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.



The Everyday Life of a Midwest Mom

It’s always fascinating to listen to atheists and theists debate. For me, it doesn’t take much arguing to disprove the bible, but for many people, you can talk until you’re blue in the face and nothing will change. While these exchanges are always interesting, they’re certainly not what I’m focused on.

I am more interested in discussing everyday life as an atheist. It’s not as easy as a Midwest mom. Being an atheist is an important part of me, but I still have to go about my day here in Toledo with my family.

Retreating to My Closet

Even though I’ve wanted to write about atheism for a long time, in my everyday life I’m basically in the closet –mainly because I fear discrimination and ridicule at work. My daughter is only three so thankfully I haven’t had to deal with a lot of other parents yet. My family and close friends know I’m an atheist but that’s as far as it goes.

This blog might blow my cover, but I’m thinking it’s about time. I’m now willing to take that risk.

Atheists around the world aren’t always treated well, and I want to work to change that. I can’t help if I stay silent.

What Being An Atheist Mom Means to Me

As a mom and atheist, I want to foster curiosity in my daughter. She has so many questions right now and she’s so fun to watch. She has absolutely no sense of “gross” yet and she’s fearless.

I also think it’s important to teach the importance of empathy. I want to refer to the humanist “good without god” saying. I will tell my daughter that we help other humans when we can because we are also human and it’s the right thing to do. This doesn’t involve a god or scoring points for entry to heaven.

I hope, as my daughter gets older I will have instilled decent levels of skepticism and common sense.

An even bigger hope of mine is that my daughter never feels like she has to hide her (dis)beliefs.


I would love to hear from others – especially parents – on how atheism plays into your everyday life. That’s something I really want to focus on. I spend too much time silent and angry and I’m curious how others feel. Leave a comment and let me know.

This heathen mommy is ready to write!

Hi! I’m Megan. I’m a wife and mother from Toledo, Ohio USA, and I’ve spent most of my adult life working in mental health and the arts. I love to write, and before coming to Free Thought Blogs, I was a blogger for a popular mental health site for two years.

How I Became an Atheist

I didn’t call myself an atheist until my early twenties, but my skepticism was definitely brewing long before then.

My family was Christian but didn’t go to church except for an occasional Christmas or Easter service, and even that tapered off as I got older. There wasn’t a lot of pressure from my family to believe one way or another.

However, I grew up in a conservative rural area and pressure came from others in the community. I was an outsider. I questioned Christianity from a very young age although I didn’t always feel safe doing so.

To make things messier, I have a mental illness that causes visual and auditory hallucinations. It really consumed me in my late teens and early twenties. The hallucinations were frightening and at the time there was no real explanation. I thought they were ghosts. What else could they be? Since I had usually been skeptical, this caused some serious inner turmoil.

Finally in my early twenties I was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder and prescribed medication. My life dramatically changed for the better. When the antipsychotic meds kicked in and the hallucinations stopped, questions turned to answers. The hallucinations were this tiny thin thread – the only thing connecting me to spirituality. When it was broken, I felt clarity. I had an explanation. I finally called myself an atheist. 15 years have passed and I’ve never wavered from that stance.

You would not believe how grateful I am to modern medicine and science for creating medication that help stops the symptoms of schizoaffective disorder. None of my life would be possible without it.

The Meaning of My Blog Name – “From the Ashes of Faith”

It’s no secret that religion causes the majority of suffering in the world. We see it everyday and those with a heart are sickened by it.

“From the Ashes of Faith” refers to if and when religion falls, a liberated, more peaceful society will emerge. I think that’s something worth fighting for.

Moving Forward

I am really interested in writing about secular parenting and atheism in the Midwest. I would love to hear from other parents. Social issues that are really important to me include income inequality, reproductive rights, and mental health, so you will probably hear about those as well.

Thank you for reading my first post! I plan on posting consistently although I have not completely decided on a schedule yet. Please check back soon as I settle into a routine.