Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Getting back to normal...

Anonymous asked: Let's just say for argument's sake that the point of the question is whether an Atheist parent provides other activities, groups, or functions in place of a religious activity with social networking, be it on Friday, Saturday, Sunday, or whatever.

I can't speak for other atheist parents, but I do have to say that if you stacked our club activities up, side by side, with an average Christian, we'd probably lose. The DH and I decided that, with four possums, there was no way we could keep up with two or three activities a piece. We'd never have time as a family. And, as much as I love my mini van, I certainly don't want to live in it. :)

Possum#1 is involved in her school's band, drumline, and oral language club.
Possum#2 is, ironically enough, a cub scout. He's also in band.
Possum#3 and Possum#4 are still too little to be heavily involved in extra-curricular activities, but they do go to Pre-school two days a week (for three hours a day).
Both of the older kids have tried their hands at tennis, baseball/softball, and gymnastics. The eldest three took a six week, chess class this year. So, we do get out and around. We've also got a great group of families, on our block, that we sometimes get together with for bbq's and sport. We've changed our garage into a place where the neighborhood kids can hang out (dartboard, model trains, art supplies, basketball hoop, etc.,.). So, while our kids have plenty of opportunity to socialize, very little of it is structured.

25 comments:

Anonymous said...

I guess I'm confused as to what the question is really asking...? What does church on Sunday have to do with "networking, social" activities?? *confused*

Sara (sassy)

Atheist in a mini van. said...

Hola Sassy,
Good to see a familiar face. :)

For many people, church *is* their social life. It *is* their network. There are a number of people who are participating in activities, at their church, on a daily basis (MOPS, Fireside event, Scouts, bible studies, craft nights, preschools, retreats,...the list is endless). There's a church in our neighborhood that has four or five activities every night of the week. I imagine that, for these Christians, losing their religion/church would be like losing their family. So, that's what makes their question important/relevant.

LCR said...

I'm puzzled that the question needs to be asked at all.

Do people really need to be doing something relating to religion on a Sunday? With a spouse working full time, Sunday is a valuable family day when all of us are together. I suppose we could get together with other godless folk and sit around talking about how much we don't believe in God... but frankly I'd much rather spend my time doing other more fun and productive things. How about going on a hike? Taking the kids to the park for a picnic? Teaching our smallest child how ride his scooter? Or how about heading to the bookstore to read and enjoy some coffee and hot chocolate?

And why do we have to go anywhere at all? How about sitting in front of a fire in the fireplace watching a movie together? How about pulling out some boardgames? How about sitting around in our pajamas over a leisurely breakfast of pancakes, just TALKING with each other. I realize that I may be biased, but I think my kids and my husband are much more interesting to listen to than any minister's sermon.

I guess I am perplexed as to why it is so difficult for the questioner to think of how he/she might spend their time without church to attend. With just a little imagination, the possiblities are endless.

Adam said...

I was directed here by way of PZ Myers and I love your blog. Good stuff.

As far as the question goes, having been in the church and now out, I can see how it's relevent from the insider's perspective. The religious aspect is merely a guilt complex designed to keep them in line and donating money in order to help the "club" run smoothly. All the rest is, as has been said, a social club.

It's also a fearful prospect if one has grown up in a church because your social network is there from the start. If you quit going, you have to start from scratch and that's not always an easy thing for people to do. It's scary. Religion is designed around fear and guilt and it excercises them as needed in order to maintain the ranks.

Mari said...

You have an amazing blog! I have really enjoyed reading it, and I feel a sense of pride for Possum #1 too. Good on her for being such an independent thinker!

Todd Adamson said...

When I was a kid, Sunday morning was drudgery. Getting up "early" and having to get all dressed up to be dragged off to a place that bored the hell out of me. Even worse were the Sundays that we went out to eat afterwards. I couldn't wait to get home, change clothes and go out to play. What was worse was that God, in his infinite wisdom, always situated the best weather around those times we were in church and by the time we got home, rain clouds always seemed to form.

When I was really young and my family was still in the Exclusive Brethren, we attended meetings every weeknight, mornings on Saturday, and all day Sunday.

Needless to say, I despise church.

Kathryn said...

What puzzles me most is that anyone has so little imagination that they can't think of other ways to fill time. Frankly, I find there's never enough of it.

