Other Religions Atheism and Agnosticism What Should Atheist Parents Do for Their Children? Share Flipboard Email Print Other Religions Belief Systems Atheism and Agnosticism Logic Ethics Key Figures in Atheism Evolution Atheism Myths and Misconceptions By Austin Cline Atheism Expert M.A., Princeton University B.A., University of Pennsylvania Austin Cline, a former regional director for the Council for Secular Humanism, writes and lectures extensively about atheism and agnosticism. our editorial process Austin Cline Updated February 03, 2019 Christians raise their children as Christians, Jews raise their children as Jews, and Muslims raise their children as Muslims, so doesn't it make sense that atheists raise their children as atheists? That might seem to be the case, but it doesn't make much sense after all. Children are already born as atheists — they have to be taught to believe in gods and to adopt religious beliefs. If you don't tell them that they should believe those things, then you are simply maintaining the status quo. In so far as it is even possible to raise a child "as" an atheist, nothing further is required. Infants and Uninformed Children Are Atheists Do infants and very young children qualify as atheists? Most atheists will say so, working from the definition of atheism as "lacking belief in gods." Theists tend to reject this definition, even if they don't use the narrow definition of atheism as "denial of gods." Why? If infants lack belief in the existence of gods, they can't be theists - so why not atheists? Should Atheists Hide Religion From Their Children? Because most atheists are not religious, it is understandable that most atheists aren't going to make an effort to raise their children in an explicitly and deliberately religious environment. Atheists are unlikely to raise their children to be Christians or Muslims. Does this, then, mean that atheists are also trying to keep religion away from their children? Are they afraid of their kids possibly becoming religious? What are the consequence of hiding religion from someone? What Should I Tell My Kids About Religion? When children are raised in a religious environment, what they are taught about religion is relatively obvious and organized — but what about kids raised in a non-religious environment? If you aren't specifically teaching your kids to believe in any gods or to follow any religious systems, then it may be tempting to just ignore the topic entirely. That, however, would probably be a mistake. Godless Children & Family Religious Traditions: What Should Atheists Do? A difficult issue for godless parents raising their children without religion is the religious traditions in their extended families. If the parents themselves were raised without gods or religion, this isn't an issue, but most do come from at least marginally religious families which have at least a few religious traditions, even if it's merely to attend religious worship services on major holidays. The more devout a family is, the more difficult it may be to exclude yourselves and your children. Teaching Kids About Skepticism & Science: What Should Atheist Parents Do? Parents raising their children without gods or religion should teach them how to be skeptical, how to engage in critical thinking, and how to fairly apply the standards of reason and skepticism to religious and paranormal claims which they might encounter. They should also learn how to do so without necessarily attacking those who hold these beliefs. Sometimes there will be people who should be criticized personally, but it should not be the first or only tactic adopted. Godless Children and the Future of Atheism: Raising Godless Children It's a simple fact that the godless children being raised by atheists today are likely to be at the forefront of atheism in the future. What's not so simple is what godless parents are going to do about this - what do they want for their children, what sort of atheism do they want their children to express, and what sort of atheism do they want to see develop in the future. This, by extension, should affect what sort of community and society they live in in the future as well. America's Godless Public Schools One of the preeminent battlegrounds for the Christian Right's war on modernity is America's secular public school system. The Christian Right cannot stand the fact that instead of infusing the entire curriculum with their brand of conservative Christian principles, the government maintains a neutral stance on religion with a secular system. The godlessness of America's public schools is an advantage, not a defect. Public schools should be secular, not extensions of religious institutions.