Are These Really ‘Non-Religious Reasons to Take Your Kids to Church’? August 14, 2012

Are These Really ‘Non-Religious Reasons to Take Your Kids to Church’?

Daddy blogger Nick Shell thinks it’s a good idea for everybody to take their children to church, “not from a religious perspective, but from more of a scientific one.” Because, you know, surveys show churches are good for your well-being.

This is for the agnostics who are curious about taking their kids to church, as well as, for those who haven’t had much exposure to church but are curious enough to consider checking it out.

Ok, ok, I’m an atheist and Shell’s not really targeting me… but this is a bad idea for agnostics. And anyone else not part of a church system.

Because you don’t need a church to live a happier life. You really just need a tight-knit community, in any form.

But Shell didn’t say that. He thinks there are eight “non-religious reasons to take your kids to church.” On that point, he’s soooooo wrong.

Let’s go through his list, shall we?

1. Friends. For you as well as your kids. Most of my friends and my wife’s friends are somehow traced back to our church. In fact, we met each other through a mutual friend that I met through a group of friends I knew through my church.

2. Community. Similarly, you find yourself among other people who are bound to have things in common with you and your children; even if it’s just the fact you are parents with kids around the same age at the same place.

Yes, it’s great to have friendships that are contingent on your acceptance of Jesus Christ and all the mythology associated with him. (Who wants to bet that if your child tells his Sunday School classmates he’s an atheist, he’ll be shunned pretty quickly?)

Look, you don’t need a church to meet people anymore. It’s easy to find groups based on your actual interests ( is a good place to start) and those friendships won’t require you to sit through long explanations of why someone died for sins you never committed and then came back to life, thus nullifying the whole idea of dying for your sins.

Going to a church offers no guarantee that you’ll have things in common with the other parents there any more than you’d find like-minded families while sitting in the bleachers at a baseball game. The one thing churchgoers have in common is their faith — and if you don’t have it, then church isn’t going to be the best place to meet people.

3. Activities and events. There is always something happening on the church calendar and much of it involves free food. Not to mention, most of the activities themselves don’t cost anything to participate. Basically, it’s free entertainment with families you have stuff in common with.

… the hell?

Yeah, I’m sure all of the Church’s events are secular in nature… you think you’re just going swimming. Next thing you know, your kids have been baptized.

Even eating the “free food” probably involves praying over it first.

I’m not blaming the churches for this. They’re a church. This is what they do. But you can’t honestly suggest families who aren’t interested in religion would enjoy a church’s activities.

And I don’t think it’s right for non-religious families to take advantage of a church’s free food, anyway. If they’re planning and holding events and paying for food, let them enjoy it! Stop mooching off of them because you didn’t plan out your food budget properly.

4. Child care. Free child care. While you are in the main worship service, as well as Sunday School, your kids are being supervised and taught in their own age appropriate Sunday School and worship service where they make you crafts out of construction paper and popsicle sticks.

Right… Because Sunday School is all about crafts and fun, and not about brainwashing and proselytizing.

Again, there are better ways to teach your kids ethics and morals than to send them to Sunday School where those values tend to be warped, anyway.

No doubt the non-religious community could do a better job of offering something akin to Secular Sunday School classes for children… but, in the meantime, the church isn’t an acceptable alternative.

5. Family values. Church is a great place to get moral reinforcement. It’s no secret that pop culture, everyday life, and even just our own negativity can be a drag on our ideal personal standards.

Did he just say churches can teach us morals…? Really?!

So Shell thinks the same people who believe that gays and lesbians are condemned to spend eternity in hellfire, that women who get raped ought to bear their rapist’s baby rather than have an abortion, that pre-marital sex is always a bad thing… are the people who we should look to as moral experts?

Not. A. Chance.

Keep your children away.

6. Motivation. Imagine the hope that comes out of the belief that the creator of this universe not only loves you but has a plan for your life. When you go to and belong to a church, you are exposed to a way of thinking that ultimately affects how you see the world, yourself, and others.

… and it’s all made up. Shell would rather live a life of blissful delusion than one with honest self-reflection.

He may not care about the truth, but I do. And I hope my kids do, too.

And wasn’t this supposed to be a list of non-religious reasons to go to church? How is this non-religious?

7. Opportunities to help others. You’d be amazed at some of the unique ways you can help others and your community through your church. It is likely you will find a venue to serve others in a way that is framed around your talents and abilities.

Ok, I’ll almost concede this one. I’ve said before that churches do charity much better than atheists do… but their charity too often comes with strings attached. They’ll help you… but you have to accept the Bible.

Atheists have ways to help each other. You can donate to charity and volunteer in person.

Church leaders aren’t the only people who offer those opportunities. So start looking elsewhere and you might be surprised at what you’ll find.

8. Routine. When you expose yourself and your kids to all this positivity every week, after a while you’re bound to see a noticeable difference in the way your family interacts.

I don’t even get that. What, you’ll eventually notice you’re all sniping at each other because it’s too damn early to wake up on a Sunday morning?

If you want routine, plan an exercise route. Go volunteer every week. Visit a library.

Don’t fill your mind with nonsense.

I don’t even know why churches would want non-religious families to attend. We’d be the parents sitting in the back of the pew, holding “Citation Needed” signs during the sermon, teaching our children to question authority and demand evidence for supernatural claims… It’s everything the church doesn’t want.

I accept that if you actually believe what Christianity preaches, you may get a lot of benefits from attending church.

But if you’re not religious and you care about your children learning evidence-based truth, you’re wasting your time (and doing a lot of harm in the process) by taking your children to church.

What would you be teaching your kids, anyway? “Hey, son, I want you to be a hypocrite and not stand up for what you believe in… because there’s free food involved.”

(Thanks to Marguerite for the link)

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • I’m an atheist and a father. I’ve gotten into heated discussions with atheists about them taking their kids to church. Unfortunately, it’s a reflection of how there are minimal atheist communities outside of universities and college towns.

  • If they really really really REALLY feel the need… then try to make it a UU church at least.  

    Remember a few days ago the post about the atheism community failing on a few things like money issues and kid friendly venues???  This is what happens.  People look for secular reasons to attend a church when they can’t find community elsewhere. 

  • primenumbers

    Taking them to church (other than a one-off visit so that they know what it’s all about) is just going to normalize the bizarre behaviour of churchgoers.

  • Erp

     Well UU churches/fellowships can be a bit scarce on the ground.  Same with Ethical Culture.  Humanist Society groups are possibly even rarer. 

    For some things perhaps getting together a group of like minded people to meet regularly for volunteer work, discussion, meals, and/or fun.   UU with its church of the larger fellowship and the Humanist Society might be a way of finding those like minded people in your area.   Admittedly the food is likely to be potluck, not free. 

  • Gail

    I find the last one particularly funny. I grew up in a very religious Southern Baptist household, and Sunday mornings were always the worst. We three kids never wanted to get up and go to church, so it was a constant struggle with our parents. And my extremely religious mother was always in the bitchiest mood ever after church, I think because she was mad that her kids weren’t super-excited about going to church. So yes, church did change the way my family interacted on Sundays, but I wouldn’t call it “positivity.”

  • Mary Lynne Schuster

    Here’s an interesting part of his blog column:  

    “The way I look at it; even if at the end of my life I was wrong about God this entire time and when we die, we just die and that’s it, I still wouldn’t regret having believed. 

    Because if nothing else, I had a sense of hope amidst all of life’s uncertainties.”
    He’s another one who can’t imagine life without God and thinks it would be destitute and pointless, so he’s going to tell us all about how we should think and believe.   I didn’t read the intro to your column carefully enough and thought it was a non-theist and so was appropriately outraged; this is about what I would expect for a Christian telling non-theists how to feel about church.  

