59 COMMENTS

  1. It depends a lot on where they live. If its a pretty non-religious country then there are no more challenges than those that raising kids bring anyone. If it’s a religious country like parts of the US then I read horror stories frequently on this site. Parties at friends places than turn out to be religious. Kids at school telling your kids they will burn in hell. Parents who want them to be baptised. In this situation you need to do make sure the anti-religious inoculations are up to date because you can’t rely on herd immunity.

    • In reply to #1 by mmurray:

      It depends a lot on where they live. If its a pretty non-religious country then there are no more challenges than those that raising kids bring anyone. If it’s a religious country like parts of the US then I read horror stories frequently on this site. Parties at friends places than turn out to be…

      I fully agree with you when you say it all depends on where they live. Children born and raised in the “bible belt” states with religious parents and grandparents will almost certainly carry on their parent’s and grandparents religious beliefs and pass those beliefs on to their children. In the bible belt states virtually everyone goes to church on Sunday mornings because they feel that is what they are supposed to do. In my 66 year life I have found the more scientifically ignorant people are the more religious they are and that’ll never change because most people find all the sciences are just too hard to understand. It is much easier to simply say “God did it” and leave it at that.

  2. I was perfectly honest with my children and told them their religious friends got brainwashed when they were younger and led to believe the old folk lore and superstition that their parents were led to believe when they were children. I told my children about evolution from the very beginning and subscribed to National Geographic so they could see and read about the fantastic fossils that our scientists have been extracting from the earth. My children are now in their early 40′s and raising their children like I did.

    • In reply to #3 by Toobroketoretire:

      I was perfectly honest with my children and told them their religious friends got brainwashed when they were younger and led to believe the old folk lore and superstition that their parents were led to believe when they were children.

      Interesting use of the phrase “Perfectly Honest”, when all you describe is an opinionated sweeping generalisation. You cannot pretend to know enough about other people’s families to be certain they were brainwashed, or why they believe what they believe.

      Have a good day

      • In reply to #15 by Lonevoice:

        In reply to #3 by Toobroketoretire:

        Interesting use of the phrase “Perfectly Honest”, when all you describe is an opinionated sweeping generalisation. You cannot pretend to know enough about other people’s families to be certain they were brainwashed, or why they believe what they believe.

        I agree completely. It’s ironic that people claim to believe in reason and critical thinking but then turn around and embrace the same kinds of sweeping generalizations and stereotyping that are hallmarks of fundamentalist ideologies.

        • In reply to #17 by Red Dog:

          In reply to #15 by Lonevoice:

          In reply to #3 by Toobroketoretire:

          Interesting use of the phrase “Perfectly Honest”, when all you describe is an opinionated sweeping generalisation. You cannot pretend to know enough about other people’s families to be certain they were brainwashed, or why they beli…

          It appears you got brainwashed too. The present day Hebrew invented ghost god is just one of many ghost gods mankind has invented but this one came with a whole cast of made-up characters like the Virgin Mary and Jesus Christ and so on. Only a total fool could believe the ridiculous stories in Genesis……………………….

  3. Having raised a child in an atheist home in the US, here are some of the challenges we DID face. 1. Dealing with the mandatory Pledge of Allegiance in grade school, which we resolved by replacing “under god” with “under dog” (we LOVE dogs!). 2. Dealing with multiple teachers who took it upon themselves to share their demented religious beliefs in a school setting, which resulted in some rather unpleasant meetings with teachers and principals and one teacher being disciplined. 3. Lots of frustration on my daughter’s part about the lack of reason among her friends raised in religious households, but honestly, this resulted in countless awesome conversations that really strengthened our relationship. 4. Having to explain to childcare providers and friends that we do not share their weird beliefs, which resulted in me losing a few of them. The upsides? Too many to mention, including that she is a strong, intelligent advocate for reason with a pronounced interest in science, that all those school conflicts actually helped raise awareness, and that she did not waste a moment of her childhood in church, of course! And you know what? Now that she is 18, nearly all of her friends are atheist (and read the God Delusion – ha!) and that gives me some serious hope for the future.

  4. What challenges do you believe atheist parents face and how would you overcome them?<<<

    People are linguistic creatures, living in a word world. From deep in our past our ancestral tribes had their creation stories, with which they had grip on the mass of linguistic concepts. Many Aboriginal creation stories still are examples of such ‘religious’ beliefs.
    Scientists believe that these stories originate from the first colonization of the tribe land. The little group of women, children and men were the first people that gave names to the things over there.
    For us things only exist if we have a name for it. We live in a word world, a world of named things. So for the offspring this first colonizators, astringed into one mythical Figure, was the Creator of the (tribe) world, whose creating deeds they sung and dances every evening around the campfire that kept the predators away.
    Thousands of generations of experiencing the world in this way is the religious inclination with which we are still afflicted with, in this way or another, in beauty emotion, in feelings of togetherness, in the feeling that ‘there must be something’, even if we are atheist.
    In the last ten thousand years we lost our ancestral freedom of living in close, nomadic, hunting/gathering groups, and became settled in villages, and the last five thousand years ever more tribes became part of empires, losing their ancestral creation stories and forced to believe in the imperial creation story. The last two thousands of years this was the monotheist creation story.
    Since the sixties, the free market economy frees the western people from this patriarchal and collectivistic ideology. Our philosophers justly applauded the evaporating of the Big Stories, but without being aware that we, and our children also, are still linguistic creatures. We still need a ‘creation story’ to get grasp on our word world. Without a common creation story we are ‘floating intelligences’, have no feeling of togetherness, have no responsibility for the common good, haven no base under our conscience. Without a common creation story, people of big money feel free to pursue self-interest. The free market economy that freed us from monotheism and brought so much welfare, deteriorated into neo-liberalism of ‘greed is good’.
    Worse of all is that our children get no longer a worldview with which the can build their identity. They grow up in nihilism.
    It is so easy to create a new, science-based, creation story. But no philosopher makes a beginning of a start with it. Academic philosophy has no discipline for it. But it is not scientist work, it is philosophers work. Scientists have to keep busy with their own discipline and keep providing the building stones for it. Philosophers have to build, at least the h=philosophical anthropology. But still no beginning of a start of it. It is a shame. [Last line removed by moderator.]

    • There is a nice lecture by Richard Carrier on Youtube entitled “Is Philosphy stupid?”, which was meant for scientists but not only them. Because Philosophy is just one example of phenomenon different people have different prejudices about. I think the much praised world wiev is another – so many people keep forgetting that the very name suggests that at first person must gather information about the world, and the view will come….. And the quest for knowledge is excellent idea to identify oneself with. In reply to #6 by couw:

      What challenges do you believe atheist parents face and how would you overcome them?<<<

      People are linguistic creatures, living in a word world. From deep in our past our ancestral tribes had their creation stories, with which they had grip on the mass of linguistic concepts. Many Aboriginal creati…

  5. I think a huge challenge is living/parenting around the major holidays (Holy Days). How do you explain Christmas to your children and, more importantly, how do you (or do you?) involve your kids in Christmas festivities or stop them from celebrating Christmas for what it actually is: the celebration of the birth of a central figure in the very religion you don’t believe in? Easter is similar but less difficult to “avoid” due to the whole bunny and egg themes. It seems you have to either pretend these celebrations are not happening (impossible and dishonest) or acknowledge their existence but attempt to use these days/periods of time to celebrate something of significance to you and your family. Make up a reason to party around Christmas and Easter that deals with reality. How about a celebration of science and rationality!

