• Sarah

    You definitely have words. Thank you for this. I was touched by the story with Leta and the “black kid” because to me that does show that in little ways our world is improving. But I got hung up on the atheist thing. I’m agnostic, but for some reason I never picked up on your atheism so to me it is a surprise. Why? I’m not entirely sure. So if I were to gossip about you, the first thing that would come out of my mouth is that, not that you are or ever were a racist.

  • Callie VanNatten

    I’ve been reading your blog for longer than I can remember, and I have never commented, but I created an account just to say, “Wow.” Good for you for using your platform and your words to improve the lives of others. What an amazing example you are setting for your girls.

  • http://www.schmutzie.com schmutzie

    You spoke well, Heather. And good one helping Exodus. That’s going to be a hard trip.

  • Melissa

    I’m glad I’m not the only one, I was feeling bad. I’m going to leave this article mostly thinking, Dooce is an atheist and I’m surprised, without as much thought about the rest of the very deep and well-written article. I knew you weren’t religious, Heather, but I never got the atheist vibe either, whatever “atheist vibe” means.

  • Kim Court

    I’ve followed you for years and your writing has made me smile, cry and laugh out loud. But today it made me think. Great post. Have a safe trip – I look forward to learning more from your experiences.

  • Marissa

    I started reading Dooce for your hysterical poop filled parenting anecdotes and great style; but I keep reading because you are using your considerable platform to bring awareness to the inequity and suffering in other parts of the world — rather than to just sell “stuff.” Thank you for talking about race and sex trafficking and depression and divorce and self-doubt. Your voice makes us all smarter, more aware, and less alone.

    My four-year old was talking about her classmates and
    described her friend as “that boy with brown hair and brown skin.” Progress,
    that we all hope continues with our children into adulthood.

    Have a very safe trip.

  • Michele

    Loved this post. Please do have a discussion with Leta about why the black child is different from her, and why the Asian child is different from her and why that doesn’t make any difference about how she should feel about them. Po Bronson has a chapter in his book, Nurtureshock, about talking to our young children about racial differences. Kids do notice and they will pick up things from their friends. It is up to you to teach them that everyone should be treated equally. It’s not enough to raise our children in a diverse environment. They won’t learn tolerance and respect that way. We have to talk to them about it. When you said Leta didn’t know his name, my first thought was that she noticed he was different from her but didn’t know what to do about it.

  • RzDrms

    This is one of the best – if not THE best – posts you’ve ever written, particularly the first part of it, so honest and real and *direct*. I was really hoping for more about Trayvon Martin, about “white privilege,” and about what I see as the continued repression and misunderstanding of the black population in America. I pray that you have a safe and productive trip.

    On a side note, I often wonder if former-Christians-turned-atheists do so (even in small part) to fight the establishment. To (perhaps unconsciously) rebel so extremely that they won’t even consider any other option besides atheism. This is a real concern/question of mine and not a “dig” of any sort, so hopefully no offense was taken.

  • Heather Armstrong

    I could write a very long post about why I have reached my position on this, and it has nothing to do with fighting the establishment. I still believed in God for many years after leaving the church, and only slowly came to believe what I do today. Maybe I’ll address it at some point, but for now I think saying it out loud is a big step.

  • Heather Armstrong

    Is being an atheist a piece of gossip?

  • KristenfromMA

    I take “atheist vibe” to mean that you have absorbed the bias against non-believers that is promoted by many, if not most, religious institutions in this culture. It is possible to be atheist and moral, just as it’s possible to be “religious” and highly immoral (see: any number of prominent televangelists).

  • KristenfromMA

    Godless heathen, amirite?

  • Tamara

    Thank you.

  • Heather Armstrong

    Leta is being raised in one of the least diverse environments you could imagine, and yet she didn’t think to identify someone by their skin color first (I should add here that by her “class” she meant her “grade.” This boy was not in her immediate class which is why she blanked his name.)

