Author Topic: Raising Good Kids in a Secular Home  (Read 11872 times)

S.S.

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Raising Good Kids in a Secular Home
« on: January 17, 2017, 02:37:20 PM »
I (26F) recently got into a big argument with one of my SIL (22F) over FB messaging, which culminated in her saying she "is sad" for me every day and "deeply sad" that her nephew (3 yrs old) will not grow up with God at the core like she did.  This was a week ago, and the comment still irks me.  My husband grew up in a deeply religious household (father is a Lutheran pastor).  I grew up going to church every Sunday as well (non-denom), but have since become what I like to call "Atheist but very open to being proved wrong".  Husband still has faith but is ambivalent about it. 

I am starting to feel insecure about my ability to raise my boy to be a moral, well-adjusted, and loving human being without the church-going background.  I wonder if my husband and me received immeasurable benefits from growing up with Judeo-Christian values even though we have both since moved away from regular church attendance.  I even toy with the idea of attending church during his childhood and adolescence and let him make his own choices when he comes of age, even though it would be complete ruse on my part that I would have to keep up for 15+ years.

My questions: Anyone else in a similar situation where you grew up with God and recognized the benefits of that upbringing but have since renounced it?  Do you think it's possible to raise a child with all the positive attributes that faith has to offer without the actual "God" part?

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Re: Raising Good Kids in a Secular Home
« Reply #1 on: January 17, 2017, 02:52:07 PM »
This seems relevant: A Rational Sunday School.

I don't have children, but I was raised in the Catholic Church. That education and community was great, but the dogma was damaging. If I have my own kids, I'd try to take the best from both worlds. The article sounds like a good option.

Lagom

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Re: Raising Good Kids in a Secular Home
« Reply #2 on: January 17, 2017, 02:57:19 PM »
Totally possible. Be supportive, loving parents and set a good example in your own behavior and the kid will be just fine. Religion is in no way necessary to teach morals. I went to church as a child but have no intention of going regularly (excpet by special request of my parents) with my children.

One small tip is to make sure you intentionally engage in age-appropriate discussions of morals and ethics on a regular basis. This is a good progression to note and follow:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lawrence_Kohlberg's_stages_of_moral_development

So to start, "morals" are necessarily tied to entirely self-centered interests, but as they age you can start tapping empathy (e.g. "would you like it if Jamie took your toy away while you were playing with it?") and eventually more complex moral reasoning.

Volunteering is a great way to model moral behavior as well, as is introducing an allowance with the expectation they donate part of it. You can research charities together and discuss the pros and cons on how they impact society, go pack groceries for impovershed seniors together, etc. Stuff like that.

ysette9

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Re: Raising Good Kids in a Secular Home
« Reply #3 on: January 17, 2017, 03:03:40 PM »
I think it is absolutely false to think that you can't be moral without some sort of religious framework. You could read some books on ethics or a philosophy text on various moral codes if you want to get deep into it. I had one graduate-level class (in engineering of all things!) that discussed ethics and we had an assignment of writing our own moral code. If you are atheist then you have to take the step of being reflective and thoughtful to determine what kind of life you want to live and what is important to you. This is more work than having someone sell you a prepackaged set of Shalls and Shall Nots. In my experience the extra work is absolutely worth it.

My parents fell for the idea of religion while my mother was pregnant with me. I rejected religion in the middle of high school and most of my immediate family followed over time. Personally I am a much happier person without that added baggage and guilt in my life. Other people will have other experiences.

Either way you go I would argue that not taking the time to self reflect and make conscious choices about what is important to you and what your values are can lead to problems. Religion is like going to McDonalds and ordering the #3 meal as a moral code. Creating your own moral code is like finding a recipe and buying groceries and then cooking. The first option is easier and will mean you will find more people eating the same thing as you. The second option is more work but probably means you will not be surprised or appalled by some of the ingredients that might sneak into your adopted moral code.
« Last Edit: January 17, 2017, 03:06:27 PM by ysette9 »
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BabyShark

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Re: Raising Good Kids in a Secular Home
« Reply #4 on: January 17, 2017, 03:04:33 PM »
I don't have kids yet so I'm only offering my perspective from my upbringing.

My mom was raised in a very Italian Catholic home,  Made her first communion and all of that.  My dad was raised in a conservative (I think) Jewish home, his mother and father were conservative and orthodox Jews respectively.  My parents made the choice not to raise me and my two sisters in any religion.  We celebrated Christmas and Hanukkah and I remember a Passover Seder with my paternal grandparents once but church/temple was not a part of my life.  I don't believe I suffered because of it.  We had a sense of community and family surrounding us, I'd like to think I still have a moral center and code and I'd like to think (though I can be proven wrong) that I'm still a well-adjusted, loving human.

I married a reform Jewish man whose religion is very important to him.  We were married by a rabbi because it mattered to him and because I was ambivalent about it.  We attend high holidays at temple and are members of the temple but only go to services maybe once a year outside of the high holidays.  Our children will be raised Jewish because it is important to him that they are.  Not because it's important to his sister or anything like that, but because it was a family decision he and I made and one I'm very comfortable with.
« Last Edit: January 17, 2017, 03:06:24 PM by BabyShark »

ysette9

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Re: Raising Good Kids in a Secular Home
« Reply #5 on: January 17, 2017, 03:05:51 PM »
https://news.uchicago.edu/article/2015/11/05/religious-upbringing-associated-less-altruism-study-finds

Quote
A team of developmental psychologists led by Prof. Jean Decety examined the perceptions and behavior of children in six countries. The study assessed the children’s tendency to share—a measure of their altruism—and their inclination to judge and punish others for bad behavior.

Children from religious families were less likely to share with others than were children from non-religious families. A religious upbringing also was associated with more punitive tendencies in response to anti-social behavior.
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bender

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Re: Raising Good Kids in a Secular Home
« Reply #6 on: January 17, 2017, 03:18:32 PM »
I'm in the same situation as OP.  I get guilt inducing flak from certain family members regularly, but I don't let it get to me.  The tactics used are quite ridiculous.  I lead by example and I'm sure kids will turn out fine without being indoctrinated with the fear of god.

S.S.

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Re: Raising Good Kids in a Secular Home
« Reply #7 on: January 17, 2017, 03:39:02 PM »
Thank you so much for all the helpful replies so far.  BabyShark, if I could choose a culture that most closely matches my personal values, it would be Orthodox Judaism.  I would love to figure out a way to raise a good Jewish kid without the Judaism.  I wonder if it's possible or if faith is integral to producing a child with that set of values.

Bender, nobody but my husband knows I'm an Atheist.  It would cause many of the people in my life a lot of psychic pain to know I've turned away.  When we fly out to the Midwest and visit, I attend service and say my prayers like everyone else.  Why this SIL called me out is beyond me.  One of the other sisters (there are 5 in total) who have come out and visited us must have told her that we don't attend church in our normal lives.
« Last Edit: January 17, 2017, 03:43:51 PM by S.S. »

galliver

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Re: Raising Good Kids in a Secular Home
« Reply #8 on: January 17, 2017, 03:42:59 PM »
I was raised in a 100% secular home and I think I turned out ok! I try to contribute to society and not be a dick and that's basically my moral code. A lot of publicly religious people seem to have trouble grasping either or both of those two tenets, in my perception :/ A downside of my particular brand of upbringing is that I'm kind of awkward about religion...like it pretty seriously weirds me out when people proselytize outside of church or "praise the Lord" every other phrase in conversation (a neighbor of mine does this).