    • In reply to #7 by dexter:

      Festivities and holidays are easy. Pagan celebration that were hijacked by Christianity. A lot of them are (Easter as well), if not all of them.

      So in the end, it’s no big deal. I can’t for sure say since I live in a liberal society anyway, but teaching critical thinking, science, personal responsibilities, and tolerance. No one likes a bully, or they do for the wrong reasons.

      Then they can make up their mind after that.

    • In reply to #7 by dexter:

      I think a huge challenge is living/parenting around the major holidays (Holy Days). How do you explain Christmas to your children and, more importantly, how do you (or do you?) involve your kids in Christmas festivities or stop them from celebrating Christmas for what it actually is: the celebration…

      I see your challenges in relation to Christmas and Easter the opposite way round from how you see them.

      As a Christian, I recognise that Christmastime many many years ago was a pagan midwinter festival (obviously not called Christmas in those days) that the Christian Church ‘adopted’ as a time to celebrate the birth of Christ. You could, therefore, go back to ‘the true meaning of Christmas’ (i.e. before the Church hijacked it).

      Easter is a bit more tricky to ignore, as it is an annual celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from death, which in turn, occurred around the time of the Jewish Passover – when the Jewish people celebrate their ancestors escaping from Egypt. Both the resurrection and Passover are foundational to religious belief. Without the Passover there would be no Jewish history (or subsequent Messiah) and without the resurrection of that Messiah there would be no Christian believers. As I see it, you have three options for dealing with this:

      1) Tell them it’s all lies and the resultant people (Jews and Christians) are based entirely on fraudulent accounts of history.

      2) Tell them it’s all true, as it seems impossible that the resultant people (Jews and Christians) could be based entirely on fraudulent accounts of history.

      3) Encourage them to study history and find out why Jews and Christians believe what they respectively believe and let them make up their own minds.

      Easter is why I see your challenges the other way round to you: people in 1st Century Jerusalem did not become Christians because of the birth of Christ (although, he obviously had to have been born), they became Christians because they were eyewitnesses of the resurrection. Therefore, as an atheist parent, you will probably seek ways to undermine the historicity of the resurrection. The trouble is, the alternative explanations have all been adequately addressed and still the resurrection seems to make most sense (despite it being difficult for unbelievers to accept); to simply deny it, however, might not be being as honest to your children as you would no doubt wish to be.

      I’m not certain, however, that the Easter Bunny you mentioned in your post is more historically attested than either of the two events I have just referred to.

      I hope this helps.

    • In reply to #7 by dexter:

      I think a huge challenge is living/parenting around the major holidays (Holy Days). How do you explain Christmas to your children and, more importantly, how do you (or do you?) involve your kids in Christmas festivities or stop them from celebrating Christmas for what it actually is: the celebration…
      as an atheist, I explain to my children the history behind the celebrations and what people believe. and we use that free time as a good occasion to celebrate sharing time together with the extended family. all religious is just tales for us.

  6. I’m not aiming for my children to be atheists. At least not directly.

    I try very hard to encourage chritical thinking, thirst for knowledge and generally the joy of “finding out how things work”. And I strive to allow EVERYTHING to be questioned, no matter how sure we are about things. There must be no dogmas or taboos. I try to always give proper answers to any question – the answer must NEVER be “because I say so” or “you’ll understand when you get older”. Yes: It can give some awkward moments (birds and bees anyone?), where explanations can be difficult, but they must never feel that asking the question was wrong. When kids ask a question, it should be treated as a quest for knowledge, not brushed aside as stupidty, herecy or insubordination.

    ALL questions from children are interesting, and they are a good gateway into thinking about how we find things out, and judging (together) whether we can be confident about the answers. It’s fun and educational – not only for them, but for me too. I believe that understanding how children come to a certain belief/conclusion is important: correcting the thought process, and helping them see where they went wrong (in a nice way, obviously) should helps in all endeavours of life. And I think getting that right early is a good thing.

    I don’t expect them to grow up knowing everything. But they should be able to (and willing to) judge the things they believe, and ask the question: “Why do I believe that?” or “How sure can I be of this?”, find evidence and draw conclusions from it. And if necessary: change their opinion accordingly.

    As far as I am concerned, belief in a deity is just one special case of a much more important issue: believing things without evidence. And (even worse): failing to change beliefs when faced with evidence that contradicts it. The whole idea of having a book which has all the answers then automatically becomes ludicrous – regardless of how interesting it is.

    It can be a bit bad on the ego at times though: Daddy (me) is not considered to be “the man who knows everything”, merely “very knowledgeable” (Well… I hope so anyway! )

  7. I am not a parent. However if I was a parent I would have a real problem with Xmas and Santa Clause. There is no way that I could possilbly bring my children up with Santa, Or Xmas for that matter. Then there are Easter bunnies and eggs….. Sorry but I just can not buy into these traditions.

    I do think that I would make for a good parent however as many of our traits I would consider to be benificial to the continued peace and well being of our planet. Then I guess that everybody thinks that they too are going about things the right way.

    I guess that It would be very difficult for our children to be without ‘religion’ as the vast majority of schools around our neck of the woods have a strong religion based ethos. Therefore bullying may well come into effect due to my non religion/easter/xmas/halloween leanings. Guess their parents may well have something to say to us also!…… Yes it would certainly cause issues?

    Think that at the end of the day I really do have to stick up for what I believe is better for everybody on our wonderful planet.

    Have to have fun though from time to time and celebrate life in all its wonderful facets!

    • In reply to #11 by mourneviewer:

      I am not a parent. However if I was a parent I would have a real problem with Xmas and Santa Clause.

      Actually I think it’s more the Christian household that has the trouble explaining Santa to the children. They need to defend flying reindeer, mind-reading, time travel, indoor trees and so on pegged rather awkwardly to a story about virgin birth, star-following and a bagload of odd woo.
      Much simpler to be able to say that it is the traditional annual winter celebration, with a lot of church stuff, but it’s fun for us too. You can go ice-skating in Princes Street Gardens, you can watch the latest Hobbit instalment (offer expires 2015), and there’s cakes, candles and presents. What a great way to get through the winter. No more difficult than explaining where Thursday comes from (Thor), or whence AD and BC. Not, though, that I’d imagine (also a non-parent) that there are many children who demand reasons for having holidays and parties. Why the walnuts? Why the tinsel? Perfectly satisfying answer: Cos we like them.
      Agreed you’d do your nut in trying to pretend there wasn’t any Christmas.
      PS (Sorry, can’t resist the misprint) “Santa Clause” – Beware the small print,

  8. I clearly remember my childhood days when my church told me to scorn and ridicule all atheists and view them as being insane. For a very short time I did but then as read more and more scientific articles in National Geographic I began to get a completely different view on the facts of life and how we got here. The main reason why I broke away from the church in my youth was my mother’s subscribing to National Geographic so when I became a parent I also subscribed to National Geographic and never took my children to any church.

