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9/10/2007
In the Name of God
I don't believe in God.

I'm an agnostic. This revelation, more than any other I've made on my blog, is the hardest to make.

I wasn't raised to be agnostic. My parents both grew up Catholic. While they were determined not to indoctrinate me and my brother into that particular faith, God was still present in our lives. We attended a Lutheran church when I was a child. I went to Sunday school, the preschool attached to the church, and bible camp. My brother believes in God. My disbelief is not the fault of my parents or any flaw in their parenting.

My brother and I were taught to live moral lives. Not because God wanted us to be good, but because it was the right thing to do. My parents wanted me to think for myself and not simply accept everything they, or my Sunday school teacher, said as gospel. I learned that lesson a little too well. I don't ever remember believing in God.

That isn't to say that I've never struggled with my beliefs. I have. I understand the purpose of religion. It can be a great comfort in times of need. A church community can be a thing of wonder when its members rally around a parishioner or a cause. Often I wish I could share in that comfort and community.

For most of my childhood I struggled with my beliefs, but junior high was the turning point. I was in an American school in Germany, where my father was stationed in the Air Force, when I became friends with an evangelical crowd. They attended youth group meetings every week and urged me to do so as well. I finally explained that I did not believe in God, but they didn't give up.

Mandy and Wendy, and a few others whose names I've forgotten, passed me notes in class about God and finding my faith. One letter I remember involved the story of a girl who asked a dead friend for some proof of God's existence and found it in a bird alighting on a nearby fence. I'm not sure why that story sticks with me, but I do remember sitting in my room after reading this particular letter for the 50th time, looking out my open skylight up into the blue sky and wishing fervently that I could just believe. That I could just be like everyone else.

If there was to be a moment of conversion in my life, that was it. But no bird landed on my window, no sudden belief filled my head, no warmth filled my heart. After that I accepted that this is who I am and that religion is not for me.

Although I've struggled with my problem of faith for much of my life, I'm no longer looking to be convinced or converted. In fact, when my beliefs or lack thereof are questioned now, I find it insulting. I am by nature an introspective person. Trust me when I say that no further look "within my heart" will find God, Jesus or Muhammad waiting for me. I simply don't believe.

As you may have guessed, I don't often discuss this. If asked directly, I will discuss it with anyone who asks. But I also don't volunteer that I am an agnostic if I believe the information will be met with hostility. Why? Here's an example from a post that Gwen recently wrote:
When I was in Mexico, I had a discussion with someone about the narrow mindedness I encountered in my childhood experiences with (modern, evangelical) Christians who seemed to derive unending joy from finding the dust motes in everyone's eyes. This person was reminding me of how impressed I had been, after two years of secular university, with the lack of judgment I felt from my new peers, especially in contrast to the habits of the Christianity I had grown up with.

Me: "That's still true today, by the way, or at least true of my friends, that refreshing absence of criticism disguised as morality."

Other Person: "Well, of course. It's easy not to be judgmental when you don't have any values."

Me: " ........ " (is that the universal symbol for gaping mouth? Because maybe it should be).

Apparently, you see, I have no values. I am, after all, not a Christian. So whatever it is I am attempting to do with my time here on Earth, it can't be informed by any value system. I don't have one.
In case Gwen's sarcasm sailed right over your head, let me be very clear. I am a moral person. I'll put my values up against any Christian any day. My failure to believe in God or to engrave the Ten Commandments on a tablet on my front lawn does not give me license to steal or to treat others badly. It does not absolve me of my responsibility to my children, my family, my country, or the human race.

Let me say it again. I am a moral person.

Despite my clarity regarding my own beliefs, I struggle with what to teach my children about God.

I don't want to deprive H&H of the comfort of religion. But I can't be the one to teach them something I don't believe. I can't be that hypocritical, although many would say I already am. Both of my children were baptized in a church in T's home town. We stood up before the congregation and stated our belief in God and Jesus Christ. I chose the easiest course, a lie, for my children and family. I did something similar when T and I were married. In a church. It was what T wanted and while I don't think my parents cared one way or another, it made our extended families happy. And, no, my particular value system did not forbid me from offering comfort to my family and my husband-to-be.

T and I want H&H to learn about God. Hollis is currently attending a pre-school attached to a Presbyterian church. He says a cute little chant every morning that ends in "God made the world and God made me." I think this is an easy way to break him into a topic he's heard nothing about at home. Eventually we will take H&H to church. Although, depending on the church, it may be just T attending with the boys.

