So, Mrs. Evangelical…you use birth control, heh? And you think God’s letting you through those pearly gates?

I’ve got an evangelical friend, we’ll call her Gabriella.  Gab and I didn’t go to college together, but we did spend our first years teaching together.  Those years were hard; we leaned on each other for moral uplift in a district that, at the time, was failing all peoples involved.  Of all the friends I have, Gabriella is really a jewel and I love her so–and miss her–so much!

She lives a couple of states away, and I”m still trucking it out in the great state of Missouri :-)

What makes my friend Gabby so interesting is that while she is a conservative evangelical christian, she also makes no apologies for her use of birth control; and why should she?  She has her religion and then she has her common sense her, well, she has a perspective that makes sense.

“Why would I want children right now,” she says.  “My husband and I haven’t even been married for five years!  I’d like to spend some time with him, travel with him, love only him for a while.  And then, perhaps, kids.

Of course other family members don’t quite see it that way.

Marriage gets you sex, sex gets you kids–and gets me grandkids!  But my friend stands her ground: my choice, my time.  Until then, Gabby and her hubby frolic in their love den with the best baby inhibitor’s that science has made!

I teaser her about the whole “be fruitful and multiply” mantra that so easily falls off the evangelical tongue these days.  I am told simply that she loves god, and she loves life; in balancing both her fruitfulness will simply have to wait.


This is the birth of the moderate christian, and its a beautiful birth to see indeed.  How often do get to see a group of faith-believing young people say, aloud, we love god, but this just doesn’t make sense for us right now.  We aren’t Atheist, but we don’t want to follow this rule right now, and that doesn’t make us bad.

I’m proud of those Christians who keep their faith while recognizing some of the less attractive parts of the faith as well.   This is how a faith evolves, matures, tempers.

If god won’t let a parent into heaven for waiting to be a better mom or dad, for choosing to cultivate a strong marriage before adding children to the mix, then that God isn’t  making a whole lot of sense.

Cute little Susie smartypants meets Mr. Hempelman

Does truth flow out of the mouth of babes…or just more propaganda?  Before I trotted off to bed last night, the hubby (who has become addicted to youtube of late) tugs my shirt and says I have to see this little girl talk about “Mr. Hempelmann.”

Mr. Hempelman is a Christian who has come into Susie’s classroom to talk about God.  But Susie ends up teaching Mr. Hempelmann about the intricacies of life as we know it according to evolution.  And she ends by holding up a most infamous, and beautiful book, The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin.

The video is in German (I believe), so get your reading glasses.  Susie is cute, quirky, and little.  So, does she REALLY understand what she’s saying, or is this show, like so many on The Christian Broadcasting Network, using her cuteness to further its agenda?

Well I’ll admit I got a kick out of little Susie–though she was wearing much more makeup than her face required.  I won’t lie, I want my girls to watch the video; they’re being bombard with images and falseness when it comes to the origin of life–hell, they’re even going to Sunday School!

I didn’t show them the video; I recognize the slant.  It would be fun to see their reaction though…hmmmm

“They can’t feel me squish them”

Like most Atheists, my basic value system parallels that of secular humanism.  This means that I believe a life, no matter how small, is worthy of dignity and respect; not because God or any other being mandates it or made the life, but because life is precious.

From a tiny, one-celled organism to, well, an ant; all life has value.

But that’s not what little Tommy thought.  Tommy’s an average American, Midwestern boy: he likes monster trucks, copies all the gestures of the men in his life, and he goes to church every Sunday.  Overall, Tommy’s a really nice kid.

We were outside when little blond, brown eyed Tommy walked by.  He’s in the third grade, and he eyes the fairly large, shiny black ant a couple of inches from the grass.  He runs.  The ant moves faster.   Tommy takes his size 4 shoe and extinguishes the ant.

“Tommy!  Why did you step on that ant!”  All the kids stop playing in the parking lot, and I realized that I probably spoke a bit louder than I should have.

“They can’t feel you squish them.”

“Why do you say that?  Are you an ant?”


“Do you know any ants?”

He just stares.

“Would it hurt if something the size of a planet stepped on you?  Would you try to run and get away?”

