Wednesday, January 16, 2013

I'm coming out of the closet....

As many of you who are my Facebook friends already know, inspired by an article by a mommy blogger on CNN today (her blog is here if you are interested) , I came out of the closet.

Not that closet - I'm still straight and happily married (most of the time) to Keith.

The religion closet - I am an atheist.

Which makes me pretty lonely in mommy-blogger land AND in real life here in Roseville where it seems everyone attends a megachurch except us.  Seems like every other mom / DIY blogger in my age group has Jesus listed in her About Me section, and I'm asked which church we attend rather than if we attend church.  

I'm not wanting to be confrontational, just honest. And it feels like I'm misleading people if I don't admit that I don't consider myself a Christian, as this is usually just assumed as the default.

I've been speaking up consistently lately when I disagree with someone's opinion (politics/Obama, nursing in public, you know - the lighter topics) - not to be argumentative but because silence implies agreement.

I hate arguing (turns my stomach and clouds out my ability to focus on anything else) and don't think I will or even want to change anyone else's mind, but I do want to quietly point out that "everyone" actually doesn't think that by stating my own belief and backing it up with the reasons why.

Not to be a contrarian, but to put it out there that there are others in the world that don't think exactly the same way. Kind of like how travel is supposed to be broadening, I'm trying to give others the travelling experience on Facebook.

I realize this is polarizing, but:
be happy quote for Thursday April 19, 2012
Although I'm 33 and therefore in the right age group for it, I don't as a rule go around quoting Kurt Cobain.
However, this quote rules.

I don't begrudge others their religion or right to broadcast it.
I just don't want to present myself as something other than what I am, and my lack of religion is a big part of me.

I don't plan to make it a major theme of this blog, but it's one piece of who I am.

I was inspired by the awesomely positive reaction I got on Facebook today when I "came out".

I expected it from my handful of atheist / questioning friends and family, but I was MOST moved by how supportive my religious family and friends and respectful of my right to think differently.

I'm so relieved to know that my family and friends that know me in real life are much more open-minded than the average CNN reader, who reported the original editorial article as "inappropriate".  The topic was a woman who doesn't believe in God, and how & why she parents her children morally anyway - it was in the editorial section of the website. How this is "inappropriate" is beyond me.

Freedom of religion and speech are supposedly two of the United States' most cherished ideals.

I love my daughter with all my heart, and am committed to raising her as a moral person - which to me means one that functions in society keeping others' needs in mind and her impact on others.

I just don't personally believe that this moral compass comes from God, but that we have evolved as social creatures to whose ability to survive and thrive as humans depends on "moral" behavior.

She's only 3, but so far is a considerate, happy, kind child that shows no ill effects from lack of religion.

She is kind because Mom and Dad are kind to her.
She has manners because Mom and Dad always say please and thank you to her and around her.
She doesn't physically hurt others as she can imagine how it would feel herself.

She does have her developmentally appropriate moments of anger and difficulty controlling herself, which is when her father or I step in and help her control herself.

But no threat of punishment or promise of reward is made. The Golden Rule still works without the external belief system, at least for our family.

Two great parenting sites that I wholeheartedly love (if you'll take an atheist's word for it) although they are geared primarily towards Christian parents: (Leslie is the REAL DEAL - she's a Christian missionary in Costa Rica with 4 children and blogs about child development and her experiences in the field in her spare time) I have infinite respect for her work directly with children.

I'm closing with a quote from this post by a man who I consider one of the great philosophers of our time:

"The first follower transformed the lone nut into a leader... What a powerful thing we become when we are able to move beyond our self-consciousness, our sense of shame, and leap into something new, even if, this time, it's only because we feel hidden in the larger group. Maybe next time, we'll be the first follower.

 (Teacher Tom of course)

So CNN mom blogger TXBlue08 (who is smarter than me in not having her whole name broadcast on her blog)(although I'm relying on the miniscule readership of this blog to protect me from huge volumes of wrath) - thank you for leading the way by putting yourself out there. I'm glad I mustered up the courage to follow and speak my truth.