Bf was raised in a protestant home, church every Sunday and prayers at mealtimes. We join his family in these rituals at Christmastime but don't follow them ourselves. I've thought about it, and I would cooperate with whatever their wishes are re: taking future kids  to church when we visit. I wouldn't do it at home (unless bf reverted I guess) but at their home they should be able to share their lives and values and culture/history with their grandkids. I'd look at it as an exposure to a diversity of viewpoints and prepare for questions. I guess another factor in this is that as churches go, theirs seems very focused on volunteering and giving, which is something I can respect. If it seemed like a really unhealthy environment (I hear some communities are unfortunately very catty, even hateful) I'd have more reservations...

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Re: Raising Good Kids in a Secular Home
« Reply #9 on: January 17, 2017, 03:53:55 PM »
S.S. our early life experiences mirror each other closely. I still do the "go to church with Grandma" thing when I'm back home because I know it is important to her. But I won't compromise MY Morals to do so and have walked out of one of her church services when something was said in the sermon that struck me as fundamentally wrong.

I think there are two distinct issues here, that of community and that of religion. You usually get community (for good or bad) with religion. This is the part you have to consciously cultivate if you don't choose to get involved. It is important for children to see themselves as part of a community, a bigger system.

As far as morality, I think it is up to you to help your children discover their own framework. Did you know that EVERY major religion and philosophy has some variation of "the Golden Rule" Every single one. It is a universal truth that goes beyond religion.

Teaching your children to differentiate between a Bullshit rule (something that you have learned by upbringing, culture, religion whatever) and a universal truth  - something that applies to all people everywhere - is one of the greatest gifts you can give them. It teaches them to question, to think critically and come up with their own framework. It might very well include some of those "bullshit rules" but it will be a conscious adoption instead of something that is impressed upon them by other people who are carrying on the traditions or operating from their own agenda. 


Jakejake

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Re: Raising Good Kids in a Secular Home
« Reply #10 on: January 17, 2017, 04:10:56 PM »
My parents came from different faiths and when they married, both sets of parents disowned them and cut off their college tuition as retribution.

As a result, my parents each left their church/synagogue and at some point (before or after their marriage?) became atheists, so that's how I was raised.

Within my family's history, then, what I saw was intolerance within the church and its members and doing the exact opposite of the golden rule. And among my peers as a kid, what I saw was that I was being taught to do what's right because it's the right thing to do, whereas some of my peers were taught that they needed to do what's right because they would get punished by God otherwise (which is a lower sort of rung on the ethical ladder - do the right thing so you won't get caught and punished).

I have certainly seen the full range of ethics between church goers and non believers, with some church people being horrifically corrupt and some doing great things at personal sacrifice - and the same true of atheists.  Personally - because of how I was raised - I would feel sad for someone like your sister in law, who thinks they can only behave right if they get an actual reward for it in the afterlife. And I can't help noticing the comment she made seemed designed to make you feel bad and make her feel superior, which feels counter to the behavior she should be modeling if she hopes to convince you that her way creates more ethical, compassionate people.

I don't know what you contributed to the argument, of course - so that could run both ways. :D

I am not sure that arguing with inlaws about religion, especially over facebook, is a productive and rewarding way to spend your time, in any event. Whatever decision you come to is personal, and does not need to be justified to an in-law. She is not God's version of Santa Claus, deputized by him to make a list of who's naughty or nice.

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Re: Raising Good Kids in a Secular Home
« Reply #11 on: January 17, 2017, 04:20:51 PM »
if I could choose a culture that most closely matches my personal values, it would be Orthodox Judaism.  I would love to figure out a way to raise a good Jewish kid without the Judaism.  I wonder if it's possible or if faith is integral to producing a child with that set of values.

Two things: I would say yes to the latter, and yes to the former. Your problem isn't with G-d, your problem is with man. Judaism and Christianity both should be the exact same expressed faith if you adhere to the teachings of the actual way. The problem you're encountering is with the man-created structures of religion. Religion is not about your relationship with your maker, His creation and your fellow man. It's about power, control and subjugation of others. That is not true Torah, nor is it the true teachings of Yeshua. It should not be top-down authority as most churches do, and some synagogues.

What is hateful to you, do not do to your friend. This is the entire Torah. The rest is commentary. -Hillel

Love the L-rd your G-d with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these. -Yeshua

Torah and Yeshua's teachings aren't about doing X to believe, which is how its usually presented. That is what sours most people as it's hypocritical and/or lawless. It should be through the faith that we come to understand the wisdom of doing X. I don't act on the wisdom of Torah to be a "saved" good person, that way lies madness and condemnation as I fall short. I have faith in my salvation and covering through Messiah and the grace afforded there-in, therefore, I see wisdom in the teachings of Torah in showing me how to better love and be a good steward in more practical matters, guiding me as I learn.

True morality is the teaching of the way, given to us by HaShem. It is valuable, useful, and sweet as honey. Redemption and salvation afforded by Yeshua's sacrifice is the same way. Your problem is not with Him, it is what people have done to twist that message of love and redemption for their own ends. This is the instruction set we've been given to truly thrive and live in this world and the one to come, so do what you should do with all valuable wisdom - embrace it. You want to raise good kids? Understanding Torah, the rest of the Tanakh, and the B'rit Chadasha (New Covenant) will help you do that when done through the perspective of love, defined by justice tempered with mercy. You might even find a few others doing likewise in some Messianic Jewish/Netzari gatherings, though do be careful, there's a lot of wolves in sheep's clothing out there in those groups currently as there are in the rest of the church these days. That sort of faith held in that sort of community will satisfy the yearn of one's soul... but it's harder to find these days as hearts keep growing colder.

I feel your pain, and I sympathize with you, but as I've found myself... the problem isn't the message. You see that yourself given your draw to Orthodox Judaism. You see the value. If you see the value, you see and recognize the wisdom of the divine. Don't let man interfere with that relationship or that ability to learn and grow in His way to its fullest and richest. Of course, you do that, you'll eventually have to make peace with man in love and forgive, but that too can be rewarding.

You can absolutely do this, but you have to embrace these teachings for what they truly are. Fortunately, you already know what they aren't given your current status as secular/atheist. It's okay and perfectly rational to believe in a higher power, it's just not okay to use that belief like most wield it.... those who see the teachings of Torah for what they are and truly follow Messiah Yeshua find themselves unable to do that for the very same reason they believe. It's not about power, it's about love and kindness.
« Last Edit: January 17, 2017, 04:25:51 PM by I.P. Daley »
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S.S.

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Re: Raising Good Kids in a Secular Home
« Reply #12 on: January 17, 2017, 05:16:26 PM »
I.P., thank you for that beautiful response.  I myself am not in any way affiliated with the Jewish faith, but I know tangentially of this community and the wonderful families and children it produces.  One of the people who has influenced my life very positively is a devout Jew and speaks deep truths through the lense of his faith. 