  9. My wife and I are not religious at all (by definition therefore atheist) and have brought up our children with no difficulty at all. Religion has never been an issue to them or us. There has been pressure from other members of the family from time to time to do religious things and we have always simply declined without making an issue of it.
    What we have done is to let our children know from an early age that it is good to have an enquiring mind and and that they are free to question anything. As a result, now that they are adults they are interested in why people apparently need religion in their lives. Overall, I think it would be difficult to bring children up in a religious way because one would be giving explanations to important questions that they ask knowing full well that the answers were not defensible and that one day they might be very angry and disappointed with us for giving them false information. As it is we feel comfortable that we have given honest answers and not fed them with mumbo jumbo or tried to indoctrinate them in any way so hopefully they will be grateful to us for that.

  10. It was the totally ridiculous stories in Genesis that turned me away from religions and made me realize all religions are based entirely on old folk lore, traditions, and superstitions without a bit of truth to any of them. I find it awfully hard to believe anyone with even a bit of common sense can get sucked into one of these phony religions. In the early 1600′s Saint Francis Xavier summed it up perfectly when he said “Give Me The Boy For The First Seven Years And I’ll Give You The Man”. Almost all of the world’s children go thru an “Early Age Indoctrination” in which the beliefs of their parent’s religion get pumped into their immature brains and once indoctrinated they usually remain in that religion for the rest of their lives while passing on that religion to their children. I wanted my children to interact with other children but I refused to let them interact with other children in a religious setting to avoid getting their brains filled with ridiculous nonsense.

  11. If you could keep all of the world’s children isolated and far away from religions then introduce them to religions after they have mature brains I think I can virtually guarantee NONE of them would get involved with a religion because of how totally ridiculous their beliefs are. If these bible thumpers knew their so-called “holy” bible was just a collection of old Hebrew folk lore that had been written by 66 different ignorant authors over a 1000 year time span back in the days when the only method of travel was walking and it was common knowledge the earth was a flat disc in the center of the universe they MIGHT realize the stories in their bible are totally phony. But then I wouldn’t bet on it as people believe in nonsense because they WANT to believe in nonsense.

    • In reply to #21 by Toobroketoretire:

      . . . If these bible thumpers knew their so-called “holy” bible was just a collection of old Hebrew folk lore that had been written by 66 different ignorant authors over a 1000 year time span back in the days when the only method of travel was walking and it was common knowledge the earth was a flat disc in the center of the universe they MIGHT realize the stories in their bible are totally phony.

      There’s something quite endearing about your post. You’re clearly very passionate about this issue.

      May I just clarify that the Bible was not written by 66 ignorant authors over 1000 years – there were only about 40 of them (Moses, Solomon, Jeremiah, Luke, Peter, John and Paul all wrote more than one book/letter each). And it was written over a span of about 1500 years (Moses being the earliest and John being the latest).

      Also, I don’t know if you meant to suggest that all 66 were “Hebrew folklore” (which sounds like you’re referring to the Old Testament), as 27 of the 66 are in the New Testament, and do not form part of what is currently known as the ‘Hebrew Bible’.

      Oh, and I think there were other modes of transport: donkeys, horses, camels, carts, chariots and ships.

      Have a great day.

      • In reply to #22 by Lonevoice:

        In reply to #21 by Toobroketoretire:

        . . . If these bible thumpers knew their so-called “holy” bible was just a collection of old Hebrew folk lore that had been written by 66 different ignorant authors over a 1000 year time span back in the days when the only method of travel was walking and it was…

        You forgot to mention their magic carpets and unicorns. I have better things to do than worshiping an imaginary ghost god and living in a world of never-never land.

  12. I think the biggest challenge I have, honestly, is teaching empathy. It’s almost logical to a child to be told they should or shouldn’t do something because their gods rule book says so. Just as their parents have rules, so does their god and that’s just how it is. So young children, at least here in the south, learn to give and share because “Jesus says it’s good”. Instead, I have teach my children empathy everyday through action. I calmly mediate arguments between my toddler and preschooler; expressing emotion honestly and asking about their feelings. My husband and I are low income, but whenever we see an opportunity to help someone, we do so. It’s through action we hope to instill the ideas of humanism, compassion, and empathy. I’m sure it’s easier to point to a rule book in response to your daughter asking “Why did you give that man outside your lunch?”.

  13. When my two children were growing up I told them to never make fun of any of their friends who didn’t believe as we believed. I explained to them how people’s beliefs differ depending on where they or their parents were raised. That was back in the early 1970′s when only Protestants and Roman Catholics (and a few atheists) lived in my city. But with the influx of immigrants from all over the world things have changed a lot as now there are many different religious beliefs in our wonderful FREE country that was founded on the freedom of religious beliefs. If my children decide to follow a religion some day at least they will be making the decision as adults with the ability to think and reason rather than being indoctrinated into a religion as children.

  14. The major problems are related to social relations with others parents and their children, I think. To be openly atheist could lead to some isolation of our children by the fear from other parents about our influences or our moral. In communities with so few atheists, its even harder. I think the best way to deal with this is working with the society at best, going to social events, been polite, offering help, offering social and educational events, specially in the school, to fight the idea that atheists are evil and to bond with people that maybe are not atheists but are good. Yeah, I think its hard.

  15. Hello,

    As an atheist parent of two daughters (6 and 2) living in a VERY conservative and religious state, I can tell you that it is very challenging. What’s even more challenging is that my wife is a Christian. Although not incredibly devout, she does believe in god and likes to attend church occasionally. Moreover, her family is even more religious than she is and I have found out recently that they have a problem with how we have agreed to raise our daughters.

    We’re still working out the details and it’s been a little difficult at times, but my wife and I are in the beginning stages of working out a solid plan. The goal is to work together to raise them as freethinkers… I will tell them what I know about the universe and explain why I have chosen science over religion and my wife will talk to them about her faith and how it helps her. We will both do our best to give them enough information through books and our own knowledge and experiences so they can make their own decisions. We both agreed that they should know as much as possible about ALL religions and what it means to know that you don’t need one at all. When they ask questions, we will try to help them find answers for themselves that will lead to even more questions… and they can keep getting answers until they feel satisfied.

    Now, having said this… I can tell you I would like to do nothing mare than to simply sit them down and tell them that “this is how it is… there is no god… when you die, you’re dead for good so you need to take advantage of every second you have on this planet and be the best person you possibly can be.”

    But I can’t… not only do I have too much respect for my wife, but I want them to find out the truth for themselves like I did. My parents did the same for me… my father is not a god-fearing man, and my mother is quite religious… but they let me find out the answers for myself. I believe I have learned more about the world by taking that path and I want the same for my children.

    The challenges are certainly not over… my oldest daughter received a “My First Bible” gift during the holidays last year… yikes… and I know there will be many more arguments with my wife and further challenges to face with her family. There is not a lot of “help” out there for situations like this… no support groups at all and only a few books are available on the subject. Dale McGowan’s writings and talks have been so helpful, but he is one of only a few.

