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Monday, October 10, 2011

How to Create an Army of Godless Children

As parents, our roles are many and our job is endless. We strive to give our children the tools they need to make good decisions from the time they are old enough to walk. How do we enable our children to make good decisions about religion? (Even if they grow up and become Christians).

Give them information!
A woman (Melissa) in an Atheist Group that I moderate posted about her child telling her she doesn’t believe in God. Melissa talked about learning in an atheist panel to not indoctrinate children into atheism. She said, “Give them truth and let them decide for themselves. The choice will be easy.”

As an atheist parent she’s very proud that her child has decided, based on information, that God isn’t real.
For the most part, I agree about giving kids the truth and allowing them to make up their minds. But it should ALWAYS be age appropriate. Here’s my experience with it:

When my oldest (B) was little, she went to church with my Grandparents fairly often. She enjoyed the activities and liked playing with the kids and I thought it was harmless. She got to go play and I got a break from parenthood for a few hours every Sunday. Then she came home one day in tears. (You saw that coming didn’t you?) She was mortified that when she died she was going to go to heaven and I wouldn’t be there. It took hours to calm her down and a few days to get her past the idea that Mommy was going to burn in hell forever while she was with the angels with Grandma. She was four when this happened.

Needless to say that was the last time I allowed her to go to church. As she got older, she started asking questions about religion and God. I am a very vocal atheist and part of her interest was based on that. Why does Mom think God is not real? Before I became (self actualized?) an atheist I read tons of religious literature. I was brought up a Nazarene and when I left the church I check out Pentecostals, Baptists… then Satanism… then Buddhism, Taoism, Wicca. Pretty much anything I could read about, I did. I was trying to find something that fit. I realized after quite a bit of study that most of it is the same. (
Buddhists get a pass from me and Taoism is a philosophy not a religion). The point: I kept all of those books and as B grew and was able to understand more, I gave her books to read and answered her questions as best I could.

At 16, B is a self-confirmed atheist. As a parent, I am so proud. Not because she believes or thinks like I do but because I taught her to question everything, even me. She came to this conclusion on her own.

My youngest, C, is almost 2. Because it was such a heart wrenching experience with B, C is not going to be allowed to go to church at all, not till she's older. I will do the rest the same- when she starts asking (and she will; we live in a small, very conservative town (55,000) and most of the friends she’ll make at school will belong to one of the 64 churches in our town) I’ll direct her to age appropriate books and do my best to answer her questions or direct her to someone who can.

My gut instinct with C is to not only not allow her to go to church but to put down those who do. As a parent, I feel an overwhelming urge to protect her from what will hurt her and keep her safe from the judgments. But I know the best way to parent is to arm her with knowledge and information and allow her to make up her own mind. I won’t lie- I will be heartbroken if C grows up to be a Christian. But if she makes an informed decision, I will love her and be proud, regardless of her decision.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Godblock and a few other notes

Someone in my atheist club posted this and I wanted to share it. The software scans web pages- just like AVG- and if there is religious content, it is blocked.


Other notes:

Our "moving" is complete- just to the unpacking part now. Ugh. Working up a list of things to talk about. If anyone has any ideas- send them my way.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Brief Update, Ricky Gervais, and a Case of the FuckIts

I started this blog with a full fledged determination to blog on a regular basis.

Then school started.

Then we decided to move.

Then a serious case of the FuckIts settled in and has yet to leave.

I haven't forgotten about this blog. I think there's a lot to be said about atheist parenting that's not being said.

For now, I'll leave you with this...

Ricky Gervais on Sesame Street.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

What is a Skeptic? (Part 1)

Rather than overload all 8 of my readers... :) I'm doing this as a two part blog.

Webster’s online offers four definitions of skeptic. I’m only going to talk about two. Yes, the other two have merit in a discussion of parenting- but I am not a philosopher. I’m not raising my kids to wonder if We are real or if our life is true… They will at some point question what reality is, I have no doubt, but chances are they’ll be doing that in a class at college.

Instead I want to look at two of the definitions that I think are the most relevant for this blog.

The first: Of or pertaining to a sceptic or skepticisim; characterized by skepticism; hesitating to admit the certainty of doctrines or principles; doubting of everything.

By the time B, my oldest, was born, I was well on my way towards atheism. I didn’t call it that at the time and I still felt there must be “something greater” out there, I just didn’t know what it was. I also knew that I didn’t want my child following anything blindly. Without making a conscientious decision, I starting raising her to be a skeptic. B was very much a “why?” kid. “Why are trees brown?” “Why is learning important?” “Why do I have to go to bed?” In trying to be a good parent (whatever that is!) I can count on both hands the number of times I told her, “Because I said so!” I just don’t tell her that. There are times, I wish I would have. Times, now that she is 16, that I wish she’d just accept my saying no because I’m the Mom and that’s how it works. But that would be selling her short and I’m not willing to do that.

As she’s gotten older, she questions different areas. She debates with her teachers at school when she feels they’re misinforming her. She pleaded to skip out on “Health” class because she already knows how her body works. She will continue to question as she continues to grow into an adult and that is the most rewarding thing about being a parent. Without meaning to, not the first five years anyway, I have raised someone who is not willingly to accept what she’s told without learning more. It will influence the jobs she gets, how she votes, who or if she marries… and I could not be more proud.

