Secular Parents Dealing With Santa and God

I just watched Elyse Anders of the secular group parenting blog Grounded Parents, Russell Glasser and Jen Peeples from The Atheist Experience, and Dale McGowan, author of Parenting Beyond Belief: On Raising Ethical, Caring Kids Without Religion participate in a really good panel on secular parenting as part of FTBConscience2. (Remember, you can stream FTBConscience2 live all weekend and catch video of completed panels, available immediately after they’re finished and permanently archived. My panel, again, is tomorrow at 1pm eastern time and it’s on “Philosophy for Everyone”. I will appear with Richard Carrier, Julia Galef, and Jess Whittlestone.

At the 20:44 mark they start talking about how they deal with Santa Claus. Elyse Anders of Grounded Parents, a secular parenting blog, kicks off with a funny story and Dale McGowen gives his brilliant approach to dealing with the question with his own kids starting at around the 27 minute mark and finishing his story starting at around the 32 minute mark. I saw him explain this at the American Atheists convention and just loved it. I think he’s got the perfect approach.

Then they get into a really good discussion about whether to talk to kids about one’s atheism. One striking thing they bring out around 36:46 is that secular parents, including their own parents, often do such an over-corrective job of not imposing their beliefs on their kids that they wind up never directly telling them they’re non-believers at all. Religious parents who vigorously indoctrinate and shelter their kids from alternative viewpoints are often absolutely convinced that secular people must be just like them, trying to impose a rigid absolutist worldview on their kids like they do, but it’s so often the case is exactly the opposite.

But we also should not do our kids the disservice of not explaining forthrightly to them our own points of view, as the panel strongly argues and as I also argued in a previous Freethought Blogs panel on parenting that I participated in with Russell Glasser, PZ Myers, and Kylie Sturgess. It is consistent with giving kids the latitude to think for themselves to also give them information and arguments to think about. Thinking for yourself does not mean thinking by yourself.

Kids need and deserve to know about the reasons to doubt so much religious messaging around them, secular parents married to religious parents shouldn’t have to succumb to cultural pressure to let the religious parent have full sway over their children’s religious education, and secular parents should feel entitled to stand up to overbearing religious grandparents who disrespect their wishes to raise their kids secularly. This is an enormous problem and the panel in the video above addresses it towards the end as well.

Finally, another wonderful resource for exploring atheist parenting and humanizing atheists to your religious family members is Sylvia Broeckx’s film Hug an Atheist (which I am in). You can download it for just $10 or purchase the DVD for $30. Hug an Atheist is running out of time to raise enough funds to get into film festivals. Please consider donating. This film can go a long way in dispelling myths and disparagements we suffer from a religiously hegemonic world. Please help get this resource out.Here’s my full review of the film from the fall. I also interviewed Slyvia.

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.