  • MargueriteF

    This guy’s Christian bias is showing. Almost none of these are “non-religious, scientific reasons.” If someone suggested to him that he ought to take his family to a Jewish temple, or a Wiccan celebration of Ostara, in order to benefit his kids, maybe he’d begin to grasp the issues unchurched parents might have with taking their families to church for the supposed benefit of the kids. But he probably still wouldn’t be able to understand the problem, because in his mind Christian church is clearly good for kids, whereas those other religions just aren’t.

    That being said, I admit I’m thinking about taking my kids to a Unitarian church if I can find a good one. As a former Lutheran, I do miss the community of church (and the singing!). But I wouldn’t go back to a Lutheran church, because any Christian denomination, even a liberal one, will proselytize to my kids. That’s just what they do. And allowing them to inculcate my kids with a bunch of stuff I no longer believe in is too big a tradeoff for “community” and some free food.

  • So it’s supposed to bring hope to know that “the creator of this universe not only loves you but has a plan for your life” which includes roasting me for all of eternity because despite being omnipotent and omniscient it is unable to clearly show itself to the world ?

    And as for the other points, I reckon you can have them with a sports club, reading circle or other club built around your interests. Except perhaps point 7 (Opportunities to help others) but if I recall correctly helping the Red Cross does the trick nicely. And as an added advantage, you widen the circle of your acquaintances given you’re not helping others with the same people you see every week at your club gatherings.

  • Mary Lynne Schuster

    UU worked for us.  Check around, though, because some are faithier than others.  Ours is almost anti-theist – 90% of people at the new member meeting were atheists, and the minister apologizes on the rare instances she mentions Jesus in a sermon.  We have a huge LGBT community.    

  • Grits

    I briefly took my kids to church. Partly to make my parents happy and also because I thought (at the time, no longer) it was a good way to make friends and socialize. While it made my parents happy and they did get to socialize, I found the cost too high to pay. It became harder and harder to rationalize away the nonsense they were teaching my kids (like missing ccd is a mortal sin, etc.). Perhaps it was the church, but I couldn’t stomach the nonsense most parishioners were spouting, no matter how innocuous. We finally stopped completely. However, my son has asked to go w/ friends to VBS and other type of events and he seems to have fun and seems to ignore any theology spouted.  I think it is up to each parent to decide that, but it is a hard line to walk and maintain one’s integrity.

  • Voting.  I’ve only once had a polling location that wasn’t at a church.  

  • TheAmazingAgnostic

    The author of this piece is obviously trying to proselytize, but does so in a somewhat deceitful way.

    It is strange that he thinks “agnostics” (such as myself) should want to go to church and take their kids. I have often found that many Christians consider atheists a lost cause, and direct most of their attention to people of other faiths and agnostics.

    Many people have different definitions of what an agnostic is, but it doesn’t mean that a person is completely undecided on the issue of religion. Personally, I think that God’s existence is unlikely, and that most of the claims made by various faiths are not open to disproof, and thus, are not able to be proven true or false. Some agnostics call themselves militant, and state that nobody truly knows whether God is true or not. Finally, some agnostics are theists, and despite having doubts about God’s existence, still continue to worship and believe.

    All agnostics are not “seekers,” and I think that it would be a stupid idea for anybody who does not believe to send their kids to a place where they will learn values that are contrary to those held by their parents. Of course, I am not saying that nonbelievers should try to actively prevent their kids from converting to another religion; I am saying that sending your kids to church if you are a nonbeliever will give them mixed messages about religion and life in general.

  • MargueriteF

    Good to know. Thanks!

  • machintelligence

    There is a reason to take your children to church: immunization. So don’t just take them to one church, take them to plenty of different ones. Once they are familiar with all of the contradictory beliefs and  doctrines that various religions have, they will be unlikely to believe in just one version. It would also be a good idea to disabuse them of the notion that faith is a virtue. Faith is just gullibility dressed up in its Sunday best.

  • Victoria

     Yeah, that was my first reaction — all of these seem like good reasons to try a UU “church.”

  • That I don’t understand about some countries (the USA ?) : the drive to put polling locations in churches. Aren’t schools perfectly suitable places for putting a polling station ? Or gymnasiums ? Erps, you could even put it in a public gymnasium, swimming pool or stadium…if they really have to outsource the polling location for lack of suitable grounds owned by the state/city/province…couldn’t they loan a place owned by another state service such as post offices ? Why give cash to the private sector when you can host the thing yourself (and in any case will have to ensure security and staff the place yourself, so it’s not like you keep costs low by doing that…) ?

  • I have a better idea.  Go become a disciple of a different book: The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles, by Julie Edwards.  As a family, read a chapter of this book each night before bed.  Concentrate on the part in the beginning, where the professor is helping the children develop their sense of imagination and powers of observation. 

    Then put it into practice.  Every Sunday, while other people are at church, head out into your neighborhood, your nearby park or beach or natural area.  Take a magnifying glass and maybe some cheap science supplies from American Science and Surplus.  Pack a lunch.
    Spend time looking at where you are.  Watch the way water runs in a brook or what happens when you toss pebbles into a puddle.  Get down on your stomach and look at the grass or the sand or the soil and see what’s really going on down there.  

    Sit around and eat lunch and discuss what you see, what you think, and how you feel about both those things.  

    Invite some other families to join you if you want.  

  • I think he confuses Agnosticism with confusion over which branch of Christianity to join, which is not the same thing.  Most Agnostics are practical Atheists and take the Agnostic label b/c they aren’t ready to rule out the possibility of a Deistic god.

    In our house we use Sundays for “Sunday Funday.”  It’s an idea I got from PZ Myers, who said that Atheist parents can take their kids to the zoo every Sunday, as a way to combat the social pressure to attend church.  We take our kids on a special trip of their choosing.  It’s great family time, the kids do age appropriate activities, they have fun, and there is no mythology attached.  If Agnostics want to connect with other non-religious families, take the kids to the park on Sunday morning.  The other familes at the park, likely do not attend church.  Actually there are a lot of better activities for an Agnostic family do on Sunday morning.

    Natural History Museum
    Ice cream bar

    These things are more fun for my kids than construction paper and Bible lessons.

  • That would be a good idea, and the fact that you have to get up early a Sunday for Mass is an added bonus, if it weren’t for one thing: you also have to get up early, and I like my Sundays lie-ins.

  • houndies

    pretty warped. plus, this guy sounds like someone who really just wants alot of free stuff and is willing to put up with come crap to get it. free food, free child care, free entertainment. i’m sure as soon as the church figures out his angle his whole family will see what xtain love and charity are all about! punted to the curb without delay!

  • houndies

    dont forget the “plan” includes rape, incest, murder, theft, and so many other grand things. i love to know that little children are brought into the world to be tortured and killed to suit the plan of a loving god. yup!

  • Tainda

    I allowed my daughter to go to church with her friends when she was young and even day VBS in the summer.  I wasn’t about to shove my views down her throat the same way my grandmother tried to do to me.  I told my daughter to go and really listen to them and make up her own mind.  Question, question, question.  

    Today she is a very well adjusted 19-year-old ATHEIST.  Kids aren’t stupid and if you teach them to form their own opinions, they will grow up better for it.

    I wasn’t about to go to church though.  You couldn’t get me in there with a naked Jeremy Renner 😛  Ok, maybe then…

  • MargueriteF

    “Aren’t schools perfectly suitable places for putting a polling station ?”

    Voting is done during the week. Thus you either have to let the kids have the day off, or have gazillions of strangers walking into a school with kids in it. I imagine this is one reason churches tend to be used. I will say that I haven’t voted at a church since I left North Carolina– Virginia (or at least my part of it) does seem to make an effort to put its polling places in public schools.

  • m1n4

    My step mother in law does this every summer. She is an open atheist to all her family and likes to take her kids to summer bible schools all around her town. Then she discusses all topics taught on each one and let the kids decide if they think it’s true or not.
    She’s been doing this for a couple of years now and will stop when the kids ask, so far they like to go and hear stories of the “cool guy with awsome tricks” and spend some time away from home, but they don’t buy anything the summer schools say.