    I am also prepared for my daughters to take the path of religion by their own choice, because the influence of their cousins, aunties, grandmas and peers will more than likely overshadow the beliefs their silly old dad. I can only do so much, and the last thing I want to do is push them away.

    Still… if that happens, I believe that they will eventually come around, just as more and more people across the world have. I will do my part to make sure that they have my influence in their life, but I love my wife and my family too much to not let her share her experiences with them as well. As long as we can continue to work together for the same goal… that they are able to think for themselves and ALWAYS ask questions… then I’m sure everything will work out.

  16. The challenge is providing your children with the facts to shape their opinions, while at the same time teaching them to be respectful of others. The fact that our position is based on provable fact rather than faith, does not necessarily create a basis for easy days in the school yard or at larger family functions. Our children now are confident and informed. However, our children understand that telling others that the religion they practice fiction will not make them more right. Quiet confidence, not hubris is the message. They may choose to become more vocal with time, but we are laying a respectful foundation based on facts. By the way, we have used Stephen and Lucy Hawking’s books starting with “George’s Sercret Key to the Universe” as a great starting point to understand the facts.
    Cheers!

  17. My biggest hurdle as an atheist parent has been my own family; particularly my fundamentalist catholic sister and to a slightly lesser extent my mother. I don’t see my family often and for the most part conversations don’t hinge on religion but family holiday gatherings are always a challenge. My mother thinks nothing of publicly berating me for not attending church with the family and saying things like, I’m probably too scared to step foot in the building for fear of bursting into flames. For the most part I’ve always brushed off these comments but my son is old enough now that he’s going to notice and start questioning this behavior.

    As for my sister, everything in her life is centered around her faith and she teaches her children the same way. I’ve always tried to be respectful of her beliefs and how she raises her children no matter how misguided I find them. On the occasions that we have had philosophical disagreements about a subject or when she begins proselytizing about my immortal soul I’ve never had those discussions in front of her children. However, she thinks nothing of remarking in front of me and my child about how we should be going to church and care more about how I raise my son. Last Easter instead of the normal Easter eggs to hide for the children she brought plastic ones filled with symbols from the stations of the cross (a cross, a nail, a flail etc.). After the hunt was over she put all the symbols together and pulled her daughter and my son into the next room for a “Story” (the other children in the family are older and weren’t interested in stories) She then proceeded to tell my niece and my son who was three years old about the stations of the cross. My son ran to me half way through, unsettled and terrified by the violence of the story. I was furious that she would describe something so horrible to such a young child. Her justification was that she felt he should know the “true” story of the Holiday and about the “glory of Jesus’ death and resurrection to save us from our sins”. Just the night before she’d objected to her 10 year old watching Iron Man with his older cousins because of the violence but she’ll tell a 3 year old about a man being tortured and murdered. I called her on this hypocrisy but to her it’s not the same because the crucifixion is a central tenet of “our faith” and children should be taught why it’s important to believe in God and Jesus because he’s our savior and died for our sins.

    I’m an atheist. I do not believe there is a god, i do not believe in the divinity of Jesus Christ. I do believe that there is a “historical Jesus” whether it’s one man, or more likely the amalgamation of stories of different men.” I’ve told my sister many times, both then and since, my biggest pet peeve with most Christians is that they focus so heavily on how the man died and pay little to no attention on how he lived. I’ve read the Bible, there are good lessons to be found (and bad too obviously). Jesus’ ministry was one of humility and inclusion, of social justice and caring for those less fortunate. Those are the kinds of lessons that I want my son to learn and the kinds that are often over looked by the religious in favor of adherence to ritual and focus on guilt and punishment. I’m not against him learning about the teachings of Jesus because they’re largely representative of a caring individual. But I will not raise my son to believe that he’s somehow unclean and in need of saving. He’s an innocent child with unlimited potential, not an unworthy sinner and I won’t have him thinking he’s constantly being watched by some judgmental invisible friend. I strive to teach my son to think for himself and that kindness is it’s own reward. I encourage him to ask questions on any subject, including the concept of God and heaven, and I answer him honestly not just about my beliefs (or non-belief as the case may be) but also about what others believe. I want him to have a full and balanced view of the world, to be free to come to his own conclusions.

    People like my sister think this approach is dangerous, especially for children who are so “vulnerable Satan’s influence”. She and I were brought such that religion and our families religious views were not to be questioned, ever. Things are as they are because that’s what the bible and the church tells us. I think my approach is teaching him to be responsible for himself and his own actions. If he were to hurt someone, i don’t want him to feel bad simply because he’s afraid of being punished. I want him to feel bad because he caused that person pain. Belief in God that’s rooted in guilt is not faith, it’s fear. How can we reach our full potential as human beings if we’re afraid of seeking answers and constantly worrying about what might happen next.

  18. Where I live, atheist parents appear to be facing less resistance to their beliefs. I believe that technology is providing us with answers to questions that previously were difficult or impossible to answer. The default for many was “God did it”. Today it is so easy to challenge a large part of what is written, in the bible or other religious texts, with scientific fact. Allowing children to become free thinkers is a very important part of responsible parenting. Instead of celebrating a religious holiday, take your children to a science museum. Give them a book on evolution and be prepared to discuss it. In my opinion it is infinitely more rewarding to follow the provable scientific data available to us.

  19. Being an atheist parent in Belgium is quite easy. First of all, we can choose a public school for our children, where you can choose your religion (or ethics) as you want. There is a teacher for each religion and also one for ethics, 2 hours a week. They seperate the children into different classrooms for these 2 hours. So they learn from an early age that there are differences between the way they are brought up. Teaching creationism is forbidden. In my son’s class, the largest part of the parents chose ethics. So school is not really an issue here.

    The holidays are no problem. Santa doesn’t exist in Belgium; we have the earlier version of him, called ‘Sinterklaas’, which translates into ‘Santa Claus’ (the saint that the pilgrims brought to America and later transformed into the Santa you all know). They are both similar, exept that our ‘Santa’ doesn’t visit children at chrismas but 3 week earlier. Chrismas is a catholic holiday; we explain our childeren that, may years ago, someone decided to turn the pagan festivities into christian ones. Since then, we celebrate christmas. It’s more a tradition than anything else, and we Belgians don’t tend to turn down any party, religious or other. Same for easter: any excuse to eat chocolate is a good one.

    The only ‘problems’ we came across, is baptising and the matter of godfathers and -mothers. Those are kind of tradition here, and many of my so called atheist friends choose a godfather and -mother for their childeren. We decided not to do so, because this is a purely catholic tradition. They have no legal rights: in case something happened to us, our children would be raised by my siblings or parents, not by their godfather. That is something that we had to explain a lot in the past. People here tend to see a godfather as a ‘special someone’ for their childeren, like their most favourite uncle. We would rather let our childeren decide who is special to them (and who is not).

    I know there are a lot of places in the world where being an atheist is a challenge. We are aware that we are the lucky ones, living here in a country were gay people can marry, where free thinking is stimulated in schools, where respect and kindness for other people regardless of their religious beliefs are imbedded in society. And that is what we teach our children: not only to think for themselves, but also to be aware that they are lucky being born in this part of the world.