He stares.

“That was an awful thing to do.”  In an effort to stop my lecture, I stared at him one last time, watched his face go into thought–well, away from my eyes anyway.

But as I stomped into the house, my frustrations didn’t subside.  How could he blatantly kill and not even blink?  Yea, I know it was an ant, but it wasn’t one of those accidental murders–he saw the ant and thought ‘I’m gonna get it!’  And Tommy’s a good kid, he really is.  He does well in school, he’s respectful–and he doesn’t value the life of things smaller than him.

I don’t know, maybe I’m making too much of it.  Maybe I’m too tree huggy, but I taught my children that a life is a life, no matter how small–Seuss, anyone?  I know my children have killed bugs before: we had a lengthy conversation about the value of life at 2, we revisited the issue during the ‘great animal stomp’ at 5, and ever since then my kids know I better not here of them killing because they can.

If we teach kids that some life has value, and other life is meaningless, what’s to prevent them from hearing that ‘some people’ are better than ‘other people’, or that it’s ok to put those other people in camps, on reservations, or ANYWHERE but here with us?

Sunday Services (pt. 2): the UU experience

As we walked into the space where church services would be held, I took a deep breath.  I had to release the negative energy that churned at the thought of going church.  I’d spent about an hour in the building, the children were playing downstairs in RE–having a great time–and the husband was, well, compliant.

We were given a small handout which had the schedule for the sermon, and small events being hosted in the coming weeks.  The theme for the hour was The Sacredness of Work.  But it wasn’t work in the spirit of building for the Lord, or doing God’s work–it was work in the sense that no matter what you do, no matter your job, your work helped people; it was because of you that people made it through their day.

I was one of only 3 brown faces in the room–but that feeling of alienation that comes with being one of three wasn’t there–we were all together in that space.

I chose not to participate in a few time honored rituals: I did not sing, I did not stand to be welcomed, and I did not participate in the group speech that happens at least once in any church.  It was good to see those things however.  Had I been a person who recently left Christianity and wanted to try something more open, it would be the small nuances that would help the transition.

The Chalice was lit.

In my old church, you are seated, the preacher begins to preach and the word of the Lord ‘fills’ you.  My UU experience was quite different.  When I grabbed the hymnal book, I was surprised to find readings/quotes from Emma Goldman, Martin Luther King Jr., and Khalil Gibran.  There was also excerpts from Buddhist, Hindu, Islamic and Christian faiths.  I spent quite some time thumbing through the last third of the song book, which also housed quotes from the Tao Te Ching and other eastern philosophies.  These quotes were read aloud at certain points in the sermon, reinforcing the basic theme.

The best part was a reading from Jeffrey Salkin’s Being God’s Partner.  It posited the idea of work in a way that moved it from a spiritual endeavor to a self-fulfilling act; Salkin didn’t find God through work, he found a sense of inner peace by recognizing that everyone has a job that moves someone else along their chosen path: “if you are a cab driver, you move someone from the death of a loved one in a hospital into the caring arms of those waiting at home to start their transition…” It’s not an exact quote, but more than anything, I wanted to hear more about work from this perspective….

The deepening

I have a fascination with silence, mostly because I can never seem to find quiet time.  Even when I’m alone, and the room is silent, my thoughts are speaking aloud in my head.  So when the minister stood up and asked for a moment of ‘silence and centering’, I enjoyed it!  The goal was to clear your mind, feel yourself breath, and ready yourself for a new perspective on work.

The 30 seconds of silence and deepening was enough to send my hubby over the edge he later told me, but he maintained himself.  Having been in hundreds of churches from Scotland to Seattle, he was in no mood for the ritual of silence–and I understood.

But I liked the quiet, I enjoyed trying to release energy that would not help me and absorb the positive energy and welcoming wishes of the room.

The sermon itself felt more like an essay reading than a spiritual engagement.  I felt like I was hearing a wonderful excerpt from a series of essays on the relationship between work, religion and selflessness.  The minister moved us through her experiences of work as a child, and her college years with habitat for humanity–which led her to the ministry.  “Helping people build houses raised religious questions that one might not expect: ‘is it right for me to build a home for a Muslim family?’” one Christian would ask.  “‘Is it ok for me, spiritually, to know that the home I’m building will house a person that is unmarried with kids, yet living with a man, against God’s will?’” another was quoted as having asked?

