Sunday, June 17, 2012

Happy Father's Day To All The Godless Fathers.

Traditional Father's Day ritual in some areas of America.

I was on the Huffington Post's religion section and read saw this title: Faith and Fatherhood: How Does Spirituality Affect Your Parenting? Well, fellow Purgatorians, this question was right in the strike zone for me so I felt like I had to take a swing.

Here is my extended answer to the question. As many of you know, the comments are limited to 250 words, so I had to cut out the last paragraph (if I can comment to my own comment I'll add it on).

My non-faith has greatly influenced my parenting style for my two children Will and Ali (ages 10 and 7). One of the things I like being an atheist father is that I don't have to tell them all the horrible stories Christians, Jews and Muslims tell children. For example, the Flood story is a genocidal tale on how God exterminates 99.99 percent of our species. And even if a religious parent understands the story to be only allegorical what is exactly is the moral of the story? It isn't the traditional theist spin on the story -- a cutesy parable about bunnies hopping onto the ark. No. It's about obeying or dying horribly. It's about God killing women, children and the disabled. That's not a story I want my young children to be traumatized with, thank you very much.

Another aspect I like about being an atheist father is that I don't have to play mental gymnastics when explaining homosexuality to my kids. I don't have to huddle down with my priest, rabbi or imam and develop a game plan on how to tackle the subject. Here is the conversation we had in our house after a news broadcast about gay marriage in Massachusetts (where we live). "Some men marry men, and some women marry women? That's icky," my boy said. "Dude," yes, I call my son Dude every once in a while, "it's like this: Some people like chocolate ice cream some people like vanilla. It's just what they like. Some men want to marry men, some women want to marry women; it's just what they like." Bam! No need to go through mental hoops about what the Old Testament said or what Paul wrote about the gays. It's easy peasy.

Do you know what is tough being an atheist parent? Being the most disliked minority group in the nation (people would rather vote for a Muslim to be President than an atheist). Telling my kids they can't tell anyone that they are atheists because they will probably lose friends. Explaining to my son that Boy Scouts aren't an option because they don't allow atheists in their group because we aren't considered "moral enough " (really, check their site).


  1. I disagree, at least about the Boy Scouts. Whether or not they should join depends on your individual troop. I am in scouts myself, and our troop is very accepting. Atheists have a distinct place in the troop, and are most likely a majority. If combined with all of the non-christian religions there are in the troop, they are definitely a majority. If you want to find out whether or not your son should join, just look at the local troop. If it meets in a church, it would be populated almost completely by those who attend the church. Even if the troop did meet in a church, the only acceptance parameter that matters is age. You must be 11 years old, or 10 years old with the Arrow of Light (The highest rank in Cub Scouts).

    1. I wouldn't be part of an organization that discriminates against atheists nationally. Think about it, would you seriously be part of a group that keeps hispanics or blacks out nationally, but your local troop is open to them? Respectfully, you're supporting a bigoted national organization.

    2. This might be true if the national council (or whatever the ultimate ruling body is) had more influence over individual troops. The only things that are truly standard on a national level is the age requirement I mentioned earlier, and the requirements for merit badges and ranks. I'm sure there are troops that are more pro-christian (Most likely those who meet in churches), just as there are plenty of troops similar to my own. These more secular troops are by no means the exception. From the way meetings are conducted, to the way the troop is managed (boy-run troop/adult-run), to the scout-to-leader rations on camp outs, each troop will vary.

  2. I was a cub scout leader for four years, and the single time I ever mentioned religion in my den meetings was when I had one of the kids parents (who happened to be a pastor) run the meeting and explain faith in a "non-denominational way". This basically included having faith that the chair you were about to sit in would not collapse and having the kids do a few "trust-falls". I don't recall the guy actually mentioning God or getting preachy at all. However, I think they know I'm an atheist, because I've never been to their church and and they left at the end of the year, but that'e their loss - the four boys who stuck it out through Webelos all joined Boys Scouts and three of them earned their Arrow of Light.

