Non-religious in the South

Non-religious in the South

…and everything’s alright. Oh yeah.

I come from a long line of Southern Baptists, but I was of the ‘Sunday Christian’ variety. My dad joined the Army the year before my birth, so we moved around quite a bit (living overseas twice) and primarily attended church when we visited family “back home” in Virginia (Southern Virginia, that is, for Northern Virginia is an entirely different Virginia altogether). And lest you think I rarely attended church, please understand that a significant portion of my childhood memories are of being in my Ma’s church, listening to her singing in the choir, playing in the nursery, and attending multiple summers’ worth of VBS (Vacation Bible School for all of you non-churchers out there).

But when I was eight, my parents separated. My mom later met my step-dad and we moved across the country to Arizona, where I lived for 7.5 of my formative years. While I attended church when we visited family back home in Virginia, I only attended church one time in Arizona. Otherwise, I never heard about religion and no one ever assumed my beliefs. We returned to East Tennessee when I was 16, and we eventually started attending church every Sunday. I was baptized when I was 18, and for my teenage and early adulthood years, I attended Methodist, Presbyterian, Catholic, and Baptist churches.

Now I’m 35, and I’m definitively, and without-a-doubt, non-religious in the South.

I know, I know. You’re wondering how I’ve survived almost 20 years in the Bible Belt without being religious. While I’m incredibly stout of heart (and soul), I will say that it has been rather difficult at times. When a stranger approaches you and your child in a bank to talk to you about Jesus, all while assuming your non-verbalized preferences, you may feel uncomfortable. When your family members talk to you about being saved, you may feel awkward. When friends talk to you about where their kids are going for VBS, you may feel out of your element. But you never forget your civility. You nod and smile and move on.

You see, I am spiritual.

I believe in something bigger than myself. I don’t know if it’s God, or many gods, or the Universe, or Karma, or reincarnation, or something else entirely. I don’t know what happened before, and I don’t know what happens next. And I don’t pretend to know. But I know that we are all humans. And I know that we’re all trying to live our best lives. 

And while these are my own preferences and beliefs, I would never force these on my son. He’s only just recently turned three, after all. His frontal lobe will be developing until he’s well into his twenties, and I have no desire to mold anything about him aside from behavior, manners, and how often he laughs at toots (always).

We are teaching him about kindness, generosity, fairness, respect, and love. We are showing him different ways of living. We are telling him about the different choices people can make and what consequences may arise. We are introducing him to different people, and ideas, and experiences. And we’ve had him in a religious-based parents’ day out (PDO) program since he was 15-months-old. 

In case you were wondering, it’s because we want him to learn and grown and make his own decisions about his own beliefs. We want him to be exposed to different systems of belief, different cultures, different people, different thoughts, different religions, and different mindsets. And, as of right now, we plan to send him to a Jewish pre-school when he’s of age. 

Why, you ask? Well, I’m a social worker by trade…an activist by choice and circumstance…an old soul by birth. I can only hope that by sharing my passion for humans, for the human experience — the joy and the pain and the sadness and the laughter…the things we share and the things we don’t — that he will figure out what’s good and kind and graceful and meaningful in this world. And he will share it with others.

No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted. — Aesop

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