I’m the youngest of four siblings and the only one not baptized. As the story goes, by the time my parents got to me, there was a new minister at the church. Knowing that my parents didn’t attend, the minister said something to the effect of, “I will baptize this one was long as you promise to raise her in a Christian home and attend church regularly.” My parents chose instead to keep me as the family heathen.
I was grateful that my parents only ever encouraged me to learn about other religions and attend services with my classmates. Now with kids of our own, John and I have often talked about how we can give our children access to different faiths so that they can make a choice if they so feel. There is so much faith can offer humanity.
But could it be okay, beneficial even, to be raised without religion? This recent article in the LA Times by Phil Zuckerman, a professor of sociology and secular studies at Pitzer College, makes some interesting observations:
My own ongoing research among secular Americans — as well as that of a handful of other social scientists who have only recently turned their gaze on secular culture — confirms that nonreligious family life is replete with its own sustaining moral values and enriching ethical precepts. Chief among those: rational problem solving, personal autonomy, independence of thought, avoidance of corporal punishment, a spirit of “questioning everything” and, far above all, empathy.
The results of such secular child-rearing are encouraging. Studies have found that secular teenagers are far less likely to care what the “cool kids” think, or express a need to fit in with them, than their religious peers. When these teens mature into “godless” adults, they exhibit less racism than their religious counterparts, according to a 2010 Duke University study. Many psychological studies show that secular grownups tend to be less vengeful, less nationalistic, less militaristic, less authoritarian and more tolerant, on average, than religious adults.
As for my so-far secular children, today had its ups and downs. They’re both stuffy and congested enough to make sleep mildly miserable, with low-grade fevers that make them more likely to throw a tantrum if given the wrong “special fork” to eat breakfast chickpeas (why not?). So this afternoon we stayed in and used all the stickers. (Yes, that is my infant daughter playing with a pipe cleaner…*sigh*)
When asked what color Valentine she wanted to make for Daddy, Ari replied with conviction, “Black,” grabbed a piece of construction paper, and started sticking. We eventually compromised on her second choice of yellow (though I noticed her unstick several hearts disgruntledly). I hate to curtail Ari’s artistic expression, but the prospect of our two-year-old handing John a black heart felt a little morbid.
Happy Valentine’s from our family to yours :)