Thursday, April 30, 2015

Growing Up Godless

atheist parenting, sons and daughtersatheist parent atheist parent atheist parent atheist parent atheist parent atheist parent atheist parent atheist parent atheist parent atheist parent atheist parent
I have so many questions about what life will be like for my children who have grown up completely godless. I have learned from the kids that they still have some of the stigma and struggle that their dad and I have had regarding religion. But it is far less for them. 

Still they have some.

They tell me that religion is a part of many of their relationships with friends and family:  it's there between them all of the time.

Oh, I lament, why can't some religious people learn to live and let live?  I truly believe that the world will be a much more peaceful place if the rest of us didn't have to tap dance around the beliefs that some people put out there as a starting point. It's there, right at their beginning.  

My kids, who have a completely secular home, still find themselves in situations where their atheism is an issue.

Now think about that for a moment.

My kids, who are logical and critical thinkers are the ones being castigated, censured, and asked to explain themselves to the ones with the imaginary friend.  (OH, how I miss Australia at moments like these.) 

I remain hopeful that the growing generation of secular, freethinking people will begin to gain a foothold in the leadership of this country and will bring their clarity and reason to their peers. I remain hopeful that the momentum of those capable of rational thought and sound judgement will throw away the small box that religion has put around definitions and persons and climates and possibilities.

I remain hopeful that future generations of godless will continue to unite the world in a global peace unlike anything that has ever been accomplished. That proper penance and restitution can be made to those cultures and peoples who have been harmed for religions' sake. That communities can grow under a banner of patience and partnership and compassion and participation and leadership. That our children's children will be forward thinkers and planners. That our species will find balance with the globe upon which we live. That our descendants will know what has true value.

I remain hopeful.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The Pleasure of Finding Things Out

atheist blog, musings, loving life
Are you like me?
Do you want to know more about things? Like why do people use certain words in certain ways? How did we start doing something just that way? What do they do on the other side of the world in this situation? What is the root of ritual and more (rhymes with foray)? What underlying things are going on in regular, daily situations? What do those underlying things suggest? What is the meaning of nonverbal behavior? Why do we say certain things? What does a thing imply? How do we know what we know? What are other ways to do a certain thing?

I have a deep and burning drive to always know more.

For many years I have noticed many times when someone would ask for my opinion on something, or when a person would state their own opinion on a thing I would often feel kind of confused, unable to answer. When I was younger I thought that I was just lame for not having a ready answer to certain topics. I thought I was wishy-washy with important subjects. I thought I was just unable to think a subject through...I think that others thought this too...

But what I now understand from being older and clearer in my thinking (HA!) is that I now see that what I thought was my inability to come up with a single answer to a question and I now understand my seeming unwillingness to land on one side of an argument or another.

Now I see that when a person asked my opinion or my point of view, my mind is very busy.  I start thinking about the meanings of each word of the question. I sense innumerable inferences in questions. My intuition is picking up on expectations and attitudes of the questioner. My mind is exploring minutia of the question. It is thinking of the many subtle shades of the subject of the question.

I often find it impossible to see the black/white of a situation because I am overwhelmed with the infinite shades of grey...ish. I am considering evidence and fact while being aware of the significance of personal stories and anecdote and situation and preference. 

Ready for the celebration
When being asked to come up with a single, unified opinion, I often feel awash in possibilities and perceptions.

Whew, that was a bit tangential. What I really wanted to talk about is this: 

This week I am in a fantastic and unique opportunity to really learn about another culture, to really find things out. My dear friend Ilakshi from India is in country and staying with her brother Tejash and his wife Radhika and with his parents at their home in New Jersey. I have been invited to stay with them for the week as my friend's sister-in-law celebrates her pregnancy with a baby shower.

Ilakshi and I...
and Minnie
Indian baby showers are 100% different from a typical American baby shower. We Americans have something to learn from the Indian way. I am quite certain our baby showers would be far more fun if we would adopt the traditions of the Indians for baby showers. The men attend the shower and many, many fun games are played. Food and music and dance are a part of the color and merriment of this celebration...and there was not a single egg timer, mother-to-be opening gifts, table stacked with pastel presents, baby shower bingo, chicken salad on a mini bun, melted Snickers in a diaper, quiet, polite background music, pearls and matched cardigan set, or melty dinner mint in sight.

This party had a DJ!

The beautiful
I am overwhelmed with love and gratitude to my friends for allowing me to crash their party. They took the time to uniform me up in a gorgeous sari and jewelry and hair and make up, which was fun. And I was finally able to join in a traditional dance that I have wanted to do for years.