I want my sons to have the community and the foundations for belief. I don't want to impose my beliefs (or lack thereof) upon my boys. I want them to choose for themselves. If I give them the tools to do that, then I think T and I will have fulfilled the spiritual portion of our role as parents.

I don't want to leave you all with the impression that I believe in nothing. I'm an agnostic, not an athiest. In the back reaches of my mind there still lurks the possibility that I am wrong. That there is something bigger than me, than all of us.

If there is a God, the proof is in the world around me, in the things I love: autumn leaves, my sons' laughter, warm sand, random acts of kindness and, oddly, the smell of chlorine. I prefer to find my miracles in the physical realm rather than the spiritual. I believe in people rather than a higher power. This is my religion.

Cross-posted at D.C. Metro Moms.

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49 Comments:

Blogger Nancy said...

I so totally "get" your post. If you get a minute, read my post of 2/11/07

Bible thumpers , born agains, converters, FREAK ME OUT

This year at age 52 I got baptized by my choice. (post 8/16/07)

Just attending church weekly doesn't make us a Christian, as sleeping in our garage every night won't make us a car.

I think all that "judgment" over the years is what made me not want to be associated with organized religions.

I found my place at time I was ready and open enough to accept God's grace.

=)

Blogger Gunfighter said...

As firm as my faith is, LM, I would never suggest for one hot second that you have no values.

Values doesn't have a single thing to do with religiosity.

NOTHING!

Blogger flutter said...

This is incredibly thoughtful and well reasoned.

Have I mentioned that I really like you?

Blogger jen said...

decisions that have come after much introspection. what can go wrong with that?

very thinky, you. i think you and i would get along in this regard quite well.

Blogger dawn224 said...

I've always figured that any God worth believing in would be exactly what each of us needs. Perhaps for you, God (or "God" or god or goddess or "possible something" or "possible nothing") is *supposed* to be autumn, and people and laughter and RAOK. I'm sorry anyone has ever tried to make you feel like less because of what your heart tells you.

Blogger InTheFastLane said...

I have a faith and a system of beliefs that include God. This is also the "Church" of my family. But, I got here after reason of not wanting it and it was only after I spent time away and then came back on my own accord and because I felt that I "owned" my beliefs. That being said, I really don't think that Organized religion is the sole owner of "values." These do not have to be wed together and can and should be able to exist apart.

Blogger WorksForMom said...

First of all, that photo is fantastic. And the post is beautiful too.

I admire your honesty and your insight. I think what's really important is knowing one's self and respecting others.

Blogger Virtualsprite said...

We have this arrangement in our house where we talk about God and religion and faith and hypocrisy openly and honestly. We're like you. We teach our kids to be nice to others and respect people because it's just right. We take them to church when we feel like it.

And we ignore the people who tell us we're going to hell, because we already know it. :-)

Blogger newnorth said...

I think agree with dawn224.

I personally beleive in God. I know I could never have been forced (thru guilt or other means) to believe, maybe pretend but not believe.
I still can't stand that look some strict Christians give when they judge me for something they disagree with. It is between God and I, not God, me, and whoever else feels like judging.

I admire you for feeling comfortable enough in your own skin (beliefs) to write this post. It's your blog and yeah for you!

Blogger Lady M said...

Thoughtful, and beautifully written.

I don't have an "organized" faith, but I definitely recognize the comfort that one can get from one.

Blogger blooming desertpea said...

It's hard to have to defend ourselves for what we believe or in this case don't. Why is it so difficult for people to accept that others are different and are great people despite of that difference?

Yes, it would be too easy and too peaceful on this earth if we were completely tolerant of diffences and lacking of being judgemental!

Anonymous Emily said...

It is a hard thing to admit, especially if, like me, you find so many of your friends DO believe. I finally just started putting it out there right away. If anyone is closed-minded enough not to like me because I do not believe as he does, that is his issue.

I wish I could give my kids a belief I do not have. It would make the cycle of life so much easier for them. But I cannot tell them what I think is a lie. As a Jew, I can give them the community of religion without the actual faith, but it would be nice to be able to believe in an afterlife.

Morality can be very complex. But it ain't got thing one to do with whether you believe.

Blogger Amy W said...

Very well put.

Blogger Debra b. said...

I'm a lurker, but I wanted to tell you that your post struck a chord with me. I often struggle with the same things you talk about. My older sister and I used to discuss wanting to believe in something if only for the sake of having the community and comfort that goes along with it.

Anyway, I thought you should know that you are not alone in feeling this way.

Blogger Gwen said...

Good job, LM! I want to believe in people, too, but it's hard sometimes, especially on a day like today, when you remember the evil that we do to one another ... and in the name of God/Allah/Jehovah, in the name of religious belief.

