Raising an atheist child
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06-05-2014, 07:53 PM
Raising an atheist child
Hello everyone. I'm 6 months pregnant and as you might guess I'm an atheist. And now it's time for me to think how I am going to approach religious issues in our family.
I'm an atheist, my husband is an agnostic hippy, and by hippy I mean that he thinks there's a some possibility of spirits of his ancestors looking after him and all this new age stuff, he calls himself a spiritual person, but I think he's just sitting on the fenceSmile My mom is a born again christian and my husband's parents are into Mahikari (a Japanese religious fusion). we live in New Zealand where maori influence is very strong, hence my husbands believe in ancestral sprits (he's half maori). My dad is probably the only one who doesn't have any strong views on religion or just keeps it to himselfSmile My husband does respect my views on religion and we both agree that any kind of organised religion is just evil and secularism is a must for any civilised society.
My mom recently brought up an issue of baptising our child. My husband and i are against this, and my polite way of telling my mom will be (haven't had a chance to discuss it with her yet, and she doesn't know I'm an atheist) that we do not believe that we should make this kind of choice for our child, religious view, in our opinion, is something a grown up person should make after considering all the options and weighing all of the information available. Imposing any kind of philosophical views on a little thing that can't even sit up or wipe her bum is unethical (a polite way of saying this is madness).
All of this made me think, how do I protect and educate my child. While my in laws are pretty good at keeping their views to themselves and they seem to respect my opinion (so far), my mom is completely opposite. How do i manage this fine line between respecting their religious views and not letting them brainwash my child at the same time? After all they are going to have a big influence in her life, they are her grandparents and i know they all love her to bits alreadySmile
Any thoughts, suggestions, books or websites to read?
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06-05-2014, 08:16 PM (This post was last modified: 06-05-2014 08:34 PM by Hughsie.)
RE: Raising an atheist child
Baptism does not effect the child's thinking.

Tell your kid that you act differently, and respect other peoples expectations if you want to get Christmas and Easter gifts.

You will be the guiding light that you want to be for your child - go along to get along.

Content Removed

Humanism - ontological doctrine that posits that humans define reality
Theism - ontological doctrine that posits a supernatural entity creates and defines reality
Atheism - political doctrine opposed to theist doctrine in public policy
I am right, and you are wrong - I hope you die peacefullyCool
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06-05-2014, 08:24 PM
RE: Raising an atheist child
First off I want to say, how you plan to handle the situation with your mother sound perfect. Best of luck there. If she starts to get pushy, be firm, hold your ground. Let her know you've already discussed it with her, and you aren't going to change your mind, so best not bring it up again to avoid unpleasant conversations. Surely she will be able to understand this is a time of happiness and celebration, not arguing. Big Grin

Seth did a great podcast on this a while back. Raising a free-thinking child. It was amazing. I believe he had the author of this book on as a guest to discuss the topic. How to expose your children to different religions, and keep them from being brainwashed.

Best of luck, and congrats on the baby!!! Thumbsup

I hope that the world turns, and things get better. But what I hope most of all is that you understand what I mean when I tell you that, even though I do not know you, and even though I may never meet you, laugh with you, cry with you, or kiss you, I love you. With all my heart, I love you. - V for Vendetta
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08-05-2014, 08:33 AM
RE: Raising an atheist child
My form of atheism is the sceptical kind that focuses on a style of analysing ideas in a sceptical manner (critical but open-minded). I have two children, 8 and 5. Mr 5 is not interested in religion at all yet but is aware of an thinking about death. I suspect you'll have some time to think about it before your progeny bring it up.

I'm not out to raise atheists, but I encourage sceptical thinking. To that end I spend little time telling my children what I think on religious matters but instead ask them questions about their ideas and encourage them to consult widely on responses. I try to ensure they feel they can always talk to me about what they have thought about, or what someone else has told them.

Miss 8 is a bit of an avowed atheist now, so I do play games with her when she asks about some important issue. "Why do girls have to suffer the pain of periods and childbirth" she asks me. "Because Eve chose to eat the fruit in the garden of Eden", I answer. "It says so in the Bible.". (actual conversation this week).

Overall though I try to keep my children thinking about the issues, coming up with ideas, and questioning those ideas for themselves. I don't like to tell them what to think and given a supportive environment for free thought they both seem to be coming on well enough. Last time I had a serious conversation with Mr 5 about death and the like he independently came up with the idea of reincarnation. He seems to be thinking seriously about death again at the moment though, so I suspect he is shifting out of that idea. When he asks me straight questions ("When will Mummy die?") I give him straight-ish answers ("You'll probably be a grandad before that happens, but it will happen one day"). When he has something to say I listen carefully and encourage both the ideas and the thinking process. I also strongly encourage scientific knowledge and understanding.

