Monthly Archives: September 2012

Why I Don’t Want Religion in My Son’s Life

I don’t believe in God. And I don’t want my son to believe either.

MJ is Catholic. Well, kinda Catholic. She’s pro-choice, a proponent of gay marriage, a feminist and very much against condoning the rape of small boys. The Catholic church — if you haven’t heard — is anti-choice, against equality for gay people, prohibits women from becoming priests and had juuuuuuuust a little problem with pedophile priests and those in positions of power who shamefully and unforgivably covered up for them. But even in the face of all that contradiction, she still considers herself a staunch Catholic.

So what do you get when you combine an Atheist and a Catholic? So far the answer is a blonde-haired, blue-eyed precocious question mark.

We argued briefly after Will was born about baptizing him. It never happened. Now he’s 4.5 years old and he’s been to a handful of church services with MJ and my parents, but he doesn’t go regularly. That’s why the events of two weeks ago took me and MJ both by surprise.

MJ was putting Will to bed, which usually consists of 1-2 bedtime stories and then she comes downstairs. I was working on the couch when I realized I hadn’t seen MJ in 25 minutes. She came down the stairs just then and when I asked her what was up, she said “Will asked about God when I put him to bed, so we were up there talking.”

My first reaction was shock. Mainly because, to my knowledge, none of us had really talked about God before to him so I wondered how he even knew to ask. But shock was immediately overwhelmed by red-hot anger at MJ. I asked her why she didn’t tell me to which she replied “Because I knew what you’d tell him.” Apparently it’s OK for her to fill his head about Catholicism and religion, but I’m the bad guy if I talk about my beliefs (or lack thereof).

So I bolted up the stairs with MJ in tow to have my first talk about religion and God.

I started off easy and told him I heard he asked about God. Turns out there are some kids in his preschool who are starting early church classes and they were talking about it, which is how it came up in the first place. So I asked Will if he understood what his mom had told him. He said yes. Then I asked him if he had any other questions. And he asked me if I believe in God like mom does. This is how the conversation went:

“Well bud, the answer is no. I don’t believe in God.”

“Why dada?”

“Because I went to church for a long time when I was younger, and I decided I didn’t believe it. Mom believes there’s someone living in the clouds watching us all the time and deciding whether or not we’re good or bad. I think that’s a little silly. I believe and have faith in my family and friends — Mom, grandpa, grandma, nana, Grandpa B, Papa, Grammy Donna, Uncle Nate, Uncle Tommy…”

“What about Haley?” (our golden retriever)

“Definitely Haley too. And I don’t think I need a book called the Bible to tell me what’s right and wrong. Because as long as we all try to be good people, I think that’s what’s important.”

“But dada, mama believes in God so you should believe in God.”

And there it was. He heard it expressed positively from his friends and then his mother (because she apparently didn’t feel it was necessary to call me upstairs at the outset). They got to him first and by the time I weighed in, it was too late. So I asked if he had any more questions but he just kept telling me to believe in God like mom. Disappointed beyond belief, I kissed him and told him if he ever has any questions he can always ask either of us.

But now it’s even worse.

MJ is talking about putting him in CCD classes as soon as he’s old enough. CCD leads to first communion and from there on out he’d be part of the Catholic church. A thought so depressing and dangerous to me I can’t even see straight. Yet MJ is adamant about it. MJ, who calls herself a Catholic despite being against so many of the core values of the church. I try to point out these conflicting views and I ask her to make me understand how she can be part of something she seems to be so clearly against. She attempts to tell me about tradition, a sense of community, and insists that “her church was different.” But it doesn’t add up.

For me, it’s a dangerous and scary proposition.

The Catholic church is against gay marriage, and they believe homosexuality is a sin. We have gay relatives. My Aunt Melinda has been married to two women and I have five cousins because of it. They’re a loving family, who happen to have two moms instead of a mom and dad. They’re good kids and I love them, as well as their parents. So I can only imagine what it’ll be like if/when someone in CCD classes tells him being gay is bad. Therefore purposefully exposing Will to a religion that discriminates against our own family is the most illogical and insulting thing I can imagine. More than that, I think it’s cruel and flat-out wrong.

MJ doesn’t see it that way. She thinks it’s no different than Will hearing anti-gay remarks from friends on the playground or while we’re out somewhere. She said many Catholics — such as herself — don’t feel that way and don’t talk about it. I’m sure she’s right about that part. I know there are Catholics who pick and choose parts of their faith to which they want to adhere.

But I say it’s very different than playground whispers. We can’t control what other people say while we’re out in public. Will is going to hear things we disagree with, and things we don’t want him to hear. That’s inevitable. But that inevitable exposure is FAR AND AWAY different than willingly throwing him into a faith which we already know is bigoted and judgmental. If we, as his parents, happily send him into CCD and the Catholic faith, that’s giving Catholicism our stamp of approval and telling him we sanction it. And I just can’t do that.