My love and THANKS to Ilakshi, Tejash and Radhika, Mansook and Namala, Ria, Dharmesh, one Gigantic Minnie Mouse, and the many, many friends who welcomed me so kindly. I learned SO much and I enjoyed myself SO much!

...I'm still waiting on my mehndi...

Friday, April 24, 2015

Road Trip and Turtles

atheist blog
This week I am taking a huge road trip on my own, sans kids. My DEAR FRIEND Ilakshi is in country from India.

Ilakshi and I became friends in about 2002 or so, our daughters were in preschool together. She and I met before and after preschool classes and started to really enjoy one another. Learning about cultures and families and childhoods and countries and likes and personal styles and social mores and music and religion and science and Hunduism and parenting and marriage and food and culture and literature and education and friendships and purchases and yard sales and movies and personalities and more and more and more.

Ilakshi and I, 2011
Back in 2002-5 Ilakshi and I spent so much time together, especially learning about each other's cultures and cultural identities. I found our friendship incredibly expanding and wonderful. We learned to much about one another. We were very open with ourselves. Ilakshi learned so much about America through me. I learned so much about India's history. I became a huge Bollywood fan. She loves Arnold Schwarzenegger. I learned more about the social mores in India and within Hindu families. She learned about secularism and astronomy, especially Saturn. She learned about the American identity. I learned that I am not capable of learning another language not of Indo-European foundation. Ilakshi and her family improved their already-amazing English. I learned that Shakrukh Khan is the biggest and best star on the planet and that I am his biggest fan.  
Urska is his second biggest fan.

Ilakshi and Auntie
When Ilakshi and her family moved back to India I felt like a part of me was gone. We just had such a wonderful time together, learning about one another and about ourselves, and we were incredibly close.

ANYWAY, I visited with her in 2011 when she brought her daughters to the US to visit her brother, her sister-in-laws, and her parents in New York. 

It was a wonderful visit that ended too soon. The pictures with this post are all from that visit.

Well, guess what?! She is visiting her family again...this week!
Tomorrow I am flying to New Jersey (they've moved) for a week long visit. 

 I. Cannot. Wait.

In the next week or two I will be posting some pics and you will be wondering why I am doing cool travel and touristy things without my kids.  Elizabeth is still in school and John has friends in town.  So I am going alone. 
I can honestly say that I am nervous to be away from home for so long, away from the kids and from Jerry. I know it will be OK and wonderful, but it's hard to leave them!

Rachana and Ria with Karen Auntie

Ria and Ilakshi

Ilakshi and her sister-in-law Radhika

Ilakshi's brother Tajesh

Ilakshi's Mother, Narmala




Rachana and I playing some game

Ilakshi's Dad, Mansook

Tejash's turtles:  Karen and Ilakshi

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Gateway to Reason

Dear Secular Parents in the Midwest:

Join The Secular Parents for a live taping of our show at Gateway to Reason, the skeptical convention that will be a three day event in St. Louis, Washington University in St. Louis with speakers representing Comedy, Science, Politics, and Philosophy. Dates are July 31 to August 2, 2015.

Be-Asia McKerracher and I, Karen Loethen, (and entourage) will be recording a show with an audience of secular parents.
We would love to see YOU in the audience!

The Secular Parents will give away two tickets to Gateway to Reason on on upcoming show...tune in. 

And I have to mention, my particular FANGIRL CRUSH, Seth Andrews of The Thinking Atheist podcasts will be there...I will FINALLY get to meet him!!!!!
I think he's thinking, GREAT, I FINALLY get to meet Karen.

Get your tickets and information here:


A Slight Detour - URANTIA

Tonight I am listening to The Thinking Atheist podcast episode called Random Reasons 2015 show from the other night. Someone called in about, a RIDICULOUSLY WOO-Y website, and Seth Andrews, THE Thinking Atheist, thought that he needed to have an upcoming show about the weirdest websites on the internet. 

THEREFORE, I had to share something that I came across about thirty years ago and that I have wanted to tell SOMEONE about it for YEARS! 

In the 1980s I bought a book at a yard sale, a book called The Urantia Book. It was a total mind F*@& for a believing twenty year old. I was mesmerized by this crazy book and I read so many of those onion-skin pages!  I remember one night looking cover-to-cover of the huge book (about 2000 pages) trying to figure out the authors of the book only to discover that the book was claimed to have been written by spiritual beings and to have been magically received by a group of Earth friends as fully-formed pages.

