Tell Me All Your Thoughts On God

“Hey, Mom,” Connor (age 6) asked, as we ate lunch at the kitchen table last week. “What’s ‘religion’?”

I wondered where he learned the word, and where this was going, but I answered him as best I could.

“Religion is what a person believes about how the world was made and where we come from. Some people believe that a god created the earth, and some people believe it was science.” (“Science” is the umbrella term I tend to use with him for natural law, physics, astronomy, electricity, etc.)

“We believe that there is One God,” he said in that tone of voice I knew well — the same tone of voice I used to use when I would say, “We believe in God the Eternal Father, and in His Son Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.” I suspected that he’d actually absorbed some of the religious sidebars at his old preschool, after all.

“Actually,” I interjected, “Your Dad and I believe that the world was made from science. Who believes that there is One God?” I was trying to figure out where he got this phrase.

He paused. “All my friends,” he answered.  (more…)

Neo-McCarthyism and my Subconscious

I’ve been having an increasing number of dreams involving my family’s safety.

In one dream, my son and I were being hunted and herded to small boats on a river. I lost my right shoe in the confusion, and I worried that my son would try to go back for it. Instead, I convinced him to continue basically hiding in plain sight with me, often playing possum, in hopes of avoiding being sent down the river in open boats in the freezing rain.

In another dream, I decided to do a frivolous Facebook Live video from my home, and within hours someone had identified where I lived from the scenery out the window, broken and entered, and made his way up to my bedroom merely to prove he could and to engage me in conversation. My mother walked in, saw him, screamed, and sprayed him with air freshener.

Up until recently, I felt plenty comfortable blogging and posting photos and whatnot. Over time, I stopped identifying others by full name on my blog, to respect their own privacy, but I was fine with sharing my own thoughts and activities — within reason, of course. My civil liberties were intact, though, and I don’t do anything controversial enough to get me doxxed or worse. With the incoming administration, though, I smell McCarthyism — or something very much akin to it — brewing on the horizon. I’m not a Muslim, or an immigrant of any sort, but I am an atheist. Is that a red flag in Trump’s America?

I’m probably deluding myself if I think I would garner any sort of attention for just being a middle-class atheist in the Midwest… but I suppose stranger things have happened.

Either way, I’ve been active online for so long that I’m searchable for years back. Even if I archived and deleted my blog, my Instagram, my Flickr, if I closed my Twitter and LinkedIn and Facebook accounts, if I cancelled my Gmail and got rid of my Google account entirely (and in today’s ultra-connected society, I’m not even sure all those things are feasible), I’m still out there, online, archived, searchable.

As an American citizen, living in the Land of the Free, even my subconscious shouldn’t be having to worry about such things.

Filling out paperwork for today’s doctor appt, I was surprised to see #Atheist as an option for the Religion box. I’d beelined for None.

Mindfulness In Eating

I was talking with one of my Catholic co-workers on Ash Wednesday, discussing the symbolism of ashes and Lent in general. We came to an agreement that the whole thing is mainly symbolic, focusing on the concepts of sacrifice and mindfulness.

(As a side note, she is one of a very few believers with whom I feel I can discuss religious topics. We respect one another’s beliefs — or lack thereof — and don’t proselytize, but actually discuss concepts, their meaning, their history, their significance. It’s kind of refreshing, especially after being bombarded by the standard Facebook fuckery about I’m Right And You’re Wrong And Look At This Meme That Says So. But I digress.)

Thinking about mindfulness in eating for religious purposes — avoiding meat on Fridays during Lent and on Ash Wednesday, or during the daylight hours of Ramadan — led me to thinking about mindfulness in eating to lose weight. I’ve been having a really hard time not living in the moment, and instead focusing on eating right overall and staying on Plan.

What if I devote a single day to mindful eating? In a very secular and non-woo-woo way, what if I dedicate the day to myself, and my son, and my husband, and the versions of us in the future that will appreciate me having been good to myself? Focusing on preparing and eating my food and not doing anything else while I prepare and eat said food?

It can be a mindfulness practice, similar to the Zen practice of Oryoki, but devoted and dedicated to my health. Maybe I can spend some time thinking about how much I’ll appreciate what I’m doing for myself in the future, rather than just blindly feeding my face because I want to.

I’ve also been having trouble with eating after Connor goes to bed. So, I developed a sort of ceremonial closing of the kitchen: fill the dishwasher, make tea, clean up, leave the kitchen. I spend some time winding down — sometimes at the kitchen table, sometimes elsewhere — drinking my tea, and eating a Biscoff cookie as a final treat. I read a magazine or a book, or I write in my Techo, or I blog, and I find myself not pining after a fourth meal like I had before. I also find myself getting up to bed earlier, which I’ve needed to do for a long time now.

It’s kind of ironic, though, that those of us who have a tumultuous relationship with food can only resolve that relationship by thinking more about food, not less.

One weird thing about being an #exmormon is when I wake up with a random hymn earworm. “Do what is right / The day-dawn is breaking…”

On Raising a Freethinker

Aaron and I were both raised by Christian families, and went to church regularly up through high school. We’ve since deconverted, and we both identify as atheist. We’re also very “live and let live” sort of people — sure, we shake our heads at what we deem to be ignorance or stupidity or just poor decision-making, and I’d be lying if I said we aren’t judgmental, but we make a point not to let it affect our daily interactions with people.

But we’re both grown adults. We had plenty of time to figure ourselves out before we became parents. We went through our youth of believing what we were taught, and our young adulthood of not knowing or caring what we believed anymore, and finally matured together into discovering what each of us do and don’t believe.

So, it’s more than a little daunting to consider that we’ll need to help guide our son (now three years old) through the process of figuring out who he is, how he fits in, how Life works, what’s right and wrong and what can’t be classified as either until you understand the situation. Instead of educating him in a religious environment (i.e. Sunday School), we have the opportunity to educate him in an non-religious way about social mores, values, standards, responsibility, consequences, kindness, right and wrong. We also have the opportunity to help him figure these things out for himself, which is a much more effective way to internalize such things than just being told by someone else.

It’s kind of like when he was teeny-tiny, and we talked through what we were doing — changing his diaper, making dinner, putting on his clothes — even though he didn’t understand language yet. Eventually, from hearing everything repeated so often, he put things together. Now that he’s old enough to comprehend being happy or sad, nice or mean, we try to talk things out with him. We don’t kick or hit because that hurts people, and that makes people sad and angry. We gave our leftovers to that man on the corner because he was hungry, and having food made him happy.

Even now, he recognizes when I’m getting frustrated with him, and gives me a big hug and an apology. Just today, he asked how I would feel if he threw a drink coaster on the floor — when I told him I would be angry and frustrated, he decided not to throw it on the floor, because me being frustrated would make him sad.

I think we’re on the right track — but I also think that Connor is already an empathetic and intelligent little boy, just by virtue of his innate Connor-ness, not necessarily because of our parenting. We just need to keep guiding him in the right direction.