    I once had a conversation with the scoutmaster and told him I was atheist and that I probably ought not to be a leader... He told that I was a great leader and that He wasn't going to mention it to anyone else, unless I really wanted to make a big issue out of it. So I basically never talked about religion in my meetings and left it at that.

    Is the "no atheist" rule (along with the "no gays" rule) an issue..? I would say that it all depends upon your scout group. As the previous commenter said, if you're affiliated with a church, you're far more likely to get the local bigotry as leadership, and that will be reflected in the meetings and practices of the troop itself.

    Personally, I've told my son (10) that if prayers ever come up and they have the nerve to ask him why he doesn't join in, to flat out tell them he's atheist. If anyone wants to make a big deal out of it, it is totally possible to bend the religious affiliation rules to include atheism as a "practice", and I'll be more than happy to explain that to any asshat that tries to get him to do things against his "faith". ;)

    That said, while the atheist/gay rules are long outdated and in dire need of a policy review, the overall benefits of scouting are enormous. However, I live in California where religion does not have the stranglehold it does in other regions, and our scout troop is not affiliated a church - I can only imagine how awful it would be to be affiliated with a Southern Baptist Church or something similar... :(

    1. "Is the "no atheist" rule (along with the "no gays" rule) an issue..? I would say that it all depends upon your scout group."

      Respectufully, I see this kind of response similar to Catholics who say that while the Catholic Church has problems on the whole, their church is fine. Of course, the reality of the situation is that by going to a Catholic Church they are endorsing the evils that the institution spews out. By being involved with the Scouts atheists are complicit in their own discrimination.

    2. Yeah, you do have a very valid point. And I triple-dog dare anyone to call me on my sons beliefs, because I will rip into them like Fox News on Obamas open microphone. :)

      Truth be told, I almost *want* them to - just so I can raise awareness of the whole thing from the point-of-view of a respected, retired, atheist scout leader. But in the meantime, my son enjoys scouts a great deal, and you can't deny that having Eagle Scout on your resume is a positive bonus - not only for the award itself, but for all the extra-curricular activities, community service, outdoor knowledge, friendships etc that it entails. So long as they don't start pushing me, I won't push them either... There is no point in using my son as a pawn in a larger game unless they threaten to kick him out or something. At which point, believe me, all Hell will break loose. ;)

      His scout group does not even open meetings with a prayer, or mention God at all (except for the scout oath, which has the same bullshit God undertones as the regular Pledge of Allegiance, but this can easily be ignored, just as I roll my eyes and ignore it when required to speak the Pledge). It is probably as soft as you can get with regard to religious affiliation.

      But like I said, it all depends upon your local scout group. Just as different churches have different levels of tolerance, so do individual scout groups. While I disagree with every aspect of religion (I am @fictionfaith on twitter), it is still disingenous to paint all churches with the same brush as the Westboro Baptist Church for example. In the same vein, it is unjustifiable to paint all scout groups as anti-atheist, homophobic breeding grounds for a new generation of bigots.

      Yes, the policy is wrong and needs to be changed, and believe me, I will be the loudest voice in my community if the shit ever hits the fan.

      Of all the acitivities my son has tried over the years (baseball, soccer, karate etc), scouts is the only one he's stuck with. And I don't want to take that away from him and I have no desire to push him into the middle of a political game that he cares nothing about.

      For the moment, it is quiet. He is still young (10), but perhaps one day he will stand up himself and question the policy. And that will be the proudest day of my life.

    3. "Yes, the policy is wrong and needs to be changed, and believe me, I will be the loudest voice in my community if the shit ever hits the fan."

      - I want to challenge you with this question: Why would you wait until "something happens" for you to take a moral stand? Until then you are part of the problem by supporting the Scouts.

  3. So, you're saying you would be OK with your son going to an organization that stated that blacks were not moral enough for their group?


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