Why do you give your children Chrstian names, or Muslim names or any religious names?


You are an  atheist but you name your children after  gods or prophets or heroes  and  heroines  of   the religious scriptures. Why don’t you stop doing it?


Why is it necessary to have a family name ?

Having a first name  related to religion and  a surname related to  father or husband’s surname  proves  that  you are a victim of  the misogynistic patriarchal religious system  and you do not denounce  the system rather you try to  keep the system  intact.


I have no  family name. Nasreen is not derived from my father or my grandfather or my husband nor is it   derived from  my mother or my grandmother.  Nasreen is  a Persian word  which means a wild rose.  I feel good for not having a patriarchal family name. I feel good for not having a  given name that comes  from the Koran or the Hadith. I am grateful to my parents for  not  having named me after Prophet Muhammad’s mother  or daughter  or wives.


We can live our lives  happily without having a family name, but many people think  that the  things will be totally messed up  without  it.  Iceland is not a messed up country. Icelandic names differ from  Western family name systems. For example, a  man  named  Gunnar Svensson  has a son named Eric and a daughter named Björk.  Eric’s  last name will not be Svensson  like his father’s; it will become Gunnarsson, literally indicating that Eric is the son of Gunnar (Gunnars + son).  Björk also would not have the last name Svensson; she would have the name Gunnarsdóttir. Again, the name says that Björk is  “Gunnar’s  daughter” (Gunnars + dóttir). Not everybody’s surname  carries  father’s name, many choose to  have  matronymic names, instead of father’s name they pick mother’s name.  For example,  Eric and Björk’s mother’s  name is Anika Stefánsdóttir.  If parents decide or  Eric and  Björk want to  pick their mother’s name for their last names,  Eric’s last name will be Anikasson, and  Björk’s last name will be Anikasdóttir.  Iceland is not alone, some  other countries also  have a different family name system or no family name system. Who doesn’t want to be a separate human being!


I love names that come from  nature. Let me  translate some common  names of Bengali  people:  Rose, Jasmine, Sky, Moon, Sun, Earth, River, Sea, Forest, Love, Wind, Soil, Flower, Peace, Beauty, Happy, Orange, Apple, Bird, Music, Poem, Strength,  Rain, Smile  etc. I call them true secular names.


Let’s be 100% secular.








  1. says

    A lot of the time people choose names because they sound nice or are an homage to important people in their lives and not necessarily the meaning behind the name. My brother’s name is Trevor, named after my father’s best friend growing up. My birth-name has nothing to do with a person, just sounded good alongside the Irish-sounding Trevor. My sister is named Erin, similar because it’s Irish.

    I’ll be naming my son (if I ever have one, and with modern science that’s unlikely) after my grandfathers, despite one of them being named “John.” Not because the Biblical nature inherent in the name, but because my grandfather was an extremely important person in my life.

    And my current chosen name is made up of my grandmothers’ names.

  2. dianne says

    My name is technically religious, but it’s hard to find a follower of the ancient Greek gods any more. I believe my parents chose it because they liked the sound. Why should I care that someone, somewhere used to believe that there was a deity with the same name?

  3. says

    I see your point, but why use the names our parents picked out at all? I don’t see how a parent-picked given name is any better than a family name. It’s worse in many ways, because it doesn’t just indicate a lineage, but the qualities your parents hoped you would have.

    Religious names may or may not have a religious meaning depending on context. I know a guy who goes by Thor. To him, Thor is as real as Harry Potter or Sherlock Holmes, but embodies some characteristics he likes to think of himself as having. Most religious figures have some appealing qualities, even from a secular point of view. Also, names that don’t meet cultural ideals of normalcy make it harder to get a job.

    • dianne says

      why use the names our parents picked out at all?

      I can’t speak for anyone else, but in my case the answer is “laziness”: I don’t want to go through the trouble of legally changing my name or getting used to being called something new.

      • ik says

        I also suspect that egotism would lead to a lot of people having a different name in their early 20s than at any other point in their life.

  4. bchimself says

    My surname is Norwegian, (Son of Iver = Iversen) which is secular, but my father’s surname was Iversen, and my children’s surnames will be Iversen because that is our country’s (USA) way of denoting familial relation. It helps a lot with paperwork and legalities. It also allowed my father to pass his first name down to me making me a Jr. If it was the old Norwegian style my name would be Brad Bradsen, and that would royally piss me off. Instead, to have my own original name, I go by my initials B.C., and my son, whom I will pass both my names down to and will be the third in the line, will have his own unique name like Trip or Trey (or whatever he chooses). I enjoy this because it shows great respect for our family line and encourages questions and research. In fact, after learning how the structure of Norwegian surnames worked, I spent a few months tracing my ancestry back to the original Iver who had a son named Iversen, and even farther back to the early 1700s, which showed me where my blood-line used to live, when they emigrated to the US, and the hardships they went through. Now I know exactly where to visit when I take a trip to Norway with my family.

    I understand your point about surnames and first names, but really, if you’re not personally attaching any religious meaning to the name, it does not have a religious meaning. They were good names when they were first used by religious icons, but they were already good names regardless of their religious meanings. It’s all based on who you’re speaking too. An entirely non-religious name might still trigger a religious reaction in religious people.

    Names are really just noises we make to identify someone. They have no meaning to most of the people I’ve interacted with.

    In fact, this kind of reminds me of the “Fear of Words” and “Fear of Numbers” that superstitious people have. Words like “shit” “fuck” “damn” etc, they are just sounds we make to express feelings, but some people will cover their ears and run out of the room if you curse. They’re words, it’s doing no damage at all.

    The same goes for numbers, in the US (especially older cities like New York) you’ll find many buildings that do not include the 13th floor on their elevators. 13 is “bad luck” so they don’t include it. In fact, there is a 13th floor, it’s just labeled 14. Basically they’re attaching meaning where meaning doesn’t exist. I dare say you’re coming a little close to this way of thinking when it comes to names.

  5. says

    While I gave both my children non-religious names I have to disagree about the family name not being important. My immediate family (wife and 2 kids) are a tight-knit clan. Being known in the community by the same last name helps us feel a togetherness even when we’re apart.
    I love that my wife in known by the same last name as me – and she feels the same way.

    • says

      How much of this community feeling would really be lost with a change in naming conventions, and how much is just brought to mind by it (rather than accomplished by it)? It seems like what Taslima is ultimately prescribing is greater freedom within naming conventions — meaning that we introduce the habit of absolving our kids from the surnames of our ancestors but allow them to change their own names as they grow, marry, or (ugh) adopt some kind of religious philosophy that imposes something else. (Taking it to the extreme, you could also adopt a family clan name separate from your legal names. My sister and i have thought about doing the same. : )

  6. Thorne says

    It could be that, like my wife and I, many children are given names that just sound good. My first son has the name of a Greek sailor (Jason), but that doesn’t mean he is named FOR him. We just liked the name. His middle name is actually taken from the nickname of his mother’s best friend, a genderless name. My second son was given good Irish sounding names, even though neither of us have a drop of Irish blood in us. We just like the names.

    Besides, anyone who doesn’t like his or her name is free to change it when they become an adult. And it’s no longer frowned upon, at least in intelligent circles, for a woman to keep her maiden name after marriage, or even for her husband to take her name. I feel that one of a married couple should take the name of the other, whichever way they decide to go, for at least legal purposes. It does simplify a lot of the paperwork involved in modern society.

    But mostly I think we have to wrest those “religious” names back from the religions. Use them for secular, rather than religious reasons. It’s doubtful that most of them originated as religious names, but were co-opted by religious organizations. Take back our names! Give them our own meanings!

    Incidentally, I once read a story about a teacher in a Muslim country being punished for allowing one of her students to name his teddy bear ‘Muhammad’. I immediately nicknamed a ratty-looking stuffed bear we still have hanging around Muhammad, too. As a protest. I think more people should do this: name your stuffed animals, or your real pets, for religious figure. Wouldn’t you love to see a gay gerbil named Jesus?

  7. Gwynnyd says

    What if you (or your child) has a religious sounding name that was given for reasons that have nothing to do with religion? Someone just hearing the name can’t tell why a name was chosen. What if the “Rachel” you assumed was biblical got her name because dad liked Raquel Welch and mom wanted a more English looking spelling to make it not so obvious? Or what if Mary or Deborah was just named after a much loved Grandma or other relative or family friend? I don’t think should we specifically not use some fairly common names on the chance they might have a religious association for a random someone.

    I have no objection to strictly secular sounding names if that’s what the parents or the person wants to assign, but I also don’t assume that a religious sounding name means the person is religious.

    • Brighe says

      Your name does have a religious connection. Jasmyn is a plant yes. In Arabic and Persian it is called Yasmin which means “gift from God”. And what has been worshiped longer than the moon and sun? I think nothing.

  8. says

    Atheists (in my experience) are notorious for teasing children of hippie culture about names like River and Luna, or even Phoenix and Sky, just the kind of names you mention. I don’t understand why, other than that they simply associate it with New Age religious culture (because these names are not especially popular, or unpopular, among secularists), and a few years ago i started becoming very fond of them, from the secular perspective.

    I had never really considered the surname phenomenon before, though! Modern recordkeeping makes surnames essentially obsolete, and i like the idea of capping them off at two or three generations. I don’t know how far we can get by prescribing the -son and -dottir convention, but it certainly holds appeal to me personally in a way that preserving one or both of my parents’ last names doesn’t, really. Thanks for sharing.

    • MichaelD says

      Ah reminds me when I was working in a fast food chain and a woman would come in with her daughter Destiny.

    • Brighe says

      See how you would feel about that when you child goes to school with 700 other Coryson or Corydotters from parents named for movie stars of the 80 and 90. Why do you think that we have so many Johnson, Anderson, Peterson etc. etc.

