’t want her to be afraid of those who are different from her.

When to Let Go

I suppose frank and open discussions with my daughter throughout her childhood are necessary to tackle this issue.

At what point do a child’s own skepticism and common sense kick in? When is it appropriate to let them explore on their own?

 

I would love to hear from other atheist parents. How much do you expose your child to religion?

Secular Santa

How do you guys feel about Christmas in a secular sense? Do any of you celebrate?

Normally my husband and I visit extended family and not do anything at home. However, this year our three-year-old came home from daycare talking about Santa. One thing led to another and now we have a tree with presents under it.

My husband assembled the artificial tree in our daughter’s bedroom a few days ago, and she proceeded to decorate it with hair bows and headbands. It looked kind of cool so we just went with it. It’s not like we had many ornaments anyway.

I usually hate this time of year. My threshold for annoying Christmas crap is pretty low, but it is cute to see my daughter excited.

I guess Santa’s okay, but if my daughter comes home from daycare talking about Jesus, then we’ll have a problem.