On Raising Children Without God

I read something on CNN today that I found really unfortunate (crazy, right?). It was written by a blogger, TXBlue08, who is the mother of two teenagers. The essay is entitled, “Why I Raise My Children Without God”, and you can read it HERE.

The author begins,

“When my son was around 3 years old, he used to ask me a lot of questions about heaven. Where is it? How do people walk without a body? How will I find you? You know the questions that kids ask. For over a year, I lied to him and made up stories that I didn’t believe about heaven…One day he would know this, and he would not trust my judgment. He would know that I built an elaborate tale—not unlike the one we tell children about Santa—to explain the inconsistent and illogical legend of God.”

The parental tactic of “making up stories” is probably pretty common – even among parents who DO believe in heaven, but who take artistic liberties with the details. So I support the author’s (eventual) realization that it isn’t wise to lie about spiritual matters to our children. (Quick aside: the mention of Santa Claus raises another interesting question for Christian parents.)

Once we get past the issue of being honest with our children, the author begins listing reasons for why she now raises her children without God.

“God is a bad parent and role model. If God is our father, then he is not a good parent. Good parents don’t allow their children to inflict harm on others. Good people don’t stand by and watch horrible acts committed against innocent men, women and children. They don’t condone violence and abuse. “He has given us free will,” you say? Our children have free will, but we still step in and guide them.”

The problem of evil is one of the oldest and most common objections to the existence of God. I wrote a brief post on the issue over a year ago, but there are plenty of other great resources out there.

The author correctly provides the most common Christian response. Christians believe the existence of evil is compatible with an all-powerful, all-loving God…IF God has sufficient reason to create creatures with free will (and thus, the ability to rebel against Him by committing evil acts).

The author’s response to the “free will defense” is perplexing, however. It’s true that our children have free will, and it’s true that we still step in and guide them. But that isn’t the same as depriving them of free will! As C.S. Lewis points out, “free will, though it makes evil possible, is also the only thing that makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having. A world of automata – of creatures that worked like machines – would hardly be worth creating.”

“God is not logical…”

“…If there is a good, all-knowing, all-powerful God who loves his children, does it make sense that he would allow murders, child abuse, wars, brutal beatings, torture and millions of heinous acts to be committed throughout the history of mankind? Doesn’t this go against everything Christ taught us in the New Testament?”

Not really, no. Check out what Jesus says in Mattew 24:6-9 (NIV): “You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains. Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me.”

Christ tells us – rather bluntly – that life will involve suffering.

He tells us to persevere despite these trials and tribulations. He promises that good will ultimately prevail over evil. But He doesn’t say anything about intervening, in the meantime, to actively prevent all evil by overriding man’s free will.

Continuing on:

“God is not fair…If God is fair, then why are some babies born with heart defects, autism, missing limbs or conjoined to another baby? Clearly, all men are not created equally. Why is a good man beaten senseless on the street while an evil man finds great wealth taking advantage of others? This is not fair. A game maker who allows luck to rule mankind’s existence has not created a fair game.”

The author again appeals to the problem of evil – this time citing a couple examples of natural evil (i.e. birth defects). For a quick overview of how Christians handle the question of natural evil, I recommend THIS POST from Clay Jones.

The author’s view of “fairness” completely fails to account for the existence of sin. Evil (including natural evil) exists as a product of man’s rebellion against God. If it seems “unfair” that we suffer the consequences of our sin, perhaps the problem might be that we’re failing to confront the seriousness of our own, personal rebellion against God.

“God is not present. He is not here. Telling our children to love a person they cannot see, smell, touch or hear does not make sense. It means that we teach children to love an image, an image that lives only in their imaginations. What we teach them, in effect, is to love an idea that we have created, one that is based in our fears and our hopes.”

This paragraph only makes sense if one begins with the assumption that God doesn’t exist. If He does exist, then using His physical absence as a reason for not telling our children about Him is simply preposterous. Consider the young children of soldiers serving overseas (or detained as prisoners of war). Should these children not be taught to love the missing parent, merely because they cannot “see, smell, touch or hear” him?

“God does not teach children to be good. A child should make moral choices for the right reasons. Telling him that he must behave because God is watching means that his morality will be externally focused rather than internally structured. It’s like telling a child to behave or Santa won’t bring presents.”

Here the author reveals a fundamental misunderstanding of the Christian’s motivation for doing good. The idea that Christians act morally simply to avoid God’s wrath is woefully incomplete. If it’s true that Christ – the second person of the Trinity – actually entered into the world to destroy sin by sacrificing Himself on our behalf, then we have a multitude of reasons (aside from eternal punishment) to live morally.

