Parenting Beyond Belief

Decisions, decisions.

If you have children, you will have to decide how you will raise them.

How do you raise ethical, caring kids?  Will you teach them tenets of a certain religion, or will you attempt to do so without religion?  Will you model what you want to see, or simply tell them, “Do as I say, not as I do?”  You see, there are as many options as there are stars in the sky.

No matter what you choose, the fact is you have to choose (unless you make no decisions at all and simply let life happen).

I loved this letter that Michael Shermer, Publisher of Skeptic magazine, gave to his daughter upon the occasion of her transitioning from middle school to high school.  This is in the foreword of the book Parenting Beyond Belief: On Raising Ethical, Caring Kids Without Religion, edited by Dale McGowan.

Our beliefs about people, society, politics, economics, religion, and everything else are shaped by our parents and family, friends and peers, teachers and mentors, books and newspapers, television and the Internet, and culture at large.  It is impossible for any of us to hold beliefs of any kind that are not significantly influenced by all these different sources.  Up until about the age you are now—early teens—your beliefs have been primarily shaped by your parents.  And since I am in the business of researching and writing about beliefs, as well as expressing them in public forums, I fear that my own rather strongly held beliefs may have had an undue influence on you; that is, my hope is that whatever it is you decide to believe about whatever subject, you have thought through carefully each of those beliefs and at least tried to make sure that they are your beliefs and not those of your parents.  It matters less to me what your specific beliefs are than that you have carefully arrived at your beliefs through reason and evidence and thoughtful reflection.

Isn’t that freeing?  For you and for the child?

It’s my dream for Liliana.

[Post image: Mama and Liliana in front of the Louvre, January 2011]

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The quote I live by

Have patience with everything that remains unsolved in your heart. Try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books written in a foreign language. Do not now look for the answers. They cannot now be given to you because you could not live them. It is a question of experiencing everything. At present you need to live the question. Perhaps you will gradually, without even noticing it, find yourself experiencing the answer, some distant day.
--Rainer Maria Rilke in Letters to a Young Poet

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