  • Gus Snarp

    This has bothered me for some time, as I’ve always had polling places in churches as well. Going with me to vote is the only time my kids have set foot in a church. But I don’t think there’s any money involved at all. Basically, churches have large rooms that are basically empty most of the time that they offer, I think for free, to the board of elections. They’re not the only places used though, I’ve heard of firehouses and even private homes. In fact, my wife’s family had the polling place in the basement when she was a kid.

  • Glasofruix

    During the week? Around here it’s done on a sunday.

  • My bad. I am more used to countries (France and Mauritius) where voting is done during the week-end, from here comes my puzzlement (and impression they absolutely want to give loan money to churches) about the fact that polling stations are in churches.

  • Gus Snarp

    I’m not going to take my children to church hoping to find some side benefit when the fundamental activity going on is a preacher standing in front of the congregation in a position of authority and telling them lies and unsubstantiated opinions as if they were facts. That’s hardly a good formative experience. If they want to go with their friends on occasion at some point, or experiment, then we’ll try a sampling of different faiths available locally (advantage of living in a decent size metropolitan area, we’ve got just about everything around here), coupled with learning about the appeal to authority fallacy and basic critical thinking. But certainly not weekly church services.

    I used to occasionally ponder going to church just for the fun of the ceremony before I was a parent, but on the occasions I went I found the call and response chanting of things I didn’t believe just too creepy to be around. Then I went to my nephew’s Boy Scout Sunday at his Catholic Church and when the priest got off onto a bunch of nonsense about how “God’s Truth” was better than “man’s knowledge” and it was clear he was denigrating science, which was immediately followed by an appeal to help fill baby bottles with money to fight abortion, I knew that there was no reason for me to set foot in a church again outside of weddings, funerals, and election day.

  • The Other Weirdo

     In a way, it isn’t free. Churches are tax-exempt, so technically speaking, you’re paying for those services with higher taxes.

  • The Other Weirdo

     Churches have much more room than any other facility, and there are many more churches than anything else. All those places you mentioned are all busy during normal voting times.

  • MargueriteF

    In Virginia it always seems to be on Tuesday. The next two elections here are September 4, and (of course) November 6– both Tuesdays.

  • Cincinatheist

    I live in Cincinnati, which is an extremely Catholic/religious city. I love Sunday mornings for the exact reason you’ve described: there are no crowds anywhere. Parks? Deserted. The Zoo? Empty. The gym? I get my pick of the equipment. Sunday mornings are fantastic.

  • Chris Kilroy

    I can attest, as an atheist who is dragged to church functions by my Catholic wife, that I do not enjoy their social events. Yes, my wife has friends there. I have polite conversation with people we know there. I find that I have little in common with the people that we know through the church though. Most of their conversation at these events tends to be dominated by religious discussion. They really don’t want me participating in that (even if they don’t know that they don’t want me in those conversations as my atheism isn’t well known in those circles) so I politely excuse myself. Other conversations end up around sports teams that I care little about since I”m not native to this part of the country. The only upside is that it IS a Catholic church so most of their functions do include free beer and wine. 

  • Rwlawoffice

    Christians and conservatives are always criticized for being hung up on sex and the one time in the post that Hemant talks about morals all he brings up are issues related to sex. Liberal mentality on display.

  • Ah, like in the following passage:

    And I don’t think it’s right for non-religious families to take advantage of a church’s free food, anyway. If they’re planning and holding events and paying for food, let them enjoy it! Stop mooching off of them because you didn’t plan out your food budget properly.

    where he talks about the moral rightness of faking it just to get free food. That’s re-emphasised in the last paragraph, but everyone knows a statement against hypocrisy is not talking about morals. /sarcasm

  • Rwlawoffice

    5. Family values. Church is a great place to get
    moral reinforcement. It’s no secret that pop culture, everyday life, and
    even just our own negativity can be a drag on our ideal personal

    Did he just say churches can teach us morals…? Really?!
    Shell thinks the same people who believe that gays and lesbians are
    condemned to spend eternity in hellfire, that women who get raped ought
    to bear their rapist’s baby rather than have an abortion, that
    pre-marital sex is always a bad thing… are the people who we should look
    to as moral experts?
    Not. A. Chance.
    Keep your children away.

    This is the portion of the post that talks about morals that I was referring to.

  • Tim

    “”Aren’t schools perfectly suitable places for putting a polling station ?””

    in the UK elections are always on a Thursday and both Churches and Schools are used for polling stations.  It tends to be schools and community centres in urban and suburban areas with churches used out in the sticks were teh village school has long ago closed due to lack of use (the church isn’t heavily used either, but being an ancient building it is usally still standing)

    If it is a school, the staff and kids usually get the day off.  If it is in a church it is usually in the church hall or some side room unless you are in a village where there is only one room in the church.

  • Luther

     Yup and fits right in with setting a good moral example and family values, to go for the free food and free day care.

  • Wild Rumpus

    Just confirming that my UU church is mostly non-theist (including agnostics and Buddhists) well. We have some lesbian families and the minister is gay.

    A lot of the reasons we go to a UU church is exactly those listed above, but I don’t have to worry about my kids being threatened with eternal damnation or listen to a bunch of supernatural nonsense.

  • Douglas Packard

    When people are criticized for being “hung up on sex,” it means we think their so-called “moral opposition” to homosexuality, premarital sex, etc. is idiotic and irrational. To reference someone else’s hang ups is not to be hung up oneself, anymore than standing up to intolerance is being intolerant oneself. But nice try at creating a false equivalence. No one here is buying your bullshit, though. 

  • Gus Snarp

    You seem to be operating under the misconception that being gay is all about sex. Or that somehow having been raped and not being able to get an abortion is about sex to the woman involved.

    This is exactly what it means to be hung up on sex. You can’t fathom that rape is not actually about sex, it’s about power and assault. You can’t fathom that being gay is not all about hot gay sex, it’s just as much about love and forming a long term bond as being straight is.

    You’re the one making it about sex.

  • Gus Snarp

    We’ve probably passed each other at the zoo some Sunday morning.

  • Gus Snarp

    Most of the U.S. holds elections on Tuesdays. The Presidential election is always on a Tuesday, and most states find it convenient to use that for all other elections as well so people don’t get confused.

  • Parse

    Additionally, at least the previous place I lived, we had (a) the schools all side by side, and (b) more polling places than schools.  If you wanted a place that could handle the traffic in the middle of suburbia, you’d need to go to a church (as there aren’t really any other non-residential buildings in the area).  Though I voted at a church, they at least took down all of the posters, pictures, and other religious paraphernalia, and we entered and exited through the side entrance.

    I’ve moved since then, and now I vote in an appliance store.  Really.

  • Rwlawoffice

    I fully understand thatrape is about power. But to say that being gay is not about sex is simply silly. What makes a person gay is their sexual attraction to a member of the same sex. Otherwise they would not be gay.

    Not attempting to hijack the thread at all.  I am commenting on a comment in the post regarding the family values of churches. The only family values that churches teach that Hemant mentioned is those that relate to sex.  I found that very telling about the liberal mindset.


  • You and others have already effectively demolished all the so-called good reasons for taking kids to church- although I don’t think you handled the issue of morals very well. Looking at the foul position of most churches when it comes to GLBT issues is very narrow. The real problem when it comes to Christian churches is the core immorality of the belief system itself, which is likely to contribute to immoral and unethical behavior in the broadest way. Not only does the church not instill positive ethical values, it actively attempts to teach negative ones. This is what makes taking a child to church a form of child abuse.

    Other than that, kids hate church! That’s something that runs deep in our culture, almost a cliche. The trope runs through our art, from great literature to the Simpsons. Kids in church are bored and fidgety and just looking for trouble. Why would any parent subject their kids to such an unpleasant experience for no gain? (Free food… really???)

  • Indeed this part talks about sex, I saw it also. However, I was responding to your assertion that this passage was “the one time in the post that Hemant talks about morals”, by citing another place in the same post where he talks about morals, not as directly as in the passage you just cited but pretty straightforwardly and where he talks about other moral issues than sexual ones (i.e. should you act contrary to your values for monetary gain).