I was raised in a Protestant church and I understand it’s good to be well-rounded. MJ wants him exposed to religion, but I think he’ll get that exposure one way or the other. After all, even if he becomes an atheist there’s a good bet he’ll know more about religion and the Bible than his religious peers. Unfortunately there’s so much hate and divisiveness he’ll encounter all on his own already, I can’t see the wisdom of contributing to that by unnecessarily exposing him to religion. Because from what I’ve seen, religion is much more apt to tear people apart than bring them together.

MJ thinks I’m being stubborn and just want to “get my way.” But that’s not true. If he gets to be a teenager and explores religion on his own, so be it. That’ll be his choice on his terms. But I have to do what’s best for my son now. And I believe — with all my heart — that sticking him in CCD will do more harm than good.

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Don’t Vote for Anyone Who Doesn’t Vote for Gay Marriage

I want you to imagine a scenario for me.

Picture a presidential candidate making his pre-election rounds. Shaking hands, kissing babies — you know the drill. He stops to talk to a few people in a diner to connect with the common folk. He’s asked a very basic question from a man having breakfast. All the man wants to know is if the candidate is going to give him the same equal rights as the rest of society. After all, this man is a taxpayer who worked his whole life. He even enlisted in the Army and fought in Vietnam. Surely this man — a hard-worker who laid his life on the line for his country — doesn’t have to worry about basic rights being afforded to others and not him, right?

Think again.

Presidents have a multitude of issues with which they have to deal, representing 314 million different people. Candidates can (and should for that matter) differ on things like economic issues, domestic policy, foreign affairs and job creation. Bringing different approaches and philosophies is all well and good. But there has to be a foundation solid enough on which to build. And if that foundation — at its most basic level — doesn’t include equal rights for every citizen, then you simply aren’t qualified to lead this nation.

I’ve heard all the excuses before.

  • “My religion says marriage is between one man and one woman.” Well, OK. But your religion (whatever that religion may be), is not universal. It is not the law of the land. In fact, there exists a pretty important document which specifically designates a separation of church and state. So while you’re absolutely free to believe in whatever you want and practice it freely, you don’t get to force-feed it to the rest of us who want no part of it.
  • “Just because I’m against gay marriage doesn’t mean I’m a bigot.” Actually, it does. By saying you’re against gay marriage, you’re saying you’re against equal rights. You’re saying a certain segment of the population should be treated as second-class citizens, based solely on their sexual orientation. It is no different — no different at all — than saying black people shouldn’t get married because of the color of their skin. All this is is substituting sexual orientation for race.
  • “If you let two men/women marry each other then people will be able to marry their dogs or cats.” If I have to explain how comparing animals to gay people is obnoxiously insulting and ridiculous, maybe you should click elsewhere now and save us all the time.

And that’s the troubling thing about that Mitt Romney video. He sat down with an undecided voter to answer a question and have a discussion. Then, without even blinking or showing a modicum of compassion or understanding, he flatly and unequivocally tells that man he’s not good enough. That he won’t be treated equally. Because Mitt Romney’s religious beliefs dictate that marriage is between one man and one woman, he’s going to take whatever steps possible to make sure his discriminatory practices become the norm for all of America. And that’s a gigantic problem.

Romney is known for his flip-flopping. So I’m sure in the lead-up to the election, he’s going out of his way not to change his mind on anything, lest he be perceived as weak or indecisive. But in my opinion, his conversation with that gay veteran was a defining moment and a missed opportunity.

Just imagine if Romney listened to what he was saying. I mean actually listened and took it to heart. Picture a presidential candidate being human enough to say even though he doesn’t personally agree with it, he’s in favor of everyone having the right to marry who they choose. I’m not saying that would’ve been enough to get me to vote for Mitt Romney. In fact, I know it wouldn’t have been. But I damn sure would’ve respected him for it.

Like everyone else, I want a president who is confident in his decisions. But I don’t want him automatically making snap decisions based on nothing but religious beliefs. I want a president who thinks for himself and doesn’t tow a party line. Because dammit, people are SUPPOSED to struggle with tough decisions and issues. The right thing to do isn’t always clear, especially when it contradicts your own background and beliefs.

But make no mistake — legalizing gay marriage in America is the right thing to do. That’s not a matter of opinion either, it’s fact. I’m not saying all churches of each religion should be forced to marry gay people. I know that’ll never happen and churches will always have the right to be as backwards and intolerant as they wish. But if two gay people want to get married at city hall, they should be able to. They deserve the same rights, privileges and pursuit of happiness as everyone else.

Because the one question opponents of gay marriage have NEVER been able to adequately answer is this — how does gay marriage negatively impact your life? Probably because the answer, of course, is that it doesn’t. You don’t like homosexuality, don’t marry someone of the same sex. No one is forcing gayness on you. Legalizing gay marriage doesn’t mean you’ll suddenly watch Queer Eye or start drooling over Channing Tatum. It’s not like hardcore GOP conservatives will suddenly flock to airport bathrooms and start soliciting gay men for — hmmm…bad example.

