How Do Atheists Raise Their Kids in a Theistic World?

This is meant to be both my research and a place of comparison for Atheists and Theists.

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Some silly Creationists find it a point of argument to say Atheists “indoctrinate” their kids too.  This, on its face is very silly as there is no doctrine to impose on children.  However I realize I very much want to tell my 4 year old son that these people in churches are gullible, stupid and crazy… but i don’t.  I want to shield him from the entire idea of religion as long as i can, but I introduce it slowly… in simple ideas.  I want to disallow him from ever believing in a God… its crossed my mind.  I could think of scary atheist stories, like some brutish Nonbeliever grabbing children who are believing in Gods. HAHAHA.

So what HAVE I done?  I have thus far taught him to be a skeptic.  I teach him to question things that don’t make sense and ask people to ‘prove it’. Related to that he is aware of plenty of podcast and videos which i play on the God and Atheist topic.  He hears the words and arguments, but doesnt understand the context… I think.

Tonight I find myself De-conditioning his “Oh My God” phrase which he gets from TV shows.  Respectfully I don’t say God is a stupid word, but I do say “when people say THAT, they are talking to magic people” … ” are you talking to magic people?”. Ultimately my explanation is true… OH MY GOD is an exclamation to your Deity.  YES yes its also a common phrase that everyone uses.  Well I hear it and it made it into my house! GRRR!  I obviously have given him a number of alternatives, which I will use around him.

My greatest tool to NOT Indoctrinate is to BE a loving father and husband and earn respect rather than tell him its owed to me.  I also am proudly explaining diversity and equality to him in the sense that it is the only right way, being sure to question anyone who says we are wrong about it.  He has such a diverse range of skin colors, cultures and languages around him now in Pre-K, that he will surely have any and all for friends. As examples, we will treat his friends and their parents with respect as we would expect of him.

My Grandfather was a racist and my mother broke free of it, along with her faith.  My own best friend growing up was a dark skinned Brazilian boy and I didn’t think a damn thing about it until some teacher baselessly pointed out the difference one day.  As far as my son goes, his daycare/teachers are mostly bilingual and Non-white (we are fare skinned) but we  treat them with great respect as deserved.  He wont know what racism is other than silly people saying silly, hurtful stuff, which is just wrong.

Explaining Gay and Lesbian will be so easy, because we have gay friends.  That will be one of my secret weapons of non Indoctrination, explaining how religious people are told to treat gays as non-equals and as bad people… because invisible magic men left notes for us to do that.  It makes me mad because its wrong… he will be mad too because he is being taught to love everyone.  He will be my little equal rights warrior one day.

Something I DO NOT feel obligated to do is line up all the popular religions and for some warped Theistic reason  tell him its ok to pick one… just “to be fair” to indoctrinators everywhere who think we are indoctrinating by NOT giving kids religion, as an equal choice to atheism! Its both as funny as it is sickening.  Its so stupid it MAKES MY SKIN CRAWL!  In fact I will teach my son that even if some prick comes to earth one day, saying he’s god… we CAN and SHOULD doubt that it is true until it is clearly proven to be true.  He won’t have to worry about it though.

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>>> So please respond to my ongoing techniques and thinking and/or please explain your own.  I would love to hear some honest atheists admitting they shape their kids to be more anti-theist or open to religion… all points are valid and of interest.   Theists are welcome to weigh in, as I would be curious to hear how they raised their kids to be freethinkers, explaining God might just be feelings and not real at all. HAHAHA  Or perhaps some theists might want to argue to change our minds…  Both sides are welcome so have at it.

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11 comments on “How Do Atheists Raise Their Kids in a Theistic World?

  1. It seems to me that you are raising your son to be a free-thinking and respectful individual. I have no children myself, but I have often wondered how I would deal with this situation. I was raised in a quietly atheistic household (in that religion wasn’t really discussed – not through any ideological reasons: it simply wasn’t important) and I was always encouraged to ask questions about the way the world worked. I would hope I could pass this enthusiasm and questioning nature on to any children I may have.

    I would, however, encourage a child of mine to Study and explore as many systems of belief as possible, purely because I found this an excellent way to develop my own atheistic personality.

    • Its a fine point to study the different perspectives and different beliefs. I think that will be worth encouraging eventually. I myself did not, as I grew up, as I was always an atheist, but simply did not have the subject put in front of me. I didn’t define myself as an atheist, like i do now. I think there is something to be said for being raised as if it were a world not pressured by religion, just being yourself, but knowledge of it is not wrong at all either.

  2. My eldest is about to turn 9 and we have always encouraged her to think for herself and not follow the ‘flock’ and I believe we have succeeded so far. As with you, we have also discussed people’s differences, and how those differences make the world a far more interesting place than if we were all the same. Even if we see a burka (very rare where we live and therefore always a conversation starter!), or anyone else who looks different, we tell her about different cultures and explain that not everyone lives the same way we do.
    I think that she is really starting to understand much better how the world works and is just beginning to be able to think more critically about things without being prompted (i.e me asking her “Do you think that is something that could really be true or do you think that is a fairy story?”) but she still has a way to go.
    Her class have been learning about the difference between fables, myths & legends and although the stories in the Bible haven’t come into it I have been tempted to start a discussion about Noah’s Ark etc.
    The battle here in New Zealand isn’t as tough as in many countries as we are quite secular and it is not difficult to have nothing to do with religion at all – at least where we are it isn’t. At her school, religion isn’t any part of the curriculum and I am sure there would be a huge uproar if teaching Creationism as a fact was mentioned! So we have it easier than many parents. I just have the ultra-Christian in-laws to deal with. They are unaware of our views ( I know, I’m gutless, but we only see them every couple of years) and of how we are quietly bringing their grandchildren up to be Godless Heathens!

