Dear Mom, I’m an Atheist. Love, Me

Posted: September 27, 2010 in Uncategorized

I’ve mentioned that I am a Baptist-raised Atheist. I am, as far as I know, the only non-believer in my family besides (maybe) my cousin Sarah. My large extended family do have a range of christian beliefs from very fundamental, to fairly liberal. Most of my uncles are preachers, and also my grandfather.

Going from believer to non didn’t happen quickly for me, but it did come naturally. I didn’t fight against the knowledge I was gaining. Even at my most devout, I was always very embarrassed when people mentioned “god” or tried to make me spread the word of “his glory”. My early interests in sex and rock n roll also influenced my progression, despite my mother constantly trying to keep me ignorant of both.

My mother, a fundamentalist, sent me a book after I switched my major from criminal justice to biology, titled The Evolution Handbook. It’s a book almost 1000 pages thick, written for the purpose of disproving evolution. She had warned me, when I announced my switch to her, that I should be careful of what they would try to teach me. I don’t think she even believes evolution should be taught at the college level. 

Did I tell her I believe in the theory of evolution over some made up fairy tales about the earth and all of life being created in 7 days 2000 years ago? Did I mention any of the evidence of evolution? Did I argue in favor of critical thought? Not at all, I do what I always do with her, I sort of grunted and changed the subject.

My mother has no idea in what I believe. She may have figured some of it out. She probably prays for my return to the flock. She told my sister she shouldn’t come out to see my band because we’re “ungodly.” Does she really, honestly know though, that I am an atheist? I don’t think she does.

After seeing Dan Barker the other night, I had a long conversation with my husband about this very subject. I don’t feel close to my mother in any way. I love her, yes, because she’s mom. I don’t, however, have much in common with her. With her, every television show is the devil. All secular music is the devil. Science is the devil. Sex is bad. Abortion is murder, but the death penalty and eating cow is not. Brown people are second class, Obama is a terrorist, Rush Limbaugh is right about everything. If she wasn’t my mom, we would probably hate each other.

I have been blaming her fundamentalist beliefs for keeping us so distant. I’ve been terrified to tell her that I don’t believe in her bullshit, and that I haven’t for a long time. I’ve been angry at her, for my inaction. My husband, Jay, pointed this out to me that night. For the first time I realized it really doesn’t matter what she thinks about what I believe. I’m almost 30 years old, I’m allowed to believe what I want. She’s my mom and she’s going to love me anyway, right?

I hope so. My biggest fear isn’t even her rejection. My biggest fear is that every conversation from that point on will be about bringing me “back to the light.” I fear that she’s going to be so annoying about converting me that I will cut off our relationship. I’m ok with a discussion, but if I know my mom, she’s way stubborn (that’s where I get it). Her whole identity is wrapped up in her beliefs, church is her life. 

It isn’t fair for me to keep her in the dark. I’m doing more harm to our relationship by being dishonest. She’s always open with who she is, and even if it drives me crazy sometimes, I love her. She’s my mom. She can love a Horny Heathen, can’t she? 


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