PBS: '10 Commandments' For Atheist Parents Raising 'Tolerant' Kids

The goal: "To raise kind, happy, tolerant kids capable of making up their own minds about what to believe."

The Public Broadcast Service published a piece by Wendy Thomas Russell, author of Relax, It’s Just God: How and Why to Talk to Your Kids About Religion When You’re Not Religious, who shared her own 10 Commandments to guide atheist parents in having the "God Talk" with their children.

Starting with an uncited statistic, Russel states that between 2012 and 2014, 7.5 million Americans "lost their religious faith." Because "secularism is on the rise," Russel asks, "[H]ow do we, as first-generation secular parents, go about talking to our kids about God and religion? What do we tell them? When? And how?"

So she came up with ten steps to teach parents that are "atheist, agnostic, humanist, deist, or nothing at all" how "to raise kind, happy, tolerant kids capable of making up their own minds about what to believe."

Below is a summary of her "commandments:"

1. Expose your kids to many religions -- "... a good religious education is one that covers the basics of many religions from a cultural and historical perspective, without a whole lot of emotional investment."

2. Embrace the ‘graven image’ of science -- "For every religious book you read, tell your kids one cool thing about the real world. Evolution, the stars and planets, you name it."

3. Don’t saddle your kids with your anxiety over the word ‘God’ -- "There is religion all around us, even in school. But it need not be a crisis… Kids may pledge their allegiance 'under God' not because of religion but because of tradition."

4. Keep in mind: There’s nothing wrong with faith -- "Faith in the supernatural is only as good or bad as the people who possess it… In the end, then, to say someone is 'Christian' or 'Jewish' or 'Muslim' means very little."

5. Honor your mother’s faith -- "Just because you’re a nonreligious parent doesn’t mean you have to shield your child from religious family members… Luckily, I think most religious folks are capable of having conversations with children without invoking images of hell or condemning anal sex."

6. Don’t kill your kid’s good time -- "Go to the library and dig up as many interesting-looking books as you can. The more pictures, the better… for tales of Abraham and Shiva and Mohammed and Zeus… The more fun the stories are, the more your kids will want to hear them, and the more likely they’ll be to remember them."

7. Don’t be a jerkwad -- "... conviction need not translate into being snarky, arrogant or mean."

8. Don’t steal your child’s ability to choose -- "Tell them about religion from a dispassionate viewpoint. And then let them take it from there… They’ll probably come around to your way of thinking eventually anyway. And if they don’t, it doesn’t matter. What does matter to you is that they grow up to be kind and happy. Right?"

9. Don’t lie about your own beliefs -- "Tell them that the existence of God, in any shape or form, is something no one can prove or disprove, which is what makes it so easy to debate."

10. Respect the religious without tolerating intolerance -- "Don’t hold religious beliefs against people who are being nice. And don’t hold it in favor of people who are being mean."

Read the complete list of Russel's suggestions at PBS.org.

Issues