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.”
“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.