The Sunday before Mother’s Day was a big day for Payton. It was her baptism. Lindsey is Catholic, so that is why we baptized her (I am sure some of you are wondering about that, I will discuss that in a little bit). We went to Lindsey’s church in Windber (St. Elizabeth Ann Seton). I like going to her church, it looks like an old Gothic church that you would find in France. I always expect to see some character from an Anne Rice novel show up.
We woke up early that morning since we both had to get ready and feed Payton as well as get her dressed. I fed her while Lindsey showered and got dressed. Unfortunately, Lindsey woke up not feeling well. She started throwing up immediately and I knew the day was going to be fun.
We had to be at the church early to receive instructions from the priest. For once Lindsey actually made it somewhere on time. Since she was not feeling well, it looked like I would be the one holding Payton throughout the ceremony (service?). Unfortunately, this was also the time she would have her second bottle. So once we did the whole procession and answering a few questions, we could sit down and I was able to feed her.
Payton is usually a good baby. I have had her all day by myself and she barely cries most of the time. Guess what? She screamed that day. I gave her the bottle and figured she would be good, but she was not. She cried during the entire opening remarks, then screamed when the priest had us up front doing the actual baptism. Once she was done with her part, I took her back to the Cry Room and tried to get her to calm down. She finally stopped screaming when we put her in the car. Figures.
In case you were wondering, we chose my brother and Lindsey’s sister as the godparents. My mom, Adam, Lora, and Aubrey all came down for the celebration. They actually came to the house before and helped us get going. After the church, we all went to Lindsey’s mom’s house for some food.
It was a great day, minus Payton screaming & crying (and Lindsey puking). The priest did a good job, especially with a screamer.
Okay, now on to the question you have all been wondering…how does this work with me being an atheist?
First, I suppose I need to provide a little history. I was not always an atheist, my parents are both Christian. I am not going to pretend that I was brought up in a religious household though. We never went to church, but we had a cool picture of Jesus hanging on the wall, so I guess that is close enough. Not trying to make fun or anything, just want people to understand that religion was not the most important thing in our family.
When I was 12, my uncle introduced me to Carl Sagan. I read most of his books and I started to ask questions of religion. I quickly realized that I needed evidence for a god and since there was none, there must be no god (Uncle Shawn and I had great discussions during those years about this topic). That is the basic gist of it. For those of you that do not know me well enough, this is not something I decided due to lack of knowledge. My degree helped me study the Bible from scholarly point of view and definitely helped solidify my lack of faith.
I think I went through a few stages of my atheism. First I started out as an in-the-closet atheist. As a youngster, I would never tell my parents or anyone else that I did not believe in god. Then in my late teens, I went the more argumentative route. I would argue with folks, but never outright say I did not believe. It was not until my freshman year at Gannon that I identified as an atheist. An odd place to make that decision. It was during my Bible class (Gannon is a Catholic university, so everyone had to take religious classes), the nun was asking everyone their religious denomination and when it came to me, I just said “atheist.” There was an audible gasp from some of the students. The nun took it in stride and we actually got along. She never tried to convert me or anything.
At this point, I became a more militant atheist. I would point out the inconsistencies of the Bible to religious people. To be fair, once people knew I was an atheist, they would want to challenge me or question me. It was fun. It bled over into other aspects of life though. I remember my dad telling me that something was part of god’s plan and I laughed. I told him that I did not believe in that stuff and he tried to lecture me about how when I was older, I would grow out of this phase. I think my comments probably hurt his feelings though. He was trying to use religion to help cope with something in his life, and I was mocking it.
I then went through another phase, not sure when it started, probably early 20s. I still liked to argue, but I did not actively seek out fights. It was during this time that I came to a realization, which probably evolved into my current state. That realization is that most people do not care about the Bible being wrong about things. They do not care if Moses did not actually write the first five books. They are not interested in learning about how the different Gospel writers have a different lineage for Jesus back to David. They just want something to believe in. I can understand the desire to have faith. There is definitely a sense of community and belonging that comes with being religious. And there are many positives to being religious. So now I am respectful. I have come to realize that I am not going to change 90% of the world, so just allow them to have that peace of mind.
Back to the present. How does an atheist raise a child within a religious family? Obviously it will be difficult. I have read plenty of articles about atheists in similar situations and one of the approaches I like was allowing Payton to be part of the church until she is old enough to make her own decision. If she is a believer and loves it, then fine. However, if she questions things and tells me that she does not believe in what they are saying, then that is up to her. Coming to this decision on your own is satisfying, no indoctrination, just discovery and applying the things you learn about logic and reason.
I wish I had a better answer. Being an atheist is not easy. I am sure some of you reading this right now think being an atheist means I worship the devil or something equally stupid. I bet that many people reading this cringe every time they read the word atheist. I have seen the reactions a thousand times. All I can do is provide for my daughter, teach her about the world, and shower her with love. Also, to be fair, I probably have at least ten years to better prefer for this situation. I suppose this post is more for family members who tend to give me the look whenever someone mentions the word god (Dad’s funeral is a perfect example).
Or maybe this is for Lindsey, who thinks that I will jump up and start screaming at a priest “there is no god, there is no god”, whenever I am at a church.