Sunday, January 4, 2015

Myths About Atheist Parenting: Morality, Ethics, and Santa Claus

atheist parenting myths, secular parenting
Some months ago a friend of mine sent a link to this CNN story to me. The story is about an atheist writer tackling the myths of parenting that so many of us hear from well-meaning (hopefully) friends who can't understand how freeing and healthy it is being a parent without any mythology or religion involved in our thoughts. Honestly, I haven't read the CNN article in toto but I have been giving the issue of myths regarding atheist parents quite a bit of thought. Especially when a friend of mine suggested that I write a piece on the same subject.

SO, here are some of my thoughts on the matter.

And by the way, if religious spokespeople weren't out there 
creating such a din and suggesting their superiority,
I wouldn't feel the urgent and strong need to talk about atheist parenting.
I have absolutely no belief in any supernatural thing, at all
so I am certainly not being defensive, I am explaining my point of view
and offering this option to the many other parents out there
who are seeking and creating a religion-free family and home.

Spoiler Alert:  I think that secular parenting is preferable
 to all other religious-based parenting completely. 

Myth #1:  You are raising your children to be atheists.
Wrong. I am raising my children to be skeptical, logical, clear thinkers, people who are aware of the world around them, scientifically- and culturally-literate, open-minded, questioners, lovers of nature and space, people who demand real life evidence, respectful of choices and lifestyles of others, and people who make decisions based on what makes sense rather than on any literature, person, group, dogma in the world that expects a certain amount of blind faith.

If their conclusions are that all things supernatural are entirely man made, well, that speaks more to the validity of those religions claims than on what my belief system is. Skepticism is not a religion, it is a way of looking at the world. Atheism is not a religion, it is a conclusion.

Also, if my children would like to explore any other belief system out there, I would support it, I have supported it.
Myth #2:  Your children will feel hopeless and depressed about the meaning of life if they don't have a god and a heaven foundation. 
Wrong again. Is it difficult to talk to the kids about deathAbsolutely. That is why I want to be absolutely honest at their level at any given time and that is why I would never want to give them false stories or platitudes in their time of pain. Learning to deal with loss and death is a lifelong lesson for most of us. We, as parents, also struggle with the pain of loss and death and then we share our experiences and struggles with our kids... whether we plan to or not. They see how we approach the loss.

That is why it is essential to be honest about the struggle. Why not experience that grief and loss together, find ways to honor that which we have lost, make it a priority to love those in our lives
now. My opinion is that secular parents will find dealing with these difficult issues much easier without falling back on those wishful fairy tales.

As for an afterlife, have you ever heard a believer trying to make sense of all of the intricacies of a heaven? Who will be there? How do I face them? What about good people who die with sin? What about purgatory or limbo or other places that are not heaven that a soul might visit after death? Are there levels of hell? Why are there ghosts? Is it hot or cold there? Why would a god torture a person? What if a person has more than one spouse in life, what happens in heaven? What about people who never know our religion, what happens to them? Yadda yadda yadda.
It's quite a quagmire of a belief.

I know that many of us were raising with the afterlife stories of the various religions and mythologies of the world. Death and non-existence is a frightening thing to think about. Still, reality and living happily and meaningfully today is far preferable to building one's hopes in a cloud.

As for feeling hopeless, still no. We have found our meaning in the todays, in the nows, in one another, in our connections, in our very lives, in the awe of our earth and our universe. I would never sacrifice all of these things for the frightened hope of an afterlife.

Meaning is a journey, not a destination.

Myth #3:  If something happened to your child you would hope that they would go to heaven.
So Wrong. There is no conception of an afterlife that has ever held an appeal to me, nor is there a fear of losing an afterlife that makes any sense to me. Knowing that we lived our lives lovingly, mindfully, passionately, and fully is the only thing that would make any sense at all if I had to face such a hideous loss. Which I have.
 Myth #4:  You can't raise moral children without God.
This Is Truly Wrong. The idea of right and wrong is not a religious issue. It is a human issue, not a church one. In fact, I have found many examples of hideous morality in the church, in religious writings, and in religious dogma.

If we are looking for guidance, looking to the religious books out there is the last place I would go. They are full of treachery, hate, judgement, self hate, guilt and shame, and very harmful guidelines for behavior. Instead, I would look to the human heart, to nature, to reason, reflection, awareness, and to one's love for the vast spectrum of human existence,choices, and lifestyles. In fact, I don't even use the word
morality, I prefer using the term ethics. Ethics is the study of right and wrong and ethics recognize the beautiful array of the gray area of all issues.

I know that the various religious institutions around the world have convinced many good people to fear lives that don't focus on their religion, their afterlife, their spirits, etc. I have compassion for the wasted pain of this type of fear.

But there is another important piece of this. Religions are very black and white. A thing is either a sin or it is not. Ethics acknowledges and embraces and celebrates all of the beautiful shades of grey that life offers.

Myth #5:  You can't celebrate Christmas.
Wrong. Our family celebrates Christmas and many other holidays claimed by religions around the world. These holidays are public and cultural events. We take them and make them our own.  Just as the religious of the world have done. You are welcome to do this too. Make any day your own.

I think you get the idea. There are many other myths out there. If you want more of my thoughts on ethics or on atheist parenting myths, I have some more ideas and I am very willing to write more, just let me know in the comments!
Being religion-free is incredibly freeing and peaceful.
And the kids Jerry and I are raising are solid proof that.

You may also like these posts:

How to Explain Religion to My Child
Life, the Universe, and Whatnot

How an Atheist Discusses Religion With Their Child
The Kids and Atheism
First-Generation Atheist Parenting

The Secular Parents


  1. Thank you for sharing. I like ethics over morality, I hope you don't mind if I use it with my teens. I've been wanting to get away from a right vs. wrong viewpoint I grew up with but havn't been able figure out how too...I realized after reading your article I practice a set of ethics that are fundmentally part of me, thank you for giving me the courage to share this perspective with my kids.

    1. I'm happy for you; that's a huge step!

  2. "We have found our meaning in the todays, in the nows, in one another, in our connections, in our very lives, in the awe of our earth and our universe. I would never sacrifice all of these things for the frightened hope of an afterlife." - Well said. Would love to hear more.

    1. OMGOODNESS, Mama Hen, I just clicked on your name and read your Blogger profile.
      Please do the same for mine. You will smile as how much in common we are. ;)

      THANK YOU for your comment.

  3. Where is the freaking LOVE button?! Religion has absolutely *nada* to do with being a person who spreads kindness and lives with love in their heart. <3

    1. B, I KNOW you could write something equally as meaningful because you live love more than most people I know...



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