  9. says

    I feel that one of a married couple should take the name of the other, whichever way they decide to go, for at least legal purposes. It does simplify a lot of the paperwork involved in modern society.

    There is no good legal reason to change your last name. My husband and I did not change our last names and it has not affected our lives in the slightest. There are no complicated legal issues or paperwork that is more difficult, because we have different last names. We own common property and do our taxes together and everything most couples do. However, it does take paperwork to change your name.

    • Cthandhs says

      Melody’s experience is mine too. We didn’t change names after marriage and I have had much less of a hassle than my name changing friends. No bureaucratic has ever has a problem with our two different names and we own property, file taxes jointly, etc.

      As far as surnames go, mine is a trade name and I quite like that, though I do not work in that trade. I think it would be cool to have surnames of the future like May Webdesigner, or Sue Rocketengineer.

      • Martyn N Hughes says

        ‘I think it would be cool to have surnames of the future like May Webdesigner, or Sue Rocketengineer.’

        It’s interesting you mention that. Surnames like Mason or Vickers are thought to be occupational names of the past.

        Mason, of course because the person with that name was a craftsman and then passed onto his sons, and Vickers it is thought derived from a servant of a vicar!

        A lot of Western names are thought to have arisen this way, however, none of them sound as cool as Sue Rocketengineer. 🙂

    • says

      Yeah, I feel like I can point to a number of ways in which my life is less complicated because I didn’t change my name when I got married. And it sure seems like that stage of “name is changed some places, but not others” is absolutely miserable to go through.

      • Rawnaeris says

        Yes it is. Ifi had known just how much of a pain it was going to be.i absolutely would not have changed my name.

        The primary reason I did change my name is that my husband requested it, and I agreed because his last name is unusual, and I like the sound of it.

        • geocatherder says

          I, too, was appalled at how much of a pain it was to change my last name when I got married. I did it because people were forever misspelling my maiden name. Turns out people misspell my married name just as much. Sometimes you just can’t win.

          • Michelle says

            This is what happened to me too. My surname is hard to spell and pronounce and my husband’s should be simple and easy for english speakers – but it turned out it was just as annoying – in fact more so, because people got cross with me when I pointed out that they had spelled it incorrectly – because it was simple they wanted to argue with me about the spelling and assure me they knew how to spell the name better than I did. Weird!?!

            So after about 10 years of marriage I changed my surname back. This was just as annoying as changing it on marriage had been but actually lots easier now because my birth certificate matches my name, so I don’t have to keep producing a marriage certificate to prove who I am. And because it is hard to spell people happily correct mispellings instead of trying to tell me am wrong about how to spell my own name.

            I wish now I had never changed my name on marriage at all. When our children were born we gave them my husband’s surname because that was “our” name at the time. Now I think if I was doing it again we might do that differently – I have heard some people give their boys the same surname as the father and girls the same surname as their mother – I like this. Friends of our tossed a coin when their first child was born to decide whose surname to use and both their kids have the same surname as their mother. No-one seems bothered by this and it doesn’t cause them any extra paperwork or anything.

            My husband absolutely refused to give the children any names that were from any religious tradition – this substantially shortened our choices but also made us think wider … and it makes our children’s names much less common.

            I remember sharing Michelle with 5 other girls in one class I was in at school (I blame the Beatles!), and I always envied those kids who didn’t have any friends with the same name as them 🙂

    • Thorne says

      I think I was probably making an assumption when I made that comment. Obviously, you have more experience with that than I do, so I withdraw my statement.

      I don’t have any personal stake in the issue of names anyway. I don’t particularly like my ‘given’ first name but I mostly use my nickname anyway, so it’s not a big problem. As for surnames, it’s not something I’ve ever been concerned about. They just are. A way to separate all the Jims and Joes and Jasmines out there. And while there might be some cool sounding trade names (I like Rocketengineer, too), David (or Diane) Dishwasher isn’t likely to help with your love life, is it?

  10. interrobang says

    My first given name is ubiquitous in all the Abrahamic religions. I’m pretty sure my parents didn’t intend it to have any particular religious meaning, though (and despite my being culturally Christian, I have the spelling most common among Jews — particularly Israelis — and Muslims). My second given name is the name of a plant that grows in Scotland, where my family comes from. My third given name is one of the Three Virtues from Christianity, but is also a neutral word connoting facility, agility, or coordination. (This name doesn’t suit me; I’m more a Claudia.) That name has also documentably been in the family since the 1700s, among ancestresses.

    My family name I actually like. It’s a Scottish corruption of a word for “caretaker,” or “overseer,” which suits me just fine, save that it’s difficult to spell in some of my foreign languages. (You try to shoehorn “Stewart” comfortably into Hebrew and Japanese. Go on; I’ll wait.) I fully intend to keep the name if I marry; it’s just as much my name (I was adopted into it) as it is my father’s, after all.

    I don’t have a problem with people having lots of names; I grew up around a lot of Catholics, and most of them seem to have more given names than I do. (Considering how many people with the same first/family name combination there are out there, I’m glad I have four names, actually. It makes differentiation much easier.)

    I personally like “traditional” names, wherever they come from. There are a lot of probably “secular” names that are overused and will sound terribly dated in a few years. And there’s also a widespread irrational prejudice in North America against people who have seemingly “made-up” names, which tends to hit black people (and Mormons) disproportionately. Then again, considering what some people are willing to name their kids, they probably deserve it. I’d personally rather see an army of Esthers, Judahs, and Sharons than anybody named “Shi’tia Alford.” And no, I’m not making that up. (Honestly, Taslima, do you have any idea what kind of crazy things North Americans will name their children if left to their own devices? It’s something in the water.)

  11. Rick Craig says

    Let’s not let religion spoil names like David and Ruth or Krishna or, for that matter, Thor or Freya, which are pleasing or evocative to the ear. Really. What should we name our kids if we choose to shun all religion-related names? Shall we name them after common objects – Chair Anderson, perhaps, or Flagstone Williams? Shall we make up names out of thin air? I’ve had one waiting in the wings for years, for the daughter of someone whose last name is Hall: Tazhma. Great, huh? Tazhma Hall. It even stands pretty well without turning it into a pun. But I digress. Maybe we should, as the old joke about the way Chinese people choose names for their kids goes, just throw a bell down the stairs and pick the combination of onomatopoeiaic chimes we like best? (I wonder if that works using a rock? “Clunk Thud Sanders” – how’s that for a name?) Maybe as atheists we should pick names deliberately designed to give an antonymic impression: where we might have named a child John or Sarah we should now name them Antijohn and Unsarah. Sound good?

    Or maybe – just maybe – we could try to turn our identity and lives as atheists toward things that are a little more substantive, a little more meaningful, and (again) maybe – just maybe – a little more revealing of atheists as people who value the cultivation of a working mind.

    • Anat says

      David means ‘beloved’. It is a non-religious name that is the name of a character in a religious story.

      Really. What should we name our kids if we choose to shun all religion-related names? Shall we name them after common objects – Chair Anderson, perhaps, or Flagstone Williams? Shall we make up names out of thin air?

      In Israel parents make names up all the time, as well as reclaim previously unpopular Biblical names.

      Names from the plant kingdom – Ilan(a) – tree, Alon(a) – oak, Oren/Orna – pine, Tomer (as well as the Biblical Tamar) – date palm, Dekel – palm, Hadar – citrus, Ella – pistachio, Shaked – almond, Vered – rose, Irit – asphodel, Nufar – water lily, Nurit – buttercup etc

      Names from the animal kingdom – Arye – lion, Z’ev – wolf, Eyal/Ayala/Ayelet – deer, Zvi/Zivya gazelle, Dror/Drora – sparrow (also means freedom), Talia – lamb, Dvora – bee etc

      Water-related names – Ma’ayan – spring, Yuval – tributary, Peleg – stream, Yam – sea, Gal – wave, Tal – dew, Meital – dew-water, Revital – saturated with dew

      Earth-related names – Nir(a) – field, Telem – furrow, Regev – clod

      Light-related names – Or(a) – light, Ori – my light, Orly/Lior(a) – I have light. Zohar – shining light, Nogah – brilliance, also Venus, Barak – lightning.

      Why can’t this work for other languages?

  12. Tsu Dho Nimh says

    So before Christianity got going, was Maryam or Jeshua considered a “religious” name?

    Would “Ursula” (for the saint) be bad and “Bear” for the animal be good? What if the bear is considered a supernatural being somewhere?

    • Anat says

      Yeshua means ‘Yahweh saves’ so yes, it was always a religious name. Miriam may mean ‘bitter’ or perhaps ‘rebellious’ or it may have had some other etymology, hard to tell.

  13. Gwynnyd says

    (Honestly, Taslima, do you have any idea what kind of crazy things North Americans will name their children if left to their own devices? It’s something in the water.)

    I knew a lovely girl saddled with the name Latrina. I think she might have preferred something biblical.

  14. sumdum says

    I think there may be a difference in language. I suspect in arabic, the meaning of names is much more apparent and obvious than in dutch for example. My name might mean something, but then it means something in a language that hasn’t been spoken in hundreds of years as it was. If it has a meaning, you’d only know if you looked it up somewhere. It’s a complete non-issue.

  15. The Rose says

    Dear Taslima,

    I did not know “Nasreen” meant “wild rose”.


    (I knew we were related!)

    PS: I love reading you. Thank you so much.

  16. Rod says

    Many of us aging baby-boomers, boys especially, were named after our dads’ buddies killed in WW II.
    Nothing wrong with that if it comforts our now-dying off fathers that their friends somehow live on.

  17. Kat says

    I strenuously object to ignorant and inflammatory generalizations such as this. You have your own worldview and that is fine, but there is no way you can back up blanket statements like this with empirical data so try prefacing it with a ‘In my opinion…’ otherwise you risk alienating your readers.

