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Here's an interesting take on raising children, from an atheist I'm friends with (yes, friends with) on FB.

Atheists regularly warn me against 'forcing' our sons to be Christians. Be careful, they say. You can put a lot of distance between yourself and your child by forcing them to be what they aren't. It's unethical not to do it our way. It's wrong to take them to church. Well, funny story...

I was raised in a stringently anti-religious, practicing atheist household. We were very modern. No child of my parents' was going to be burdened by religiosity. Bless their hearts, my parents tried. "Christianity is really backwards." "It's very violent." "It's anti-woman." "It's anti-science." "It's all about control." "It is filled with inconsistencies." "It condones slavery." "It's outmoded thinking." "It's like worshiping cows and rivers and things." "It's condescending." I heard this enough to know how they sincerely felt about it.

They both had bad experiences with religion and they certainly spent years warning me. It was suggested that I could date, but not boys raised in the church (they might be oppressive). They'd certainly be intellectual knuckle-draggers. When my uncle became a minister his choice was met with raised eyebrows. He'd might as well have joined the circus. The first Bible I held in my hands I purchased for myself because they wouldn't keep that stuff in the house. So they aren't responsible. They did their best.

All of this worked on me like atheist-argument anesthesia. Atheist arguments pretty much make me shrug. What I know about most atheist arguments--and what I have known since I was tiny--is that they are usually the fist of disdain lightly wrapped in logic. What living with anti-religious people for twenty years taught me was this: I am a Christian. You don't respect that. That's not my problem. Have a nice day.

Those four sentences sum up a good chunk of the relationship between a Christian daughter and her atheist parents.

Why should an atheist care? Because you might have a Christian child. It's kind of like telling a Baptist he might have a gay son, isn't it?

I've always been this way. One of my earliest memories is being three years old and praying--and believe me, they didn't teach me to do it. I made the sign of the cross in secret. Had they known I was doing it, they would have prohibited it. They would have wanted me to 'atheist up and fly right'. Christianity sprang up in me early, without being bidden, I always knew to whom I belonged. I didn't choose to become a Christian. I simply was. Always. My parents were not. Even as a very little girl I knew that. I didn't tell them. They didn't ask.

This could be you. One of your children may be a theist. Your best efforts to make them atheists may fail utterly. It's not your fault. Some of us just can't be atheists. It's not who we are. Just like you can't be a theist. Like my parents, you may have to deal with it. It may be in your future. They'll try to pass to please you. They might make fun of theists and talk a good game, but once they have enough space, if they're theists, they're going to come out.

I can only speak as the daughter of an atheist/agnostic home. When a child from this background becomes a Christian they had to have a profound theological thirst. Really, it has to be profound in order to take the risk. If it's that big a piece of your child's life, it will inform all that they do. They may feel that they have no choice in the matter. It is who they are. Be gracious. You're the parent.

Make an attempt at neutrality. A real attempt at neutrality. My parents thought they were being neutral but it was clear how they really felt. They had told me. Your children will know well your disdain for theists and if they realize that they are, in fact, theists, they will know how you feel about *them*. Your children will know they have brought some measure of shame and sorrow to your life. You don't want this. You don't want that kind of space between yourself and your child.

Here's my question for you: Atheists like to refer to themselves as "free thinkers" but aren't the true "free thinkers" those who can also draw theistic conclusions based on evidence presented to them?

Answer Question

Asked by -Eilish- at 3:25 PM on May. 6, 2012 in Religious Debate

Level 28 (33,578 Credits)
Answers (21)
  • That's an interesting flip on the arguments seen here. There truly is a God-shaped hole in our hearts

    Answer by adnilm at 3:39 PM on May. 6, 2012

  • yes, it's clear that being raised to be told what to think, has it's negative consequences and usually causes one to pull back from that way of thinking rather than embrace it. this goes for any religion, or lack there of.

    Answer by tnm786 at 5:27 PM on May. 6, 2012

  • Your story sounds just like mine! The exception, my family disowned me for being a Christian.
    However, one of my sons is an Atheist. He's an adult and can make this decision for himself, and I still love and respect him for it.