  • Octoberfurst

     I have attended a local UU church and really enjoyed it. There was definitely a sense of community there.  Over half the attendees were secular humanists and the rest were a hodge-podge of theists, buddhists and pagans. It was also a place where gays felt welcome and safe.  Most of the sermons were about social justice and how to live a good life.  So check out a local UU church. I think you would like it. (Granted I know they are sometimes hard to find. There are less than 200,000 UU’s across America compaired to 60 million Catholics, 16 million Southern Baptists, etc.)

  • Rwlawoffice

     Right the moral and ethical values of love, grace, mercy, forgiveness, selflessness, honesty, virtue, self control,frugality and  commitment are horrible and to teach kids these would be abusive.  HAHA.

  • Some of these are questionable values to begin with. Love is not a value; the suggestion we should love everyone is absurd and harmful. Grace isn’t even a thing. Mercy and forgiveness must be earned, not given blindly. Selflessness isn’t always good- we should frequently place ourselves first. Frugality is not a universal requirement of behavior.

    And to the extent that you want to consider these things good, none are consistently taught by any Christian church I’ve heard of. And no real values are lacking in people who don’t believe in any religion.

    What do we learn about in church: sin, original sin, forgiveness by proxy. These are foul, foul concepts revealing the deep immorality at the heart of Christianity.

  • kagekiri

    Not all kids hate church. I know I was a little annoyed at waking up early when I was like 5 or 6, but it was so easy to answer all the Sunday school teacher’s questions and try to be the best student in each class, and I really liked singing too. I think I was definitely in the minority though.

    And now that I’m quite anti-theist, I definitely look back and feel like it was mostly a waste of time (one teacher actually had Marvel/DC comics and Star Wars stuff he’d give out as prizes, so at least there was that intro to geekiness I got out of it).

    As for the ethical values, I do think at least some of the teachers were trying to instill good ones, but the foundation of anti-humanism is hard to deny. “Humans are inherently sinful, and deserve death for it” (this was taught to 1st through 5th graders) was one that definitely stunted my sense of purpose and self-esteem even throughout high school and college. The basic salvation message is just not good for people.

  • My polling place is at a high school, and it’s a challenge.  Most elections are when school is in session, the kids lose the use of the gym for the day, and the parking is really inadequate for the teachers, kids and voters.  I’d actually prefer they use a facility that is mostly empty on Tuesdays.  Plus, we’d be getting some real practical use out of building that is seldom used that way.

    With all the tax breaks that churches get, the least they could do is to offer polling space for free.

  • The UU’s have a program like this, my UU offers it for 7th graders.  It’s called “neighboring faiths” and it’s a year of studying world religions and taking field trips to different religious institutions.  My daughter went to temples for Hindu, 2 vareties of Buddhist, Sikh, an Islamic center, a Synagogue, and about 8 different flavors of xianity.  I consider it a great vaccination.

  • Blacksheep

    I love your idea, and have done very similar things with my family. For me, however, the result of looking closely, and as you said “seeing what’s really going on down there” always results in not only feeling closer to God but being more convinced that there is a creator.

  • Thegoodman

    Uncle Tom: “Come hang out with me at the Klan meeting, statistics show they are more successful than us, so if we want to be successful we need to be more like them.”
    Intelligent Black Guy:”But they loathe your existence, they only accept you there with the hope of changing your very being to be more like them and less like you. Hanging out with them robs you of your identity and confirms their beliefs that they are better and for you to be “better”, you must be more like them.”
    Uncle Tom:”…”

  • TiltedHorizon

    “…the moral and ethical values of love, grace, mercy, forgiveness,
    selflessness, honesty, virtue, self control,frugality and  commitment…”

    False equivalence. The argument questions the ability of a church to instil positive behavior. You have left the boundaries of the assertion to shift attention to attributes not requiring a church to teach. The question was never the lessons, it was the ability of the church to teach them.

  • It’s abusive to teach those values to kids, and then turn around and teach them that those values only apply to their fellow believers and everybody else deserves to burn in hell.   If churches taught those values with no strings attached, we might have a different opinion about sunday school.

    You know who actually teaches that those values apply to everybody?  The UU’s.  Ethical Societies.  Humanist groups.  The kind of places that many of us already go.

  • Rwlawoffice

    Sin is behavior that I am sure you would even call immoral- lying, stealing, killing, anger in certain circumstances, selfishness, etc… Forgiveness taught by the church is not only the forgiveness we obtain through belief in Jesus, but the value to forgive others as he forgave us. This is not forgiveness by proxy in the sense that you have no involvement, the work was done by Christ and this laid the foundation for redemption, but you must still accept it through belief or it is not yours.  You are forgiven of your sins through belief in the work done by Christ.

     Grace is receiving something we do not deserve because of the love and mercy of God and others.  Whether you have believe that grace is real or not, I would venture to state that you have been shown it on more than one occasion.

  • Blacksheep

    Funny, this book was always filled with Christian symbology for me:”The Whangdoodle was once the wisest, the kindest, and the most extraordinary creature in the world. Then he disappeared and created a wonderful land for himself……It was an almost perfect place where the last of the really great Whangdoodles could rule his kingdom with “peace, love and a sense of fun”– Professor Savant believed in the Whangdoodle. And With the Professor’s help, they discovered the “secret way”  to the magical land.But waiting for them was the scheming Prock, who would use almost any means to keep them away from his beloved king. Only by skill and determination were the four travelers able to discover the last of the really great Whangdoodles and grant him his heart’s desire.”

  •  I think you nailed it here about the morality issue.  It’s not just about sexual morality; rather, it’s the whole basis of morality in the Christian system.  This system teaches that everyone has inherrited “original sin,” and should feel guilty simply for being human.  It teaches that one should fear God and obey in hopes of gaining heaven and in fear of eternal torment.  I’d rather teach my kids morality for its own sake–to behave virtuously to help those around them because this is right, and this is what it means to be human.  This is a far cry from moral behavior out of blind obedience to God, in which a divine being is given credit for the good deed in the end, but humans should feel horrible simply for being human. 

  • Sin is not what you describe. Those things are simply unethical (depending on circumstances). Sin is quite different in the eyes of religion: an offense against some absolute law of a god or gods. But there are no absolute laws. There are no absolute morals. And teaching that there are creates an environment that encourages immoral and unethical behavior.

    Forgiveness through a deity is a crock, a deeply immoral concept. Forgiveness can only come from one place- the party that was wronged (and if there is no materially wronged party, there is no offense and nothing to be forgiven). It may be a virtue to forgive, but there is no lack of virtue in refusing to forgive.

    The Christian notion that humans need to be forgiven by the god that created them, simply because they are human, is obscene.

  • Rwlawoffice

    That wasn’t the assertion at all. The assertion made was that churches do not teach positive ethical values.  It is a proper response to state values that the church does teach to disprove this assertion.  The fact that others may also teach these values does not mean that the church doesn’t teach them.

  • Andrew Bernhardt

    Not all churches teach those things, not all churches teach those equally well, and the ones that DO teach those things often supplement them with harmful and false teachings.  Mark Driscoll?  Prosperity Gospel?

    The point is that it’s dishonest of you to pretend that churches simply teaches unambiguously positive values while ignore the harm that many of them do.

  • Rwlawoffice

     It a good thing that the church doesn’t teach that love, grace, mercy and forgiveness only applies to believers.  In fact just the opposite is taught. Christians are taught that Christ showed us these even though were sinners and did not deserve them and we are to to show these values to others, including our enemies.  Eternal life is not based upon works at all, it based upon faith, so whether we succeed or fail in these teachings does not affect or salvation.

  • Andrew Bernhardt

     No, sin “happens to coincide” occasionally with harmful behavior.  But that’s not why sin is to be avoided.  It’s to be avoided because it is disobedient to God, not because it causes real harm to others without their consent.  And no, there’s no reason to take the concept of “spiritual harm” or “spritual welfare” seriously.

