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My Kids Will Be Raised Without Religion

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ATHEISM
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The first time I let organized religion know exactly how I felt about it was when I was baptized. Sure, I was only a couple months old, but, not to be indelicate, I shat on the altar. My mother still has the photos in an old album somewhere. It was the ultimate in foreshadowing, punctuating my eventual disdain for religion and its place in the world. Unholy shit, if you will.

I was raised Catholic, which for me meant being baptized, receiving first communion, experiencing the mental torture of confession and the strange, cult-like ceremony known as confirmation. Catholicism demands loyalty, and receiving these so-called sacraments are supposed to cement your faith. For me, it became the lubrication down a slippery slope known as atheism. This slippery slope was a welcomed one, resulting in a belief system that includes innate human goodness and rationalism.

I'm cut from the Christopher Hitchens cloth of non-belief, meaning not only do I not believe in god, but the very idea that one might exist honestly repulses me. I would prefer there was no omnipotent being spying on me, gleefully plotting punishments for arbitrary sins like swearing, or inexplicably not ridding the world of disease and atrocities.

This fantastical notion of an all-knowing creator is made worse by its mortal representatives here on Earth. My former sect of Christianity is one of the worst culprits of unadulterated evil the world has ever known, the Catholic fingerprints having been found on everything from genocide to pedophilia.

It is within this context that I find myself traversing an entirely new kind of dilemma; how difficult will it be for my partner and I to raise two children who will be taught that religions are merely myths and not the salvation they are promoted as being? Will my son get in trouble at school for spilling the beans to his classmates that god probably doesn't exist, shattering the moral identities of little Johnny and Suzie?

I want people to not have a problem with my children not believing in god, and that's where I expect to have the most problems.

In our house, Santa Claus will be more real than Jesus, as the truth bomb of Santa being a lie will be framed as a right of passage in childhood, while Jesus will be explained as the very first fictional zombie.

But all kidding aside, there is still a lot of prejudice against the non-believer. Being godless is still widely seen as lacking a moral compass.

I've experienced first-hand discrimination for being an atheist, and while I pull no punches criticizing organized religions, unless you are an extremist or an individual trying to muscle your beliefs down my throat, I really don't have a problem if you believe in god. In turn, I want people to not have a problem with my children not believing in god, and that's where I expect to have the most problems.

In Canada, believing in god is a prerequisite for becoming a Scout or attending certain publicly funded schools, meaning if a Catholic high school is rated the best in Toronto, administrators will insist my child has a parent who is Catholic. In other words, my son won't be allowed to attend, even if that Catholic school is rated better than the pubic school around the corner.

One thing I am looking forward to is raising children who never have to experience the phenomenon known as Jesus Fear -- the ingrained anxiety of the consequences of sin, especially as it pertains to the supposed afterlife.

Even after absolving myself from eternal hellfire by telling an old man in a wooden closet all my worst offences, I still walked away riddled with anxiety. This was partly due to the experience itself, and partly because in the back of my mind I always wondered if I had left anything out, and if Jesus was judging me and planning my soul's barbecue when I died.

If I ever found out an adult made my child go through any of these psychologically damaging experiences, my response, ironically, would be biblical.

Even worse, like the lyrics from an old church hymn, maybe He was going to "call my name." It took years after becoming a non-believer to rid myself of Jesus Fear, which crystallizes the damaging impact religion can have on its followers.

If I ever found out an adult made my child go through any of these psychologically damaging experiences, my response, ironically, would be biblical.

Finally, there's my extended family to consider. My son, Caspar, is named after one of my favourite human beings, my uncle. My uncle has been more of a father to me than my own dad, and ever since my father passed away two years ago, he has been there for me even more. He's also steadfastly Christian.

In a way, my uncle provides me with the reminder that atheism should not be a synonym for asshole, meaning I do not have to feel inclined to antagonize believers by mocking their beliefs. I mean, I feel fine writing pieces like this one, but I don't have to ruin Christmas by scoffing at the baby Jesus in the nativity scene under the tree.

People keep telling me I need to allow my kids to make their own decisions about religion. I disagree. I find that kind of equivalency to be as false as the prophets who represent the superstitions that stop people from thinking about science, or human rights, or rationalism.

And while I know people like my uncle are out there -- people who believe in god but are still intelligent and decent -- my children, if they are called to a "higher purpose," should be invited by god him/herself, rather than have me present god as a viable option.

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