I also kind of love that Jews are generally not evangelical.  The ones I have known will give wonderful answers when asked but are not actively trying to recruit.  I grew up in an aggressively evangelical Christian church and now loathe this strain of believer.  Coming from that background, I understand the "spread the good news of great joy" mindset, but it grates on me nonetheless.

Jake, thank you.  Aside from my genuine "How Might I Raise a Good Child?" question, this post is pulling double-duty as a space with which to rage at my SIL.  You provided me the perfect segue.

The Incident in Question:
We have an ongoing family FB chat with my in-laws.  The SIL I am currently extremely pissed at is a bully to the other sisters, except the one she likes.  She's been rude and bitchy on that chat many times and no one calls her out because they are all very passive and sweet and avoid conflict at all costs.  For years I have let it go as well b/c I wanted to get along with my husband's family.  Until last week, when I finally said something.  Long story short, she got angry and extremely defensive but sent me a private message the following morning apologizing (in a very fake way) b/c, according to her, everyone was mad at her for starting this fight with me.  I called her out again for being passive-aggressive and not really apologizing.

Eventually, however, we almost came to a real reconciliation when, in response to me saying something like "hey, if we lived closer we might actually be good friends", she types a BOOK about how she can't be close to me because I am not as religious as her and about how she weeps for my son because he won't be raised with God at the core.  It was bizarre because it came from nowhere.  It was infuriating for obvious reasons.

3 Notes:
1. She has no idea the extent of my religiousness.  She barely knows me so I can only surmise one of the other girls told her about my household's lack of church-going and came to her own conclusions.
2. My husband has said many times how various family members have told him in confidence how much they love me.  His father, the pastor, told him he chose a wonderful wife.  I am closer to my MIL than my own bio mom.  His parents and other sisters are all deeply devout, but they are not obnoxious about it in any way.  They are wonderful people who I love spending time with.  My not being "devout enough" has never come up.  Until
3. this SIL gets her feewings hurt for finally getting called out on her shitty behavior.  I am starting to think this God stuff is a way to recapture the moral high-ground in our spat.  Sure, she's a bitch but I'm *GASP* *FAINT* not a regular CHURCH-GOER.  MERCY.

Thoughts on this theory?
« Last Edit: January 17, 2017, 05:19:08 PM by S.S. »

Mezzie

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Re: Raising Good Kids in a Secular Home
« Reply #13 on: January 17, 2017, 05:25:38 PM »
No religion has a monopoly on being good. Your kids will learn from your actions; be a good model. :)
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Re: Raising Good Kids in a Secular Home
« Reply #14 on: January 17, 2017, 06:24:57 PM »
I.P., thank you for that beautiful response.  I myself am not in any way affiliated with the Jewish faith, but I know tangentially of this community and the wonderful families and children it produces.  One of the people who has influenced my life very positively is a devout Jew and speaks deep truths through the lense of his faith. 

I also kind of love that Jews are generally not evangelical.  The ones I have known will give wonderful answers when asked but are not actively trying to recruit.  I grew up in an aggressively evangelical Christian church and now loathe this strain of believer.  Coming from that background, I understand the "spread the good news of great joy" mindset, but it grates on me nonetheless.

Myself? Gentile. I followed where the evidence lead, and I went towards the wisdom. It's why I'm involved in a local Messianic Jewish community, it's why I believe as I do, it's why I shared what I did. Again, don't let man get in the way of your relationship with HaShem and pursuing His wisdom for your sake and your children's. It is the lens of that faith that is so profound, for Jew and gentile alike.
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little_brown_dog

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Re: Raising Good Kids in a Secular Home
« Reply #15 on: January 17, 2017, 06:26:01 PM »
Ah yes….the “you don’t have God so you must be empty” thing.

First – you can’t argue with these people. Their belief in God is so much a part of their identity, they have myopia and can’t fathom any other type of existence. Their feelings about your supposed lack of meaning in life says nothing about you, and everything about their own inability to put themselves in someone else’s position. It’s the equivalent of a Christian saying to a Muslim “ah you must be so empty because you don’t have Jesus” and the Muslim responding by saying “no YOU are empty because you don’t have our Prophet.” Silly right?
I grew up Roman Catholic. I am an atheist. Never felt the God thing…just didn’t. Husband was the same.

There are many, many ways to raise smart, loving, community oriented people without deities in their life. For us, science and nature fills the role that others use religion to fill – a way to make sense of life, a way to describe tough stuff like pain and death in a meaningful and hopeful way, etc.  Nature in many ways is the original god – she shows us everything we need to know….from how to be part of a family, to how to respect and appreciate differences in others (humans and non human), that pain and death are as natural as joy, love, and new life, that we are a part of something so much bigger and more powerful and important than just ourselves. She also teaches humility...that we are just one form of life on this earth, no better, no worse. Hell, what more do you need right? :)

BabyShark

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Re: Raising Good Kids in a Secular Home
« Reply #16 on: January 17, 2017, 06:38:04 PM »
Ahhh Sisters in Law. I have one of those too. I feel your pain. It sounds like she is the definition of "holier than thou." You don't get to be a mean person and then justify it because you go to church. You and your husband have a clear view of how you want your son to be raised. Stick to that and he'll turn out great. And I bet some of your other in laws are glad you said something to SIL because they would never be able to.

have you thought about looking into sending your child to a Jewish preschool? My MIL teaches at one at her temple and most of those children aren't Jewish, it's just a great program that offers some Jewish teachings. Our Jewish Community Center here also has one and it's considered one of the best early ed programs around; again many of the students aren't actually Jewish. Just a thought if your looking to expose your son to the culture without all the religion.

galliver

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Re: Raising Good Kids in a Secular Home
« Reply #17 on: January 17, 2017, 06:49:02 PM »
3 Notes:
1. She has no idea the extent of my religiousness.  She barely knows me so I can only surmise one of the other girls told her about my household's lack of church-going and came to her own conclusions.
2. My husband has said many times how various family members have told him in confidence how much they love me.  His father, the pastor, told him he chose a wonderful wife.  I am closer to my MIL than my own bio mom.  His parents and other sisters are all deeply devout, but they are not obnoxious about it in any way.  They are wonderful people who I love spending time with.  My not being "devout enough" has never come up.  Until
3. this SIL gets her feewings hurt for finally getting called out on her shitty behavior.  I am starting to think this God stuff is a way to recapture the moral high-ground in our spat.  Sure, she's a bitch but I'm *GASP* *FAINT* not a regular CHURCH-GOER.  MERCY.

Thoughts on this theory?