    I have since talked to her extensively about differences in race and culture and class and those who have access to everything and those who have nothing. She’s watched me go abroad to visit developing countries and listened to the stories I have brought back. Like I said, it’s my responsibility to her and her generation to make sure that the differentiations I grew up with are not perpetuated.

  • KateMc

    Thanks for writing about these topics, Heather. I guess I never thought much about your religious affiliation (or lack thereof) because I admire how you are raising your girls and the organizations you dedicate your time to. I am thankful that you felt brave enough to share that with us though – yay you! The older I have gotten, the more I have come to respect people for their actions, instead of some doctrine they subscribe to. Safe travels and thanks for taking us along for the experience with you.

  • Heather Armstrong

    Thank you for this. I was nervous about it, but felt safe that most of my readers understand that you don’t have to have a religious affiliation to know what is right and what is wrong.

  • Melissa

    Huh? I never thought atheists were immoral nor did her morality and her atheism ever cross my mind at the same time. I’m neither a Christian nor a former Christian, religious institutions haven’t ever played a direct role in my life. There was just no indication to me that she was atheist, which is completely fine, but generally you know the beliefs, or non-beliefs, of your friends and family. I know Heather is just a blogger and not a friend but as a reader I do feel like I know a part of her life. It’s just a surprise, not a shock or even something I would never expect. Just a surprise. No big deal.

  • KristenfromMA

    OK, sorry to accuse you. There really is a lot of anti-atheism in this country. More than one prominent politician has stated that atheists shouldn’t have the privilege of US citizenship (which is a pretty anti-American sentiment IMO).

  • http://daedreems.blogspot.com/ Daedree Long

    Thank you, Heather. Regarding the sex trade… this is something that I, like you, have the privilege of not experiencing but have seen. My husband went on an LDS mission to Thailand a decade ago. While we’ve left the church he will always love his time there, except for some of the awful memories. Memories of older white men sitting on the train with a barely post-pubescent girl. He’s told me he’s never been more tempted to get in a fist fight. Or getting to know families, coming to love the people there, and realizing the option or future that many of them would be pushed into by society, especially the Burmese refugees he came across.

    I went back with him a year and a half after we were married. Some of it was exotic, but some of it… Well, I don’t have the words. We could see Soi (road) Cowboy from our hotel, one of the major red-light districts of Bangkok. At first I mentioned wanting to see it because of my naive, Mormon-raised fascination with exotics. I soon realize there was no need to further the tourism there. It’s another reason we chose to avoid Pattaya, going further south to a remote island.

    Bangkok is beautiful but disgusting. It’s new yet old, rushed, terrifying, generous and selfish. You get off the plane running and don’t stop until you’re back on a plane or train or boat out of there. But I will always love it. You will see the filthy, deprived parts I barely brushed. Thank you for fighting for the men and women of SE Asia—of the world— for using your words, for touching this subject that many of us only know about like some dark fairy tale.

    Oh, and the coup… please be careful! It obviously affects citizens much more than tourists, but it’s the crossfire to worry about, right?

    One other thing. Will you do me a favor and break your paleo habit by eating some khao niaow ma muang? Or at least copious amounts of mango?

  • Heather Armstrong

    Thank you, Daedree, for this perspective. I have no idea what to expect when I get off that plane, and we will actually be spending a couple of days looking at the exploitation going on in Pattaya. We’re being careful, sticking to the more touristy spots of the country, although my family is still a little sick with worry. Oh, and no way would I stay Paleo in Thailand! Thai food is my favorite food, hands down, so to get to eat it there is truly a privilege.

  • kelmochel

    Long and important…you weren’t kiddin’. Been ‘here’ a while, never read racism, sex trafficking or atheism, and here they are simultaneously. Most importantly, well done doing your part to ‘be the good’. I too have never known anyone forced into the sex trade, and commend you for going out of your inner circle to help a people group in dire need. *tips hat with sincerity*. Way less ‘important’ is the discrimination that I (and subsequently my children) have faced for me being an ‘out’ atheist mother, activist and author of a children’s book for kiddos of nonbeliever parents. Seems very ‘first world’ as you pack for Thailand, but do know that you WILL experience fall out as a result of your atheist declaration, and I believe it will be more extreme than you may have anticipated…and I thank you for standing up and being counted as such. Be out, proud, and good without god…you nailed it.

  • Debbie in Memphis

    Sometimes it’s hard to find things or people that make me proud of Memphis.You are going to the top of my list! Safe travels.

  • Andrée

    Dear Dooce,
    I have been reading your blog for years but never commented.
    Thank you, thank you for this very sincere, very frank and very edifying post.
    Bravo for your courage.
    Wishing you a stimulating and safe trip.
    Very much looking forward to hearing about it.
    Andrée, from Québec

  • DC

    Thank you so much for “coming out” as an atheist in this post. I’ve been working on finally saying “I’m an atheist” out loud lately, too–to family, to friends–and seeing you do that here makes me feel that much more empowered to do so in my own life. Thank you.

  • Leigh

    You have a platform because you’re talented, you’ve worked hard, and you’ve been in the right place at the right time. And as a long-time reader, it seems that you recognize that having this blog, this microphone, is a blessing, and you’re using it responsibly to focus attention on making this world a little better. I’m sorry that there are those who would try to pull you down with insults or worse, but I hope you recognize that for the useless noise that it is, and never stop working to bring our attention to issues that might ordinarily pass us by;

  • Annie

    It might be because I’m European, but I totes thought dooce must be an atheist all this time, because duuuh, isn’t everyone? ;) it’s so funny that saying it out loud is like farting in polite company for you guys in the US.

  • Lisa

    I have read your blog forever, and I look forward to when you post your belief about atheism. Until then, I wish I was going to Thailand with you.

  • Heather Armstrong

    Hahaha! Totes love this point of view.

  • Rena Tom

    yes, friend. thank you.

  • RzDrms

    Thank you for the reply. I *just* heard this in the book I’m listening to (“The Lost Symbol” by Dan Brown) while driving home from work: “…first uttered by the gnostic teacher Monoimus: ‘Abandon the search for God . . . instead, take yourself as the starting place.’ ” Have you read “The Lost Symbol”? Hope you do write about your beliefs one day, that you put it out there.

  • KC

    First of all, thank you for all you do to make the world a better place. I truly mean that. You don’t have to travel abroad to help others, but you do. Secondly, thank you for being honest. I was raised Catholic and feel guilt everyday for questioning my faith. I feel really lost sometimes…Is there a God?…Why do I oftentimes feel that there is not? I wish I had a strong faith like all of my family does, and didn’t question those beliefs I was brought up with. It’s hard. I do know that when I am faced with a difficult situation, I find myself praying and asking God for help. It just seems to happen automatically, I think because it is so ingrained in me to do that. I remember your saying something about the universe once, I don’t remember the context but it gave me the idea that it was ok to just ask the universe for help sometimes. To just put it out there and hope for the best.

    Have you watched a movie called, The Invention of Lying, with Ricky Gervais? It kind of brings up the question about why people pray to an invisible man in the sky. Very good movie!

    Anyways, thanks again. Have a safe trip.

  • http://www.edenriley.com/ edenland

    Wow. Reading this gave me goosebumps, furious nodding, and saying YEAH! to my computer screen. I’ve read you for years too. Life and upheavals and changes of opinion. You’ve gone through some shit, and mate I have to say I feel proud of you for writing this post. I’m so glad you’re going on Monday, safe (long!) travels. I flew to a few places for World Vision Australia and I felt so much pressure to blog the “right” thing until somebody told me the best advice – “Just write what you see. And then write what you feel.” So I did.

    You are an extraordinary writer Heather. I hope you can block the negativity from people out. You’re allowed to do whatever the hell you want with your own platform. If that’s travelling to some dark places that not many people witness and then writing about it on your site that gets read by a whole bunch of people? Well that’s pretty fucking awesome. There’s no crime in being earnest. There’s no crime in trying to make the world a bit better than how you found it.

    Power to you. xx

  • Debra

    You are my #1 hero for a reason!

  • Alice

    I guess I’m also interested in when you will be posting anything about your work in Haiti?

  • Melinda

    I work with kids in one of the most culturally/ethnically diverse communities in America. I was raised in a mostly white town, and the differences in the childhood experience are shocking, mostly because the kids I work with are much less naive than I was at their age. They are much more aware and experienced with being around other cultures but simultaneously aware of how they can use that knowledge to hurt each other. It’s been a tough education in how to deal with their treatment of each other but also very satisfying to see how open their minds can be.

  • KatR

    I left Christianity, and I wish I could be an atheist (it would be easier and I think I would heal from a lot of stuff), but I’m just…..not. I think it’s that way with people who are atheists. You can’t force yourself to believe if you just don’t believe.

  • http://www.lauraparkerblog.com/ Laura Parker

    Thanks, Heather, for writing this, and thanks even more for sacrificing a week to really see and experience the realities of sex trafficking. It seems like the larger the platform, the bigger “risk” for things like this, so I am just grateful for your bravery.

    And I totally agree with a previous comment made – “You don’t have to be religious to know what’s right.” Absolutely.

    Looking so forward to meeting you.

  • http://www.rageagainsttheminivan.com/ Kristen Howerton

    Well damn. You just went all in, my friend. So proud of you. So glad we get to experience this together.

    And don’t worry, we won’t let you come back an atheist. The internet is praying that you will meet Jesus in Thailand, remember? I guess he lives there. And I’m bringing pamphlets.

  • Mrs. Beasley

    Like others who have commented, I am a long time reader. Just the other day when I saw a post about the Pride Parade, I said to you (in my head) “Please, please address one of the most crippling social ills that spans all of your service work: racism. …with just a fraction of the passion. Please.” Thank you for this post. I would argue that to really fight homophobia, secure decent maternal health care, and teach children to be thoughtful citizens and critical thinkers, racism has to be acknowledged, investigated, and confronted. We need to look inside ourselves, examine our communities, and challenge the systems that rely on and perpetuate inequality.

    Racism is insidious (and fucked up) and like most evils, it thrives in the silence.

    This is going to sound patronizing because I don’t know how to properly offer support while giving you a swift kick in the (lil’ white) bum: I hope that you continue to be curious, challenge yourself, and take us along for the journey. Please.

  • diane

    Heather,
    I’ve read you for years and think this trip could be wonderful, but will you really write about it. I’ve waited for you to actually write about Every Mother Counts and you haven’t. I’m not trying to be negative, but if you want to use your blog of positive causes, please write about them.

  • Diane

    So, I wrote a post as a guest, but it didn’t seem to post. Don’t want to repeat, but i said, Heather, I’ve read your blog for years. The trip sounds very interesting, but will you really write about it. I’ve been waiting for you to write about Every Mother Counts and you haven’t written anything specific. You can only enlighten people if you actually write about the causes. This isn’t verbatim and actually asks more. But If I read that you care, I want to read about the cause and what happens during the trip that would make me understand the cause. I’m really not trying to be negative, but to say – please write about these wonderful causes.

  • Sue Moffatt Occhialini

    I had the great fortune to take a class in college taught by Maya Angelou. At least once every class, she repeated what she said was one of her favorite quotes: “I am a human being. Nothing human can be alien to me.” This just kept echoing through my mind as I read your post. Thank you for the incredibly eloquent post about such a complicated issue. It really made me think. Can’t wait to hear about your experiences in Thailand.

  • Michelle Boehm

    Before I begin, let me be clear in that I’m not comparing the work that I do with the work you will do. Apples, oranges. Humans, animals. With that out of the way, let me say that I am dedicated to animal rescue. Or, should I say, I’m as dedicated to it as I can be with the rest of the insanity that is my life. I do what I can. I do it even though I know I can’t save them all. I do it even though it breaks my heart. Every time I leave the shelter, I feel wrecked at witnessing what humans are capable of doing to animals – the neglect, the carelessness, the discarding of animals that have lived with them for years and years as if they were an outdated sofa. I’ve never experienced this but it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t break my heart to witness it. And every time I remind myself that turning away and not looking won’t fix a damn thing.
    In other words, go witness things, don’t turn away, and do what you can to fix it. God speed. *awkward wink*

  • http://allconsuming.com.au/ allconsuming

    I’m not sure why but this year I feel strangely nostalgic with you and your blog. i’ve been blogging for around 10 years and you cover a fair bit of ground. Maybe blogging years are more like doggy years than calendar ones? There’s been (for both of us) so many highs and lows, triumphs and bruising battles. I adore you and your willingness to open the window just a little bit on your life in good times and bad. I also think that sometimes documenting the minutia if life actually gives away insights into the bigger picture stuff. (Like you ever had to boldly type you don’t believe in God. Frankly if any of us didn’t know you’d more likely believe in Finn, Jake and Lady Ranicorn than that omnipotent being)

    This trip will be amazing. Haters are gonna hate. Just shine that light on what you see and feel, like you do so well and good will come of it.

    Safe travels.

  • Lorraine Baldwin

    I backpacked through SE Asia in 1990 and 1991. I will never forget what I saw when it came to children and men – all white men at that time. I saw it on Patpong Rd. in Bangkok, I saw it in the fanciest hotel lobby in Kuala Lumpur. It was brazen and these men wore these girls like trophies. I was 20 at the time and now, all these years later, I think about this and regret not doing anything about it. Thank you for taking this on, and for using your forum to create awareness.

  • Lorraine Baldwin

    p.s. we are caucasian and my daughters’ best friend are of indian descent. One day my 7 year old said “Why is Ava wearing that Indian dress?” (Ava and her family were heading off to a wedding)… and I looked at her and said “Um, because she’s Indian.” … my daughter looked at me completely gobsmacked with her jaw hanging open and said in complete disbelief “She is?? I had no idea! That is so cool!” lol

  • disqus_WoFwho78tb

    Just to comment like someone else, a long time reader who has never commented…and a former Mormon girl who left the church at 25…

    I enjoyed your bit about your daughter. When I was in high school, my best friend was from Korea. I used to marvel at her writing letters back home, in her language. I loved her accent. I loved everything about her. My mom could never pronounce her name. “Hi-yon called you earlier.” And I would correct her pronunciation. One day, my mom took me aside to tell me how happy she was that my best friend was asian. I’m all, huh? why? She grew up in a generation with a huge mistrust of anyone asian. She knew she wanted her children to never have any prejudices against anyone. And she felt she had done her job well as my mother if my best friend was asian. So I wanted to say, well done with your daughter.

  • KJA

    This is a fantastic, very well-written post. Lots of tough stuff, and lots of important stuff. I have never commented, and I have never read the comments, but I did tonight. Maybe I’m misunderstanding, but to me, the significance of you being atheist is because the organization has Christian beliefs, and also this whole post was about judgment and bravery to me. It’s brave to go outside your comfort zone, which you do and will do again for the greater good. I respect you and admire you for being authentic and also think you are a solid and stable person to be able to face what you will face. I feel passionate about so much of what I hear and read and sometimes buckle under the stress of feeling it is all just too upsetting to face head-on, which sends me back into my quiet corner. Thank you for reaching out and making it more comfortable for all or us to try to do better.

  • Marianne

    I’m cheering you on and I’ve always admired your honesty. Travel safely.

  • Haleigh

    Thank you for your honesty and your commitment to help human beings.