When Your Kids Are Proud Atheists

Carolyn Castiglia probably falls in the “spiritual-but-not-religious” demographic.

Her seven-year-old daughter, on the other hand, would make Christopher Hitchens proud:

My daughter… is convinced that there is no God. Not even a god. Yup, my kid’s an atheist. And she pretty much has been since she was 5.

It’s not for lack of exposure to God or god or even gods and spirituality, because she has attended Church and church and a UU “church” and it has made no impact. We’ve prayed together. I talk about God sometimes, in a good way. When I asked her recently why she doesn’t believe in God she told me, succinctly, “Because I know too much about science!”

And there you have it — an evangelical’s worst nightmare. Science trumps God. My daughter is like a mini-Darwin who had a spiritual awakening before she was old enough to stop having potty accidents. And she was able to do so not because she was indoctrinated by the Church of the Holy Dissected Frog, but because she wasn’t fully indoctrinated by the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Because the idea that a man lives in the sky who can see everything you do hasn’t been pounded into her head since birth, she thinks the whole concept is just silly.

It’s a really sweet piece. Read the whole thing here!

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.

  • Ronlawhouston

    The article was good, but your cartoon is priceless.

  • observer

    “Mini-Darwin” ⌐.⌐;

  • http://www.flickr.com/groups/invisiblepinkunicorn Anna

    Wow, that’s a great article. The author’s daughter is a girl after my own heart, but considerably more advanced than I was at her age! At seven, I’m pretty sure my mind was filled with nothing more complicated than Care Bears. I don’t think it would ever have occurred to me to ponder the origins of the universe.

    I so admire my daughter’s scientific mind. I’m an artist, and an emotional one at that, which is not to say that my daughter isn’t an emotional person, because she is. But I love the way, at such a tender age, she’s able to make a decision like that for herself. To own her thoughts so fully that they are her feelings. “I don’t believe God exists.” Unquestionably. Because she hasn’t been taught to need God to get through her daily life. In spite of the fact that she struggles with things, she has this great understanding that the person she must learn to rely on is herself.

    Excellent point. Most religions try to make their adherents feel small, worthless, and insignificant in contrast to a mighty god. It doesn’t exactly foster a can-do attitude when you’re told that you’re weak and powerless, and that you need to rely on this supernatural entity to help you through life. Throw in concepts like “sin,” and you have a recipe for very low confidence and self-esteem.

    What I wonder is why so few unindoctrinated children turn out like the author’s daughter. It seems like most are only too willing to embrace the supernatural, to assume that it’s real, even if they aren’t told outright that it exists. Maybe it’s a result of living in a highly theistic culture? If you’re never presented with people who don’t believe in a god, all those people who believe in a god seem right by default?

  • Santiago

    A nice article indeed.

  • anniewhoo

    My daughter also pronounced herself an atheist at age 5. Of course, she was raised in an atheist home, but we rarely talked to her about it at that point. However, she had an imaginary younger brother until she was six, and believed in Santa until about 6-7. Her reason for thinking there was no god was because she wanted proof for everything, and to her, there clearly was no proof of a god or gods. The Santa “proof” I get, as there were presents under the tree each year, but I’m unsure as to why the imaginary brother lasted so long.

  • http://www.youtube.com/user/GodVlogger?feature=mhee GodVlogger (on YouTube)

    Great article. My favorite lines:

    “by letting her know help is always there and that she should feel free to ask a real live flesh-and-blood human being for it, what if that means she won’t need God? … Because she has coping skills and can get through life without it being a horrible tragedy that is only made significant by eating the body and blood of a dead dude and then going to heaven at the end? Yeah. How ’bout that?”

  • Amishpromqueen

    Sounds like my son. My husband and I are atheists in a religious part of Pennsylvania (think horse and buggy). My 7 year old got in a discussion with classmates about god. He told me his friends said that not believing “was like saying a dirty word”. I asked him what he thought about all this, knowing most of his friends believe, and that his mom and dad didn’t. He said “I believe in science and the universe and the big bang, because it makes sense to me…I can see it, I can touch it. It’s real. God? (he shrugged) Eh…not so much.”

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

    Little Darwin, you’re growing into such a thinker.
    Little Darwin, your mind will take you to the stars.
    Take me along, take me along
    Take, take, take me along!