    Many times that which is “sinful” doesn’t cause any harm.  “Denying the Holy Spirit” is a pretty big sin, if not unforgivable.  Lustful thoughts constitute adultery of the heart, hatred for one’s brother constitutes murder of the heart, etc.

    In other words, you’re being dishonest again.

  • RebeccaSparks

    This seems like an unusual post for you, Mehta. In the past you usually acknowledge the power of community  for people staying in churches (points 1-4 & 7).

    Like in <a href=";
    She Left Church, Wants to Go Back, and Tells Us Why you wrote, “Rachel will disagree with me on this, but here’s the takeaway I’m getting from her posts:Community matters more than faith. Jesus is just a means to an end when it comes to that.
    In the ill-fated post about  Patrick Greene, you wrote, “Unless we find a way to replicate that sense of community without the need for supernatural nonsense, churches aren’t going to dwindle in number anytime soon.”
    And Amanda recently wrote how hard it is to participate in atheism because of the lack of low cost activities.
    There’s been many posts about the difficulties that black atheists face because of how the black community is intertwined with church, like The struggles of being a black atheist or the more recent coverage of the video seriesBlack People Don’t…(do atheism).  
    I’m not saying that taking your kids to church is worth the costs of indoctrination, but for many people they struggle with the balance of benefits of community that churches provide and the doctrine that they have to accept.

  • TiltedHorizon

    All you specified is what you believe *your* church teaches. This does not apply universally, if it did then you should have no problem leaving church ‘A’ for the positive ethical values
    taught at church ‘Z’. Yet I suspect you would be uneasy sending your
    children to a church not grounded in the specific denomination you
    superscribe to. 

  • Friends – If you stop going to church, see how the old church friends stop being friends.

    Community – if you want community in an insular kind of way

    Activities and events – if you limit yourself to church-sponsored events at the exclusion of anything else you might be interested in.  A church will strive to consume all your free time.

    Child care – with indoctrination and don’t forget you will be asked to volunteer in child-care as well

    Family values – if you define these as saying gays, atheists, and anyone who is “different” is not welcome or somehow less than fully human…  Deserving hell

    Motivation – motivation to do and believe what the church wants you to do and believe. 

    Opportunities to help others – with a large dose of evangelism

    Routine – If your goal is to fill your life with the agenda that the church wants for you

  • Rwlawoffice

    You like to throw around the word dishonest while you dishoneslty protray my position and the position of Christianity.  Sin not only is something that offends God, it is something that harms man as well.  Adultry is a sin for example- do you think that this only is an affront to God? Anger towards another person is only an affront to God? That is dishonest and you know it. 

  • Rwlawoffice

    So pointing out the good values and ethics that a church teaches and is fundamental to the Christian faith is being dishonest?  I think you need to look up the definition of dishonesty.

  • Rwlawoffice

     You can keep talking in platitudes.  It is not convincing in the least and it shows your terrible misconstruction and intentional mischaracterization of the teachings of Christianity.

  • Rwlawoffice

    My Christian background is more varied then you might imagine.  I was baptized originally a Methodist, raised in the Lutheran church, went to a Baptist college, converted as an adult to Catholiscm, and now attend a nondemoniational church.  In all of those churches, even if it was presented in different ways in some cases, these values were taught in all of them. They are fundamental to Christainity. 

  • You’ve misunderstood the assertion. It was that churches do not consistently teach positive values, but they do consistently teach negative ones. The occasional teaching of positive values can never compensate for actively preaching an unethical world view.

  • If you use the word “church” and “minister,” then I don’t want any part of it.  I’m in Oregon (which my very Catholic mother feels is the most liberal, anti-God mecca in the world) and I contacted 3 UU churches.  ALL have religious ceremonies and incorporate some version of a father figure in their services.  NONE sounded welcoming to nonbelievers.  If I could find one that was nontheist, I might try it, but the religious nomenclature does turn me off.

  • I’m talking in platitudes? Now’s the time for your “HAHA”!

  • TiltedHorizon

    “even if it was presented in different ways in some cases”

    Is this code for “the wrong way”?

  • If eternal life does not depend on values at all, then why bother teaching values? Are values important or not?  You just said values simultaneously matter and don’t matter.  You seem to be believing contradictory things.

    And if your church teaches children that “Eternal life is not based upon works at all, it based upon faith, so whether we succeed or fail in these teachings does not affect or salvation.” then I’ll stand by this as being horrible.  I’ll keep my kids far away from your sunday school, thanks.  I’d rather teach my children to take personal responsibility for their actions, and to avoid causing harm to other people. 

  • Piet Puk

    If you think these morals can be thought without churches you are more deluded than I thought where.
    Homophobia, discrimination, lies about science, biology, history, protection of child abusers however, are linked with religion everywhere. 

  • Piet Puk

    It is dishonest to not mention the discrimination and homophobia that are also part of the current christian faith.
    It is also dishonest to claim any values to the christian faith, as the christian faith is, and has been, hugely fragmented and can not get their values aligned.

  • Piet Puk

    Of course this should say:””If you think these morals can NOT be thought without churches you are more deluded than I thought where.”

  • TiltedHorizon

    I guess C Peterson is wrong because you say so. Well that settles this argument….

  • If these reasons were truly nonreligious, then there would be no reason they would be limited to agnostics.

  • And lets not overlook teaching that there is immortality or eternal life. How many hundreds of millions of human lives have been wasted or ruined because of this absurd belief, pushed by Christianity as the ultimate “reward”? Horrible, and something no child should be exposed to.

  • Piet Puk

    Christians are taught that Christ showed us these even though were
    sinners and did not deserve them and we are to to show these values to
    others, including our enemies.  Eternal life is not based upon works at
    all, it based upon faith, so whether we succeed or fail in these
    teachings does not affect or salvation.

    You are getting more and more deluded, the amount of bullshit you believe is astoundin.

  • Piet Puk

    They are fundamental to Christainity.

    They are fundemental to your small portion of the current brands of christianity.
    There were a lot of responses earlier from christians supporting marriage equality. Clearly not supported by other chistians.
    Who are the real christians?

  • Eholst

     I’ve found the “perfectly suitable” voting place to be at home, and at my convenience. Since ’98 Oregon switched exclusively to a “Vote By Mail” (or drop box) system. I can vote any time within two weeks of the election, the only restriction being that if I wait until the last two days I need to drop it off at a designated box station. This has saved our state money, increased voter turnout, and remains very popular both with liberals and conservatives here. The best thing? I haven’t set foot in a church in 14 years.

  • Piet Puk

    Is the protecting of child rapers considered a sin?

  • kagekiri

    I find it funny how Christians (such as myself when I was one) don’t look at the “forgive as Christ forgave” a little more honestly.

    God forgives throughout the Bible because of sacrifices, which he so “mercifully” accepts as payment for sins. He’ll free us from sin, but only if we totally subordinate ourselves to him. Yet the forgiveness he expects us to extend to others is total forgiveness with no strings attached.

    So the “Christian forgiveness” you’re extending to others is in fact BETTER than that God offers, unless you also expect burnt offerings or human sacrifices in order to forgive and will horribly punish with eternal torment those who fail to ask for your forgiveness.

  • kagekiri

    Hmm, I seem to recall that most churches do teach that man is born unworthy of anything but Hell. That’s actually totally fundamental to the salvation message; it’s the one of the basics of the color-method for conversion. The interpersonal “good stuff” is built on that immoral foundation.
     It what destroyed my self esteem as I was raised Christian, and led to severe depression, nihilism, and self-hatred.

     So yeah, I can teach all those things to kids without telling them they’re inherently worthless (or worse, absolutely worthy of unending suffering) without God, thank you very much.

     On a separate note: frugality? I seem to recall Jesus saying to give away all your possessions and rely on God for provision. Do you mean charity? 

