I don't talk about religion much- mostly because I don't have a religion. I am an atheist. No, I wasn't born this way. I was raised Catholic. In fact, my husband is the only person I've ever met who was raised atheist from birth. Finding him was very exciting.
Anyway, I've been thinking about religion more than usual. The reason? Godparents. Several of my friends have had babies in the past 2-3 years. Tara of Sincere Mommy just welcomed her second! Tara's children have godparents. I, too, have godparents. I did not give them up when I gave up believing in God.
My godfather's name is Mike. I think I'm closer to him than ever thanks to Facebook, our guitar collections, and photography. I honestly don't know where "Auntie" Donna is these days (my godparents have no relation to one another.) Still, she was a super-important influence in my youth.
Mike was a police chief. Auntie Donna was my preschool teacher. These careers made for great role models. My godparents always bought birthday and Christmas gifts for my sister, too, even though she had her own godparents. This act made me exceedingly bitter, but also taught me generosity.
I used to imagine what would happen to me if some horrible tragedy took my parents. For whatever reason, I really glommed on to the idea that my godparents would become my parents if mine (gulp!) died. I did not like picturing Auntie Donna's daughters as my sisters, because one of them once convinced me to let go of a balloon. I did not like picturing Mike's sons as my brothers, because they once tied me up while we were playing Ninja Turtles (I was doomed to be April O'Neil, even though I longed to be Donatello or Michelangelo.) I did, however, love the idea of Mike and Auntie Donna being my parents. I trusted them to take care of me, see to my education, and love me always.
Despite me finding religion rather screwy as an adult, I can't deny that Catholic school taught me ethics. What some cynically call "Catholic guilt" I call a "moral compass." I believe implicitly in the good of people- even the ones that make you let your balloons go. (I should mention that all of these kids turned into fine adults. Ha!) As a human, I believe that we shouldn't hurt others. We should heal our sick, feed our hungry, and shelter our homeless. The Golden Rule is HUGE for me- no deity required.
Being a "godless heathen" doesn't remove one's conscience. In fact, it makes mine stronger. I feel we only have this one life- no heaven, no reincarnation, no "other place" we're going later. Thus, we have to do everything we can to preserve this planet, and to love the people and creatures that live on it. There are no second chances in my world; we only have this one shot.
If I ever have children, and my time suddenly comes to an end, who can I trust to instill this point of view into my kids? Who will help them be good citizens of the Earth, no matter what? Can an atheist have godparents?
I Googled it, and found a favorite answer: "Guideparents." Some couples, in raising their children without religion, still choose two guides. These parents see the value in positive mentors, even if no baptism is involved. God isn't a part of the equation; guidance is. Guideparents can do all the things I knew Mike and Auntie Donna would- feed, clothe, protect, give advice, and love.
I can see the term "guideparents" working for agnostics, as well. It could be applied to same sex couples, poly relationships, or really any alternate lifestyle that religion has yet to embrace. The term may even have a home with open-minded, religious couples who want their children to make their own choices. Cool, right?
My husband and I aren't planning on children. However, if that day ever comes, I'd really like to choose guideparents. It takes a village to raise a kid. Surrounding children with as many loving role models as possible can only be positive.
...That, and you never know when April O'Neil might get picked off by Shredder. Might as well be ready.
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