Tag Archives: secular parenting

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.

We Don’t Need “Saving”

This post is in response to an email I received a few weeks ago. I’m changing the name but the email, in its entirety, can be found below my response.

Dear Christian,

It’s been a while since I’ve posted, but I was inspired to write, in large part, because you said in your email, “I feel that your blog runs people in the wrong direction (quickly) whether you know it or not.”

I will talk as openly and as forthright as I can. People who read blogs like this are searching for their “own kind,” for others who question, who have doubts, who think that something just isn’t right with the whole religion thing. This is one of the many places we hang out.

I am not writing to tell you that you are wrong. In the end, you cannot prove your god any more than I can disprove her. However, is God likely? No. Probable? Of course not. Possible? Sure. And so are flying pigs. If God *is* possible, I think it is sheer arrogance to speak on her behalf, seeing that she isn’t present…and hasn’t been for billions of years. I know, I know, you have the “word of god,” which somehow entitles you to be a mouthpiece for this supernatural being who has shown an awful lot of dislike for the creatures she supposedly created. Well, I have an old book, too, and it says nothing about Adam, Eve, and the other fantastical characters in your bible.

Seeing that atheists do not show up in your church and try to talk your congregation *out* of belief, I’m not quite sure why you folks show up where we gather and try to talk us *into* belief, unless, of course, you think there are brownie points to be earned in saving “souls.”

I believe in the concept “live and let live,” so if you want to believe in your fairy tales and superheroes, and you are not hurting anyone, then good for you. Belief is your security blanket, and I will not try to yank it from you. You have books to recommend? That’s so funny. Everyone has books for us to read, and yet, we are probably the most well-read bunch on the planet.

You say that you keep coming back here, that you find these conversations fascinating, even though you’re not comfortable. May I suggest that you’re energized by the intellectual honesty of these discussions? Perhaps, like us, you recognize the fact that god doesn’t make sense but you’re afraid, so you hold tight to an ego that says, “I am human. Special. Chosen. Loved unconditionally by God. Therefore, I will never die.”

The parents and other folks who read here are brave. It’s not easy to face and accept mortality, that there’s no “big plan,” that we live and die here, on this planet. If we’re lucky, we appreciate this fact and enjoy the short time we have. Sure we could sweep reality under the rug and pretend, but are you really living if you have to lie to yourself, if you have to live in fear that this invisible, deaf and mute god might reject you or harm you at any moment (think great floods and fires)? Do you find it rewarding to argue a position that is indefensible? To hold tight to religious dogma that has brought so much trouble throughout the world and throughout history?

You pray for me? Don’t waste your time. It’s silly. You think it’s going to get you into god’s good graces? Can you prove that? Can you show even a tiny sign that your heaven is “out there”? Of course not. Why don’t you do something for your fellow man instead? With that time you’d use for prayer, volunteer. With the money you give to a church, help others. We put our money where our mouth is. You should, too. The meme to the right explains it all: “God is for you,” meaning god is literally a thing for you and for your emotional neediness.

_____________________________________________________

Hi Deborah,

I wanted you to know that your blog is exceptionally hard for me to read.  Personally I feel that your blog runs people in the wrong direction (quickly) whether you know it or not.  Regardless of my discomfort though I keep coming back to it.  I find the “other side” of the Religious (?) discussion fascinating.   I’m not really sure if Religious is the right word to use in this context.  Anyway my real reason for writing is to recommend 2 books for you:
1) Finding Truth: 5 Principles for Unmasking Atheism, Secularism, and Other God Substitutes – By: Nancy Pearcey  (the fact that you’re mentioned in the book makes me believe you probably already own a copy.  It’s the reason I found your blog to begin with )
2) The Great Emergence: How Christianity is Changing, and Why – By: Phyllis Tickle
Finally I wanted you to know that I’m praying for you.  I do believe in a Heaven, and for admittedly selfish reasons I hope to have conversations with you in Eternity.  Which is a really funny concept because eternity encompasses everything (including now).  I hope this isn’t our only correspondence.
Thanks,
Just Another Christian

Things Not to Say to Secular Parents

Oh brother!I found this list I started working on called, “things not to say to secular parents.” So I’m going to discuss a few here in hopes that it might help other parents.

