Wednesday, February 22, 2012
Raising children of atheist parents
A certain awesome man named Richard Dawkins once stated that there is no such thing as a Christian child, just a child of Christian parents.
Most understand his statement as saying that children are much too young to have the advanced reasoning skills to decide for themselves the origin of the universe, or the meaning of life.
I understand it as they are too young to doubt the black and white answers their parents or guardians give to them. They aren't too dumb to understand how things really work, they are just too young and even fearful to doubt their parents. And I can agree with that. I was raised as a child of Mormon parents. It took 28 years for me to have the strength to stomach the guilt that comes with doubting the black and white answers I was force fed as a child.
I know plenty of freethinking parents who apply the same logic to their children. They have respect for their children and don't want to 'brain wash' their children in a similar way they feel children of religious parents are being brainwashed.
I was in that boat, actually I may still be in that boat at times. I am an agnostic parent, in the sense that I am never really sure I know what I am doing as a parent, a lot of the time I feel more like a teacher/cuddle bunny, mostly because as a mommy, that's what I spend the majority of my time doing... you know, teaching and cuddling.
I don't ever want to squelch my children's curiosity. I want them to feel comfortable doubting me, questioning me (even though that gets annoying quick at bedtime), and I want them to always be skeptical of what they are told, especially if it doesn't add up.
But there are times when I really want to raise my skeptical, freethinking children to be strong atheists. There is no evidence of unicorns, why would I need to present my children with that 'theory'? I know they will have times when they will believe monsters are real, and the same is probably true with a variety of things, but the more time I spend as a mother, the more I realize that my children are capable of detecting bullshit, and they will need that in this world. Even at the young ages of 6 and 4 they will call you out on an obvious lie.
I know the dangers of religion, I see the way others' twatwaffle beliefs get written into law. Laws that hurt others. And I never ever want my children to be on that side of hate, bigotry and ignorance.
The more I think about how to raise myself a great set of little heathens, the more I realize there is absolutely nothing wrong with it. My children may be too young to really decide for themselves if there is or isn't a god, but they are also too young to really decide if there are unicorns somewhere or if there is a teapot caught in the Sun's orbital gravitational pull.
Hell, I tell my children that monsters aren't real, and I go through the logical steps to prove it. (And I do it with the whole god/goddess question too.) I don't believe my children are too young to require evidence, they aren't too young to doubt nonsense. So as much as I tried to stay neutral, it's no longer on the top of my importance list as a parent.
The rules I set for myself in regards to raising my atheists to be the beautiful young ladies I want them to be are simple and more like promises or vows than rules. To raise atheist children all you need is logic, reasoning, bunches of patience and love and at least one child. (Don't go all quiverfull though, that's just irresponsible.)
I vow to never lie to my children. If I don't know the answer, I say so. There are no circumstances that exist that I will ever tell them something that I can't prove, or has not been shown to work by a double blind peer reviewed scientific study. (The Bible doesn't fall into that category, sorry folks.) Or that I can't prove by the magical wonder of Google.
I vow to love my children unconditionally. That means there are no conditions or circumstances that exist that I will ever kick them out of my home, ever disown them, or pile on vast amounts of unforgivable guilt.
Got pregnant out of wedlock? No worries.
You fell in love with a woman and want to get married? Awesome!
You want to vote Republican?? Oh Damn... um... Let's have a little talk about women's rights, human rights, and ethics my darling daughter... (Unconditional love doesn't mean that I will turn a blind eye to glaring mistakes and bad decisions.) I should know, I was a Republican once.
I vow that as for me and my house, we will serve. (It's tough not to finish that sentence with 'spaghetti'.) But seriously, serving our fellow humans and our planet is very important. It is especially important to atheists, considering we do not believe super magic Jewish zombie Jesus is coming back to destroy it anyway. Teaching my heathens to give to others, to love others, to accept others and to treat this planet as the only one we 'get' is vital to beauty and happiness. We will recycle, we will donate our money, resources, time and talents to others.
And... well, you know... that's it really. What more could help create perfect atheist young ladies? 100% honesty and 100% unconditional love and 100% serving our fellow humans.
So do I push aside the common knowledge that atheists do not raise their children as atheists? It seems more honorable in atheist parent circles to raise freethinkers.
They were born into this world as atheists, how does me raising them as such do damage? It brings me joy when we are doing Brain Quest trivia and the question, "When might the tooth fairy pay you a visit?" is answered with, "Never, the tooth fairy isn't real." That's right my skeptic little girl, that's right. There is too much beauty and 'magic' in the natural world to ever have to believe such poppycock.
So as much as I know that I am raising two freethinking children, I also know deep down in my heart that I am raising two strong smart women, two awesome atheists and two beautiful, graceful ladies.
And if one day, one of my beautiful young daughters decides that she believes in some religious poppycock, I'll just refer back to my second rule.