Back when I was rearing my sons, I knew I wanted them to be creative and freethinking rational individuals. I didn’t think too much about the philosophical, economic, or political issues undergirding my own lack of belief in any supernatural being.
Dan Arel is different. He brings everything to his parenting, and thus to his first book, Parenting Without God: How to Raise Moral, Ethical and Intelligent Children, Free From Religious Dogma (Dangerous Little Books, 2014), Foreword by Peter Boghossian.
An increasingly visible atheist and secular activist and blogger, Dan Arel holds uncompromised beliefs (science not faith, equality for all rather than the capitalism we now have in the U.S.) and isn’t afraid to share them. One of the main themes of his blogs and his new book is that religion and its myths and holy books are not only silly but can at times be downright harmful to children’s well-being.
In the Introduction, Arel explains the book’s purpose:
Most [atheist parents] believe atheism is a place you should find on your own; critical thinking, knowledge, logic and other means of rational thought lead people to reject the idea of man-made gods and consider themselves atheist. How, though, do you instill these values as an atheistic parent without force-feeding your children? This is why I wrote this book.
Parenting Without God is divided into three sections: Dealing with Religion; Sex, Death and the Meaning of Life; and Get Active, which includes several essays by other secular parents (disclosure: I wrote one of the essays).
For the practical-minded, here are a few of Arel’s suggestions to try out in your own family:
1. Everything about religion should be able to be talked about, with nothing left “off the table.”
2. Don’t make your kids the billboard for your beliefs or lack thereof. Recognize if they’re too young to understand the serious message on their t-shirt.
3. Teach your kids, with plenty of examples, why they ought to do the right thing for its own sake, not out of fear or for a reward.
4. Explain to your kids that their life’s meaning is to be determined by them, and that it’s fine to change their minds over time.
5. Come out as an atheist whenever you can, in order to increase the chances that people will get to know real atheists who are also good people.
Finally, if you’re an atheist/humanist/secular parent who would enjoy the reassurance that you’re not alone, as well as wanting some hints toward becoming a bit more active in spreading the good word of godless parenting, I suggest you read Dan Arel's heartfelt and spirited Parenting Without God: How to Raise Moral, Ethical and Intelligent Children, Free From Religious Dogma.
Copyright (c) 2014 by Susan K. Perry, author of the novel Kylie’s Heel and Playing Smart: The Family Guide to Enriching, Offbeat Learning Activities for Ages 4 to 14.