Friday, May 15, 2015

Sex Beyond Belief

Sex....hmmm...let me think on that.....oh sorry, I got side tracked. eh hem. Anyway, let's talk about sex. Sex is quite possibly the most powerful thing in our world. It is an extremely powerful motivating factor. It causes us to do things we wouldn't typically do, it causes us to go against our own standards at times, it sells products, it can be used to give intense pleasure or to inflict intense pain, it has been the cause of wars, the source of shame and guilt, it can make or break a marriage or relationship, and it is both beautiful and sometimes ugly.

The aspect about sex that I would like to talk about is how it changes (or maybe doesn't change) after leaving religion or faith. What is sex to a non-believer? What role should it play? Is it sacred? Does it hold the same beauty? Is it more or less enjoyable? All of the answers depend on the person in question. We all experience sex differently and have our own experiences that mold our reaction to sex. So....what effect does the experience of religion have on our reaction to sex?

It has been very interesting to me in my journey out of Christianity to get a new perspective on certain aspects of my life. The crazy thing is that things have changed for me in ways that I was not expecting! It's been very eye-opening in many ways. I have had to step back and reconsider pretty much everything in my worldview. My faith was at the center of everything I believed about the world and about myself. I feel like I'm kind of starting over in some ways. The foundation of my personality and the effects of my experiences remain and sculpt who I am, but my worldview and beliefs dramatically alter my outlook on life, love, death, sex, parenting, marriage, and everything else.

What were my beliefs about sex as a Christian?

When I was about 11 or 12 years old I had "the talk" with my mom about sex/making love and what it is and how it's done between a husband and wife. She explained to me in very plain terms how it's done and that it is a very pleasurable and wonderful gift from God for a husband and wife. She told me that someday I'll meet a man that I'll very much want to make love to and that as a Christian woman I should wait until our wedding night. I don't know if it was the way she explained it all to me or if it was just my nature, but I immediately grasped the beauty and intimacy of sex and as I thought about the male and female body I thought it was so "cool" that they fit together so perfectly and that it felt good too!

Not everyone has an immediate positive reaction to the sex talk, but for whatever reason I thought it was beautiful and I believed, just as my mom had told me, that it was a gift from God to be cherished between a man and woman in marriage alone. I also learned from my mom, dad, Christian books and sermons over the years that sex is a fundamental element to a successful marriage. It is important for a married couple to keep intimate closeness and good communication in the "marriage bed." I learned that once you're married anything goes as long as you both consent and it is between only the two of you. I couldn't wait to get married and spread my wings (or legs) sexually with my husband! How exciting to get to explore all the wonders of our bodies together and for the rest of our lives! I watched as my parents' marriage grew, strengthened and blossomed over the years (they have been married 29 years now) and I knew that their sex life grew along with their marriage and love for each other. Just like everything else, though, sex has its many struggles and trials and they were open and honest with me about the struggles and beauties of sex. I am so grateful to them for their openness and ease of communication with me on the subject. Because of their willingness to be candid about that subject with me I learned so much and have knowledge and wisdom beyond my years in many areas, not just sex.

My beliefs were that sex was created as a beautiful gift from God, but it had very specific limits. First of all, it is meant for marriage only! Marriage had to be between and man and woman (who were born that way). It also was to be kept sacred within the bonds of marriage (in other words no adultery). As a teenager I was determined to keep sex sacred and to keep myself "pure" for my future husband. I had no doubt that I could do it. It was of utmost importance to me! My parents bought me a silver purity ring and I wore that thing like a wedding band. I was married to Jesus and to have sex before marriage meant that I would cheat on him and I could not and would not ever do that!

