Friday, October 22, 2010

Heathen. Heretic. Non-believer. Agnostic. Atheist.

Living in a place like Arkansas, these are such negative words. Okay, the first two really just are negative, and I mostly use them in jest. But what do you think about those last three? What do you think about people who are agnostic? Atheistic? Non-believers?

What do you think about me?

I don’t know exactly where I fit on that spectrum. I can say this: I am not religious. I don’t consider myself a spiritual person. I disagree with a lot of what is taught by religious institutions. But I don’t like to identify myself as what I don’t believe. Sure, I don’t have a religion; but I do have a worldview. I believe that I am responsible for my own happiness, my own behavior, my own future. I believe it is possible for people to develop values, morals and ethics without relying on belief in a deity who imposes them.

Living in a city with nearly 60 percent of its population affiliated with a religion, I feel like an oddball. A little left out.

Religion does have a way of binding people together. Yes, about half of my friends are religious, and the other half are not. But those of us who aren’t don’t gather together, united by our lack of religiosity. We could, though. I know that there are groups, and I’ve looked into some of them, but none of them really seem to fit my family’s needs.

What would that look like, I wonder? Maybe a group of parents who are raising their children outside the religious institution? A group that meets regularly to discuss how we do that, to find common ground? A group that throws baby showers and provides meals for group members when they are ill?

My “loss” of religion has certainly put a strain on my family of origin. I once was broken up with by a boy because of it. As I grow my own family, however, I am encouraged by the realization that I’m my own boss. I get to decide how I spend my Sunday mornings. I get to watch my children grow, unencumbered by dogma.

Living where I do, I often feel like I must be apologetic about all of this. I want to do something about this. Anybody with me?

Brooke Edwards is an almost-native Arkansan and Little Rocker. Wife to Trevor Seth. Mama to Sadie Diane. Writer for Heifer International. Brooke spends her spare time surrounded by animals, friends and food--not always in that order. She loves to read, but tends to spend an inordinate amount of time watching TV shows on the laptop computer. Brooke believes in transparent blogging and full RSS feeds. She participates in opinion polls, even when they call her cell phone.
Brooke's Blog is Parenting from Scratch.


  1. Religion is something I typically steer clear of, because like you, I don't really have it in my life. I was raised Southern Baptist but grew tired of leaving church in tears because it felt more like a popularity contest than a place of worship. Over the years I began to question religion and unimpressed by the answers given, I found my ability to believe less and less.
    Where do I fall? Somewhere between Agnostic and I don't know. But I do know you're not alone.

  2. I grew up without a specific religious tradition, and on the West Coast, no one really cared.

    Since I've moved to Virginia though? I've discovered that religion, and maybe more so church, is extremely influential in the lives of a great number of people I know. It's been difficult for me to get used to, and it's been hurtful to me to have people suggest that I am worthy of pity because I don't identify as a Christian.

    I sometimes wish I had the type of community that I imagine comes with church. But I'm not sure how to create it, or find it, without church. So, while I'm not in Arkansas, I'm definitely with you.

  3. There are many people out there just like you ladies...however, they don't push their views on others like the christians do...that's why they are not as easy to find...

  4. You are definitely not alone. I talk to more and more people every day who feel this way. I grew up in a very arrogant church who felt (still do) that they are the only ones with a ticket through the pearly gates. I just couldn't go along with that. Also, most of the hate and wars come from dispute over religion. I choose not to believe that a creator would let that happen without interference. I just don't buy it anymore.

  5. Wow. I'm pleasantly surprised at the positive feedback on this post. Thanks for that, y'all. Are any of you in the LR area by any chance?

  6. Definitely a brave post. I agree with you Brooke. My level of disenchantment with organized religion cannot get much higher. I often feel judged, especially by my family. And still, I've considered going to church for the community aspect of it. It doesn't feel right for me, but I wonder how many people do just that.

  7. Thanks, Fawn. I'm sure loads of people do just go for the community of it. But I disagree with so much of it, I'm getting to the point that I'm not willing to expose Sadie to it while she's so impressionable. The last time we went to church with Trevor's family in TN, there were a number of things the preacher said that made me think, Sadie is just about old enough to start taking this crap in. And I sure don't want that. I can imagine it's not going to go over well at all when I put my food down (soonish) and say, no more church for Sadie until she's old enough to decide for herself and asks for it of her own volition.

    I think we just need to build our own community. For the frozen meals and potlucks and parenting advice and all...

  8. Alright, everyone hold on to your hats...the conservative christian, homeschool mama The Park Wife agrees with you on MANY of your points. I love me some Jesus, but do not like or am a part of organized religion (o.k. get up off the floor). I feel that the church puts God and His love and forgiveness is this little box with rules and if you do not follow them then you are not accepted into their group. The last regular church I was in, I was judged because we are relaxed homeschoolers and were seeking a deeper knowledge and conversation about the Bible(yes the direct oppostite of what you would think). I think the church is one of the biggest hinderances in people having a true realtionship with our loving God. Now, I know many people need that community and church does help many people to learn about Him on the surface, but I just don't think a deep relationship with HIM, it can become strictly a social situation.

    I serve an amazing, loving and forgiving God who loves me for the woman He created me to be, not what the church or the world wants me to be.

  9. Brooke, I think the reason we see so many non-denominational churches now is precisely the issue that you have with organized religion. The stress is put on what we were doing wrong in the eyes of other people rather than building a strong relationship with a loving God. Thank you, Park Wife, for putting it so well! We have struggled to find a church precisely because there is too much religion there and not enough relationship. We still see some of that in our current church, but I'm glad to say that people go there because they want to, not because the feel they ought. Relationships with other people are a close second in importance to our relationship with God.In our situation it was critical that we meet members of the community when we moved here. Since we are Christian the best place for us to go was a church. I'm so glad that we found the one we did, but that doesn't mean that I agree with EVERYTHING that is taught.