Advice for Atheists Raising Babies April 3, 2009

Advice for Atheists Raising Babies

It comes from a non-mother, but Laci‘s advice for atheist parents is still worth hearing:

Her advice in a nutshell:

1. Raise children with a cultured understanding of world religions
2. Explain your own viewpoint and WHY (danger of religion)
3. Make sure an array of resources/information are available. Encourage education!
4. Try to take unbiased stances.
5. When questioned, at any age
6. Answer…and answer honestly!
7. Encourage tolerance of diversity.
8. Engage children in conversations and encourage them to form their own opinions.
9. Speak like a peer about opinions. If you respect them, they will respect you.
10. Do not alienate…avoid dogma!

Anything you would add to the mix?

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  • Excellent video.

    P.s. Points 5 and 6 should be one point.

  • Kate

    #2 and #4 directly contradict each other.

  • This is pretty much the approach I took. The result? One had a religious phase which lasted for two years until age 13, the other never took religion seriously – despite regular encouragement from school.

    The most important thing is to give them permission to make their own mind up – and show them it’s OK to be sceptical by your own example.

  • Kate Says: “#2 and #4 directly contradict each other.”

    Nonsense – there are plenty examples of the dangers of religion that are unarguable.

  • #2 and #4 directly contradict each other.

    Stating a fact is not being biased. Nor is stating an opinion. “Biased” is distorting the stated facts due to your opinion.

  • Kate

    It does not say “danger of some religion”. It says “danger of religion”.

  • High Schooler on a Mission

    I have a catholic mother, and an atheist father. Neither one of them ever tried to force their beliefs on me.

    I would say that the one thing that should be added, is to let your child be what they believe.

    If you’re an atheist and your child believes in a god, let them. Don’t reprimand your child for their view. Give them their own time to figure out what exactly it is they believe.

  • I refuse to encourage tolerance, but I’ll certainly encourage respect.

  • I am an atheist raised as a catholic and my husband is a non-denominational christian. We have an 8-month-old daughter. As much as I would love for her to grow up an atheist, I think that it’s only fair to raise her in such a way that she can make up her own mind about religion. After all, that’s a major problem with religious upbringing – kids are taught that their parents’ religion is the ONLY way, no questions asked.

  • I have additional points.

    Be prepared to learn things from your children. They may lack experience but this just means that they are free to ask really stupid questions. Really stupid questions are great because the answers often enlighten us and make us think of old ideas in new ways. Parenting isn’t simply a one way exercise.

    That goes hand in hand with my second point which is never to be afraid not to have an answer. Children may well look up to parents and believe that they know everything and can do anything (at least while they’re quite young) but this isn’t the case. Often it is better to help a child (or an adult) to think through a point or question for themselves than to provide them with an opinion or half an answer. If you don’t know, say so. Maybe your kid will grow up to discover something new.

  • kat

    idk…i told my son that jesus is just a character in a book, like peter pan, to which he responded “so peter pan died?”

    (he’ll be five years old on the 25th)

  • Ty

    Laci and I share a similarly strict fundamentalist upbringing.

    So, I’d say that if you want to raise an atheist child, bring them up in the strictest fundamentalist household you can muster.

    It worked on me.

  • SarahH

    No kids here, but I’ve put a lot of thought into this issue. I think the important thing to stress to kids when they ask about religion is that no one knows for sure. If I have kids, I think we’ll let them that Mommy and Daddy believe that God/supernatural stuff is just like fairy-tales: make-believe. But I’ll also let them know that their Grandparents believe in a God and some of our friends believe in other Gods and other ideas. Ideally, they’ll be well equipped to make their own decisions, and I want to make sure that I don’t give them the impression that religion is stupid or bad – just that they all represent different personal beliefs and no one knows for sure who’s right and who’s wrong.

    I will, however, teach my kids to use their brains, encourage their curiosity, expose them to different settings, and teach them humanist values. This will probably make it less likely that they’ll be religious, but I think those are too important to neglect simply to keep things less biased.

  • James Koran

    We don’t live in a vacuum so we are all influenced by our families and community. We display biases all the time, especially self serving ones. Try to promote a Socratic dialog with the aim of understanding different ideas that would include atheistic and theistic ideas. This is essential to helping others form their own opinions and beliefs.

  • 4. Try to take unbiased stances. But make sure they know how dangerous religion is.

    6. Answer…and answer honestly! Make sure they know how dangerous religion is. Point to the Christians down the block and teach the children to be sceptical of their kindness.

    7. Encourage tolerance of diversity. But don’t let them forget how dangerous religious people are.

    8. Engage children in conversations and encourage them to form their own opinions about how dangerous religion is.

    10. Do not alienate…avoid dogma! Except the one about religion is dangerous.

  • John V

    As an atheist parent of two children, now 14 and 11 years of age, my advice is not to be afraid to expose them to religious ideas and never to force atheism on your children. Children are often smarter than we give them credit for. In fact, in my experience, exposure to religious ideas backfired on those trying to “convert” them.
    Years ago, when my oldest son was about 4 years of age, some religious relatives gave our children some “Veggietales” videos (hoping, I’m sure, that they would pick up on the program’s religious message.) Rather than prevent my children from watching them, I let them go ahead and enjoy them. Despite the religious message, the shows are well done and kinda cute for what they are. Besides, they’re going to find out about the god stuff sometime. After watching some of the videos, my son told me that he “kind of” believed in god.
    “That’s fine”, I answered. “That’s your choice and I love you no matter what you believe.”
    But then he started asking specific questions about what they talked about in the show.
    “What’s ‘omnipresent’ mean?” he asked.
    “It means that something is everywhere at the same time.” I replied.
    At that, he was deep in thought for a couple minutes.
    “But that means they’re saying god is everywhere at the same time! That’s STUPID! I guess I don’t believe in god anymore.”
    Out of the mouths of children!
    He’s been an atheist ever since.

  • Devysciple

    Y’all know what the big difference between most skeptics and most religious parents is?!

    Religious parents know what’s good for their child and which belief it should cling to. Skeptic parents actually ponder on what to do in terms of spritual guidance…

    I guess/hope that makes all the difference.

  • Awesomesauce


    I loled 🙂

  • Marissa

    My parents were pretty agnostic, but pretty anti-fundie and the same time. Still, growing up in a very Christian part of the country, I got invited to church a lot. My parents always let me attend, even if they didn’t agree. I always knew that they’d love me despite whatever I believed.

    I am an Atheist and my sister is a Christian. We all get along fine. Letting us make up our own minds was key.

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