It's Easy If You Try

It's Easy If You TryParent-teacher interviews were last week, and both of my children received stellar reviews. What pleased me most wasn't how bright they are or how well they did in their studies, it was what their teachers had to say about their individual character. Both are kind, helpful students who work well with others and create a better environment for all. Hearing that brought a huge smile to my face.

My 11-year old son and 9-year old daughter have been raised without a stitch of religion. They weren't baptized, have never prayed and don't believe in heaven, hell or an afterlife of any kind. They're not being kind to others as a means to go to heaven, they're being kind to others because they want to and were raised to treat everyone the way they'd like to be treated.

To be clear, I didn't raise my kids to be atheists or to regard all religion as fiction, I merely raised them without any religion at all. We discussed world religions the way we discussed geography or history. When one of them wanted to talk about god or heaven or hell, we talked about it openly. I'd do a lot of listening. Each on their own arrived at the conclusion that religion was man-made and purely symbolic story telling.

I've been married twice, once at Old City Hall by a Justice of the Peace and once in an art gallery by an Officiant. The word "god" wasn't uttered once in either ceremony.

I'm very much looking forward to the birth of my third child in the spring. He or she (I'll know which next week) will not be baptized and will also be raised without religion.

I wasn't raised without religion. I grew up in a typical Catholic home, collecting sacraments, going to church on Sundays and attending Catholic schools until University. I believed what my parents told me to believe. It wasn't until my 20s that I truly saw everything with my own eyes.

Remove the shackles of religion and experience true freedom. It's easy if you try.


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Roshan

Proud atheist pappa :) I think you have done a tremendous job. We need good citizens of tomorrow and ones that won't discriminate and condemn but also who are more willing to help others without the promise of a reward. Not to say that religious people can be well deserving of praise.

It is certainly easy if you try.

November 16, 2013 @ 10:47 AM

Ryan G

Here here! (or is it hear hear?)

In any event, good on you Mike. I reached similar conclusions about religion around the same age as you did. My parents grew up in the poor, hardened streets of protestant Belfast, where religion was not just about going to church on a Sunday, but an everyday in-your-face reality. Catholics would stick to one side of the street, and protestants to the other. Kids of opposing beliefs would hurl rocks and flaming bottles over a so-called peace wall. The only neutral territory was the hotel bars/clubs in the city's downtown core, where both sides would inter-mingle, but even that was dodgy. My dad would tell me stories where fellas would meet catholic girls at one of these parties, only to be lured back to a catholic neighbourhood where they'd promptly have the shit kicked out of them by a waiting mob. Both sides were equally guilty, but it was these harder lines that made me realize just how fucking ridiculous it all was.

At the same time, I think it's important to respect people's views if they in fact believe. Otherwise, I can be accused of some of the same things I disagree with about religion. My wife was raised catholic, and although not particularly religious, she still holds onto the idea of God and the afterlife. We held an irreligious marital ceremony at a restaurant in the Distillery, but if the notion of living in heaven after you die comforts her, who am I to disparage that?

The bottom line is that many people feel terribly alone and frightened without the hard-wiring they were brought up with, but as you mentioned, letting go is a religious experience all on its own.

November 16, 2013 @ 11:18 AM

Lumberjack

@Toronto Mike

I caught the original version of this entry earlier today. I see you removed a paragraph. I wish you hadn't.

It takes courage to say no to religion. More should have the gonads to do so.

November 16, 2013 @ 12:34 PM

dale

Amen.

Just as John Lennon said "Imagine if NO religion at all we will all live in PEACE".

November 16, 2013 @ 1:08 PM

Irv

@TorontoMike

Mike, I want to put forth another point of view on religion and I want you to think about it. For the record I am not religious. I have read the bible & I find religion interesting but I'm not religious.

I am a volunteer mentor to drug addicts. What it means is they take normal people from society (me) and get them to sit down on a weekly basis with a person with an addiction (drugs). As you can imagine the escape from that hell is very difficult and many fail. There is nothing as powerful as the need for crack, meth, etc. You've never seen sick until you see dope sick.

Yet, some people make it and clean themselves up. And honestly, a good number find the needed strength by believing in God (or, if native, their own spirits). They feel that God is beside them, standing with them to fight away their demons. God is their co-pilot.

What's so wrong with that? Even if it's all a myth, it gave people something to believe in. Humans need more than just living, they need a purpose, they need hope. If God is "hope" for the escape from their own purgatory let it be. And I'm 100% behind that

November 16, 2013 @ 1:33 PM

Corey

@Mike - I'm not criticizing your parenting in any way. You obviously have done a great job as a parent and have a couple of happy, well adjusted kids. You should be proud. That being said, I have one not pick about what you wrote. "To be clear, I didn't raise my kids to be atheists..." That's just silly. Of course you did.

November 16, 2013 @ 1:47 PM

Il Duce

You've used a lot of 'I' in your sermon Preacher Mike. Just wondering what if your Catholic wife wanted your(both of YOU) child to be baptized, would you oppose it? Or would you allow your partner the freedom to baptize YOUR child?

You write so much of the freedom of choice and have posted much to do about the freedom of others. Just wondering if that would hold true in this case.