How can we get past our religious differences and focus on work as a means for helping all people, regardless of their spiritual background?  How can we help humanity and help ourselves at the same time?

I really enjoyed her sermon.  It was on point, centered around the theme of work, it was honest, and she didn’t run from anything: “why do people assume,” she said of one black woman, “that when I help build for habitat for humanity that the house is for me?”

Even the minister acknowledged her previous prejudices that she “didn’t even know she had.”  If we want to move past our personal agenda’s, we have to “be willing to put them aside for the sake of the whole.”

The services ended with song and donation.  The donation we were told, “would be divided in half.  50% would go directly to cover building expenses, and 50% would go to the community charity of the month.”  This month it was the Kansas City Health Care Clinic, which helps the serve the nearly 300,000 people in Kansas City without health care.  To put that in perspective, there are about 600,000 people in the greater KC area…..

I happily gave a moderate donation–it was nice to hear where the money was going to, and who would receive my help.

The Chalice was extinguished, and we were told to go in peace…….


Our drive home was full of debriefing: The girls enjoyed RE, the older asking “are we coming next Sunday?” and the younger fairly indifferent about he experience.  The hubby had an enjoyable time.  He finds church goes to be generally kind, but wonders why freethinkers would want the ritual they chose to shed when they took on their title of Atheist, Agnostic, etc.

I enjoyed myself.  The sermon was interesting and made no mention of  Jesus–which was simply not my experience in church.  There was an Amen, a couple passing mentions of God (mostly in song) and lots of references to the ‘spirit.’

I plan to attend the forum discussions on occasion, and perhaps some of the side events, but overall I’m way too lazy to get up every Sunday.  And I’m way too anti-social to meet and greet on a regular basis.

But it’s really nice to know that the UU church will always be open if I change my mind.  The family has committed to at least three RE sessions for the girls.  If they like it, they can come regularly; if they don’t, they can stay home.  I have a feeling that’ll be the choice of the youngest, who tends to follow my not so social footsteps.  My oldest daughter can’t wait to come back, and I’m happy for her.

The Freethinkers go to Church!

My church experiences are pretty limited to a Baptist perspective; I’ve been to Catholic services twice, and that’s pretty much it. So walking through the doors of a Unitarian Universalist church for Sunday service made me want to soak it all in–the walls, the floors, the people and all the minute details of experience.  We would go to RE first, lounge time next and then the main event: Sunday services.

Religious  Education

Our first task was to secure the children.  It was 9:50 and RE (Religious Education–Sunday School) started promptly at 10 am.   We walked into the open space and met our ‘guide’ for the day.   The walls were covered with paintings from local Artists, their name and the price of the work scrolled at the bottom.  Each year, the church holds a gallery sale where you can meet local artists, buy paintings, and a book sale is attached.  Their are ceiling to floor windows in the open space, allowing you to see the outdoor sitting area–a few people are already out there, sipping coffee and chatting in pairs.

The actual service room–where the service was held–is to the left, doors open, with a few heads popping out above the pews.  As we glance at each other, my husband and I sigh……….the ‘sermon’ room.

We usher the children downstairs, where the RE class is held.  Several rooms separate the kids by age groups.  This Sunday is the last day of summer Sunday sessions; normal classes begin next Sunday.  Having taught 3-5 year olds for years, the RE rooms have all the prerequisites for a functional kiddie class: huge colorful rugs dot the floors, there is a calendar, a sign in sheet.

But there are mantras on the wall–huge phrases that all have to do with the planet earth: “Our planet is our home.  We must take good care of the planet and all the people, animals and plants that live there.”

