Choices

So much to say. I am very touched by the kindness and respect of almost all of the people who reached out here on this blog. This is our discussion; this is our issue to move forward. It’s obviously the right time. CNN told me that the essay that brought you here had the most page views and the most comments of any iReport. Every one of you has contributed to chipping away at the stigma (an appropriate word) towards non-believers, or even of those who have beliefs outside the mainstream.

I didn’t get a chance to read many of the comments on CNN. There were just too many, and there was a lot of fighting. But I did notice a common theme from the comments I’d read. Believers think that we aren’t giving our kids a choice. That’s just not correct. We can tell our children stories of the Lochness Monster. We can tell them the legends, the unproven stories of a water creature that would be discounted as hearsay in court. We would not be offering a choice; we would be convincing, persuading, or as some would say, brainwashing.

As a parent, we make many decisions for our kids: where they live, what they eat, the schools they attend. It is our choice to decide if we should pass faith onto our children. Faith is unsubstantiated. Faith, as we all know, is not fact. When our children are old enough to process and think through issues on their own, then they can make their own choices.

Before that, our children just need to know that we are honest with them. If we do not believe, why would we push someone else’s belief system onto our kids? That would be dishonest. This is not to say that Christian parents and parents of other faiths are not being honest. They are believers, so that is their reality. We are nonbelievers and this is ours.

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112 responses to “Choices

  1. Keep up the great work !

  2. I brought my children up without religion as was I. It is so “unchristian” to be so hateful towards us because we did not buy into their fantasy. It is constatntly amazing to me how many people really believe.

  3. We, unfortunately, are an extremely intolerant society when it comes to the issue of religion. Unless everyone believes the way “we” do, they’re wrong and “we” need to convince them, or save them.
    I believe you said it very well for the millions of us out there that question religion. It’s a cop out for people to just say “it’s God’s will”, when something unnecessarily tragic happens.
    Keep up the good writing, and remain tolerant of those that would tear you down.

    • @Ohio…Thanks…We are all changing the prevailing attitudes. Hopefully, we will move from an intolerant society to one that embraces all of us. Thanks for writing.

  4. Yes! I have found a place where I feel right. I was a Catholic since Kindergarten and I prayed all the times for 18 years. When i come out of school, I realized that the world is so much different. There is no God who will take care of you when you have problems. There is no God who will give you food and shelter when you need them. I did not say it is bad to be have faith, it is just unrealistic. Having said that, my son is in a Catholic school now and it is because their curriculum is stronger and there is no annual budget fight like the public school. When he grows up, he will have a choice to whatever he believes in. Before that, I don’t want him to be brain washed and think this world is so perfect. That is such a naive thought.

  5. Once again you post a considered and well surmised stand point with which i entirely agree. As a non-theist Brit in the land of Mormons i can entirely sympathise with anyone living amongst the bigotry of dominating religions. Stand proud those of us who walk the path of rational and reasoned thought and let us not respond in kind to those too narrow minded to acknowledge the fallibility of faith.

  6. I really enjoyed your ireport – it is what prompted me to find your blog. I couldn’t agree more that I feel I am actually giving my children MORE choices by not forcing a certain belief onto them. I also would never try to force them into a certain political affiliation. If my children, as adults, choose to follow a certain faith, then I will respect that choice.

  7. Great point in response to believers saying that we aren’t giving our children a choice! I think it is fair to say that Christians do not give their child a choice when it comes to believing in other gods.

  8. I don’t know why believers are so afraid of people who are raised without faith. Personally, I see no reason to fear. I was raised a believer. Many times, I found the religion to be suffocating and controlling. “You’re not allowed to go to the movies, because there are bad spirits there.” Yet, they don’t consider that the same people they attend the movies with are the same people they go shopping with. In my opinion, while I choose to believe, I don’t impose anything on my daughter. When she’s old, I want her to explore things for herself. If she chooses to believe, great. If she chooses not to believe, great. I want the best for my daughter. Regardless of what she chooses for herself, I will always be there for her and love her unconditionally.

    • @dqfan2012 You’re right. Another commenter said something similar. We’re going to love our children regardless of what they believe about God/Gods/heaven/hell.

  9. I know maybe 2 “real” Christians who are textbook Jesus followers and are beyond kind, loving to everyone, real charity work, etc. Unfortunately every other Christian that I know pushed so hard to hate everyone who wasnt exactly them at that exact moment in time and attending their specific church that they ruined the very thing that brought them to Christianity in the first place. Christians killed Christianity. Christians ruined the basic teachings of Jesus. Christians forced their beliefs into our government, our schools, our basic pledge of allegiance, our money, our licences plates, that now so many of us run from. Take religion back into the home and tone down the hate and judgement for others. I am anti religion because religion only spreads hate and that is exactly the opposite of what it is supposed to do… :(

  10. I told my son more than once that God may be a woman. His first reaction was to think I was crazy, no way. I said why not? I hope it made him think. I’d rather he question everything that believe in only one way of things. While he was baptised and had First Communion as a Catholic, due to my husbands born into beliefs, I’d rather my son be more open minded about faith, religions and his beliefs.

  11. I told my son more than once that God may be a woman. His first reaction was to think I was crazy, no way. I said why not? I hope it made him think. I’d rather he question everything that believe in only one way of things. While he was baptised and had First Communion as a Catholic, due to my husbands “born into” beliefs, I’d rather my son be more open minded about faith, religions and his beliefs and question everything. Myself I’m a declared agnostic years ago. But being married to a Catholic (although not practicing except C&E), makes it hard for me to raise my son as I’d really prefer in this regard. I just hope, like my parents did with me, that when he is an adult he can make up his own mind. I’m glad I found this blog.