    I’ve take the same surname as my husband because I choose to. I don’t respect my very religious father so have no desire to keep my maiden name but I want to have the same name as my husband and sons as a symbol of our unity as a family. It’s important to me. What that surname was is not actually important which is why it wasn’t a concern to use my spouse’s surname. I’m not victim of a patriarchal religious system and I am making the system work for me.

    I honestly think there are bigger battles to fight than this tired old thing.

    • Tony says

      Kat @18:

      I strenuously object to ignorant and inflammatory generalizations such as this. You have your own worldview and that is fine, but there is no way you can back up blanket statements like this with empirical data so try prefacing it with a ‘In my opinion…’ otherwise you risk alienating your readers.

      I’m with you. This is the third post by Taslima I’ve read, and I think it will be my last. Her first post I read was on sex slavery and prostitution. The next was her post on women giving up their religion. I see too many generalizations, insufficient understanding of the nuances of the several of the topics she discusses, and far too superficial an understanding of human psychology (ironically, I just finished watching Twilight: Breaking Dawn part 1-out of sheer boredom and hoping the action scenes would be interesting; I already knew the movie was crap-and its clear that Stephanie Meyer, as well as the director of the movie aren’t interested in displaying the nuances of relationships, the complexities of coming of age, and remotely realistic dialogue).
      No, I’m not an expert in any of these topics (though I did strip at a gay bar for nearly a year back in 2000, so I have some small informed perspective on this aspect of the sex industry), but when I discuss prostitution and sex slavery, I don’t conflate the two, as if they’re the same thing. I understand that there are women *and* men who are in the sex industry. I understand that there are men and women who aren’t coerced into ‘sex for money’ and can actually enjoy it without feeling guilty. I understand that around the world people are forced into sexual slavery or prostitution. That needs to be stamped out. I understand that there are multiple reasons that people enter the sex industry, and discussion of this topic needs to involve all these reasons.
      I’m not a psychologist or sociologist. I do know that there are many reasons people stay with their religion. I understand that *many* religions are misogynistic, though I’m not certain they *all* are (thus, I would avoid making a sweeping generalization about all religions treating women like crap). I understand that a complete reading of one’s holy text can turn people off to religion, but it probably won’t work for everyone (especially given cognitive dissonance). I also understand that many women in the world are self confidant, independent, and have great self esteem, all while belonging to a particular religion.
      I understand that this:

      Having a first name related to religion and a surname related to father or husband’s surname proves that you are a victim of the misogynistic patriarchal religious system and you do not denounce the system rather you try to keep the system intact.

      may be true in many cases, but not all. Moreover, I don’t like the blanket assertion of something as if its an undisputed fact. I don’t like the idea of stating something as if its a fact and offering little evidence to support it. I fail to see a sufficient argument for why people should abandon their first, middle or last names.
      I agree with Taslima on the need to be secular. I agree with her that too many women are treated horribly by religions around the world. I agree with her that all the negative aspects of prostitution need to be eliminated.
      I just find-from what I’ve read-that she fails to argue effectively for her position, too frequently generalizes, offers little support for her arguments and fails to see how complex the issues she discusses truly are.

    • Sheesh says

      Hey Kat,

      On a blog you can pretty much preface every single post by every single author with “in my opinion”, since that’s kind of the whole point of blogging. (Or it was until MSM guessed they needed “blogs” for their “news” desks.) Anyhow, opinion-less web logs would be boring as fuck: 8:00 AM Had a bagel. No comment on its properties. 8:30 AM Went to work. I saw other commuters. 7:00 PM Went home. 7:30 PM Had some ideas about society, but I won’t share them. Hey, at least that was all factual. I bet that will be a break out hit.

      Hey Tony,

      “I understand that *many* religions are misogynistic, though I’m not certain they *all* are”

      Care to tell me about which religions aren’t misogynistic and then estimate the number of followers of such religions in terms of global percentage? (I.e. total adherents of non-misogynist religion out of total adherents of all religions worldwide.) Sometimes a generalization is “sweeping” for a reason. Maybe that’s a fair criticism. Take a stab at it though! Present some evidence, skeptic!

      • Tony says

        Hey Tony,

        “I understand that *many* religions are misogynistic, though I’m not certain they *all* are”

        Care to tell me about which religions aren’t misogynistic and then estimate the number of followers of such religions in terms of global percentage? (I.e. total adherents of non-misogynist religion out of total adherents of all religions worldwide.) Sometimes a generalization is “sweeping” for a reason. Maybe that’s a fair criticism. Take a stab at it though! Present some evidence, skeptic!

        I am unable to present any numbers. That wasn’t my point though.
        Taslima made a claim: religion is misogynistic. She didn’t preface that by referring only to Christianity or Hinduism or Greek Myth. She said “religion”. Unless she specifies otherwise, that refers to all religions. At no point does she offer any evidence that *every* religion is hateful towards women. That’s my point.

        Why is the burden of proof on me to prove there are religions that treat women well? I didn’t make a claim one way or the other. I expressed doubt. Taslima made a claim; a very sweeping, generalizing claim that I expressed doubt on. Why? There are a tremendous number of religions that humanity has created during our existence (I suspect from reading her other posts, that Taslima’s “arguments” are geared towards a specific few modern religions, but too often she generalizes and I don’t think that’s a fair thing to do). While it’s possible to be learned about many of them, I find it difficult to imagine having even some knowledge of *all* of them.

  18. mnb0 says

    “My name is technically religious, but it’s hard to find a follower of the ancient Greek gods any more.”
    The same for me, my name refers to the Roman god of war. Now I’m quite proud of my surname – some of my ancestors were proud freethinkers. To compensate for the patriarchal factor I have named my son after my ex-wife’s great-grandfather. If he had been a girl I would have named him after his mothers eldest brother (a female version of course). That also reflects that he is from bicultural descent. And of course his name is beautiful.
    Frankly I think deliberately avoiding religious names means that I bow for religion as well. Religion does not decide my agenda, be it in a positive or in a negative way. It should not play any role at all.

  19. Zebralily says

    This is precisely the reason I changed what I am called after completely de-converting from religion. My given first and middle names are both Biblical, but I now go by a short form of the middle name that my great-grandmother also used–Lily. My given first name actually means “Christian,” and there’s no way I could still be called that! The names we give people and things have power–not a supernatural power, but an associative power that is hard to erase from cultural memory. I plan to give all my future children names that have no associations with religion.

    • Brighe says

      Lily is so full of religious signficance.
      Lily as a Symbol of the Virgin Mary

      The stem of the lily symbolizes Mary’s religiously faithful mind
      Lily petals represent her Mary’s purity and virginity
      The scent of the flower represents Mary’s divinity
      The leaves leaves signify her humility.

      With its three petals, the lily is often considered a trinity symbol, holding the representation of three virtues: Charity, Hope and Faith.
      Greek lore associates lily meaning with birth and it is asymbol for motherhood because the flower was said to be created from the breast milk of Hera.

  20. Francisco Bacopa says

    I totally agree with this post. Secularists should not name their children any name with a religious connection. No biblical names, no saints’ names. I am lucky that my real last name is just a descriptive term in Scots Gallic, while my first name is the same as a Christian saint’s, I have always gone by my middle name, which has pagan European roots.

    Whatever culture you are in, there are plenty of names to choose from that do not have ties to dominant faiths. I happen to think “Bacopa” is a great name. It’s a genus of aquatic plants found in Asia and North America. I used to grow Bacopa plants when I was into planted aquaria. I switched to mostly Anubias when it got too expensive to pay for the lights to grow bacopa, but I still have a tub of Bacopa plants on my patio with a few Gambusia fish.

    Plant genera might be a good place to look for children’s names.

    • Kilian Hekhuis says

      True secularists (invoking a true Scotsman! well aware!) can name their children anyway they like, since they really don’t care about a names meaning (other than perhaps its emotional connotations, e.g. when naming a child after a grandparent or the like). It’s silly (bordering on immature) to avoid certain names because to other people – people you disagree with – they have a special meaning or, god forbid, they name their children alike!

          • sumdum says

            I’ve never ever heard of anyone named Adolf. I think I’ve only ever read about some parents naming their kid Adolf in Poland or some other eastern european country, and if I’m not mistaken his second name was Goebbels or something similar. The name Adolf is forever linked to racism and antisemitism.

    • Tony says

      Do you have an argument for why this is a good idea though? Taslima’s arguments were not sufficient. She stated an opinion and offered superficial support. I don’t have anything for or against how people are named, but I’m curious for the people that do, what are the good reasons for using non religious names?

  21. says

    I don’t. All my children have Germanic and/or Scandinavian names (which are also not the names of gods; Thor is actually a common name in Scandinavia). My last name is the last name (which she had at birth) of my first wife; I kept it even though I am now married again, and my children from my second marriage also have it. My current wife has kept her own last name.

    It was a conscious decision to avoid names in any way associated with any religion (be they the names of gods or the names of characters in religious stories) and also to have names which at least don’t have a meaning I am uncomfortable with (though most people are not aware of the meaning anyway).

    The reason our children (i.e. with my second wife) have my last name (i.e. that of my first wife) and not the name of my second wife is that she has the feminine form of her last name but we live in a country where this is not common. We could choose either convention, but if we chose the masculine form (all my children are sons (but it wasn’t intentional, really 🙂 )) then that would confuse people where we live and we would then have 3 names in the family instead of two; if we gave them the feminine form (legally possible) it would sound strange to people linguistically aware of masculine and feminine forms of the name. This is also one of the reasons why I haven’t adopted my current wife’s last name.

    Can’t get much less religious or patriarchal than that!

      • says

        Not in my country but in the country my wife is from. It is common in Slavic languages (e.g. male Romanov, female Romanova). While not strictly last names, in Iceland a male would be, say, Olafsson and a woman Olafsdottir.