This is a little...tangentially related, but... in high school, I had a group of friends, including this girl, T. (other girls: A., B., & L.) Around sophomore year I found out I was moving several states away and they were very sweet and threw me a going away party except (a) they planned it the exact same way we did for another friend and (b) they planned it for the week my mom was visiting (I was staying with friends for a while to finish the school year). The situation exploded and there were lots of dramatic statements about the meaning of friendship and yadda yadda. We made up. I came back to visit for 2-3 years until, with college, and changing communication habits (less AOL more Gchat) we fell out of touch. I kept in touch with B who was on facebook but that was about it. Well, toward my senior year of college, I see T pop up on my messaging app, so I say hello, but I only get emoticons and punctuation in response. So I figure her brother or someone had hacked her account and give up. The next day I find a message on my screen to the effect of "So now you want to talk after everything?" and I'm like "We fell out of touch like people do, I want to catch up, what's the big deal?" And eventually come home to a tirade on my screen about how HURT she was that I *never called* and how this single-handedly destroyed her self-esteem etc etc and if I wasn't actively dying or something she didn't want to hear from me. And I was all poised to apologize and talk it out with her...and then I realized...it would be entirely in line with her personality to want this reconciliation to happen on HER terms, with me begging forgiveness (for falling out of touch? perceived slights? etc?). And I had no desire for that kind of friendship in my life. I had some really solid ones from college. So I basically told her, "well, if you ever do want to catch up let me know :)" And I let it go.

Some people are just...snots. Some grow out of it, some don't. Obviously you can't just not talk to her, as with me and T. But you don't have to reply to her book; just say "I'm sorry you feel that way, let me know if it changes," leave the ball in her court, and be civil on the family chat and at family events. Obviously, you have the love of other people in the family and that's a really really good thing!

Secret Agent Mom

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Re: Raising Good Kids in a Secular Home
« Reply #18 on: January 17, 2017, 09:37:13 PM »
I think I am raising moral children in a secular household.  My husband and I were both raised religious, but deconverted before we had kids.  So far I think my kids seem to have a moral compass inside them that tells them what is right and fair or not.  The Golden Rule has been around since Buddha- no religion has a claim on that, and IMO it's the rule that all the others are set upon.  The further from faith I get, the more I realize that it's really not what they claim it is.  I reject the idea that children are born with the tendency to sin, IME it seems they are born with curiosity and a natural tendency toward fairness and helping others.  I do not have a threat of hell to encourage good behavior- they are good for the value of being good.  It's my job to guide them into good decision making.   

My advice- if your family still has the faith you grew up in, they are always going to wish you were raising your own kids that way.   You cannot change their minds about it, but you also don't have to feel guilty.  Your responsibility is to raise your kids to the best of your ability to be helpful, loving, caring individuals.  Don't bother trying to justify yourself or arguing with others.  Keep in mind that at some point in history, one of your relatives left their faith to join the one your family is a member of now ;) 

There are a few books you might like- Parenting Beyond Belief  and Maybe Right- Maybe Wrong by Dan Barker

I think you will find that there are a lot of us who left faith and are raising secular kids.  We are not in the majority, but there are lots of us out here!  Our kids are doing great, and great caring kids.

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Re: Raising Good Kids in a Secular Home
« Reply #19 on: January 18, 2017, 06:54:15 AM »
One option is a Unitarian universalist Church. They are very big on "you can believe or not". I think a typical congregation is a mix of mixed religion families , agnostics, and atheists. It gives a nice social group, a framework for morality education (I don't know the details on their Sunday school program but I've heard the sex Ed program for older kids is spectacular) and a community.
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Psychstache

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Re: Raising Good Kids in a Secular Home
« Reply #20 on: January 18, 2017, 06:54:25 AM »
Thank you so much for all the helpful replies so far.  BabyShark, if I could choose a culture that most closely matches my personal values, it would be Orthodox Judaism.  I would love to figure out a way to raise a good Jewish kid without the Judaism.  I wonder if it's possible or if faith is integral to producing a child with that set of values.

Bender, nobody but my husband knows I'm an Atheist.  It would cause many of the people in my life a lot of psychic pain to know I've turned away.  When we fly out to the Midwest and visit, I attend service and say my prayers like everyone else.  Why this SIL called me out is beyond me.  One of the other sisters (there are 5 in total) who have come out and visited us must have told her that we don't attend church in our normal lives.

I feel your pain. I'm an Aethist in the Deep South, so that has led to some crazy interactions with people. Luckily, my family is pretty cool (mom was raised in the church but didn't feel any connection and stopped going, my dad grew up in an Islamic country and quit practicing once he moved to the US), so the only people who get goofy about it are acquaintances and strangers, and they can go step on a Lego.

I married a Jewish girl and if this is how you feel, I would seriously check out some Reform Judaism temples in your area. Ours is great about being very big on Cultural Judaism and only a minor emphasis on the spiritual aspect. I had to take a couple of classes at the temple in order to to allow us to be able to have a Jewish wedding ceremony, but the classes were very focused on the history and custom of the Jewish people over time, not about building a connection to God. The class also had couples and individuals who were not raised Jewish and had no prior connection to Judaism, but were looking to convert and they were welcomed and I have since seen some as members of the Temple.

That said, I agree with previous posters who have stated that there is absolutely no reason to think that you can raise someone to have good moral character and integrity in a secular/agnostic/atheist household.

Psychstache

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Re: Raising Good Kids in a Secular Home
« Reply #21 on: January 18, 2017, 07:01:05 AM »
The SIL I am currently extremely pissed at is a bully to the other sisters, except the one she likes.  She's been rude and bitchy on that chat many times and no one calls her out because they are all very passive and sweet and avoid conflict at all costs. 

The next time this happens you should respond by letting her know that her behavior is not very Christ-like :)

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Re: Raising Good Kids in a Secular Home
« Reply #22 on: January 18, 2017, 07:02:31 AM »
SIL's are the bestest.

yes you can raise decent non-religious kids. My dad was raised agnostic, in a family of rather arrogant agnostics. Their view was that religion is an invention of man, to control other (weak willed, non-thinking) men. However they taught a good moral/ethical code, and my dad was about the best guy I know.

Teach them basic morality and above all, critical thinking and a desire & appreciation for the truth. If they desire truth, they'll find it. best of luck.
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Re: Raising Good Kids in a Secular Home
« Reply #23 on: January 18, 2017, 07:23:29 AM »
The SIL I am currently extremely pissed at is a bully to the other sisters, except the one she likes.  She's been rude and bitchy on that chat many times and no one calls her out because they are all very passive and sweet and avoid conflict at all costs. 

The next time this happens you should respond by letting her know that her behavior is not very Christ-like :)
I'm picturing "Bless your heart!" as the go-to response. (sinking to the same level of passive-aggressiveness as the SIL, so you might not want to be that person.)

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Re: Raising Good Kids in a Secular Home
« Reply #24 on: January 18, 2017, 08:03:38 AM »
Totally possible. Be supportive, loving parents and set a good example in your own behavior and the kid will be just fine. Religion is in no way necessary to teach morals. I went to church as a child but have no intention of going regularly (excpet by special request of my parents) with my children.

This. And I just want to chime in as someone who was not even baptized, much less taken to church as a kid. My grandparents very very occasionally took us to church with them, but I never picked up anything there; we just sat in the back wondering why the dude in the dress up front kept droning on and why we kept having to kneel. I don't recall our grandparents ever telling us Bible stories or trying to teach us about Jesus; they only took us to church, when they did, because we happened to have spent Saturday night at their house and they couldn't leave us alone when they went to church the next morning.

