Parenting is a tough job. No matter your philosophy of childrearing, your system of faith (or lack thereof) or your cultural ties. But, what makes the latest batch of American parents (and kids) different is that many of us are openly secular, humanist, atheist, agnostic, or just not interested in religion.
My kids will be some of the first kids in this country to be raised openly atheist and secular. We also happen to live in the heart of the Bible Belt. Needless to say, there will be challenges.
I was at the Reason Rally this past weekend and Bill Nye charged the adults there with raising a new generation of thinkers who aren’t afraid of science and won’t allow themselves to be ruled by magical thinking. That’s a tall order. But, this is a turning point in American history. Reason has to prevail over mythology. It just has to. If it doesn’t, we are in danger.
We are not in danger of violence from the vast majority of religious folks. The worst that I have gotten is being told that I am going to Hell. That doesn’t really frighten me seeing as how I don’t believe Hell exists. Most religious people, and I believe this strongly, are not hateful or angry. I can respect that they have different views than I do. I am not scared of them.
I am, however, terrified of religious views controlling political policy, or being fed to my children at school. I am afraid of global climate change and worried that if so many Americans keep denying and vilifying science that we will all perish in the next few generations.
The only way that this can be prevented is to create a new generation of humans who are reasonable, thoughtful and willing to listen to evidence. These are the kinds of people who will progress our culture and our politics. These are the types of citizens that will support legislation that will keep ALL humankind healthy and safe.
So, how do we raise these kids? Your guess is as good as mine. All I know for sure is that I am going to do my damndest to raise mine as secular humanists and that I will encourage critical thinking and an appreciation of culture and science in all children with whom I come in contact.
I have a few ideas about how to do this, which I will share here. But, I hope very much that you will share your ideas, as well.
10 Tips for Raising Secular Kids:
- Encourage critical thinking. Critical thinking and reason are the most important tools with which to supply your kids.
- Expose them to a wide variety of humans. This will make their life easier, give them important experiences and help them to be compassionate, empathetic and kind.
- Never be afraid to ask THEM questions. Kids should feel that they can talk to their parents. Ask them about their personal views on faith, science, etc. and resist the temptation to give them your opinion.
- Encourage an appreciation of nature and science.
- Involve them in charity or volunteer work.
- Teach them respect for all people
- Don’t hide the idea of religion from them. This will just make it seem forbidden and keep them ignorant. It is no more OK to hide religion from them than it is for religious people to hide science from their children.
- Tell them never to lie or hide who they are. They have nothing to be ashamed of. They are good, kind, smart people and no less moral or loving than any religious person. They do not deserve, and should not accept, persecution.
- Send them to camps, or other activities, to spend time with other like-minded kids and families. Yes. That’s right. They have secular summer camps for kids. They also have secular student alliances at many colleges these days.
- Lead by example. Try your hardest to do all of the above 9 things yourself. When/if you fail to do so, admit it.
Please tell us what you are doing to help your secular child navigate a world that may not understand her or him. You can use the comment section to share. Or, you can email me privately.