1. Christ, being sinless, stands as our model of moral perfection. We’re specifically called to “live as Jesus did”. (I John 2:6; 1 Peter 2:21)

2. Aside from just making us “feel good”, following God’s moral commands becomes an act of love and gratitude. (John 14:15)

3. Also…yes. Acting morally comes with perks. (Psalm 55:22; Proverbs 11:8)

Furthermore, I think it’s fair to question how one can derive a meaningful system of morality in the first place if one rejects the existence of God. In the absence of an ultimate Moral Lawgiver, doesn’t “right” and “wrong” simply become a matter of social convention and/or personal preference? While attempts have been made by the likes of Sam Harris and Michael Shermer to ground moral values in “science”, they’ve failed pretty badly.

The author continues:

“God teaches narcissism…”

skeptical baby

“…Telling kids there is a big guy in the sky who has a special path for them makes children narcissistic; it makes them think the world is at their disposal and that, no matter what happens, it doesn’t really matter because God is in control.”

That’s…no. Not what the Bible teaches.

The author closes by arguing that belief in God is illogical, and that religion should be “kept at home or in church where it belongs.” Obviously I disagree with her sharply regarding religion’s place in the public square…but that issue probably deserves its own post. Instead, I’ll close with an insightful quote from a friend of mine:

“A mind capable of forming an argument against God is itself compelling evidence of Him.”

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9 thoughts on “On Raising Children Without God

  1. I don’t have time now to make a longer comment, but I’ll reply briefly first:

    This woman could stand to learn a lot more about Christian theology – while I don’t accept most, if not all, of your interpretations – I know usually why you believe them to be right. She could have used better arguments, if that was the course she chose. On the other hand, I felt some of what she said was legitimate – especially the part about teaching her kids to solve their own problems and not leave them up to a god.

    Most importantly, I need to tell you about something that’s been bugging me for awhile:

    1. Your GIF is a picture of Nathan Fillion from Firefly.
    2. NATHAN FILLION’S CHARACTER ON FIREFLY IS AN ATHEIST.
    3. Please cease and desist, or at least note the absurdity of using such a GIF while defending religious arguments. 😛

    • With regards to the Nathan Fillion GIF…I feel no shame. 😉

      But on an unrelated note, I wanted you to know that I immensely enjoyed the Lincoln v. Roosevelt question you submitted in the “Q&A” awhile back. It kind of got buried behind some of my other posts (I have 19 drafts right now, haha)…but I’m hoping to publish that by the end of this month.

  2. Ultimatley, atheist is almost a nonsensical word. It is based on a theological supposition rooted in a language by a people that believed in many many gods and yet had a word for “without gods. ” “Rejectionist” would be a more accurate term.

    Why do I state this? This lady is a rejectionist. She is giving reasons for why she “rejects.”

    Ultimatley she is “rejecting” what Yeshua (Jesus) called the most important command in the entire text: “Sh’ma Yisra’el! Adonai Eloheinu, Adonai echad.

    Deuteronomy 6:5-7 (CJB)
    5 and you are to love Adonai your God with all your heart, all your being and all your resources.
    6 These words, which I am ordering you today, are to be on your heart;
    7 and you are to teach them carefully to your children. You are to talk about them when you sit at home, when you are traveling on the road, when you lie down and when you get up.

    She is a rejectionist rejecting this very command that was reitterated by Yeshua – a command to “teach them carefully to your children.”

    Christopher Hitchens, a famous “rejectionist” has used the same line of reasoning she uses and I would suspect by her writing that she is a fan.

    By stating what she “rejects” and why, she also implies what she would possibly accept. The problem is, what she would accept would be a fabrication of who the Creator actually is – essentially she would only belive in a creator that she could create to be what she would have that creator be. Thus, by creating the creator, she becomes the god – free to create – free to reject.

    Repentence is turning “to” God from your sin. Apostosy would be turning “from” God to your sin. Apostasy is rejection.

    My 2 cents anyway –
    Be blessed!

  3. Pingback: Weekly Roundup – 8/2 | Youth Apologetics Network - Train Today, Defend Tomorrow

  4. Occasionally I see similar, poorly informed, arguments about God from parents who seek to homeschool, but don’t want curricula or teaching materials that are “too Christian.” In fact one parent recently posted on a Charlotte Mason method (which is so infused with God-as-origin-of-all-areas-of-study-world-view that I can’t even see how you could strip it out) FB site that she didn’t mind “a little bit of God talk – just not too much.” Which frankly reminded me of the aesthetic at our former United Methodist Church.

    I have to bite my fingers. And on the good days, I just pray right then and there, that God will place them in proximity to genuine Christians with a solid understanding of Jesus. And I then I pray for the wisdom to be more genuine and solid. (Work in progress I think.)

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