Growing up I was programmed to believe one could not actually be good with out the Lord Jesus Christ. Even people who were considered good with out “god” or good but in a different religion were either not what they appeared to be or, somehow the Christian God was influencing them and it was just a matter of time ’till they realized it. This is one of many examples of talking in circles, btw.
I was approached by a fellow employee at the resort hotel I worked at for many years about such subject. I didn’t realize how ironic it was at the time that the man confronting me was Mexican. I haven’t been everywhere in the world, yet, but I have lived in many states and even in Mexico and I have found it rare to run into a Hispanic atheist. I don’t know if this man was actually an atheist. He was trying to convince me that I was a good person and it wasn’t because of the Lord Jesus Christ, but that it was just what I was. I got very frustrated with that man and let him know he didn’t really know me. I let him know that without Christ there was no telling what kind of person I would have been and that it would be very possible I would actually be a bad person. I really believed this and he finally recognized that fact and walked away upset.
When I left Christianity in my late thirties I put some of that train of though to the test. Not all at once, but over time. Could I be mean, could I do bad, and so on and be okay with it? I learned that the answer was a big NO. It’s just not me, with out the Christian god or any god I was still, and still am, a good person. I still love to help people, I still believe in honesty and so on.
Anyone who understands how the brain works could have told me this, not that I would have listened, but it’s all there in the brain. It’s called a conscience and it’s activity can be seen in brain scans. Those who have no color activity there are psychopaths. Apparently I am not a psychopath. Yes, I had heard of the conscience but I understood it somewhat as something built into us but more so as something God put in us to help us, like his spirit guiding us.
But what about my kids? What I knew about child rearing was what I learned from watching and listening to my parents and listening to Dr. Dobson on the radio and listening to my mom read his books and from various things said in churches as well as studying what the scriptures said about it and so on. I have been one of those people who can see someone do something wrong or something that doesn’t work and learn from it and not repeat their mistakes so I did have that advantage. But for the most part I believed in order to instill right from wrong and the desire to do right one needed to involve the Lord Jesus Christ or all their efforts would be in vain.
There was also that horrible judgmental side that comes with all this. For instance the rebellious pk’s (preachers kids). The common train of thought was that their parents must have done something wrong. For many of the very religious other peoples kids are like the litmus tests of the family. They show the true colors. But when it’s your pastors or church leaders rebellious kids, well, they always have a good excuse or find way to avoid the subject. Truth is, good parenting or not in the long run your kids are individuals with their own brain and their own personality. Sure, you could have done better, we all could have. Many of us have done and are doing the best we can and if you are looking to turn out “perfect” mini you’s well, nothing will work. Perfect is an opinion.
Still, like many other people, I want to raise content smart kids who can think logically and skeptically and become successful and give back and help those in need and not get std’s. Understanding that most our brains are wired to do such things makes it all possible with out god(s). Learning from my own personal experiences that I can be a good person without god helps as well.
Meeting many folks who were raised secular and are good citizens who like helping their community and the world is wonderful as well. Many of those sort of folks don’t really understand the cause for terror many religiously raised folks sometimes have when it come to raising their kids with out religious threats and promises.
For me talking and communication often with my kids is where it’s all at. Telling my kids to not lie, not to steal, not do drugs and to respect others and so on just isn’t good enough. I believe in explaining why and even backing it up with studies proving this and that to be true and beneficial. Listening is just as important. I need to know what they understand and how they see things. Most of the time for me I enjoy hearing what my kids are thinking, however, there are those moments my eyes pop and I feel rather offended. That’s when I start silently talking to myself and investigating why I had trouble with what they said. There have been many times I reacted immediately and it wasn’t a good idea to do so, but I believe in apologizing and not necessarily defending myself, well sometimes, but more explaining why mommy reacted so negatively to them so they can take the info and hopefully learn from my mistake. Also, hearing myself apologize and explain helps me cement a change in myself so I don’t repeat the same mistake again. Other times I catch myself in time and stop myself from reacting. I then quickly recognize the negative feeling and investigate what is really causing it. Doing this helps me not lash out and then if there is something I need to help my child with I can do so calmly and with out the extra baggage involved.
Some things are simple. When you lie or steal or are dishonest you lose peoples trust. Some people can be won back over over time but others won’t. This can affect your future and ruin opportunities. This sort of explanation isn’t necessarily related to the conscience but to cause and effect much like the threat of hell fire and the promise of heaven, but it is more honest and over time more obvious. For young children many of the bad thing they do are not because they don’t have a conscious but because they just don’t understand. Thus explaining actions and reactions is necessary until their conscience can catch up.