I loaned the book out yeeeeeears ago, so it is gone, but happily The Urantia Book has a wonderful website about their book, a book that seems to have been sent by superhumans from out in the cosmos who had communicated with a select group of intellects sometime between the 1920s and the 1950s, sharing their philosophy with Earthlings, all of which was supported by a complicated set of archangels and an Orvonton Commission...of which Jesus was a minor angel, anyway, the book's insights go ON! I'm sure my understanding and memory of the book is pretty dim.

My favorite part of The Urantia Book back in those days was this part where those lost days of Jesus were explained, day by day. LOL
I didn't believe in the book, but I found it amazing that a book like this even existed...

I suggested that Seth Andrews of The Thinking Atheist podcast check out the website for the Urantia Foundation:

I decided to leave it here for one reason only.
I found that book a long, long time ago and it was SO WEIRD, so very, very weird and I have just never told anyone about that...thought it was time!

Other Blog Posts You Might Enjoy:
It Takes More Faith to be an Atheist

I'm a Lover, Not a Fighter
Moments of Reflection

Friday, April 17, 2015

Atheists Can't Experience the Sublime

atheist parenting, atheism, sublime
atheist parent atheist parent atheist parent atheist parent atheist parent atheist parent atheist parent atheist parent atheist parent atheist parent atheist parent
Because, really, isn't this enough?
Just ... THIS.
This gorgeous and fathomable earth that we live upon.
The life within a single, glistening drop of pond water.

Caves full of gigantic, hidden crystals.
The carbon cycle.
Weather and our atmosphere
Dirts and sands.
Mohenjo Daro and Harrappa
The millions of types of birds and their unique calls and habits.
Groundhogs, for goodnesssake.
Hoary frost.
Cirrus clouds.
Knowable currents in our oceans.
The Himalayas.
Bubbling mud.
Fields of wildflowers.
Huge flocks of birds on the wing.
A single colony of ants.
Baleen whales.
The Marianna Trench.
Red algae.
Sea anemones.
Budding hosta.
Canopies of life in the rain forest.
Bristlecone pines.
The eye.
Our digestive system.
Our immunity system.
Our nervous system.
Our senses!
Shifting sand dunes.
Dry snow.
The Tiaga.
Pill bugs. 
The Cassini Mission
Pygmy humans.
sulfur spring
Old bones.
Thousands of cultures.

Just at the edge of our atmosphere.
The other side of the moon.
The Kuiper Belt.
The Mars Rover.
Cassini beyond Saturn.
Our solar system.
Our sun!
Other solar systems.
Our galaxy!
Other galaxies!

COME ON, People!

You get it. It is sublime, all of it.
The beauty of life and the mysteries as yet unknown to us...if you are curious, 

if you are among the curious, sublime is everywhere.

It is here. It is now.

 Some people walk in the rain, others just get wet.
Roger Miller

Other Posts You Might Enjoy:
It Takes More Faith to be an Atheist
Knockin' on Heaven's Door

Just in Case He's Real
Everything Happens for a Reason
Atheists Cannot Experience True Joy
A Thank You Note to LIFE

Monday, April 13, 2015

Experiencing the Sublime

secular TV, secular parenting, atheist parenting
I hope you get the chance to watch the show tonight. Be-Asia and I talked about experiencing the transcendent, the sublime. I thought the show went very well...stay long enough to hear the conversation about Lenny Kravitz.

I think this is my favorite show so far.  :)

Watch the show, parts one and two at these two links:

Part one:
And part two:


Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Good Time Johnny Sings the Blues

depression, sons
Both Jerry and I and Elizabeth have all taken antidepressants at one time or another. We see some depression in our extended families also. So it might not come as a huge surprise that my happy-go-lucky son is experiencing some down time.

Over the last two years I have seen it overtake him every so often. While we were in Brisbane he had some times when he was quite down. Well, I've noticed it happening again in the past two months or so, days when he's quite down, nights when his conversations are quite dark and deep. John and I have talked quite a bit about how to manage depressive moods, depressive thoughts, depressive periods, yet he felt like he needed some additional help.

Today we talked to his pediatrician who agreed that further help might help. John started taking antidepressants today, a very, very low dose and John is hopeful that the medication will take the edge off for long enough that he can get ahead of it.

In the meantime he has started doing some reading, guided reading of books that I recommended, and he's been writing as well. He is writing some poetry and some prose. When he does this writing he experiences such a rush of happiness, accomplishment, and relief from getting some of these thoughts out and onto paper and shared with me and others! It's exciting to see him making efforts to manage the internal struggles.

He has also been getting more active outdoors with the advent of beautiful spring weather, he has started some new projects that excite him, he has worked on getting better sleep, and he continues to share his feelings quite openly.

