Friday, August 6, 2010

Raising Kids Without God

As a single atheistic parent in the veritable buckle on the bible belt, it can be difficult. What do I do about the god thing? Well, biologically, my kids are at the age where they should, with very little reservation, believe anything they're told by an adult. That, coupled with the fact that atheism for me is a simple extension of skepticism and rationality, makes it difficult for me. On the one hand, realizing that there was no god was an incredibly liberating experience- ironically, one of the most legitimately religious experience of my life- and I'd like my children to realize that. But, the more important issue to me is thinking for oneself. As such, just like with Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy, I'm keeping my mouth shut, and asking questions, and encouraging the kids to ask questions. Telling them the answer is like helping them cheat on a fundamental, and incredibly easy, test in life.
What I do do, mostly out of fun, is talk about Jesus or Muhammad(PB&J) with the same reverence I discuss Thor, Ra, Zeus, and leprechauns. And for the most part, they see them as they truly are, irrelevant to our lives. That's actually all I want- I hope the time for atheism is drawing to a close. There are so many more things of far more interest out there.
The important thing is ultimately, as a human species, we've outgrown the need for religion. It's still hanging around, and probably will, realistically, for hundreds of years more. But there are better sources, now, for anything that religion can offer. Better sources for community, for morality, for indulging our musical whims, for inspiration and guidance when we go astray, and plenty of real, tangible reasons to be good. Like Sesame Street, I don't believe there's much to be learned from religion at this stage in our development. It kept us from annihilating ourselves, but we're adults now, most of us, and quite capable of taking the next step into the future together. My fear is that those who cling so strongly to the history of our species that, in fear of venturing from their caves and finding a path in this marvelous present, they will turn the world's future into their apocalypse.
In an uncharacteristically beautiful and inspired chapter, the words of Paul the Apostle resonate with me. "When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things." 1 Cor 13:11, KJV

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