  20. My son is only 18 months old, yet we’re already facing some familial “undermining”. At the moment it’s largely in the form of a grandparent who won’t accept that we don’t want to do “Santa”, and is already making some complaints that we are not going to “tell him all the options” (as though my strictly Roman Catholic upbringing gave me any options; I did not realize there were other religions until I was in late elementary school). Grandpa seems bound and determined to ignore my wishes and just do as he pleases, making my husband and I worry about leaving our son alone with him, and what sort of things he’ll be told.
    I am sure we will have some trouble when he is school age as well, since we live in a conservative area of what is normally considered a “liberal state” (New York is only liberal in NYC). I know there are several public schools in the area that have separation issues regarding prayer at graduations and such, which will leave us in a “fight for the principle versus get my son ostracized” pickle.

  21. I am raising my children in a Salt Lake City, where the dominant culture adheres to religious beliefs. My biggest challenge with my kids is teaching tolerance. We all get frustrated by the feeling that the LDS (Mormon) church is cramming its dogma down our throats, but it is very important to me to have my kids maintain respect. An intelligent dialogue is what I encourage and is what I try to model in our home. I want my children to understand that tolerance and respect is a two-way street.

    We all need to learn to live together peacefully, and that takes practice.

  22. The main challenge is the feeling of isolation, lack of community or interconnectedness.
    Since religious institutions have provided societal needs such as community dialogue, connectedness, shared ideas, calendar, observances and activities, networking, financial, psychological and spiritual support an absence of this institution in your family life leads to the challenge of how to feel connected in a community, even if it’s quite tolerant.
    It’s a struggle to simply not just “overlook” the religious aspects of synagogue/church/temple and participate for the community, tradition and interconnectedness. We have searched high and low, looking at humanistic alternatives, reform, reconstructionist, universalist. The search gets exhausting. In a way, it’s so comforting to “come home” to what you grew up with but then, you can’t really abide it.
    I have not yet come to a manner to overcome this. Meditation and centering are ways to create personal strength, but support and interconnection are so important for family health. I scour sites like RDFRS to see if there is some consistent, constant, community building effort. I do think this quest is one many face, atheist or not. Maybe it’s the progress along the road that’s important after all.

  23. I’m french, atheist and live in Brazil for 10 years. My son is 2 years old. His mother is catholic non praticant, his grand father is a deacon of the catholic church, and every one believes in god in his mother’s family. For his 1 year’s party, I’ve wrote this letter for him and I’ve read it for all the family :

    “Anthony ,
    My greatest gift, I ‘ve been waiting 38 years to have … and my best gift is you. A small individual that me and your mom look grow every day with admiration and a certain naivety and apprehension.
    Like any father, I have inside me a project for you: knowing that you are free to create your own story. A life based on the differences, the mix and match.
    I do not want to give you a uniform life. You are Brazilian and French , you will spend a life surrounded by people from all over the world, Muslims, Jews, Protestants, Catholics , communists , liberals, Buddhist , atheists and other freethinkers … Your future is anything but normal. Your future is the discovery, creation and meeting diversity.
    I know how easy it is to let ourselves go of preconceived ideas and to comply with things without interest. But what builds my willingness to open your eyes to the difference is based on my desire for more justice, more freedom and more solidarity in our world.
    Fight against the preachers of “good conscience” and moral help to make you an independent , passionate and free man. Very quickly you’ll learn that fighting for equality for all is at the heart of our very existence.
    Never let anyone dictate to you what you should think, believe or do. All men are born and remain free and equal in rights ! Live your life openly , respecting and defending the freedoms and choices.
    Never give up of yourself or others. You only have this life, live it fully . What about me ? I ‘ll always be here with you to discuss, exchange points of view , debate, enrich each other and grow together. Count on me to be not only a father, but your best friend.
    Finally, we often hear that children must be worthy of their parents, it’s the opposite I believe. I hope to be worthy of you and your innocence.
    Your dad !”

    Now, I’m facing the responsability to help him to be a conscious and independent person, a free thinker as I promised in my letter. The first thing I’ve done is to refuse him to be baptized. I’ve convinced my wife family and her that the best present we can do to him, is to choose for himself, the day he will have the capacity of free will, if he will want to be baptized or not, and that there is no obligation to do it now just to follow a middle age based tradition. My responsability is to make everything’s possible to show him that traditions are negociable, every where and every time, that lack of character is responsible of the expansion of all kind of stupidities in the world, and at the first place all the beliefs systems. I want him to think by himself and not to let other telling him what to think.

    Tks

    Sébastien Acacia (sorry for my english)

  24. We live in the bible belt. My wife is an agnostic engineer and I am atheist school teacher. The biggest problem my wife and I have faced while trying to raise our child is just the shear volume of religiosity around us. My daughter has encountered religiously motivated teachers spreading their faith in classes, fellow students proselytizing, religious threats try and scare her into belief, religious protests over her science curriculum, shouting evangelists in parks, billboards telling her she’s going to hell, door to door Christian cultists, televised politicians ranting about religion and a host of other offenses.

    We had decided when our daughter was born that we would try and let her make up her own mind about god and religion, but as the religiosity around us began to register on our daughter’s mind, she began asking questions that were difficult to answer without flatly telling her what she should believe. The best answer we have found, and one that has worked, grew out of the childhood tradition of measuring and marking her height on a doorframe.

    She had a nightmare when she was quite young about not being “really” real. I calmed her by pointing to the height measurements on the doorframe. I explained that those measurements were proof that she was “really” real. It worked. After that night she became a little measurement tyrant. It wasn’t real until she had measured it.

    She’s nine now and has independently arrived at the conclusion that magic isn’t real and that god is a magical being like Santa Claus. She “plays along” with the idea of god with the Christian kids so she won’t ruin their fun. She has learned to be wary of religious adults though, and that still confuses her. She doesn’t understand how otherwise rational grown-ups can believe in magic.

  25. I live in India. People here are religious fanatics. Religious activities are a big part of life over here. An athiest child who is still unclear about life wont be able to comprehend the non-existence of a diety simple because everywhere he/she looks people are worshipping.
    And a parent giving an honest answer about the truth of life to a child can be devastating. How can a child understand that life is meaningess in the grand picture if every where he hears about afterlife, salvation and rebirth? A child might feel that living may be pointless. If the child accepts that religion is a scam and that all believers are confused and fearful how do we stop that child from being negatively condescending? In my country going against a deity means stunting your own growth.
    Right from the age of 6 when my mother told be about god being in the heavens I’ve been doubting. Till today I can’t freely express my athiesm. The older generation may despise you but the youth may accept your choice. In my country even youth despise me. Many of my colleagues wont talk to me.
    Now how can a parent raise a child atheist in such an environment? There is a fear of loneliness or condescension.

  26. The unbearable challenge I currently face is the school allocation system (UK). How do you overcome the scenario where you have moved to a location, that otherwise appears to unquestionably offer the best conditions for your child’s happiness and well-being, only to find that you are presented with a school application/allocation policy such as this?

    In my case, this presents the dilemma of having to accept the likely fate of my bright and intelligent child being allocated a place at a state school with an extraordinarily dire track record of educational, bullying and other standards, or alternatively consent for my child to attend Sunday school for at least 6 months prior to application in order for her to secure a place at a CofE school which on balance seems to have a much more desirable offering.