    I think that encouraging a child to read and learn about other beliefs is a good idea as long as they are old enough, and have the critical thinking skills that are developed enough, to really think it through. At 9, I don’t think she is there yet.
    I intend to always tell her that religious stories are just myths that some people actually believe, but that those stories are no different from Cinderella, Harry Potter or Spongebob – made up!
    I guess as a parent you just have to trust yourself to give them the skills they need and let them go to it.
    Wow – I wrote way more than I meant to! That happens when you start talking about your kids doesn’t it.

    • Thanks for your input and perspective… i consider such insights as valuable gems of knowledge. I too dont want to rush my sons (4 y/o) involvement in things he doesnt understand, but on the other hand, religion hurts people in many ways. He will need to understand why the world can be so terrible. I will tell him religions involvement can and does make things worse. Religion does not deserve a pass on being at least partly to blame.

      • Oh I agree! I didn’t mean to imply that I wouldn’t be telling her the whole truth about religion – I just want to be careful not to terrify her before she is ready to really understand and rationalise. The truth is gruesome so I am trying to be age appropriate – as you are. Just laying lots of groundwork at the moment and encouraging original thought, creativity and independence.
        Hopefully she will make my job easier with my youngest who is 7 years younger than her and do what Ricky Gervais’s brother did and say “you don’t BELIEVE in God do you?” 🙂

  3. Unfortunately I did not become a full-blown, sure-of-myself atheist until just recently and my daughter is now 28. Furthermore, my wife is still clinging to her Christian upbringing but I must say just barely. My parents were very racist. My thinking at the time of my daughter’s upbringing was that I had many doubts and that it was much easier for those that had “faith.” So we went to non-fundamentalist church about half the Sundays but really didn’t push it in the home. I really don’t know how religious she is now. I am not around her much as she is currently living over a thousand miles away and I think my wife would be appalled if I told my daughter that I am an atheist. My wife is already concerned that I might be going to hell. We live in the heart of the bible belt. Many here in Alabama seem to think that all atheists are really devil influenced and trying steal the souls of their children. At least my daughter is not a racist and is active in anti-racism politics. She has had some gay friends and is supportive of same-sex marriage. I am proud of her for that and all that she has accomplished.

    • You clearly had raised your daughter with a good heart and likely as a freethinker. A FULL equal rights Christian believer is rare as biases are common, but she may be it!

      I considered a future with a Lutherine girl about 15 years ago and she was ok with me as atheist, but kid talk came up. She didnt understand how I would have needed to explain my atheism to the child. Then any relationship we thought we had could not go forward. A.future child did not deserve that. Better to have one way to raise a child. However, the child would have been moral and reasonable… so probably an atheist anyway. Ha.

      Thank you for yor input, i was hoping to get some insight like that!

  4. Nice post. Sounds like you’re thinking hard. I remember when my kids were small they often asked about death & to be honest I was tempted to use a God several times, I didn’t & they didn’t freak! I was pleasantly surprised. It’s tough being an honest parent. Sounds like you know that. Thanks again, enjoyed.

    • Thanks, glad you enjoyed. I agree, teaching kids to be reasoners is also teaching them to deal with tough concepts. They will work though it and ask trusted HUMANS for help… not some ghost in the sky. Thanks for your thoughts!

  5. I have 3 children. 2 from a previous marriage, both are catholic but have renounced their faith. (nothing to do with me). My 8 year old daughter attends a christian faith school. She has her own bible as do my wife and I along with many other books (too many to mention).
    I have gay and straight friends and my daughter is close to them all. Some of the nicest people I know are my jehovahs witness friends.
    I will not stop my daughter believing anything she wants, if she asks my opinion I will always answer with questions to make her think for herself.
    We need to be free. Free to dress as we please and think as our minds take us.
    I have high moral standards which I got from my families love. And I am atheist.

  6. I don’t think that there’s anything wrong with saying “Oh My God”. You don’t have to believe in God to say His name. I often make references to other fictional characters (Holy Guacamole, Batman!) but that doesn’t mean that I am any more inclined to believe there is a billionaire-playboy-philanthropist-caped crusader roaming the streets of my neighborhood at night. I take the Lord’s name in vain on frequent occasion and with great relish but saying His name doesn’t make Him any more or less real. And it certainly doesn’t imply that I believe he exists or make me obligated to pray to Him.

    I think it’s the same way with swearing. You shouldn’t curse. And it’s not because the Bible says you shouldn’t or because it makes God cry. It’s because if every other word out of your mouth is a cuss, it makes you look inarticulate. If you use OMG indiscriminately to the point where it’s hard to communicate, then it’s time to stop.

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