Over the years, I’ve always been a little surprised by the responses from people when I tell them I’m not raising my kids to believe in God. Interestingly, many of the comments and protests from believers are remarkably similar. Yet all of the comments are just as remarkably uninformed.

Here are my responses to some of those questions and comments:

  1. “If something happened to one of your kids, you would want to believe they are in heaven.”

No, actually I would not want to believe this. Let’s say heaven does exist: not only is it dark and cold beyond words, there is absolutely nothing to do. Forever and ever. You exist in an eternity without a physical being, without a mind and you’re sharing the same living space with ex-boyfriends, ex-wives, bosses you didn’t like, and crotchety neighbors. No, I don’t want my children to live on in a perpetual nothingness. I’d want to know that they thrived on this planet, with as much awareness and love as they could stand. I’d want to know that they enjoyed every second of their short visit here. From where I’m standing, heaven is merely ego’s wishful thinking. Heaven is here. Heaven is our awareness that being here is a good thing.

  1. “But you believe in evolution and science. Those are beliefs, too.”

I believe in science, but that is different from saying, “I believe in God.” I believe in science means that I put faith in the people and institutions that are doing the work, that I have confidence in their methods. I could do the math or science myself, if I had the time and the education. But you and I cannot specialize in everything. We cannot do all things. So we must trust that others are doing their jobs, the same jobs that we could do, using the same methods that we were all taught and have agreed are worthy of our trust and confidence. These things are provable and repeatable and verifiable across the scientific community.

“I believe in God,” as many philosophers have noted, is an existential claim that is made when the thing believed is unrealistic, unproven or highly unlikely. There are other such claims: I believe that eating more burgers before conceiving will create a boy baby. I believe that kissing a frog will produce a prince. I believe in the tooth fairy. Vampires. Leprechauns. Water nymphs. God.

  1. “Belief in nothing is still belief in something.”

This is one of those puerile platitudes that just is not true. I don’t believe in unicorns. Do you? No? Is that a belief in something? If so, what?

Many Christian apologists will insist that atheism is a “belief system” or a religion, too. This is simply an attempt to equalize the two, to bring unbelief on the opposite side of the equation from religion, which is a belief system. If, believers postulate, both sides are “beliefs” and if one is free to choose from two separate–but seemingly equal–systems, then it standardizes religion. Religion is now logical like math and science. Science and math now require a leap of faith. Belief and unbelief are simply one of two choices that any reasonable person can make. This is not logical. One person’s belief in God cannot create two religions: theism and atheism.

This concludes my Sunday rant. I should note that, in spite of all the religious silliness I’ve encountered, I adore Pope Francis. He is a great example of a humanist.

Please feel free to add your, “Things not to say to secular parents” below.

Teenagers, Religion and A New Year

Some days, having teenagers makes me miss the terrible twos. On the other hand, there are things that are very endearing about teens. They wake up, metaphorically speaking. They find and define themselves.

With teens, you have to lay the groundwork early. They don’t like preaching on any topic, religious or otherwise. When they get to a certain age, you stop telling them what to think and how to think. Even if you wanted to, you couldn’t. They don’t want to listen, and if they are listening, they’re probably going to take the opposite path you’ve suggested.

Of my two kids, I was concerned the younger one would turn to religion and never have an awakening. He seemed to be more of a follower than a leader, afraid of standing out or being separated from the crowd. I didn’t push. I didn’t criticize him for his curiosity about religion: I knew that pushing him could turn him into a hard-core Christian.