Blogger PunditMom said...

Amazing post. You and I are totally on the same page on this one. I struggle with how to introduce religion to PunditGirl as some foundation, but since I, too, am an agnostic, I'm not sure what to do. She did love that little Buddha she bought in Chinatown, though!

Blogger Mrs. Chicky said...

We are soul sisters, even if there are those who believe we have no soul because we're heathens. I struggle with all the same things as you. No answers yet, but I'll let you know if I come up with any.

Anonymous coffee queen said...

What a beautiful and insightful post. Your story is very similar to mine.

And I love the picture. Wow.

Blogger NotSoSage said...

What a thoughtful post. I have always been sort of envious of my parents' church community because I find they have an instant set of friends who are committed to social justice who are obligated to meet weekly. I don't think it's impossible to have that in a secular setting, but I think sometimes it's easier...and I love what you have to say about living a moral life without relgion. Perfect.

Blogger Lazy Mom said...

I know the last thing you really want from the comment section is an "evangelistic" comment, but I just can't help but share something with you. Not to "convert" you, but to give you something to think about.
What if the whole God thing is real? What if when you die you find yourself hit with the realization that God really isreal? I don't want you to find out that way. Please stop and consider the life here after. Stop and consider the possibility that you could be spending eternity somewhere. Where do you want it to be spent?
A great book on this subject is a book written by John Bevere. It's called "Driven By Eternity." I highly recommend reading it. I pray that God will reveal the reality of himself to you. He IS real. He DOES love you. He has an incredible purpose and plan for your life. He's given you the gifts and talents to accomplish those purposes.
Stop and think about it.

Blogger Sarcasta-Mom said...

Yet another beautiful and thought provoking post LM!You've hinted at your religion before, and I'm so glad you chose to share your beliefs with us.

Like you and some of the previous commenters, I'm agnostic as well, and have felt a lot of pressure to provide my kids with a more structured sense of spirituality. I myself was was raised Roman Catholic, and I know how much personal anguish that caused me growing up. I would never want to force any beliefs upon my own children.

We have strong family values, and pass those along to our children, as well as finding the spirituality and joy in everyday life. Not all people understand that, but I choose to leave that as their problem, and not mine.

Blogger KC said...

I grew up quite the opposite- never had a formal upbringing in religion, but always wanted one and always believed in God on my own. I used to pray when I never was showed how or why. I chose a religion, but I hope my daughter can choose her own too.

Anonymous Lisa Giebitz said...

You might think about checking out Unitarian-Unversalism. I joined a congregation after I left the Highly-Organized Religion I used to be a member of.

I've liked it a lot. Very refreshing not to have people telling me what I have to believe in, heh.

Blogger CPA Mom said...

How very brave of you to put yourself out here like this. I do not understand this point of view. I believe with my whole heart and soul in my God. My faith is the only reason I survived the death of my husband. That said, I defy anyone to take away your right NOT to believe. I have one other friend who is agnostic and one other who is an athiest. I have friends who are Christians of all religious persuasions, friends who are Jews, friends who are Mormans. I love them all equally. I judge none of them. Even for those who do not believe in God, it is still appropriate to apply the scripture "Judge Not, Lest Yea Be Judged." I will not, cannot judge you. You are my friend and I love you the way you are.

Anonymous Momish said...

I think we are twins, at least spiritual twins. I have faced the same issues, doubts and worries over my daughter's upbring. I can to the same conclusions and live accordingly. I will raise her Catholic as I was so she has the tools and the resources to make her own decisions and face her own doubts.

It is hard. I cry every time I am in church because I wish it was in me. That I felt and believed and had that inner peace that so many others find so easily. But I don't and say I do is a lie.

I completely understand where you are coming from and like you, I have only mentioned my faith issue on my blog once or twice. How I wish I was going to be in DC this weekend!

Blogger painted maypole said...

very interesting post, and thanks for sharing your story

Blogger Alex Elliot said...

Why would someone think that you have no morals? What does that have to do with anything? I can totally understand where you're coming from. I was raised Catholic also. Now I'm a Unitarian in a church with many agnostics, atheists and people of many different faiths.

Blogger Queeny said...

Wow! I applaud your courage in stating your disbelief. I am a Christian and I am active in the church, but I have to admit, I wonder if it's because I was raised that way or if I really DO believe. (I would never admit this to my family or fellow church members).

I want to believe because I'm supposed to, but I struggle with that more and more. So I guess I'm on the fence, but I'm leaning toward being a believer -- just in case. And also, just in case, I hope God understands.

