Raising children as an atheist

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atheister's picture
Raising children as an atheist

I was so happy to hear of this Texas mom and her blog - so I have posted it here for everyone to read.

CNN PRODUCER NOTE TXBlue08, a mother of two teenagers in Texas, blogs about raising her children without religion.

She said she shared this essay on CNN iReport because 'I just felt there is not a voice out there for women/moms like me. I think people misunderstand or are fearful of people who don’t believe in God.' When my son was around 3 years old, he used to ask me a lot of questions about heaven. Where is it? How do people walk without a body? How will I find you? You know the questions that kids ask. For over a year, I lied to him and made up stories that I didn’t believe about heaven. Like most parents, I love my child so much that I didn’t want him to be scared. I wanted him to feel safe and loved and full of hope. But the trade-off was that I would have to make stuff up, and I would have to brainwash him into believing stories that didn’t make sense, stories that I didn’t believe either. One day he would know this, and he would not trust my judgment. He would know that I built an elaborate tale—not unlike the one we tell children about Santa—to explain the inconsistent and illogical legend of God. And so I thought it was only right to be honest with my children. I am a non-believer, and for years I’ve been on the fringe in my community.

As a blogger, though, I’ve found that there are many other parents out there like me. We are creating the next generation of kids, and there is a wave of young agnostics, atheists, free thinkers and humanists rising up through the ranks who will, hopefully, lower our nation’s religious fever. Here are a few of the reasons why I am raising my children without God. God is a bad parent and role model. If God is our father, then he is not a good parent. Good parents don’t allow their children to inflict harm on others. Good people don’t stand by and watch horrible acts committed against innocent men, women and children. They don’t condone violence and abuse. “He has given us free will,” you say? Our children have free will, but we still step in and guide them. God is not logical. How many times have you heard, “Why did God allow this to happen?” And this: “It’s not for us to understand.” Translate: We don’t understand, so we will not think about it or deal with the issue. Take for example the senseless tragedy in Newtown. Rather than address the problem of guns in America, we defer responsibility to God. He had a reason. He wanted more angels. Only he knows why. We write poems saying that we told God to leave our schools. Now he’s making us pay the price. If there is a good, all-knowing, all-powerful God who loves his children, does it make sense that he would allow murders, child abuse, wars, brutal beatings, torture and millions of heinous acts to be committed throughout the history of mankind? Doesn’t this go against everything Christ taught us in the New Testament?

The question we should be asking is this: “Why did we allow this to happen?” How can we fix this? No imaginary person is going to give us the answers or tell us why. Only we have the ability to be logical and to problem solve, and we should not abdicate these responsibilities to “God” just because a topic is tough or uncomfortable to address. God is not fair. If God is fair, then why does he answer the silly prayers of some while allowing other, serious requests, to go unanswered? I have known people who pray that they can find money to buy new furniture. (Answered.) I have known people who pray to God to help them win a soccer match. (Answered.) Why are the prayers of parents with dying children not answered? If God is fair, then why are some babies born with heart defects, autism, missing limbs or conjoined to another baby?

Clearly, all men are not created equally. Why is a good man beaten senseless on the street while an evil man finds great wealth taking advantage of others? This is not fair. A game maker who allows luck to rule mankind’s existence has not created a fair game. God does not protect the innocent. He does not keep our children safe. As a society, we stand up and speak for those who cannot. We protect our little ones as much as possible. When a child is kidnapped, we work together to find the child. We do not tolerate abuse and neglect. Why can’t God, with all his powers of omnipotence, protect the innocent? God is not present. He is not here. Telling our children to love a person they cannot see, smell, touch or hear does not make sense. It means that we teach children to love an image, an image that lives only in their imaginations. What we teach them, in effect, is to love an idea that we have created, one that is based in our fears and our hopes.

God Does Not Teach Children to Be Good

A child should make moral choices for the right reasons. Telling him that he must behave because God is watching means that his morality will be externally focused rather than internally structured. It’s like telling a child to behave or Santa won’t bring presents. When we take God out of the picture, we place responsibility of doing the right thing onto the shoulders of our children. No, they won’t go to heaven or rule their own planets when they die, but they can sleep better at night. They will make their family proud. They will feel better about who they are. They will be decent people.

God Teaches Narcissism

“God has a plan for you.” Telling kids there is a big guy in the sky who has a special path for them makes children narcissistic; it makes them think the world is at their disposal and that, no matter what happens, it doesn’t really matter because God is in control. That gives kids a sense of false security and creates selfishness. “No matter what I do, God loves me and forgives me. He knows my purpose. I am special.” The irony is that, while we tell this story to our kids, other children are abused and murdered, starved and neglected. All part of God’s plan, right? When we raise kids without God, we tell them the truth—we are no more special than the next creature. We are just a very, very small part of a big, big machine–whether that machine is nature or society–the influence we have is minuscule. The realization of our insignificance gives us a true sense of humbleness. I understand why people need God. I understand why people need heaven. It is terrifying to think that we are all alone in this universe, that one day we—along with the children we love so much—will cease to exist.

The idea of God and an afterlife gives many of us structure, community and hope. I do not want religion to go away. I only want religion to be kept at home or in church where it belongs. It’s a personal effect, like a toothbrush or a pair of shoes. It’s not something to be used or worn by strangers. I want my children to be free not to believe and to know that our schools and our government will make decisions based on what is logical, just and fair—not on what they believe an imaginary God wants.

