Perhaps, in an unguarded moment, an atheist will look up this Thanksgiving and say, “Thank you” to the One who has made their life possible. Otherwise, the thing about atheism is that you have no One to thank.
Why is it that I keep getting bingoed through my boyfriend? Well, he was the one getting bingoed, really. The bingo for me was only implied. My BF related this story to me, involving a telephone conversation between him and a relative. As I wasn’t there for the conversation and this is all second-hand, I hope I’m getting all the details right.
I’m saying “relative,” because I think this person is a good guy, and I don’t want to make it seem as though I’m picking on him, so I’m being intentionally non-specific. I’m not writing this post to complain about him, personally, but about the more common attitudes exemplified in the conversation. Here, I can express my thoughts on these attitudes (which I encounter ALL THE TIME in a number of ways) as a childfree person. Maybe I can even use this to explain to non-CF people why it’s not OK to say these kinds of things and why it’s found intrusive and demeaning.
Our beloved dog Molly had some health issues when we first got her, which required a bit of veterinary care and some medicine. Additionally, one day she ate all of her medicine when no one was looking and had to be rushed to the emergency vet. My BF was saying to his relative just how expensive our dog is, to which the relative replied, “Just wait until you have kids.”
“Just wait until you have kids.” That quote just floors me! For one thing, my BF and I are both childfree, and have been since before we ever met each-other. My BF has been telling his family for years that he never wants kids, only to be ignored. Ok, people, seriously. If we say we don’t want kids, support that decision. It’s a valid choice. Assume we mean it.
I’ll assume that the relative has either forgotten or disbelieves that BF doesn’t want kids, otherwise this would seem like a particularly mean-spirited thing to say. Like saying, “just wait until you get fat,” to someone who takes care of their health. It does sound a bit like a threat, doesn’t it?
But childfreedom aside, this is still a nonsensical thing to say. Yes, kids are more expensive than dogs. I wasn’t aware it was a competition. I’m sure a zoo is more expensive than either. Never-mind that though. Why would he think that, as unhappy as BF was about how expensive vet bills are, that he’d want kids on the basis that they’re even more expensive? Oh, kids are extremely costly, you say? Well, in that case, sign me up! This person must be a horrible salesman.
After being reminded by my BF that neither one of us wants kids, the relative replied something to the effect of, “You say that, but sometimes kids just happen.” Where have I heard something like that before?
I absolutely detest this attitude. Unless they were dropped off on your stoup by a stork, no, kids do not just happen. Children exist as a direct result of the actions of their parents and can be avoided in a number of ways. Avoiding sex. Using contraception. Having an abortion. Getting sterilized as I have been! No. Kids not not “just happen.”
I think it takes a very irresponsible not take control of or responsibility for the direction one’s life takes by having the attitude that kids “just happen.” Having kids is a choice, and one (most) people have control over. Take ownership of your choices, and their outcomes.
Tactfully, my dear BF reminded his relative that I’m sterile (sure, BF could leave me, if he wanted, but…,) which was an action my BF fully supported (not that I wouldn’t have gotten myself fixed anyway if he didn’t.) I thought that this relative was already aware of this fact, but apparently not.
Ok, so we’re both stubbornly childfree, my BF has been telling these relative for years that he never wants kids, and one of us is sterile. Surely, we must be serious about never wanting kids, right? The relative then went on to mumble about adoption.
Really? Really?! What part of no kids is so hard to understand? How much clearer does someone need to be?
Dear world, not everyone has kids. That’s OK. Accept it. We’ll all be much happier. Thank you.
It’s apparently a popular meme, on Twitter anyway, for theists, usually Christians, to say that atheists have no one to thank for the good in their lives. Apparently, this cliché was made popular by a blogger Joey Nelson on his Spiritual Questions Blog, or so I learned from About. He wrote:
When I see this cliché, I laugh. On Thanksgiving, my family always has turkey dinner. It takes days to prepare, and of course we have to buy all of the food with our own money that we worked to earn. We make the food ourselves. Why should I tank anyone but ourselves? (to be fair, being a child, I didn’t contribute financially, and most of the work preparing the meal was done by my mother. So when I say “we”… ) And if I’m with my family, I need not look up, but across the table to thank the people who made my life possible.
