A Conference on How to Raise Your Kids Without God

The Long Island Secular Parenting Forum is putting together a one-day conference for non-religious parents who want to learn more about how to raise kids without faith.

The speakers are fantastic — most of them are brand new to our movement — and the cost for the full day is under $25.

The event takes place on Saturday, September 21 in Garden City, New York, and you’ll want to register as soon as you can before it gets booked up!

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.

  • LesterBallard

    Is it too late to send that woman from the previous post to this conference?

  • Paul (not the apostle)

    Teach them from the start : 1, Ask questions and demand evidence 2. Consider how others want to be treated (if in doubt ask) 3. Keep your hands to yourself (except for defense) 4. Keep you word (so promise carefully) 5.KEEP THEM AWAY FROM RELIGIOUS BRAINWASHING UNTIL THEY ARE TEENAGERS.
    Every religious group I know of focuses on children because they know if they don’t embrace fairy tales by the time they are 14 or so, they won’t. One of the oldest and biggest Child Evangelism Foundation even uses that factoid in their fund raising. Give money folks because…. 90% of people who are Christians became that before the age of 14.

    • Gus

      Pretty close to my approach.

    • JET

      This is what we did, raising them without religion to the greatest extent possible. When questions came up, such as why we didn’t go to church, we tried to answer them honestly but without disdain. (e.g. Some people believe they get their goodness from religion/church, but we believe that goodness comes from within ourselves.) They began asking fundamental questions at about 12-13. We told them of the tenets and our experiences with Catholicism and Mormonism and encouraged them to research other beliefs, along with arguments against those beliefs. (Yay, Internet!) As adults, they are both self-professed atheists, but tend to focus on behaviors of religionists rather than the religion itself when it comes to moral arguments. They have many friends who are culturally Christian/Jewish/Muslim, but who also believe in universal human rights and the value of an education based on research, facts and knowledge. They have no argument with these light-weight believers, but are quick to call out anyone who quotes their holy book as their basis of morality and truth. “Tell me what you believe based on your personal knowledge and experience, not what someone told you to believe” is the only way they will discuss moral issues. As far as nonsensical beliefs, such as young earth crap, they are just dismissive and have no problem telling people to go educate themselves.

      • paul (not the apostle)

        Jet, I think there are many “light weight believers”. If most were not light weights we would be living under Gospel Law which would look a lot like Sharia Law. I like to ask theist’s, Is the bottom line for your moral decisions reason or scripture. Most will respond scripture of course. Then I say what about slavery, scripture clearly supports it, and you don’t support that. Once they start thinking about the question they know they pick and choose scripture based on reason. And if they just start thinking I count it as a win. As you may have guessed it is not always a win. As my dismissive response I just roll my eyes and say, there are enough verses in there for everybody, just take your pick.

  • EmpiricalPierce

    If and when I have kids, I’ll raise them with religion. In fact, I’ll raise them with far more religion than most religious people do. I’ll teach them Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Taoism, and Shintoism. I’ll teach them the divides between religion, such as Catholicism, Protestantism, Anglicanism, and Pentecostalism for Christianity, Sunni, Shia, and Sufi for Islam, Vishnuism, Shivaism, and Shaktism for Hinduism, etc. etc. etc. I’ll also teach religious history, such as what we know about the formation of various religions and the meaning of apocrypha.

    With my children being exposed to so many religions and so much knowledge of them without any single religion being privileged, atheism will be virtually guaranteed.

    • rtanen

      That would be useful. I was raised Jewish, and I have only really begun to understand Christianity since I became an atheist.

      • allein

        I was raised Methodist. I have no idea what made us “Methodist” other than the fact that we went to the Methodist Church. Still don’t. I guess it’s no wonder it didn’t stick. ;)

        • Gus

          I was rather amused to find out why my family was Methodist. Turns out it was basically because of a church merger. My father’s side was basically a Lutheran German immigrants son who married the granddaughter of a Methodist minister. There was no Lutheran church around, small towns in rural Nebraska then mostly having one, or at most two churches for everyone. So they became Methodist.