“We have spent the summer learning about the rain forest and why it is important,” the RE director informs me.  Today the kids will separate into younger and older groups my 8 and 9 year olds move to the 7-11 age group room, and meet the other kiddos (children and parents are constantly cycling up and down the stairs).  The girls decided to huddle, smile and attempt taught manners–their uncomfortableness shows. “I suggest, if they enjoy today, you allow them to come to 3 RE classes in a row.  This will help them get over their shyness and they will get a chance to see if they like things further,” the instructor said.

I am also told a strong emphasis will be placed on self-esteem, opportunities to grow personally and spiritually (if desired), and the ethical treatment of all living things–including our planet.

She was a soft spoken woman, and the details of the coming quarter’s classes were unusual for ‘Sunday school’.  The girls would be split because of their age: 7-8 year olds will focus on stories from around the world.  My youngest will be learning, if she wants to stay, about creation stories from the Islamic, Jewish, Buddhist, Christian and Hindu traditions.  The oldest, in the 9-10 year old group, will have RE that focuses on science. She will learn the basic spectrum of scientists that have contributed to the life we enjoy today–as well as become introduced to famous Unitarian figures of the past.  My oldest–who definitely plans on coming back– will also learn about how Unitarian churches differ in their approach to the afterlife from Christian, Buddhist, Islamic and many other places of worship.

I do the mom thing: huddle, hug kiss.  “I”m going to be upstairs, this lasts an hour and then I’ll be back down to check on you.  You guys have fun, and try to meet some new people!”  They give me the puppy eyes that want me to stay, but I smile back, wave, and walk upstairs…this is their time to enjoy–or not enjoy–‘Sunday school.’

Forum v. Lounge time

After making our way back to the main parlor, we had a choice: go into the forum that begins at 10, or move about the building greeting, chatting and relaxing.

The forum setup is really cool.  Each Sunday at 10, you can spend an hour or so discussing community topics, listening to a presentation, or advocating for a specific cause yourself.  I wasn’t quite ready to go into the sermon area, and neither was the hubby, so we decided to skip the discussion for the day–the value of healthcare reform.

Instead, we chose to take a slow tour of the church.  Inside, we visited the kitchen, which was next to the lounge area–my favorite.  Essentially a lunchroom, the lounge area had about 10 tables, a stage, more massive windows, and a small eating area.  With a donation of your choice, you could grab some munchies, and sit and chat until the 11:15 service.   I noticed quite a few people from the freethinkers meet-ups their, as well as  a few students–who aptly pretended I didn’t exist (I love teenagers!)

We would spend about 20 minutes in the lounge and then we’d survey the grounds.  I was so surprised with the openness of the time; at my churches you always were supposed to be somewhere, doing something.  At a UU church, meeting and greeting, moving at will, and loose structure seemed to run the day.

As we walked around the building, I learned the history of the church itself.  This UU church had been around–in the same building–for more than 100 years, it had gone through less than 20 ministers (at least, that’s what I saw on the photo wall), and the church had become an integral part of the community.

I also learned about the process for choosing a new minister for a UU church.  This process consisted of a pool of 20 or so candidates being narrowed down to about 3.  Each candidate comes and gives a sermon at the church, which is intensely scrutinized.  There must be a proper fit, congregation and minister, and UU churches take this seriously.

Candidates’ credentials and history are taken into account by the search committee (made up of elected members), and finalists interact with the church on several different levels before a selection is made.  Voting and congregational input is used throughout the length of the process, which can take up to a year.  During that time, interim ministers–selected by Universalist Unitarian Association–come and help a congregation transition from one minister to the other; interim ministers have no intention of becoming full ministers.

I found my hubby and he was a bit irritated.  “We came for ‘church’ and we’re hanging out.”  His life was spent in church (being the son of a preacher and all) and his intentions were clear: he came to support the kiddos, support my decision to go, and then to leave.  I sent him on an errand: check on the girls.  When he returned, we moved into the place of worship

–not a cross in site.

A little sacreligious humor to lighten your Saturday (warning parents:explicit!)

My husband came across this little beauty!   It’s a rather humorous satire describing how the God of old ‘took care’ of people who went against him.  Satire is cruel.  It’s so witty, so rude and  so disrespectful that sometimes, sometimes, it goes too far.  If you’re one of my more conservative readers (and I love you for it!), this video isn’t for you–clearly just the title is wholly atrocious.

