It’s funny how things come full circle. I was raised as what I might call a “devout agnostic.” Religion really wasn’t an issue in my house. My parents didn’t go to church, we didn’t discuss religion… it just wasn’t a thing in our home. So I grew up with a choice. I was free to choose my own way and to choose my own faith.
Much later, when I was an adult, my dad announced that he had rediscovered the religion of his childhood. He became a devout Christian, going to church, getting a masters degree in Divinity, and publically espousing his faith in the Christian God. It got so intense that my step mother’s funeral, he started to lecture me about my lack of faith. “Eternity’s a long time,” he said. To which I responded, “that’s a pretty vindictive god.” We later fought over breakfast about our different opinions of Christianity and its effects on society. It seemed that he and I found very different paths; so much so that it was driving a wedge between us his father and son.
He recently told me that he regretted not raising me in a faith. Strangely enough, I felt much the opposite. I think I was encouraged to think for myself and to choose my own way. In my heart I have no doubt that if I had come to my parents and said that I wanted to explore faith, they would have supported and accommodated me. So from my perspective, I was given the ultimate in religious freedom: I had the freedom to choose not only my faith, but whether to believe at all.i was encouraged to think for myself, to be critical of established thought, and to find what made the most sense to me personally rather than blindly adhere to the beliefs of my elders.
Meanwhile, my 9-year old son is being primarily raised by his mother. She is a sometimes-Seventh Day Adventist (she attends sporadically, and it seems mostly for the socialization rather than the faith itself). I’m not a huge fan, as it conflicts with my personal beliefs, but I want him to have the freedom I had. I suppose he can still find that freedom even while attending services. The key thing is for him to know that I will love him and support him in any decision he makes, even if he ultimately chooses a belief system incompatible with my own.
So here I am, raised as a free thinker by a secretly religious father and an atheistic mother, now raising a son from afar with a semi-theistic mother. Every day is a challenge, and I struggle to lay options in front of him without overtly generating conflict.
Postscript: when I visited Daniel in March, I showed him the first two episodes of Cosmos, to what I thought was a lukewarm reception. However during my most recent visit, he excitedly asked, “do you have any more episodes of Cosmos?” Thankfully I did, and he enjoyed them so much I got him a set of discs for himself. He also wants to see the original Carl Sagan series to compare. I think he’s going to be just fine.
Featured image credit: Amy Roth (@surlyamy)