Blogger Julie Pippert said...

Did you just...did I just read...was this the Big Post on Religion?

Oh LM, BRAVO girlfriend! Well done, well-said.

In reply I say to you...God believes in and loves you even if you don't feel the same about him.

"..."

Gotcha. :)

Honestly, my belief is simply something *in* me. Nobody taught it or put it there. it just...grew. I don't know why. I don't know how. It's not simple, it's complicated. And I work so hard to understand and process it, I don't feel even close to attempting to do that for someone else.

My husband is like you...I bet he'd say, "Yeah Ditto what LM said," just like that.

I've never tried to convert his thinking, either, although we've engaged in fun debates that occasionally end with something---food--flying. You never know with us. Okay one time in a life threatening circumstance I said, "If we live through this we are totally going into the first church we find and thanking God personally." He said,"Okay." Imagine my surprise when he followed through on it! But, unfortunately the minister there was having a literal nervous breakdown on the pulpit and he took that as a sign. LOL

Anyway, I hope people do the right thing because it is right regardless of belief. I hope people always explore and question.

And that right there is why, despite my belief, I am a member of no church right now.

Awesome post, LM.

Julie
Using My Words

Blogger Nancy said...

I was looking at the beautiful picture you posted and clicked on it.

Not until then did I see both the bird and bunny sitting on the lawn.

Perfect choice to post on this entry.

Blogger Lawyer Mama said...

Thank you, all, for your kind comments. Maybe you have an inkling of how hard it was for me to post this.

Nancy - I'm so glad someone noticed the bird and the bunny. In fact, Hollis is watching the bunny in the photo (and smiling). It's one of the reasons I love this photo.

Lazy Mom - I know your comment is well intentioned. I get that. And I appreciate that you want to help me. But with all due respect, that's just the sort of thing that I find patronizing. Do you honestly think I've never considered the possibility that I may be wrong? I think I'm pretty up front about that. But belief isn't something that can be faked or forced. Sitting in a church every Sunday and lying about believing isn't going to win me any points if there is some higher moral authority. Moreover, I can't get behind or endorse any religion that only allows believers of the "one true faith" to be redeemed. If there is a God, I prefer to take Julie's words to heart: "In reply I say to you...God believes in and loves you even if you don't feel the same about him."

I'll just live the best life that I can and take my chances. That's all we really have at the end anyway.

Blogger slouching mom said...

You read, I'm sure, how Julie expected that her husband would say "Ditto LM" to this post.

Well, I'm saying it.

Ditto LM.

Another person here to commend you for writing this post. I was raised Catholic (not in an overtly religious house... we were baptized, made our First Communion, etc.) but always - always- struggled with my beliefs. The contradictions. The hypocrisy. The my-way-is-the-right-way mentality. That is religion to me and it's not what I want to believe in. Like you, my religion is trying to live the best life I can. To be kind and loving. To appreciate all the beauty that I have around me. A belief in God is something I struggle with, as well. And if one exists, and He really is a loving God, I think he'd understand that. Thank you for being so open and honest here.

Jane, Pinks & Blues

Blogger Susie PSU said...

Values have NOTHING to do with religion. You can have either one without the other.
Great post.

Blogger Christine said...

i'm cheering! i'm cheering!

much of this is how i feel. i am so far removed from churches, religion, and the like these days. yet i guess i may be a bit different in that i think i believe it something. not sure what but i call it god for lack of any better word. i suppose goddess or allah or or buddha or Joe would work, too.

but i struggle so with how to teach my children bout religions and churches and temple and god. i just don't know.

thanks for sharing, lm.

While I don't agree with your beliefs, I do respect the honesty and candor with which you present them. I can only imagine how much of a struggle that must be for you.

I know many beautiful Christians and my time spent in my church has brought me a peace I cannot explain.....but simply saying you are a Christian does not make you a good person.

Similar to....struggling with not necessarily being one does not make you a bad one!

I know you are a moral person.....even while I don't KNOW know you....it has been crystal clear to me from the beginning that you are an amazing woman!


OF COURSE....I wouldn't be me...if I didn't add the tiniest of my two cents....to me faith is believing...even in the absence of proof! :)

Blogger Lawyer Mama said...

Heather - You're exactly right. Faith is believing even in the absence of proof. And that is a faith I don't have and could never even attempt to fake. I envy you that faith.

Thank you, everyone, for your supportive (and non-judgmental) comments. It means the world to me that when I "talk" you all "listen."

Blogger Mad Hatter said...