    When I was a child of primary school age, my parents faced the same issue and chose to send me to a Catholic school. It was short lived, due to us relocating, but it had no effect on me whatsoever.

    However, it’s hard to think rationally about this predicament, where I feel cornered by the Church with my child at ransom. I feel like the only strident atheist/secularist who is quite literally caught between heaven and hell!!

  27. The real challenge is that reality is so difficult for the faithful to comprehend, the strategy is for our children to only believe what they see with their own eyes, that’s reality. Children of the world have faith in reality long before it is obscured by schooled religion, so choose your school wisely

  28. As a french atheist, I could not see any problem with being an atheist and raising children! I have values and I raise them respecting those values. They are not baptised and I didn’t get married in a church. as a matter of fact, I have too much respect for people who believe in god to pretend believing in god just to get married in a church! We still celebrate christmas, insisting on the history behind it (it’s not only presents but an occasion of sharing). I cannot even understand what is the problem except maybe if you live in a place when people judge that you have no values because you don’t believe in god. I can just say that it may be more difficult to live by you values when you don’t fear the wrath of god. you just have to yourself as a reason to do the right thing. it takes a lot of discipline.

  29. Our daughter has, at age 7, started reading many creation stories. She loves Norse myths most, but also likes to talk about ancient Greek gods. The Bible has not been as interesting to her, but she enjoys some of the stories.

    We’ve told her that people have always made up stories about how the world was made, and that as time passes the forget the old stories and make new ones. So right now a lot of people really believe that some of the stories are real, but when you read them, they don’t seem very realistic, do they? Coupled with plenty of field trips to catch bugs, examine plants, and then read about them at home, she did tell me “Daddy, I don’t think God is real. I think he is made up.”

    I just nodded and said, “Well, I think you are probably right. But remember lots of people do believe in gods.” Like others, I want her to become a critical thinker and respect reason in all forms, not just in creation myths.

    • In reply to #44 by ericzero:

      I just nodded and said, “Well, I think you are probably right. But remember lots of people do believe in gods.” Like others, I want her to become a critical thinker and respect reason in all forms, not just in creation myths.

      I agree with you absolutely. I think it’s much better to let children come to their own conclusions and in my (very limited) experience when we do that they end up with the rational understanding that God is a made up concept.

  30. My parents didn’t raise us religious. We did go to church from time to time, usually on Easter. But I think that was just my parents way of being part of the tribe.
    I raised my kids with no religious associations at all, and as a result they have grown up to be very well adjusted adults that question everything. The only challenge is that they can go a little overboard with it and like me can tend to teeter between being critical and being cynical. My son is 19, and he has a very analytical mind. He needs to practice humility though. He tends to get very upset at anyone even bringing up religion, like when the Mormons come knocking. I explained to him that he needs to understand that’s probably the only life they know. Don’t be so harsh because in the end I’ve found the Mormons to be nice people, and unlike many other religions, the Mormons seem to be able to hold a decent conversation without trying to indoctrinate. They know full well we’re Atheists, but they come by anyway, and we have some great conversations.
    We always celebrate Christmas, but not because we believe it’s Jesus’ birthday. I think the entire holiday season is wonderful because it’s pretty, with all of the lights and decorations, and there’s a sense of charity and good will, and the presents! My God, the presents! LOL. Seriously, my children had to find out at some point that Disneyland was just animation and illusion, but we still love going there. It’s an escape from the real world where you allow yourself to go to Fantasy land. Like magic, it’s the unwilling suspension of disbelief.
    It’s okay to fool your children [for a little while] about things like Santa Claus and Disneyland, as long as you’re honest when the time comes to bring up the curtain.

  31. Oh, a tricky question. As a former Roman Catholic, living in an innternational marriage, the kids need to know but not believe about what other people believe.
    I try to explain that X-mas was originally a pagan festival, which celebrated the winter solstice and that daylight would become longer again.
    Easter:
    Again something hijacked by the missionaries to ease the transition from pagan to Christian belief systems. Easter was the celebration of life, fertility and rebirth. Symbolically, the winter is death, but spring is life and was thus celbrated at Easter. Any better symbols for fertility than eggs and bunnies?
    Hence, despite not in believing the myths of Jesus birth and resurrection as basis for X-mas and Easter, I nevertheless like the bank holidays and celebrate the traditions of gift exchange and chocolate bunnies & eggs, respectively.

    And the bank holidays are a good opportunity to visit the zoo to see the closest relatives of ourselves. Recently, the family and I visited a museum for natural history, including real fossils and dinosour skeletons. I explain to my kids that humans and apes have common ancestors, who in turn have common ancestors with today’s monkeys, and so forth until all life on earth shared a common beginning.

    When reading bedtime stories, I am alternating between fairy tales and children stories on the one hand, and educational children books on the natural world on the other hand. They are supposed to know, how things are and how they work. Then I leave it up to them to make up their own mind on religion, as I do not wish to indoctrinate my kids either. Luckily, they are smart ;-)

    Regarding hassle: I live in Germany, where atheists are not harassed. Luckily! Nevertheless, the kindergarten and school system is still infested with faith-kindergartens and faith-schools – which usually do not accept non-baptised children. The even prefer muslim children, as these do believe in least in one god ; ) haha!

    • In reply to #47 by glorious_bastard:

      I leave it up to them to make up their own mind on religion, as I do not wish to indoctrinate my kids either

      If I may suggest that the word indoctrination is a very emotional one and is often used to denigrate what ‘people we disagree with’ teach their children (sorry for the poor grammar).

      Any parent has the right, and natural inclination, to teach their children what they believe to be correct, although all parents must accept (and should make it clear that they accept) that their children will make up their own minds and that may or may not accord with what the parent has taught. Especially if we encourage critical thinking – because they might end up thinking critically about what we have taught them. (Critical thinking does not necessarily lead to atheism.)

      It is well known on this site that I am a creationist and, from my point of view, as we were designed and created by a Creator, everything in life either affects, or is influenced by, our standing in relation to that Creator. So, while I acknowledge that you do not wish to indoctrinate your children when it comes to religion, what you teach them in everything area of life will influence their thinking of religion and, as the parent, you cannot avoid being a major influence on their worldview in this area. So for example, telling them that they are descended from a common ancestor with the apes has a very direct affect on how they are likely to see religious accounts of our origins. In many ways, by making an effort to underscore what is presented at the Museum for Natural History, not only are you seeking to educate them in respect of what science teaches, you are also (either consciously or unconsciously) reinforcing on them a naturalistic worldview.

      • In reply to #48 by Lonevoice:

        In reply to #47 by glorious_bastard:

        I leave it up to them to make up their own mind on religion, as I do not wish to indoctrinate my kids either

        … while I acknowledge that you do not wish to indoctrinate your children when it comes to religion, what you teach them in everything area of life will influence their thinking of religion and, as the parent, you cannot avoid being a major influence on their worldview in this area. So for example, telling them that they are descended from a common ancestor with the apes has a very direct affect on how they are likely to see religious accounts of our origins. In many ways, by making an effort to underscore what is presented at the Museum for Natural History, not only are you seeking to educate them in respect of what science teaches, you are also (either consciously or unconsciously) reinforcing on them a naturalistic worldview.