     As for commitment, Jesus teaches commitment to God and to abusive governments, but not to your family (If anyone does not hate his mother, father, and siblings, he is not my follower), not to your own personal health (Paul says to beat your own body into submission, Jesus says to destroy body parts that “make” you sin), and not to anyone but other Christians.

    So yeah, you can cherry pick nice stuff from the Bible, but you have to wade through a lot of shit, and much of that shit is unavoidably central to Christian belief.

  • Ibis3

     Perhaps you ought to go to some museums and libraries too, because “what’s really going on” doesn’t involve gods or creators. There’s no snowflake faerie or earthworm factory.

  • MargueriteF

    Yes, exactly. I kind of miss the church “experience” from a standpoint of community. I do not miss being threatened with eternal damnation on a weekly basis. Glad to know your UU church is a good one– thanks for the input!

  • MargueriteF

    The one I tried (which my kids mostly rejected because it was in an old church subject to flooding, and smelled quite horribly of mildew) definitely had churchlike rituals. I think it would depend on what those rituals actually SAID as to whether I could tolerate them. I’m not comfortable with references to a “father figure,” but most UU churches seem to have a varied group of congregants, including Buddhists and pagans along with non-theists, so I’d be surprised if that were the norm. I agree that it’s important to check out each UU church on its own merits, though– there is clearly variation.

  • RW Stub

    There are many cases where “sin” causes harm to no person.  “Impure thoughts”, sexual intimacy between consenting, unmarried adults, masturbation, sexual activity between consenting adult members of the same sex, coveting your neighbor’s mansion, getting a tattoo, eating shrimp.  The list goes on and on, and the only harm in all of these is that a shrimp may lose its life.

  • Rwlawoffice

    I would say it is not only a sin it is illegal and immoral that the catholic church protected and moved these priests instead of turning them in to the authorities.

  • Rwlawoffice

    Sexual intimacy between unmarried consenting adults has never caused harm. Of course not. Impure thoughts has never harmed a relationship, how silly of me to think otherwise. Behaviors follow thoughts in a lot of cases. If you don’t think so , see how long it is before you start with just a thought to do something and then find yourself justifying it.

  • Rwlawoffice

    Read John 3:16- For God so loved the world he sent his son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. Salvation is based on faith and grace. That does not mean however that Christianity is only concerned about salvation. The teachings of Christianity are full of teachings on how we are to live our lives here on earth. If you think that salvation should be based upon works, how much is enough, by whose standard should we judge, what is a good act and what is a bad act? And if you think that christianiity does not teach that there are consequences to our actions, then you are sorely misinformed about the faith.

  • onamission5

    Our Tuesday elections are done in school gymnasiums (with separate entrances) and in library conference rooms. None at all are held at churches, which strikes me as a really odd place to hold an election.

  • onamission5

    1. I have friends already, thanks Mr. Shell. Bonus points for having friends who accept my atheism and don’t try to change me, unlike what I’d find at church.

    2. We actually get this from our secular friends! Shocker! We also get this from our kids’ schools.

    3. Again, we fill this need through the kids’ school. There is always something going on, and much of it involves free or very cheap food. Very little of it involves having to constantly defend our reasons for merely existing.

    4. I prefer my child care to come without a hefty dose of brainwashing, even if that means I have to pay for it.

    5. We get our family values from the fact that we’re a family with values. I know that can be hard to understand, but it works very well for us. No externally focused loci required.

    6. So loving each other and wanting a better world for the ones we love isn’t motivating enough for some people already? That’s sad.

    7. I prefer my opportunities to help others to be spontaneous rather than conscripted, and to come without a hefty dose of brainwashing that I don’t believe in anyway.

    8. We have a routine which takes of seven out of seven days a week already. Part of that routine involves sleeping in and resting one day a week, just like Jesus’s daddy.

    I think we’re okay without church if it’s all the same to Mr. Shell.

  • Behaviors don’t always follow thoughts. And the behaviors that do are not necessarily harmful (such as sex between unmarried consenting adults).

    Thoughts are not wrong. Thoughts are part of the process our brains require to work. Wrong behavior is wrong, so wrong behavior is what needs to be punished or corrected.

    A thought cannot be sinful, except in the world of Big Brother. Oh right… that’s the world you endorse.

  • Rwlawoffice

    Not wrong on these issues. There are some parts of the theology that I question, but not on fundamental orthodox Christianity. The church I attend now is nondemoniational but is consistent on these issues. I Ike it because of the style of the worship, the emphasize on grace and social involvement in our city and around the world in missin work.

    The cite is

  • Rwlawoffice

    Where did I mention same sex marriage? I didn’t and whether you belief it or not homosexuality is a very small part of christianity. It is certainly not fundamental.

  • Behaviours may follow thoughts but it’s not the thoughts themselves that harm people: self-control and restraint exist you know. So for all sins which are thought crimes (and the Tenth Commandment, do not covet, is clearly one) the only thing which might be harmed by said sin his god’s ego.

    The more I see this kind of justifications for punishing thought crimes, the more I think Christianity treat people like no more than infants: it expects no self-control, you take no responsibility (it’s because of my sinful nature !)…what a sorry life.

  • OverlappingMagisteria

     Ok, now you’re just being silly. Are you saying that because something can sometimes cause harm, then it should ALWAYS be banned. Let me try that out for a moment:

    Driving a car is a sin. Do you honestly believe that driving has never caused harm?
    Playing football is a sin. Do you honestly believe that no one has ever been harmed in a football game?
    Getting married is a sin. Do you honestly believe that no one has ever entered a destructive marriage?

  • OverlappingMagisteria

     I’m glad that your church teaches that you should love, forgive, and show mercy to non-believers as well. But isn’t the idea of “salvation by faith”  an example of the exact opposite? Christ doesn’t forgive and show mercy to unbelievers. He condemns them to eternal hellfire. That’s sending one hell of a mixed message if you ask me.

  • Piet Puk

    Marriage equality has been an ongoing topic on this site for a long time. The current bigotry shown by you and many of your fellow christians show that christian love is not for everyone. It is fundamental enough for a big group of christians to discriminate and vote against equality. That bigotry I would not want my kid to learn.
    It is fundamental enough for the people that are being discriminated against.
    Also fundemental enough for some christians to protest funerals and others to be truly accepting and capable of love.
    Now which one is the true christianity?

  • Piet Puk

    Yet the same church want to teach kids about moral they don’t keep themselfs

  • Still not making sense.  If salvation is based on faith alone, then a mass-murderer who sincerely recants on his deathbed goes to heaven, while Gandhi goes to eternal torture.  Works didn’t matter at all.  If works make any difference in that result, then your “faith alone” is right out.

    I don’t think “salvation” should be based on faith or works.  I think “salvation’ is a giant pile of poo, a scam that lets people control other people through fear.  I want it nowhere near my children.

  • Edmond

    Anyone with a sense of empathy can figure out how to exhibit these traits, without pretending that they wouldn’t have done it without the supernatural telling them to.

    These are BASIC values across many cultures (and religions).  Your religion didn’t invent them.  Your religion cannot claim them as original.  We would not lack these values if we lacked your religion.  Your religion does not add anything new to these values.

    Instead, your religion adds a lot of improper “values” of its own, like “don’t pursue happiness or companionship if you only feel same-sex desires”.  Why is THAT a good value?  That isn’t a basic value that we all knew regardless of religion.  This was invented by your religion.

  • MargueriteF

    Thanks for the input. As I said below, my kids rejected one church, but I do know of one other that’s not too far away. I plan to check it out this fall.

  • Stev84

    He is obsessed with sex that he can’t even tell the difference anymore

  • Stev84

     attraction != sex

  • Blacksheep

    Love those too! We have some good museums and libraries in NYC. And I agree – no snowflake faerie or earthworm factory. But we disagree on the creator part, I believe wholeheartedly in a God and creator.

  • I think Christians think more about gay sex than gay people do.

    Moving into a house, forming deep bonds, having visitation rights and raising a family are not sex.