We learned ethics and morals from our mom and maternal grandparents (dad and paternal grandparents were on the other side of the country). Partly it was a matter of just watching them live; partly it was talking about why they did X or didn't do Y; and partly it was a matter of learning about society, what is wrong or right about it, and how people have worked to make it better (my mom was active in the 1960s civil rights movement and 1970s feminism, among other causes).

You learn morality from examples (people around you) and stories, both true stories (mom's anecdotes about XYZ person she knew...) and fairy tales, children's books, etc. Stories in which people get what they deserve are morally satisfying. Stories in which good people don't get what they deserve are sad. Stories where someone sees a good person and helps them out are happy. It's all about the Golden Rule, a concept that long predates Christianity and exists in every culture I'm aware of.

Reading such stories and talking about them afterwards makes it clear what is right and how you should and should not treat people. Jesus/Moses/Buddha/etc. do not need to be part of the story in order for that to be true. And if Jesus/Moses/Buddha/etc. are in the story, that's not the reason the kid is learning morality from that story; they're learning it because what HAPPENS in the story shows you what is good and what is bad.
« Last Edit: January 18, 2017, 08:09:54 AM by Daleth »

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Re: Raising Good Kids in a Secular Home
« Reply #25 on: January 18, 2017, 08:23:43 AM »
I.P. said it best about the state of modern religion.

I think of church as the teachers of religion in the same way public school teaches math. Both do a good job and you can learn from either. However as the homeschool community points out, you can definitely teach math without the use of schools. In many cases you can do an even better job, so why stop at Catholicism and Judaism when you can learn non-Judaic teachings? Church generally limits you to learning a very strict set of rules, whereas religious studies opens you to more (I suspect I.P. has done some private studying, it was far too eloquent and thought out).

As with homeschooling, the biggest pitfall is not getting the work done. As long as you're prepared to teach moralities (and religion if you choose) there's little difference. Church happens to be an easy way to get the lessons in weekly doses, its not a misnomer calling it Sunday School.

Please note, I'm not disparaging any religion here, I happen to think religion has great value. I like the introspection and reflection that's encouraged, I view prayer as a time to reflect on your actions, not a bad idea in anyone's life.  Its the idea that G-d is taking attendance that seems strange.

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Re: Raising Good Kids in a Secular Home
« Reply #26 on: January 18, 2017, 10:28:08 AM »
Something interesting for the thread....this study found that being non religious was associated with more compassion/kindness. Just one study, but still very intriguing and reassuring for those of us who don't do the God thing. The more religious the kids the LESS compassionate they were, with non religious kids being the most generous and least likely to want to severely punish others for being "bad."

http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2015/11/nonreligious-children-are-more-generous
« Last Edit: January 18, 2017, 10:30:53 AM by little_brown_dog »

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Re: Raising Good Kids in a Secular Home
« Reply #27 on: January 18, 2017, 10:37:20 AM »
I (26F) recently got into a big argument with one of my SIL (22F) over FB messaging, which culminated in her saying she "is sad" for me every day and "deeply sad" that her nephew (3 yrs old) will not grow up with God at the core like she did.  This was a week ago, and the comment still irks me.  My husband grew up in a deeply religious household (father is a Lutheran pastor).  I grew up going to church every Sunday as well (non-denom), but have since become what I like to call "Atheist but very open to being proved wrong".  Husband still has faith but is ambivalent about it. 

I am starting to feel insecure about my ability to raise my boy to be a moral, well-adjusted, and loving human being without the church-going background.  I wonder if my husband and me received immeasurable benefits from growing up with Judeo-Christian values even though we have both since moved away from regular church attendance.  I even toy with the idea of attending church during his childhood and adolescence and let him make his own choices when he comes of age, even though it would be complete ruse on my part that I would have to keep up for 15+ years.

My questions: Anyone else in a similar situation where you grew up with God and recognized the benefits of that upbringing but have since renounced it?  Do you think it's possible to raise a child with all the positive attributes that faith has to offer without the actual "God" part?
Grew up Catholic, husband grew up non-denominational Christian.  His mom is Danish, and not particularly religious.  His dad isn't either.

I'm now atheist, he's agnostic.  Our boys (10 and 4) are quite moral and know right from wrong...because we teach them to treat others like you'd want to be treated.

It's not rocket science. 

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Re: Raising Good Kids in a Secular Home
« Reply #28 on: January 18, 2017, 11:44:12 AM »
Something interesting for the thread....this study found that being non religious was associated with more compassion/kindness. Just one study, but still very intriguing and reassuring for those of us who don't do the God thing. The more religious the kids the LESS compassionate they were, with non religious kids being the most generous and least likely to want to severely punish others for being "bad."

http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2015/11/nonreligious-children-are-more-generous

I would like to point out that this doesn't disprove the existence of a divine creator or even the possibility that we can best learn those lessons through His instruction and guidance, it simply confirms what I stated about religious institutions being in opposition to a practiced faith in the one and only divine creator who's wisdom is made visible and manifest through the observation of the very universe around us and making the choice to follow His way.

I get not wanting to buy into the "gods" of man's religions, they're about as genuine as mythological deities as presented. Heck, the Christian Jesus as normally presented represents an anti-semitic pagan sun god more than anything (and the Reformation is still trying to untangle from that some 400+ years later). However, none of these points disprove the possible existence of a very real creator of the universe with a very specific name or the actual Jewish Messiah who extended the covenant and salvation to all nations some two millennia ago, nor does it invalidate the core accepted writings of Judaism or Christianity. These points are considerably more verifiable, and only strengthen the case for the way itself and our need for redemption and covering in the universe we have if we desire a relationship with that creator. That said, it does heavily poke holes in the lol-random-cruel-sky-wizard or G-D 2.0 (The Christian G-d is not some better refined and different G-d from the Jewish one! It's the exact same caring and righteous G-d!) style deities that man tries to create and present, even through the usage of the very writings addressing that far deeper truth by twisting them for the sake of controlling others.

I don't post this to sidetrack the topic, evangelize or try to pick a fight. (Trust me, I don't want to fight about this - only further clarify my own position.) My desire is to make a point about distinction and nuance in the subject. It's not as black and white as many like to think it is on either side of the fence. It's my hope that can be read and understood.
« Last Edit: January 18, 2017, 11:51:20 AM by I.P. Daley »
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Lagom

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Re: Raising Good Kids in a Secular Home
« Reply #29 on: January 18, 2017, 11:53:04 AM »
The important point is that it doesn't matter whether there is a God or not. It is literally irrelevant to one's ability to live a moral life. Thus personally, I don't identify as anything. Not Christian, agnostic, or atheist. I find no particular satisfaction or enlightenment from church so I don't go. I find no comfort in defining my level of disbelief on the agnostic-atheist spectrum, so I decline to do that as well. But I care deeply about my fellow humans and try to live my life in such a way as to benefit the common good, as well as myself.