Little C is already inquisitive by nature, most baby’s are. At 1.5 years, her favorite question is, “What’s that?” She wakes up asking, pointing to the fan, her Dad, the dog, the computer- all things she knows and is familiar with, but she still wants me to answer her questions. Even though she doesn’t understand, we explain things to her. “You can’t eat the cat food because it will make you throw up.” “You can bang on the pots and pans, but only when Mom’s not in the kitchen.” I want her to question not only what, but why. She shouldn’t take what I say at face value. I’m not an expert in anything. Just like with B, I want C to turn to books and the internet when I don’t know something and help me learn as well.

So, why is this important? Why should I encourage my child to not accept something the teacher says as fact? Better yet, why should you?

Everyone is presented with truths and facts all day from different sources. As adults we get information from the news, the tv, the internet, our partners, friends, bosses… There must be a certain level of skepticism; else we believe everything to be true. In this age of information overload, we have to question sources and the information we receive. (If it’s on the internet, it Must be true!)

Children too are bombarded with information. Most of what they learn in school is true. 1+1 really does equal 2. The Earth really is round. Pink really is a combination of white and red. But they’re also presented with information that isn’t true, or is only half true. Columbus did not discover America.  (Neither did Amerigo Vespucci). You can’t see the Great Wall of China from Space. Yet our kids are still taught these things in school. We need to teach our children the importance of questioning so they don’t grow up believing everything they hear, see, or read. The smarter our kids are, the better the future will be- in every way.  

Children who are skeptical become adults who are skeptical. They will not be satisfied with the status quo in any aspect of their lives. That is all I can hope for in my kids. Question everything and don’t accept the answer unless it is verifiable. Apply that to all aspects of life. Let’s encourage our kids to be smarter than us by questioning even us.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Let them teach the Bible in School!

The subject came up this morning in an atheist parenting group that I’m no longer a member of.  The conversation started as a link to an article about an Ohio area that is considering teaching Creationism in its schools.

Before I get going- this is NOT about teaching Creationism in a science classroom. Mythology has no place in our science education. If some big discovery comes along and gives Creationism some sort of relevance as a scientific theory- okay- fine. Until then, it should not be taught as science.

The gist of the argument was this: The bible should not, under any circumstance be taught in school. Not even as historical literature because it's violent, sexist, full of rape, slavery, bigotry, etc. Christians also argue that the literature already being taught in school is that way and that it needs to be removed and replaced with the Bible. 

On the surface, I agree with the argument, but only on the surface. This is why: 

We teach Shakespeare. We teach him to introduce meter, rhyme, conflict and resolution- to help develop critical thinking. These things are important to learn. Anyone who’s read Shakespeare with even a basic understanding knows that his plays are also full of sexism, murder, genocide, suicide, lies, manipulation- all things we don’t want our kids to become part of. But we teach it; because it’s something our kids should know. (We also teach it at an age appropriate level).

We teach Homer. The Iliad and The Odyssey are important books to read. Our tradition of writing comes from the Greeks. We need to know where this came from. But both novels are full of incest, murder, patricide, etc., But they also teach pride, heroism, cultural relevance… and we learn it through an epic poem with main characters who are greatly flawed and overcome themselves anyway.

Not to mention Huckleberry Finn, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Paradise Lost, Hedda Gobbler, and numerous other works of literature that have all of the same types of things in them as the Bible does. If we use the same reasoning above that is being applied to the Bible, we shouldn’t be teaching literature at all. (And all of these books have God or religion in them to some extent).
The Bible has some of the world’s best poetry and prose within its pages. Song of Songs is brilliant writing. The story of Noah and the Ark is an awesome adventure that teaches perseverance. It should not be taught as science, of course not! But we cannot ignore the religiosity of our history and our literature as atheists. To do so is to completely ignore where we came from and we’ll never progress if we do that. 

So, I say teach the Bible in the classroom, in a literature class, where it will be taught alongside other great literary works.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Why am I here?

I’ve toyed with the idea of blogging for many years. I’ve even gone so far as to set up blogs that I never wrote on or wrote one post and abandoned. I wrote a very short-lived newsletter about being a stay at home mom. I post a ridiculous amount of opinion on Facebook both on my own page and in forums. But blogging has always seemed like a daunting task.

I’ve always thought if I’m going to blog, it should be about something specific. Crafting, books, politics, kids- something I know about. But where to focus? How to focus?

There are more blogs and parenting sites than I can possibly count and I’ve noticed a lack of information for parents who are atheists and trying their best to raise critical thinkers and free thinkers. Overall, the basics of parenting are the same regardless of belief. Feed them, clothe them, shelter them… but any parent knows there is so much more involved. How do we raise our kids to question everything and only believe those things we have evidence for or real theories about?

In an increasingly religious society, how do we raise our kids to not accept anything based on faith?

I don’t claim to have all the answers. In fact, I don’t claim to have any answers. After posting the question “What would you like addressed as an atheist parent” in my A Club, I already have more to write about than I can possibly tackle. I’m just here to give my opinion, share resources, and share my own experiences of what it’s like trying to raise critically thinking heathens in a world full of religion and religious bigotry.

I welcome all questions, posts, etc. and seriously hope to get some good discussions going. Enjoy the reading.