What's it like to raise/be raised an atheist?
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10-03-2010, 06:25 PM
 
What's it like to raise/be raised an atheist?
I was raised as a Protestant Christian, was baptized, went to church every single Sunday that I was not sick (even found churches when we went on vacation), Sunday school, confirmation (becoming a member of the church -- not communion like Catholics), etc.

I was even a member of my school's club called Christian Foundations in high school for my freshman and sophomore years, where we'd meet to hang out, play games, pray, socialize, etc.

The vast majority of my friends also had similar upbringings, as did my parents, and their parents, etc.

So I don't really know what it is liked to be raised as an atheist, and I'm curious as to how parents go about doing it. In fact, I don't think I had a bad childhood at all despite the indoctrination; I'm not bitter towards my parents for raising me as a Christian; they did what they thought was best, and they at least are not hypocrites; they do their best to love unconditionally and live by the bible and go to church weekly and are involved in church and community. They didn't kick me out of the house or stop loving me or stop giving me financial support for college when they found out I was an atheist; in fact, after my initial lecture from my father about the devil and going to hell because of being an atheist (this was years ago), they seem to have given up talking about it. Pretty sure they think it's just a phase.

I feel like telling your child (when old enough to understand) that all religions are wrong and there is no higher power and training them to refute the Bible and whatnot is almost as bad as child indoctrination to any particular religion. I feel like the child should be allowed to make their own decisions, and that while certainly the parents can guide and encourage their children, that they shouldn't outright tell them "there is nothing else out there."

I know nothing about raising children and won't pretend to, and I know everyone has their own opinion on it, but I was curious about what it's like to be raised as an atheist if you were, or if you are currently raising children, how you are teaching them about life.
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10-03-2010, 07:26 PM
RE: What's it like to raise/be raised an atheist?
Well, I was technology raised atheist, but my parents never said there wasn't a god. I was raised without a belief of god, or any belief about god. I did get some rather mild indoctrination from my very Christan community. So I guess I don't belong in your category of "Raised atheist".

I will say, that as opposed to Christianity, where your child risks eternal damnation, atheists don't have as large as a stake. An atheist may be rather militant, but having a child that you disagree with doesn't seem to match the Christan motivation.

I don't believe Jesus is the son of God until I see the long form birth certificate!
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10-03-2010, 07:30 PM
RE: What's it like to raise/be raised an atheist?
Sorry, I was raised Christian. Can't help ya. Though I would be interested to hear the others' stories.

"Sometimes it is better to light a flamethrower than to curse the darkness."
- Terry Pratchett
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10-03-2010, 08:18 PM
 
RE: What's it like to raise/be raised an atheist?
My wife and I made a deal when we found out we were pregnant with our first child (of four). I agreed that we could raise the children Catholic (we live in Louisiana, where practically every one's a mackerel-snapper) but I would neither force the children to go to church nor would I accompany her to regular Mass. I did concede to going twice a year -- at Easter and Christmas -- and for any firsts in the children's Catholic lives... first communion, first confession, etc. But that was pretty much it.

In exchange, I was given free-reign to discuss my own beliefs (or lack of belief) with them at any point. Honestly, though, I felt that it would be best to give little insights along the way (for example, asking them to really think about certain things they were being told) rather than an outright denial of Christianity.

It's been very interesting to note that my oldest, who is 12, came to her lack of belief pretty much on her own -- a lot of it, she says, doesn't make sense... and she's noted the contradictions. My younger daughter is a bit more compliant in her beliefs -- she sobbed when we finally told her there was no Santa Claus -- but she's also noticed some of the contradictions as well. I'm not having to do a whole lot of the "hard sell" on agnosticism/atheism/what have you.

I simply say, "I don't know -- and neither does anyone else."
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10-03-2010, 08:56 PM
RE: What's it like to raise/be raised an atheist?
Its an interesting question. My daughter (now 12) has not been raised atheist. She has not been raised religious either. I simply teach my daughter to live a moral life, to respect all living things, and to always help those in need. When she has questions, I answer them if I can, and I am honest when I can't. I have never tried to guide her towards "non-belief". I just don't teach her that stories are true, and that if we don't know the answer to something that a magic man in the sky decided to make things that way.

You have to remember that raising a child with religion is teaching them something specific, but if you don't teach them religion its not nescecarilly teaching them to be atheist. I have never taught my daughter to refute the bible. I DO teach her to question things that don't make sense to her, and not to believe everything she hears. It's up to her what she believes, and if she wants to explore Christianity, Buddhism, or any other religion, I will encourage her to do so with an open and analytical mind.

