November 06, 2014

Atheist Mama: Would you let your children attend church?

Would you, as an atheist, let your children attend church?

It's a fair question. After all, I consider myself a freethinker, and I don't believe in indoctrinating children. I believe spiritual decisions should be made by the individual as they grow, not by their parents.

Church, though, is fraught with emotional connotations for me. A big one is the memory of feeling claustrophobic, thinking, "This makes no sense," and knowing that I was committing a blasphemy in my heart.

There's also the disconnect with my values--the values that I am passing onto my children.

What, church being against family values? WTF? I know, I know, but bear with me.


Most of the people we know are Baptists, to some degree or another. Many of them are in the same independent fundamentalist conservative Baptist tradition that I grew up in--and yes, this tradition contradicts with our family values on a variety of levels. Here's a quick rundown:

  • Sin Nature, Original Sin, and The Fall: This idea says that humans are innately broken and in need of saving. Our family believes, quite to the contrary, that human beings are innately capable of amazing things. We are flawed, but strong. We are able to make moral decisions for ourselves, using our reasoning ability.
  • Complementarianism: This doctrine says that men and women are created differently, to be complementary to each other and fulfill different roles in the various spheres of life. Doesn't sound so terrible, but as a feminist, I distinctly disagree. This doctrine is used to justify shutting women out of public and church life, and it's a vague justification for a wide range of misogyny and sexism.
  • Homosexuality: Homosexuality is viewed as a sin, and marriage equality as an abomination. Not so with our family.
  • Transophobia: I hate this word, but there's a significant confusion on trans issues within the IFCB tradition.
  • Prosperity Gospel: The idea that God blesses those that worship him, and so it's your fault if your poor or experiencing difficult financial circumstances.
  • Proselytizing: Appropriate in churches, but this tradition preaches that you should constantly share your beliefs, often bulldozing over the beliefs of others
  • Absolute Truth: We don't share the idea that anyone understands or knows absolute truth.
  • "Right" Christians: They can't even agree on what constitutes the right kind of Christian! 
And this is just the short list.

The idea of my children attending church, then, isn't cut and dry. A good bit of it depends on the church, and on who is taking them, and on whether the whole situation is supportive of the values that we are teaching them.

To me, this is especially important for our children, because churches really know how to manipulate children's emotions. Indoctrination is most certainly not on the menu.

For a more liberal denomination--one that practiced egalitarianism and supported LGBT+ rights--I could see letting my kids attend. 

Unfortunately, we are incredibly short on those options right now. So for the time being--the answer is probably no, and we have refuted all invitations.

But we are most certainly open to changing that in the future.

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