John is a very open kid and he talks with his friends a bit about his feelings too and that has been really helpful because so many of them can relate to the mood dips and the despondency that goes along with it. However he had one person who did not handle the information that John entrusted to them very well. This person threw it in his face and really injured him for his trusting and open nature as well as for his sensitivity. That unpleasant experience has become something that John considers a real life lesson; I'm impressed with his efforts to makes sense of the limitations of maturity or compassion that others may have for reasons of their own.

I think that some people might have a problem with the fact that we went to medication for the depression with a fourteen year old.  I did think and wait for quite some time before considering medication. How much of John's melancholia is kind of normal and how much of it is something to be concerned about? There was a point in several of our conversations where I believed that a line was crossed and that we had reached a point where we could use a hand.

John is happier and more hopeful this evening and that is so important to me. 

I remember several years ago when we came to this place with Elizabeth, when we started talking about medication and therapy for her moods. She was so relieved that I had actually heard her troubled self and that I had responded with real solutions. I think that John is reacting that way too:  relieved and grateful that we've taken this step to help him to manage his heavy-heartedness.

Have you had brushes with depression?
Have your kids ever been here?
What have you done to help them?

I'm John
And I approve of this message.

You might also enjoy these posts:
He's So Bright I Call him Son
Moving into the Light
Cuddling Cures the Meloncholy
I Trusted My Gut

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Rebirth, Renewal, and Renaissance

I have several friends in their 40s and 50s who are embarking on very new seasons of their lives, right here and now, at spring time when the fecundity of life and earth are our ever-present companions. I like to think that most of us deeply feel that movement inside of all living things with the longer days and the rebirth of the warm season here in the northern hemisphere.

The journeys that my friends are taking are varied and unique, yet I am struck by one overriding component of their lives, renaissance. 
Transitional moments, renewal, embarkation. 
I love these women with all of my heart and I am tremendously moved by their journeys, individual and remarkable and disparate.

This morning, a morning of celebration for the renewal of the season, my friend Laura posted this on her Facebook page and I found it incredibly beautiful. Sharing.


A garden inside me, unknown, secret,
neglected for years,
the layers of its soil deep and thick.
Trees in the corners with branching arms
and the tangled briars like broken nets.

Sunrise through the misted orchard,
morning sun turns silver on the pointed twigs,
I have woken from the sleep of ages and I am not sure
if I am really seeing, or dreaming,
or simply astonished
walking towards sunrise
to have stumbled into the garden
where the stone was rolled from the tomb of longing.

EASTER MORNING IN WALES From RIVER FLOW: New and Selected Poems, © David Whyte and Many Rivers Press

Photo © David Whyte 2014
Sun Through Sycamores

In some way, many of us are entering into our own renaissance at this time of year as our lives expand, transform, harmonize with the clean, cool season. I feel it deep inside, pushing through the muddy earth, as it pokes its head into the crisp air. New projects and interesting enterprises have entered my life and I feel fortunate and excited at their possibilities.

Today I celebrate that renewal process 
and I hope that you are experiencing 
the freshness of the morning in your life.

Do you feel it in your life?
Can you sense something budding
silent, furtive, affirming?

Dedicated to the beautiful Laras and Lauras in my life.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Ēostre and Ostara

secular parenting
I'm curious.

In our family the kids are pretty old, teens now, kind of old to really enjoy the family traditions of the Easter holiday. But when they were younger we had them wake up to a basket next to their bed full of gifty stuff and some candy and eggs to find in the yard or house. One year I remember that there was too much snow to hide eggs outside so the house would have to do.

We usually have family over for a nice ham luncheon and family games inside or out, weather permitting. It is a fully family holiday.

The kids used to open their little plastic eggs and count out the change and candy inside of each one. And I would be appalled with myself for the amount of candy that I had just bestowed on my children. 
OH, and I would steal their Reese's Easter Eggs.  MMM MMmm MM

What about your family?
Do you have any neat secular traditions that are unique to you?

This weekend on The Secular Parents show on the SecularTv Channel on Youtube, Sunday night, 8pm CST, we will be talking about the many ways to enjoy these spring days in our show called Celebrating the Spring Holiday.

Yes, I hope you will join us, but I would also love to hear from you here on my blog. 

What are YOUR traditions?
Inform me!

If you are interested in the show, join in on Live Chat this Sunday night at 8pm CST and share your stories, questions, and ideas for how to bring the fun and focus of these days of reawakening and rebirth to our families.

Ostara (1884) by Johannes Gehrts. The goddess flies through the heavens
surrounded by Roman-inspired putti, beams of light, and animals.
Germanic people look up at the goddess from the realm below.
Thanks to Wikipedia