‘Relax, It’s Just God’ Featured in Psychology Today

By Wendy Thomas Russell | April 30, 2012 | 14 comments

Well, they got it mostly right. And, dammit, maybe that’s enough.

The current issue of Psychology Today contains a really great piece about atheism and agnosticism and what it terms “a new breed of nonbelievers.” Apparently I belong to this new breed because I’m featured in the article, along with a handful of others — including my all-time favorite advice-giving atheist, Richard Wade.

I spoke with Psychology Today writer Bruce Grierson months ago about Relax, It’s Just God and what drew me to the project. And I have to say, overall, Grierson did a bang-up job. In a lengthy, well-written piece, he points out that nonbelievers are everywhere — yes, even in church pews.

“That a in atheism simply means without, not against, belief in God,” Grierson writes. “Not an adversarial position, just a position. There, in that vast middle of the religious spectrum, a space not occupied by fundamentalists of any sort, live tens of millions of atheists and agnostics, more or less quietly, mostly with their families. And their numbers are growing.”

Grierson explains that many atheists embrace their religious roots and customs, especially when they have religious family members, and he devotes quite a lot of space to how secular parents deal with this tricky business of religious faith when it comes to their children. (That’s where I came in.)

In addition to relating the story about how my book was born, Grierson does a skillful job summarizing what it is I’m all about. “The question,” he quotes me as saying, “is how do we approach religion with our kids so that we’re being honest but not indoctrinating them or scaring them, or putting them in a position to be made fun of or teased or hurt? These are fine lines. And because so many of us are first-generation secular, we can’t fall back on what we ourselves learned before.”

Wait. Did I just quote myself being quoted? That was weird.

Anyway, Grierson also references my Ten Commandments for Talking to Kids About Religion, focusing specifically on Commandments #3: Don’t saddle kids with anxiety over the word ‘God’ and #8: Don’t steal your child’s ability to choose (although I happen to know that Grierson’s personal favorite is #7: Don’t be a dick. Mine, too, incidentally.)

Unfortunately, though, in the world of journalism, there are just so many opportunities to get things a little screwy. And Grierson (God love him) turned out to be fallible. In a paragraph about my own upbringing, for example, Grierson states that I was “raised Presbyterian and Methodist.” Although I did attend Presbyterian and Methodist churches at certain points during my childhood, I was baptized Unitarian and wasn’t raised in any particular faith. In the same paragraph, he describes my parents’ approach to religion as don’t-ask-don’t-tell, which isn’t true, either. What I said — and have written about previously — is that I personally instituted a “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy on religion while I was in college, and later abandoned it. But that was never my parent’s approach to religion; it was my own.

That being said, the story — which is on newsstands through June — is just great, and I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunity.

Oh, and there’s a picture, too, which is super-stagey. But at least it features our super-cool Bigfoot painting in the background. (Relax, out there, it’s just Bigfoot.)

 


14 comments

  1. Karen Loe says:

    I’m posting here so that I can quote myself at having quoted you:

    She wrote: The question is how do we approach religion with our kids so that we’re being honest but not indoctrinating them or scaring them, or putting them in a position to be made fun of or teased or hurt? These are fine lines. And because so many of us are first-generation secular, we can’t fall back on what we ourselves learned before.

    Thanks!

  2. Rich Wilson says:

    You and Richard Wade? Now I HAVE to pick it up!

    The only thing I could say about the photo is the general refrain “Needs more Isabel!”

    (Had a dream about an African Grey last night, but with iridescent green instead of red…)

  3. Jenny Marder says:

    Wendy, can you link to the article, or is the full piece not available online? Excited to read it!

  4. Jason says:

    Nice to see you back in the PT!

  5. Katie says:

    I love you quoting yourself, and I love that quote!”

  6. Gypsy Boho says:

    “That a in atheism simply means without, not against, belief in God,”

    I’m not sure that describes me. I AM against a belief in any gods as I believe it is harmful. I think perhaps Militant Atheist would best suit me. Any suggestions?

    • … militant atheist definitely works, as does anti-theist, anti-religious, etc. I think the point is: All anti-theists may be atheist, but not all atheists are anti-theist. (Even those of us who oppose the customs/doctrines involved in specific religions.) But, you know, labels shmables, I say…

      • Harry Schaefer says:

        That would be “labels shmables” not “labels shambles”. Man you need an editor or at least to turn off auto correct. Juss kiddin’…

        Congratulations on the exposure, yesterday it was The Blaze, today its Psychology Today, man the sky is the limit for tomorrow!

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Relax, It’s Just God

A Blog for Secular Parents
For parents who aren’t religious, the task of talking to children about religion can be daunting. So daunting, in fact, that the entire subject often gets glossed over or ignored completely. Relax, It’s Just God is a blog (and soon a book) intended to help parents break their silence without breaking a sweat.
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