How to grow an atheistAugust 24, 2011 at 6:12 pm | Posted in Atheism, god, Religion | 10 Comments
Tags: Atheism, Christianity, god, Religion
In recent discussions with an atheist who happens to be coupled with a non-atheist (read christian) some thought and concern was given to how the hypothetical children might be raised. This got me to thinking about the basic differences in the approaches to child rearing between religious folks and atheists.
Clearly I cannot speak for all atheists, but I can speak from my own experience and my observations of others with whom I am personally acquainted and share my non-beliefs. My ex-partner in marriage shared my views on religion and god so it was rarely, if ever, an issue of discussion in our home.
When we had a child we didn’t raise our child to be an atheist. In fact, since god seems to be everywhere…and not in the religious sense…it was inevitable that our child would be exposed, on some level, to god and religion. To us, this was not a problem; we both believed our child should be allowed exposure to any and all beliefs and be allowed to choose freely. There were occasions, when coming home from school, my child discussed god. I listened and was engaged in the discussion of what had been experienced or learned, but never once did I say to my kid, “There is no god.”
Once, upon seeing an old poster from the Nixon era, in which Nixon appeared as a large dominant figure clutching dog leashes restraining his cronies in the Watergate debacle; my child said, “Look mommy, that’s a picture of god.” I asked where god was and, sure enough, the index finger pointed to Nixon. Amused, I simply replied, “So that’s what god looks like.”
Like all non religious children, my child heard, from kids at school, talk about church and god. Wanting to fit in, my kid went to church, with friends, on several occasions (at various stages of childhood) and decided against pursuing it further.
In religious families, it seems important that the children be taken to
indoctrination stations church (synagogues, mosques, etc.) from the beginning, so that young impressionable minds can be molded before the capacity for independent thought develops. By the time a child reaches puberty these beliefs have become so ingrained that it would never occur to most of them to question their teachings. Put simply, religious parents raise their children to embrace their own beliefs.
This is part of the dilemma for the atheist and the non-atheist should they decide to go forth and procreate. I suppose one solution would be for the atheist to concede and allow any offspring to be taken to the indoctrination station, and upon reaching a certain point in their lives be told, in the same sitting, there is no Santa Clause, Easter Bunny, or god…it’s all just good childish fun. Though I think it is more likely deprogramming, much like that used in recovering a brainwashed child from a cult, would be required. Another approach, and to my mind a better one, would be to raise a free range child (like mine) who is allowed to ask questions and explore wherever curiosity takes him or her and when the child reaches an age where they can engage in critical thinking the religious parent can then expose the child to their ideology.
I wonder how many people would have taken a different path had they not experienced this early indoctrination. Had those with strong beliefs in the invisible magic man in the sky and various forms of religion been raised in a fashion more like my child I think the world might be, at least slightly, a more sane place.
- Grief Beyond Belief — How Atheists Are Dealing With Death (gretachristina.typepad.com)
- The Cutting Edge of Atheism (onistee.com)