There is something I need to get off my chest. So, I’m just going to come right out and say it: I’m an atheist.
There. I’ve said it. I don’t believe in God. I’ve still got one foot in the closet though as I’m not quite ready to put my name on my anti-religious stance in this published piece of writing. But, I have to say it feels good to type it out, despite this pesky hint of Catholic guilt that’s currently looming within.
It’s a hard habit to shake.
Also, my kids go to a Catholic school. So, I’m an atheist (wee, this is fun!) and a hypocrite. There, I said it before you could. Ha! Now, go ahead, judge me. I don’t mind. Besides, you don’t know who I am, anyway. I would guess, however, that I’m not the only parent at our school who doesn’t believe in God. But, you know what, I’ll never know, and I don’t need to know. I’ve chosen to send our kids to a Catholic school, and it would be distasteful and somewhat unnecessary to discuss my lack of faith with other parents. It’s nobody’s business what I or anyone else believes or doesn’t believe, really.
That’s how I see it, anyway.
I put a lot of thought into my decision to send our kids to a school that teaches a faith that neither my husband nor I practice. I knew that it was hypocritical, but the pros outweighed the cons, in the end. The choice was mine, with my husband open to whatever I felt was right. I had some good reasons to make the choice that I made. I went to Catholic schools growing up, so there was a sense of familiarity, for me. It was also the better option in our neighbourhood, academically speaking. I also know, from my own experience as a teacher in both school boards, the sense of community and school spirit seems stronger in the Catholic system.
So, I stand by my decision. And when my kids choose to partake in the sacraments of the Catholic faith, I support them. By support, I mean I take them where they need to go and help them read what they need to read. And I look for the positive messages that I can find between the hints at guilt and judgement.
And when I attend a mass or a ceremony to support my children, I try to ignore the stabby feelings inside. Because when the priest speaks, there is often something said that stirs up old emotions, for me, and reminds me why I no longer practice (if I ever, really did). I feel, at first, a little pang at the priest’s suggestion that it’s a sin not to attend mass each week. I let it roll off my back, no sweat. I then fight to ignore the thoughts I have about the priest living as a non-sexual being. It makes me uncomfortable. I can’t help but feel it goes against our nature as humans. I also try to downplay facts, like how the Catholic Church frowns upon sex out of wedlock, and masturbation, and don’t even get me started on their views about homosexuality.
But I let it slide.
I let it slide because, right now, these topics are not being discussed with my kids, and: “The Bible teaches many important stories and lessons that we can learn from.” This is my go-to line, when it comes to Catholicism. But I will do my best to help my kids navigate through it and in doing so, I plan to safeguard them from Catholic guilt. I’m confident I’ll succeed.
I have no intentions of telling anyone, including my kids, that in my opinion, there is no God. In fact, if they want to believe that there is a heaven and that God does exist, I am okay with that. I want my children to decide for themselves what makes sense for them. And in their own time. I know that one day, my go-to line: “The Bible teaches many important lessons that we can learn from,” will fail to detour my kids. They’ll eventually need a straight answer, to the question: “Do you believe in God?” And, it is at that point that I’ll have to come clean and say no I don’t. I will be honest when I tell them, “I believe in listening to your instincts and your heart and that I also believe in respecting everyone’s right to follow the path that makes sense for them.” And, most importantly, I’ll tell them to have faith in themselves above absolutely everything else.
And hey, at the end of the day, maybe there really is a God. And the joke is actually on me, the closet-atheist. This is a chance I’m willing to take though, because it’s what feels right for me.
Also, I’ve heard that if you say: “I believe!” right before you die, you can still get through the gates.