All it will do is level the playing field. That’s it. Mitt and Ann Romney’s heterosexual marriage will not be eroded one iota when gay people are allowed to commit to one another for life. And the only way you’ll have to suffer through witnessing gay marriage is if you have to attend one. But if you’ve spent all these years actively attempting to deny people that right, well…let’s just say you probably won’t have to worry too much about it.

Mitt Romney thinks homosexuality is wrong. That’s his right. But electing a leader in this day and age who won’t even entertain a discussion with a constituent regarding basic human rights? Big mistake. I hope America proves to be better than that in November.

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The Cup of Shame

I’ve shared a lot with you guys over the years. Some might say too much. And the ones who haven’t said that will now.

If you’ve been around these parts for awhile, you know that MJ and I very much want to have a second child. And we’ve been trying for roughly three years now with no luck. Actually, no luck would be an overwhelming improvement. We’ve actually had bad, rotten, atrocious luck — three times. One time notoriously featured on YouTube for the world to see. So we finally caved and went to see a specialist. And while things aren’t quite settled on that front (not to mention MJ and I are still weighing how we feel about letting everyone in on that part of our lives), I at least wanted to share a preliminary story that highlights the weird crap that I had to reconcile when starting down the IVF road.

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“You need to submit a sample.”

Those were the words from my wife that sparked instant panic somewhere deep within me. The first thing I did was get defensive. How dare someone question the potency — the very essence — of my manhood! To even suggest that something could be wrong with my little swimmers, I mean…it was just lunacy. I already have a kid dammit. My sperm are proven leaders. A verifiable commodity. The semen by which all other semen should be measured. I suddenly pictured carrying Will — my strapping evidence of reproduction — into that doctor’s office and holding him up like Simba from the Lion King, shouting “Behold what I have brought forth from my loins!!”

Before I could even utter any of these insane and ridiculous things, MJ saved me (as she always does) and assured me it’s standard operating procedure and that I should just shut up and do it. Unfortunately, it wasn’t going to be that easy.

You see, I’ve never done that. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not talking about the act itself. C’mon now, get serious. But actually providing a sample? That’s a new one on me. And I’m not a fan. Not one bit. For me, the thought of walking into a strange building and entering a room for the express purpose of depositing my future children into a cup is unacceptable. Mainly because all I can think about is the inordinate number of guys who came (pun very much intended) before me and did the same thing. And with that thought in my head, I don’t think there’s any way in hell I could’ve — ahem — finished the task at hand.

So we set it up in a way I’d be able to do it at home. When MJ told me instructions would be coming in the mail, I thought she was kidding. I mean, instructions? For this?? I may not know how to put together IKEA furniture or change a tire, but if there’s anything I can figure out on my own, it’s this. Yet when I opened the envelope, I was met with a list of requirements I had to follow to the letter, including:

  • Only use the sterilized container provided (as if I was going to use MJ’s tupperware)
  • Put name & date of birth with permanent marker on cup
  • Report to Suite xxx with the sample & a photo ID (I don’t even need ID to vote!)
  • Bring the sample to the lab within 1 hour of collection
  • Keep sample away from heat & light
  • Keep sample at body temperature, under your arm or between your legs while driving to the center

Now, I won’t go into the mindfuck that is trying to produce said sample. But you should know the office is 40 minutes from our house without traffic, and I had to have it turned in in 1 hour or less. So I literally had to do the deed and hop in the car with MJ and Will to drop it off. Now picture trying to get the job done by locking yourself in the bathroom while your wife is downstairs knowing exactly what you’re doing and your 4.5-year-old is screaming from the living room because he wants to know what you’re doing in there.

I don’t care how hard you try to picture yourself with the Swedish Bikini Team, it’s a lot to overcome. But I muddled through it and jumped in the car, wincing hard when Will asked if I had a treat for him in the paper bag of shame I was carrying.

But then came the car ride.

The instructions specifically said I had to keep the sample at body temperature. But it was hot that day and Will needed the AC on in the car, so I had to come up with something. And that’s why I spent the 45-minute ride to the doctor’s office sitting on my own spunk and keeping it warm like a giant Emperor Penguin. Yup. Let that image sink in for a minute. Sweet dreams.

Not to mention I thought the andrologist who took the sample and my paperwork had a bit of an attitude, and so I had a little fun with him when he asked me when my last “omission” was. I knew he meant emission, but he clearly said omission. So I told him my last omission was the time I lied to my wife about cleaning up an emission with one of her discarded socks.

I still don’t know much about andrologists, but I can confirm they lack a sense of humor.

I know some of you are having a TMI (Too Much Information) moment right now. And the rest of you are wondering why someone would intentionally volunteer this information on the permanent Internet where anyone can see it. But you know what, this is the stuff of which blogging is made. This has never been a place where parenting/marriage is whitewashed and pretty and sparkling. Sometimes things just suck. But occasionally there’s a little room for laughter and levity, even when you’re struggling mightily.

And I know for a fact that there are other guys going through this, and it isn’t easy. So if I can make someone laugh or empathize during a shitty time, mission accomplished.

My only advice for anyone in a similar situation is to go to the office. It’s just not worth the hassle from home. Take it from an Emperor penguin who knows.

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