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-SR
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10-03-2010, 10:13 PM
RE: What's it like to raise/be raised an atheist?
(10-03-2010 08:56 PM)Stark Raving Wrote:  Its an interesting question. My daughter (now 12) has not been raised atheist. She has not been raised religious either. I simply teach my daughter to live a moral life, to respect all living things, and to always help those in need. When she has questions, I answer them if I can, and I am honest when I can't. I have never tried to guide her towards "non-belief". I just don't teach her that stories are true, and that if we don't know the answer to something that a magic man in the sky decided to make things that way.

You have to remember that raising a child with religion is teaching them something specific, but if you don't teach them religion its not nescecarilly teaching them to be atheist. I have never taught my daughter to refute the bible. I DO teach her to question things that don't make sense to her, and not to believe everything she hears. It's up to her what she believes, and if she wants to explore Christianity, Buddhism, or any other religion, I will encourage her to do so with an open and analytical mind.

That's how I was raised. I worked out pretty well. Good for you for making the smart choice.

I don't believe Jesus is the son of God until I see the long form birth certificate!
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10-03-2010, 11:15 PM
 
RE: What's it like to raise/be raised an atheist?
(10-03-2010 10:13 PM)ashley.hunt60 Wrote:  
(10-03-2010 08:56 PM)Stark Raving Wrote:  Its an interesting question. My daughter (now 12) has not been raised atheist. She has not been raised religious either. I simply teach my daughter to live a moral life, to respect all living things, and to always help those in need. When she has questions, I answer them if I can, and I am honest when I can't. I have never tried to guide her towards "non-belief". I just don't teach her that stories are true, and that if we don't know the answer to something that a magic man in the sky decided to make things that way.

You have to remember that raising a child with religion is teaching them something specific, but if you don't teach them religion its not nescecarilly teaching them to be atheist. I have never taught my daughter to refute the bible. I DO teach her to question things that don't make sense to her, and not to believe everything she hears. It's up to her what she believes, and if she wants to explore Christianity, Buddhism, or any other religion, I will encourage her to do so with an open and analytical mind.

That's how I was raised. I worked out pretty well. Good for you for making the smart choice.

Thank you, both. I appreciate your openness. I have two sons and, although my wife wants them to learn about Christianity, I'm a bit reserved about it. I haven't done anything to stop the teachings, however I have taken the approach of teaching them to question EVERYTHING and to think things through before coming to a conclusion.

I have also started teaching them about science, getting them involved in after school science classes, and doing experiments at home. They just LOVE the whole vinegar and baking soda trick! Smile
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11-03-2010, 09:20 AM
 
RE: What's it like to raise/be raised an atheist?
I was raised pretty much like ashley. My parents were raised Catholic, I was baptized and all. But I was never taught any religin at home (except perhaps as a kid, as a way to explain complicated things to me. Which I find terribly wrong.) and I was given the chance to choose my way of life.
I think, that when it comes to answering questions we don't know, honesty works better. This brought to my mind a Cosmo's episode when Carl Sagan speaks about his childhood, about his curiosity about stars:

Quote: But there was one aspect of that environment that, for some reason, struck me as different, and that was the stars.

Even with an early bedtime in winter you could see the stars. What were they? They weren't like hedges or even streetlights; they were different. So I asked my friends what they were. They said, "They're lights in the sky, kid." I could tell they were lights in the sky, but that wasn't an explanation. I mean, what were they? Little electric bulbs on long black wires, so you couldn't see what they were held up by? What were they?

Not only could nobody tell me, but nobody even had the sense that it was an interesting question. They looked at me funny. I asked my parents; I asked my parents' friends; I asked other adults. None of them knew.

My mother said to me, "Look, we've just got you a library card. Take it, get on the streetcar, go to the New Utrecht branch of the New York Public Library, get out a book and find the answer."

That seemed to me a fantastically clever idea. I made the journey. I asked the librarian for a book on stars. (I was very small; I can still remember looking up at her, and she was sitting down.) She was gone a few minutes, brought one back, and gave it to me. Eagerly I sat down and opened the pages. But it was about Jean Harlow and Clark Gable, I think, a terrible disappointment. And so I went back to her, explained (it wasn't easy for me to do) that that wasn't what I had in mind at all, that what I wanted was a book about real stars. She thought this was funny, which embarrassed me further. But anyway, she went and got another book, the right kind of book. I took it and opened it and slowly turned the pages, until I came to the answer.

