Neither of my ex-wife nor I were “natural atheists” because we had both embraced religion as adults: my ex was raised Catholic but deconverted in her early twenties and I was a fervent Protestant believer for several years – and only slowly deconverting. But by the time my ex and I met, we were both religion-free and that is how we have raised our kids.
We did not raise our children telling them that, “There is no Zeus, no Allah, no Amidah, no Krishna, no Yahweh, no Jesus, no …..” but instead we just did not talk about spooks and spirits. My kids sort of naturally embraced their own natural view of reality without the supernatural. But as they got older, their school classmates, who came from god-talk families, began to confront my children by telling them that they were “atheists”. My children then came home asking us to tell them what an “atheist” is.
Early in those days, I first told my children to respect the beliefs of other folks. Well, on a day I remember all to clearly, I threw my advice out the window.
My son was sitting on the couch after school and was tearful. It took me more than half an hour to get him to open up — that was very unusual for my son. He finally told me that his friends at school were teasing him about going to Hell.
I told my son that he no longer has to respect other people’s religious beliefs when they say stupid things like that. I equipped him with anti-scary-god arguments and my son began to debate those school buddies. His friends backed off and 7 years later, he has many good friends, Christian and atheist alike, who now only joke lightly about religion — they’ve grown to respect each other’s turfs it seems. They all sort of realize they inherited their parents’ religious thinking and are now just starting to think for themselves.
Anyway, it was Christianity in America telling my son that he was going to hell that motivated me to start blogging about the same religion I had years ago rejected. I am outspoken about atheism mainly in my blogging, I rarely bring it up in public. It is only when people start to assume everyone in the room is Christian or say something outrageous that I speak out in public. Otherwise, with my friends, I leave the subject alone. But then, fortunately, most of my Christian friends are the casual kinds — not the fervent sorts. (see my post “Most Christians Don’t Believe“)
Question for readers: In what situations are you an outspoken atheist or an outspoken believer?