‘Godless parenting creates better kids’
Writer claims that families without religion are extremely well-balanced, but is he correct?

In a thoughtful piece written as an op-ed column in the LA Times, Phil Zuckerman has examined what happens when kids are raised in a secular environment, and whether or not this has an impact on their moral values. His conclusion may not be popular, but it’s quite remarkable: children growing up in a home with no religion become balanced adults with strong moral compasses who act ethically.

Atheist families "more tolerant"

It’s worth reading his piece, but here are some of the key points:

•    More children are growing up without religion in the US- up to 30% from 4% in the ‘50s.
•    He cites research done by Vern Bengston who, for over 40 years, has been analysing religion and family life- in 2013 Bengston began to include secular (atheist and agnostic) families to his study.
•    Bengston was surprised to discover that there were high levels of family solidarity and “emotional closeness” between non-religious parents and their kids, and that strong ethical standards and moral values had been shared from the older to the younger generation.
•    He found that non-religious parents were more passionate about ethical principles than religious parents in the study.
•    Zuckerman added that non-religious families sustained rational problem solving, independence of thought, avoidance of corporal punishment and empathy as central to family life. He also cites a study which found that secular kids are less likely to care about what the so-called “cool kids” think about them than religious kids. In addition, he mentions studies which suggest that secular kids grow to be less racist, less vengeful, less nationalistic, less militaristic, less authoritarian and more tolerant than their religious counterparts.

Another notable point? He found that there were also no atheists in US prisons.

Atheism in SA schools and homes

South Africa is often erroneously referred to as a “Christian country” based on statistics that state that 80 percent of South Africans are Christian.  The constitution, however, states in the Bill of Rights that South Africans are guaranteed freedom of conscience, religion, thought, belief and opinion. There are often public debates in which religious arguments are cited as political statements, marginalising non-religious people.

According to SACSIS, 15 percent of South Africans cite no religious affiliations at all.

Public schools are also not supposed to describe themselves as affiliated to a particular religion, although many still include religious rituals and practices in their day-to-day activities. A local secular society has formed with the intention of ensuring that the rights of non-religious children are protected in schools, suggesting that atheist children are marginalised in schools which practice religious activities.

Given Zuckerberg and Bengston’s research and comments on non-religious families, it would certainly seem that atheists are quite capable of introducing balanced children into schools and society, and that tolerance from religious and non-religious parents alike is what will help children to integrate with society as they grow up. As parents, we can all model tolerance to our kids, whether we are believers or not.

Disclaimer: The views of columnists published on Parent24 are their own and therefore do not necessarily represent the views of Parent24.

Do you teach your children tolerance for other people’s beliefs?

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