I just hoped that my kid wouldn’t grow up to be one of those types of believers, one of those who credited god for saving him from some sort of terrible accident or for giving him hepatitis to save him from a plane crash. That sort of ridiculous logic is self-serving and irrational. God made you sick so that he can save you. It’s the sort of microscopic thinking that focuses on the self rather than on the self’s place among other, equally important selves. Yes, Virginia, there are other people in the world. Some of those folks are asking why your god betrayed them; why he allowed their spouses, girlfriends, children, parents or siblings to be on a plane that went down.

There are other believers, ones that I know, who don’t think god saves. He is a fair god. A rational god. He is out there, just watching. He does not receive blame; he does not receive credit. That sort of god makes more sense. If, at any point in my kids’ lives they are going to believe, I hope they believe like that.

Many times over the past few years, the younger son has pretended to be a Christian so as not to offend or be different from his friends. Like most teens, fitting in was more important than being true to himself or acknowledging his doubts. I figured it was best to let him decide what to believe or not believe, and what to share with his friends.

Yet I was relieved to hear yesterday that, when confronted with a bit of evangelizing about god’s greatness and how He saved a man from near-death, my kid offered his two cents to the conversation: “Yeah. God is so perfect that he tried to create a world without sin and couldn’t.”

This is a big step for him: he’s looked at the god myth and decided that it doesn’t make sense. Rather than swim in the nonsense of someone else’s beliefs, he vocalized his thoughts.

This is the most we can hope for our kids as they grow and mature: that they don’t simply repeat what we say or what their friends say but that they learn to listen, think and question and come to their own conclusions. Our children’s nonbelief—or belief, if that happens to be the choice they make–will be much more solid if they arrived there on their own two feet.

Another year has passed already. Seems like I was just wishing you a happy 2014. I am glad we all made it full circle to this point again, to another New Year’s Eve. I hope all of you have a healthy and happy 2015, filled with large and small wins on the parenting front.

Hugs and cheers,

Debbie

The Bible Says…Control the People?

From where I’m standing, religion seems to be more about controlling people than helping them. It’s about limiting women’s reproductive choices, prohibiting LGBT citizens from enjoying the same rights as heterosexual Americans and ignoring the needs of the poor.

I recently read article (thanks, LanceT!) that urged Christians to love their neighbors by getting involved in public policy. What does it mean to be involved? According to the author, it means advocating for Biblical “natural marriage;” in other words: one man and one woman.  It also means “reducing abortions.”

But abortion and marriage are private, personal choices for individuals to make; they are not community decisions. What right do I have to tell my friend whom he can love? Love has never been bounded by race, age, religion or gender. What right do I have to knock on my neighbor’s door and ask her if she will terminate or carry her pregnancy to term? I won’t be carrying the fetus or raising the child. And it’s not my place to judge their decisions. I certainly would not want family, friends, neighbors and strangers judging me for who I love or the choices I make.

The Bible, of course, being an ancient book, makes no mention of abortion or LGBT issues, but it does, in several passages, instruct followers to help the poor. Yet this seems to be the most overlooked message: For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.’ Deuteronomy 15:11

I hope that Christians will consider offering help where it is wanted and needed. Leaders like Joel Osteen, could rally his congregation to vote for politicians who will help our citizens—not attempt to oppress and control them.

Indeed, if I saw Christians mobilizing to bring affordable healthcare, for example, to our working poor and to bring choices to women and LGBT, I might even think those folks practice what they preach.

Health Insurance and Religion

This post today is about religion in a different sense. As humans we’re all children of Mother Earth. We only have each other in this vast, quiet universe.

I have healthcare. Many of you do. There are some who read this, though, who do not. It’s not our indigent—no, they are covered by Medicaid. It’s many of the folks who are struggling to make a living but are not offered benefits such as health insurance.

Imagine if you are ill or injured, and you cannot go to your family doctor because a single visit will set you back for months. Imagine if you have children to support. Imagine if you have to go to work, even when you are sick. There are millions of people in this situation, especially in these states.

I wrote this column to bring awareness to the topic. Please consider writing your state leaders and asking them to accept Medicaid expansion for the working Americans who are caught in the doughnut hole.

