“Mother is the name for God on the lips and hearts of all children.”
– The Crow
I want to tell you about my amazing mother.
To briefly recap a few previous entries, I have been an atheist since I was near 18-years-old. Raised in a fervently Mormon household, I served as an Aaronic Priesthood leader in the Deacons, Teachers, and, Priests. At 17-years-old, I had a crisis of faith and a rebellion, leading me to lose my faith and start a journey toward science, critical thinking, and proper skepticism.
Though my family was obviously aware that I no longer claimed membership in The LDS Church, I never really mentioned the particulars of my disbelief. It was something unspoken. My father once asked me if I was going to go on an LDS mission, and I told him no, because I no longer believed in the Mormon faith, but that’s as specific an answer as I ever remember giving.
My father passed on when I was 21. My wife and I were, understandably, concerned about my mother’s well-being. We did our best to take care of her both financially and emotionally. Even as I continued to research and question and ponder the question of gods and religion, I did my best never to mention the particulars of my disbelief. I never wanted to needlessly, in my estimation, hurt my mother, nor the rest of my family, who still avidly believe in the precepts of the LDS church.
Apparently, I failed miserably.
Whilst recently staying with my mother, my young daughter was taken to a Stake Conference meeting. Neither my wife nor I were told that this was to happen, and this led me to believe that I finally needed to have a frank discussion with my mother about the nature of my non-belief. To the thinking of my wife and I, we needed to be perfectly clear, to avoid any future problems.
To that end, I invited my mother to dinner with the intention of telling her that I was an atheist. I wanted her to know why we no longer wanted our daughter taken to church.
After sending the invitation, I was racked with anxiety. I played over and over again the various scenarios that might take place. My mother being angry with me. My mother being devastated. My mother hating me. My mother disowning me. I had no idea what might take place. Day after day, the possibilities played through my mind. I could barely sleep.
For the record, we don’t tell our daughter that there is no god. We don’t tell her that God is false. We don’t tell her that we think Jesus is likely something of mythology. We tell her nothing at all with regards to the supernatural. It is our hope that we teach her how to think; not what to think.
To that end, my mother and I went to dinner. Previous to our meal, I did send an e-mail letting my mother know that I wanted to talk about my daughter and church. I worried if I brought it up with no warning, my mother would feel ambushed by the conversation. As it turns out, I needn’t have bothered.
We made it until dessert without mentioning religion, but then I knew I had to. I asked my mother what she knew about my religious beliefs. Without hesitation, my mother replied, “You don’t believe in God and you don’t want to.”
I was astounded. Dumbfounded. Speechless. None of the scenarios I created in my head prepared me for this frank, honest, and immediately curt response.
She went on to tell me that, though, yes, she forgot a church meeting, and forgot to tell us about it, and had to take our daughter, but did her best to not make it about “church.” She told my daughter that they had a meeting, that she had to be quiet, but did her best not to make it religious at all.
Again. Dumbfounded. Speechless.
I was as shocked and as grateful as one could be.
I have felt the crushing weight of a potential religious confrontation with my mother and family since my wife and I first considered the possibility of conceiving a child. I knew that at some point, I would have to be honest. I always assumed that it would be a horrifyingly painful experience
I could not have been more wrong.
I don’t know when my mother first realized that I was an atheist. It may have been 20 years ago. It may have been a few months ago. It may have been last week. Largely, it doesn’t matter.
To my mother, should she read this. I can not thank you enough for being the perfect mother and for diffusing all of my fears so completely.
To others who may be reading this with similar situations, or even those just harboring the barest doubt; say something. Though you may fret and worry about what your family might think. Though you may be vexed by worries of how you might make your doubt known, it is likely overblown. Your family likely loves you, knows you, and may already know the secret you think you are keeping.