I thought his little story was brilliant. Think of how discouraging the answers that his friends and other adults gave him. Her mother did a fantastic thing. She didn't know the answer, but she encouraged him to look for it on his own and provided him with the means for it. In my opinion, that's the way to raise a kid as a free thinker and open minded person.
It's simple, answers that explain it all ("The stars were made by god, kid. They were always there and they'll always stay there.") explain nothing. [C.H.]. And not only that, it discourages people to be curious about their world.
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11-03-2010, 11:04 AM
 
RE: What's it like to raise/be raised an atheist?
(11-03-2010 09:20 AM)Nahuel Wrote:  I was raised pretty much like ashley. My parents were raised Catholic, I was baptized and all. But I was never taught any religin at home (except perhaps as a kid, as a way to explain complicated things to me. Which I find terribly wrong.) and I was given the chance to choose my way of life.
I think, that when it comes to answering questions we don't know, honesty works better. This brought to my mind a Cosmo's episode when Carl Sagan speaks about his childhood, about his curiosity about stars:

Quote: But there was one aspect of that environment that, for some reason, struck me as different, and that was the stars.

Even with an early bedtime in winter you could see the stars. What were they? They weren't like hedges or even streetlights; they were different. So I asked my friends what they were. They said, "They're lights in the sky, kid." I could tell they were lights in the sky, but that wasn't an explanation. I mean, what were they? Little electric bulbs on long black wires, so you couldn't see what they were held up by? What were they?

Not only could nobody tell me, but nobody even had the sense that it was an interesting question. They looked at me funny. I asked my parents; I asked my parents' friends; I asked other adults. None of them knew.

My mother said to me, "Look, we've just got you a library card. Take it, get on the streetcar, go to the New Utrecht branch of the New York Public Library, get out a book and find the answer."

That seemed to me a fantastically clever idea. I made the journey. I asked the librarian for a book on stars. (I was very small; I can still remember looking up at her, and she was sitting down.) She was gone a few minutes, brought one back, and gave it to me. Eagerly I sat down and opened the pages. But it was about Jean Harlow and Clark Gable, I think, a terrible disappointment. And so I went back to her, explained (it wasn't easy for me to do) that that wasn't what I had in mind at all, that what I wanted was a book about real stars. She thought this was funny, which embarrassed me further. But anyway, she went and got another book, the right kind of book. I took it and opened it and slowly turned the pages, until I came to the answer.

I thought his little story was brilliant. Think of how discouraging the answers that his friends and other adults gave him. Her mother did a fantastic thing. She didn't know the answer, but she encouraged him to look for it on his own and provided him with the means for it. In my opinion, that's the way to raise a kid as a free thinker and open minded person.
It's simple, answers that explain it all ("The stars were made by god, kid. They were always there and they'll always stay there.") explain nothing. [C.H.]. And not only that, it discourages people to be curious about their world.

That is such a beautiful story you provided, Nahuel. I, myself, am not satisfied with a 'it just is...god did it' explanation for the world around us. Nor will I be truly satisfied with giving that as an answer to my kids.

Thank you for sharing it! Smile
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12-03-2010, 03:03 PM
 
RE: What's it like to raise/be raised an atheist?
Thank you all for sharing; I had just been thinking about how I would teach children of my own one day, since it seems so difficult to not provide them with what I think the answers are (or might be).

I also agree that it's true actually teaching lack of religion would be just as bad as teaching a religion. In the past, I have been confronted by my aunt, and (separately) by my mother. The reason? My youngest brother and my cousin have both started showing doubt in the Christian faith they were brought up in. They assumed since I was the oldest, and an atheist, that I had been persuading them towards my way of thinking.

In reality, my cousin, who is 2 years younger than I am, actually started doubting and became an atheist even before I was. We had never really discussed it before, but it came up once in conversation a few years ago, and I was surprised to discover that about him. I do enjoy smiling and winking at him during family prayers at Thanksgiving and Christmas, though Smile!

My youngest brother has not yet said he's not a Christian, and he hasn't stopped going to church or anything like that. And I have never told him to or tried to convince him of that. The only conversation I can think of having with him that may have influenced him some is that he once asked me why I didn't go to church anymore, and why I "hated God." So I felt the need to explain both why I had come to doubt, and why an atheist cannot be said to "hate God."

He actually took it very well, and while we didn't have any further conversations about it, and haven't to this date, I (and my parents, as evidenced by the fact that they accused me of "turning" him) have noticed that he is becoming a doubter. I don't have any intention of trying to push him down that path; he can come to it on his own or not.

Anyways, thank you all, and keep on sharing if anyone else comes to this thread; I'd be interested in hearing your stories Smile.
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