3 Good Reasons to Raise Atheist Children

3 Good Reasons to Raise Atheist Children

Rachael Slick, the daughter of one of America’s most vocal Christian apologists, Matt Slick, spoke out a few years ago about her experience growing up in a religious household.  In her words:

‘I have two sisters, three and seven years younger than myself, and we were all homeschooled in a highly strict, regulated environment. Our A Beka schoolbooks taught the danger of evolution. Our friends were “good influences” on us, fellow homeschoolers whose mothers thought much alike. Obedience was paramount — if we did not respond immediately to being called, we were spanked ten to fifteen times with a strip of leather cut from the stuff they used to make shoe soles. Bad attitudes, lying, or slow obedience usually warranted the same — the slogan was “All the way, right away, and with a happy spirit.” We were extremely well-behaved children, and my dad would sometimes show us off to people he met in public by issuing commands that we automatically rushed to obey.’ [1]

When she was only nine years old, she penned the following lamentation:

‘I’m hopeless.

Oh boy. I’ve got a lot to work on. I try to be obedient but it’s so hard! The more I read, the more I realize how bad I am! My problem is that when things don’t make sense to me, I don’t like them. When Dad gets mad at me for something, everything makes perfect sense to me in my mind, so I tend to resent my parents’ correction.

I have just realized that I yearn to please the lord, but why can’t I? I just can’t be good! It seems impossible. Why can’t I be perfect?’ [2]

It took Rachael years to overcome the conditioning of her childhood, and although not all of it was negative, the deep psychological trauma associated with the belief in the horrid torments of eternal torture, God’s wrath, and other harmful beliefs became slowly-fading scars in Rachael’s psyche as she gradually evolved from the insane stubbornness of theism to the healthy sanity of rational atheism.   You can read more about Rachael’s story here..

Rachael’s experience is a comparatively mild one compared with the wide range of more barbaric examples that sadly exist in our world, from children having their genitals forcefully mutilated to young girls being forced into sexual relationships with old men, however, one shouldn’t downplay the severe nature of such child abuse, a form of child abuse that is very common amongst children who are raised by overtly religious parents, parents who selfishly place their own egocentric desires and delusions before the welfare of their offspring.  The following is a list of three reasons why it is better to raise your children as open-minded atheists:

  1. Intelligence

In 2013, Zuckerman, Silberman and Hall published a meta-analysis of 63 studies that demonstrated a (strong) negative correlation between religiosity and intelligence.  Discussing the possible interpretations of the data accumulated, these scholars suggested:

‘Three possible interpretations were discussed. First, intelligent people are less likely to conform and, thus, are more likely to resist religious dogma. Second, intelligent people tend to adopt an analytic (as opposed to intuitive) thinking style, which has been shown to undermine religious beliefs. Third, several functions of religiosity, including compensatory control, self-regulation, self-enhancement, and secure attachment, are also conferred by intelligence. Intelligent people may therefore have less need for religious beliefs and practices.’ [3]

The findings of this meta-analysis confirm what most parents should already know: children will become more intelligent if they are encouraged to think rather than merely accept and believe.  Granted it takes a lot more effort to teach your children how to think for themselves, but in the long run it is certainly worth it, particularly if you are more concerned with their wellbeing, and not simply your own psychological appeasement.

  1. Distinguishing Between Fact & Fiction

Another very good reason to raise your children as open-minded atheists was highlighted by two recent studies in which it was demonstrated that children raised in religious households have a much harder time distinguishing between fact and fiction.  Commenting on the results of the studies, the authors at Boston University said:

‘Children’s upbringing was also related to their judgment about the protagonist in fantastical stories that included ordinarily impossible events whether brought about by magic (Study 1) or without reference to magic (Study 2). Secular children were more likely than religious children to judge the protagonist in such fantastical stories to be fictional. The results suggest that exposure to religious ideas has a powerful impact on children’s differentiation between reality and fiction, not just for religious stories but also for fantastical stories.’ [4]

  1. Non-Judgemental & Altruistic Children

In the most recent study cited in this blog post, the authors discovered that non-religious children tend to be less judgemental and more altruistic than children raised in a variety of religious households.

Commenting on the findings of this study, the authors noted:

‘While it is generally accepted that religion contours people’s moral judgments and prosocial behavior, the relation between religiosity and morality is a contentious one. Here, we assessed altruism and third-party evaluation of scenarios depicting interpersonal harm in 1,170 children aged between 5 and 12 years in six countries (Canada, China, Jordan, Turkey, USA, and South Africa), the religiousness of their household, and parent-reported child empathy and sensitivity to justice. Across all countries, parents in religious households reported that their children expressed more empathy and sensitivity for justice in everyday life than non-religious parents. However, religiousness was inversely predictive of children’s altruism and positively correlated with their punitive tendencies. Together these results reveal the similarity across countries in how religion negatively influences children’s altruism, challenging the view that religiosity facilitates prosocial behavior.’ [5]

In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul allegedly dictated:

‘When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things’. (1 Corinthians 13:11)

Sadly, Paul did not heed his own advice and he continued to prostrate himself before the fatuous faith of a more superstitious and ignorant age.  But isn’t it time for the billions of parents on our planet today to put away their selfish and childish delusions?  Isn’t it time we, as parents, placed the welfare of our children before the fear-inspired wants and selfish cravings of own mortality and put away the childish infatuation of religious faith, so that we might become better role models for our offspring, role models who give our children the best possible chance to grow up to be intelligent, altruistic and rational adults, capable of understanding the difference between harmful fiction and helpful reality? Surely, if not merely for the love of our children alone, we should at least grow up for the sake of our species.

Sources

  1. Rachael Slick, ‘The Atheist Daughter of a Notable Christian Apologist Shares Her Story’, Patheos (Friendly Atheist Website), cited at: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2013/07/15/the-atheist-daughter-of-a-notable-christian-apologist-shares-her-story/, accessed on 06 Nov. 2015.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Zuckerman, M., Silberman, J. & Hall, J.A., The relation between intelligence and religiosity: a meta-analysis and some proposed explanations’, S. National Library of Medicine – Institutes of Health, cited at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23921675, accessed on 06 Nov. 2015.
  4. Kathleen H. Corriveau, Eva E. Chen & Paul L. Harris, Judgments About Fact and Fiction by Children From Religious and Nonreligious Backgrounds’, ‘Cognitive Science Journal’ (2014), cited at: http://www.bu.edu/learninglab/files/2012/05/Corriveau-Chen-Harris-in-press.pdf, accessed on 06 Nov. 2015.
  5. Jean Decety, Jason M. Cowell, Kang Lee, Randa Mahasneh, Susan Malcom-Smith, Bilge Selcuk & Xinyue Zhou, The Negative Association between Religiousness and Children’s Altruism across the World’, ‘Current Biology Journal’, cited at: http://www.cell.com/current-biology/abstract/S0960-9822(15)01167-7, accessed on 06 Nov. 2015.

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