I am not an atheist. At least not in the strict sense of the word. An atheist is certain of a universe without God. I share no such certainty. A am what you might call, "aspiritual." That is, my day-to-day decisions tend to get made without worrying whether one Big Mind created everything, or what the Big Mind might think of my moral choices. I consider myself neither superior nor inferior to those who identify themselves as spiritual. And I tend not to get into arguments over the issue, unless I feel that someone is using the rubber stamp of spirituality as a way to license their own pre-existing bigotries (e.g., the idea that it is permissible to hate gays because 'God hates gays and I've got the documents to prove it'). Because that afterall, is not spirituality, that is bullying.
My friend Dave used to say that the days he began with prayer went better, on the whole, than the days he began without it. For me, however, the reverse has been true. When I did try to pray (over a period of slightly less than nine years), I spent far too much time worrying about the rewards and punishments that the Big Mind might send my way. And I was constantly worried whether I'd thrown enough virgins into enough volcanos to please the Big Mind. Are two enough? How about three? Can I take a virgin back out of the volcano once in awhile? This way of looking at the moral universe as a series of punishments and rewards was draining. And two years ago, when we lost the boys, I gave up. I poured sand in the volcanos andlet the virgins marry.
When Cecily decided to join the congregation of a local church, I had no objections and only a few concerns. But I knew well enough that our two paths could be both separate and parallel, and that her spiritual search was little or none of my business. If I'd done my homework properly, there should be no implicit contradiction between her views and mine. Fortunately for both of us, that has been true, and we rarely (if ever) tread on each other's spiritual toes. But the question of Tori's baptism raised some interesting questions. I had no objection to having Tori welcomed into a spiritual community, because the true choice will be hers when she's old enough to decide. What I did wonder was whether I could state aloud and to the Pastor that I would raise Tori as a Christian. Lying is something I've tried to eliminiate from my life since I quit drinking. Fortunately, the Pastor is very accommodating, and took the time to stop by the house to iron out a few details, wherein I could both attend the ceremony and tell the truth. The congregation, it was decided, would make that promise, while I would welcome her into the spirtual community and promise to raise her with love and understanding.
When Tori is old enough, she will learn that she is part of a community of people who love and care for her. Some are Christian, some are Jewish, and some are neither. She will learn that the world is a big place and peace of mind a destination reached by many roads. In sixth grade I met a kid who was, at 11 years of age, a confident atheist. I had the feeling, even then, that the idea was not his own (as were mine about God). The other week I looked him up on Google, and he is, among other things, a church organist. Whatever Tori's spiritual choices, I want them to issue from a position of strength, in which she is always moving toward, rather than running away from, something. I want her to make choices that are fueled by compassion and intellectual curiosity. And above all, I want her always to know that she is loved, deeply and unconditionally. That forgiveness of others is a gift we give ourselves. And that any God worth his weight in donuts is big enough to love and forgive anyone.