But, if you’re one of my cynical, push everyone’s button and laugh about it, kermudgeonistic kind of readers, you might just get a kick out this.  Either way, don’t take it too seriously!

Aahh Church this Sunday: Will the Unitarians convert me?

Okay, my friend is gonna read this and pull hairs.

It’s true that at her Unitarian church, the goal isn’t to save souls; they merely want souls to have an opportunity to congregate.  It’s just hard to shake that “we want you to convert” feeling that comes with church.  Every Sunday at church, we were ‘invited’ to let the Lord into our lives–again, and again and again.  But each time my little brown knees knelt before the preacher, nothing stirred inside.

Now my girls will enroll in the Sunday school/religious education program, and the hubby and I will sit through ‘service.’   Religious education and acceptance is the general theme of Unitarian Sunday schools–that and being around kids who’s parents are also hellbound as well.

But I’m such a flake!  I wanna back out.

Church?  The last time I went to a ‘Sunday service’ I was a teenager, I was forced, and I stared at the cross the whole time–half in dismayed curiosity, half is sheer rage.  That one symbol, two sticks crossed off center, was responsible for so much frustration, so many let downs–

I’m a little agitated (afraid?).

Am I supposed to dress up?  Are jeans acceptable?  I’ve spent the last two weeks trying to put my Baptist experiences behind me and give the Unitarian perspective an objective shot.  We teach children not to prejudge, not to assume.  I have to enter with an open mind; a skeptical mind, but an open one.

And no, I don’t expect to be converted.  I’ve been skeptical of religion since I was a young girl, I don’t expect this to ‘enlighten’ me.  But perhaps I will make some freethinking friends, perhaps my children will feel comfortable and ‘normal’, and perhaps I’ll learn that not all churches want your soul.

Whatever the case–I can’t wait to scroll my thoughts out on The Secular Parent!

The New International Bible eliminates (at least) 3000 “masculine” references: would God approve?

I was perusing the internet when I came across a rather interesting find: the International Bible Society has decided to eliminate thousands (3 thousand to be exact) of masculine references from the New International Bible set to come out in 2011.


The argument here is that ‘ancient’ translations don’t support the use of masculine pronouns and references to father, son, and brother. I find it difficult to believe however that women were present at the council of Nicaea, where the various stories and myths were were tossed about until ‘The Bible’ was created (by the Bishops who wanted to keep the Roman Empire stable).  Women weren’t allowed–and in most faiths still aren’t allowed today–to be Bishops.

Based on the Western tradition, women are to blame for so much that making the Bible more ‘female’ friendly because the ancient scripts dictated so is, well, ludicrous.

Why take men out of the Bible?

Better yet, why alter the Bible at all?  The Bible is God’s word.  ButCathy Grossman’s article doesn’t ask that question.  In fact, the article is not critical at all of the International Bible Society’s altering of the Holy Bible.  And she should be.  This is a book with the power of nations behind it; a book that people readily give their lives for; a book that is deemed holy and unchangeable–a book that will get you into heaven if you follow it word for word.

I don’t know why the IBS decided to remove male references from the Bible; they aren’t God.  Grossman quoted Douglas Moo, the committee chairman, as saying “[scholars will] review every single gender-related decision we have made and make sure we are putting God’s unchanging word into English people are actually using.”

Call me cynical here, but if God can’t figure out how to tell people what he’s thinking–clearly and with proper pronouns–how are we to trust that he is all wise, all knowing and all powerful?

The playground: the new battlefield

It rolls off the tongue with such vigor and sharpness: delusional.  The only emotion that rises from being called delusional is rage.  So why do freethinkers toss it from the tongue?  Don’t they understand the power of that word?  Of course they do, and that’s exactly why they–why we–use it.

Of course it stems from a truism: debating the validity of faith and religion in general can only go so far–once a person says ‘I believe’ you have to say ok…right?

