Say Hello to Rational Moms October 6, 2008

Say Hello to Rational Moms

One of the upsides to the recent surge in atheism is that instead of just talking about evidences for/against God, we can expand the dialogue to include specific parts of atheism-culture. How to raise children without religion, for example.

Rational Moms is a group blog that plans to discuss raising babies without faith.

What sorts of issues come up? Well, what should you teach children about religion when you live in a very Christian area (where they will inevitably hear Bible stories)?

…Religious ideologies saturate our cultures, and as such, it is important that children recognize and understand this. Children must learn how to act ethically, and they have to learn about what religion is, but religion is certainly unnecessary for a person to have a strong ethical and moral foundation.

In the same vein, it is also important for children to develop critical-thinking skills. As such, it is the parent’s responsibility to maintain a safe distance for the child from religious indoctrination and to let the child know that there is no empirical evidence whatsoever for a deity’s existence. This means that people choose to believe in unfalsifiable concepts, like a god, for no other reason than that they want to.

But is that “too biased”? Not from my perspective. I have seen no evidence to the contrary. But I don’t want to be a perpetrator of what I’m trying to keep my daughter away from: indoctrinate her with personal bias. I want to eradicate personal bias if at all possible…

And, of course, no mention of atheist parenting is complete without reminding everyone that Dale McGowan‘s second book about the subject, Raising Freethinkers: A Practical Guide for Parenting Beyond Belief, is available for pre-order on Amazon.

Hopefully, the rational moms will compile a recipe list soon.

I don’t what to do with my current stockpile of infants.

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  • amz

    IN MY OPINION, people do not choose to believe anything. I didn’t choose to believe that the sky is blue, or that the Earth is (roughly) round, or that gravity attracts bodies towards the center of the planet, or that God does not exist.

    We believe things based on the information that we have available at the time. Choice is merely an illusion, but even if free will was real, we would still not “choose” to believe anything.

    Do you think that you could believe that a dog is an apple? No matter how hard you tried?

  • mikespeir

    In principle I agree with you, amz. However, I know from my own experience that you can want something to be true so badly that you’ll interpret everything as evidence in favor of its truth. Not everything is quite so clear as the color of the sky, etc. It is possible to deceive oneself. I think “choose to believe” is just a shorthand for that process.

  • mikespeir

    Oh, and as to the Rational Moms: Wow, what a wonderful thing!

  • Larry Huffman

    I agree as well amz…but I also see what Mike is saying. I think the problem is that it is not as easy as choosing. Religious faith is a unique beast. People in a religion are not choosing to believe…they know…therefore they believe. They know throough faith…unreasonable, yes…but to someone who has faith it is knowledge.

    As for Rational Moms…wonderful! The view of choosing to believe aside, the idea and principle is great. It is vital to teach kids how to be ethical atheists.

    (On a side note…choosing to believe is famously the crux of the arguement against Pascal’s Wager. The wager wrongly assumes that we can actually choose to believe something. In fact, we believe something based on our knowledge, facts obtained, our experiences and a whole myriad of data that builds the belief. Of course, you can say that you believe something when you do not…hehe)

  • Autumnal Harvest

    The idea of planning how to teach your child about atheism seems overly defensive to me. Unless you live in a small, fundamentalist, community, I don’t think it’s necessary.

    My parents were both atheists, and they didn’t dedicate any time to explaining to me why there wasn’t a God, for the same reason that they didn’t dedicate any time to explaining why there aren’t any unicorns, or alien UFO’s. They thought God and unicorns were both so implausible that there was no reason to teach me about their nonexistence. They just taught me general critical thinking skills, and the scientific method. Of course, living in America, at some point I heard the Jesus story (and about Roswell), but given that I was raised with no religious beliefs, my gut reaction was “Wow! That story sounds crazy! Why do you believe that?” Then people explained why, and their explanations just didn’t seem like they made a lot of sense. Probably at some point I went home to ask my parents questions, but it wasn’t a big enough deal that I remember any conversations with them about it.

    amz, help! I have spent the last hour trying to convince myself that my dog is an apple. It’s worked, and now I can’t convince myself that it’s a dog.

  • mikespeir

    amz, help! I have spent the last hour trying to convince myself that my dog is an apple. It’s worked, and now I can’t convince myself that it’s a dog.

    Just be careful what you bite into, Autumnal Harvest! 🙂

  • Gullwatcher

    It may be true that adults have no choice in what they believe – although it is also true that they can choose never to examine or question their beliefs and to turn a blind eye to anything that contradicts them. There is some choice involved.

    But kids? Young kids believe what they are told. They don’t have enough framework yet to see that this fits and that doesn’t, they just believe it all. So a big YAY! to the rational moms, doing their best to give the kids a good framework.

    For what it’s worth, I grew up both hearing bible stories and not believing them, classifying them with fairy tales. It is possible to expose children without indoctrinating them, just as long as they know what they are hearing is fiction. Some of those bible stories may actually be the best defense against religion, considering what horrible things happen in them.

  • Thanks for the plug for Rational Moms!!!

    I’m one of the contributers there as well (though I’ve only written one piece so far, I’ve got some more in the works). I looks like it’s going to be a great blog, and I hope people here will stop by and join in the fun! 😀

  • Beijingrrl

    Cool! As a rational mom myself, I’ll definitely be checking out the blog.

  • Yep, we’ve got a genuine nonreligious parenting movement going now. This is my kind of proliferation. (And thanks for mentioning the next book!)

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