Raising Children Outside Religion

In Reasoned Spirituality by Dave Gaddis

Some think one might need to experience religion, first, to truly appreciate being a deist. Since the majority of deists, including me, came to deism via Christianity, I will address this issue from that perspective.

Two elements comprise Christianity’s core: mythology and values. Christian mythology focuses on original sin, virgin birth, water-to-wine, walking on water, resurrection. Reason and science thoroughly discredited those supposed “miracles” hundreds of years ago in the Age of Enlightenment. While the advance of human knowledge should, rightly, tear down mythology presented as truth, we should also remember that wisdom comes from the whole of human experience. We can learn from that experience, no matter its origin or belief system. For example, the essential values espoused by Christianity of sacrifice and forgiveness are noble. If you allow your children to attend church with family members, help them understand the difference between Christian mythology, which is false, and Christian values, which are mostly worthwhile.

Values are the principles that describe what is right and just. Simply put, they are the standards through which deist ethics are measured. Enlightenment values, in addition to Christian values, are a fundamental part of deist beliefs. Those beliefs include tolerance, secularism (separation of church and state), autonomy (self government), and natural rights – all grounded in reason. According to Wikipedia, “Natural rights are rights not contingent upon the laws, customs, or beliefs of any particular culture or government, and therefore universal and inalienable. In contrast, legal rights are those bestowed onto a person by a given legal system.” Natural rights include the right to life and liberty (provided they do not disturb the peace, happiness, or safety of society), freedom of thought and expression, and equality before the law. All human beings are created equal under God, with the same natural rights.

When it comes to dealing with the Deity, human beings should be free to find, know, and worship God in their own way. All views of God should be respected, so long as they do not cause harm or oppress the views of others.

From this historical perspective, we are ready to talk about how we should raise our children without religion. Teach children:

  • the story and science behind the Big Bang because the truth is so much more powerful than the Bible’s Genesis story
  • that love is the noblest and most important element of human relationships;
  • to never stop learning and experiencing new things because it keeps life fresh;
  • to realize their are no sacred cows because all of life must be critically examined;
  • to challenge dogma in all facets of life because no one way is the only way;
  • to rely on their reason and inner strength because it will shield them against peer pressure and group think;
  • to adapt their thinking when reason dictates;
  • to live authentically and to honestly express themselves because the individual is more important than any ideology;
  • to advance the human condition within their personal capacity to do so;
  • to take responsibility for their actions;
  • to connect with themselves, with other people, and with the universe;
  • to deal with others honestly and justly, guided by compassion and respect;
  • to teach others what they have learned because that is the best way to internalize the lessons for themselves;
  • to live their lives as an example for others to follow because that is the deepest expression of their convictions.

I hope this will provide a basic framework for deists to raise their children outside religion and without prior religious experience. As always,

I welcome your thoughts and ideas.

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