        • Mudpuddles says

          Not uncommon in Ireland too – children of Kennedy would be known as Ní Cinnéide for female and Mac Cinnéide for male (O’Cinnéide for either).

          • mynameischeese says

            Also, if you go back far enough in Ireland, people just had the first name of a parent as their last name. This persisted on the Blasket island until it was abandoned, so you don’t have to go back too far. And you could take your father’s name or your mother’s name as your last name, depending on which one was more well-known.

      • rq says

        Not just Slavic countries like Poland and Romania and Russia, but also Latvia – and for some real tongue-twisters, try Lithuania. They have separate surname endings for males and females, and also separate endings for pre- and post-marriage for both, too (I THINK for both; the pre- and post-marriage might be only for women).

      • Thorne says

        I don’t think this is a problem in English. The surname “Rose”, for example, is fairly common, and most men don’t have a problem with it.

        A feminine first name, on the other hand, is a magnet for bullying and ridicule. A boy named Sue is going to have it tough in school.

  22. Rilian says

    I have considered giving a child a completely different name from mine. But I don’t think I would consider where the name came from. I’d just go with what sounds good to me. I suppose I wouldn’t like to choose a name that is overtly connected to any religion when people first hear it. Like, I wouldn’t name a kid “Jesus” or “Bathsheeba” or whatever. I might be adopting an older kid anyway, in which case I wouldn’t be naming them anything, as they would already have a name. But if I do adopt a newborn, I’m really not sure now what last name I would like to give them. But whatever I name them, I would tell them that they can change their name whenever they want to and I would respect their chosen name and call them by it.

  23. Mudpuddles says

    Having a first name related to religion and a surname related to father or husband’s surname proves that you are a victim of the misogynistic patriarchal religious system and you do not denounce the system rather you try to keep the system intact.

    Wow, is this really an issue now? I’m so out of touch. My partner and I have decided to call our daughter Miriam because we think its a beautiful sounding name, and because its the name of the doctor who saved my partner’s life last year. But its in the Bible (or versions of it are)… and we’re atheists… so… we should ban the name from our future family? I get your point, but think its put a bit too narrowly.

    As for our surnames, aside from the varied and often fascinating etymology, there are a whole range of valid non-sexist personal, social, cultural and historical reasons behind surnames – simply dismissing them because the surname is usually passed from the father’s side of the family seems a little… petty. My surname denotes I am descended from a specific Pomeranian tribe renowned for craft-working skills, of which there are not many descendants left. I think that’s pretty cool, and I’m happy to keep it. Am I automatically a misogynist, or promoting misogyny?

    We will let our daughter choose her own surname when she’s older, but until that time she will be known by her mother’s surname taken from her father, and denoting links to a falconer who served some of the medieval merchant tribes of Galway, a heritage she is also excited by and proud to acknowledge, however diluted after 600 years. Does this also promote misogyny?

    Does it prove that the three of us are victims? I reckon it does nothing of the sort.

  24. Al West says

    This is the genetic fallacy. The practice of patronymics may have arisen due to a patriarchal principle, but nowadays it signifies nothing at all. Patrilineal descent does not equal patriarchy, and inheriting a name from one’s father – an entirely optional thing in most modern nations – does not equal his ownership of you or anything remotely similar.

    Similarly, calling one’s child “Rachel” or “Jacob” or anything similar signifies nothing religious. For most people those are just names; they have absolutely no necessary connection to Bible, even if that is where they come from. My name is Alexander. That the name is popular, or even known, in Western Europe is because of Alexander the Great, a conqueror and murderer who killed a lot of people to satisfy his thirst for power. That fact doesn’t make me want to cast off my name, because as far as I’m concerned my name has nothing to do with Alexander the Great. It doesn’t glorify him, and it wasn’t intended to do so. It’s just a nice name that my parents liked, and which I don’t have a problem with.

    This is a non-issue.

    As for Icelandic names being different from “Western” names, of course they aren’t. Icelandic names are Western names, and Iceland is in the West. It’s about as far west as you can go in Europe, and has been connected for a thousand years to Ireland, England, Scotland, and Norway, sharing in their traditions, and being just as patriarchal. It’s just a tradition; it doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with any other practices.

    • says

      While I agree with most of your comment,

      Patrilineal descent does not equal patriarchy, and inheriting a name from one’s father – an entirely optional thing in most modern nations – does not equal his ownership of you or anything remotely similar.

      It’s still a relic of a patriarchal system. Actually, more than just a relic. Women who do not take their husband’s names, or, “worse,” do not give their husband’s surname to their children can tell you about the resistance they face.

      • Al West says

        I’m in a relationship with a woman from India. Her mother and father got together in an arranged marriage between their families, and the father is, shall we say, not exactly a feminist. But her mother has kept her maiden name, as is the norm for her caste.

        I don’t think the surname issue is necessarily patriarchal, by any stretch, and it would be, and is, easy to have a different method of assigning names to individuals while preserving the patriarchal principle. That there is some degree of compulsion among conservative families with regard to women taking the surnames of their grooms is not indicative of all that much, except that conservative families of many stripes will make women comply to arbitrary rules in the service of a patriarchal ideology.

      • thewhollynone says

        It will be assumed that they are not legally married– which is not so much the huge stigma that it used to be.

  25. Roy Bates says

    “Stewart” is a version of “steward”, etymologically derived from “sty ward/sty warden/sty warder” = keeper of the pigs. Remember that the wealth of northern IndoEuros was pecuniary.

    • thewhollynone says

      Tsh, tsh! According to the OED volume X, p. 936, there “is no ground for the assumption that stizweard originally meant ‘keeper of the pig-sties’, but it more likely meant keeper of the house and the money for a warrior lord. Then, of course, it became a clan name in Scotland, and that is another reason why people have surnames today– to identify with a clan or an extended family, particularly one that has money and political position.

  26. Cuttlefish says

    You all have my encouragement to name your children “Cuttlefish”.

    I do have a friend who does not use a name at all, and has not for years–decades, actually. He does have many nicknames, depending on who he is talking to, some based on what work he is doing, some on what state [they think] he is from, some others.

  27. Mudpuddles says

    @ Rilian, response to #20:

    Certain names obviously conjure up horrendous images / memories, and Adolph is not one that I or most people in Europe or North America could stomach as a given name for their child, but yes its still in use among non- Nazi-idealogues in some places.

    On a smiliar note, just because a name is mentioned in religious texts doesn’t make it de jure religious – it probably existed way before the period in question. Take the name Mary – the name of Jesus’s mother, so we’re told, but it has its origin in ancient Egypt, and became “Mary” via ancient Greek. Just because it has since been linked to a weird superstition about a zombie deity doesn’t mean it has a universally religious connotation. I guess it could possibly have some ancient links to worshippers of Isis or Horus – who knows? And so what? I don’t believe that the use of a name in history or in a body of fantastical text creates any ownership of that name amongst patrons of any cult or faith. Maybe filling the world with famous secularists called “Moses” would be a good thing (just maybe…)!

    Having said that, hearing a woman in a Tipperary post office call her daughters Shakira and Britney McGillycuddy did somewhat diminish my hope for humanity. That’s just wrong!

    • Rilian says

      I’m still seriously not going to name a kid a name that is immediately associated with any religion or anything, unless maybe it’s some group that I’m a member of, but even then probably not.

      Also, what’s wrong with the names shakira and britney anyway?

      • says

        There is nothing wrong with the names themselves. Sadly, it is a fact that people are judged on their names. It can affect marks at school, chances of getting a job etc. In this case, of course, the probability is pretty high that the parents were fans of Shakira or Britney Spears. Whatever one thinks of these singers or the parents, the children shouldn’t have to suffer for it but, sadly, they do.

        There are many motivations for giving a child a certain name. However, often the interests of the child are not taken into account.

        • Mudpuddles says

          Exactly. Plus I was also being a little facetious – you maybe have to be Irish to appreciate the humour of Shakira McGillycuddy.

          And Rilian, sorry mate my comments on roots of names (second para of my post) was a general response to Taslima’s article, and not aimed at you – sorry that was not better written to be clear. I agree pretty much with you.

  28. David T. says

    That’s easy because we live in Islamic or Christian societies and we are familiar with the more biblical names therefore rejecting a name just because it at one time belonged to someone who’s beliefs are different than ours is pretty absurd.

  29. rq says

    And speaking of surnames: In the Canadian province of Quebec, a woman is not allowed (by law) to change her surname.
    For instance, my mother, who has been married for more than 30 years and accepted my father’s last name, bought some property in the province a few years ago. She got married outside of Quebec, and all other legal, name-changing paperwork was completed outside of Quebec, and one would think that the province of Quebec should accept the name you use now.
    But ALL of the legal paperwork connected to this property, because completed in Quebec, had to have her original MAIDEN name on it. Because Quebec doesn’t acknowledge a woman’s name-change due to marriage – no matter where it occurred or how long ago. She had trouble remembering how to sign her maiden name properly on all the forms.
    This is Quebec’s stand against patriarchy, I suppose. The rest of Canada doesn’t understand them, either.

  30. Rilian says

    Once upon a time, when I hadn’t quite rid myself of sexism, I came up with names for potential kids I might have. Vaughn Emet for a boy, and Katie Allen for a girl. From my cursory internet research, none of those names seem to be religious. Yea!

  31. 24fps says

    Hmm… I suppose my name is doubly patriarchal.

    I was given a first name that is a Welsh place name, but out of a pop song popular around the time I was born. My second name is my grandfather’s first name (a Scottish clan name), but feminized a bit in spelling – definitely to honour him, though. My last name is also my father’s and grandfather’s.

    I go by my middle name, so I go by the same name as my grandfather did. So doubly patriarchal in that way. However, I had a very close relationship with my grandfather and he and I were very alike in many ways. He was the one to encourage me to further education and non-traditional achievement, gave me his unconditional support and love. In many ways, he and my father were instrumental in steering me down the path of feminism and teaching me that I had choices. I have no regrets about honouring them in name.

