Not long after my first kid was born, people began asking me for input on parenting as an atheist. When they did, I always answered that they’re too young for it to be an important issue yet.
For whatever reason, I only processed the situation as a function of their understanding of the concepts and their interactions with religious institutions.
But that ignores the interactions between the parents and religion, which definitely informs how they’re raised. So, even though my kids are one and three, religion and atheism do matter. Here’s a few of the differences in atheist parenting.
We don’t hit our kids
Our arrival at this decision was informed by the findings of psychology indicating that physical harm and pain don’t get the desired result. You’re more likely to end up raising someone who avoids coming to you when they need help… and who’s internalized the idea that violence can solve conflicts. (We also don’t, ya know, want to inflict pain. They’re kids for fucks sake)
There isn’t anything about being an atheist that necessarily leads you away from hitting kids. You certainly don’t have to look far to find ones who do. But atheists aren’t beholden to religious direction on how to discipline children. This frees us to look for alternative approaches.
We don’t really care about nudity
Without any religious beliefs telling us it’s inherently dirty, we’ve felt comfortable letting our kids run around naked as needed. It makes potty training a bit easier. And sometimes they just don’t want pants. I can relate. *shrugs*
There is a smaller or nonexistent support community
Anyone who is a parent knows that childcare is not cheap. It’s important for daycare workers and babysitters to be fairly compensated of course, but that doesn’t mean that most parents have access to that much money.
Churches often offer daycare that is cheaper than the market value of the service. There are reasons to avoid this as an atheist. Some states have lax safety regulations for religious daycare, they might be teaching your kids harmful ideas, and you might not be eligible without lying about what you believe. But it’s impossible to discount the boon to families struggling to make ends meet.
Family may not be as helpful
Thankfully, our family is awesome and religious disagreements have never overshadowed our love for each other or the kids. But not everyone is so lucky. Some atheists are disowned by their parents and siblings entirely. And that level of support towers over anything a church offers. Not just the cooperation on raising the kids, hand-me-downs, and financial help, but the moral support of family is crucial when dealing with stressful parenting.
I can’t help but think that the local skeptic and atheist groups could, eventually fill some of the support roles that atheists sometimes lack. Of course I know from having been an organizer for one that the operating budget is approximately $0 and it’s the size of religious organizations that allow them to extend that kind of help. It’s a worthy goal to shoot for though.
This is an incomplete list of course, and I’m sure as my kids get older there will be more we can talk about on the subject.