    • @ Josie I’m sure your son will turn out like you did — able to make up his own mind. I grew up in a similar situation to how your son is growing up. I picked up on the fact that my dad was not a believer…From my mom (a liberal Catholic) I learned that religion had it’s positives and negatives. You don’t even have to tell the kids. They know.

      Thanks for commenting. I’m glad you’re here, too.

  12. I appreciate and honor your courage. Especially in consideration to where you live :)
    Society would be far better off with more people like you.
    Wishing you all the best to you and your family,
    Sincerely

    Charles

  13. I joined based on the CNN article, as it’s so nice to have a place to connect with others who feel as I do. I was going to comment as did Richard Camacho, that it’s absurd for religious parents to argue that we do not give our children a choice. How many religious parents give their children a choice? I grew up in a Christian family, and my mother made very clear to me that there was no other choice. She even made it clear that she would be very upset if I married someone who was not Christian (she was thinking another religion as I’m sure atheism was not even conceivable).

    • @ Karen Yes, you’re right. Usually, religious parents do not give children choice because they’re believers; they have faith. Maybe there is something to this evolutionary-wise…perhaps the human brain is starting to evolve without the “faith gene.” Maybe we’re actually hard-wired this way.

      I’m glad you joined and that you’ve commented. It’s always nice to meet others who share the same world views.

  14. Keep ‘em coming!!! Yet another great post!!! My wife and I are currently raising a beautiful 6 Month year old and I can’t wait until she starts asking these pressing questions about faith and god. She’ll be given the opportunity to research and believe in what she really feels is right in her mind and not force fed any specific religion.

  15. I look at indoctrinating children with religion (only the parents) as a form of child abuse. Thankyou for your courage and incredible articulate writing. You are an inspiration to me and apparently a lot of other people.

    • Thank you, Greg LeMunyan, for the kind words. I don’t see indoctrinating children as child abuse. I don’t think the parents mean harm; they just don’t know any different themselves.

  16. Thank you for your sensitive and sensible approach, I’m one of those who just heard about your blog and it gives me great hope and peace of mind, and delicious delightful clarity.

  17. I agree about the choice issue. I know that if I had been born into a Jewish family, I would have believed as they did (at least until I began to question as I did about Christianity). Likewise I could have just as easily been Muslim, Buddhist, or whatever. What you believe as a young child is no more a choice than the language you speak.

  18. The negativity and blatant judgment expressed by many of these self-described “christians” just goes to show how hypocritical they are in their beliefs — “do as I say, not as I do”.

    I also can’t how anybody could assert that choosing to indoctrinate a child into a belief system their cognitive processes are incapable of grasping is in any way giving them a “choice”. By the time their cognitive processing has developed to the point where they ARE able to understand, they’ll be so brainwashed in their parents’ beliefs that it will be YEARS before they CAN make an “informed choice”.

    Sorry, but if your argument is “giving children the opportunity to choose what belief system to adopt”, the only clear option is DO NOT impose any particular belief system on them at all. Ever. Period.

    It’s quite amusing that in order to defend these silly positions, so-called “believers” will say, “Our kids will ask questions like this, and we need to be ready with answers!” Yeah, and kids will also ask questions about sex, reproduction, reproductive health, and these same people think it’s better to NOT HAVE ANSWERS, and often to JUST LIE.

    I cannot count the number of people I’ve met in my life who say something like, “Well, I was raised Catholic. I really love most of what they teach. I just have a few problems / disagreements with what the Pope says is ‘right’ and ‘the law’, and I finally just decided I couldn’t stay active in the Church and maintain my personal integrity and beliefs”.

    That’s not “giving kids a choice”. It’s forcing them into having to endure years of suffering before they finally decide to err on the side of self-care and self-respect (which the Church also scorns) and end their hypocritical association with the Pontiff. Not much different IMHO than embracing an attitude that homosexuality (or whatever) is “a sin” without having a clue that your kids might be gay (or whatever) and scared to death to deal with it openly.

  19. How do you explain/share pop cultural references to religion?

    I’m sincerely curious. I was raised by an atheist and an agnostic. My first experiences with religion were a bi-product of sleeping over on a Saturday; the experience was negative, because I was looked down on as a non-member. I personally sought out various types of spirituality until I found one that fit for me; my parents had nothing to do with that choice (much to my atheist father’s chagrin).

    I ask because of my early years. My mom never thought to explain things to me that others knew thanks to church. I had to ask why a friend called Christmas Jesus’ birthday, or why a kid at the playground told me to stop digging or I’d end up in Hell (and what, exactly, was “Hell”?). In third grade, I stayed behind when everyone went to recess just to ask my teacher what Schoolhouse Rock was refering to with Noah’s Ark; she seemed genuinely surprised I didn’t know the story, but carefully explained it to me. (I had originally assumed the 2-animals-each thing was for mating purposes only… it made sense!)

    Do you explain religion and the references found in society preemptively, or do you wait for them to be brought up by your child?

    • @larissa lee. My boys are teenagers now, but we have spent a long time talking about religion(s). We all ask questions. I ask them and they ask me.

  20. One of the issues I have encountered with raising my children without religion is the age old issue of Santa Clause, the Easter Bunny and other myths. I grew up believing in Santa Clause, etc and they are very happy memories. Nothing was the same after I found out ‘the truth’.
    So I tell them that Santa is real, but I would never tell them that an Angel is anything but a pretend creature.

