Dale McGowan, the author of Parenting Beyond Belief, recently conducted an unscientific poll of atheist parents to get their thoughts on religion, humanist communities, and their children.
The results were very surprising to me.
Here’s just one example of what Dale found.
The question: “In general, how religiously observant is your extended family?”
I know Richard Wade often hears from atheists who have to deal with notoriously religious extended families. I get emails from people frequently telling me about conflicts they’ve had with religious people at family gatherings. You would think this is a major problem.
But the data suggests otherwise:
Just over a quarter of respondents (25.5%) report an extended family that is moderate to intense in its religiosity. My surprise is partly an artifact of reportage — the vast majority of my own correspondence and contact with secular parents comes from those in a deeply religious extended family.
Over a third of respondents (35.2%) are in an extended family that ranges from secular to mildly religious, while the largest proportion (39.2%) are in a situation of significant variety, either split along two or more sides of the extended family or scrambled up within the whole.
So while the problem does exist — and it’s awful when it’s your own family going through it — it may not be as bad a problem as we thought it was.
Here are some of the other questions Dale asked:
- Have your children experienced any significant outside religious pressure or indoctrination?
- Which of the following best describes your feelings about your children’s eventual worldview?
- If a secular parenting community was established in your area, what (if anything) would make it especially attractive to you?
Before you look to see what the respondents said, I urge you to guess what the responses were.
Like Dale says, this may not be scientific, but there’s no reason to think the results are all that inaccurate. If it is indeed a decent snapshot of atheist parents and their families, then we have to rethink how difficult our situation really is.