The Double Standard of Belief (or What to Wear to a Hanukkah Party)

My parents were both raised to believe in God.  Both of them, somewhere along the way, chose to stop.

I was raised to notice and believe in the wholeness and beauty of nature.  That was our belief system, although at the time I would never have called it or thought of it as that.  It just was.  We had a small family farm from which we got our vegetables, our beef, pork, and chicken.  My parents, as most of you may know, were teachers.  My mom a first grade teacher and my dad middle and high school science teacher.  Both of them had higher level education in which science was central.  They met each other while in college when my mom was working in a laboratory studying cockroaches, of all things.

We did not go to church, much to the horror of several relatives.  My grandmother on my dad’s side religiously sent my sister and I bible stories (yes, I realize the pun, sorry)– pamphlets of thin paper with colorful pictures and brief stories of biblical heroes.  I enjoyed reading them and they actually inspired me as I got older to read the bible, but I did not consider, even for a moment, that it could be fact.  The stories were interesting, but outlandish.

On occasion I would go to Sunday school with a friend.  I liked the social aspect of it, the sense of belonging (and the snack of cookies and red punch afterwards didn’t hurt either).  It is this social aspect of organized religion that I think I would enjoy in my current life (and the snacks, although I am not sure if after service adults get to partake in them alongside the kids.)

My parents never told me to feel shame or to hide in anyway my disbelief in God.  It was not something I remember as being a big issue.  During the holidays when family came to visit, there was no bowed heads around our Thanksgiving table.  When it was family’s turn to host, we lowered our eyes, mumbled along awkwardly, and finished with a soft and foreign “amen”.

Husband and I have raised our children to be fully aware of, if not to embrace, our beliefs – not of God but in the energy and simple intricacy of nature.  Just as a Catholic or a Lutheran parent would raise their children to learn about and embrace their beliefs, we are doing the same.  I see nothing wrong with this.

But there is a different.  It does not seem OK to not believe.  There is an uncomfortableness that dampens conversations when Cody or Carter matter-a-factly state that they do not believe in God (or heaven or hell).  I do not want to teach them that they should be ashamed of or should hide these believes.  Why should I?  But at the same time we talk at length about the believes of others and the respect we should have for them.

Last week we received an invitation to a neighbor’s Hanukkah party.  The party is tonight.  I was stewing to Husband last night about what I should wear to such an event (Husband in his factual tone stated that if I wanted to go in the bounce house that would be set up in their backyard, I should steer clear of wearing a dress).

This morning while showering, I was struck with a sense of worry.  Would Cody or Carter offend our neighbors, and hopefully soon to be friends, by proclaiming their disbelief in God?  I hope not.  And I suppose that if they are offended, assuming such a conversation does pop up, maybe that should be an indication that we will not be close friends.

I don’t know.  But I do know what I will wear – nice slacks and a comfy, cute long-sleeved shirt.

I am planning on joining the kids in the bounce house.

About Shoes

I am an elementary school teacher, a former microbiologist, a mom to a herd of two boys, and a grilled cheese sandwich and beer connoisseur.
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10 Responses to The Double Standard of Belief (or What to Wear to a Hanukkah Party)

  1. Yes, it is important to teach children to respect different believes, otherwise, actually they grow up in society where not always have respect to different.

    • shoes says:

      I agree and I hope that people who are religious are teaching their children to respect the believes of those who do not believe in God. We are all different and that is a wonderful thing!

  2. Deborah the Closet Monster says:

    “maybe that should be an indication that we will not be close friends”

    That’s how I take such things these days. 🙂

    • shoes says:

      Yup. I have learned that I cannot change people nor control how they think/feel about me. It is ok to be different from me, I welcome a healthy disagreement but I can not tiptoe around worried I may offend someone.

  3. Midori Skies says:

    Personally, I’ve found that it’s really hard to avoid ever offending people, if I want to talk about not believing in any gods. So, I’ve stopped using offense as an indicator of what I should and shouldn’t say about my atheism, because if I did, I would just have to never talk about it all. I just try to make sure to keep to civil discourse as much as possible, and to respect people, even if some of my positions offend them.

    • shoes says:

      It has really just been in the past year or two that I have felt alright with even calling myself an atheist (and even now, I have to admit that I hesitate to use that word). I simply don’t believe in the mainstream religions, in God. I do not want to offend anyone and, like you wisely said keeping a civil discourse is key. I respect others but I expect the same from them.
      Thank you for dropping by and leaving a comment. I rarely write about religion or politics, they are not large pieces in my puzzle of life. I am glad you did not shy away from it.

  4. amomnextdoor says:

    As a practicing pagan, I encounter these issues in a similar way. My own beliefs are fairly pantheistic, centered on what you so beautifully described as the “energy and simple intricacy” of nature, which makes it easy to embrace/empathize any other belief system I encounter. I hope this is what I am modeling for my children. But I am not at all confident that this empathy of faith is what my children experience when they innocently tell their mostly Christian suburban friends that their mother is a “witch” (the term I use to describe myself, because it’s just way more fun than “pagan.”) I worry about this. Should I keep my own faith hidden? Should I teach my children to hide it? This is not the path I’ve chosen, but I struggle sometimes with the potential consequences.

    My husband and kids noticed the other day that a new neighborhood family, Middle Eastern, were outside their home, loudly decorating for Christmas. So many scenarios possible: a many-generations Americanized family celebrating a secular Christmas, a Christian Middle Eastern family feeling the need to bely the stereotypes about their heritage, a Muslim family desperate to avoid judgment and hate… Last night on my way home I was inspired to look online for a light-up, blow-up Buddha to put outside our house this time of year. The witch in my won’t allow the waste of electricity and manufacture, but what a great conversation piece that would be. “So, are you Buddhist?” “Actually…”

    • shoes says:

      A great comment, thank you. I struggle with what to call myself when faced with labeling my beliefs, more because none of the words or groups – boxes if you will – really fit. And honestly I have not researched it to find the “right one” because I know what feels right for me and while I can’t fully verbalize it, I don’t really need or want to label it. Although for conversational purposes, it can become challenging.
      And then I totally contradict it all by putting up a Christmas tree and stringing up lights. Tradition with family and friends – that is what Christmas is to me.

  5. Mary Ann says:

    I like that saying, “Live and Let Live.” I hope you had fun in the bounce house!

    • shoes says:

      A great saying indeed. The bounce house was totally rocking with screaming happy kids. I chose to mingle and slurp down a jello shot or two. It was quite the fun and friendly party. We met a lot of great people who we are lucky to have as neighbors!

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