    I guess the difference is that they will eventually start to question the possibility of these mythical creatures – things just won’t add up to them being real – and at that time I won’t try to convince them and say, “We can’t understand how Santa gets to all those houses. We just have to believe.” Or “You must believe in Santa or you will be forever tortured.” At that time, I will say, “You are correct. Santa is not real. I hope you will forgive me for the lie, but I thought it was worth the trade offs.”

    I hope that will be enough and I hope it *will* be worth the trade offs.

    • @Kami Thanks for writing. I do understand. I think the answer you have is a good one that kids can relate to. I remember when my son started figuring Santa out, I think he felt I tricked him. But–like you–as soon as he started asking questions, I told him the truth. When he started school, I thought he might tell the other kids, but he understood not to spoil it for others. (Guess that is kind of the stance we take on God, too.)

  21. I agree with you. I have told my children that once they are an adult and have reached a maturity in their emotional abilities, if they feel the spirit of god etc and fee they want to travel that path, then I will support them in their choice. They have been exposed to what religion has to offer and at ages 12 and 14 years of age, right now, they are choosing to live their life by what they feel is right out of their sense of humanity we have taught them….not out of feeling they are ‘supposed to or else’. Thank You again!
    ~ fishes out of water in NC. ;)

  22. Bravo. So well said. A calm, quiet, rational voice is exactly what’s needed. Isn’t it amazing how some believers seem to feel so threatened by your remarks? I can only assume they must be very insecure to react so defensively.

  23. It’s great to see so many people have found your blog. I’m sure it has kept you more busy replying than you ever thought it would. I scan through and read as much as my time allows me, Those that are of faith tend to make the same comments, which is they all seem to think we have never read the bible or had any religious training. I’m sure they don’t even bother to read any of the posts, but are just anxious to get their posts in, in hopes they can save one of us. It’s embedded into their way of thinking and it doesn’t appear they will ever understand that we have made our choice through educating ourselves on both sides of the spectrum. I would have to say the marjoity of those with faith have not done the same. They seem to only know one side, theirs. But they fear questioning. That too has been instilled in them as we well know. Religion stagnates critical thinking as I believe the late Christopher HItchens once said. I myself did not become a full non-believer overnight. It happened over several years, through reading, watching debates, documentaries, etc. I view life far more differently and appreciate my surroundings more intently now to the point I can’t take enough of it in. It’s overwhelming! I believe this is the only life I have been given. I am content with that. And if there is an afterlife, great! I at least spent my time here on earth truly appreciating the simple things in life and raising freethinking children to do the same. They are great kids too, btw!
    I don’t feel compelled to convince the religious or anyone that my way of living is the right way and knock on their doors to persude them or enter their blogs to comment. Why do they feel they have the right to impose their beliefs on those of us who are content with our choice?

    • @Mtprairiegirl. Amen! You speak for me, too. I didn’t lose my faith overnight. It was a process, an awakening. Lots of reading and thinking. I suspect those who want to convince us otherwise are trying to secure their place in heaven…

  24. I’ve gotten into a lot debates with other atheists because I tell my kids that there isn’t a God. Many humanists refuse to tell their kids that the chances of Yahweh existing is the same as unicorns.

  25. I really appreciate the clarity and tone that you and many of the contributors have set here. If it were not for a few defining experiences in my adult life; I too would likely share the agnostic view. I would like to weigh in on a couple of recurring topics from several contributors to present another side of the Christian experience – at least mine anyway.

    Firstly, all of us exercise faith of one form or another. The atheist believes that there is no God, the theist believes that there is a God, etc… Science is not much help regarding these and other existential questions. While it is true that theories rooted in sound rational thought can and are developed, at the end, we must choose what to believe. As any parent can attest, we pass on a great deal of our characteristics, likes, dislikes and beliefs to our children – at least as a starting point. As a child and a parent I was and am no different.

    I was raised in a Christian home and became a Christian at a young age. I remember the event vividly and it was my idea, not forced – I was overjoyed. I am also sure that it is true that living in a Christian home; I was heavily influenced by my parents and other people that I respected. It was my reality. When I went away to college, I departed from some of the norms that my parents had set, I asked questions, I searched – for about 10 years. My parents were completely accepting of me through this process and did not once push me regarding my decision. After a lot of careful self-study I decided to return the faith. It is mine now and I, like many here, am completely comfortable with my decision. And so the cycle continues – some of my children believe and some do not. Some are raising their kids with God and some without. I love them all deeply and accept them unconditionally.

    Keep writing. The dialog is important to build understanding. It is through understanding that the stereotypes, caricatures and biases will eventually fall away.

    • @jp It sounds like you gave a lot of thought to your decision. I respect your right to believe…I think what most folks are saying is that they just want religion kept out of politics, public education and the public sphere….

  26. A quote by Gandhi always rings true in my mind:
    “I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”

  27. Thrilled to have found your site after hearing about the “controversial” CNNi report on the radio. I, too, am raising my children to be moral, ethical, compassionate atheists. They are bright kids (both want to be physicists) and can argue anyone under the table over the existence of god. However, I insist they respect others feelings, beliefs and culture despite others not respecting ours. Am looking forward to following your thoughts and insight.

    • @Anonymous…Thanks for taking the time to comment. Wow. The radio? That’s interesting. I hope it fostered a civil discussion! I hear you–I also tell my kids the same as you do. I hope they still remain civil when they are adults. And I hope our country is more accepting of nonbelievers….