Whether we identify as a Christian, Muslim, Jew, Hindu or a non-theist, our religion should be compassion.

If you live in Texas, please consider signing this MoveOn.org petition. If you live in another state that has not expanded Medicaid, Google your state’s name and MoveOn.org. There is probably a petition out there.

Religion and Child Abuse

Lisa Morguess sent me this interesting article titled, The Health Effects of Leaving Religion. It’s a good read if you have the time. There was one story of a girl who was raised as an Evangelical in Nebraska. At 9 years of age, she developed anorexia. Why? Because she was so afraid of maturing into a woman and becoming an object of lust, that she starved herself so that she wouldn’t grow breasts.

All Abrahamic religions teach girls—and boys—that their bodies are bad and sinful. Hell, Mary didn’t even copulate with her son’s father because sex was—ewww–dirty. She is “magically” impregnated.

Religions make children feel anxious and ashamed; they fill them with anxiety, guilt, fear and neuroses. Here are other ways that religions encourage emotional and physical child abuse:

  1. The Bible clearly advises parents to spank and beat their kids. Yet if that same parent goes next door to spank his neighbor or his neighbor’s kid, that’s assault. From Proverbs 23: “Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die.” And “Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell.” First, why the hell are we following the advice of a book that is so old and suspect that it uses “thou” and “beatest”? And why would we hit kids with hands, belts or tree limbs? We’re talking about small children who trust and love us, who are too young to defend themselves or understand why we are hitting them. You know how a dog cowers when it’s been hit? That’s our kids. And we teach by example, so what do we teach our kids to do when someone doesn’t listen? Hit them.
  2. The devil, another one of god’s failed creations. (How does a “perfect” creator miss the mark so damn much?) Satan has got to be one of the worst gimmicks of all time. Most religions teach kids that there is a devil waiting for bad girls and boys, as if kids are capable of committing crimes so heinous that they deserve eternity in hell, a continuous, never-ending fire-pit of torture. If you frighten kids early and often, they will grow up believing in Satan, even though they outgrow monsters under the bed and boogeymen in the closet. That’s what emotional abuse and brainwashing does.
  3. Refusing to seek medical care for your child because god will take care of her. It’s hard to believe that, with all the medical advances we have, parents will choose to pray over their sick children instead. But the parents have a sickness, too. They’re infected with the religion meme.
  4. Hindering a child’s understanding of history and science because it conflicts with your book of myths, legends and folktales. It all seems fine until your kid grows up and enters the real world. Trust me. (True story.) When we come across an adult who says, “Humans were designed to run from dinosaurs,” that person loses her credibility. She seems ignorant. Yet can we blame her? She was taught these things, and unfortunately, she’s now teaching her kids the same sh*t.
  5. Praying. Teaching kids that god is in control makes them feel as if the solution will be handled remotely, by someone else (even if that person is an imaginary superhero). It gives away children’s power to find solution for themselves or to seek help, advice or solace from a living person.

These are just a few of the ways religion damages kids. Are there positive aspects to religion? Sure. Traditions. Family time. Social events. A framework for teaching simple morality. But we certainly don’t need religion to have these either, and the negatives far outweigh the positives.

People are free to raise their children as they want, but are they really doing what is best for their kids or what is best for them and/or the business of religion?

GUEST POST: The Openly Secular Movement by Shanan Winters

Today Shanan Winters is sharing her experience on what the Openly Secular movement means to her. Please feel free to join the conversation. What does this movement mean to you? How will it affect your life or your relationships?  Can you even be “open”? Every week I hear from non-theists who are not “out.” Unfortunately, some folks don’t feel they have the choice to be openly secular.

As always, I appreciate the many voices and perspectives. Thank you for guest posting, Shanan!


