Category Archives: parenting

I’m Still Here

Hello friends. I hope this post travels through the Internet roadways and finds you and your family well.

You probably thought that I abandoned this cause. I did not. Since I’ve spent the last couple of years working as a product manager in software development, I’ve had no desire to log onto yet another computer and maintain this site in the little free time I 10678664_827311250652384_2305627489279619291_nhave. My apologies. However, I still read this blog’s email and am available any time. Two parents have sent me questions this month, and I know there are still some folks who struggle with raising their kids without religion and god. So please feel free to email me at kidswithoutreligion@gmail.com for specific questions. If you’d like to make a post about your experiences raising kids as atheists, let me know that, too. (No advertisers please; this is an informational, support blog.)

If anything good has come out of the Trump presidency, it is that being an atheist is not shocking any longer – really, nothing is. I know, I know. Trump is a terrible embarrassment, but that’s just a symptom of America’s illness. Maybe –just maybe– these extreme political times will create some tolerance for candidates who have faith in humanity, not god.

If you are still struggling with religious issues in your family, community, or school, please write any time. I’m still here.

For Families in Hiding

science picSometimes, atheists email me from parts of the world where apostasy is a serious crime. It’s hard to imagine how frightening it must be to live in a society where, if you don’t believe in god or religion, you or your family could be put to death. When I hear these stories, it makes me realize how lucky so many of us are to live in countries where we can choose to believe or not believe. While things are not perfect, our battles are small in comparison.

This short post is for those families who must hide. I, as I’m sure many do, admire your bravery. You are not alone. There are many parents like you, both near you and far away.

So you ask: How can you raise your child or children as logical, free thinkers without bringing harm to them?
Be sure to read to them – a lot – about all sorts of topics, from all different points of view. Include them in discussions about politics, history, about how things work. Teach them about types of logical fallacies.  Teach them how to question  in their reasoning. Teach them to play chess. Teach them your morality. They will follow your example. They will learn what is important from you and what is not. Stay the course. You’re doing the right thing, the best thing for your children.
Friends and readers — if you have ideas for parents who are raising their kids to be humanists in countries where they could be put to death, please share your suggestions. We’re all in this together, no matter where we live.

How to Help Kids Navigate Religion

One of the hardest things I struggled with was, “Do I tell my kids what I really think about religion or do I let them discover how illogical it is for themselves?”

I went back and forth on this because I thought, well, if I tell my kids that I don’t believe and point out the inconsistencies in religion, then they’ll never have a chance to believe. It’s like never giving them a chance to believe in Santa. Once you understand that religion doesn’t make sense, you’ll always understand this. I know, I know. There are folks who say, “But I *used* to be an atheist. And to those folks, I say, I *used* to believe in Santa.  After decades of understanding how the whole Santa thing works, you just cannot go back unless 1) you never stopped believing in Santa, or 2) you’re lying to yourself about what Santa and the Christmas machine really are.

So what *do* you tell your kids about religion? After a short time, I came to understand that I need to tell them, “This is what other people believe. I do not believe this because it doesn’t make sense.” I’d tell them why and ask them, “Does this make sense to you?” I’d use as examples Bible stories or other outrageous claims, such as “God saved me from getting on the plane that crashed.” Really, I’d say to my kids? Why was that person so deserving, and why didn’t God save the innocent children? Prove me wrong, I’d tell them. Help me understand something I do not understand, that doesn’t make sense.

Sometimes they’d try. Oftentimes they said, there was not a way.

On the other hand, you’re left explaining why smart people do believe. And this is something that I’ve also struggled with because even I can’t figure it out. I’ve told my children that people are afraid of many things, but especially of the unknown. They are afraid of dying and of not knowing what will happen to themselves or a loved one. They love the lives they have — and their families. This is all very understandable, and we should have compassion for people, but it doesn’t make them right. It only makes them human. Remember the comfort you got from your security blanket or your stuffed animal when you were little? Well, some adults need external “things” to comfort them when they’re scared. It makes them feel good to hold onto something, but you know that something—the stuffed animal, for example—can’t save you. Well, in the same sense, believing in God feels good and safe. But God—who has no corporeal existence and is just a wish or belief–doesn’t save you.

Now I know that this doesn’t leave much room for kids to develop religious beliefs on their own, but if you think about all the times you’d have to withhold information, tell your kids “I don’t know,” or outright lie about the existence of God, you’ll see that there’s a lot of deception that goes on in “allowing” kids to choose to believe.

Will I be disappointed if my kids one day choose to follow a religion? Of course not. I just won’t be disappointed with myself for encouraging them to follow some mythical rabbit down a hole.

This is what has worked for my family. If you can offer feedback on what to tell kids, please share your experiences.