I do love being able to teach my children without after life threats. I love helping them see the good inside of them and acting on it. But what if one or more kids is a psychopath? Not every parent will ask themselves this. But I have. I ask myself a lot of questions. Especially when I am learning about a certain topic. Am I a psychopath, am I bi-polar? And so on. So far I don’t fit into any of those type of things but looking inside myself and learning about them helps me become more empathetic. My kids are not psychopaths, but we do have other issue to deal with. I have a child with Autism and one with aspergers. People in the autism spectrum sometimes appear to be psychopaths to others because they don’t react to situations the same way the average person does, so they are easily miss-judged. My two in the spectrum will often not get a joke that every one else gets but then they will laugh at something others think is not funny. They might not cry when others find something sad, but they will roll into a ball, tears streaming out of their face over something else others may not see as all that sad. In order for them to function in society I have to teach them about the moments they should not laugh out loud and so on. It’s not a conscious issue, but a what is acceptable in society so you don’t get bad grades and fired from your job issue.
Although at this time three of my kids consider themselves atheist and one a pagan, sometimes, I really just wish for them to be skeptical thinkers and to question everything as well as learn how to investigate and not just accept the first answer they hear. As young people it’s been fine with them being what they are because mommy says it’s a good idea, but it’s a matter of time and that won’t be okay any more. When I talk to them about things such as religion and science I do my best to explain why I believe what I believe and how I got my information hoping that they will be inspired to research on their own. I also am open and honest about my mistakes and misunderstanding. Mistakes and misunderstandings happen, it’s part of normal life. So far it seems three of them do understand this. One of them doesn’t. And, who knows, maybe he never will, or maybe he’s just not quite there yet. Either way, in the long run it is his life. Letting go of parental responsibility for older or grown children can be very challenging for many parents. They may not realize it but often they see their kids as a reflection of themselves. So if their kids don’t follow in their foot steps it’s seen as a personal assault on them selves and a testimony to their “bad” child rearing. But the truth is, yes, you may have influenced them, but no, it’s not all about you. It’s all about them as their own person.
When it comes to having a secular family, not all secular families are alike. Some have all members on the same or similar page, some have a spouse or ex who is still religious and also influential on the children, some have kids who were raised religious at first and still hold on to their religious training, and so on. I consider myself fortunate in this area. My two oldest remember being in the cult I was in for years. One of them remembers enough to still have some bitterness toward it and Christianity. The other one doesn’t recall much and while she doesn’t care for Christianity she isn’t bitter about it. She does get frustrated with everyone at school being religious but she deals with it fine. My younger two don’t remember the cult or religious days at all. My ex gave me a hard time when I first left the cult and Christianity but it was soon after he realized the con we were trapped in and he too left both the cult and religion. He mostly avoids religion all together. So while we may disagree in some areas, at least he isn’t telling our kids that I’m going to hell. It saddens me that many parents do this to each other and to their children.
It makes me happy to be able to raise my kids with out programming them that their natural self is sinful and that they were born deserving hell. That they can be good and moral with out god. That asking questions and digging deeper and investigation is awesome and not a deadly fruit on a tree in the middle of an imaginary garden. I love that they can recognize mental illnesses and mental challenges without pegging those who struggle with such things as demon possession. I do wish the world was a better and safer place and that I didn’t have to warn them about criminals and baby rapers and std’s and cancer and abuse and harmful drugs and bullying, but the world has people in it so it’s gonna have it’s issues. Consequences are a part of life and it’s my job to prepare and train my kids the best I can regarding those things. Teaching them to dig deeper and to learn is one huge way I can prepare them to avoid the negative things life has to offer. Not just relying on one old book that actually condones some horrible things and the people who claim to live by that book but can’t agree on much, but to learn their own truths and learn from their mistakes as well as others.
If you are a parent who is or is considering raising your children secular but you feel they need to be part of a community like so many religious people are, there are alternatives to religious church. One is the UU churches. You can locate your local UU congregations at UUA.org. They are all different. Many of them have Sunday school and summer day camps etc. Normally their curriculum for children is about learning and respecting different religions and non-religious beliefs. There are also Atheist “churches” popping up here and there in order to give people a dogma free community. There are also things like Boy and Girl scouts, 4H, Boys & Girls club and sports and so on that can offer a sense of community and belonging as well, depending. Many YMCA’s have youth activity and youth leadership programs and although they are Christian based many of them do not push the issue. You can also look for local volunteer opportunities. If you have the energy for it you can also start your own group. If you do I recommend using Meetup.com.
(All the pictures and posters on this particular post were found on Google image search.)
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