I'm an Atheist. But My Daughter Isn't.marinka
I remember the conversation distinctly. Between my husband and me, when I was pregnant. We’d talk about the future we wanted for our daughter, the normal stuff. Health. Happiness. The things that expectant dreams are made of. And then it got to religion.
“It would be great to drop off the kids at Sunday school,” one of us may have suggested, “so that we can go out to brunch.”
The other one may or may not have nodded in agreement.
In our defense, it was the 1990s, and The Bowery Bar served a kickass brunch.
But even back then we knew that we were bluffing.
We knew that signing up your child for Sunday school so that you could linger over an occasional Bloody Mary was hypocritical, and that’s not the way we wanted to go.
So we put the religious discussion on hold.
I was raised Jewish, and he is Protestant. Or maybe Presbyterian. It’s hard to keep that stuff straight when it’s not very important to you. And it wasn’t.
I observed certain Jewish holidays, but more for the cultural relevance and respect than for any belief in God.
We observed Christmas and Easter, but again, religiouslessly.
And then my husband got more involved with the church.
He did a lot of work at their homeless shelter, and he attended services occasionally. He worked in the soup kitchen. My daughter went along a few times as well. And at one of the services, she learned about confirmation.
And she was interested.
When she told us that she wanted to be confirmed last year, I did a religious double-take.
“Confirmed?” I asked. “As in Jesus-confirmed?”
“So wait,” I was still processing. “You, like, believe in Jesus as a … you know, GOD?”
I’m not sure she was impressed with my theological wisdom, but yes, she told me, she wanted to pursue confirmation.
And really, what could I do?
Could I forbid a thirteen-year-old from attending Church? Could I forbid a thirteen-year-old from pursuing a faith that appealed to her? Could I, in good conscience, even discourage it?
Of course I didn’t.
I am an atheist. But I am also a mom who wants what is best for her children, even if that path is not the one I’d have chosen for them and even if it’s incomprehensible to me.
I supported my daughter as she studied for her confirmation, and I may have even cried, happily, when she got confirmed. But I couldn’t resist a “Mazel Tov, you Jesus-freak!” at a celebratory brunch afterwards.
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