It's not easy being an atheist mom. Those open about their non-belief face everything from passive aggression to criticism to blatant harassment. It's surprising that a country founded on the separation of church and state, and one that guarantees its citizens' right to religious freedom, would be so virulently opposed to the irreligious. At a time when moms are under scrutiny for every move they make, it's worth taking the time to try and understand each other. As a non-believer, I think there are things atheist moms want other moms to know, especially about ourselves and how we've decided to raise our children.
I grew up going to vacation bible schools and attending Methodist and Lutheran churches, but not with any regularity. I was baptized in junior high and, seeking to become closer to God, I later decided to attend a Christian college. Although I enjoyed my religion classes from a historical and intellectual standpoint, there was incredible pressure on behalf of the student body to conform to a particular type of conservative Christianity. It just didn't fit with my liberal upbringing. (I was the only one on campus with a Gore/Lieberman sign in my dorm window, for example.) I was turned off by the intolerant attitudes of my classmates, and I started to feel more and more like I was faking it. I know not every conservative Christian or deeply religious individual harbors intolerance toward others, and in no way am I trying to paint with a broad brush or assume a few represent the many, but within my own journey through organized religion I felt like my path wasn't the same as those I went to school with or sat next to every Sunday morning.
As an adult, and away from that environment, I found that I could not reconcile the injustice and tragedy in the world with a belief in God. My wedding to my husband was a civil ceremony, but when it came to our daughter, things got a little tricky. I agreed that she could be baptized and raised in the Catholic church, so long as I would not be required to attend mass or keep my beliefs from her. I'm figuring this out as I go, and it's challenging, to be sure. But honestly, the worst part is how deeply I feel misunderstood as an atheist mom, so I think it's time to set the record straight.