Good works do give me deep satisfaction, and I commit my energies accordingly. This is what I will teach my children as well, and if they decide a particular religious or philosophical framework helps, I'll happily support them on their own journey.


sol

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Re: Raising Good Kids in a Secular Home
« Reply #30 on: January 18, 2017, 12:09:37 PM »
If it hasn't been mentioned yet, I highly recommend the book "Parenting Beyond Belief" for a thoughtful discussion of this topic, coupled to specific strategies you can implement to raise moral human beings without threatening them with magical retribution. 

A key component is teaching compassion and tolerance, including the lesson that everyone has a right to choose for themselves what to believe.  That includes atheists and fundamentalIst in equal measure, which means everyone has to learn to allow other people to believe in stupid stuff.

Sounds like your SIL still needs to learn that lesson, and you are in danger of joining her there if you argue with her about it.

GrandioseMustachio

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Re: Raising Good Kids in a Secular Home
« Reply #31 on: January 18, 2017, 01:17:28 PM »
I'll write about my personal experience. My siblings and I were raised in a secular/atheist household. I believe that we have high moral standards. I completely trust my siblings to do the right thing. ysette9 makes a good point: a key thing was establishing our own moral code, independently from our faith (or absence thereof).

That said, religious education was an important part of our upbringing. Even though we did not believe in religious myths, we were expected to be knowledgeable about them and understand their significance (including Buddhist, Hindu, Islamic, Jewish and Christian myths). Notably, we were taught that many of our secular moral codes are inherited from our Judeo-Christian heritage (in particular, from our Roman Catholic heritage).

My parents emphasized the importance of respecting others, of generally trusting them, of being open and honest. They explained very clearly that we have rights, but also responsibilities. And that our rights end were the rights of others start. The explained the importance of the social compact, but also that it can only work if we take responsibility for our actions. They emphasized the importance not only of hard work, but also of happiness (both of ourselves, and of our surroundings). We were expected of being involved in our communities, giving back, and being thankful for the hand that life dealt us.

Of course, this does will not necessarily reassure your sister. Perhaps you can explain what actions your son takes in order to become a good human being. Concrete examples of the development of his moral compass. But more generally, remember that this is, in the end, no more than armchair parenting. Don't take it too seriously.

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Re: Raising Good Kids in a Secular Home
« Reply #32 on: January 18, 2017, 03:52:39 PM »
Thanks, group.  The MMM community never disappoints.  I have read and thought over every response and greatly appreciate your input.  I have a lot of good reading material to look into now, as well as overwhelming reassurance that transmitting a strong moral framework to my little one does not necessitate regular church attendance.

I was pleasantly surprised to see a few responses from people who are involved in the Jewish community but not necessarily the faith aspect.  I had no idea this was even a possibility.  My previous impression of Jewish culture was that it was a pretty closed-off group with a take-it-(all of it)-or-leave-it mentality.

Edit: I particularly wanted to hear from people who are now secular but think at least somewhat fondly of their religious upbringing (which I got!); it seems to be more of a minority POV.  I was briefly part of an Atheist club in college where I met some smart, interesting people, but their total derisiveness and contempt for anything having to do with faith (Christianity especially) was not my cup o' tea.  Plus if I want that POV I have Bill Maher.

Now that I have had time to mull all this over, I realize my SIL is still a child in many ways, despite technically being a grown woman (at 21-22).  She's newly married and recently graduated from a small Lutheran college.  She has never ventured outside the community in which she grew up.  In other words, she doesn't know her thumb from her asshole and her comments should not have set me off like they did.

Perhaps she did actually mean what she said, instead of this being some weird power play.  It's shitty but at least we don't live nearby and probably never will, since my husband is in the Navy and the likelihood of being stationed in the Midwest is <0%.  I haven't responded to her diatribe yet and left the family chat, so there is this noticeable rift in the family now that no one has ventured to bridge yet.
« Last Edit: January 18, 2017, 03:59:31 PM by S.S. »

Psychstache

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Re: Raising Good Kids in a Secular Home
« Reply #33 on: January 18, 2017, 08:30:25 PM »
Now that I have had time to mull all this over, I realize my SIL is still a child in many ways, despite technically being a grown woman (at 21-22).

Fun fact: current research shows that the brain is not truly fully formed and matured until around age 25 on average, so maybe there is hope she can still grow up yet.

Lyssa

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Re: Raising Good Kids in a Secular Home
« Reply #34 on: January 19, 2017, 07:42:58 AM »
Your SIL is way out of line and you should not let it get to you.

Children raised in deeply secular countries (like northern Europe) turn out perfectly fine and contribute to thriving and peaceful societies everyday. Children in very religious countries like Pakistan on the other hand... But oh well, at least they grow up knowing that god is on their side so I guess they can deal with being dirt poor, uneducated and in constant danger of being blown up for no reason at all or lynched should they ever dare to express doubts...

Your SIL is VERY lucky she did not say something like that to me...

If you lead by example your kids will be fine.

I would also recommend that you and your husband are open with them what you both personally do and do not believe and to tell them that they can make up (and change) their own mind. This would open up the possibility of your little sunshine telling 'mommy is an atheist' to your parents over dinner or after visiting church when your at their place but I still think it's worth it. Putting up a deliberate act on the other side could damage your relationship with them (they would at least sense something is of from a certain age) and to tell them 'I don't believe in god, but don't tell granny!' could give them the idea that being an atheist is wrong and immoral.
 

sol

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Re: Raising Good Kids in a Secular Home
« Reply #35 on: January 19, 2017, 08:26:05 AM »
This would open up the possibility of your little sunshine telling 'mommy is an atheist' to your parents

We did have to deal with an 10 year old who would say things like "you know god isn't real, right?" to other kinds on the playground when they would talk about their faith.  Kids have no filter.  This is why I think it's so important to start early teaching the lesson that everyone gets to decide for themselves.

I know his comments weren't actually any worse than a kid on the playground talking about loving Jesus, but atheists are still actively discriminated against in America and saying that Jesus isn't real is considered dangerously offensive while saying Jesus is all powerful is totally normal and accepted.  You have to learn to deal with the double standard.

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Re: Raising Good Kids in a Secular Home
« Reply #36 on: January 19, 2017, 08:54:15 AM »
Edit: I particularly wanted to hear from people who are now secular but think at least somewhat fondly of their religious upbringing (which I got!); it seems to be more of a minority POV. 

It's probably a minority POV because for those of us who are currently living a secular life but were raised in a religious household, we probably have a lot of complex feelings about the religious aspect of our upbringing. Everyone has baggage from how they were raised and religion is notorious for instilling strong opinions and heavy baggage. I appreciate some aspects of my religious upbringing, and it taught some interesting lessons in 'how to sit still and quiet for an hour', when I was older 'how to sleep upright without being obvious', how to think carefully about my place in the world, how to think about what kind of person I want to be, how to differentiate science and fact from belief or faith, etc. It also taught me about hypocrisy and prejudice and power and sexism. Odds were never great that I was going to grow up to be a believer once they told me I could never be Pope because ~*~reasons~*~.


Now that I have had time to mull all this over, I realize my SIL is still a child in many ways, despite technically being a grown woman (at 21-22).  She's newly married and recently graduated from a small Lutheran college. 