When Richard Dawkins book, The God Delusion, flew off of bookstore shelves I was so happy.  I thought “we finally live in a world where religious hypocrisy can be discussed, openly.  Where inconsistencies–the kind that led me to stray from my Christian upbringing–could be banished as non-facts.”   But the God Delusion did more than that.  It inadvertently  branded people–specifically Atheists–as rude, mean spirited and arrogant.  It deemed all religious people–delusional, ignorant, and mentally weak.

When I speak with my evangelical friends, I tread carefully through our conversations.  Fear doesn’t provoke it; a love of knowledge, friendship, and a love of truth makes me watch my tongue.  If I want to see the relationship between freethinkers and the faithful change, I have to bring warmth before I deliver cold.

When I was a ‘new Atheist’, there was no stopping me.  My blood wanted a fight, and logic was on my side.  I’d say it just the way I felt it, which was usually pointed toward the hypocrisy I saw specifically from organized religion and religious individuals in general.  I’d call out ANYONE, ANYWHERE.  I had a RIGHT to criticize faith, and I was using it.

But maturity has slowed my passions.  Yes, I am an Atheist.  And yes, I do believe that organized religion is designed to maintain the facade of an afterlife for the purposes of controlling, using, and manipulating those who genuinely believe.  I am sad for those who were ‘born into faith.’

I want young people to choose.

I also acknowledge that Atheism can’t answer for all the experiences of the world, and we need a balancer–an opposite–to keep in check the power and control of the many over the few.  I wouldn’t want to live in a world of Atheists only, no more than I want Christianity to dominate the landscape.  There is a way can find our similarities and put aside our differences for the purpose of helping us all.

And I love the writings of Richard Dawkins–and I make no apologies for it.  If we look behind the angst and passion of Dawkins–which tends to pronounce itself as a hybrid of emotion and impenetrable logic–we see a frustration that cannot be controlled; he tries, but it overrides him at times.

This is the same frustration that plays out on the field at my kids school–where they battle for their right to be free of Sunday school, free of hell and free of Jesus.

Delusion  heaven  devil Jesus  Mohammad  hedonist, immoral, stupid.

These are the words we sling back and forth at one another, freethinker and faithful alike.   I temper my words, and consider my thoughts for the sake of respect, and for the goal of living in a world where a perspective is a perspective, and all perspectives are authentically allowed to foster.

But the playground, who’s watching the playground?  Who’s making sure that our children move into a space where they can stand up for themselves, and yet still respect another’s point of view?  If we all took a minute to tell a child, “Because people think differently than you does not mean that they are bad people,” a crack, a split, and then a crevasse would emerge.  And try as they might, the boxes deceptively placed around the mind of a child will weaken.

All bloggers meet The Smiths, eventually………

Do you know Mr. and Mrs. Jones?  I bet you do: they’re the one’s that have everything.  Not only is their TV bigger than yours, but it’s HD.  You got DSL, well the Jones’ have the new T1 connection–downloads in seconds!

When it comes to blogging, there’s the Smiths.

Their website has hundreds of thousands of hits–yours only has a few; The Smith’s have readers all across the world, while you are more of a ‘friend-based’ phenom.   And, no need to add widgets to your blog, the Smiths will see your shabby widget and raise you a useful one.

I am not the Smiths, and I’m certainly not the Jones.  But I am a blogger with a busy life.  That means, especially the first month of school, my blogging and my site updates might be a bit sporadic.  When I talk with my children about the dangers of jealousy, I must remember my own.  I’m always telling them “be happy for what you have.  Enjoy it, and know that you could have a lot less.”

What does this have to do with The Secular Parent?

Well, I’ll admit I’ve fallen victim to the “I wish” syndrome: I wish I had more time to invest in my little blog; I wish I had the resources to make it AWESOME!!  And, I wish I had more readers–more people attracted to the idea of secular parenting.

I’m a teacher, a mother, and a wife before I’m a blogger–but I REALLY like being a blogger!  Just as much as the other ‘hats’  I put on, The Secular Parent (and secular parenting in general) is very important to me.  Ugh!!!

When my niece says “I wish we could buy that balloon auntie,” I try to let her know that we can make it a goal, but wishing for it won’t make it happen.  “And sometimes,” I say to those pretty blue eyes, “you’re perfectly fine without it.”