When Deborah Mitchell penned a story about atheism and raising her children without God, she had no idea just how much attention it would get. Coincidentally, the secular mother’s CNN essay, entitled, “Why I Raise My Children Without God,” became the most commented-on story in iReport’s history. Considering the very personal and pointed subject matter in the post, the response was intense. On Wednesday, Mitchell appeared on Current TV to speak with host John Fugelsang about the resulting furor, her decision to tout atheism and other related topics.
In her original post, Mitchell described lying to her son from an early age about the existence of God, as she wanted her child to feel safe. She told him religious stories, comparing the “elaborate tale” she built to the falsities many people tell their kids about Santa Claus. Fearing that her son would one day, after realizing that the stories were untrue, no longer trust his mother’s judgement, she made the decision to change course and raise him “without God.” Mitchell writes:
And so I thought it was only right to be honest with my children. I am a non-believer, and for years I’ve been on the fringe in my community. As a blogger, though, I’ve found that there are many other parents out there like me. We are creating the next generation of kids, and there is a wave of young agnostics, atheists, free thinkers and humanists rising up through the ranks who will, hopefully, lower our nation’s religious fever.
Then, she went on to share the reasons why she decided to raise her children without God. Among them, Mitchell claims that: “God is a bad parent and role model,” “God is not logical,” “God is not fair” and “God does not protect the innocent.” These were only a few of the reasons she detailed (the rest can be read in her original post). Despite her overwhelmingly negative views about heavenly inclinations, Mitchell noted that she does not want religion to disappear all together:
I do not want religion to go away. I only want religion to be kept at home or in church where it belongs. It’s a personal effect, like a toothbrush or a pair of shoes. It’s not something to be used or worn by strangers. I want my children to be free not to believe and to know that our schools and our government will make decisions based on what is logical, just and fair—not on what they believe an imaginary God wants.
Naturally, people reacted strongly to her views on faith in America. As of Jan. 31, the article, which was published on Jan. 14, was viewed by more then 758,300 people, recommended by 65,000 and shared more than 7,700 times. When Fugelsang asked her about this widespread attention, the atheist mother said that she was surprised by the story’s viral nature.
“I was totally taken aback,” she said. “I was surprised that there were so many commenters and so many page views.”
But Mitchell also expressed a somber tone when it came to the comments and ongoing debate that were spawned by her anti-God commentary.
“I was a little disappointed in how mean people were — not just to me, but to each other,” she noted. “I really didn’t expect the sustained anger and — just attacks on each other. That surprised me.”
Despite penning such an open commentary about why she has intentionally raised her son without God, Mitchell made it clear that she would fully accept any religious decisions that her child inevitably makes. Rather than prevent him from being faithful, she said that the decision is up to him.
Among other subjects, Mitchell also spoke about the Boy Scouts and problems she and her family ran into when her son was asked to earn a religious badge. When the mother told the organization that the family is agnostic and doesn’t believe in a specific God, she was told that her son must believe in God to be in the Scouts.
“I’m surprised that an organization that’s so patriotic has no understanding of the constitution,” Fugelsang responded. “But Jesus never said anything against gay people either so I shouldn’t be surprised.”
Watch the dialogue, below: