Parenting atheist children in a non-atheist world
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08-09-2016, 07:14 AM
Parenting atheist children in a non-atheist world
I am a newbie, so forgive me if this has been discussed.

Are any of you parents? How are you dealing with raising your kids to not believe in god? Are you dealing with pressure from society/friends/family?

I have been an atheist since...I could think. lol But I am not very vocal about it because flat-out saying "I don't believe in god" would not go over well in my family or community.

My approach to religion has mostly been to ignore. But kids are inquisitive creatures, so I do get questions - especially when they have been exposed to religion/god through peers.

I would love to hear how others are dealing with this. What do you say to your kids?
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08-09-2016, 07:57 AM
RE: Parenting atheist children in a non-atheist world
Our approach (my husband and I are atheists) was to tell our child what we thought, but also make clear to him that he could explore and make up his own mind. We have always answered his questions honestly.

My son went through a period when he believed in a god and an afterlife, and when he wanted to go to church, we said okay and arranged for him to attend services at a local Episcopalian congregation. He attended for several months and then stopped going. By the time he was in middle school, my son had stopped believing in a god, although he remains fascinated by mythologies and creation stories.

The most serious issue we had to grapple with was my hyper-religious, evangelical father. I do not trust my father to refrain from proselytizing to my son. Every letter he writes has some mention of religion, every Christmas and birthday has a religious themed gift. (If we ever decided to burn the Bibles my father has gifted us over the years, we could fuel for a bonfire that would burn for many hours.) Therefore, while my father has gotten to spend a good amount of time with his grandson, very little of it has been one-on-one.

The reason I was stricter about allowing my father to talk to my son about god than people in the community is because, coming from a family member, there's more emotional pressure behind the sales pitch for religion.
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08-09-2016, 08:08 AM
RE: Parenting atheist children in a non-atheist world
Be upfront and honest with them. And equip them with critical thinking skills so they are able to more easily see right through the arguments thrown at them.
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08-09-2016, 08:12 AM
RE: Parenting atheist children in a non-atheist world
I allowed my kids to attend church if they wanted to. I don't recall ever taking them to a church service myself. At least one of the three of them attended almost every flavor of church that was available to them...mostly of the Christian ilk.

Many questions were answered by me starting with the words...some people believe...

They made up their own minds along the way. Of the three (all grown) two are atheist and one hedges her bets now and then with a Pascal's Wager sort of view.

Being in the south there was some backlash regarding my kids not participating in vacation bible schools or prayer before sporting events but it wasn't anything we couldn't handle.

See here they are the bruises some were self-inflicted and some showed up along the way. - JF

We're all mad here. The Cheshire Cat
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08-09-2016, 08:25 AM
RE: Parenting atheist children in a non-atheist world
Thanks for the thoughtful answers.

Did any of you expose your child(ren) to religion through books?
I tend to approach things from an educational standpoint, so I wonder if I should find a book that discusses world religions...with the caveat that 'some people believe ____'.

The issue with exposing them to religion locally is this is a very Christian-centric area. I would prefer exposure to all religions/beliefs, if I have to do it at all. lol
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08-09-2016, 09:33 AM (This post was last modified: 08-09-2016 09:38 AM by Mr. Boston.)
RE: Parenting atheist children in a non-atheist world
My wife and I (atheist and non-specific deist, respectively) aren't specifically raising our kids to be atheist. We're raising them with as much logic and scientific knowledge as we can, and without membership in any congregation - but we celebrate Christmas, Easter, and the Jewish holidays. My kindergartener believes there's a god. But he also believes there's vampires, werewolves, and zombies and he's MUCH more impressed with them than with Jesus/God, lol.

He has occasionally directly asked me if God is real. I have said I don't think so but that I want him to believe what he thinks is right. He seems comfortable with that for now. He asks WAY more science and math questions than he does "spiritual" or religious questions so I think he's heading in the right direction. To me, it's not worth as much if atheism is something I cajole him into. It's that kind of indoctrination that's my primary complaint with religion to begin with. Would I be happy if he eventually comes to atheism from his own deductive reasoning? Sure. But it's not something I'm going to force on him.

My wife is totally secular in her worldview but her dad is a Jew, ethnically-speaking. If he believes in a god at all it's with indifference at best, or outright contempt, lol. Her mother was a Catholic, now member of a UU church. They didn't raise my wife in any congregation - but given that there are relatives who survived the Holocaust they wanted her to know what "being a Jew" was about - and we want our sons to know that too, but we're not pushing Judaism as a faith on them.
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10-09-2016, 02:35 PM
RE: Parenting atheist children in a non-atheist world
I have 3 kids. I want to teach them sound epistemology and critical thinking. That alone will inoculate them against the god virus. If I taught them what to instead of how to think, I would be no better than them.

"If we are honest—and scientists have to be—we must admit that religion is a jumble of false assertions, with no basis in reality.
The very idea of God is a product of the human imagination."
- Paul Dirac
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11-09-2016, 06:23 PM
RE: Parenting atheist children in a non-atheist world
S.C Hitchcock's book, Disbelief 101, A Young Persons Guide to Atheism might be helpful.

"Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?" -Epicurus (341-270B.C.E.)
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15-09-2016, 12:43 PM
RE: Parenting atheist children in a non-atheist world
My kids are 13 & 14. Never been to a church service with them. Only my daughter has had any questions about religion and my wife bought her a children's bible a few years ago(my wife was raised mostly Quaker but refuses to come to the light completely). My wife thought I wouldn't let her have one but I actually was quite fine with it. I would have even been happier to let her have the uncensored version. As it turns out my daughter thought that even the children's bible was boring and hard to make sense of. It now sits on a shelf. She has some very religious friends at school but so far there hasn't been any judgment or questions to her. We do live in PA so we aren't in a highly religious area.

Their public school so far seems to do a very good job about keeping religion at bay from the curriculum but I am vigilant nonetheless and review the courses/syllabus and attend back to school nights (I am going tonight it just so happens).

Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored- Aldous Huxley
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19-09-2016, 05:53 PM
RE: Parenting atheist children in a non-atheist world
(11-09-2016 06:23 PM)larry-new Wrote:  S.C Hitchcock's book, Disbelief 101, A Young Persons Guide to Atheism might be helpful.

thanks for the rec! and thanks to everyone for sharing their own stories/perspective Smile
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