  28. You are awesome! So glad to find this:)

  29. First….great quote.

    I was going to write down the conversation I had with my 16 year old tonight at dinner. It was about choices and if we’ve had the discussion of choices with religion, beliefs, morals and values. We have. He’s 16 and I can’t write an awarding winning dialogue from that conversation.

    What I concluded from my conversation and reading these responses.

    Of course we are providing the choices to our children. I haven’t provide one choice to my children, but multiple choices….in my case, worldly choices.

    Great stuff happening here.

  30. Dam, I definitely agree that we need to keep religion out of places where it does not belong. In my view, public imposition of faith does much more harm than good. If a faith has merit it will be attractive for what it is.

  31. mary christensen

    I would like to say that you are so right!. It would be a lie if I just told them their is a god when I am not sure myself. I do believe in energy but that bring us back to what we have proving not just what we been told in fables. I let my kids go to a church group to let them meet other people and when they come home they tell me how unreal it make they feel. They know the story are outrageous and hard to believe.
    Thank YOU Mary Christensen

  32. I’m so glad I found your blog via CNN! My husband and I have raised our 3 children (22, 10 and 9 years old) without religion. We teach our children to be moral, peaceful, compassionate, and honest people. When I was growing up, my parents did not take us to church. My mother was raised Catholic and my father was raised Mormon. My father walked away from the Mormon church as soon as he was old enough to leave home (and the beatings). My mom still considers herself Catholic, even though she hasn’t stepped foot in a church for as long as I can remember. When I was old enough to notice that my friends attended church, I asked if I could attend with them. My parents didn’t mind. I “tried out” every church you can imagine, including Christian, Mormon, Jehovah’s Witness, etc. I grew up in California, so I was surrounded by lots and lots of different religions, not to mention the many different sub categories of certain religions. I was allowed to make up my own mind about all of them and I didn’t agree with any of them. My husband came to the same conclusions in his own way. When our oldest child was young, a classmate of his found out that he didn’t go to church and told him that he was going to go to hell. Our son told the kid that there was no such place and that if being a Christian meant being mean to people, then he would “pass” on the who religion thing. My hubby’s cousin has asked us how we our raising our children without religion and we have to laugh. This is a guy who is very religious and is the rudest, meanest, most hateful person that I have ever met in person. I feel sorry for his children. It’s sad that so many people think that calling themselves religious means that they can do what they want, to whomever they want, and then say ten Hail Mary’s and call it even. That’s just so wrong. Anyway, thanks for putting yourself out there! I’m a follower… of your blog, that is!

    • @Kat Powers…haha. Liked that follower pun! Your story is interesting. You tried so many churches. I would think this puts you in a really good place to discuss all the religions with your kids, just so they know. You might have read on this blog, but both my sons had similar conversations about devil and hell. My younger son was actually scared for a week or so. Thanks for taking the time to comment and share!

  33. As a newer “fan” of this blog, might I suggest subscribing to the Richard Dawkins Facebook page and following him. Great info. Facts snd science make all the difference in the world.
    I always find it amazing to think that if everyone alive today was born 2500 years ago, those who believe would believe in fire gods, water gods, Zeus, Jupiter, etc and there would be absolutely no mention of Jesus, commandments, sin, etc. All due to our time or location of our birth AND what our parents or society instilled in us. Thankfully, our parents relented on Santa Claus when we turned 9 or 10 or so. What if parents would do the same about religion?? Think about it. No more myths, stories or gospel that isn’t looked at upon in any other way than any other ancient book. Fascinating, historical, and interesting, but for that time, not today with our wonderful understanding of the universe AND what we have yet to learn!!

    • @matthew Thanks for the suggestion. I did subscribe to Richard Dawkin’s FB page. Jesus came along at the right time, the right place. Too bad he isn’t getting royalties…There are a lot of people who can’t understand the universe…so maybe they need god.

  34. I couldn’t agree more. After 37 years of life I have finally felt comfortable knowing I’m not the only one who feels this way. Thank you.

  35. I love reading your blog. I live in Texas in the heart of the bible-belt, and it’s hard to be the non-religious person (yes, singular) in the room. It doesn’t help that I’m a widow with 4 kids. Of COURSE I need God in my life, right? Well, I’ve not yet found much use for blind faith and fairy tales – I much prefer common sense, science, doing things because it’s the right thing to do, and of course, personal responsibility. Years ago, I held my babies while watching nieces/nephews’ baptisms, and heard that my babies would go to hell since I’d opted not to have them baptised. I just can’t see myself putting all my faith and trust in a god that would turn away babies because mom & dad didn’t get them sprinkled. I’ve raised my kids without religion, but not against it, though conversations often end up that way. I try to expose them to different cultures (we lived overseas), educate them to varying points of view, and let them make their own decisions. My kids achievements include 2 honors students, 2 varsity athletes, 4 regular volunteers, 3 Eagle Scouts, & 2 full rides to college. (The other 2 are still in high school.) None are drug users, all care greatly for their fellow human beings, and will jump in without being asked to help someone. ALL THAT without religion. Go figure.

    • @Theresa THanks for reaching out and sharing. :) You must have had your hands full raising 4 kids. I’m sorry that you lost your husband. On top of the usual kids stuff, that must have been an awful blow. It sounds like you are raising/have raised well-adjusted, hard-working kids. I love to hear success stories. Clearly, you did not need God.