    I kept my own name when I married. My husband wouldn’t have it any other way. Our daughters have names that are both Celtic in origin (my family background) and one has a Scandinavian middle name (his family background) – the older’s first name means “brave and honourable” and the younger’s means “poet”. We hyphenated our surnames for both children, and if they want a shorter surname when they grow up they can choose one or the other and neither of us much cares which. They could change their names, too, if they like without me objecting. I liked the meanings of the names I gave them, but ultimately it should be up to my girls to decide who they are and what they will be called.

  32. The Lorax says

    A rose by any other name would smell as sweet, and since we all agree upon the title “rose”, I see no sense in changing things just for the sake of it.

    That said, I don’t even know what I was named for. I guess I was named after my dad, who is also named Mark. I know there was a St. Mark in Catholicism, but I don’t think my family was that religious. The name “Mark” apparently stems from Mars, the Roman god of war, but I don’t think my family was Roman.

    I have a name, I don’t care where it came from, and it is used only to make identifying me easier. If anyone wants meaning beyond a name, well, you can’t smell a rose simply by speaking the name.

  33. mechanoid says

    Having a first name related to religion and a surname related to father or husband’s surname proves that you are a victim of the misogynistic patriarchal religious system and you do not denounce the system rather you try to keep the system intact.

    A question for you Taslima: when considering cultures that trace ancestry through matrilineal vs patrilineal descent, would you consider people of that culture to be victims of the misandryst matriarchal system?

    Neither would I. None of has a choice in which society we are born into. I reject the victimization trope as disempowering. Rise up! I choose to (and attempt to) live my life in an active manner without being a reactionary.

    A metaphor I like: the present is the shockwave of history.

    Most people are propelled through life by forces they rarely consider in an interpenetrating web of causality and interaction.

    When one is immersed in a culture, it’s very difficult to see norms as they constructs they are. I don’t think that many are necessarily victims of the “misogynistic patriarchal religious system” or are actively trying to “keep the system intact”. As social animals, most individuals unconsciously accept normative behavior uncritically.

    Personally, I agree with much of your article and have critically considered our western lineal naming conventions in regards to my own life.

    My family is replete with Xian names including Joshua, James, Michael, Caleb, Chris, Jude, Selah… and on and on, although I’ve never felt “victimized” (INB4 “it’s your male privilege!”); I just reject it.

    After losing the faith of my recent ancestors (Evangelical Foursquare Christianity) I decided this was no longer important to me.

    My wife and I when married blended our last names in a recombinant manner: Fegles + Grinnell => Fennell. Predictably enough, the individuals who expressed their displeasure were solely on my side of the family. My poor Grandma cried alot about how I was rejecting my heritage and why oh why would I want to change my name? (My first thought was that Grandma, you changed your name…) We heard the concerns for the poor future genealogists… yet, nothing but approval from my wife’s side.

    My son is named Orion, and if we’re so fortunate, we’re planning on naming a future daughter Sophia.

    I’m a fan of the classics and the efforts of the early skeptikoi. I’m fascinated by the writings of Marcus Aurelius and the philosophical traditions and mutual critiques between the Stoics and followers of Epicurus. I cleave not to religious sensibilities, but see value in the allegorical personifications of wisdom for example.

    This has guided my families personal shift in naming conventions.

    And yes, I too love the Icelandic system. Very flexible and so literally descriptive!

      • mechanoid says

        Somebody’s awfully defensive.

        Perhaps I am, but I don’t really feel that way.

        Of course there’s always room to unpack the way we think. I do strive to be honest with myself and explore why I believe and think the way I do.

        I just tend to disagree (my bias) with a sometimes false dichotomy of oppressor/oppressed and that victimization necessarily follows. Reality is far more nuanced and I prefer that the messy details be explored and acknowledged.

        Otherwise, it’s just more rhetoric.

        It’s always a good idea to anticipate and address potential critiques.


    • Thorne says

      My wife and I when married blended our last names in a recombinant manner: Fegles + Grinnell => Fennell.

      That’s a great idea! Maybe that will become the norm, to honor both sides of the equation.

      • says

        Like with horses!

        I’m not being snide. I always did like the way horses’ names are often constructed to reflect both parents’ names. And it makes perfect sense within the tradition, and it’s perfectly easy to trace horse families backwards once you know the custom.

  34. says

    Thank you for this post — interesting point, and prompted an excellent discussion. I, too, am somewhat concerned by the lack of qualification in your comment about “proves that you are a victim” — but it’s worth bringing up.

  35. Scotbabu says

    Many communities in Southern India do not have a firstname-lastname naming system. Instead they are identified by place of birth, the given name of father, and thirdly by their own given name. Typically the first two names (place of birth and father) are shortened to initials. Hence you have
    A R Rahman, S P Balasubramanian, H S Nagaraj, etc.

    What are your thoughts Taslima, on the perceived religious affiliation of names? In India, ‘Nasreen’ will usually be considered to be a ‘Muslim’ name, since it is of Persian/Arabic origin. Sanskrit-based names are considered to be ‘Hindu’ names — so the name itself may not have a religious meaning, but it is identified with a particular religion. For example, ‘Shrabani’ will be assumed to be a ‘Hindu’ name, but ‘Shabana’ will be considered ‘Muslim’.

  36. Jean K says

    My kids have biblical names because I wanted to instill in them a sense of their Jewish roots. This doesn’t in the least bit mean they have to believe in any nonsense, and they don’t. They have my husband’s last name, not mine, because I think fathers start off with a more tenuous connection to their children–I was pregnant with ’em, after all. It gives my husband satisfaction that they have his name and it’s a type of satisfaction that I don’t need. So–all my naming choices can be justified, I think, and don’t mean I’ve violated any secular of feminist principles. Please, let’s not all name our kids “Tulip” and “Elm”.

    • Anat says

      Please, let’s not all name our kids “Tulip” and “Elm”.

      If enough people do that it won’t be weird. That’s what happened with Hebrew names (see my post in response to Rick Craig #12).

  37. Rilian says

    I came up with a non-sexist naming system where parents can still name their children after themselves. The next time two people have a baby together, they can come up with a first name for the baby that’s just something they think sounds cool, not named after either parent, then the second and third names of the baby can be the first names of each parent. The parents can decide among themselves whose name will be second and third. If you have a baby by yourself, then your baby would only have two names, their own special name plus your first name. If three people have a baby together, or four people, or five, it still works the same. And there won’t be any built-up hyphenated names passed on to the next generation, because each person would only ever pass on their first name.

    Men are taught that their children will be named after them, and that they are entitled to it. I understand the desire, and this naming system does not take that privilege away from men, it just also extends it to women, and to people of any other gender.

  38. annaliesa says

    My dad and his family was…erm…not so nice to me. I married young, and I took my husband’s name because my name reminded me too much of that side of the family. It’s easier to pronounce, too, which is a double bonus.

    My mother’s side of the family, which was chock full of incredibly feisty matriarchs, did take their husband’s names out of tradition. My great-grandmother unionized a factory, my grandmother worked and raised kids in part because she needed a break from them (and yes, her friends chastised her), a lot of college-educated and career-oriented aunts and cousins, and so the list goes on. I only had one relative be slightly uncomfortable with keeping my maiden name (or atleast hyphenating), but it was someone on my mother’s side who didn’t marry and was a teenager in the late ’60’s and early ’70’s.

    I choose my daughter’s first and middle name based on my mother’s cultural heritage. Her first name is a variation on my middle name, which is common in Britain and yes, an Anglicanized Hebrew name. Her middle name is a Gaelic surname – I have a grandmother whose ancestors are Scottish. The surname is a reference to a geographic location close to an old church.

    I’m quite a bit younger than you, so some of the naming conventions don’t mean as much to a lot of people in my generation. People do their own thing for the most part. My friend’s wife hyphened her last name due to what I imagined was professional reasons. When their son was born, they made his middle name her maiden name rather than hyphenate his last name. His name turned out to be quite charming and a nice reflection of both sides of his family. For a lot of folks in the US, last names are rather interesting bits of from a heritage they know little about.

  39. says

    While originally my name is religious (a Hebrew variant of John) and means “God’s gracious gift”, my parents took a different slant with it. (I’ll come back to this.) The gave me a middle name which mean “snow-covered” (Nevada) and the family name, Beauchamp means “Beautiful Field”.

    With this “snow-covered beautiful field” my parents who have a sense of humour went with the approach to my first name being a variant of John, which is of course slang for a bathroom or toilet.

    Thus, my complete name means “Outhouse in a snow-covered beautiful field”. This is a name I love, as it is unique and it gives me a great story to go with my name.

    Sure, you don’t need to necessarily have a family name, but that also doesn’t mean you should automatically throw it out. If you can come up with a better name, use it, but if what you’ve got is good, let the name live… even if it may have at some point in history held a religious connotation.

  40. Blattafrax says

    Why involve your children in this? Choose a name you like and they will like, not too embarrassing, easy to spell and not associated with any mass-murderers from the last few centuries (Adolf – no; Joshua – OK). If that name is Gabrielle or Thomas, then don’t worry about it.

    (Conflict of interest statement: My daughter has a ‘Jewish’ name.)

    This is the war on Christmas all over again. Don’t let the religionists appropriate our names. Reclaim them.

  41. Blattafrax says


    Wouldn’t you love to see a gay gerbil named Jesus?

    Oooh – yes please. I’ll trade for a dyslexic moose named Maria.

  42. says

    Bengali Hindu women were not permitted to have family names. They were neither considered as members of their parents’ family, nor were they considered as members of their husband’s family. They had two last names: goddess (Devi) and maid servant (Dasi). It is only recently that Bengali Hindu women started having family names.