          My mother’s side story turned out to be more interesting. I grew up in fairly liberal Methodist churches, and only as an adult did I find out that some Methodist churches were extremely strict (the church in Footloose is Methodist), particularly in places like rural Nebraska and Kansas. When I mentioned this to my mom I got the story of her becoming a Methodist. She grew up in the one church in town, I don’t recall what it was, but one day it became a Methodist church. I’m not sure why, maybe they needed the resources, or a new pastor, or the pastor converted. But suddenly they were Methodists and, among other things, not supposed to dance. But there was basically one thing to do in town on the weekends: dances held regularly in a big hall in town. The no dancing rule did not go over well, so they became a more liberal Methodist church.

          Both these stories show how unimportant, malleable, and human defined religion often was to people who had more important things to worry about, like selling enough corn and beef to make the mortgage payment, or getting the fields plowed and planted before more rain came and left them waterlogged or it was too late to get a good harvest. They believed in god and felt they needed church, but if it was Lutheran, or Methodist, or whatever really didn’t matter and the rules would be modified to fit the local social norms (OK, it mattered a little, there was a Catholic church in dad’s hometown, but the Lutheran Germans were not about to go there).

          • Jim Jones

            > how unimportant, malleable, and human defined religion often was to people

            “Christianity: 2,000 years of everyone making it up as they go.”

    • Monika Jankun-Kelly

      I think that is an excellent plan and will certainly greatly increase the chance that the children will choose to be atheists. However, there are no guarantees. Fundamentalist Christians easily fall prey to the myth that if they raise their kids just right, they’ll definitely turn out Christian. It’s very scary knowing we can’t guarantee our adult children make good decisions, but isn’t it also more rewarding when they make the right choice on their own? Let’s not set ourselves up for possible heartache and undue parental guilt by thinking our children will surely make the right choice because we taught them correctly. All we can do is make it far more likely, the rest is up to them.

  • Dare

    Will there be a transcript? Will we be able to purchase MP3s of this event?

  • Gus

    This is a great idea, and I really hope the discuss small children, because that, to me as a parent of small children, is where it is hardest. When you have a little person who tends to just accept what adults tell them and really hasn’t worked out what’s real and what’s not yet and they’re being exposed to other kids who want them to go to church or vacation Bible school, it can be really tough and frightening. I would go to something like this if it were going on locally.

    A lot of the books on this, like Dale McGowan’s, for example, seem to be focused more on older kids, and while I’m sure there are challenges to come as my kids get older, the things I’ve had to deal with are answering questions like: “what’s god?” and “what are churches?”, usually after some kid on the playground has been proselytizing as they’ve been programmed to.

    My approach is to answer the first by discussing mythology, the second I was a bit snarky on: often beautiful buildings where people who believe in god go to be lectured to for an hour every week on how god wants them to live because they can’t seem to remember how to be good for more than a week.

    • Jim Jones

      > people who believe in god go to be lectured to for an hour every week on how god wants them to live because they can’t seem to remember how to be good for more than a week.

      Aren’t you glad calculus isn’t like that?

    • Anna

      I had the good fortune to not only grow up atheist, but also to remain unaware of the god-concept until I was around seven. This despite going to a nursery school and kindergarten attached to an Episcopal church. When I was that age, I thought churches were places where people got together to sing. I had no idea there was a supernatural component at all.

    • Monika Jankun-Kelly

      These are great parenting questions, and I too hope they’re discussed at the conference. Can anyone recommend child rearing books that deal specifically and pragmatically with religious peer pressure and proselytizing teachers?

  • Anna

    I think this sounds like a good idea, especially for parents living in areas that are heavily religious. I was raised secular, but not explicitly atheist. My parents just didn’t talk about religion one way or the other. I never acquired a belief in a deity, or, indeed, any supernatural beliefs at all. I credit some of that to my skeptical nature, but a lot of it must be related to the lack of indoctrination and the fact that I simply didn’t have a god-concept in my head for the first seven years of my life.