I’ve found another good article from a USA Today columnist. The article is Am I raising ‘atheist children’? and starts with a simple and perhaps proud proclamation of ‘I am an atheist’ and explains how that came to be as always being nonreligious. Personally, I went from Catholic to Atheist to Agnostic in my belief.
‘We are nothing’
I never describe our family as “an atheist family” (I prefer to say, “We are nothing,” as in not part of any religion), and I reject the notion that my kids are automatically what I am. I think that keeping them open to all the possibilities is more important than telling them what to believe in.
I know a lot of religious families who say they are a Christian, Jewish or Muslim family. And they are. They have traditions, rituals and celebrations that define what they are. They pass those things to the children, along with belief.
Most young children accept what their parents tell them as true, whether it is the existence of Santa Claus or Jesus Christ. It is important that children understand what their parents believe, but it is also important for children to know about all the options out there. This is tricky if a parent is a true believer of a religion and feels that her way is the only path. But how can children question openly when they are taught that there are absolute truths in belief?
My family doesn’t have a shared religion just as this country does not have a religion. I’m Agnostic, my wife is an unbeliever without want of a label, my son claims Atheist, and my daughter is loosely identified as Christian since she’s 11 and goes along to get along. I’m waiting another year or two before really discussing religion with her since I know a parent’s view and word has power that could be viewed as brainwashing in my opinion. I want her to experience society a bit more first before sharing my own belief in depth. I’ve primarly answered questions with more questions just as the closing of the article touches on. I want my children to develop their own religious identities in their own way so they can truly say their belief is their’s alone. I don’t see any wisdom in having the belief of your ancestors just because of where you were born and who you were born from.
Part of being a good parent is allowing our children to become whatever and whoever they become. Watching my children explore the ideas that are out there and grapple with the many, often conflicting, religious views in the world is exciting. They bring new understanding to things — not only for themselves, but for me as well. If my daughter came to me and told me she was joining a church, I would ask her how she reached her decision. But that would be my approach with any of the big decisions in my children’s lives. Questioning puts us all on a path to greater understanding.
As my children navigate their teenage years, I know that the understanding will be harder to come by. The questions will get tougher. The answers won’t always be what I want to hear.
But I’ll keep asking, and I’ll encourage my kids to be open and questioning. They might not end up like me, but I’m at peace with the idea that they will end up as themselves.