What the Openly Secular Movement Means to Me

When I was little, we moved to the Key Peninsula outside Gig Harbor, WA. I played a game called “By the Power of Gray Cat” with some other kids in the neighborhood. We loved He-Man and I had a Russian Blue named Gray Cat… we’re so creative. My friends and I would chase the cat through the woods brandishing our stick-swords. We would climb trees, and there was a particularly crumbly stump in my backyard that served as our version of Castle Grayskull. We would stand upon the stump, which was a rather difficult climb, and shout, “By the power of Gray Cat, I have the power!”  And then we’d make the death-defying leap, all four feet, to the ground.

Some of our local religious tribe decided we must be witches (you know, “power”… “cat”… only logical conclusion). My family was relentlessly hounded for weeks by these people, and their kids would jump behind bushes, make hex signs and literally HISS at me when I walked by! They would call us every night during dinner, and just spew bible verse over the phone. They pushed my younger friends around at the bus stop, and made all sorts of derogatory comments. They even suggested to my friend’s little sister, who was five or six at the time, that if the “cat” gives her so much “power”, why doesn’t she prove it by jumping in front of the bus?  Fortunately, she was strong enough of character to tell them to leave her alone. The harassment only stopped when my mother threatened to turn them all into toads. And it didn’t really stop; they just became silent and accusatory in their glances, rather than outwardly aggressive.

I wish I was exaggerating, but I’m not. I fully understand that their behavior is not “All Christians.” Fortunately for us, not all of the kids in the neighborhood were participants in their harassment, thus we did have friends besides each other.  Most of our friends were, in fact, Christian, and some even attended the same church as our harassers. It was a handful of houses… but it was also half of the kids at our bus stop. For me, the Openly Secular movement is incredibly important work. The way I see my children, I have one who is very secular, and another who leans toward belief (not sure in what yet…) Regardless of where they land spiritually, I want them to have every right and opportunity that would be available to anyone who is “conventionally Christian.” The way our political spectrum is shifting, I see this as less and less of a plausible future for them. Hence my thinking that this Openly Secular movement is extremely important. We need to start dispelling fear, and we need to do it now!

My experience with the neighbors of my youth definitely made a bad impression, but it wasn’t life changing. I’ve never been one to accept a Christian belief structure. I’ve tried… I gave it my best shot at one point, just to “fit in” and “keep the peace” with certain people — who are no longer a part of my life. It’s not me, and it never will be. I harbor no resentment toward those who peacefully go about their lives and live by their faith. I just wish the lack of resentment was reciprocal more often than not. I think it goes beyond “judgment” or lack thereof, as well. I’ve known plenty of people who have said, “It’s not my place to judge, and I don’t… but let me tell you all about my life in Christ. Aren’t you interested?” And I’m like… Um… isn’t that being kind of judgmental in itself? At the very least, it’s extremely presumptuous.

The ability to live a life with or without religion should extend to every individual, without fear of harassment, bullying or attempted conversion. We don’t all have to believe the same thing to get along. Learn who a person is rather than what church he attends. Find out a person’s passions rather than judging her based upon her choice in belief, or lack thereof. And for the love of gods (or none), teach your children to be open and inclusive. Maybe we can still turn this ship around.  Maybe if each and every one of us is “Openly Secular,” we will become less of an unknown, and thus less feared.

 

No god/know god. No difference.

I was moved to write this piece for Salon.com because of the recent surveys about attitudes toward nonbelievers. A brief look at the comments makes me realize that some folks can’t see the woods through the trees. They get stuck on one or two lines and run in a different direction. The point of this article was that we still face discrimination and that our kids are also vulnerable. The majority of Americans believe that atheist (or secularist or agnostic, etc) = immoral.

Religion causes people to feel certain. Most believers think that their stance is right, not just for them but for everyone. They use their faith as a club, as a weapon. They believe it makes them better people. Not different. Better.

Look. I get it that some folks are convinced god exists. Good for you. I won’t try to talk you out of it. I don’t want to argue. I just don’t give a damn. Go ahead and believe what you want. But for godssake, please don’t tie me or my kids to the bumper of your belief and drag us along in your religious parades. Leave us alone. Allow us not to believe. Accept us. Don’t try to change us or sell your religion to us. We all don’t have to be on Team God to get along.

