A CWH Mother’s Day Special: Parenting, Atheism, and Religion From A Few Angles

In honor of Mother’s Day, I decided to collect a few things old and new that explore important aspects of parenting and, particularly, its intersections with atheism and religion–and their conflicts.

Last summer, I sat down with PZ Myers, Kylie Sturgess, Russell Glasser, and Ophelia Benson to talk about issues relevant to atheist parents.

The luckiest advantage I have had in my life is having my amazing mother and her unbelievable love in my life. (I love you to death, Mom.)

But not everyone is so lucky. And sometimes mothers who fail their kids do so because they are more committed to their religious beliefs than to their children. Bridget Gaudette is an atheist who has had to deal with the psychologically traumatic experience of being disowned by her parents. Read the open letter she wrote to her mother who won’t communicate with her. Her mother may never read it, which makes it all the more important that you do.

Even many of us deconverts not disowned by our parents, who have otherwise good or even exceptional relationships with our parents, can identify way way too much with the awful conversation that The Thinking Atheist produced below to illustrate what it is like for many young atheists when they come out as atheists to their parents:

For help dealing with a wide spectrum of family conflicts caused by religious divisions, I know of no better resource than the amazing “Ask Richard” column written by my cherished friend Richard Wade for the Patheos blog Friendly Atheist. I also had the honor to interview him about many issues, including anger in families caused by religion.

For much more positive examples and thoughts about parenting, there is Shanon Nebo’s great piece on how she dealt with her kid being told he’s going to hell by his friends. And I can never recommend highly enough another of my favorite friends’ work. Libby Anne, of the Patheos blog Love, Joy, Feminism was raised in a religious family that believed some pernicious things about disciplining children. She has had to deprogram herself from a lot of negative things and teach herself even basic things about how to be a good parent. But, because she is so intelligent, so thoughtful, and needed to think out her entire worldview for herself, she has wound up going well beyond minimally good parenting to become an exceptionally insightful and loving mother.

I regularly think about several of these key posts she has written on parenting, and I’m not even a parent:

Casting the Pearls back to the Swine

Parenting is NOT a Contest

Adventures in Parenting: On Reasoning with Toddlers

Gentle Parenting Around the Relatives

Child Rearing: From Cog to Individual

Things Are Different Here: On “Back Talk” and Healing

Listening Can Be Hard: On Children and Disconnects

Critical Thinking and Compromise: Sally Strikes a Deal

Finally, Julia Galef and Jesse Galef have a short and sweet video talking about ways their mom raised them to be rationalists:

Your Thoughts?

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About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.