This made me realize I have no idea how old you are, but for at least your SIL, she is still incredibly young and sounds like she has been very sheltered from the wider world in a lot of ways. In addition to the brain development  thing mentioned above, you are probably one of the first people to really 'challenge' her belief system by existing outside of what she considers 'normal' and she's reacting very badly (along with generally being an unpleasant immature person) to being shown that what she has been told is the One True Way is maybe less than a singular truth. None of which is to say you should not stand up to her rudeness and disrespect, but maybe to give you a little more patience and perspective when dealing with her.

Trifele

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Re: Raising Good Kids in a Secular Home
« Reply #37 on: January 19, 2017, 09:21:43 AM »
This would open up the possibility of your little sunshine telling 'mommy is an atheist' to your parents

We did have to deal with an 10 year old who would say things like "you know god isn't real, right?" to other kinds on the playground when they would talk about their faith.  Kids have no filter.  This is why I think it's so important to start early teaching the lesson that everyone gets to decide for themselves.

I know his comments weren't actually any worse than a kid on the playground talking about loving Jesus, but atheists are still actively discriminated against in America and saying that Jesus isn't real is considered dangerously offensive while saying Jesus is all powerful is totally normal and accepted.  You have to learn to deal with the double standard.

Oh yes, we have dealt with this too in our secular family -- our 10 year old is only now starting to understand he needs a filter on this subject.  Our other, older child always understood it and was tactful/respectful from the time she was little.  So strange how they vary. 

Also -- just wanted to say this post is a breath of fresh air.  Love your cooking/morality analogy Ysette.
 

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Re: Raising Good Kids in a Secular Home
« Reply #38 on: January 19, 2017, 09:23:48 AM »
I have no children but will talk about myself. I was raised in a deeply religious household. Forced to go to church and even attended a school where we had service like three times a week.

I never felt like religion gave us any moral codes. It did not stop me trying a cigarette at thirteen and drinking either. It just made me feel guilty for being human.

I loved reading so inevitably I started challenging everything I believed in when I was 14 and I remember telling my mom I no longer wanted to go to church when I was 15 and we had a big argument about it.

She inevitably let me be and I haven't stepped foot since then. If anything, I feel I have influenced her some.

The only person who was never religious in my family was my grandfather. He was the smartest person I've ever known and he approached everything with a skepticism. He said, you don't have to be religious to be a good person.

I don't think I'll ever have kids but if I do, I would never put my child through church. Absolutely not. I am heavily against organized religion. I feel this is nothing more than brain washing.

Dave1442397

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Re: Raising Good Kids in a Secular Home
« Reply #39 on: January 19, 2017, 03:51:18 PM »
I grew up in a religious family (the country was 94% Catholic back then) and endured five years of nuns and Christian Brothers before we moved to an area with more lay teachers. The nuns made me switch from being left-handed to right-handed, because left = sinistra/sinister. I only endured a few months with the Christian Brother who taught our class, and thought he was a sadist. It was worse - he ended up in prison - http://www.independent.ie/irish-news/courts/exbrother-becomes-fifth-man-guilty-of-sex-abuse-at-school-26635155.html

I haven't been remotely religious since I was eleven years old, and had no intention of ever forcing my daughter to follow any religious dogma. I always tell her she can decide for herself whether she wants to believe or not, but I've always emphasized that I have no expectation either way, and she can believe or not as she sees fit. She seems to be following my path, and is a perfectly nice kid with great values. No religion necessary.

We went to (my one and only) Bat Mitzvah a few years ago. It must be a more liberal/relaxed temple, because I didn't have to wear a yarmulke, but I couldn't tell you any more about it. However, I was impressed with the service, and the Rabbi. It was very much focused on life lessons and preparing for the future, and there was no "you must do this because God says" rhetoric.

In this part of the country, I've noticed that maybe 20% of my daughter's friends seem to attend church on a regular basis. There has only been one Saturday night sleepover where the parents requested an early pickup on Sunday because they were going to church. It certainly doesn't seem to have any negative affect on the kids. In fact, most of them are envious of the kids who don't go to church and don't have to get up and out on a Sunday morning :)

CindyBS

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Re: Raising Good Kids in a Secular Home
« Reply #40 on: January 20, 2017, 03:05:02 PM »
I saw a great meme on this that said:  Morality: Doing what is right regardless of what you are told.  Religion:  Doing what you are told regardless of what is right. 

My kids are 11 and 13, never gone to church, not baptized, never raised to believe in supernatural beings, superstition or the like.  I routinely get complimented on what nice/polite/caring children they are from people like teachers, nurses, other parents, etc.   We also associate with a lot of freethinkers/humanists and their kids are pretty nice/moral/kind too. 

Follow your instincts on this. 


libertarian4321

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Re: Raising Good Kids in a Secular Home
« Reply #41 on: January 20, 2017, 04:58:40 PM »
Quote
that her nephew (3 yrs old) will not grow up with God at the core like she did.

Tell her that we all grow up without God, but some of us delude ourselves into believing otherwise.

One does not need a God or Gods or imaginary friends to be a good person.

I should also point out that all so-called "Judeo-Christian" values were around long before there was a "Judeo" or a "Christian."

People who believed in a multitude of Gods, and no God or Gods at all, have believe in similar values for thousands of years.
« Last Edit: January 20, 2017, 05:01:34 PM by libertarian4321 »

gaja

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Re: Raising Good Kids in a Secular Home
« Reply #42 on: January 20, 2017, 05:23:22 PM »
I love reading these type of discussions. It is like window to an alien planet. My kids are not allowed to make fun of religious people they know, or tell their great aunt that angels are not real, but other than that, religion is something we look at on tv or when we go to look at a historical monument that happens to be a church or religious statue.

The very idea that my little sweethearts, who have been exposed to discussions about ethics and philosophy their whole life, growing up in a big and loving family who all share solid core values, should be less moral than someone who was forced to go to Sunday school, is just ridiculous. There is a link to some research in this thread that indicates that atheist children are more altruistic than religious ones. I would also like to add the highly unscientific datapoint of my one neighbor, the only one who spoke loudly about being christian, who also was the only neighbor who ended up in jail (for embezzling his church).
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Re: Raising Good Kids in a Secular Home
« Reply #43 on: January 22, 2017, 08:13:32 AM »
I love everyone's responses!  "Religious is not the same as spiritual" especially resonates with me.  We are Christians, but I feel the same concerns as the O.P. because our church community is super small and intimate (not something you would really recognize as a church. sort of like an amateur Quaker meeting), with no other kids who come regularly. I often wonder if my kids would "turn out better" with a big rockin' Sunday school group and such, but am trusting they will get something more valuable from the authenticity they're seeing with our little group of non-religious Christ lovers.

I can see two aspects: moral/ethical content, and community. As others have said, you can provide the moral/ethical content through dinner table conversations, and great literature.