November 16, 2013 @ 2:53 PM

Toronto Mike Verified as the defacto Toronto Mike

@Il Duce

Of course we discussed this at length. You know this!

November 16, 2013 @ 3:00 PM

Il Duce

@Irv

Great post. I agree with you on the fact that if people find strength in 'believing' who are we to say they're wrong.

I'm Catholic, my wife is Catholic and my kids are raised as Catholics and I am not embarrassed by it. Strange though, I don't feel shackled by my religion at all!

November 16, 2013 @ 3:02 PM

Il Duce

@ Mike

Elvis has requested I cater the Baptism

November 16, 2013 @ 3:24 PM

CQ

What if either of your gov't office marriages were conductable only by a (assumedly jobs for life) person in full religious garb and they adamantly refused to temporarily modify their own clothing and presentation?
Per an article by Sun Media's Tarek Fatah earlier this year, that happened to a non-religious Jewish heritage couple trying to get married in Montreal.

November 16, 2013 @ 3:49 PM

Irv

RE: John Lennon - Imagine

Good song & I suppose a good message but it's entirely naive. There is lots of evil in this world & lots of hell too and a shit load has nothing to do with religion. It ain't religion that's flawed; it's humanity.

Maybe religion was developed to give people a moral compass & something to believe in? Look at the words Devil/evil or God/Good. They are so similar.


November 16, 2013 @ 4:15 PM

Cheryl

I am not religious. My parents weren't religious, but my grandparents were and aunts were. I went to boarding school. If I had to stay on weekends, then I would be forced to go to church and they made us say prayers every day whether we wanted to or not. I kept getting told that God would help me with my problems. I never believed it because praying did nothing. Well, people can be religious. It's their choice, but I'm not.

November 16, 2013 @ 4:23 PM

Andrew

I'm not one to comment on this kind of topic because it's very personal very each individual. I was baptized Anglican, grew up in the church in Brampton until my parents divorced when I was 5. At a time when my mother needed the support of the 'the church', she was shunned and pretty much 'kicked out' by the powers that be. At that point, I realized what religion was all about.

There is a big difference between faith and religion. You don't need to gather every sunday in a place to talk about something that may or may not have happened and what will happen if you do or don't do this or that.

I have my personal thoughts on what faith is, but I am certainly not religious nor is my child. I'd rather brainwash him in other ways :)

Cheers,
Andrew

November 16, 2013 @ 4:38 PM

Rick C in Oakville

Having faith can pull you through some tough times in your life. As long as someone isn't pushing their beliefs on me I don't have an issue.
As Cheryl mentioned, over my life I have religious family members try to tell me that a cousin with Autism and a 2nd with Spinal Menigitis, were all Gods work in mysterious ways. Seemed rather cruel to me actually.

November 16, 2013 @ 4:43 PM

Corey

"Imagine" - I hate, hate, hate that song. I've never understood why people hold it up as some amazingly profound work of genius. It's simplistic, naive pap, not to mention hypocritical. "Imagine no possessions, I wonder if you can", sang the multimillionaire from his luxury Manhattan apartment.

November 16, 2013 @ 5:29 PM

Argie

First of all, Corey, brilliant post.

Next, I'm curious as to why Mike felt it necessary to write his manifesto. I'm sure most of know his views on religion.

Finally, just one question for Mike: You seem like a good guy, great dad and a caring person, do you not think that these qualities are the result of the way your parents brought you up (i.e. going to Church and believing in God, etc)?

Either way, to each his own.

November 16, 2013 @ 6:12 PM

Irv

I believed what my parents told me to believe. It wasn't until my 20s that I truly saw everything with my own eyes.

Well Mike, if you wanted your kids to make up their own mind, then ostensibly you'd encourage them to learn about religion & maybe even partake it in. Then they could truly make an informed decision.

In all honestly man, I kind of wish there was a bit more "Jesus" in all of us. The values espoused by this Jesus dude seem pretty good to me. Too bad so many of his followers haven't figured that out yet.

November 16, 2013 @ 6:13 PM

Declan

There are 21 major world religions.

The only fair way to raise a child is without any of the 21.

If only more people had the courage to exist without the crutch of religion.

November 16, 2013 @ 6:56 PM

Corey

@ Declan - "If only more people had the courage to exist without the crutch of religion."

Curious. What do you imagine would be different?

November 16, 2013 @ 7:07 PM

Declan

Freedom to not have to listen to religious propaganda from those who consider themselves experts.

Freedom to search for the truth on your own.

Freedom to not fear doing the wrong thing unless the Overlords smite you.

Freedom from other people judging you (because you really don't give a shat)

Freedom to live in dignity, not a slave to a creature others insist is real.

November 16, 2013 @ 7:14 PM

Irv

@Declan

Got a question for you. Is it the clutch of organized religion that's destroying us? Or is it the clutch of an unjust economic system? Or the clutch of being under the thumb of a government & institutions where corruption runs rampant? Or the clutch of a cruel world which seems to lack empathy & compassion?

Ya see dude, I think that religion was developed so you wouldn't fall into the trap of the others I mentioned. So you had the integrity to say be good & not become "bad".