    Yes, we can draw theistic conclusions based on evidence and what we truly believe is right for us.

    Answer by PMSMom10 at 6:40 PM on May. 6, 2012

  • I think the problem comes with the misconception that religious thinking cannot be as "free" as atheistic thinking. In reality, none of us is a 100% "free thinker". All our values, ideas, beliefs and positions are shaped after our upbringing and the influence of our family, friends and society. Even those that think of themselves as "free thinkers" because they went against their upbringing acquired that rejection from that upbringing and very likely the influence of others. Denying that is deluding ourselves.
    My children are being raised within my religion. It doesn't mean they're incapable of thinking for themselves or are moronic robots simply parroting what they hear without giving it a second thought. Our religion actually encourages a lot of critical thinking- Talmud study is now mandatory in South Korea because of the deep critical thought it develops.


    Answer by momto2boys973 at 7:51 PM on May. 6, 2012

  • If there were any arguments that seemed valid to me, I'd recognize the possibility.  Few atheists will claim to be 100% confident that there are no gods.  There are many possibilities that can and should be investigated.  I'll even leave room for the possibility that some supernatural entities have some impact on our human lives.  No evidence currently available automatically points to proof of the god of the Bible, though, than other evidence points to the existence of other gods.  I'm as likely to be convinced of the existence of that god and be willing to worship it as I am of any other god every conceived since ancient times, or may be conceived of in the future.  It's as likely that the Christian god is real as it is for any other god to be real. 


    Answer by jsbenkert at 8:38 PM on May. 6, 2012

  • I teach my children not to have disdain for people of faith. I teach them to be respectful of those people, and to keep their minds open to all sorts of possibilities. That blog was the perspective of a single person, and can't necessarily be extrapolated to the experiences of all children of atheist parents.

    To answer your question about the real meaning of the term "freethinker", you have to understand that the term applies specifically to those who don't hold a belief in any gods, but are open to exploring the wonders of the universe.  If there is evidence that a particular god exists and should be worshipped, I suppose that former "freethinker" would become a follower of whatever religion worships that particular god.


    Answer by jsbenkert at 8:41 PM on May. 6, 2012

  • Your best efforts to make them atheists may fail utterly
    I don't know about your friends, but I do not and am not raising my kids to "be" atheist or anything of that nature. i am raising them to be open to any beliefs that their hearts dictate to them. The idea that just b/c I am an atheist means I am "making' my kids be atheist, is asinine.

    "Your children will know well your disdain for theists and if they realize that they are, in fact, theists, they will know how you feel about *them*. "
    I have no disdain for theists, and my kids know it. I love though, how this person wanted to make others aware of atheism and their child being an atheist. Yet, so many "theists" cant see this exact scenario about homosexuality.
    Nice try though, LOL.

    Answer by sahmamax2 at 8:59 PM on May. 6, 2012

  • I think that's an awful way to raise your children.
    We are atheist -but have allowed our kids to go to church, to hear Bible stories and whatnot. We do not say the things about Chrsitians that these parents said to her. I have encouraged my kids to explore other ways of thinking, and to learn. If one told me they believed in God- that's ok.

    I think different people have different needs and different understandings of the world. Nothing wrong with that

    Answer by charlotsomtimes at 10:58 PM on May. 6, 2012

  • well that was an assload of assumption.
    my son IS a theist, he believes in Zeus.

    Answer by autodidact at 11:57 PM on May. 6, 2012

  • "Atheists like to refer to themselves as "free thinkers" but aren't the true "free thinkers" those who can also draw theistic conclusions based on evidence presented to them?"

    Idk... I think this makes a whole lot of assumptions, and is really generalizing about a group of people. There are "extremists" in any group. Those who try almost too hard not to be like the thing they dislike or fear most. Atheists are no different. Sure, you have some who are obviously no better or different than the religious zealots they claim to dislike so much. But to claim that all Atheists are that way is just silly, imo.

    I think this is yet another ridiculous way someone has found to prove a point. It's seriously not the best way to get this point across... it actually comes off as condescending in a way.

    Answer by anime_mom619 at 12:22 AM on May. 7, 2012

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