  • amycas

    My sister and brother-in-law just started going to church again. My sister is nominally Christian, and my brother-in-law is a Jewish atheist. They recently had a baby, and when I asked him why he was suddenly interested in church, he actually said that he didn’t know how else to teach his kids morals. At least it’s a UU church though (he said he wouldn’t be able to stand going to a church soaked in what he calls “Jesus bullshit”).

  • Margaret Whitestone

    1. I have friends, and none of them are the church type. 
    2. Hanging around week after week and listening to how I’m going to burn in hell because of who I am isn’t my idea of community.
    3. Boring
    4.  I don’t have kids and never will.
    5.  “Family values”= Gays bad, women are for baby making.  I’ll pass.
    6.  I have plenty of motivation.   I don’t need to look to fairy tales to find it.
    7.  I’ve been helping others just fine without any church.
    8. Hanging around week after week and listening to how I’m going to burn in hell because of who I am isn’t a routine I’m inclined to adopt.

  • amycas

     That’s funny. I consider myself an agnostic atheist. I wonder what they would do with me…

  • amycas

     Thanks to your description, I no longer want to read this book. Overt Christian symbolism is the reason I stopped reading the Narnia series when I was a kid.

  • amycas

     You forgot: sleeping in. That’s possibly my favorite, because you can do that and still do a lot of the other things too. 🙂

  • amycas

     What makes a person heterosexual is an attraction to a member of the opposite sex, but that does not mean that mentioning heterosexual people is directly talking about sex.

  • amycas

     It depends on what you mean by “adultery.” Frankly, I’ve heard at least six different definitions for this “sin” and none of them directly harm anybody.

  • Has it ever occurred to this blogger that maybe Christianity shouldn’t be considered the only choice? Why is church the default for non-religious families? Why not a Sikh gurdwara or a Buddhist temple? To me, this is just another example of how people in American society are completely unable to “think outside the culture box.”

  • amycas

     Not to mention that for most* people sexual thoughts (or “impure” thoughts) happen automatically. It’s not something you can just stop doing.

    *asexuals do exist, I don’t want to disappear them

  • I always find it puzzling that people seemingly don’t know how to teach their children morals without religion. There is no shortage of products aimed at toddlers and preschoolers that are intended for moral instruction. Plenty of secular books, toys, videos, etc. are designed to teach values. UU’s pretty inoffensive, but why go to a church when you can get the exact same thing elsewhere?

  • Bryan

    ” Child care – with indoctrination and don’t forget you will be asked to volunteer in child-care as well (if you’re a woman)”


  • That’s a good point! Going to a church week after week, month after month, year after year just familiarizes children with religious rituals. It makes bizarre actions seem normal, and I think it’s the main way that religion “gets” people. The rituals seem right and normal because people are exposed to them when they are young. Children who are constantly exposed to prayer are taught (directly or indirectly) that it’s normal to pray.

  • I wouldn’t let Blacksheep put you off. Christians can find symbolism in anything. I highly doubt it was the author’s intention when she wrote the book! According to what’s online, Julie Andrews isn’t even religious.

  • snoozn

    None of those reasons make sense to me. Even on the charity issue, you can certainly find plenty of secular charities that will be glad to have your assistance.

    I took my kids to church at a time when I considered myself a “questioning agnostic” for another reason (which in hindsight makes no sense). A relative suggested that kids raised in no faith are more susceptible to joining cults when they get older. I have no idea if this is true, but I feel pretty sure that teaching kids critical thinking is the best way to “immunize” them against such outcomes.

    It wasn’t really too bad. I found a progressive (UCC) church that is open and affirming and doesn’t try to convert people or say that anyone is going to Hell. Apart from the belief in God stuff, the values and morals of the sermons were pretty well aligned with my own.

    I volunteered to teach Sunday school because I was worried about what the younger kids (who were then about four and six) might hear. Needless to say I ran a very secular class with lots of games and arts and crafts. I was only once asked to read a particular religious picture book that went along with the kids’ sermon that day. I don’t remember the story, but I did feel like a bit of a huckster reading it to the kids.

    I insisted that my oldest daughter go through confirmation and she now says it was a pretty positive experience even though she complained a lot at the time. The class learned a lot about other religions including Islam, Judaism, and Unitarianism, as well as visiting other kinds of Christian churches. She chose not to complete the confirmation and that was fine.

    I guess it was by this time that I started feeling like it wasn’t that bad, but it was still not the best use of time and just not something that the kids or I really got that much out of. I think we attended for about a year.

  • RebeccaM

    preach it, brother. 😛

  • Ibis3

     Why? You do realize we know how the planet actually formed right? Just like we know how snowflakes form? No faeries or gods required.

  • Margaret Whitestone

     Aren’t the RW types the ones who constantly whine about people wanting “free stuff”?    Yet more hypocrisy from them.

  • Of course sex can lead to something bad. Of course “impure” thoughts can lead to something bad. That doesn’t make them bad in and of themselves. It’s not black and white!
    Sex can also be very good (even when you’re not married!). “Impure” thoughts can be good! It depends on the situation, and the people involved, and how the people handle it.

    The lustful thoughts issue is a big deal to me. The main problem is that there is no way to stop yourself from thinking about sex. It happens automatically because we’re human and we have hormones. For years, I felt constantly ashamed of myself for thinking about sex and having dreams about sex. Now that I’m not a Christian, it feels completely normal and healthy to think about sex. I feel happy and I don’t feel guilty for feeling happy.
    Stop acting like you know what’s best for other people.

  • Margaret Whitestone

     I find it scary when people say they can’t find morality without  religion.  Really?  You can’t figure out it’s wrong to lie, steal, rape, murder, etc without some “holy book” or clergy person telling you that? 

  • Well put, Hemant.  

  •  According to Leviticus, eating shellfish and cutting one’s hair are also sins – abominations, in fact.

  • And even some asexuals (myself included) sometimes have sexual thoughts.  (Thanks  for remembering us, btw.) 🙂

  • So if someone lives a great, moral, just life but happens to be, oh, say, a Sikh, then according to your church they will burn in hell.  But someone who rapes children gets a free pass on all that if they buy into the Jesus story at the last minute.  OH OKAY I TOTALLY SEE THE SUPERIORITY NOW LET ME GET MYSELF TO THE NEXT CHURCH I CAN FIND.

  • Jinx

    Hey, here’s a non-religious reason to take your kids to church: Inoculation. I took my kids to church just a couple of times, and I told them bible stories as stories, and I quoted some of Jesus’ best stuff for one reason. By exposing them to the Christianity our culture is bathed in, I removed both the mystery and the sense of being ‘other.’ They are now in their mid-twenties, confirmed atheists, very happy and stable, in good jobs and good relationships. They don’t come across as clueless when Christian references are made and are able to debunk magical belief effortlessly.
    Or does that count as a non-religious reason?

  • Migwar

    Although I have been an atheist since I was twelve years old [and attending Lutheran confirmation classes,] there was a time before that when I felt a need for religion.  The Lutheran minister used to come to visit my grandmother and I suppose I met him when I was a small child.  An aunt [by marriage – my uncle’s wife] took me to the Lutheran Sunday School when I was two or three years old – just a couple of times, but I remember it.  So, at the age of around seven, when I felt this impulse toward religion, I asked to be baptized at the local Lutheran church and my parents arranged a meeting with the pastor.  I was eight or nine years old when baptized, and I attended confirmation classes weekly until I was confirmed at age twelve.  

    I attended a YMCA summer camp, starting at age eight, and, for the first few summers, I was happy to attend the local Congregational church with the bulk of the campers and counselors.  [The Catholics were bused to a Catholic church that was farther away;  the Jewish kids were allowed to remain, supervised, at camp.]  Later, after I had become an atheist, I expressed a desire to remain at camp on Sundays with the Jewish kids.  This request was denied, so I opted – much to the camp director’s consternation – to go on the bus with the Catholics most Sundays after that, as the service was shorter, there were free donuts after the service, and we were allowed to take money from our accounts to buy cokes in the machines at the church.  