My parents and I decided that I wouldn't date in high school (they involved me in decisions like that because they are amazing parents). I decided that I only wanted to date someone if they seemed like someone I could possibly marry. I didn't date for fun. When I was 15, almost 16, I met a boy and fell for him instantly. He was a Christian too and we had both decided not to date in high school so we just started developing our friendship as a foundation for down the road when we would date. The chemistry between us was unbearable! We were in love and extremely horny teenagers. I started to realize why so many people failed to save sex for marriage. This was proving to be a challenge! We managed control for a couple years, but when I was 17 and he was 18 we started messing around a bit. We started dating in my senior year of high school and in my freshman year of college we kept pushing the limits until one day we slipped and went too far. This failure sent me into a downward spiral of shame and guilt that led me down a dark road. I continued to have sex with him and figured that it was too late for my purity so what was the point in continuing to try to fight for it. I was bitter and angry at myself. I started to act out in other ways. I lied to my parents on a regular basis about where I was going and who I was with. I craved male attention and soaked it up whenever I got it. I started cheating on my boyfriend with another guy who I had also fallen for and I was in such a mess emotionally that I couldn't tell up from down anymore. I just kept doing what felt good to keep the awful feelings of guilt and shame away cause I couldn't take it.

Eventually, I was found out and I, quite literally, felt like my whole world was crumbling beneath me. My parents had no idea of any of it and were horrified to find out what I had been doing and that I had been cheating on the man I love and who I had planned to marry. They couldn't make sense of the whole thing because it just didn't seem like me. I was extremely depressed and suicidal for a while after that and started going to a counselor who helped me work through it and got me on antidepressants.

That was a very dark and sad part of my life and it was all because of sexual guilt and shame that my religious beliefs told me I deserved. If I hadn't felt so horrible about my intimacy with my boyfriend, who I had known for years and who I knew that I absolutely loved, then the downward spiral wouldn't have begun. I worked for years on forgiving myself and coming to the realization that I still had worth. For a while it was hard for me to believe that any Christian man would want to marry a woman so scarred and with such a shady past. Not to mention, I didn't have my purity to give him. How could I possibly be worth anything to him? In the Old Testament they stoned girls who were found to not be virgins on their wedding night! Was that what I deserved? If so, I would happily put an end to it myself. I hated myself. I had one primary goal as a young woman and that was to maintain my purity until marriage and I had utterly blown it. I was the worst failure imaginable.

Why do I share all this? Well, the idea of biblical sex was a beautiful one, but when I failed at the guidelines it quickly became ugly and could have huge consequences. Not every Christian young person has the same determination as I did to be pure until marriage, but for the ones who do and fail, it is devastating. I suffered for years because of it and though I thought I had forgiven myself, even though I continued to make mistakes throughout my early twenties, I brought that guilt into my marriage and kept it tucked away in the back of my mind. Every once in a while it plagued me and I felt inadequate for my husband who I felt deserved better than me. I didn't even realize that it was still taking a toll on me until I had become a nonbeliever and started rethinking all of the different areas of my life that my beliefs had an effect on (which is pretty much all of them).

What effect did my deconversion have on my view of myself and my sexuality?

It wasn't until my deconversion that I actually felt freedom from my guilt and shame and was able to fully embrace my sexuality! That was a totally unexpected effect of my deconversion. I hadn't thought that I had anything left to let go of but I found that apparently I still did.

The freedom I felt translated into a more lightweight, free-spirited renewal of my sexuality with my husband and I think he likes it! As it turns out, I'm not the only one who has felt a huge weight lifted in the area of sexuality after deconverting. There was a study done by Dr. Darrel Ray and Amanda Brown on atheists, agnostics and secular people on how religion and leaving religion affects sex. The study shows that leaving religion has a drastically positive effect on people's sex lives. It has an especially positive effect on the sex lives of those who were fundamentalist in their beliefs, but are no longer believers (Atheists Do It Better: Why Leaving Religion Leads to Better Sex).

I realize that there are many religious couples who have wonderful and satisfying sex lives like my parents did and still do, but I also know that religion has a very detrimental effect on many people's sex lives and self-worth. I nearly took my own life because of the shame I felt over something that I now know to be a natural part of being human! Sexual guilt and shame ruins lives and marriages and it is extremely prevalent in religious communities all over the world.

