When Atheist Children Are As Good As Dead To Their Parents

As a parent and an atheist, I got blindsided this morning.

One of the most popular pieces at the Washington Post website right now is Michael Gerson‘s brutally honest take on letting go of your children when they leave home. Gerson just saw his son off to college and writes movingly about how the experience hit him a lot harder than he was prepared for:

I know something he doesn’t — not quite a secret, but incomprehensible to the young. He is experiencing the adjustments that come with beginnings. His life is starting for real. I have begun the long letting go. Put another way: He has a wonderful future in which my part naturally diminishes. I have no possible future that is better without him close. …

The end of childhood, of course, can be the start of adult relationships between parents and children that are rewarding in their own way. I’m anxious to befriend my grown sons. But that hasn’t stopped the random, useless tears. I was cautioned by a high-powered Washington foreign policy expert that he had been emotionally debilitated for weeks after dropping off his daughter at college for the first time.

But it wasn’t Gerson’s tale of loss that gobsmacked me. It was a comment. This one, by a Washington Post reader called ariel823:

I am the mother of a 54 yr old who has valiantly fought cancer for 12 yrs and is now losing the fight, and the mother of a 56 yr old who has lymphoma and last year survived a stem cell transplant barely, and is weak and damaged but trying to hold his job. Also he exceeded his health insurance cap of $750,000 by a large sum. And our 3rd child has become an atheist in spite of his upbringing. Pain is pain, from wherever it originates.

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Some Rare Sound Advice on Christian/Atheist Child-Rearing

First, the newsweekly The Week has a love-advice column. Who knew? But that’s not what’s important. The reason we’re bringing it up here is because the columnist, one “Starshine Roshell” — if that is her real nametackles the perrennial question from a reader:

I really love my husband… but he is a devout atheist and I am a devout Christian. [ . . . ] but we are having a hard time deciding how we will bring up our child. What do people do in this situation?

Can an atheist and a religious person have a successful marriage? How do they decide how to raise the kid? If I’m Christian/Hindu/Baha’i/whatever, do I have to celebrate Humanlight? It sounds so dorky!

We see these questions crop up all the time. And too often, we see the question, however it’s asked, answered at best with the presumption that it’s the atheist who has to “reach across the aisle,” with the hopes that he or she will see the light, and at worst with advice to end the relationship because this nonbeliever is just not worthy.

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In Indonesia, Where You Can Be Sent to Prison for Not Believing in God, Atheist Parents Are Meeting on Facebook

Indonesia is not a safe place for atheists. It’s home to Alexander Aan, who was handed a prison sentence for simply proclaiming his atheism on Facebook.

Despite that, a courageous group of atheist parents have created a (closed) Facebook group to discuss raising their kids without superstitious values. Jakarta Globe has the story:

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Dale McGowan: How to Raise (Actual) Freethinkers

At the Oklahoma Freethought Convention a couple of weeks ago, Dale McGowan, author of Parenting Beyond Belief, spoke about raising actual freethinkers (instead of kids who just echo your own non-religious beliefs).

Quick note: I have heard Dale speak a number of times and his wisdom never gets old. If you’re an atheist parent, listen to what he has to say; he talks about so many of the dilemmas non-religious parents face with their kids and his answers seem so obvious in hindsight. I feel fortunate that I can hear him talk about all of this before I have any of my own.

If any moments stand out to you, please leave the timestamp and summary in the comments!

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It Shouldn’t Be This Hard for Atheist Homeschooling Parents to Find Material

A few months ago, I wrote about a project that KellyAnne Kitchin and Jenn Gauthier were working on. They were concerned that a lot of the material made for homeschooling parents like them was written from a Young Earth Creationist, the-Bible-must-be-true perspective. They wanted more secular resources for their kids, so they began a campaign to compile and spread materials with actual educational value.

Now, Kimberly Winston of the Religion News Service has written about their plight:

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