I do know some people who are heavily involved in their church, with kids activities during the week, choir practice, long Sundays with the service and things afterward. And hey, if you believe and enjoy the group, more power to you.

But to imply (or outright say) that you can't have a life without it!!! Just laughable!

Pedro Timóteo said...

Hello again,

thanks for your comment on my blog, but you didn't answer my question (or, if you did, I missed it). Want to join Planet Atheism? :)

Pedro

Susan (Ayame) said...

I too, have experienced the "What! You don't go to church? What do you do?"

Last Easter, I was outside, gardening (weather is good in El Paso, TX) and my neighbors asked if I was going to church. I told them I was an atheist. My neighbor's girlfriend couldn't believe it. She seemed to recoil from me as if I was a monster.

A gardening monster with 2 little kids. Bleh.

People judge others for very superficial reasons.

C said...

I understand that many religious people consider church and its activities a major portion of their social life. But is that what the question is really about? I smell a strong whiff of "If you're not in church you must be doing something bad, so explain yourself." I'm glad you took the opportunity to show that atheists do "normal" things, but my first reaction, honestly, was "why even bother answering such a question?"

s said...

c - you are reading too much into it. This was the slightly modified original question:

Around here, church is the "3rd place" for a lot of people - not work, not home, but the place where you create a social network of people you enjoy spending time with and can count on in a pinch. Aside from the required supernatural beliefs, it seems like a great concept - getting together weekly to talk about some of the important things in life and share stories about people of character (william and his kind excepted). Not to mention the organizational abilities that a congregation has to do some good in the community.

Do you have a replacement activity for that 3rd place? How do you approach charity and organization with others for community projects? This is from a parent who is struggling with some of these questions. I'd like some of the social benefits for my children, but am uncomfortable with them getting an education in faith that I don't support myself.


That question offended several readers because it didn't include Synagogue on Saturday or Mosque on Friday, so the question was quailified and may have lost something. But it was not meant to be judgemental. Maybe I should have put a smiley face at the end ;-)

Thanks athiest for your responses.

Atheist in a mini van. said...

Pedro,
Yes. I think I am interested in joining. I just haven't had time.
:)
Four possums + "Didn't see this coming, blog explosion" = lots of work.

AlisonM said...

We don't always have to be DOING something. And sometimes we need a break from social things. With families and friends scattered about long drives away, we often find our weekends filled with traveling, so it's nice to have our sitting around doing nothing time, especially on a weekend morning after sleeping in.

Anonymous said...

I just heard about your blog today so first off, I want to congratulate you on your daughter. She's mature, kind and incredibly clever... what a dream! And as a recent graduate of an Ivy League University, I can say that possum #1 writes better than many of my fellow alumni (and for that matter 90% of the general adult population - many of whom think "alot" is a word!!) My parents raised me much like you and your husband are raising your kids... and I haven't even been struck by lighting yet!


Anyway, I'm amazed that you are getting these kinds of questions! Are religious people really so dumb that they can't think of things that people would do instead of going to church on a Sunday? Seriously? Ummm... it's like Saturday except you have work/school the next day!?! Mind blowing... truly mind blowing.

Good luck to you and your family!
-Atheist in San Francisco

Atheist in a mini van. said...

My parents raised me much like you and your husband are raising your kids... and I haven't even been struck by lighting yet!


Good to know. ;)

My parents were fairly dogmatic, Roman Catholics. In terms of their religious offspring, that worked out about as well as the Hindenberg. Ha!

And as a recent graduate of an Ivy League University, I can say that possum #1 writes better than many of my fellow alumni (and for that matter 90% of the general adult population - many of whom think "alot" is a word!!)

She writes better than I did at that age (and possibly even at this age!), that's for damn sure. But, alas, I didn't go Ivy League. I went West Coast prestigious public and private. I am my own freeway series. :)

Pleasure to meet you.

Nicole said...

Todd - Sounds like you lived somewhere where afternoon thunderstorms were the norm. Southeast US much?

Our Most Gracious Hostess - you just made me realize something when you said "For many people, church IS their social life. It IS their network." I said to myself, "OMG! It's like Sweet Adelines!" Y'know, the female barbershop-singing organization?

So I'm sometimes a member of a chorus. I join, I sing baritone, I love it--until they start demanding three rehearsals a week because they Must! Win! First place! At Regionals! and I decide I don't really need an extra full-time job. But other people stay in the chorus even then because it's their life, it's their family, it's their society, it's their network. It is the most important thing in their lives outside of family, and they can't understand how anyone--especially a baritone!--could have prioritized anything like, say, a career or other hobbies, over Sweet Adelines.

