The time has come. I have been living with a secret for the past thirty years, and now it is time to come clean.
I guess it’s not a huge secret. My best friends know. My husband and children know. But to the world as a whole, I remain a mystery.
My name is Steph, and I am a secular humanist.
What does that mean? It means I’m an atheist. Godless. A heathen.
I wasn’t raised this way. I went to church most of my childhood. I enjoyed church. I liked singing the songs. I liked volunteering for craft fairs and bake sales. I liked seeing my friends in Sunday School (though I’m not sure they liked seeing me- I got in trouble when I was six for telling a girl Santa wasn’t real and making her cry). Mom can’t say she didn’t try. I just never felt anything while I was there, except maybe a dread that the next day was Monday.
I had a pretty decent childhood. Not perfect, but nothing that one could argue left me so jaded that I turned away from god. I never felt like there was something there and it screwed me over so I hate it now and refuse to acknowledge it. It was purely a lack of belief, no matter how hard I tried.
And try I did. I continued to go to church and volunteer for a couple of years after high school, then I left, mostly due to work and school conflicts. I didn’t think about it for a long time, then one day I decided to start reading up on Judaism. I thought maybe the Protestant Christian god just wasn’t my thing. I love the Jewish culture, tradition, and stories, but again, not for me.
After I married and our first son was born, we tried a few churches. I really wanted my kids to have the fond church memories I had. We visited Catholics, Presbyterians, Unitarian Universalists… nothing quite worked. After my second son was born, we began visiting an LDS (Mormon) church, and that was my favorite. It had all the best qualities of my childhood. We stayed with that for a year, but I was concerned about some fundamental differences in my personal beliefs and their teachings. I knew it would be hard to combat that influence in my children’s upbringing. More than that, I realized I couldn’t continue going through ceremonies and claiming belief in things that I did not feel in my heart were real. We left when my kids were two and four, and we haven’t been to any church since.
Why am I telling you all this? Why does it matter? Because I am happier now for giving up that search. For me, it was pointless. It held me down. It made me feel guilty because I was raised to believe that a life without god is no life at all. Hellfire and damnation are what await me. Not to mention this life will be so much harder without being able to lean on my faith… but the weight I carried at living a lie was worse than being myself and living without faith.
Let me start with the last: I have never eaten a baby. I didn’t even eat meat for almost ten years. I do now enjoy a good hamburger on occasion, but I always get a no-baby guarantee before I start eating. Am I immoral and selfish? Eh, aren’t we all? Let me tell you about who I am, and you can decide:
I am a wife. I’ve been married to my husband for eleven years this month. We did live together for a few months before our marriage, so I guess that could be considered “wrong.” I have a loving and respectful relationship with him.
I am a mother. I have two smart, funny, kind young men who I am so, so proud of. I am raising them with an awareness of everything around them. We read religious texts, books of myths, philosophy, and various theories on creation. They question everything and I try my hardest to find answers. This leads me to the third thing about me…
I am a homeschooler. I do not work outside the home, I stay home and educate my two boys. We are actively involved in the homeschooling community in our area. We enjoy time out with our friends. We love visiting new places and learning everything they have to offer. I have surrounded myself with other homeschooling families, of many faiths, who are all respectful of each others’ beliefs. We do not tolerate proselytizing from anyone (their kids don’t tell mine that Jesus is the only way to heaven, mine don’t tell theirs that god is dead). Faith is only one aspect of life. Yes, it is a large part for many and that’s fine, but we can all find common ground in other areas.
I am a volunteer. My older son and I recently started volunteering with the Humane Society. We also enjoy supporting various local organizations that make a difference in our community. A fun ongoing project we have is to “extreme” coupon for charity. I have the boys match up coupons with deals on nonperishable food items or toiletries that we add to a box. When the box is full we take it to an organization that helps victims of domestic abuse in our area. At Christmastime (yes, we still celebrate Christmas), we love shopping for toys to donate to Toys for Tots or the Ronald McDonald House.
I am a person. I’m just like all of you, regardless of your faith or lack thereof. I put my pants on one leg at a time. I try to be kind to my neighbor. I let the car next to me in in traffic. I appreciate the wonder of the world around me.
And, I’m openly secular.