Possummomma, My name is Betty and I'm a reporter for PRU magazine. At
ParentsRUs, we are committed to gathering information from all manner of
families. I googled atheist mom and found your blog. A well received
blog. Can I inquire how large your audience is?....blah, blah, blah...we
are beginning a series on parents of different faiths. Would you be our
atheist representative? The interview would take approximately thirty
minutes and we will require contact information for five readers to obtain
quotes to support your article. *insert contact info and the standard "if
you have any questions..." verbage* - Sincerely, Betty
I responded and said that I was game to do an interview, but I would not give her any contact information for my readers that wasn't already obtainable from the site. I explained to her that some people are not "out" as atheists and seeing their name in print in a magazine could be a bad thing for their families. I also asked that my last name not be published. She replied that e-mails and first names would be fine. I also asked her to e-mail me a set of questions before the interview so I could prepare. She spoke with her boss and the boss said okay to my conditions.
Two weeks later, I received this e-mail:
...Sorry it's taken me this long to get the questions to you. Can we
set something in two weeks time?
I told her that week would be too hectic with family in town and end of school activities. So, we agreed on the following week. The questions are below (with my answers). All of these were things she could ask in the interview. When I saw the questions, I was baffled (you'll see why in a moment). I would think being an atheist would make some of those questions worthless! So I called her office and left a message. When Betty returned my call, I told her that some of those questions (most, in fact) didn't apply to us. She asked which ones. Um..let's see...how about all of the questions that presume we actually believe in a god, have a religion, or participate in a particular faith? She did one of those "silly you" laughs and said, wait for it..."Atheism is a faith just like any other." *head desk* I told her it wasn't and she blew me off by saying, "Just send me a draft of your answers and maybe we can change the questions up as necessary."
1. Your name, age, marital status, education, occupation and faith. - *personal info*
2. If married, name of spouse and his occupation, education, faith. - *more personal info*
3. Name(s) and age (s) of child(ren). - Alexis (13), Jake (12, by the time this publishes), Grace (5), and Owen (4, by publishing).
4. Were you born into the faith you claim now? - No. I was born an atheist and my parents made me Catholic.
4.a Answer for spouse. - He was raised an catholic and is now a cultural catholic, firm agnostic
5. How does your faith contribute to your daily life? - It doesn't. Atheism is not a faith.
6. At what frequency do you attend worship services/church? - The kids occasionally attend with their friends.
7. What services do you give to your church, if any? - None, atheists don't typically attend churches, so we don't often get asked to join church groups.
8. Are the children in religious education or faith based programs? - Our eldest was going to go to Camp Quest this summer, but it's not a faith based program. It is a camp for free-thinkers, atheists and agnostics, and secular children.
9. How faithful would you say your family is on a scale of one to ten, ten being most faithful? - 0 - hence the atheism.
10. Does your religion impact your house rules (radio, television, movies, books, time)? - No. But, we do apply common sense about what things might be appropriate or inappropriate for each child. Almost any book is fair game. We encourage reading as many books as possible.
11. Which is more important for your children's future - faith, education, or both? - Education, without a doubt.
12. If your child(ren) chose a different faith would you allow them to do that? - It's entirely up to them. I love my children and will support any choices they make so long as they are informed decisions and do not harm others.
13. What special religious holidays or rituals have you participated in with your children? - Darwin Day, National Day of Reason, Christmas, Easter, Fourth of July, Fat Tuesday, Hanukkah, Thanksgiving,...most holidays have been stripped of their religious significance in this country and are carried out as a cultural celebration. We'll take any opportunity to enjoy our children as they celebrate the fantastic culture and diversity this country has.
14. Do you ever feel persecuted for your religious beliefs? - I don't have "religious beliefs". We have had some difficulties with religious people who can't respect our philosophy of secular humanism. For some reason, it scares theists to imagine that children can be raised with high morals and standards with the inclusion of positive philosophies from the past and present.
15. Have your children had positive experiences in your family's faith? - For the most part, I would say "yes". Although, as I've said, it's not a faith. We believe in reason, logic, evidence, and truth. None of those carry any problems in an open and loving home. I imagine that it's wonderful for a child to be treated with great respect and appreciation of their unique talents.
16. How long have you belonged to your current church/place of worship? - We have been active in the atheist community for a couple of years.
17. Does your faith effect what products you buy for your family? - I'm unsure as to how to answer this. We don't buy Bibles. And, we try not to buy products that are manufactured under unethical or inhumane circumstances.
18. How do you educate your children? Do you homeschool? If so, what materials do you use? Are you following a faith based program? - Our children go to public school with heavy supplementing during home hours. We encourage the kids to study subjects or topics they show any interest in by buying them books, getting them in touch with people who use those interests in their occupations, and/or seeking out places that add to those interests.
19. Has your faith made you a stronger family unit? - If you need faith to strengthen your parenting, then I suspect you're doing it wrong.
20. Do you discuss the following openly with your children; faith, religion, God, ethics, and/or the texts of your faith? - Yes. Although, there are no texts for atheism. We encourage the kids to learn about all faiths. We also encourage them to read books by Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and other scientists and atheists.
21. Who is your family's spiritual guide or role model? - We don't have a spiritual guide. But, we have many role models.
22. How has your faith helped you parent? - I still object to calling atheism a faith, but the values of atheism encourage free thought, the scientific method, applying ethics because it's the right thing to do (as opposed to a set of rules to avoid an unproven hell), listening to their ideas, and inspiring them to be great men and women.
23. Does your faith influence your choices for your child's friends? - No
24. Would you allow them to cultivate friendships outside your faith? - Of course!
25. Do your children show any signs of being leaders within your faith? - I think my children will grow up to be great thinkers. My wish is that they be happy and fulfilled. My goal is to prepare them to be whatever they wish to be. They are already leaders in their respective classrooms and aimed to do even more.
I got a response from Betty who thanked me for my time and then said, "We've decided to go a different direction with this series."