I'm way less worried about religious overlords than I am of the government or corporate type who abuse their power to control MY life.

November 16, 2013 @ 7:27 PM

Corey

@ Declan -

You lost me.

Religion doesn't prevent anyone from searching for their own truth. Toronto Mike's post is evidence of that.

"Freedom of fear of doing the wrong thing.." You mean without religion, people wouldn't be afraid of doing the wrong thing? Like, people would love to do the wrong thing, but religion is preventing them? That's a problem?

Freedom to live in dignity? Adhering to religious beliefs is not dignified? So everyone who doesn't practice a religion is dignified? Really?

November 16, 2013 @ 7:48 PM

Willy Nilly

Religion is bullshit! It was contrived to control the masses by the proletariat. Sun god, moon god, budda, jesus...........how can anyone believe this crap? Give your head a shake. (Behave and you well go to heaven!!!!!)

George Carlin sums up religion pretty well.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gPOfurmrjxo

November 16, 2013 @ 8:25 PM

Mississauga Phil

I'm with Andrew. I'm the definition of a lapsed Catholic. That being said, I do have faith, I believe in a higher power. I just have a problem with organized religion. ..its way too self serving and corrupt.

November 16, 2013 @ 9:05 PM

Corey

@ Willy Nilly -

Are you Howard or Fred? ;)

I don't think the point is whether religion is bullshit or not. The point is, why does anyone care what someone else chooses to believe? Believe it or not, smarter people than even George Carlin (!) have believed in one religion or another. Athiests are usually the most intolerant of any.

November 16, 2013 @ 9:09 PM

Elba

I find it interesting that you are atheist yet you enjoy attending the Santa Claus parade. You do know that Santa Claus is Christian-based?

November 18, 2013 @ 9:59 AM

Toronto Mike Verified as the defacto Toronto Mike

@Elba

The Santa I enjoy at this time of year is an invention of Coca-Cola.

November 18, 2013 @ 10:03 AM

Alison in Ottawa

I love that there was an ad for the Mormon Church at the bottom of this post when I read it!

November 18, 2013 @ 12:43 PM

Elba

What do your children believe re: Santa? That he's a mascot for a caffeine-based beverage?

November 18, 2013 @ 1:27 PM

Toronto Mike Verified as the defacto Toronto Mike

@Elba

One knows the truth and the other has her doubts.

They used to believe Santa flew the world in a sleigh led by reindeer to deliver presents to good boys and girls. He even enjoyed our cookies and milk...

November 18, 2013 @ 1:30 PM

Corey

@Elba -

Huh? Since when is Santa Claus a Christian symbol? Santa may have been the biggest influence on the secularization of Christmas.

November 18, 2013 @ 2:04 PM

Liz

@Corey

You wrote exactly what I was thinking.

@Elba

Easy...you're looking for a trumped up reason to climb on Mike because he doesn't kneel at the same altar.

November 18, 2013 @ 4:53 PM

Liz

@Elba

And, because Mike is a thinking person rather than one who blindly buys into the plastic Jesus in the sky.

November 18, 2013 @ 4:55 PM

Ajax Mike

I went to a Christian private school up through grade 5, despite my parents not being particularly religious. By grade 4, I was an avowed and vocal atheist, simply because I was a curious kid and the world simply made more sense without a god than with.

In recent years, with more (I hope) wisdom under my belt, my views have softened some. I think it's possible (though unlikely) that there was some kind of creator. I highly doubt there's any higher power actively looking over its chosen people, nor do I believe there's likely to be an afterlife. I simply CHOOSE to be as good of a person I can be because it's the right thing to do. Humans are social creatures and we thrive in successful communities rather than as completely selfish and solitary individuals. There are always outliers and aberrations, there will always be assholes and psychopaths. And they'll always be in the minority.

So what do I think about religion? If believing in a higher power, in an afterlife, or whatever other tenant of your chosen faith makes you happy then I say go for it. Where I draw an absolute hard-line is when those tenants cause harm or hardship to others. You think homosexuals are something unnatural? You think preaching abstinence is an effective tactic against teen pregnancy or STDs? You think that someone who believes something different than you deserves to be wiped from the face of the earth? Those are the things that makes religion a problem.

November 18, 2013 @ 8:20 PM

Roshan

How about the children's freedom of choice?

Why not wait until the child is old enough to fully comprehend, read/see/learn about all the various religions and then decide which one it wants to join?

Maybe when he/she might not want to have been baptized as a baby/child and wants to be Hindu or Muslim or Wiccan or Klingon - but now he/she is old & wise enough to make that choice!

November 19, 2013 @ 12:30 AM

Elba

I'm trying to understand how an atheist explains various religious themes to his children. That's all. I ask Mike questions and he answers them directly and truthfully, and I appreciate that. Implying that I don't think because I practise my faith is, to me, hurtful.

November 19, 2013 @ 9:12 AM

mrmjorisinca

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6FigprdcBGA

also from Dogma:

I think it's better to have ideas. You can change an idea. Changing a belief is trickier...

November 21, 2013 @ 8:33 AM

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