Meanwhile, around the world, people continue to starve to death, and suffer in numerous other ways. Why the hell would I thank a god?
I remember, when attending my brother’s Marine Corps boot camp graduation, listening to the Chaplain speak over the microphone. He told everyone to bow their heads is prayer. I remember feeling so angry as I listened to him thank his god for the work of others. I was there that day because I was proud of my brother for HIS accomplishment, because it was his. Yet here there was a chaplain giving thanks and praise, not the new marines for their accomplishment, not the drill instructors for their training and leadership, but to his own god, his imaginary friend.
For me, this was a repeat episode. Different characters, different setting, same story. The same exact thing happened had two years earlier at my own graduation from Army Basic Training and again at our redeployment ceremony when we returned from Iraq. Each time, someone else was thanked for our own achievements, someone we were instructed to thank as well.
As if that itself wasn’t outrageous enough, this someone isn’t even real. I was, on each of these occasions, feeling very much insulted.
I, as an atheist was not left with no one to thank. I had my leadership, the soldiers to my left and right, my family and friends, and myself. Without religion, I was still able to thank someone, I just thanked the right people. I was able and willing to give credit where it was due. If you’re a believer and you’re happy about an occurrence other than a natural phenomenon (like weather, which requires no thanks) and you want to thank someone, ask yourself, is there really no human being responsible who it would be appropriate to thank?
Oh, and Happy Thanksgiving.
I hate it when people tell me that I don’t know that I don’t want kids. It’s so stupid, but it happens all the time. Yes, I do know.
As I’ve mentioned here before, I finally got a tubal ligation last week. As a result, I got a week of convalescent leave to recover. Outside the barracks yesterday, I ran into someone from my company and we had a bit of small talk. She asked me how I was enjoying being on leave, and I told her I’ve mostly been in my room as I’m not up to much. She thought I was on normal leave, vacation, when really I was recovering from surgery. She asked me what I had done. I said I had a tubal ligation. Then I had to explain what that was. Then I had to explain what the word “sterile” meant. (Really, US Army?)
“It means I can never have babies.” I finally said.
“Why would you do that?”
“Because I never want kids.”
“You don’t know that!”
“Yes, I certainly do.”
My BF and I recently found a lovely townhome to move into. Yesterday, we met with an agent to sign the lease. The agent was going through the terms of our lease, and brought up children. It’s part of the rules, so that was fair enough. We mostly just sort of tuned it out.
He started to say something like “You guys don’t have kids yet but when you do…” I don’t remember what he said next, because I was looking at the face my BF was making (ever see a smile that’s not actually a smile? That’s the face. BF looked like he was going to bite.) The agent noticed too and quickly said, “or not.” Kids came up a few more times, but got an irritated, disinterested facial reactions from us. The agent started feeling awkward, I guess, since we didn’t appear to be interested in anything to do with kids. “You two are together, right?” He eventually asked, obviously confused.
Kids came up again as he was recapping the basic rules of the lease. My BF finally spoke up and said. “We’re not having kids.” The agent was trying to be professional, but didn’t really know how to respond.
“Ok, so you don’t plan to, but you never know. Accidents do happen. I know one guy who-”
“My medical insurance company paid a lot of money to make sure there will be no accidents.” I interrupted, referring to my recent tubal ligation. He must have felt very awkward as the matter was immediately dropped.
In a five-part series of posts on my other blog, I wrote at length about my experience with a woman on a favorite site of mine, My OB Said What?!? In the comments section of one post there, I made the off-hand comment that stupid/abusive doctors are one of the many reasons I’ll never have kids. This decision of mine was immediately attacked by a self-described “pro-natalist,” despite the fact that I made it clear that I was only speaking for myself. The exchange between this person and myself makes up the first four parts of the series.
The final part, I’m happy to say, is much more positive. It’s not that I need to be validated, or given permission, but the support and understanding offered by another commenter on that site who’d seen the whole thing was refreshing.
Rather than repost the whole series, I’ll just link to them.