 

The True Mystery of Easter

If your kids have ever asked, “What is Easter?” you’ve probably struggled—like me—with how to tactfully explain this odd holiday. To nonbelievers, it’s a day of renewal and rebirth. Maybe you indulge in chocolate bunnies or color eggs. But to many—too many people–it’s a crazy tale unlike any other. God sends his son to pay for the sins of his prototype humans, Adam and Eve. Because Eve(l) was such a naughty girl, lured by a talking snake to violate God’s rules, all of mankind was sentenced to the death penalty. Not exactly a fair God. But, wait, in the ultimate sacrifice, God sent his own son (read: we’re not his children, no matter what the song says) to suffer, die, and rise from the dead so that we may….suffer, die, and rise from the dead, too? Not sure how Jesus was *literally* supposed to save mankind, but the story claims Jesus died so we can live.

Easter makes no sense.

It’s a constant battle of logic between believers and nonbelievers. In an op-ed today in the NY Times today, the author, William Irwin, writes: “It is impossible to be certain about God.”

This is a conversation atheists often have with believers: We cannot claim with certainty that God does not exist. And it’s true. We cannot answer definitively any of the big, important questions such as what was here before the big bang, what drives the force of evolution, and what exists in the rest of the universe. Yet atheists can claim with near-certainty that God does not exist. The story of the big guy in the sky, listening to our prayers, tinkering with our world (or not), is just as possible as dragons, leprechauns, and monkeys flying out of ….. our bottoms.

So, what is Easter? Around the third century, a group of old men determined it would be the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox. It was the perfect day for planting the food ancient societies needed to sustain them.

Thankfully, we are far removed from those laborious days of growing crops for our families, but why so many of us still believe in crazy myths is truly a mystery.

Freethinking vs. Religious Parents: Same or Different?

eyes are uselessHello again. It’s me, Debbie. I sure miss our conversations. Hope everyone is doing well and enjoying the summer.

I wanted to write about a comment I received recently. Here’s an excerpt:

“Free thinking” parents make me laugh. You want the exact same thing that religious parents want. You want your kids to grow up believing the same things that you do, the same things that you taught them.

– Beep

The person who wrote this clearly has some misconceptions about raising kids as freethinkers. We do not want the “exact same thing that religious parents want.” I’m sure Beep is not the only person who thinks this way, so I’m going to write a little about what freethinking parents actually want for their kids and how they approach parenting.

First, if you’re so inclined, a little Wiki primer for you.

If you don’t have time to read through Wiki, I’ll tell you the short version. We don’t tell our kids what to think.

Exceptions: Don’t swallow poison. Don’t look at the sun. Treat others as you want to be treated.

Save for the dangerous absolutes and the Golden Rule, we (freethinking moms and dads) try to approach parenting like the dialogue that follows. I’ll use a question my kid once asked me as an illustration. This is similar to what many parents are asked by their children:

Child says: “Mom (or Dad). Do you think there’s a heaven?”

Free-Thinking Parent Says: “Hmmm. What do you think?” Pause…..”Where would it be?” Pause….”How would you get there?” Discussion…. “What part of you would go?” Long pause. Big questions. Thinking…. “What would you do forever and ever?” A little theoretical pondering…. “Does the idea make sense from what you know of the world?”

A discussion of the possibilities ensue. The free-thinking parent does not say, “Hell no, James! There is no heaven, and you’re going straight to hell to be punished for believing that!” We, of course, know that coercing or forcing our kids to believe in something that does not make sense will just make them rebel. We let them come to their own conclusions because we want them to grow and exercise their faculties of logic and reason. We give them choice. We empower them.

We understand that a belief is just that. It is accepting an idea as true that has no underpinnings to support it. This is why atheism is not a belief system, but rather a lack of belief in someone else’s unproven thoughts, fears, and ideas. If our children rationally decide to believe in God, then they will have, we hope, their own reasons. And they’ll understand that belief in God is ultimately not based on reason, that there is a leap of faith that leaves logic behind.

On the other hand, as Beep confessed, religious parents want their kids to believe exactly as they do. That means, they want them to believe in the supernatural, in miracles and ghosts and evil spirits. They want them to grow up in fear of God’s authority and the Devil’s power. They want them to choose to do the right thing, to be kind and giving and considerate, under duress. What sort of morality is that?  They want them to believe in things that cannot be seen, cannot be proven, and cannot even be understood.

Religious child: “Mom. Why did God let my friend Johnny die?”

Religious mom: “No one knows but God. It’s not for us to understand.”

That is the difference between freethinking parents and religious parents.

Did I leave something out?

The Best, Coolest Website Ever

I know there are a lot of good people out there, so I wanted to let you know about this website, in case you don’t know already:

www.freerice.com

You get to quiz/ learn about words, science and other info. For each answer you get right, a grain of rice is donated to the UN World Food Program.

Awesome idea–and a great way to teach kids new words and how to help people.

For more info, check this out: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FreeRice.

A Great Book

“The 10 Greatest Gifts I Give My Children,” by Steven Vannoy, is a great book for parents. It’s also a good book, in general, for adults because of quotes like this:

Children will only escalate their behavoir when we force them to deny who they really are or what they are really feeling.

I think that applies to adults, too! I wish I’d remembered this quote earlier in the week when we had that big discussion about “spoiled brats!”