    Bengali Muslim women also do not have family names. Their last names can be anything. Bengali converted Muslims have a tendency to have Arabic names. They choose any name from the Islamic holy books or from the Arab world to use as their first names and family names. Family names are educated-urban-upper-class-luxury.

    • thewhollynone says

      Yes, as I said, to identify oneself with a family group which has money and relative power. Very bourgeois, as the French would say. This surname tradition only arose in Europe about six or seven hundred years ago with the rise of the bourgeoisie.

  43. says

    I definitely disagree with you on the first names; in fact, I think that intentionally avoiding first names with religious origins is empowering religion by imbuing it with some kind of magic. I think we strike a much more powerful blow against religion by taking its traditions and such and aggressively secularizing them, deflating them of their magic.

    On the last names, I agree with you, except that I am in the uncomfortable position that my wife did in fact choose to take my last name when we married. I did not ask her to do so, and in fact earlier in life she had not planned to take her husband’s name if she got married. But she really liked my last name (yes, my last name is “Sweet”) and so chose to take it.

    I admit I feel sorta weird about it. I sometimes feel like people think I expected her to take my name, when in fact I kinda assumed (being the kind of person I am) that if/when I got married my wife would not take my last name.

    • says

      Oh, on a side note, even though I disagree with you about your particular reasons for avoiding names with religious origins, neither of my sons have names that are religious in origin (one is Gaelic, the other Latin, neither has religious connotations whatsoever). We avoided Christian names mostly because they are boring, though (like James, heh).

      • Thorne says

        When we got married, 40 years ago, that wasn’t really an option. It was just expected that she would take mine. I never insisted upon it, and if she had balked at it I don’t think it would have bothered me at all. But would I have taken hers? To be honest, at that time, I don’t think I would have. It would have been “culturally unacceptable.” If I were to ever remarry, though, I wouldn’t worry about such things. If it were important to her, and I couldn’t find a valid reason NOT to do it, I don’t think I would have a problem with taking her name. I no longer give a crap about “culturally unacceptable.”

      • jamessweet says

        Did you ever think of taking your wife’s surname?

        I thought about that abstractly before getting married, i.e. when I was younger I would wonder about what my future wife and I would do about surnames. I thought about us each keeping our names, using a hyphenated name (I used to be somewhat down on that approach because it’s not sustainable over multiple generations — but then I realized it’s not really intended to be, so if somebody wants to do it, so what?), and yes, I thought about whether I’d be cool with taking my future wife’s surname. I admit that would have been the most challenging for me… we are, after all, influenced by the culture in which we are embedded, regardless of our conscious thoughts on it, and I admit to feeling a twinge of immasculization at the thought — but if I were to marry a woman who wanted that, I’m pretty sure I would have agreed without much fuss.

        But yeah, I think I see where you’re driving at… there is still a double standard here. I never really seriously considered the idea that, “If I like my wife’s last name better than mine, I can always take hers!”, whereas my wife did consider that a serious option. There is patriarchy baked into those attitudes, I’m not going to deny it. On the other hand, I like my name and am not inclined to change it, and I couldn’t exactly have told my wife, “No, you can’t have my name! Keep yours or pick a different one!”

        So yeah, it’s complicated I guess…

  44. Rilian says

    I think the whole thing of changing your last name is stupid and it denies the existence of your identity. According to my latin book, women in ancient rome didn’t even have names. They were just called the “feminine” form of their fathers name.

    If someone wants to change their name out of nowhere, I’m not against that. But I don’t think taking your spouse’s name is ever a good thing.

    • says

      I took my husband’s last name when I got married for all the usual reasons, many of which were I didn’t feel like having a lot of conversations about it if I didn’t and had no professional reason to keep my own. But I didn’t take his name. I kept my name, my first name, the name everyone has called me my whole life and that set me apart from all the people in my family. That’s my identity.

      Before you think I am just extrapolating from the personal to the universal, think about anyone you knew in childhood or from school who has tried to get friends to call him or her by a different name. It’s difficult to do, and a lot of old friends and acquaintances won’t make the transition. But last names? Last names change all the time and nobody bats an eye. It’s a bureaucratic tool, and makes a good social shorthand among strangers, but it’s not a personal name.

      Of course, I don’t answer to Mrs. Husband’s Full Name, and don’t ever use it, even in highly formal contexts like addressing wedding invitations. That’s a tradition I am happy to see die.

      • Rilian says

        If you’re trying to get onto me for using the phrase “take your spouse’s name”, might I remind you that that is the way the practice of taking your spouse’s last name is commonly denoted in english.

        Most men would find it horrible and destructive to their identity to change their last name. Why? I think because they are taught that it’s part of their identity. But women are taught that their family identity is mutable. If it didn’t bother you to change your last name, that’s just because you were taught that you should do that. Like, one of my aunts by marriage is always going on about “being a lunsford”. And though I don’t say anything to her, I think she’s ridiculous. She’s not a lunsford. I have no idea what her real last name is.

        I think it’s stupid that you get a last name from only one parent, I think it’s sexist that it’s almost always the father. But that doesn’t make it any less stupid to change your name when you get married. You don’t stop belonging to your family when you get married. Marriage should stop being seen as a transfer of a woman from one family to another. And maybe it’s just that the people I know are old fashioned or whatever, but they all still see it that way.

        If someone hates their family and doesn’t want to be associated with them anymore, that’s different. It depends on the reasons you want to change any part of your name. Not that I want to make it illegal for people to do any name change they choose. I don’t want to force them not to do what they want. I’ll just think they’re stupid for it. And try to convince them not to do it. For example, I try to convince my mom periodically to change her name back to her real name. She says that if she had it to do over again, she wouldn’t change it, but now she doesn’t want to change it back.

        • Rachel says

          I think my last name is more central to my identity that my first name. It’s unique, it denotes a certain heritage, and it’s also used as a feminine first name, which I like. It’s a name that I share with my father, but it’s not exclusively his–it’s also mine, in my own right. I know there are lots of patriarchal associations with naming, but I would never want to change my surname, not least because I like sharing a name with that side of my family. And I definitely wouldn’t change it upon marriage; for me, that is far too redolent of women being transferred between families as property, and becoming subsumed under the identity of their husbands. My mother didn’t change her name, and her surname is my middle name, which I could use if I wished, although I usually don’t.

          I was not named Rachel for religious reasons, but because my parents liked the sound of the name and because they didn’t think it would be popular (oops). To me, the fact that it appears in the Old Testament just means that the name is really old. Although I do wish it meant something other than ‘ewe’.

          I agree that some sort of second naming is a good idea. I think people should be able to easily change their names when they come of age.

    • says

      I changed my last name when I married, because I’ve always disliked my dad’s name. And after getting divorced, I refused to “give it back”, as my ex put it. it was mine now, more freely chosen than my previous name had been (and if I have to get married again, to get my boyfriend a visa for a EU country, I’ll keep the name I have now, because his last name sucks, aesthetically speaking).

      Of course, if it weren’t such a pain in the ass to change one’s name in situations other than being a woman who gets married, I could have just randomly picked a last name that suited me, without having to steal one from a dude.

      • thewhollynone says

        Somewhat the same problem with me. When I married in the 1950’s (back in the Dark Ages), I began using my husband’s surname, and when we divorced after 30 years and two children who also used his surname, I saw no reason to reclaim my father’s surname. What difference did it make what man’s name I used? I could have legally changed my name to my mother’s surname, but that would have just been my maternal grandfather’s surname, wouldn’t it. I can’t change 500 years of European history; we are stuck with this patriarchal naming system, for now. Until we return to the cultural practice of reckoning descent through our mothers (which is the only common sense way), we will continue to be branded by the patriarchy. Hey, the men have to get some reward for all the hard work they do in helping us to raise the children!

        • says

          @thewhollynone You said. ”I can’t change 500 years of European history; we are stuck with this patriarchal naming system, for now. Until we return to the cultural practice of reckoning descent through our mothers (which is the only common sense way), we will continue to be branded by the patriarchy. Hey, the men have to get some reward for all the hard work they do in helping us to raise the children!”

          Why can’t we change it? We have been changing and eradicating and abolishing thousands of anti-women traditions and customs our ancestors practiced. We should start abolishing the patriarchal naming system.

          Men and women both raise their children. Children are not only mother’s children. They are also father’s children. You do not have to reward men for raising their own children. You gave birth to children, isn’t it a big thing? Changing your surname to accept your husband’s surname is more like reducing yourself to nothing but his wife. It can’t be a reward for men who believe in women’s equal rights.

  45. says

    bah. If I can name my spawn Jason, Diana, or Isis, I can name them Isaac, Mehmet or Magdalena, too. Mythology is mythology, and it’s a pretty typical source of names. and I must say that I prefer literary-sourced names to slapping nouns (Dawn, Prudence, Opal, Apple, Paris, Hunter, etc.) onto kids.

    Though I agree with one of the commenters above who said that it’s weird that we’re legally stuck with names our parents give us. There should totally be a second naming in which a person, once they are of legal age, can chose their full legal name themselves.

  46. says

    I guess from where I sit, most people don’t really put a lot of religious significance in their names. At the same time, if someone doesn’t like their name, eh, change it, no big deal. I will say that family names and p/matronymics do serve a disambiguating function, although places where they aren’t used, people seem to get along fine without them.

  47. Dan says


    This is the first of your writings I have read and I have to say my impression of you is upsetting. I am not convinced you are right or for that matter even speaking of anything that has actual value in people’s lives.

    Your use of absolutes such as “victim” and “denounce” makes one think we are somehow forced without choice into our situations. You are confused why we don’t completely reject the past that by your estimation was thrust at us without our permission.

