Secular Parenting

I was contacted recently by the organizer of the “Fox Valley Secular Parenting” Meetup group upon my [ill-tended] blog came to her attention. (‘Fox Valley’ here referring to the shallow valley formed by the Fox River running from southern Wisconsin to the Illinois River and passes about 40 miles west of Chicago). I myself live very near that river with gives its name to this blog.

I, myself, have ruminated on parenting without religion for some time and have touched on the topic several times on these pages [here] and [here]. I think it is important and valuable that support groups such as “Fox Valley Secular Parenting” exist for non-believers…particularly new parents surrounded by religion and newer to the secular worldview. I imagine that it is the specter of parenting, itself, that brings a good many people to become introspective for the first time and come to terms with what they really believe…and in the end realize that they cannot inculcate their child with the religious mythology of their childhood. For myself; there is no role of greater import than imparting a strong ethical and intellectual framework to a child. That responsibility forced me to answer questions about myself that I hadn’t considered before.

I came to parenthood somewhat later than some in my early thirties. My wife and I have a hard time deciding what kitchen cabinet finish to choose.... so choosing when to start a family was similarly onerous. By this time, I was well on my way to being the ‘strident atheist’…but I didn’t recognize it. I still had the ingrained Catholic guilt of my childhood that knew that an 'atheist' had cloven hooves and serpents for pets. I knew I wasn’t THAT (an atheist)…so I assumed I was something else but hadn’t analyzed it much further by the time my wife was waddling around with her swollen belly. I knew there was the ‘agnostic’ term, but that seemed too vacant. I wouldn’t call myself agnostic with regard to Unicorns or trolls…I didn’t believe in them. The same was true with the god of the popular monotheisms. (after substantially more rumination I now know that the terms are in, no way, mutually exclusive)

My point here was that, by the time my son came into the world, religion meant nothing to me. I conducted myself ethically and responsibly. I at least realized that religion was not important to being either ethical or responsible. In my parenting, religion was a non-issue despite most of my family being Catholic and being predominantly surrounded by church-going households. Sure; my mother worried about my son not being baptized until the Pope said all the limbo stuff was just made-up s**t [ref]. For some years I wanted to have my son baptized just for the family tradition aspects but knew that I would have to lie about my intent to bring him up as a Catholic. Beyond that; I had no difficulties.

Some parents, on the other hand, may not be as far along in their turn away from religion. Maybe family and community pressures make it very difficult. Maybe you don’t know any non-Christians (you would be wrong). For these parents, support groups like Fox Valley Secular Parenting and social groups like Fox Valley Atheists can be a great place to go. The more you study; you realize that there are far more non-believers than you might realize.