  36. We should all not forget that whether we like it or not our children, like us, do/did not have a choice when growing up. To say that we give them full freedom of choice is ignoring the reality that they were created by a man and a woman not of their choosing. They are then raised by a man and a woman or sometimes by a different combination due to the individual circumstances. Again, however, what is true is that they do/did not have a choice as to who raises/raised them. That is why it is immensely important to raise children to think with rational independence. We have lost this concept in society.

    Our beliefs are effected by our experiences, our experiences are sometimes in, yet many times out of our control. We do not necessarily have a choice in the experiences that contribute to our belief. The only thing we really have a choice over is the decisions we make based on the experiences we have. It would be well if we taught our kids this reality, because then and only then can they make reasoned decisions.

    • @Joe K Yes, good comment. None of us, nothing can create itself and so we don’t know our purpose, and we cannot control our environment when we are young.

      I agree with your statement, “The only thing we really have a choice over is the decisions we make based on the experiences we have.” I’d also like to add, if we have enough awareness, then we can also make choices over how we perceive our reality.

  37. As a Northern European it is almost painful to watch the debate. In here religious affiliation is very much a personal issue and never – I mean NEVER – does the issue of which church do people attend come up.

    I (we) have been able to raise two kids (17 and 10) to nice and loving young people. That is all I can ask and hope for – when they leave home they may choose whichever way they want but I hope that they carry the unconditional love and ideals of humanism along.

    In the beginning of the CNN discussion I wondered whether the American freedom of religion caters only to being allowed to be any kind of xian. Having read and participated in the “both” iReport discussions I am more convinced than ever. Pious people are apparently butthurt when an uppity heathen has the nerve of claiming that children could turn out OK without “The Good Book”.

    Thank you DAM for initiating this debate and probably making some people´s life easier. It would be nice if more and more people could tell a fellow person that he/she is an unbeliever without having to fear for the response.

    • Hi @saab93f I’m assuming then, that churches there would not push a political agenda. Do churches there have to pay taxes? Perhaps this country is moving that way–where the issue won’t be an issue. People will ask you here where you go to church. I guess you know from reading the comments what people will say (on both sides)…

  38. @dam: In here there is funnily enough a state church (or a national church). That means that people who “belong” to the church pay a tax. We unbelievers do not.

    It is rather funny that in the Nordic countries there is a national church but ultra-low religious activity. It is estimated that while 70-80 percent of the people are members of the church (due to baptism at birth) only 1-3 % attend the services.

    We are a long way from (you might be even further) the time and age where sexuality or religiousity are not issues.

    • @saab93f That is an interesting idea–to have church members pay a tax. Here, we have a few mega churches. They rake in the bucks and do not have to pay taxes. Even the preachers do not have to pay on their share of the pay out. They live extravagant lives. Seems like, if they are using all of these resources that taxpayers fund (infrastructure, airports, schools), that they would feel compelled to contribute.

  39. I was trained as a Pentecostal minister. Today at 66 I realize that the Bible is a collection of tales, plain and simple. Why should we continue to fool ourselves and our children? Guilt causes strange reactions, and maybe even bad ones too. One might as well believe in Casper the friendly ghost!

  40. @dam: It feels kinda right that the members pay for the church to be able operate. The tax is in the region of 1-1,5% of gross income if I remember correct. The church then gets some subsidies from the government so that they take care of burying even the unbelievers of peeps from other faiths.

    The megachurches are a curious phenomena – how can people give money to preachers who then spend it so lavishly to private jets etc. Where is the righteousness in that. I´m not gonna even start on the ethical issues…do as I say not as I do seems to be the moral guide for many of the high-profile preachers :)

  41. I was raised Methodist and my wife was raised Catholic. Both of us went to college together and never believed strongly in the faiths in which we were raised. We started attending services once in a while at the Unitarian-Universalist fellowship in our city and have been attending regularly since we had our kids. It is a not-dogmatic church with Christian roots, but probably 1/2 the congregation is agnostics/atheists. We appreciate the pluralistic religious education our kids are getting and the interesting and thought-provoking services that are held for the adults. Your don’t have to pray and they usually serve strong coffee. You might want to check it out.

    • @Joe V. I checked it out a looooong time ago, before I even had kids. We’ve since had others invite us. I’ve heard good things about the Unitarian church from several people. I’m glad it works for your family–and it may be a good option for others who read here. Thanks for sharing.

  42. I to have raised my kids without god . I’m glad there’s people out there that can see past all the brainwashing . What’s the difference between god and Santa Claus?

  43. Kudos to you for speaking out on this topic. We are also raising our children in a loving, caring, agnostic home. I wholeheartedly agree with your views on freedom from religious prosecution; there really is a stigma associated with being out of the Christian mainstream.

  44. The iReport was a great essay. You are one of my new heros.

  45. Deborah, thank you. Living in the south and being a mom and military spouse, I find I am unable to express my true beliefs (or non-beliefs) because I know the reaction would be harsh. I know one day I will, but for now, I like to live my life without expressing my atheism, while trying to be kind, thoughtful, moral, and supportive of others in the hopes that one day people will realize that (little did they know!) an atheist was among them all that time. The assumption that atheists have no morals is very strong and I congratulate you on coming forward to explain how wrong it is. Hope to join you someday soon!

    • @Michele Thank you. I know how you feel being in the midst of believers. I am still not “out” either. But because I’ve seen that our numbers are far greater than I realized, the next time I get preached to, I’m going to speak up.

  46. turnandwalkaway

    Your presentation was crystal clear. I am proud that another Texan had the gumption to say what you did … and have children to be raised in such a clear-minded environment. Personally, I’ve found the pervasive, oppressive religiosity too great to feel like a worthy element in our society. May you and your children be afforded the highest respect. Thanks again.