What I believe now

Now that I don't believe that there is a God who has put rules and guidelines on our sexuality, I believe that it is a completely natural act between humans to enjoy intimacy, express love, create children or just enjoy because we can. I do think that there is a strong psychological bond that forms between people who engage in sex that is probably a part of our evolution to ensure that our offspring will be cared for, but I believe that the bond can be broken and remade with multiple lovers throughout ones lifetime and that we can handle this as long as we don't have religious views that cast shame and guilt on us that our minds hold onto for years.

I still see sex as being beautiful and sacred, but in a different way. I've been able to accept myself as a very sexual woman. I love (verb) through physical touch and physical intimacy so for me I need it more than I even want it! To feel that level of closeness with my husband is an absolute necessity for me and I love sex and love-making as much, if not more, than I ever have.

I have also been able to open my mind more fully to people who identify as homosexual or bisexual. I have felt for years that what the Bible says about homosexuality isn't fair because people are born that way and to deprive them of physical intimacy with someone who they are attracted to and/or in love with is one of the worst forms of cruelty. I know that if I was a lesbian I would not be able or willing to give up an entire lifetime of love and companionship just because I was born with an attraction to the wrong sex! Nor should I! Homosexuality is natural and even occurs in other animals. It is nothing to be ashamed of and should not be judged by anyone. I feel very strongly about this. I see way too many people suffer because of religious people who feel the need to impress their beliefs on society to please god. Someone's sexual orientation does not harm anyone! The only harm is brought on by those who judge and try to take away their rights.

I have actually come to a realization in my own sexuality that I am, at least partially, bisexual. I don't act on the female attractions (though I have in the past) because I feel that it is important to be loyal to my husband. I'm definitely primarily heterosexual, but I now realize that there is nothing wrong with my attraction to females and I don't have to deny it anymore.

If you're curious to learn how I came to the conclusions I've drawn about my disbelief in religion or god, see my post titled My Journey Into Atheism.

What needs to change?

The biggest thing that I believe needs to change in our country and all over the world, where sex is misunderstood and repressed, is better education to young people. We need to do a much better job of educating, not only about what sex is, but also about how to have safe sex. It is unrealistic to think that teaching abstinence will solve the problem. The areas of the country that suffer the most in the areas of teen pregnancy and STIs are the areas that lack proper education about safe sex practices and it is usually because of religious intolerance of sex education being taught in school (Article on Sex Health Education). Teenagers are, inevitably, going to have sex. We need to give them the proper information and guidance they need to make good decisions.

So...What now? Love, love and love some more and when you think you've had enough do it again! Without shame and with an open heart!

Monday, May 11, 2015

The 5 Hardest Questions I Had Before My Deconversion

As a Christian, I had doubts for years before I finally decided to do some extensive research for myself on what I believe and why I believe it. It's not that I hadn't looked into the answers for my questions before, but when I did it was always one-sided. I looked for answers to my questions from Christian sources because I truly believed that there were, in fact, answers or explanations. There were some questions that I had that I realized I probably wouldn't find answers to and that I would have to just ask God about when I got to Heaven some day. I looked forward to things finally making sense in Heaven. Things made so little sense in this world. God didn't make sense! I never really thought that walking away from my faith was really an option because I just couldn't imagine not believing. Of course it's all true! How could so many people believe a lie?! The problem, in my mind, was our limited understanding because we're not God and his ways are "higher than our ways."

Despite believing all of this I still had a tough time with some of the hard questions that I couldn't find answers to and it sent me spiraling into a very "dry season." That's Christianese for not feeling close to God or just having a hard time connecting with God. I was definitely having a hard time because I just couldn't get past some of these things that hadn't been making sense to me. It started becoming difficult for me to pray or to worship on Sunday mornings (which I've always loved!). I lost the desire to read my Bible because it only raised more questions and I couldn't help but get frustrated anytime I read it. My husband and I were part of a community group through our church and each week we had homework as a couple that we needed to complete before our next meeting and there were several occasions when I would go through the discussion questions with my husband and couldn't help but just give sarcastic answers or just answer truthfully in a way that was definitely not what the question was looking for. When we were at group I played along and tried to be respectful, but inside I was a mass of confusion and irritation. I thought to myself, "Am I the only one who thinks this passage doesn't make sense?" "Is there something wrong with me?"

