i was excited to get kia's story out because, frankly, it reminds me of my own in many ways. she's a Black mom in her mid-30's (like me), from the northeast (same here), raised "on the outskirts of the Black pentecostal experience" (close enough), and now resides in suburban atlanta with her husband and young children (ok, so i'm single and live here). anyway, in one of her first emails to me, she joked that she was "basically waiting until my maternal grandparents die to come out to my parents and extended family." for me, it's my paternal grandfather, a beautiful christian jamaican man in his late 80s who has survived cancer, diabetes, and jim crow - but i'm certain if he knew that his precious "gran'daawta" was an atheist, it would be the death of him. kia's fundamentalist parents may not have that reaction, and her "don't ask, don't tell" system seems to be working for them all as of now. read on:
when did you become aware of your skepticism?
I don't ever really remember believing. On the rare occasion that I went to church (Pentecostal) as a young child it seemed like a very powerful thing that maybe I would "get" one day. I'm still waiting for that day : )
do you consider yourself an atheist?
Yes, but I can count on one hand the number of times or episodes that have necessitated a discussion of that fact.
your husband was raised as a christian fundamentalist, what does he consider himself now?
He's an atheist and much more strident than I am about it.
what do you think would happen if you outed yourself to your family now?
Not much. I believe that my parents desire to be involved in the lives of my children circumvents them from pressing me on certain issues. We live in another part of the country from most of my family, visit with them several times a year, and I'm basically operating under a "don't ask, don't tell policy" and that seems to work for all of us for now.
i noticed on your blog that your children attended presbyterian schools – what’s that been like?
Only for a pre K program, so it's without incident. I can't imagine going through an entire elementary school curriculum that was centered around Christianity. For kindergarten and up we've been very happy at a Friends School which is very welcoming to people of all faiths as well as the faithless.
you mentioned having “flirted” with buddhism, UU, and even quakerism – what were those experiences like?
They went very well for the most part. But it was a classic case of "it's not you, it's me". I continue to meditate but am now not stressed that it doesn't take me to a higher plane. It relaxes me and better enables me to cope with the plane I'm currently operating on.
what role does your lack of belief play in your parenting? e.g., do you allow your children to believe in santa and other such childhood myths?
I can't really say that not being a theist has impacted my parenting in any substantial way. The core morals and values that we are teaching our kids are the ones that I was taught. I grew up nominally Christian and as a result had relatively secular holidays filled with lots of joy and family traditions that I hold dear. I thoroughly enjoy the pomp and circumstance of Santa, the tooth fairy etc. Am I doing my children a grave disservice by propagating these fictions? Only time will tell but I look back on my own childhood with mostly warm regard and hope they do the same.
anything you want to share that i haven’t covered?
After I answered the first questions we had a family pet die. A cat that I had owned for over 13 years. It gave my two children at 4 and 6 one of their first personal experiences with death. It was one of the rare occasions that I understood the pull of religion, it would have been much easier to tell them that there was a pet heaven where our cat was living out better days. I settled for explaining that the pain and suffering of her last days were over and that she would live in our hearts forever. I can be reached at my journal like blog, theseagreenhouse.blogspot.com where I complain about all of my first world problems.
i've personally grown weary of atheist blogs that give no real insight into their authors beyond their non-theism, and hers is one that offers a peek through a lens which, like most of ours, sees more than the absence of a supreme deity. i love her writing, and i think you will, too. as always, email your stories to blacfemme at gmail dot com.