Excited (and a little apprehensive) to read your comments.


  1. Gretchen, I'm proud of you for speaking your truth, despite the fear of consequences. It's a terrible thing that anyone should fear living openly and even more disappointing that you should be judged for your beliefs. I hope that this has brought you a peace, one that you richly deserve as a kind, gentle, and loving human being. Arabella is a lucky little girl to have such guidance from you and Keith. I've been a Christian my whole life and Catholic (by my adult choice and discernment) for nearly 7 years. As a believer, I can empathize with your mom's reaction, but I know that she must be proud to have raised such a kind, intelligent, and open-minded woman. Any faith - be it Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, Judaism, Catholicism, or atheism - should have the same basic tenants: love all and do no harm. This is a human tenant, yet no faith guarantees such a belief. Not all Christians are followers of Christ (and I’m sorry for those who have misrepresented themselves to you), but we all can be respectful, gentle, loving people who take care of one another...regardless of creed. I admire that you and your family embody such qualities and are teaching Arabella to respect life and others in such a way. One day, Arabella will make the same choice for herself that you have had to make. I hope that it's easier and with less judgment and fear and more global acceptance and love. I'm happy for you, Gretchen, and I wish you all the best as you live your truth.

  2. Thanks so much for the support Keira!

    I totally agree - love all and do no harm (basically the Golden Rule which exists in every religion in one form or another) is what I try to live by, and we try to model that for Arabella.

    I've been very pleasantly surprised by the reaction from everyone so far - I think I was so apprehensive because of what I see in comments sections like on the original blog post I referenced. Of course, reading the comments section of ANY online article on a major news site about any topic is likely to lower faith in humanity. (I have a friend who's a comments moderator for Huffington Post - NO idea how she handles that stuff every day).

    Glad you found a religion that you find meaning in and works for you. We need to get together sometime so you can meet Arabella! She's a hoot - if I do say so myself (not biased at all). She'd love to see Melissa's cows too I'm sure.

  3. Thank you for sharing your story. Your courage will inspire others, and we are certainly happy to have another member of the atheist community!

    1. Thanks so much vjack for your support. (And the Twitter retweets!) Hope you'll check in here every now and again - this will always be primarily a lifestyle "mommy" blog, but I'm sure I'm going to find occasion to step back on my soapbox from time to time. Now that I figured out how to make different pages using labels on Blogger, I'm going to put the editorial stuff on the Gretchen page.

  4. I broke out of that closet a few years back. My friends are still my friends. Lost a couple of relatives over it, go figure. Wishing you the best. I can't have a URL so I could not sign it with my name, which is clayton@itzmeufool on twitter

    1. Hi Clayton,

      Sorry about the hoops to jump through for commenting - I try to limit those but I haven't quite figured out Blogger myself.

      But thanks for providing your Twitter handle - I'm following.

  5. Welcome to the world of the out. The air is smells a bit sweeter.

    1. Thanks turniphead!

      Yeah - it does feel good just to put it out there since it seems like it's just assumed as the default that I must be Christian.

      A lot of people knew this about me, but I would never bring it up to friends and when they'd ask what church I belonged to,etc. usually I'd awkwardly try to change the subject.

      Now I can just say "Have you checked out my blog recently?"

  6. Good for you! It needs to be spoken about more often - more for the benefit of others like you who are afraid to say it out loud. You may get more traffic than you were wanting, an atheist I follow posted your blog on his twitter. ;-)

    1. No such thing as "more traffic than I was wanting" (so long as it's real peeps and not spambots of course".

      Yeah - that Twitter link by vjack really upped my page views - I was super psyched.

      Only thing is this blog is still going to be mostly lifestyle / light stuff (I think), so I don't know if many of those that followed from the Twitter link will want to stick around for that stuff.

      But if I feel a call to speak out again on something controversial, I'll do it on the Gretchen page of the blog.

  7. Fellow atheist mommy blogger here, in West Sacramento. Luckily I never get asked what church I belong to. I'd love to have the sense of community that church can bring (I'm told.) I considered trying to build that kind of community locally myself, but alas I do not have time for it now.