I often assumed that I must be "under attack" by the enemy and that he wanted to render me useless for the "kingdom of God." I prayed that God would help me get past all my doubts and questions so that I could be a better Christian and be a good Christian wife and mother. I knew I was being a good wife and mother overall, but I felt that I was lacking in being a "Christian woman" because I was so plagued with doubt. How could I raise my kids to have unwavering faith if I couldn't manage it myself?

I've put together the 5 hardest questions I had before becoming an atheist (at least I think these were the hardest ones. I had so many). Some of these may be questions you've had and some of them may be things you haven't thought of. Either way, I hope it provokes thoughtful consideration and internal dialog (as well as external dialog! I would love to engage with you about this subject).

5 Hard Questions

  1. From birth we are cursed with a sin nature because of original sin, but are held responsible for our sin, the punishment of which is eternity in hell. The only way to achieve salvation is to interpret the Bible correctly and receive salvation from belief in Jesus and his sacrifice. However, the Bible is difficult to understand and has seemingly contradictory explanations of how salvation is attained. If we had no choice to be sinful then why are we held responsible for it? Also, shouldn't the source of salvation be a lot more clear and understandable to everyone so that more people would put their faith in it? If God wants all people to be saved then why would he not do a better job of revealing himself through the words of scripture. Instead the Bible causes a ton of confusion and controversy. Doesn't seem like the inspired word of God to me.
  2. Hell is a very severe and eternal punishment for simply not knowing, understanding or believing the Bible's explanation of salvation. People are born into other religions and believe whole-heartedly in their god just to find out at death that they were wrong and now will suffer for eternity separated from the true god? How is this just?
  3. Homosexuality is not a choice and yet it is considered a terrible sin. How can a huge portion of the people in this world be denied love, companionship and a relationship with god because of an attraction they were born with? Also, why do we hold to the belief that homosexuality is wrong, but not to other commands in the Bible such as not letting women speak in church and requiring them to cover their heads? Paul said it was shameful for women to speak in church, but we brush that off as being cultural. Why don't we brush off other things such as homosexuality as being for that culture?
  4. Why is God called loving and merciful when, in the Old Testament's stories of the Israelite conquest, he specifically orders his chosen people to massacre their enemies, showing no mercy to men, women, children and animals? This cannot be called justice when it involves the murder of innocent children and babies. God also commanded the Israelite soldiers to take the virgin girls for themselves after killing their entire families. How is this the God we believe is loving and just?
  5. Why does the Bible routinely depict God as manifesting himself in dramatic, unmistakable ways and performing obvious miracles even before the eyes of nonbelievers and skeptics, when no such thing happens in the world today?
The answers and explanations that I have found for these questions and many others were just simply insufficient and inadequate to truly make sense of these things. I have read and listened to everything I could get my hands on in regards to these subjects and have continued to look at explanations that are presented to me. I am unsatisfied with the answers given and, honestly, don't think there is any excuse for the bible to be considered the word of god when it is so obviously flawed on so many levels. 

*I want to make sure that I mention that it was not these questions that ultimately led me to conclude that I no longer believed in Christianity or the Bible. They were just the questions that drove a wedge in my faith and made me start thinking critically about my beliefs.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Till Death Do Us Part - Interfaith Marriage and Marriage Beyond Faith

In this post I'll be taking a look at both marriage outside of religion/faith and interfaith marriages. This topic is of specific interest to me because I'm now faced with the possibility of either of those scenarios being true in my own marriage. I have recently become an agnostic atheist and my husband is not sure yet what he believes. He's still doing his own research. I've been thinking, what if we end up disagreeing on matters of faith and become an interfaith couple? Will we be able to maintain the same level of relational intimacy? Will we be able to come to compromises? How will we raise our children? Will we grow to resent each other? Will we even be able to speak to each other about matters of faith without offending each other?

