Category Archives: Encouraging Free Thought

Encouraging Choice

I like to think I’m playing my part in phasing religion out of American life. One of the biggest changes I can see between my parenting style and that of my (divorced) parents is the emphasis on making good choices. I was never encouraged to make good choices. I was never asked to weigh the alternatives and examine the information to decide what course of action to take. I was simply told that the Bible is the end-all and be-all of authority and what is contained in that book is the absolute truth.

Therefore when it came to making choices about having sex, drinking, or pretty much anything, I fled to the Bible to find my answer. This made me a fearful and anxious person. I was constantly afraid of sinning, lest I bring god’s wrath down upon my head. Even though I knew I was saved, I didn’t really feel anything – except fear.

But, I digress. My parents never explained how important choices are in life. They never encouraged me to go to college (How dare I broaden my mind!) and they never encouraged me to make choices because I thought the choice was the right one to make.

Now that I have kids of my own, I find myself asking them questions constantly. When my oldest asks, “Why?” I always ask her, “Well, what do you think?” She spouts off her thoughts and then I explain the whys and why-nots to her. And most importantly, the I-don’t-knows. It seemed like my parents were afraid to say that. “What makes rain?” I would ask. “Rain is just god’s tears,” my mom would say, “and thunder is god bowling.” Yep. There’s nothing wrong with not knowing. Just because the answer isn’t obvious doesn’t mean it needs to be explained by something someone made up.

Ask my 4-year-old what makes thunder and she’ll tell you how lightning cuts through the air, causing it to slap back together to make a loud boom. It’s beautiful, and it helps me feel good about my non-religious parenting. My girls will grow up being able to analyze information and make proper choices, and I will always encourage learning and curiosity in their precious minds. I can only hope that they realize the value of this and pass it on to their children. Maybe someday the real truth – the provable truth – will prevail in our society. Maybe someday the person who believes in the imaginary man in the sky will be the weird one instead of the other way around. We can only hope.

The Santa Myth, Some Thoughts

Christmas 2010 was my first Christmas as an atheist. As such, it was difficult for me to watch my children go through the motions of Santa Claus. “How can I let them believe in something I know isn’t true?” I thought. It reminded me too much of my own belief in a mystical man who magically bestowed gifts upon me. I was concerned that fostering this type of belief would encourage my kids to believe other magical men to be real, if you catch my drift. Well, Dale McGowan gives me hope that the Santa myth is not only not harming my kids, but could actually be doing them some good.

I recently discovered¬†The Meming of Life,¬†Parenting Beyond Belief author, Dale McGowan’s,¬†blog. Today I read a post called “Santa Claus – The Ultimate Dry Run,” which I recommend you head on over to read right now. McGowan believes that the Santa Claus myth is a great way to open a child’s mind – and what a perfect age to let those free thoughts flow! I’m no longer worried about my children believing in Santa, because I know I’ll have a great opportunity to teach them something meaningful about free thought in the near future. Thanks for this, Dale!