I think it is important for kids to have some form of community, too, whether it's a large extended family, an informal network of family friends, a small town, or a secular group. It's hard these days to find people you can trust. When my kids are in high school, I want them to feel like they have good, responsible people other than us to whom they can open up. Ideally, I want them to have a peer group, a tribe of others their age who are caring, ethical, and moral. (I had a friend who grew up un-religious but hung out with the mormon kids in high school because they were good people and knew how to have fun without alcohol.)

One secular parenting book that I love is "How to Talk so Kids will Listen and Listen so Kids will Talk" by Faber & Mazlish. It describes ways to meet kids' real emotional needs so they will feel understood and learn ways of working through problems and conflicts. Even if you only have 20 minutes, you can get something out of this book by peeking through the graphic novel / cartoon style illustrations to get the gist of many of the conversational tools.

backandforth

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Re: Raising Good Kids in a Secular Home
« Reply #44 on: January 23, 2017, 08:48:44 AM »
OP, I don't know the social circle you hang out with. But for us, our friends extremely diverse, and a lot of them are without zero, limited, or "dimished with age" religious upbringing of many kinds, especially for people born in Asia I would say. They are all good people, raise good children. It is about being a good responsible person, and do the right thing with a clean conscience, even when there is no God watching, rewarding or punishing your actions. IMHO Growing up with a good core value doesn't have to tie to a central figure, altough it might help, but not a must.

ChpBstrd

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Re: Raising Good Kids in a Secular Home
« Reply #45 on: January 23, 2017, 11:23:39 AM »
S.S,
With atheism, belief and morality are separate components, instead of being packaged together like they are in religion. Once we realize gods are manmade myths, we've resolved many questions about the universe, but we then have the separate task of finding and justifying our moral attitudes.

Many religious people cannot imagine a moral system not tied to supernatural beliefs - their own systems have always been integrated with such beliefs. They've never seen, tried, or read about ethics outside the context of their religion (for many, doing this research would be considered immoral). Thus, it is not surprising to hear them claim that atheists must also be amoral. Many churches preach this as fact. After all, why would the Bible/Torah/Koran say secular people are going to hell if they weren't bad?

If you are at all worried that your atheism might make your kids amoral, you might still have some of these false religious assumptions in your head. The most atheistic countries in the world have the lowest crime rates in the world, and vice versa. Within the US, the most religious areas have the most crime, and vice versa.

As others have pointed out, your kids will eventually force you to confront these claims of amorality. If you are feeling unprepared to either answer their questions or defend your secular lifestyle, that's a sign it is time to think and study to understand precisely where you stand and why you stand there. It's time to hit the books! Parenting Beyond Belief, many books by Dan Barker, or many books in the American Humanist Association catalog can help you explore and articulate a whole menu of ideas. Been there. Done that! Still learning!

Now, we still haven't addressed community. We are fortunate to live in a time when people with minority viewpoints or atypical interests can find each other with the click of a button. Go to meetup.com and search for things that interest you - or secular keywords. There you'll find all sorts of interesting communities organizing get-togethers all around you for all sorts of reasons.

Non-believer groups are also a thing, and they've rapidly evolved since the days when grumpy old men held bitch-about-religion sessions in library meeting rooms. Yes, there is often some animosity toward religion, but keep in mind that many of these folks have experienced disownment, lost friends, been discriminated against or coerced, or been sexually abused by the "holy men" who lecture others about morality. Personally, I can't blame them.

The most successful groups have stuff going on: hikes, pizza parties, picnics, book clubs, conferences, game nights, family groups, pub nights, etc. If you don't find one within driving distance, there's a good chance you could find people through social media interested in organizing with you.

The secular life requires a DIY mentality that is somewhat surprising in comparison with the integrated, choreographed communities and beliefsets of religion. I find that being unaware of secular philosophy and community is harder than putting in the labor to learn about and immerse myself in these things.

Good luck on the journey of a lifetime!

mrsggrowsveg

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Re: Raising Good Kids in a Secular Home
« Reply #46 on: January 23, 2017, 11:47:25 AM »
You can definitely raise good kids in a secular home.  I really like the idea of a family culture.  Even if you identify with a certain religion not all member of that religion may share your family values.  If I say we don't do that because we are Catholic or Jewish, then my kids could get confused when people of that religion are doing bad things.  We try and have a family culture so that we can teach our kids that we do good things because we are part of our family.  Part of creating the culture involves traditions taken from both sides of our family and a spirit of generosity. 
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gReed Smith

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Re: Raising Good Kids in a Secular Home
« Reply #47 on: January 23, 2017, 03:05:56 PM »
I am starting to feel insecure about my ability to raise my boy to be a moral, well-adjusted, and loving human being without the church-going background.  I wonder if my husband and me received immeasurable benefits from growing up with Judeo-Christian values even though we have both since moved away from regular church attendance.  I even toy with the idea of attending church during his childhood and adolescence and let him make his own choices when he comes of age, even though it would be complete ruse on my part that I would have to keep up for 15+ years.

What would be a ruse about it?  If you went to a minister and told him that you aren't sure about God, but would like to bring your kids to church, you would be welcomed with open arms.  If you aren't, that church is very confused about its mission and is best avoided.  I am probably best described as agnostic (or flat out apathetic) but I like going to church for a host of reasons from socializing to listening to the music.  I won't go to a church that tells me I'm supposed to hate gay people or divorced people or something like that.

moof

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Re: Raising Good Kids in a Secular Home
« Reply #48 on: January 23, 2017, 05:08:37 PM »
I guess my take is to ponder whether it isn't actually easier to raise moral kids in a secular home.

Having a sky fairy as a scapegoat that steals credit for the good, and "works in mysterious ways" for the bad is a really line blurring concept for little ones to wrap their head around.  Attending church also exposes kids to a large dose of utter hypocrisy.  The nice middle eastern man preached about helping the poor, yet you are often surrounded by piles of families who would not give a dime to him if they encountered him on the street.

I could go on, but I have to say that my personal experience is that there is a small negative correlation between religiosity and morality, with the first often giving cover for the lack of the second.

My mother was raised church going, and my domineering grandfather used it as one of the tools to terrorize the house.  She raised two boys secular just fine (though my brother did end up picking a religious path at about age 10-11 and stuck with it).  I am raising my child in a secular fashion and have no fears of qualms about it being the right thing for our household.  If he chooses to go to church at some point I won't stand in his way, and reserve the right to step in if the church of his choosing starts taking the fantasy too far.

sol

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Re: Raising Good Kids in a Secular Home
« Reply #49 on: January 23, 2017, 06:43:30 PM »
I could go on, but I have to say that my personal experience is that there is a small negative correlation between religiosity and morality, with the first often giving cover for the lack of the second.

I agree with your observed correlation, but I don't think it's causative.  I think people raised with a religious justification for their morality just fail to develop the critical thinking skills necessary to answer those tough questions.  They are spoon fed easy answers, and no longer feel the need to seek out or understand the concepts of ethics in any framework besides "because God says so". 

The philosophy of ethics is a complex and fascinating topic, more than enough to fill multiple university courses.  Basing your ethical framework on a single ancient text with a long list of known contradictions and clearly immoral behavior seems like an obviously bad idea, from my perspective, but I know there are millions of Americans who prefer to disregard the past few thousand years of thinking on this topic.