If you’re an atheist parent, how do you raise your children? With no religion? With exposure to religion? Would you be ok with it if they gravitated toward religion early in life?
We’ve already seen books that discuss questions like these, but M. Anton Mikicic has a new book to add to the mix. It’s called god is redundant and it’s essentially an introduction into atheism for his daughters — not to indoctrinate them, but to explain to them what his worldview is.
Here’s an excerpt from the conclusion of the book:
I wrote this book for my kids. Not to indoctrinate them into my worldview, but to make sure they understand that whether or not to practice a religion is their choice. I want my daughters to know it’s perfectly acceptable to doubt, to question, to wonder why. To say, “I don’t know” or “I don’t think so” is to tell the truth. And after all, it wouldn’t be very courageous or honest of me to remain silent about my opinions on religion to my own children, would it?
If my kids decide they don’t want to practice a religion when they grow up, that’s fine with me. They’d be in very good company among all the freethinkers I’ve quoted throughout this book. If, on the other hand, they do decide to practice religion, well that will have to be fine too.
What advice do I have for my kids? Educate yourselves! As Bertrand Russell said, “What we need is not the will to believe, but the will to find out.” I do think one of the vices of religion is it teaches you to be satisfied with not understanding. As Augustine said, “There is another form of temptation, even more fraught with danger. This is the disease of curiosity. It is this which drives us to try to discover the secrets of nature, those secrets which are beyond our understanding, which can avail us nothing and which man should not wish to learn.” But as Mark Twain said, “When you know a man’s religious complexion, you now what sort of religious books he reads when he wants some more light, and what sort of books he avoids, lest by accident he gets more light than he wants.”
My hope for my kids is that they’re happy and confident, free to explore the diversity of life, and to discover the things they love the most. For me, that’s the two of them, their mom, and the things we do together as a family like traveling to new places, enjoying nature, or just discussing what we learned today over one of mom’s fabulous dinners. I also love our hobbies like the arts, especially music. I hope my kids remember that their common sense is their own authority, and that they’re free, moral agents. Being human is not inherently sinful at all. Life’s quite a fantastic journey if you lighten up and let yourself enjoy it. As Oscar Wilde said, “Life is too important to be taken seriously.”
For those of you whose children became religious despite their upbringing, how did you handle it? What did you say to them? Were you honestly ok with it? Angry? Frustrated? Did you (or do you still) have debates/arguments over who’s more correct?
Leave your thoughts in the comments and one random reader will win a free copy of Mikicic’s book! (To “enter” the contest, just make sure the word “shark” appears at the end of your comment. I’ll email you next week if you’re the winner.)