There are also questions that are raised if he ends up coming to the same conclusions as I did. Our entire outlook on life changes with these realizations, including our outlook on marriage. Do our vows still hold the same meaning if they were made in a church, under God? Our entire wedding ceremony was Christian and reflected our belief that God would be the center of our marriage. Should we recommit ourselves to each other? How and where can we find community outside of a church? What will we teach our children about religion? Do we still believe that marriage is forever? What should we do about holidays? Do we still celebrate them? If so, how will we celebrate them? There are just so many things to consider and reconsider.

I will attempt to answer some of these questions in this post so read on!

Interfaith Marriage

What is interfaith marriage?

Interfaith marriages or relationships are those that are between people who hold different views, values, or beliefs in regards to religion or faith. Approximately 42% of marriages in the U.S. are interfaith and the number has been rising (3). In fact, about 50% of Jewish men and women intermarry (9). They aren't the only ones though. About 50% of Catholics intermarry as well (7). The number of interfaith marriages has been rising because of an increasingly diversified culture and growing tolerance of other religious perspectives (2). There are also those cases in which a couple who married, holding the same beliefs, become an interfaith couple when one of them changes their beliefs. In some cases one spouse will actually convert to the other spouse's religion to create unity. Interfaith marriage can be difficult on a couple, sometimes creating a wedge in their relationship. This is especially true if one of the partners is a fundamentalist believer or if both are very set in their individual beliefs (1).

Does interfaith marriage work?

Interfaith marriages face many difficulties and are more likely to end in divorce than marriages between people of the same beliefs (1). People's religious beliefs affect every area of their lives including child-rearing, money, sex, traditions, worldviews, food, culture, community, family relationships, etc. If a person's spouse has religious views that affect every area of their life differently then that can obviously cause problems in the relationship and make it more difficult to come to agreements or compromises. Many times the strain proves to be too much and the marriage fails. Typically the more flexible the couple is with their own religious views the more likely their marriage is to succeed (9). Those who are evangelical or fundamentalist have a much harder time with an interfaith marriage because of the difficulty coming to compromises due to their strongly held belief systems. Even though interfaith marriage is typically more difficult for couples than same faith marriages, there are those that work. Many of those being happy relationships. An advantage to interfaith marriage is that someone who marries someone of another religion tends to develop a more positive attitude toward their spouse's religion as a whole (3). This can aid in the growing trend toward religious tolerance and acceptance of others with differing belief systems.

How to make interfaith marriage work?

Open/Honest Communication: The absolute most important aspect of interfaith marriage is keeping open and honest communication. This is key to the success of the marriage. Be willing to talk honestly about everything and refrain from harboring resentment. Discuss subjects such as raising children, beliefs about birth control, dietary restrictions, religious practices, holidays, family relationships, etc (4). Try to discuss these subjects before getting married, but if you're already married, it's not too late. Talk to your spouse. Discuss concerns. Share your beliefs with one another. Look for similarities and differences between your beliefs and values and focus on your similarities. Discuss how to make life decisions that honor both systems of belief.

Respect: Be respectful of each other even if you disagree. Don't mock each other's beliefs or belittle one another. This will only cause resentment. After learning about the similarities and differences in values, discuss these with openness, understanding and respect. Understand that every person holds their own beliefs for their own reasons. Try not to be judgmental of their reasons for holding their specific beliefs.

Get advice and insights: Go to other couples you know who have successful interfaith marriages and ask for advice and find out how they've made their relationship work. Get encouragement whenever you can.

Be flexible: Flexibility, understanding and communication is how an interfaith marriage can work. Be willing to bend and be selfless in your marriage. Compromises will have to be made. It's inevitable. The more flexible you are the happier your marriage will be.

