Wednesday 28 September 2016

Amanda Brunker: Why I'm an atheist and proud

Published 12/11/2015 | 13:43

Amanda Brunker
Amanda Brunker with her sons L to R: Setanta (8) and Edward (9) McLaughlin

I don't believe in heaven or hell. I believe in life.

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I teach my kids respect for others, the meaning of true equality and kindness.

But, because I am an atheist, my views are deemed unsavoury. There’s a stigma attached to being an atheist. I’m the 'weirdo' who doesn’t pray; has no fear of God and doesn't attend any church.

I recently appeared on TV3’s Midday panel when I was told, ‘People with faith are statistically happier.’ I was completely taken aback. And it got me thinking about my own journey with religion.

Amanda Brunker
Amanda Brunker

I was raised Protestant - I was baptised and confirmed by the Church of Ireland, educated in a little protestant church in Finglas West and later in Mount Temple, which was non-denominational but mostly Protestant. My family and I collectively lost our faith over the years.

In the '80s, my brother and and sister became Born Again Christians - my sister moved away from it soon after, but my brother stayed involved with the religion for eight years. This began to change the way we, as a family, viewed religion.

15 years ago, my brother became very ill, seemingly out of nowehere. In the following weeks, we all dipped to some of our lowest points in life, a point where I would have hoped for divine inspiration, but still, I couldn't feel the call of God.

My brother was 37 - he didn't smoke, didn't drink and never took drugs. He was a kind, healthy, 'Mr Clean Living' type of man, who had been a devout Christian most of his life, yet he was being taken from this world so cruelly.

Just four weeks later, he died on December 4th.

I had hoped at this time that religion would come back to me. It didn't.

My feelings resurfaced again when I had children. Everyone always has an opinion about how your children should be raised and the majority of folks around me were telling me I needed to baptise my sons and send them to a Catholic school.

Catholic friends have accused me of being cruel to my children for not letting them make their first holy communion with their friends. I will you tell you the same thing I tell them - I've raised my children to be confident enough in themselves to know they don't need to always run with the pack.

Amanda Brunker with her sons L to R: Setanta (8) and Edward (9) McLaughlin
Amanda Brunker with her sons L to R: Setanta (8) and Edward (9) McLaughlin

Yes, some of their class have made mean comments about the fact that they don’t go to mass and try to make them feel bad about the amount of money they make from their Holy Communion, but c'est la vie.

My boys now attend a non-denominational primary school (which comes at a price!) and they are thriving. My two beautiful boys are perfectly happy without religion in their lives.

Personally I hate the idea of religion being force-fed to kids in school. That is a matter to be dealt with at home and in people’s respective churches.

While the school curriculum might well be congested. I whole-heartedly agree that ethics should be thought to our children over religion. 

People will disagree with me and that’s fine. As is other people’s right to celebrate their own faith. But do it on your own time folks. I don’t force my way of life on you, so all I ask for is the same respect.

We believe in the living life to the fullest and finding the good in each day, that shouldn’t make us outcasts. But sadly in a way it does.

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