I was recently talking with another reader about this. If you think, especially in the south, that people don’t discriminate, you’re wrong. I have friends and acquaintances that, once I was out publicly, put a huge distance between us. No more lunch. No more hanging out. A few unfriended me on social media sites. And that’s fine. If that’s who they are, I don’t want the friendship. There are millions of people in the U.S.

Other people–readers here–have family who have ostracized them. For what? For harming them? For stealing from them? No, for being different.

However I do mind if I—or others like me—face discrimination when we apply for jobs. No, businesses aren’t supposed to discriminate, but they can search the Internet. And I do mind that evangelical politicians infuse their religion into our laws. The Merry Christmas bill? Give me a break. Rick Perry’s anti-abortion bill? Please. Doesn’t his god tell him not to judge? These textbook fights in Texas? It makes us look ignorant. The references to god in the pledge and on our money and in our public buildings–ubiquitous, but not in a super-natural way.

Religion, whether it’s here in the US or in the Middle East, grabs us–all of us–whether we believe or not–and infects us in one way or another.  How can we inoculate ourselves?

 

Morality of Theism vs. Atheism

First. Welcome to an updated version of Kids Without Religion. There are several reasons why I decided to move the blog, but I won’t bore you with that.

I wanted this site to be a place for anyone without god and/or religion, whether they have kids or not. After reading the latest surveys indicating that atheists are still viewed as suspicious, immoral and untrustworthy by the theist public, I figure we need to stick together. Personally, I’m more apprehensive of believers, but I’ll get to that in just a second. As always, please feel free to contact me if you have a question, comment or would like to guest post. If there’s a particular topic you’d like discussed by the community, just let me know. It’s always better to have the ideas of many when trying to find a solution.

One more thing: I’ve added a “Resources” page, which I’ll continue to update. Please let me know if you have any suggestions.

Onto the post for the day…..

Two recent surveys remind us that atheists are still distrusted and disliked.

In this August 2014 study (and this one a couple months earlier), atheists caused more feelings of “moral disgust” among those surveyed than did “Muslims, gay men and people with HIV,” groups that are also perceived to “threaten” values.

Never mind that America supposedly values individualism. When it comes to belief, we’re supposed to be Stepford theists. Skepticism, the very foundation of science, is not valued as an individual trait.

I understand why we’re a threat. The fear is that if non-believers don’t imagine a god is looking over our shoulders, then we won’t be good boys and girls and play by the rules. God is some sort of adhesive holding together the moral framework of society. Where there is a deity, there is no murder, infidelity, dishonesty, rape or thievery. People do the right thing when they think god is looking, right?

Let’s be honest. It’s theists we should be wary of.

What believers fail to see is their morality is not theirs. It’s not. It requires an invisible god to be “complete.”

Believers are a threat to society because their morality is not self-governing, not independent. They need “guidance” and approval from something outside themselves. And if that something, that God, wants them to kill you—or their kids or their mother—then, like Abraham, they’ve got to man-up and do the deed. This might seem like a joke, but if you believe in God, then you have to obey him and his laws, and that even means doing his dirty work.

These sorts of studies about attitudes towards atheists are always disappointing. They also make me wonder if people like us who don’t believe will be more reluctant to “come out.” I’m certainly concerned about our kids. Will society consider our children untrustworthy or some sort of threat?

This is the reason I wait a little while before telling people that I don’t worship their god. It’s easy to make judgments about people you don’t know, but a helluva a lot harder to make assumptions about the people you do know, especially when they’ve been helpful or kind or they “act just like Christians.”

So how do we overcome these misperceptions? How do we help an uniformed, fearful public understand that people, regardless of what they believe or don’t believe, are capable of doing bad and good and all things in-between? How do we make them understand that we are not a threat to “their morals”?