Make love: Keeping the intimacy in your marriage isn't only about communication! It's also about physical intimacy. Marriages that work are the ones that maintain physical loving as well as emotional intimacy. Don't underestimate the power of sex. There's a reason make-up sex is a thing. A couple that plays together stays together! This is true for all marriages and intimate relationships. Learn about each other's bodies and explore each other. Sex brings incredible closeness and can soften resentful hearts. Be sure that you are making love to your spouse and not just getting off. There is a huge difference. Make them feel loved, appreciated and respected in bed and that attitude will reflect in the rest of the marriage.

Effects on the children

Interfaith marriage can be tough on kids. They may feel confused about what is truth and what isn't. They may feel like if they choose to believe one faith over the other they will be siding with one parent over the other. Some interfaith couples are more prone to conflict because of their differing beliefs, which can be hard on the kids.

A friend of mine shared his experience with me of growing up in an interfaith home. His parents argued so often that he wondered when they were finally going to get a divorce. He saw many of his friends' parents getting divorces and, with how much his parents argued, he figured it was just a matter of time. His parents have managed to stay together and their marriage is stronger now than ever, even though they still have different beliefs. My friend attributes their marriage's success to his Christian mother's forgiveness and love. This may be true. I won't claim to know what kept their marriage together. However, I know that in my own experience growing up in a home with both parents being Christian and believing exactly the same things in matters of faith, they sure did fight a lot and even came close to giving up on occasions. My parents are now an interfaith couple, with my mom being a Christian and my dad being an atheist, and they love each other just as much now, if not more, than they ever have. Marriage inevitably brings conflict and difficulties and I, personally, believe that if you can work through the challenges of life together then you will reap the rewards years down the road.

It was hard for my friend to watch his parents fight all those years and to know that it was because they didn't agree on some of the fundamental aspects of their lives. Children watch their parents and learn how to resolve conflict by example. They may respect how their parents resolved their conflicts and strive to do the same in their own relationships or they may hate the way their parents fought and strive to be better or they may hate the way their parents fought and end up acting the same way. The responsibility lies on the parents to be a good example to the kids in regards to conflict resolution and the responsibility is on the kids to grow up and make decisions for themselves on how they will interact in their marriage and other relationships.

It may seem that interfaith marriage would have only negative effects on children, but in reality it can have many advantages. Children in interfaith families tend to grow up with the ability to think more critically about faith and come to their own conclusions on what they believe (2). Exposing a child to different religious perspectives gives them a more broad and open understanding of the world and the differing ideas and beliefs that people possess. It gives them the opportunity to make choices for themselves instead of taking whatever they are spoon fed as truth. Children actually handle growing up in interfaith homes pretty well overall (10). This article has more info on this topic: 7 Myths About Raising Interfaith Kids.

Some parents will choose to raise their children in one of the parents' faiths and not the other in an attempt to avoid confusing them. They want them to be able to identify as one particular religion. More often than not it's the mother's religion in which the children are brought up (1). Although, this approach may seem to make sense, it may actually prove to be more beneficial to let the children experience both religions and come to their own decisions on faith. This can be true even if one of the parents is agnostic or atheist. Being open and honest with your children is just as important as being open and honest with each other. Children are more resilient than we give them credit for and they are capable of taking an objective look and drawing their own conclusion. Giving them the proper tools in order to do that is the best thing you can do for a kid. Another friend of mine has been married to her husband for 17 years and has had different religious views than him the entire time. In fact, when they married she was Christian and he Muslim. They exposed their kids to both religions and let them decide for themselves what they would believe and the kids all came to their own conclusions. I believe that this is the best way to handle raising kids in an interfaith marriage, but every couple has to make this decision for themselves. Again, communication, respect, flexibility and patience are key!

Marriage Beyond Faith

What were my prior beliefs about marriage?