    My parents [Jewish father, Lutheran mother] did not push religion on my sister or me, and left us to make our own choices.  I found my Lutheran religious education interesting, and later I became interested in the Jewish religion, as I had many friends and relatives who were Jewish.  But, interest is not the same thing as belief, and my natural skepticism plus an excellent education in science and an open-minded upbringing led me to draw my own conclusions.  

    When I was a teenager, and was in the awkward position of having moved to a new neighborhood the very summer before I began my first year at a new school that was located in another county, my mother encouraged me to go to a sort of teen Sunday school at the local Methodist Community Church, so I did that for awhile.  I got into some interesting discussions/arguments with the teacher over issues like the ethics of missionaries cutting down the tree being worshiped by the “heathens” they were sent to convert.  Oddly enough, I won her [and, hopefully, most of the class] over with my humanistic argument, despite the implication in the textbook that it was right to cut down the tree.  After a few months, I declined to continue to attend these classes.  The social life my parents had hoped this church connection would provide had not materialized.  

    My point is this:  many young children feel an impulse toward religion and, if no religion is practiced by their families, this impulse may well be thwarted and a real emotional need may be denied.  That is why I do not think it is a bad idea to expose children to religion, ideally by taking them to services at different churches, synagogues, mosques, etc.   Many families, and mine was one of them, are too busy and uninterested to provide the substitute activities [such as volunteering as a family] that you suggest.  

  • AxeGrrl

    Exactly!  I’ve heard this one quite often myself, and it mystifies me.  It just reeks of pure laziness, imo.

    My response is usually “why use religion to teach morality when there’s so much nonsense/bullshit that goes along with it?”

  • Good and Godless

    I do wish my kids knew more of the bible for the cultural references, unfortunately they know about as  much as a typical religious person just not as much as a typical Atheist. Though getting them to read it is like forcing someone to read Calvin & Hobbs. Grimaces followed by laughter, followed by more grimaces.

    My wife misses the singing as there is rare opportunities for non-religious choir.

  • Blacksheep

    It may not have been intentional, we’re hard wired to create constructs with elements and symbols of God, good, evil, a savior, etc. As a Christian I think it’s because we know in our hearts that there is truth there, to an atheist it might mean that’s simply how our brains work.

  • Blacksheep

    Right… I thought we already covered that. You’re repeating the same thing. I’m still in awe of the workings of it all, and science cannopt explain how it all came to be and work together so beautifully. “Just because” and “By accident” don’t cut it for me.

    (That’s literally the explaination given on a recent PBS series about the universe – there was nothing, and suddenly the universe popped into existence with a big bang by random accident. And then, presumably, everything we are and know also progressed simply by accident and randomness)

  • Blacksheep

    Why are those things wrong? (specifically why)

  • Checked
    Seems pretty God-centric to me. You are free to pick whichever definition you want, however

    Sin is behavior that I am sure you would even call immoral

    No, there are a lot of things that the Bible classifies as ‘sin’ that I would not consider immoral.
    The obvious one that I’m stunned nobody has mentioned is people of the same sex finding some way to give each other orgasms.

  • allein

    My (Methodist) confirmation class did this (8th graders). We went to several area churches and a synagogue (I don’t know if your other examples are (or were at the time) options in my area, but most of the churches were in walking distance of ours). I can’t say for sure if that had anything to do with the fact that the religion thing just didn’t stick with me…maybe it planted a seed for later.

  • I’m a member of CFI-Ottawa. This summer, we organized a Family BBQ where I could bring my toddler and have him play with a bunch of other toddlers while I chatted with friends I’ve made through the organization with whom I have a lot more in common than just “we’re all parents.” The structure of the community created and fostered by CFI-Ottawa has allowed me to create these friendships, as well as made it far easier to maintain them. But would I get the same from a church? I doubt it. At best, my relationships would have to be superficial because we’d obviously disagree on some pretty important aspects of our worldview.

    As for the rest of the points:1) Child care: Kids are welcome to all events, so we don’t need separate child care. So I don’t get why “my community isn’t child-friendly and forces adults to be separated from their children in order to fully participate” is a positive. But as for Sunday School, CFI-Ottawa does have something similar. When having family-focused events, we often do have special activities geared for kids. For example, at the BBQ this summer, we had one member of the community teach a group of the kids how to make origami leaping frogs. Another time, we had a biologist teaching kids about DNA and how to extract it from Strawberries. Another time, we had an entymologist leading a “bug hunt.” Frankly, this all seems like way more fun than making crosses out of glue and popsicle sticks, or colouring in pictures of David tending his sheep (two things I remember doing when my non-religious mother forced me to go to Sunday School “for the community”).

    2) Family Values: When my son comes with me to CFI-Ottawa events, he gets to see a wide variety of people who all come together out of mutual interest in intellectual exploration. He’ll see people debate issues – issues that they might profoundly care about – without ever raising their voices or resorting to name calling. He gets to see a group of people who care about the environment, who volunteer, and many of whom have stable long-term relationships. He also gets to see people who are gay or trans. How often does that happen in a church?

    3) Motivation: Personally, I’m much more happy to have me son come into contact with people who are motivated by their love for the world and the people in it. Just a thought…4) Opportunities to help others: We would like to provide some structured ways to do this in future, but we lack the volunteer capacity to head up such a big project. That being said, plenty of atheist organizations do get together to feed the hungry and such. 

    5) Routine: Positivity? Blergh. But I am a fan of routine. Don’t need church for that, though. We have “family board game night” every week and that works just as well.

  • Well, you’re certainly entitled to your belief. Not all cultures have gods or saviors, though.

  • To me, it’s just plain bizarre. I can’t really get my head around  non-believers thinking that religious institutions have some special insight into morality. Why is a religious book a more valid source of guidance than a secular book? If both books were written by human beings, then neither is supernatural. So why give special attention to the religious source?

    I was raised totally free of any religious influence, so it’s even stranger to me that people think children somehow need to be exposed to religion to learn morality. Quite a large majority of things that a small child encounters are designed to teach them how to behave in the world. Morals are taught and reinforced pretty much everywhere. Children learn what’s right and what’s wrong simply by being socialized in our culture.

  • People speculate there are evolutionary reasons for people to make shit up.  Shermer’s “Believing Brain” e.g.

    But we can also speculate that there are evolutionary reasons be able to discern make up from reality, so who knows, maybe in a couple hundred million years our skeptical gene will be the one to survive 🙂

  • That’s true. As far as I know, there has never been a purely materialist culture. Be that as it may, Blacksheep’s assertion is false, since there have been cultures that don’t have gods or saviors, so obviously those specific supernatural beliefs are not hardwired into us.

  • allein

    Do the people who say that not consider themselves moral people? I would venture to say that kids learn most of their moral sensibilities from the example set by their parents and other people who are close to them. Reading books and whatnot that depict the morals you want your kids to learn is all well and good, but if you consistently act in ways contrary to that, your kids are probably more likely to emulate your behavior than the characters they hear about in their bedtime stories.

  • allein

    Can you honestly not think of a non-religious reason those things might be wrong?

  • I think it’s probably just insecurity. Most of those parents know that they’re good people, but they’ve been raised in a culture that gives religion a unique and special position. Things like Sunday School are considered good, perhaps even essential, for children’s moral development. Parents who were raised in church-going cultures may not immediately be able to relate to teaching children morality without the religious trappings.

  • Agnostic

    Interesting comments. So much hated. Those who don’t agree with ME are of course wrong. The more people try to justify that they are right, the more hatred they feel. Anger is not good for the health and the heart. It doesn’t hurt the people they hate. There is something to be said for those who try to evoke such thoughts.

  • They can always learn about it when they’re older! I don’t think there’s really any need for small children to be familiar with the Bible. They can always educate themselves about it when they’re in high school or college, like I did. I grew up a total godless heathen, but I know all the Bible stories now.

  • We must be reading different threads. Where is this anger and hatred you’re talking about?

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