Being honest with our kids without indoctrinating them. Addressing conflicts with our religious parents and in-laws. Dealing with “hell” talk on the school playground. Talking about death without the possibility of heaven. Knowing when to bring up religion, how to bring it up, and what language to use. Dealing with our own religious baggage without heaving it onto our kids. Struggling with the knowledge that religious children really do fare better in certain areas than nonreligious children.
Yes, there’s a lot to consider.
But sometimes it’s important to remember: Parents who decide to raise children in secular households face far more benefits than challenges. No, secularists do not bestow upon our children the certainty of faith and all that goes with it. But what we do bestow may be of even greater value: compassion for others, the ability to think independently, and a willingness to be wrong.
Last month I asked parents: What is the best thing about being a secular parent? All the answers I received were great — but here are some of the best of the best:
I would say that the single best thing is to teach children to think for themselves — question everything, no topic is off limit — make your own choices and be responsible for them.
Knowing that my kid is ethical and makes good choices because that’s who he chooses to be, not because he thinks someone is watching over his shoulder to punish him if he trips up.
Not having someone else tell me what to think. Like the time my stepdaughter told me that Catholics are now allowed to “believe in evolution.”
Sleeping in on Sundays.
I like being able to tell my kids answers to their questions that are logical and that make sense. Kids are natural scientists, wanting to know how the world works. Scientists need scientific answers!
The amazing conversations I have with my daughter about spirituality, and the fact that she embraces it all with curiosity and without prejudice.
Watching her develop an independent, internal moral compass.
Living my own secular faith honestly.
Being able to be totally open about sexuality (when the age/time is right).
Their thoughts are private and not sinful. No superstitions.
The way your life goes isn’t all “God’s” plan.
You have very little invested in being right or wrong.
Being able to answer with “I don’t know.”
Teaching my kids to appreciate themselves and what they accomplish. So many religous people are too quick to thank their god for their successes. I want my kids to pat themselves on the back when they accomplish something
I can stimulate and feed his curiosity and imagination, and allow him to think freely and form his own opinions and ideas about the world.
Being able to watch my son grow and learn without the fear of god/evil/heaven/hell in his decisions. He’s a little kid, and he gets to live like one. He doesn’t have a huge myth scaring him or guilting him into behaving a certain way (or “else”)
Teaching my kids that life is valuable because it’s the only one we have.
Pretty much sums it up, doesn’t it?