Robin Shulman of the Washington Post has an article in today’s paper about how non-religious parents are trying to recreate a “church” environment (community, values, rituals) without the religious factor.
They are not religious, so they don’t go to church. But they are searching for values and rituals with which to raise their children, as well as a community of like-minded people to offer support.
Dozens of parents came together on a recent Saturday to participate in a seminar on humanist parenting and to meet others interested in organizing a kind of nonreligious congregation, complete with regular family activities and ceremonies for births and deaths.
Religious congregations are good at supporting parenting, said Gregory Epstein, the humanist chaplain at Harvard who organized the [secular parenting] seminar. Although most humanists may not believe in God, he said, they do believe in sharing their lives with others who share their values.
“Why throw the baby out with the bath water?” Epstein asked.
(Greg gets bonus points from me for using the phrase “throw the baby.”)
It’s amazing to me this is considered news.
I’m glad it’s getting attention, but it is that surprising to see that atheist parents want the same sort of community support and shared values for their children that religious parents do?
It must be… Too many people still attach a negative connotation to the word “atheist”:
A recent study found that many Americans associate atheists with negative traits, including criminal behavior and rampant materialism.
People often ask, “How do you expect to raise your children to be good people without religion?” said Dale McGowan, the seminar leader and author of “Parenting Beyond Belief.” He suggested the retort might be something like, “How do you expect to raise your children to be moral people without allowing them to think for themselves?” He advocates exposing children to many religious traditions without imposing any.
That’s not exactly what Dale said. He knows that many religious parents do, in fact, let their children forge their own paths:
The quote above assumes that all religious parents do not allow their kids to think for themselves, a false and ridiculous assumption. For the record, my suggested reply to the question, “How are you going to raise your kids to be moral without religion?” was this: “Calmly reply, ‘Why, by avoiding moral indoctrination, of course, which research has shown to be the least effective way to encourage moral development. And what’s your plan?’” Oh well. I’m a silly, oversensitive monkey to even point it out.
If the article helps introduce other atheist parents to the types of secular gatherings going on around them, then fantastic. I’m glad it was written.
But at what point will these stories stop being news?
How much longer will we be seeing stories about atheists parents wanting their children to get (*gasp*) good grades? To get a proper education about the various religious myths? To make life-long friends with people within their own non-religious community?
It’s not news. It’s normal.
We want the same things everybody wants. If anything is “news,” it’s that there are now more opportunities than ever before for atheist parents to become a part of these communities.
In that sense, any publicity about these gatherings is good publicity.