What Should Non-Religious Parents Teach Their Children About Faith?

Katherine Ozment (herself a “none”) tackles the issue of how to raise kids without religion — but not without knowledge of it — in the latest issue of Boston Magazine:

My children have been inside a church only once in their lives. It was for a family wedding a couple of summers ago, and they were so irritable — the pews were too hard, there was nothing to do, the church was too hot — that I feared we’d be asked to leave. Horror stories of the unchurched child are everywhere, actually. A New York Times article not long ago detailed the etiquette classes now sweeping synagogues because teens were coming to bar and bat mitzvahs not knowing how to behave. A friend who tried taking her children to Catholic mass had to leave after 25 minutes because the kids were complaining that the incense was burning their eyes. “So we went to Dunkin’ Donuts,” she said, “and everyone was happier.”

Dale McGowan, the author of Parenting Beyond Belief: On Raising Ethical, Caring Kids Without Religion (2007), says one of the biggest downsides to not giving kids a religious upbringing is that they are then deprived of the religious literacy necessary to move comfortably in society. “Ninety percent of the world expresses itself or sees itself in religious terms, to one degree or another,” he told me over the phone. “If you don’t at least have an understanding of it, you’re going to be perpetually baffled, and that’s a very disempowering position to be in.”

It’s a personal look at a question a lot of parents are asking themselves these days: How can you teach your kids ethics and morals without all the nonsense churches surround it with? Ozment manages to find a variety of decent answers, any of which might be right for your family.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.


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