Do you find it difficult being an atheist parent in a nonsecular world?
You know, I really don't. It just IS. It is what I am.
We don't have a cool acronym like WWJD to use to instill fear and loathing in our kids. We don't have Biblical or other religious literature to teach us how to separate and sheep from the goats. Or the pillars of salt or the threat of hell to frighten our kids into good behavior.
Although, I kind of like WWCSD!
|Intelligence, Kindness, Ethics|
- Be honest. Always answer questions with correct answers, without any sort of mythology. I am convinced that parents use the myth stories for two reasons: to give kids HOPE and to make it easier handling the difficult things themselves. Who WANTS to explain the end of life to a child? Who WANTS to explain that Grandpa is gone for good? Well, I do. I want the kids to know that THIS is the life that we have. All good things that want to do, the must do in THIS life. That lesson makes life and time very precious.
- Create customs and rituals in your family that are for celebrating, mourning, being together. Your celebrations can be all about FAMILY and FUN without any of the downer myth stories. I'm sure you already have family traditions that you can build on!
- Read many myth stores, including the Christian myths. These myths are no more believable than any of the other myth stories out there. Explain that these myths were created in order to answer questions that we now understand through a greater understanding of scientific principles. Are we having a drought because someone angered a god? Of course not. The study of weather sciences can explain that. How about where WE come from? Did a god SNAP us into existence? Of course not. Evolution and the Big Bang Theory can explain much of this. The explanation as to why is there SOMETHING instead of NOTHING...I'm not sure there is a scientific explanation for that one! But that's OK. Sometimes "I don't know" is a totally acceptable answer.
- Teach your child to think critically and to ask for PROOF of extraordinary claims. Talk with them daily about how certain groups are always trying to "sell us" their point of view. Watch commercials, then go look at the junk that they represent and seek to sell. Explore how the commercial's job was to make that toy look extremely AWESOME, while the reality of it is that toy is junk. It's a tough lesson, but well worth it! Look for empirical evidence, apply logic and reason, and thinking skeptically. These are the three skills a good atheist parent gives to their children.
- Make sure you do not have hateful, vengeful, or angry outlooks at people and things that don't agree with you. Creating unkind people doesn't help anything! (Yes, I DID just say be nice!)
- Allow your children to explore the religions and to learn about the belief systems of each one that interests them, in fact, encourage it! Nothing creates good strong atheists like reading the Bible. Support them in their search. Each of us needs to search and find our own answers. As long as you have given them that critical foundation of being able to think logically, you can sit back and let them go on their own journey. In fact, if you were to discourage this type of exploration, you would be no better than any other authority that seeks to force it's beliefs on others.
- Sadly, prepare them for people who may say unkind things about atheists. Help them to understand that those people, regardless of how loud or unkind they are, have ALOT to learn about what makes a truly GOOD person. Religious beliefs, in this day and age, are very public. So expect that. Plan for the worst but expect the best.
- And, finally, stress good ethical behavior at all times...talk about being Good for Goodness's sake! Because that is what makes you feel great inside. As my son told me one day, Being a good person is its own reward.
- Now, doesn't all of this make sense? You're probably doing all of this already! If so, guess what, you are parenting as an atheist. As a secular humanist.
You might also enjoy:
Christian Mythology for Kids...and Adults
Ghosts and Bedtime
Kathryn Wants to Know: When Family Doesn't Support Secular Parenting