Give me your argument in the form of a published paper, and then we can start to talk.
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08-05-2014, 09:05 AM
RE: Raising an atheist child
I haven't checked, but guessing this is the same guy SMercury suggested. Its basically what I use with my kids. Some parents don't express, and leave it all up to the child to decide, which is good, but we don't do that with other things that we teach them, I feel like as parents we need to give guidance and reasons why we hold the ideas we do. For example, we teach kids to do tasks a certain way, because if they don't-they can get injured, or the job doesn't get completed correctly, etc. So, with that, I explain my point of view of religion topics too. I provide the reason why I don't believe, I encourage questions. And I ask questions about things they take an opinion on too.

This is about 45 min long video, but he's pretty entertaining.





"Life is a daring adventure or it is nothing"--Helen Keller
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08-05-2014, 09:54 AM
RE: Raising an atheist child
I just really didn't discuss religion with my kids. Didn't take them to church, didn't do the prayer thing with them. When they got a little older they were free to attend church with friends. Of course the ones that invited them to church were usually the most fundamentalist. They asked questions, we talked and I let them know I didn't believe but a lot of people do, for whatever reason.

One of my daughters pretty much turned away after a session in a 'talking in tongues' wailing and flailing church. My son was horrified by a tent revival he attended.

My family wasn't really religious but we were in the Bible belt and therefore my kids were surrounded by prayer circles and the God Squad...it didn't take.

You may have to set boundaries with family members and hold firm to those boundaries. Explaining what and why they believe is one thing but allow none of the brainwashing. If your family can't accept that then perhaps contact needs to be restricted.

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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08-05-2014, 02:41 PM
RE: Raising an atheist child
Thank you very much everyone. You are all very helpful. I know I'll have to learn things as they come. I'm just a bit concerned that I come across as a very strong headed even harsh person sometimes, but I never mean to cause any distress or disrespect, it's just I'm passionate in my opinions and some people find it a bit too aggressive. I'm worried that I'll give a bad example to my girl and that might cause tension in the family. But I'll definitely do my best to be more soft and explain to her that different people believe different things and it's only up to her to find her way in life. And i definitely want to encourage scientific and sceptical thinking. It's just all a bit overwhelming, but I guess i'm no different to any other parent to beSmile
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09-05-2014, 07:49 AM
RE: Raising an atheist child
When your first child is born you'll have plenty to think about for a long time before getting into the question of religion. In the first 24 hours you'll need to have perfected a whole swathe of new skills on zero sleep, and you'll have to keep doing it until your child is old enough to sleep through the night. Your children will be constantly changing and things won't even start to settle down until they get to school.

You'll have plenty of things to deal with at the pace your child presents them to you. You can't hurry understanding. If I were you I would worry about the following in order:
* Sleeping arrangements - Setting up the child's bedroom, baby monitoring, etc
* Feeding - it doesn't come naturally, and could be the hardest thing you have to do after a birth.
* Sleep - Staying sane and keeping your cool when you aren't getting any... and having a support network to help
* Babysitting - Getting breaks from the child even for a few hours, although this might not happen for the first six-twelve months. The breaks are important when they do start to come.
* Maintaining your adult relationship if you are in one. A baby never saved a marriage. Children add stress you've never known. Build up your relationship and make time for it.
* Enjoying the time - Take the time to enjoy being with your child and watching them grow
* Discipline and guidance - Trying to put love first while also helping the child to adapt to a world that does have rules
* Conflict with parents and other loved ones - Expect literally everything you do with your child to be commented on by everyone you care about, in ways that are usually unhelpful Wink Try to endure it.

Believe me when I say that if you're pregnant now with your first child, teaching your child about religion will wait.

That said, it can be a source of conflict in a relationship. If you let disagreements about how to present religion to your children build up they can cause problems. Do deal with those problems as they come up, just don't go crazy preparing for a day that will not only come about years from now but will happen much more gradually than you expect. You'll have time to adjust your course on these things as they start to happen, and the you that has to deal with it and the partner (if any) you have to deal with it with are both going to be different people than they are today.

Give me your argument in the form of a published paper, and then we can start to talk.
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09-05-2014, 07:56 AM
RE: Raising an atheist child
(06-05-2014 07:53 PM)Happy Wrote:  All of this made me think, how do I protect and educate my child. While my in laws are pretty good at keeping their views to themselves and they seem to respect my opinion (so far), my mom is completely opposite. How do i manage this fine line between respecting their religious views and not letting them brainwash my child at the same time? After all they are going to have a big influence in her life, they are her grandparents and i know they all love her to bits alreadySmile
Any thoughts, suggestions, books or websites to read?

Welcome to TTA.

You are not required to respect their views. The only duty you have in a free society is to respect their right to hold a view.

"Mom, we don't agree with your religious views and we won't be teaching them to Junior. I ask you not to do so, either."

Skepticism is not a position; it is an approach to claims.
Science is not a subject, but a method.
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09-05-2014, 08:05 AM
RE: Raising an atheist child
(09-05-2014 07:56 AM)Chas Wrote:  "Mom, we don't agree with your religious views and we won't be teaching them to Junior. I ask you not to do so, either."

If only life were that easy. Dodgy

When people consider it their obligation to "bring others to Jesus", then there's no room for "I have my views, you have yours, let's settle at that."

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