  47. Roger Williamson

    Thank you so much for the blog. It is good to know that there are others out there who have seen the light and do not believe in Santa Claus for adults.

  48. Thank you sooo much for being brave and saying what many of us are to fearful to say because of reprisals from family and friends. I agree with everything you have said, it is funny that Christians say they are persecuted but in reality it is the unbelievers who are persecuted by the rabid believers. More of us need to speak up and expose this silly imaginary religion and its horrible teachings. Thanks again!! Best Wishes!

    • @Carson Thanks, Carson. I was shocked to find how many of us felt this way. And, yes, Christianity is mainstream….we’ve been on the fringe.

  49. A much needed discussion.

  50. So glad I found your blog! We are raising our son agnostic. He is only a toddler now, but I plan to be honest about what I believe and why, and about what his grandparents and others believe (they are Catholic). If he is curious, I will take him to church. Beliefs are SO personal – you can’t force yourself to believe in God, and it doesn’t make you a bad person if you don’t. Religion never gave me the comfort it seems to give others, and I feel complete in my life without it – and I believe I am still a good, kind person. I think a child can be raised with good morals with or without religion.

  51. Thank you for having the courage to write this well-written essay, and thank you for standing up to the mindless crowds who want to crush anyone who doesn’t believe exactly what they believe.

  52. Dear Deborah,

    I was raised Catholic and had an epiphany in the 5th grade standing in the schoolyard. In one quick cognition I realized religion was a made-up construct by man for reasons of control and power, and that God did not exist. I walked back into class an atheist, having left for recess, a Catholic.

    However, religion and God are just that. Religion and God. They have no bearing on our existence either before, during or after this life. There is no “afterlife” because there is no true death (or birth in that sense). Life is a continuum which started long before the birth you know, and will exist long after you have no more use for the physical body you currently occupy. All without “heaven”… God, punishment, or religion. Afterlife is as natural as being here now and in fact co-exists with the now that you know. Switching between them is as natural as slipping from the sleep state to the dream state and back to the waking state. Consciousness and awareness do not rely on a physical brain to exist. It’s simply a tool the body uses to link your awareness to the body when you are of a mind to have a physical body, for a time, and for your own reasons. Not because any God granted you life, is judging you, or is waiting for you to die to deliver you to some retirement plan in the sky.

    I am an atheist – meaning I do not believe in theism. Yet I know absolutely life is a continuum and so much bigger than the tiny definitions of life as seen through the eyes of religion, dogma and social conditioning. And not believing in God or religion has no more bearing on what will happen when you ‘die’ than not believing in Superman has bearing on this life now. Life continues in spite of our beliefs, because it Is. Life, is Isn’ness. And cannot be escaped. Not by beliefs, or suicide, or religions that promise life everlasting if you play your cards right. Life everlasting exists no matter what, but not dressed in the dogmatic clothes of religion. Life everlasting is a byproduct of Life itself, by You yourself, and will continue, happily and joyfully, whether you want it to or not, or believe in it or not.

    So I have no desire or need to convince you of anything because you don’t need saving. You are fine as you are. But I only want to point out that it’s time atheists were not so narrowly defined, and God/religion ceased to be associated with the one and only afterlife viewpoint. So thanks for reading this lengthy comment, and enjoy…

    • @Nomen Nescio I’ve heard, talked and read of others with similar perspectives as you. I’d be surprised to hear that other atheists/agnostics don’t embrace your views. I think you fit here. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

  53. Your ireport was very encouraging for my family and I. We’re in our late twenties with two toddlers living in Texas. I know exactly how difficult it is to raise your children without religion. There is such a huge stigma against atheist and agnostics. Every Christian takes it upon themselves to save your children, since you’re such a heathen. Its just as bad as if they thought you were an abusive drug addict. I was raised in the Church of Christ most of my childhood. My entire worth as a human being was gauged on how godly I was. It led me into my teenage years with little self worth and a broken sense of identity. At that time I was made to believe that everything I thought and did(including hair and clothing style choices) would lead me to burn in hell. And it is really psychologically damaging to be racked with guilt over petty normal aspects of living. Once I choose not to believe and shed all those superstitions, I was free. I felt this enormous weight lifted off of my shoulders. I could simply be me without fear of punishment or alienation. Since then I have a fantastic life that I get to share with my husband and children. We focus on altruism, honesty, tolerance and logic. People shouldn’t have to fear damnation to behave correctly. I swore before I had kids that they would never have to go through what I went through.

    Dealing with friends and family, we have explicitly explained that they are not to talk to the children about God or Jesus period. Frankly, they are too young to begin to even understand what religion is. I will not have someone brainwash my kids with their beliefs. Right now Jesus is not any different to my daughter than Mickey Mouse or Santa. Our extended family put up a little fuss, but under threat of no contact they have coincided to leave it alone. If my children want to get into a religion when they are becoming adults I am perfectly fine with that. I won’t stop whatever belief system they choose. I simply want them to be at an age where they fully understand the gravity of religion and take responsibility for their beliefs in its entire capacity.

    Thank you for your thoughts and honesty. Don’t let believers make you question your convictions. To close a quote from John Morley “You have not converted a man because you have silenced him.”

    • @CaseyTheTyrant Great quote. Good for you for the stance you took with friends and family. It can be difficult, especially since many women (me!) are socialized to try to make sure everyone is happy. I think losing your religion is a shedding process, and I see that there is a similar shedding process happening with our society. We’re rebelling and pushing back. More of us are thinking and talking. Perhaps we’re shedding our national religious identity, too. Anyway, I loved reading your story. Thanks for taking the time to reach out.