OK, so, the cycle runs. I join and eventually leave a chorus. Some years later I run into one of the other members. In the time between my membership and our current meeting, she's been widowed, and during her time of grieving, the chorus were her rock and her support. I'm sad for her loss, and I'm glad she had this network of loving fellow singers to fall back on. Everyone needs a support network.

But.

She manages to tell me all this in a way that implies, "You poor young woman, you think you're immune? What if you lost your husband tomorrow, like I did the other year? Who would be your support network, now that you've left the chorus?"

The idea that other support networks exist--coworkers, the local Pagan community, our friends who gather for weekly role-playing game sessions and biweekly anime viewings, our biological families--it hasn't occurred to her.

Thus, perhaps, it is with people for whom their religious organization is their most important and perhaps their only social network. We are human like they are--surely we need a church like they do! But we don't go to church! ZOMG! How can we possibly fill that void?

aiabx said...

In some ways it's too bad we don't have Sunday morning achurch as a place to socialize and network. Something I notice in blogs like this is a lot of comments along the lines of "I never knew there were so many other atheists out there". It'd be nice if there was a way for unbelievers to get a better sense that they are not alone.

That having been said, there's no way *I* am going to get up early on Sunday morning short of a threat of eternal damnation.

LCR said...

aiabx: "That having been said, there's no way *I* am going to get up early on Sunday morning short of a threat of eternal damnation."

Agreed. I would prefer a more civilized hour of 1 pm and meet at a local book store for coffee. But that's because I have kids. In my college days, it would have been happy hour at our local pub...

Atheist in a mini van. said...

That having been said, there's no way *I* am going to get up early on Sunday morning short of a threat of eternal damnation.

Amen. ;)
Agreed. I would prefer a more civilized hour of 1 pm and meet at a local book store for coffee

Interestingly enough, I've noticed that alot of churches now offer Sunday afternoon services. I now have to wonder if they changed because of attendance issues.

My DH and kids LOVE, LOVE, LOVE walking to Starbucks on Sunday mornings, to get a paper and split sections. My husband was telling me that it's always a bit humorous to watch the grouchy fathers in suits run through and order grande coffees and espresso shots. He said something to the kids, at one point, and Possum#2 said, "Is church really that boring that you need a double espresso to stay awake?"

:) Mwa ha ha!

darrell said...

Hey there PossumMama,

I was directed here the other day via Pharyngula to check out the post about your daughter's pop essay, but I find myself coming back because I really like your blog a lot. So...kudos are in order? I think so.

Anyway, I liked your answer to the question posed, however I especially liked the part about turning part of your home into a haven for local kids. This is such an important thing that families can do for their community. I come from the punk rock scene, and young punk kids are constantly plagued by a lack of places to perform their music. The larger clubs won't take them, so they end up performing in dives and squats and the like, many of which are not safe places. In my community a wonderful local mother (who I assume was an atheist due to her affinity for punk kids) let out her basement for the kids to put on local all-ages shows. Some larger touring acts even ended up playing sometimes! There were rules: no drugs, no alcohol, no violence, and many times there were also snacks and other goodies provided by her or those attending the gig. Both the kids and adults involved worked together to keep the events safe and positive.

While your children may be too young yet to be involved in anything like this, the fact that you're reaching out to your neighbors and their children is extremely encouraging. I don't know what it is about Americans and their insane sense of privacy and secrecy and all, but if we could share our homes more often I think we'd all be better off. And surprise surprise, it's the atheist family who's doing this...and you're not asking for unconditional, blind obedience in return like the local church!

Atheist in a mini van. said...

There were rules: no drugs, no alcohol, no violence, and many times there were also snacks and other goodies provided by her or those attending the gig. Both the kids and adults involved worked together to keep the events safe and positive.

Our rules are pretty similar.

