The Wife, Will and Ali (10 and 7 years old), and I were at a cookout yesterday afternoon. The event was being held by one of the families whose kids attend the same dojo (karate school) as ours. They were kind enough to invite everyone and so we schlepped over with a bucket of homemade chili and 7 wonderfully flavored pumpkin beers.
I was able to avoid talking about politics and religion for about twenty minutes. In my defense, I did not start the conversation. Rather, I was talking with an accountant about the tax code and, hey, that naturally lead to discussing the SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism), Larping (live action role playing) and the upcoming Jewish holidays (he and his wife are Jewish) . My wife began complaining about the Christmas and not liking some of the Jesus music that the kids sing for the holiday concert.
That lead to the natural question from our new found friends,
"Are you Jewish?"
I want to point out that my wife is also an atheist, but she is not so public about it. She paused for a moment.
Yeah, that was me saying that. Once I started saying "I'm an atheist" in public years ago it became easier to do so every time since. (In fact, I recently did a reading at a library in Quincy, Ma and introduced myself to a room of strangers as the writer of an atheist/comedy blog.) The people we were chatting with responded along the lines of, "We think our kids need some sort of guidelines to live by." I chose not to respond to the implication that by not having our children raised with religion that somehow they lacked moral guidance. What I didn't do is paraphrase the John Cleese line about being a good person "Don't hurt other people and read a book now and again." I simply smiled politely shrugged my shoulders and said, "Well, if my kids really want to look into that sort of thing when they're 13, then they're free to." The conversation drifted onto different topics after that.
Interestingly, I was still chatting with him when the head of the dojo, "Mark" came over and somehow the topic of faith came up again (I find many theists like talking to me about religion). Mark smiled and said while he doesn't agree with my atheism he did say I knew more about Catholicism than he did. After having drunk four beers I was more than happy to add that atheists are some of the most Bible literate people around.
That got me to thinking about creating a poll to see how many readers of Purgatory identify as atheists in public. You will find it on the upper left column, and feel free to add any comments below.