        Lonevoice, if you wish to suggest that Glorious_Bastard’s acquainting his children with objective evidence and the scientific views based upon these is in any way equivalent to inculcating into one’s children religious beliefs for which there is no evidence at all before they are old enough to be able to assess them appropriately (indoctrination), what you are suggesting is false, and you have to be rather muddleminded to think otherwise. Exposing children to the make-believe of religion, using emotions to fasten the beliefs in the children’s psyches, is a far cry from exposing children to the facts and evidence presented in such places as a museum of natural history. There is no need for children to acquire the superstitions of religion (though they do need to learn about them in social studies), but there is every need for children to learn about the real world they inhabit and about their own real existence as rational animals.

        • In reply to #49 by Cairsley:

          . . . if you wish to suggest that . . .:

          I can see where you’re coming from in your reply #49 to my comment #48, however, what you have drawn from this is not really the main thrust of what I intended.

          In my post #48, I was not seeking to make any comment about the reasons why people hold religious beliefs compared with the prevailing scientific view of our origins. I was seeking to make the point that the previous poster used the word indoctrination specifically in respect of religion, and I was merely commenting that whatever any parent teaches their children will influence their children’s thinking.

          I guess (and I may be mistaken) that if I teach my children my own Christian faith with the hope that they too will follow of their own accord, you might call this indoctrination. Conversely, I as a Christian might say that a person seeking to teach their children that there is no God is indoctrinating their children. I say this not to stir up animosity between you and me: simply to highlight my opening comment that “the word indoctrination is a very emotional one and is often used to denigrate what ‘people we disagree with’ teach their children.” Emotional words are unhelpful in communicating information objectively and are often dismissive of people whose belief, philosphy, ideology or outlook differs from our own.

          Of course, all this is assuming that the word ‘indoctrination’ was used in the previous post as an emotional term. On the basis that the the word indoctrination carries the connotation of forcing people to believe something uncritically, my view is that using the term to describe others is unavoidably emotional, as one cannot know for sure whether those parents are actually teaching their kids to accept things uncritically.

          Indoctrination does not only apply to religion (although I acknowledge that no-ne has expressly stated that it does) and critical thinking does not necessarily lead to atheism.

          I hope I have managed to clarify my thoughts.

          • In reply to #50 by Lonevoice:

            Conversely, I as a Christian might say that a person seeking to teach their children that there is no God is indoctrinating their children.

            That’s why some atheist parents, like me, at least try not to advocate for any religious position with our children. I was quite happy to tell my daughter that evolution is true and anyone who doesn’t think so is either irrational or ignorant or both but when it came to things like religion I tried to say things like “here is what I believe and why but other people believe differently…” and let her make up her own mind.

            I say “try not to advocate” because it was obvious to my daughter what my personal feelings were. I’m the world’s worst poker player, I can’t hide my emotions even when I try, and I seldom try. But at least explicitly I made it clear to her that I wanted her to make up her own mind. I have to admit though I was glad when she ended up being if anything more of a militant atheist than I am.

          • In reply to #51 by Red Dog:

            Hi, Red Dog, it’s nice to see people still viewing this topic, even though this ‘Question of the Week’ is weeks old now.

            If I may say, I think your comment kind of proves my point in #48 and #50.

            Personally, I would be surprised if any atheist parent sought to advocate any religious position. A parent can hardly avoid passing on their feelings about things through what they teach their children and how they act/react to stuff in front of their children. Words like irrational and ignorant are emotionally charged in the same way I referred to earlier, and a child will pick this up. Thus, while you may have tried to be even-handed in the way you spoke about other people’s religious beliefs, you succeeded in dismissing all of them. So, no matter how hard you might have tried to be fair, it was unavoidable that you could not be.

            What I am saying does not only apply to the Atheist Parenting question – it applies to every parent.

            Fancy a game of poker?

          • In reply to #53 by Lonevoice:

            A parent can hardly avoid passing on their feelings about things through what they teach their children and how they act/react to stuff in front of their children

            A parent can’t completely avoid passing on their opinions, I agree. That doesn’t mean there is no difference between a parent who actively tries to indoctrinate a child and one who tries to encourage them to think for themselves. Indeed, part of the process of becoming an actual critical thinker is realizing that we all have biases and we can never be completely objective.

            Words like irrational and ignorant are emotionally charged in the same way I referred to earlier, and a child will pick this up

            I tried not to use those words when talking about religion in general and I mostly succeeded. It’s quite a different matter when talking about say people who refuse or are incapable of understanding basic scientific truths like climate change and evolution. Those people deserve to be mocked and I was happy to oblige.

            So, no matter how hard you might have tried to be fair, it was unavoidable that you could not be.

            Which is what I said as well. That doesn’t mean there is no difference between a parent who tries to be fair and one who sets out from the start to indoctrinate.

          • In reply to #54 by Red Dog:

            That doesn’t mean there is no difference between a parent who actively tries to indoctrinate a child and one who tries to encourage them to think for themselves.

            Absolutely agree.

          • In reply to #50 by Lonevoice:

            In reply to #49 by Cairsley:

            …if I teach my children my own Christian faith with the hope that they too will follow of their own accord, you might call this indoctrination. Conversely, I as a Christian might say that a person seeking to teach their children that there is no God is indoctrinating their children.

            Agreed.

            Indoctrination does not only apply to religion (although I acknowledge that no-ne has expressly stated that it does) and critical thinking does not necessarily lead to atheism

            Agreed.

            I was very happy to teach my young children things for which I had corroborated evidence and to teach them critical thinking skills. I’m very happy to leave it at that. Now they are older I answer honestly about my opinions on these matters and encourage them to look at other peoples’ opinions and how they correlate first with moral standpoints and then with truth standpoints and decide for themselves.

            I think there may be some Atheists who indoctrinate, but my Atheist friends would be appalled. Most, I contend, do not, being fully aware of the hypocrisy.

            Let me observe that the faithful even the agnostic belief in beliefers seem to me to be indoctrinators to a woman and man. The “wickedest” book in my possession is the ostensibly harmless “Ladybird Book of First Prayers”, given to me by my somewhat appalled daughter, containing dishonest views of the Universe and misdirecting gratitude from those that loved and cared for them to God. My daughter had not long gone to look and appreciate the far more moral and effectively moralising Quakers. Their approach is one of the least indoctrinating.

          • In reply to #50 by Lonevoice:

            Many thanks, Lonevoice, for your kind clarification. I agree that indoctrination is something that anyone is capable of, whatever his worldview or particular philosophical position may be; it is not an activity confined only to the adherents of religion. It would, for example, be most improper of atheistic parents to insist that their child dismiss as logically impossible the existence of a supernatural entity responsible for the existence of the universe. But in the absence of any evidence of such an entity, the question of its existence remains only as a logical curiosity.