Hey, LM. I'm agnostic too. My husband is a Catholic critical of the institution of the church. We agree that if he wants to raise our daughter in the church, he can. I'll be the one making blueberry pancakes for them to eat when they come home from Sunday school.

Blogger Snoskred said...

Here's a thought for parents all over the world.

Take your children to experience every different kind of faith there is.

Take them to every kind of church you can find - from Catholic to Greek Orthodox to Baptist to Anglican to whatever is around in your community.

Let them choose whether they want to continue to attend any of them - and which one they would like to attend. Support them fully in it, if they choose to do it. Many churches have excellent youth groups.

That is truly giving them the tools to choose.

I'm with you though Lawyer Mama, on the whole morals issue. Some people who claim to be Christian are always the first to judge. I hate to see that happen. :(

Full Kudos to you for bravely posting this. I should do something similar sometime, I guess. What I'd have to say would be very similar to your post here.

Snoskred
www.snoskred.org

Blogger canape said...

As the daughter of a Presbyterian minister (my mom, not my dad), I give props to the preschool ;)

The thing I remember most that my Presbyterian church taught me was how to ask questions. I like that.

Of course I don't go now, but that's my own post to write.

Blogger Jenn said...

Your religion is stronger and truer than that of many of the "religious" people that I know.

If we all held these beliefs, attended this church, it would be a very different world.

Blogger Ally said...

Thanks for writing this open and honest post. I read it this morning and thought about it on and off all day. It is a tricky thing, this trying to figure out how to raise our children, and how to share our values without forcing them into certain beliefs. I am a Christian, but not the same kind that I was raised to be. I am much more comfortable asking questions than pretending to have all of the answers. I hope that my children will be, too.

Blogger Treadmillista said...

This was an amazing post. I would describe myself as agnostic as well. Sometimes I think it would just be easier to fake being a Christian, go to the UCC liberal church of my youth and just become one again. I guess that just feels wrong to me though, so I haven't...and our kids are not baptized.

My biggest struggle in this arena is that we keep saying we want to expose our kids to religion, but we never do. Is there a good way to expose kids to many religions without being a member of any?

Blogger PDX Mama said...

Can I just say ditto to virtually your whole post? Terrific post, I'm really glad you decided to post it.

I'm probably a tad more extreme - the children haven't been baptized and I erased all references to God in our vows. I feel somewhat disrespectful of those that believe and religion itself if I fake it at all.

But I do wonder if I'm wrong at times. Hopefully it won't matter if I'm wrong because I try to be the best person I can be and who can punish one for that???

I really don't know what to do about exposing the kids to religion. I can't see us ever going to church - of any kind - it's just not an interest of our's. We don't desire the community that it offers - we have plenty of family and friends around and interests that fill our lives up. Perhaps if a friend of their's asks them to go to church, they could get some exposure that way. At some point I'd like to share what different people believe so they can be exposed to diversity.

I don't know, it's dang complicated.

Blogger ExPatSW said...

Bravo! Wonderful post! As you know, I am a recovering Catholic. However, I have never regretted choosing to raise C Catholic to give her some basis from which to form her own opinion. It was the right choice for us and I think I would make the same choice again.

Pet peeve: When I tell people that I am not a Christian the overwhelming response is, "Oh, you don't believe in God?" No! That's not what I said. So I generally just avoid religion altogether.

Blogger Jenny said...

Thanks for this. You put in words what so many of us think (at least based on these comments).

My husband is a historian. He has a strong faith in god but won't attend church because of the numerous horrific or simply mean things "the church" has done throughout history.

I'm like you, doubtful, but unsure. But I miss having a church. I grew up in a wonderful, liberal, multi-denominational parish in northern Virginia. And I want my daughters to have some exposure to church (beyond their grandmothers who are a bit too much for my taste). So, we attend a Unitarian Universalist church.

Anyway, thank you for making me think and for being so open.

Blogger Mrs. Chicken said...

I read this post twice before I decided to comment.

I am Catholic, but I'm lazy about it. My husband is more devout, but his belief system is just that - his. He doesn't push it on others. We try to live out the values that Catholicism lays out in terms of doing good works.

There are plenty of man-made laws in Catholicism that I reject, but I do find comfort in my faith that there is something larger out there.

I have to believe that when I look at my daughter, and think about how she came to me - unexpectedly - when I needed her most. When my father's life was ending. When my world needed newness desperately.

I love this - and how honest and questioning and open you are here.

Beautiful.

ps - I graduated from the American School In London.

Blogger moosh in indy. said...

You know what I believe.
I respect you for writing this, I already know you respect me.
This was awesome, thanks.

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