    I do not find myself in a situation where my given names are stopping me or forcing me into a suppressed state. I do not put value in my name any more than it is a descriptive or label separating me from the individual to my left or right. I notice that you have a name that I would assume you chose for yourself. By your like or pleasure in nature related names, does that not lend one to think that you prescribe to an arbitrary notion of importance or significance specific to your way of thinking. Sounds akin to why my religious parents chose my names for me.

    I am just slightly curious as to why you reject so much in this topic that in my opinion means so absolutely little in the grand schemes of people lives. You argue the evil of the pigment without appreciating the beauty of the tapestry.

    I am an atheist, without question or reservation I stand firm by this. I do not understand the need for many non-believers such as humanists or atheists to consider atheism as anti-religion and follow this believe system. I do not reject the shaping of religion on this world. I understand what great achievements and great disasters have come by its machinations. I reject its fundamental belief that higher powers exist and manipulate our lives. I do not immediately disagree or dismiss all other teachings that religion just because it they are collected together.

    The persistent rejection of religion on the illogical axiom that if it originated from religious teachings that it must be rejected makes no sense and provides little to no real value. Those that follow this thought can easily miss great incite and knowledge.

    Your article smacks of some negative, I dare to use the term “hateful”, attitude towards organized belief systems. The name is not what is important, it is you, it is I that is important. To be 100% secular is not progression, it is eradication and that is rarely an acceptable solution.

    You believe what you believe. If it makes you a better person then I am all for it. I say the exact same thing to my religious friends.

    Let’s be honest, this is nitpicking and rather pointless is it not?

    “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
    By any other name would smell as sweet.”
    Romeo and Juliet (II, ii, 1-2)

  48. grumpyoldfart says

    You are an atheist but you name your children after gods or prophets or heroes and heroines of the religious scriptures.

    Nope. We chose the names we liked – didn’t even know “Michael” was an angel’s name until somebody told us later (and we still like it anyway).

    • thewhollynone says

      In our family we name our children after the relatives with the money. It’s an old French Catholic tradition which often brings luck to the child.

    • Dan says

      Same here. I like names that are particularly pleasing to me. My 5th (and hopefully final child 🙂 ) is half British. His cousin has a royal male name and we thought it would be nice that my sons name was also of a royal monarch.

      As an atheist I feel I have the best of both worlds. I am not restricted to a specific groupings of names based on any particular belief system. I can chose whatever name from whatever source for whatever reason. It doesn’t matter where the name comes from. What matters is whether I like it or not.

      By the way, “grumpyoldfart” is an excellent name. 🙂

  49. Ma Nonny says

    I grew up in the patriarchal naming system – my last name is the same as my father’s and his father before him, etc. The women in my family have traditionally given up their last names for those of the men they marry. So, this is the “cultural norm” for me, and yet I have an aversion to it beyond the patriarchal erasing of feminine identity.

    All I can think of is that, if the husband and wife have the same last time, is that they must have been siblings growing up. Maybe in cultures where incest is allowed, this wouldn’t be such a problem, but I don’t want the same last name as my spouse – we did not derive from the same family line. I am not related to him by genetics – I CHOOSE to relate to him as an adopted part of my family, so our origins should not be co-opted to sound like they are from the same histories.

    Does this ever bother anyone else besides me?

  50. unbound says

    Despite all my kids being born while I was still a catholic, their name origins are:

    Oldest (boy) – Old Norse
    Middle (girl) – Arabic (gemstone)
    Youngest (boy) – Scottish version of a christian name

    The oldest and middle children got their names predominantly because their mother and I liked the names…no other reason. My youngest was named in memory of my grandparents (grandmother was Scottish and my grandfather had the xtian name).

    Interestingly, the priest only had issues with the name of my youngest, so I think even the xtians don’t really know name origins at this point either. They (and I would daresay most of us) assume that any common name must be xtian in origin because the xtians have basically taken claim to them.

    And this is an important point. Who cares what the origin of the name is? And why would you flag your children with truly odd names? Have you forgotten how kids treat other kids that are different (especially something as easy to pick on as a name)?

    I’m interested in raising my children to be thoughtful and contribute to the society in which we live. I’m not interested in creating barriers to that process or ostracizing my kids right out of the gate. Xtian parents are already bad enough when they suspect that my kids just don’t go to church regularly; it really isn’t that hard to figure out their behavior towards my kids if they find out they are atheists. Those xtian parents are teachers, administrators, police, firefighters, military, etc in my community. If my children want to stand up and fight, I will back them every step of the way, but I’m not going to toss them into fray without them even being aware of what is going on in the world around them.

  51. twilight guardian says

    I feel last names are important. When I was growing up Jamie was a popular first name for both girls and boys. I knew 4. We relied on Surnames to tell them apart. Jamie S, Jamie M, Jamie A., Jamie O. I playfully wondered if I would meet one Jamie for each letter of the alphabet. As for a given name, I don’t give a crap if the name is originally religious. I like the name David so I give a character of mine the name David. I like the name Rachel.

    However my main concern is cultural barriers. You can’t call your child this name because they don’t live in the country that name is from, or their ancestors aren’t from that country. How racist is that? As a white person living in North America why shouldn’t I have the right to name my child Harmeet or Touya? Or for some Indian living in India to name their child Danny or Su Lin? It’s nice to have interest in your own culture, but when you’re expected to have naming boundaries dependent on your culture or cultural background, I think that isn’t right. No matter where you’re from if you find a name you like, why not be allowed to change your name to that or name your child that name?

    Some people like names only because it sounds pretty. Others may like the meaning of the name. Like many people said, it’s only a religious name if you put a religious context to it. I’m pretty sure that there were people named Mark or Luke or Mary long before the Bible was even a whisper. Just like there were people named Ronald or Harry before Harry Potter. I doubt the names were made up specifically for the Bible.

  52. Paddy says

    There are many issues with religion that need to be weeded out of society. There are many problems caused by religion that stem from their backward, superstitious, irrational thinking, but I have to disagree on this.

    I’d say that most atheists pick names for their children based on what they like. I know I have several names for my children that are names I just like, whether they have some association to religious figures or not. It certainly never occurred to me that there might be a religious connection.

    I’d say most names probably existed in some form long before they were incorporated into religions, or were specifically given to specific religious figures.

    As for family names, most people like them. They are proud of them. It gives them a sense of belonging and connection. I don’t believe women should have to change their names when they get married, in fact I insisted that my wife did not need to change hers. But if they want to, that should be their choice. I just don’t see it as being a “victim of the patriarchal religious system”, as I seriously doubt atheist women have changed their names for religious reasons.

    There are many discriminatory, misogynistic, delusional, ignorant, ridiculous notions that come from religion. Many of these notions are truly harmful, and we need to fight them. This isn’t one of them. And by that I don’t mean that it’s a religious tradition/system that we don’t need to change, rather that it’s a tradition/system that religion doesn’t own.

    Besides, Norse god names are totally cool…

  53. Q says

    I named my younger son Samuel. I’ve always been fascinated by 1st Samuel 15:3 and the various excuses offered for this despicable divine command. The intent was certainly not to glorify the atrocity described or even to draw attention to the clear moral contradiction, but as a reminder that evil invariably results whenever empathy is sacrificed on the altar of obedience.

  54. ... says

    Are you serious?

    I mean, this isn’t some sort of a joke post?

    People need to come up with a flipping name for their child that meets with your approval all of a sudden?

      • ... says

        I respect you tremendously for your work, but suggesting that what someone names their child has to pass your approval is, how shall I put it, megalomanical.

        I mean we could go along with those nature-based names – but there’s no evidence that nature-worshippers have been particularly nice to women (see also the chaps who had a thing for Norse names).

        Okay, so we can abandon those. How about ones from ancient Greece, first pagan and secular society? Er… The record of women’s rights wasn’t that great there either.

        So let’s just number people instead!

        Or we could get real, and decide that what people call their children is none of your damn business.

        Having a first name related to religion and a surname related to father or husband’s surname proves that you are a victim of the misogynistic patriarchal religious system and you do not denounce the system rather you try to keep the system intact.

        Proves, huh? Hmmmm….

        Christopher Hitchens. Samuel Harris. Daniel C. Dennet. Ayaan Hirsi Ali. David Aaronovitch. Abu Abraham. Isaac Asimov. Mark Twain. Peter Brearey. James Randi.

        And so on.


        Why is it necessary to have a family name ?

        To tell people with the same name apart. That was easy.

        • Rilian says

          Right, because people never have the same first and last name.
          Also because it’s totally impossible to give a person multiple names without one of them being a family name.

      • Tony says

        Perhaps if you explained your position better, and offered more support for why this is important, some of us could swallow it better.

        You said:

        Having a first name related to religion and a surname related to father or husband’s surname proves that you are a victim of the misogynistic patriarchal religious system and you do not denounce the system rather you try to keep the system intact.

        Which religious systems were you talking about? The modern top 5? The modern top 10? All modern religions? Modern and ancient religions?
        Would you say these are all misogynist patriarchal religious systems?
        Chinese Traditional religion
        African Traditional & Diasporic
        Cao Dai

  55. ... says

    Having a first name related to religion and a surname related to father or husband’s surname proves that you are a victim of the misogynistic patriarchal religious system and you do not denounce the system rather you try to keep the system intact.

    Okay, now this is definitely a joke. No one could write this sort of stuff for real.

    Could they?

    For the history-impaired, let me just throw out there the argument that women’s emancipation is a seed that grew from Christianity’s veneration of the Holy Virgin. Meanwhile, if you think that the names of Norse gods are liberal and enlightened… Wasn’t there a movement in recent history that got equally turned on by them?

  56. left0ver1under says

    All Sikh women in India have the last or middle name “Kaur” which means “princess”, and all Sikh men are given the name “Singh”, which means “lion”.


    Is that completely patriarchal (i.e. gender labelling) or not at all, since it applies to everybody? It looks like both at once.