I don't know what it is about Americans and their insane sense of privacy and secrecy and all, but if we could share our homes more often I think we'd all be better off.
I don't get this mentality, either. I can't tell you how many (American, obviously) parents I talk to who extoll the virtues of keeping their kids "close to home" and "knowing their friends", but...when it comes to actually allowing groups to gather spur of the moment, they balk! "OH...I've got housework to do." or "I'm just not feeling up to it." WTF!? I have lupus and a myriad of other problems, but...dammit', I LOVE the fact that I can, unbeknownst to my kids, occasionally walk to the garage and keep an ear/eye on the goings-on. I give them their space, but I know more neighborhood gossip than any other parent- of that I'm sure. Not because I ask, but because I'm just there. I also found out that a six year old boy was being left alone from 2:10 to 6:00pm- every day. I found out that one little girl had started her period and hadn't told her mother because she was scared that she had sinned. I found out that my son likes a neighbor girl and that they "sat together at lunch". Knowing all of that stuff allowed my husband and I to take some steps to HELP all of those kids. Why the fark' aren't the "concerned, Christian" parents that invested and informed? I love the fact that my kids, and other kids, see our house as a safe place to hang out and have some laughs. I don't mind the added responsibility or noise, despite my health issues.

So, yeah...thanks for the positive feedback.

My only complaint is that they're eating us out of house and home. LOL As the kids get bigger, the appetites ramp up. We're thinking of putting out a "snack jar" (for collecting a few bucks). Do you think that'd be out of line?

Brent Rasmussen said...

I love the fact that my kids, and other kids, see our house as a safe place to hang out and have some laughs.

That's great - and weird. Not weird because it's weird, but weird because of the coincedence. That's what we do too! :)

Our house is the local hangout for the under-15 crowd. The neighborhood kids call Mrs. Inscrutable "Mom", and she spends a lot of time laughing with them and listening to them. We have a full-sized soccer goal in the backyard, badminton, trampoline, a game room inside, etc. Mostly though it's the relaxed and fun atmosphere created by Mrs. Inscrutable when the kids show up. They feel welcome, and comfortable.

We know all the parents (we have a great old neighborhood), and they also don't have any problem calling us, or coming by to pick up this one or that one.

They are eating us into the poorhouse, however. :) So, we shop at Sam's club or Costco and buy potato chips and fruit in bulk, and stock the soda fridge with cheap soda pop and juice. Then we tell them that the regular fridge is off-limits. Seems to work out OK for us.

Sorry to hear about your health problems - that has got to make it difficult! I hope you feel better!

darrell said...

My only complaint is that they're eating us out of house and home. LOL As the kids get bigger, the appetites ramp up. We're thinking of putting out a "snack jar" (for collecting a few bucks). Do you think that'd be out of line?

Again, only speaking from the experience of the punk scene I can say that this is what's always expected...each person chips in on a sliding scale depending on what they can afford. However, since the kids are a little young to actually have their own spending money (or even to have a good grasp of simple economics (aka Cheetos=money)) then it may be hard to take up a collection. You may want to suggest that sometimes they bring snacks from home, especially if their family has a unique ethnic cuisine that isn't just bulk potato chips! Either way, keep up the good work and I'll keep reading. I used to think I never wanted to be a parent, but you've helped in some way to tilt the scales toward maybe having kids!

Atheist in a mini van. said...

Darrel said: I used to think I never wanted to be a parent, but you've helped in some way to tilt the scales toward maybe having kids!


Wow. Thanks.

Brent said: That's great - and weird. Not weird because it's weird, but weird because of the coincedence. That's what we do too! :)

QUIT COPYING ME!! LOL ;) Just kidding! I think it's fun to know that there's another family that has the same quirks and feelings that we do.

We have been talking about getting a pool table to put on our back porch (it's covered, with lights and ceiling fans). But, now that I've read your post... trampoline sounds fun, too! Do you have any home insurance issues with that?

Brent Rasmussen said...

But, now that I've read your post... trampoline sounds fun, too! Do you have any home insurance issues with that?

Not really. However, our whole neighborhood is filled with rural farm kids. Getting banged-up while playing out in the fields is pretty much a par for the course. If one of the kids did get hurt on the trampoline, they would most likely shrug it off and continue running around like maniacs. Heh.

If someone did get really injured, our homeowner's would cover it. The thing is that we personally know the parents and they are fully aware of what their kids are doing out in the backyard.

At some point you have to trust that your neighbors trust you with their kids and realize that kids get hurt sometimes. It's part of growing up and it could happen just as easily at their house as it could at our house.

The bottom line is that I refuse to get paranoid about it. Kids are kids. Our neighbors are great.

I'll just continue to go with that. ;)