  54. Funny that the title of this post is “Choices” because that is exactly what I believe I did for my son as I raised him without religion. I was raised Catholic and felt very uncomfortable with many of the teachings over the years. I was not given the choice to not participate throughout my childhood and adolescence. As a parent, I felt it unfair to subject my child to those same ideals and left him to make his own choices when he was old enough to do so. As an adult, he is still does not participate in organized religion, but this is his choice. He is a moral, respectful, and open-minded individual with a clear understanding of right and wrong. Imagine … all that accomplished without the “benefit” of religion.

  55. Your CNN article was particularly good timing for me as my wife is pregnant with our first child. I’ve been thinking a lot about these issues and am very glad to have your blog as a resource. Thank you for your work.

  56. I strongly believe in your choice to raise your children in a lack of faith. I do not agree with it, but that doesn’t make it wrong for your family. Regardless of your choice I think you can agree that teaching what love (a form of faith) is what is truly important. From a devout Catholic who believes in questioning her faith, but still holds on to it.

  57. When I began to deeply question Christianity (and religion as a whole), my Mother (who believe but was not a church-goer or…I guess the word would be “practitioner”) insisted I find “my own truth”. She insisted that I research other religions and find one that suited me. And failing that, then choose not to believe. But she made it very clear that just because I went to a private (catholic) school and was surrounded by people who believed wasn’t a reason for ME to believe. She encouraged me to find a belief system that made sense to me. And, though I am still an atheist, I continue to keep my mind open to cultures that may have beliefs that are more attuned to my personal expectations. I don’t intend to have kids. But if it were to happen, I pledged to myself long ago that just like their sexual orientation and their career paths, and their choice in spouse/partner…I would let THEM decide what their faith/beliefs would be. And wouldn’t DARE push religion on them (whether I have found one by then or not).

    I think the real issue is that so many people have a religion forced on them from birth. They are never given the opportunity to question or decide for themselves. And if they do question anything, they are pressured to “have faith” and believe despite their overwhelming doubt. Why can’t we wait until our children are old enough to learn and choose for themselves? Why is there this NEED among belivers to force their faith on their children and teach them blind faith that becomes so instilled in them, they mistake it for truth instead of belief? I wish more children were encouraged to question, study, and decide for themselves.

    One of the most disturbing things I’ve seen in recent years is a FB post a few months ago. From her hospital room, a new mother posted “baby just born. I can’t wait to see her grow up and live her life for god.” Not even 24 hours old yet and she already had a religion stamped on her. A religion that will be spoon fed to her until she’s too afraid to question it. Another facebook post from another (or possibly the same) mother about another child (around age 5) was laughing because she was trying to explain one of the many biblical stories that don’t make any sense (for the sake of argument, we’ll just say it was about how jesus turned water into wine). So mommy goes on and on about how “it happened like this and we don’t question it because that’s what the bible says happened.” And the kid is going on and on asking questions, trying to get it to make sense (which it, of course, didn’t). The argument was ultimately called to a halt when the child declared “THAT DOESN’T MAKE ANY SENSE! You’re stupid if you believe that!” And the mom thought it was FUNNY because “kids just don’t get it”. Nobody ever stops to think that maybe the logic of a child is truthful in its simplicity.

    To all parents who are raising their kids without god, I applaud you. It is neither an easy task, nor a popular one. But you will be raising children who question the world around them. Children who will see good deeds as a means of helping those who need it; and not a bartering chip to buy their way into heaven. You will be raising children who go out into the world and seek answers; not just something to make them feel better. Most importantly, you will be raising children who will feel respected by you. Respected enough to be ALLOWED to make decisions for themselves. Not pressured to fit in with the rest of the family or society. I applaud each and every one of you. Whether you do this because you think it’s their right to choose what they believe. Or you’re doing this because you don’t believe and refuse to teach them what you consider to be lies, I applaud you. It’s no different than parents who don’t pretend to be Santa or the Tooth Fairy. Some people prefer not to lie to their children. Well done!

    • @Blackness Wirefly. Really interesting comment. Your mom sounds like a great mom. The FB stories were funny-and it’s just like a kid to call an adult out. They are processing the world to make sense. They are using logic that some turned off…thanks for reaching out.

  58. There’s always a hazard that children raised outside faith will later be unable to understand their heritage of Western Civilization. It would be sad if treasures like this and this and this and this were all ciphers to them. Hope you’re allowing for that…

  59. Thanks for taking a “pro-choice” position on parenting. You’re right, it should be your choice, and the people criticizing you are either uninformed about your situation or simply busybodies.

    I was raised atheist and became a Christian at age 20 when I realized that I couldn’t accept on faith everything I had been taught growing up about how stupid Christians are. My parents think I’m an idiot, but now I’m a parent, and I choose to teach my daughter about the God I have come to know.

    It’s no different from the arguments about education choices, with all the busybodies telling parents how all children “must” be educated in a failing public school, or else society will just self-destruct.

  60. Giving your kids a choice! When it comes to so many things, we all assume that—of course—parents will tell their kids what’s what. I don’t give my kid a “choice” to think women are inferior to men, gay people deserve to be miserable, bullying is acceptable, smoking cigarettes is a good habit to take up, and so on. Christian parents tell their kids, “Here’s how the world works,” and so do I. How is this controversial?