    • ... says

      Well, the reason for that is a conscious rejection of Hindu caste names. So, you are being an ignorant fool deriding one of their great achievements in emancipation.

  57. SAWells says

    I eagerly await orders to rename the days of the week. Clearly our use of the words Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday constitutes worshop of the Norse gods and complicity in all the horrors of ancient Norse religion… right? No? Didn’t think so.

    I don’t think Taslima’s blog is a good fit for FTB. She’s doing sterling work _against religion_ but she doesn’t seem very good at _free thought_.

  58. DejaVuDreams says

    “Having a first name related to religion and a surname related to father or husband’s surname proves that you are a victim of the misogynistic patriarchal religious system and you do not denounce the system rather you try to keep the system intact.”

    This is just completely misguided.

    You do realize that people give names for an endlessly long list of reasons right? Someone who names their kin David may have done so because of a relative, a movie, or some significant or insignificant event in their life.

    I’m an atheist who happens to have the name “Joshua.” Why is that a patriarchal, misogynist name? Because it happens to have been used in a worthless tome two millenia ago?

    Going out of your way to give someone a “non-religious” name sounds like a something a hipster would do, not a “true secularist”

  59. potsandowls says

    Here’s a crazy idea for you. A way to bring a little non-religious ritual and ceremony to our lives, and our kids’ lives.

    Imagine that when a child reaches the age of X (maybe it’s also the age she can drink alcohol, drive a car, and vote, though not all at the same time). This child looks back on her education, her family, her heroes, and has to come up with her “adult” name by which she’ll be known from that point on.

    BUT… Once she’s decided, she has to convince three people who have already gone through the ritual to sponsor her. They, in turn, arrange the naming ritual in her honour. She tells the assembly why she’s chosen her new name, and her sponsonrs tell the assembly why they agree with her choice. When all has been said, the cleric compiles all the information and arranges the legal name changes (his is the worst job).

    And there there’s like cake & shiz, and maybe some special gifts from the sponsors, that sort of thing.

    And then that child is become an adult with all the rights and responsibilities thereof.

    • potsandowls says

      OH, me again. A few things that might have slipped by.

      This is a kind of Bar Mitzvah but without the religious conotations. The candidate who has passed through the Rite of Naming know that she is no longer going to be treated as a child
      It seems to me that although the Rite of Naming could happen anywhere, a special, simple building just for the purpose might add both to the solemnity and to the specialness. You’ll never be there again unless you’re asked to be a sponsor
      Can’t get three sponsors…maybe your name is lame. It’s time to go back to the drawing board and try again.

  60. Traveling Txn says

    I think others have probably raised this point, but I think its giving too much power to the faithful to have to avoid religious sounding names. I think that we should be free to pick out whatever name we want for our children biased on the minimum criterion of what do we like, and what will be tolerable for the kid to live with growing up (heres to you Cletus Moonchild [inside joke for a friend, but a relevant example]). Besides, at this point though a name may have a religious origin, theres bound to be someone from history or fiction with that name who embodies something cool. Prime example John, from the bible, but also from Robin Hood, and who is against raising their kids to help the poor?

  61. ik says

    I will agree. When all you have is radicalism, everything looks like an oppressive norm that must be destroyed. And then you get people (fortunately not Taslima, yet) who want to _take away my freaking gender_! Because just having gender is an oppressive system apparently, and my feeling secure in a single gender that is fairly privileged, makes me the enemy.

    Taslima seems to work entirely on vast sweeping generalizations made without any qualification whatsoever. She attacks things that might have existed with or without patriarchy. This began with the problematic agency-ignoring prostitution posts, and has continued to this.
    I suspect that a lot of what Taslima says is pretty applicable to her native country. In places of greater privilege, it is a disservice to create additional oppression as a counter. This arrogant certainty about more-or-less subjective ideas does not befit a freethinker. That which may be destroyed by the truth should be, and so all the religion in the world falls. Naming standards are not even remotely the same thing, though they do _reflect_ patriarchy and religion.

    That said I do NOT want to let my last name obliterate that of anyone I marry. That would just be sad. And I don’t want my name to go poof for no reason either.

    There are two naming schemes that I kind of like, which fit somewhat into our(american/general Western Europe?) traditions.
    The first is simply hyphenating on marriage. Unfortunately, when two people with already-hyphenated names marry, they must choose what two names to keep.
    The second would work well for large families, and for polyamories. Pretty much family/clan names, when somebody (either gender) marries into one they assume it’s surname, nee’ their birth surname, and a new name is chosen when founding a new and independent family (which presumably happens less often.)

    As to religious names I suggest avoiding the overtly religious ones while using the religious but not obvious ones liberally.

    I might give for first or middle names those of rationalist and scientific heroes, or aspirational qualities that secularists could get behind.

  62. ik says

    oops, forgot other point.
    Not everything that is a consequence of patriarchy is a part of patriarchy or a sustainer of patriarchy. And not everything that was affected by patriarchy in its formation is tainted. It just means that the patriarchy made our culture be one neutral way, instead of some other way. It’s not like rape culture or slut shaming or the income gap.

  63. satanaugustine says

    I agree with your post, Taslima. Of course I don’t think atheists our obliged to comply, but I think these are good ideas, especially with regards to using religious names. I don’t have children and have no plans to, but if I did then I would go out of my way to not use religious names. This would be something I would have to negotiate with my wife, of course, but I have a feeling she’d agree. (Not that we ever intend to have children)

    Michel Onfray, in his book Atheist Manifesto, and David Eller, in Atheism Advanced, make the point that, once we get past the more immediate and necessary goals of atheism – public acceptance, no more stigma, having a politic voice that’s actually heard, etc. – we should also try to rid ourselves of many of the cultural aspects of religious culture (they both address mainly Christian culture), including using religious language, following religious sexual mores, etc. David Eller goes into this in an in depth manner. I can’t remember if either of them specifically address religious names, but in my mind this would certainly fall into the category of religious language.

    You’ve made an important point. That so many disagree with you is, I think, an indication of being so steeped in religious culture that they can’t see past it which is no surprise, it’s hard to see it when it’s so pervasive and one is right in the middle of it, always has been, and knows nothing else. I suppose making people see how perpetuating religious culture helps religion stay in control is a worthy goal. It’s about consciousness raising. You’ve started a conversation that I hope continues and is expanded upon. It’s akin to convincing some atheists that religion is actively harmful (of course there are still many atheists who still believe this).

  64. Daft Greg says

    When John Lennon and Yoko Ono married, they came up with a very elegant solution. They took each other’s last names as their middle names, so John Winston Lennon became John Ono Lennon and Yoko Ono became Yoko Lennon Ono.

  65. MiaBee says

    Like most people in the United States, I inherited my last name from my father. I’ve always had this name. I really identify with it. I also love the meaning of my name: “Branch of Mountains” in Swedish. I am a mountain kinda’ gal.

    I adored my father, who died last fall. He was a fair man, who taught his four daughters to work on our own cars, to split wood, to be whatever we wanted to be. I adore my mother, who taught us how to handle money, to think critically, and to question religion.

    I grew up with my father’s name, I’m deeply invested in its history and meaning, and it’s the name I’ll keep until I die.

    Now, when I got married, I decided not to take my husband’s name like most other women I know. His name is similar to mine, but means, “Home of Bears” in Norwegian. We’re a good match. He wasn’t interested in changing his name, either. It’s not a common name in the US, and it has an interesting history attached to it.

    When we had our daughter five years ago, we chose to give her my last name. People asked us, “Why be so progressive and feminist by keeping your father’s name, but then pass your father’s name on to your daughter?” And I just say, “I’ve got to start somewhere.” And, “I love my name and I want my daughter to have it, too!”

    It’s not likely we’ll have another child, because my husband subsequently became chronically ill. But if we did, the child would have my husband’s last name, just to be as fair as possible.

    I’ll say it was very difficult to go against the mainstream and give our daughter my last name. It caused a lot of confusion on my husband’s side. Which struck me funny, because my family is largely conservative (though agnostic), and his is liberal (yet spiritual). His side had the most difficult time accepting that I kept my name and that we gave my last name to our daughter. We’ve been married nearly 9 years, and they still send mail to us with his last name paired with all of ours! Drives me crazy.

    So, that’s why I am still engaged somewhat in the patriarchal naming conventions. It’s a process. Maybe my daughter will end up changing her name entirely, or maybe she will love her name as much as I do and want to keep it. I do hope she never changes her name to her husband’s, though. That would really rub me the wrong way! But I know that I will raise her believing that she has a choice in this society, in our family, and that she can choose what she is most comfortable with.

  66. Steve Hansmann/East Central Minnesota says

    I’ve got six children, same wife and mom since 1976. My wife’s name is Aletta, named for her great-grandmother’s doll she had on the ship coming to the U.S. from Norway. My name’s Steve, biblical, martyred saint yadda yadda. My kids names are, in order of birth; Hayden, Colin, Linden, Ingram, Hazel and Liam. Hazel’s named after my beloved grandmother. Linden after my favorite tree, (I’m a part-time beekeeper, basswood honey is the best), Hayden and Colin we just liked. Ingram is old Norse. We lived in Ely at the time and I fed the placenta from his birth to the wolves and ravens, (we homebirthed five of our six kids). Liam we just liked. It comes from William I believe. As an atheist family, at no time did religion enter into our choices.
    Here’s another idea for change. My wife and I, long before we had children, agreed that the female children would be named after her, last name I mean, (maiden name?), and male children would carry my last name. So, in our family of eight, we have two Thorps, Aletta and Hazel, and six Hansmanns, Steve, Hayden, Colin, Linden, Ingrm and Liam. Yeah, I got the lion’s share, but it wasn’t deliberate. Don’t know if this would work in other families, but as we’re both feminists, it’s worked perfectly in ours.

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