Read the report here http://ireport.cnn.com/docs/DOC-910282

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Trevor's picture
I feel like raising a kid an

I feel like raising a kid an atheist is just as bad as raising them in any kind of religious belief. In my case i will teach my kids to do their own research, and read about all religions. When they are still too young, i will tell them what i believe is right, and make sure they understand that their pushmient for doing bad things will be their unhappiness and not some sort of divine punishment from the sky.

Then when they old enough i will start to give them as many book to read as possible. From the christian bible, to the satanist bible, to Buddhism. I just want to allow them to decide for themselves without fear of their desicion.

fallout13's picture
Trevor while i agree with you

Trevor while i agree with you that both sides can be very nasty and bitter thats were our simularitys end. I dont belive we should let our children to have the oppertunity to get invovled in churchs like the Cathoilc or the baptist. I went to a baptist school for 4 years and honestly say that those were probaly the most trying 4 years of my life. They tried to make you join there church and pay dues to the school it was like a cult. While i know that all christan school institutions are not like this i belive you raise them to be athiest from a young age and dont allow the coruption of the church sink in because gods not going to get you anywere your the only one that can get yourself some were.

Trevor's picture
I agree with you fallout. I

I agree with you fallout. I actually meant letting them read about all religions without covering up the bad aspects of them. But by no means would i ever allow my children to be forced into believing anything in their schools. If i cant find a school that deals with religion as something to debate, not to follow, then i will have to search further for such educational system.

gladoscc's picture
Atheism is different from

Atheism is different from other religions through. Atheism is the lack of belief in a god, and that is a lot less harmful than indoctrinating someone into a religion.

Trevor's picture
Anything that people have to

Anything that people have to force as a belief is not good. I think children shoould be raised to question things by logic. And never even forced not to believe in god if they chose to. It's all about giving the choice. The worst part about human nature is that we try to impose things on everyone and everything. There needs to be balance and right to choose your own path, as long as you dont hurt anyone in the process.

Rob's picture
I think the main thing to

I think the main thing to remember is that people should be allowed to do anything and believe in anything they want as long as they are productive and dont ruin other peoples lives. The best example would be if someone was into drugs and wasted their lofe using them. This person could say "im not hurting anyone with this, just myself". But this is the kind of selfish behaviour that cant be allowed. Because a person like this is hurting the ones they love. There will be someone who will lose sleep, feel depressed and stressed because a person they care for is destroying their life with drugs.

There is a line to be drawn. But it should never be about what someone believes in. That should be a free choice always.

FabioG's picture
Conversation with my 14 year

Conversation with my 14 year old.

“Dad, you made me go to Sunday school and all that, but I just don’t believe. Can I be atheist?” Son, me too. Understand one fundamental thing, that religion is a way to control people. Thousand years ago, mankind needed a way to be controlled. Some people really had the need for it, religion is not necessary for everyone but for some being without it and its fears would remain Neanderthals.

“Dad, it just pisses me off; people saying Jesus this, God that is like they are talking out of their ass” And they are son. For many, God is the answer for what is not explained, for millennia it was the way to respond when a son will ask his dad, “were does the rain comes from?, what is fire?”

Questions that now you know the real answer. The more you study the more you understand thing, the less you will see the word God as part of the explanation. Jesus,… for me is different, he is good example to follow. He is more like a leader or a conductor in how to behave in life. And yes, you may see me pray when you get sick or you are out on you bicycle…It help my main. I grow up believing. Son, it was necessary to be become civilized and creating religion was a way to get there. I cannot tell you to believe or not to, that comes from you. As you dad I can only ask you one thing. Just, be a good person. We can be atheist and also a good human been and respect those that have their believes.

Zarathustra's picture
I'm not even going to mention

I'm not even going to mention religion to my kids, just as my parents did. I learned science, and when a kid knows science, and he then confronts people who believe in fairies and wizards in the sky, he (at least in my experience) finds it laughable that grown adults follow this idea in the face of reality.

If my kids ask, I'll say 'Well what do you think?' and if they ask if there's a Hell, I'll ask 'Does it make sense?' I want to raise my kids to be Humanist, to follow reason and logic, and I want to teach them a positive morality, teach them to be compassionate, loving, and consider how complex things are, rather than just, as Rob said, making them feel they will face divine retribution.

But equally I feel teaching them to be good so as not to be punished is juvenile, and it's why our world is so s**t - because if people feel they can avoid punishment, they will. My children will learn to have great virtue, not to fear an inconsistent and ideology based system, either secular or religious. And damn this profanity filter is annoying me, is this forum for children or adults? That's a whole other topic though, I apologise, ignore my remarks.

Samson's picture
Since atheism is not a

Since atheism is not a worldview or ideology and as a default position it's not dogmatic - it can never be the same or as bad as religion. You don't tell your children: ''There is no god'' You don't tell them what to think, but How to think.

Critical thinking,scientifically oriented / literate, reason & evidence,method.... I hope in the future religious indoctrination and labeling children will be thing of the past and traumatizing them with Hell will be treated as child abuse.

Children should read few other holly texts in school, beside the scripture introduced by their parents...and when drinking /voting age, they choose what to believe / label themselves.

Trevor's picture
Still, anything that forces

Still, anything that forces any sort of decision upon a child is not the way i would raise my kids. I would strive for them to be good people but never impose any kind of belief on to them. Even if the imposition is not to believe in anything at all.

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