  61. Thank you for starting this community. I think there are a lot of us out there who are uncertain who we can tell our true beliefs to. My husband and I both grew up in Evangelical Christian homes. I would never in a million years thought I would never believe it. I never questioned it. But my husband did and about 4 years ago, we stopped going to church and realized our lives weren’t any different really. We now have more free time on Sundays and more money in our pockets. Oh, and a lot less guilt.
    We have 2 small kids now who haven’t been taught about god. But they have 2 grandmother’s who believe it strongly, so we haven’t figured out how that is going to go. Most of our friends are church goers, but fortunately we haven’t had to talk about our deconversion because we avoid the topic.
    I grew up thinking that people that weren’t Christians were bad and couldn’t have or share true love. I’m very glad that my kids won’t have to grow up being as judgmental as I was. We were always taught about our “freedom in christ jesus”, but I feel more free now in the last 4 years then I did in my 30 plus years. I look forward to future articles.

  62. What most people don’t know is that the Middle East’s three monotheistic religions are derived from the writings of Zarathustra and the story of Mithra whose name appears in Vedic texts that are 3,500 years old. Every time you shake hands you do what his followers did in those days. He was born in a cave on Dec. 25, had a circle of 12 friends who represented the signs of the Zodiac, is sometimes shown with a lamb on his shoulders, etc. I recommend these two books which I have read cover to cover 3 times:
    “In Search of Zarathustra” by Paul Kriwaczek and “Spirituality in the Land of the Noble” by Richard C. Foltz. I’ve also read “The God Delusion” by Richard Dawkins twice, the entire Avesta, parts of the Qur’an, parts of “The Other Bible” and started studying biblical archaeology in 1968. I’ve been an ‘atheist’ since I was 12 years old and walking down a dirt road to a General Baptist Church. BTW, you can find baptism in the writings of Zarathustra. His version of creation lasted one year, not the 6 days in the bible. If you believe in heaven or paradise (Old Persian paira daeza) you follow the teaching of Zarathustra. Likewise, believing in resurrection, the coming of a messiah (Saoshyant), in judgment day, in the devil (Old Persian daeva) and in angels you are following his teachings. What is translated as ‘god almighty’ in the King James bible was originally nothing more than ‘god of the mountain’. The Jewish super god YHWH (Yahweh corrupted into Jehovah) was originally just ‘god of thunder’ until the Hebrews (Khapiru or ‘apiru) came into contact with the followers of Zarathustra. “Good thoughts. Good words. Good deeds.” Zarathustra
    If you can do this, you don’t need an organized religion that asks for money every week. Organized religions exist so that one individual, a Caliph, a Dali Lama, a Pope, or a group of individuals, monks, mullahs, preachers, priests and rabbis, can live a live of ease on the labors of their followers.

  63. I found you due to the CNN report like a lot of people and it was so nice to read. I am a new atheist mom to a little girl and we live in the South. I am always asked if I will raise her atheist and my answer is always “no I will raise her to be a free thinker and make the decision for herself when she is older”. I was so thrilled to find your blog and know there are other moms like me out there cause I really think I may be the only one down here :).

  64. Humans have been in existence much longer than religion. During this early existence are when beliefs, values and morals (science and religion, too) were at their infancy. Humans were spread-out through out the world and lived in smaller groups or as individuals. There weren’t even hunting and gathering societies, yet. Just humans getting acquainted with their environment and surroundings. They had to compete in an environment, none of us will ever understand. Yet, it is these early humanoids that got us to where we are today. They started it all.

    If one of these humans saw an animal kill another human for food, then the surviving human learned something and made choices. What are some of these choices: stay away from that animal, make a tool (science) to protect myself and others, if the animal can eat us we can eat the animal, etc.

    When one human ate a poisonous plant and died, the other humans learned and made choices. When a volcano erupted and killed 15 of the 20 humans living at the base of the volcano, again they learned and made choices. When the monsoons came in wiped out the yearly vegetation and people died, same thing.

    In addition, these humans were learning about themselves. They saw other humans living peacefully, yet there were also bad humans. In order for us to have 7 billion plus people in the world, today….they had to start having sex back then. Some of these humans went around raping woman, men, children. They stole from other’s, killed, etc. Again, the humans that didn’t hurt other humans continued to develop their beliefs, values and morals. Maybe we should stop this human from hurting others. So, they developed the initial sense of what could be right from wrong.

    During these encounters beliefs and morals and values were beginning. How can the volcano be explained? How can the rapes and pillaging be explained? What about the seasons? There wasn’t always an explanation yet, these humans through communication developed stories and lore to better understand what they encountered.

    The humans in Asia experienced similar events to those in Africa, and those in the americas or those, say, in Europe. They all were developing beliefs and values but explanations to these experiences differed. Stories were different because their environments were different.

    There wasn’t a God helping them out with answers. These humans had to learn and develop. They created the initial foundation of a belief and value system that transcended over religion and science. As the population grew, humans took that foundation and made it stronger. Some humans realized that there could not be an answer for everything and were able to help other’s by tying beliefs and values to religion (God’s). Other humans, wanted answers and searched and developed through science. Both the science and religion path worked hand in hand. They also grew apart. Science and religion continue to grow today. Science is all around us, still looking for answers and God continues to not provide answers.

  65. @pir faqir….i’m so glad to read your posting. My family is from Iran (though, we are Armenian) and I remember discussing some of this with my grandfather. I briefly studied Zarathustra during my middle eastern studies in college. I have a memorable story of being in Iran in the late 70’s prior to the hostage crisis and it helped me form my respect for those who do believe (in any religion) and those who do not.

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