Before my journey into agnostic atheism I was a devout, Bible-believing Christian. I believed that marriage was a sacred gift from God meant for a man and a woman. I believed marriage could only be successful if both partners were dedicated to loving God more than they loved each other and seeking him in every aspect of their lives. When I made my vow to my husband at our wedding I believed I was also making that vow to God. I wanted every aspect of our life and our marriage to be centered on our faith in Christ. The Bible says that divorce is committing adultery and I took that very seriously.

What does marriage mean now?

Now that my beliefs have changed, what does marriage mean to me? Do our vows still hold the same meaning? If I dare, I would say that our marriage holds even more meaning now. Now, when we work through challenges and fight to stay together and love each other in good times and bad we're doing it because we want to and because we truly love each other rather than because we've been commanded to do so. I now believe that I have one life to live and this is IT and I have chosen to spend that one life with Patrick. That, to me, holds so much more meaning now. I believe that our vows still hold meaning because whether we were making them to ourselves and God or just to ourselves we still promised each other that we would stay together forever. That promise still holds true and I intend to keep my word. I chose to marry Patrick because he is the most amazing man I know and I'm absolutely obsessed with him. That feeling has only gotten stronger in the past 7 years (2 years dating and almost 5 years married) and I anticipate that it will continue to grow in the years ahead. Whether we hold the same beliefs or not is ultimately irrelevant because I don't love him for what he believes, I love him for who he is. He's the man of my dreams and the incredible father of my children. What does marriage mean to me? It means that I take this one life that I have to live and I pledge it to the one man that I want to spend it with.

Is a strong marriage/relationship possible without God?

Absolutely yes, it is. In fact agnostics and atheists have one of the lowest divorce rates in the U.S. (6). I was interested to learn that the highest divorce rate in the country is within the Bible belt (5). According to a study by the Barna Research Group (a Christian research group) Christians have one of the highest divorce rates while atheists have the lowest (6). In an article from an explanation is given for a possible reason that scientifically minded atheist couples have an easier time coming to agreements and compromises. It says:
"Scientific beliefs are generally based on observation and experimentation. Opinions can be debated and resolved. The belief with the best supporting evidence wins. However, religious beliefs tend to be based on faith." (7)
I don't say that to bash Christianity, but just because I found it fascinating that I was taught that marriage can only be successful if God is at the center of it, but, as it turns out, those who don't even believe in God seem to have the most successful marriages. The statistics certainly don't back up the claim that marriage takes three.

Where do we find community?

One of the first concerns I had when I started coming to grips with my unbelief was the question of where to find community outside of my Christian community. Community is something religion does really well and I want to maintain a connection with others outside of the church setting. I was directed to a website called On this website you can input your interests, beliefs and hobbies and it'll suggest certain groups in your area with other people who are interested in the same things. It's an awesome idea and a great way to meet new people and get connected with others. Also, getting involved in local events or charities is another way to meet people and engage. Participating in events at a public library can also be a way to connect.

What will we teach the kids about religion?

Patrick and I plan to teach the boys about as many different religions as we can and explain what different religions teach. We will be open and honest with them about what we believe, but will not force our beliefs or conclusions on them. They will be free to make up their minds on what they, personally, believe. They will be allowed to attend church services whenever they want and when they come home we will have conversations about what they learned and discuss what they thought about the experience and the teaching. I want to raise open-minded, critical thinking, intelligent children who will learn to think for themselves.


We plan to continue to celebrate holidays even if Patrick decides he no longer believes in Christianity. We've discussed this and have decided that we see holidays as being a cultural thing to be enjoyed by all within that culture not just Christians. Christmas will be a time of family and gift giving that will be fun for the children. I wouldn't want to rob them of the joys of that season just because we no longer believe in "the reason for the season." In all actuality, Christmas is such a mess of pagan and Christian traditions it's hard to say that it's actually a Christian holiday at all. Look into it for yourself. It's kind of crazy how much of that holiday is based on pagan and mythical traditions. Watch Christmas: Behind the Curtain. Every secular family must come to their own decisions regarding holidays, but for us, we still plan on celebrating them in our own way.

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