    Little Darwin, since you were born I’ve been your student.
    Little Darwin, I want to grow up just like you.
    Take me along, take me along
    Take, take, take me along!

    Little Darwin, I’m learning so much from your teaching.
    Little Darwin, you sweep away my shame and fear.
    Take me along, take me along
    Take, take, take me along!

    Little Darwin, we’ve read each other books of science,
    Little Darwin, we’ve read each other books of love.
    If you take me, I will take you
    Let’s take each other along!

  • Machintelligence

    The phenomenon of the “nones” in a nutshell:

    When I asked her recently why she doesn’t believe in God she told me, succinctly, “Because I know too much about science!”

  • http://twitter.com/BdrLen Len

    Well no kidding that’s what happens. I first heard about god at school and by then the whole idea seemed rather preposterous to me. I couldn’t understand why all these otherwise normal people could believe it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1353603101 Joe Montoto

    From the mouths of babes. Excellent!

  • Bad_homonym

    It’s easy to believe as I did! After all I was taught that it was real from before I was old enough to even remember, by the people I trusted more than anyone in the world! Why wouldn’t I believe is the question. Thankfully my kids get to decide for themselves, and so far even though they have attended some churches with friends, they always return home with no understanding of what there is to believe there!

  • Edmond

    I loved science as a kid, but what did it for me was mythology. The Greeks, the Romans, Native American, Mesoamerican, Norse, Egyptian, Asian, it was all very fascinating to me. It made it clear that living religions were just modern mythologies, waiting to pass from popularity.

  • ReadsInTrees

    I agree with the part about the person you must rely on is yourself…and others. I think that my sense of charity and goodwill towards others has increased since becoming an atheist…the realization that we have to help each other because there’s no one up there that’s going to do it for us.

  • ReadsInTrees

    Yup. I didn’t “come out” completely as an atheist until high school, but I still credit my journey away from religion to my 1-3 grade teacher, Mrs. Cook, who I recall had one some kind of national science teacher award while I was there. Her, and all of my following teachers who prepared me for a lifelong interest in science: Mrs. Storer, Mrs. Marcotte, Mrs. Laurel, Mr. Allen….Never once did any of them shirk away from “controversial” topics like evolution or the Big Bang. I didn’t even realize that there were people who didn’t believe in evolution until college.

  • ReadsInTrees

    I saw an interesting article a while back about imaginary friends. It seems that generally the kids KNOW that their friend is just imaginary…but it’s just fun to pretend. One interviewer asked to talk to a child’s imaginary friend, and that child look at him funny and said, “Um, he isn’t real.”

  • Tainda

    Most people think I’m arrogant, stuck up, cocky, whatever lol I’m just confident and I know the only person that can make my life any better (or worse) is me.

  • Alicia Hansen

    This is pretty much was sealed the deal with me on atheism. I was raised a JW but never truly believed it. I was more afraid of the rules and went through the motions. When I was eighteen and moved out on my own one of the first things I looked into was Wicca. But since I didn’t like the whole Wiccan thing as a religion I tried on Norse mythology for a bit being Norweigian and all. After a while I felt so silly and that’s when I realized I wasn’t just against religion, it was god in general that I didn’t believe in.

  • http://www.flickr.com/groups/invisiblepinkunicorn Anna

    I would guess that’s probably why so many churches emphasize being emotionally dependent on their god. The message is that people will always let you down, but you can trust their deity to keep you safe and protect you. Aside from ignoring the fact that human beings can and do rely on each other for support, it also seems to foster a childlike sort of helplessness.

    I wonder if a lot of people who are drawn to religion are trying to meet some emotional need that wasn’t met by their parents when they were young. Otherwise, I honestly can’t see the appeal in having an eternal protector who views you as a child. I don’t normally like the term “sky daddy,” but that’s how they seem to think of their god . It’s as if they’re five years old and need a super-parent of sorts.

  • http://www.flickr.com/groups/invisiblepinkunicorn Anna

    If I had to make a list of qualities to pass on to my children, I think resiliency and confidence would be near the top. It’s hard to go through life without those two traits.

  • http://www.flickr.com/groups/invisiblepinkunicorn Anna

    I think learning about mythology and all the different world religions cemented my atheism, too. When I was 10 or 11 and tried to work out in my head how people could believe in gods, I didn’t understand how they could totally ignore the fact that what they believed was merely an accident of when and where they were born. Still don’t, in fact!