            If, however, religion includes a belief-system (I am aware that it includes other things besides beliefs) that is founded on no evidence or reasoning but is to be accepted on the authority of the established source of teaching by faith, then the imparting of religion to one’s children will have the unfortunate effect of indoctrination, even if the religious parents have no intention of forcing anything unreasonable upon their children and actively encourage their children to develop enquiring minds. The reason for this lies in the basic nature of religious belief, which is the unquestioning (meek and humble) acceptance of unevidenced propositions in deference to a supposed authority. In most cases religion is passed down from generation to generation as part of the culture in which children are raised, and this was unproblematic in a prescientific era, when religion provided as good a conceptual basis as any then available on which questions about the world and morality could be dealt with.

            But times do move on, and the sciences have developed to the point where they provide much more accurate and reliable answers to questions about the world and about morality; whereas religion by contrast has been shown to be based on ancient superstitions, myths, misconceptions and misinterpretations. Children of today are entitled to education that gives them access to current information and teaches them how to understand it and make use of it. Burdening children also with some supposed obligation to believe certain groundless propositions on some irrationally asserted religious authority is, to say the least, contrary to the aims of a modern upbringing and education.

            The word ‘indoctrination’, like many words, can be used emotively or with the force of emotional freight, but its basic meaning is the imparting of some teaching (doctrine) to others for their uncritical acceptance. As I have already stated, this is invariably what happens when religious make-believe is imparted to children who have not yet developed the critical abilities to assess for themselves the worth of teaching before it has taken hold in their psyches. People who are not affiliated to any religion take the education of their children as seriously as do those who are religiously affiliated, but, having no presupposed belief-system to pass on, they are freer to focus on acquainting their children with real information. They may, however, also impart their political, social, and other cultural prejudices, which can also cause trouble.

          • In reply to #56 by Cairsley:

            I’m glad I was able to clarify my previous post, and thank you for confirming that. As you might expect, there is much in your post #56 where I hold a different view from yours for various reasons, but this is not the topic to go into them in depth.

            When I teach my daughter about my Christian faith, I am conscious that she is surrounded by children and teachers at school who do not believe what we as a family believe and I take account of that. I want to make sure that she understands the reasons for our faith rather than ending up being a naive, credulous person who will unquestioningly believe any old thing. At the same time I don’t want to give her the impression that people who don’t believe in God are all idiots: that would be most unhelpful for innumerable reasons – and it would be completely untrue.

            If I may just offer my view on one of your closing comments about presuppositions, you have said:

            “People who are not affiliated to any religion take the education of their children as seriously as do those who are religiously affiliated, but, having no presupposed belief-system to pass on, they are freer to focus on acquainting their children with real information.”

            I can certainly see what you mean, however, I am of the opinion that everyone without exception has presuppositions that drives who they are and how they see the world about them. While I acknowledge that you referred specifically to having “no presupposed belief-system” (i.e. not affiliated to any religion), my take on this would be that at a very deep level people tend to have a predisposition to either (a) believing in (at least the possibility of the existence of) a supernatural realm or (b) not believing in supernatural things*.

            It is clear to me, a belief that there is only a natural explanation for everything is still a belief, as the underlying presupposition that there is no supernatural sphere necessarily excludes supernatural explanations. This is supported by the fact that the existence of a supernatural realm cannot be proven or disproven in a laboratory. Pardon me if I’m mistaken, but I’m assuming that natural explanations is what you meant by ‘real information’.

            A further comment I would make on this point is that science often revises its view on things. Now, having read other posts in discussions on this site, I realise that many people feel that makes science exciting: it’s a moving, vibrant, almost living thing. However, it does mean that previous scientific views were wrong. Who knows what we see as ‘real information’ today might be totally overturned at some point in the future. This ‘real information’ could be an illusion after all.

            I haven’t mentioned all this to create a complex debate about the merits of religious faith versus science – that is frequently addressed in other topics. The reason I picked out the concept of presuppositions is specifically related to the topic of this discussion on parenting, and my view that it’s impossible for parents to be completely neutral when it comes to teaching their children about anything.

            Have a great day

            *I don’t want to over-simplify humanity by saying there are only two groups of people. We all know there are various degrees of these positions along a scale. There are also people who have crossed the line from one side to the other in each direction. My comments at the asterisk above are phrased for the purpose of this discussion.

          • In reply to #57 by Lonevoice:

            Many thanks, Lonevoice, for your thoughtful and candid response. If it is indicative of the kind of Christian belief that you seek to impart to your daughter, it has my respect, if not my concurrence.

            Regardless of what people are predisposed to believe (and neurology and evolutionary biology have come up with some interesting accounts of such predispositions), beliefs need evidence if they are to be justified and accorded some degree of truth or probability; if, in other words, they are to be to any extent substantiated. The natural is what we know, however imperfectly; whereas the supernatural is not something known to us at all, except as a product of human imaginings and metaphysical speculations. The supernatural is simply not a real option for explaining anything about the universe and our lives in it. It therefore merits no place in a child’s upbringing and education.

            A further comment I would make on this point is that science often revises its view on things. Now, having read other posts in discussions on this site, I realise that many people feel that makes science exciting: it’s a moving, vibrant, almost living thing. However, it does mean that previous scientific views were wrong. Who knows what we see as ‘real information’ today might be totally overturned at some point in the future. This ‘real information’ could be an illusion after all.

            This paragraph of your last message shows the distorting effect belief in the supernatural can have on one’s understanding of reality and of science. By ‘real information’ I mean here only data or details obtained from empirical observation, that is of the real world, not of some imaginary, supposedly preternatural realm. When a scientific view or hypothesis or even theory is supplanted by a better one, our understanding of reality is improved. It is very misleading merely to say that the supplanted view was wrong. It is more accurate to say that it was not as good as the new view. Aristotle’s hylomorphic theory, for example, though long since superseded, is still quite good at explaining things at a common-sense level. Real information would be an illusion only if there were no real world around us and we were each imagining it all – a kind of worldview that would hardly prepare children for life in the world in which we in fact find ourselves.

          • In reply to #57 by Lonevoice:

            In reply to #56 by Cairsley:

            When I teach my daughter about my Christian faith, I am conscious that she is surrounded by children and teachers at school who do not believe what we as a family believe and I take account of that. I want to make sure that she understands the reasons for our faith rather than ending up being a naive, credulous person who will unquestioningly believe any old thing.

            The problem here is the only “reason” for your faith is the indoctrination you went through in your own childhood which hardwired some of the malleable portions of your developing cognitive system into paths which are now very difficult to alter to enable them to accept reality. There is in fact no “reason” for your beliefs, no evidence, no logic and of course no science. So it’s a bit hard for me to accept you don’t want your children to be naive and credulous when the only way they can accept your own beliefs is to be exactly that.

            If of course you tell your children very clearly that there is no evidence for your beliefs, that in fact all actual evidence flatly contradicts what you believe and that if they want to follow your beliefs they have to take it on blind faith and reject logic, evidence and science then fair enough I suppose. I find this scenario vanishingly unlikely though.

            A further comment I would make on this point is that science often revises its view on things.

            Science revises its view on things that are not firmly settled because the weight of evidence has not reached the point where the original hypothesis has been confirmed into a proven Theory or ultimately a Law. How could a logic and evidence based system possibly work in any other way? Religion on the other hand settles things in advance based on zero evidence, persecutes anyone who won’t kowtow to the dogma and has to be constantly dragged kicking and screaming from the stone age into the present.

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