Distorted Vision- The Wrongness of Secular Parenting?

I was doing a search on the internet for “Secular Parenting” when I came across this article came to my attention.

Because it is broken up into segments, I thought that I’d write a quick response to each segment, rather than one long post on the whole thing. There are some decent points in the article, and I have no doubt that the author has the best of intentions, however there are some problems here.

First, the author equates “vision” with “expectations.” This is a minor quibble, but I think it’s important to realize that the two are not the same. I equate a vision for my parenting with how I want things to turn out and who I would like for my kids to be when all is said and done. I want my kids to feel loved, confident in themselves, and individual thinkers who don’t just blindly accept appeals to and from authority. My expectations are how I expect my children to get along in life. They need to be respectful, courteous, and kind. In reality, these expectations are more of myself than the kids as I need to teach them how and why to be this way.

The author states that our culture shapes our expectations in parenting. I have no argument with that. This is commonly understood that we behave according to the culture in which we’re raised. One only need visit another country to see that there are differences. However, because this article is an appeal for biblically-based parenting, I think it needs to be mentioned that our culture also has a strong influence on our religious faith as well. We’ve all heard the argument before, the religious faith you follow tends to be the faith of your parents or those around you with the most influence. This of course is not every situation. My parents are believers, yet I left the fold. There are plenty of examples of children rejecting their parents’ religion for another. I do think it is safe to say that generally speaking, our environment strongly influences our religious outlook.

Some parents think that their children will just run on their own. The modern mentality often incorporates this mindset into their lifestyle. I suppose there are some parents who think their children will just “run on their own.” However, the very next sentence says, without any evidence mind you, that this is often the mindset of the “modern mentality.” Firstly, is it just some parents or is it broad-based? Secondly, since you are separating modern mentality from biblical mentality, I think great care needs to be taken with how biblical you want your parenting to get. I’m not going to sit and list a bunch of examples, we’re all adults, but you know the common arguments about how children are treated by parents:

1. Disobedient kids should be put to death (Romans 1:20);

2. Tamar (and her unborn baby) were to be burned to death by her Father-in-Law, Judah, for prostitution until he found out HE was the father of the unborn child…then she was called righteous (Genesis 38);

3. Children should obey their parents in everything (Colossians 3:20);

4. Women are ceremonially unclean for twice as long following the birth of a daughter than a son (Leviticus 12).

These are minor ones that I’ve picked. There are numerable others where God orders the mass execution of entire people groups, God orders Abraham to sacrifice his son (as a test of faith)…which fortunately He stops just in time. I know the arguments concerning societal laws vs. God’s laws when it comes to these examples, however, my point is that isn’t our rejection of killing our kids because they are disobedient an example of this “modern mentality?” Our society has changed. What are the biblical ways of raising kids vs. the modern? Why are the biblical ways better? If the bible is inspired of God, how do we choose the correct way of raising our kids?

The author goes on to cite three news examples to buttress his argument. Once again, the problem is there is no corroboration of his point. In the suicide example, he states the statistics without providing any substance. It is just said that their “despair hit so hard that they gave up on life.” Well, this is true I’m sure. What’s the point though? I’m sure he intends to say that biblical parenting would solve the suicide problem, but where is the argument for it. WHAT IS BIBLICAL PARENTING?

The second example is sexual intercourse among teenagers.

By the ninth grade it is said that 34 percent of teens have had sexual intercourse. This rises to 60 percent by the twelfth grade. Okay, what’s the answer here? Abstinence training? Is sexual intercourse bad? I’m sure he wants to argue that it should only take place in marriage, but he doesn’t even say that. He just states the statistic. But he does add his own opinion here:

All the guilt, horror and shame occurs because their parents did not care for them.

Wow, that’s quite a statement. Sex results in guilt, horror, and shame? I’m sure it does sometimes. My observation (and opinion, since we’re just giving opinions it seems) is that guilt, horror, and shame tend to happen more because of unrealistic ideals placed on kids from either religious beliefs or their unreasonable parents. Teenagers are human and humans are sexual beings. Should teenagers have sex? I don’t think the majority of them are ready for the emotional result of sex. But to shame and guilt kids for behaving according to their nature, seems to me a bad way to go about it. At that point it’s not about trying to help kids navigate their desires and feelings, it’s about punishing them. I don’t believe most kids would naturally feel those feelings of shame, horror and guilt without the outside imposition of others. Of course, shame can be felt by kids depending on the situation. But to say that all sex of teenagers results in this is unfounded.

The last example is the over-medication of kids. I’m not an expert in child psychology, and I won’t pretend to be one. I’m sure plenty of kids are being medicated when they needn’t be, however, just because we suspect it’s a problem doesn’t mean that biblical parenting is the solution.

I think my main problem with at least this portion of the article is that there are no arguments in favor of biblical parenting. There isn’t even a description of what biblical parenting is. Only in the conclusion does he come close to offering this: Families were designed as close working units to provide an element of affection, provision and protection. Without this support from their families, the children will go unloved, needy and vulnerable. I can’t argue with this statement…I do believe the family is an appropriate vehicle in which to raise a child. The problem is this isn’t a just “biblical” view of parenting. I think the vast majority of parents, both believers and non-believers alike can agree with this statement. However, what is the definition of a “family”? Here we get into old mindset vs. modern mindset. Is it only a man and a woman with children? I suspect that would be his argument. He never defines it though.

I know that the vast majority of people who read this website will be believers who are looking for a quick shot in the arm of motivation. But that doesn’t make for good or justifiable argument. It’s opinion that is disguised as expertise, and to expect that people should automatically accept this is not appropriate. This is an example of group-think, not true inquiry.

Advertisements

Okay, So I’m Angry Over a Movie Review

Really, I try hard not to get worked up over what I perceive to be ignorant comments, viewpoints, etc…But I can’t help it with this. I didn’t even want to link to it, however, my rant will make no sense if I don’t show on what I’m ranting.

Disclaimer: the reviewer who is being reviewed here will henceforth be known as Tool. I will always capitalize Tool out of respect for this Tool.

I watched the movie “The Kids Are All Right” a couple of weeks ago. So enough time has passed now that I have likely forgotten much of the movie. However, I can tell you that I was truly engaged in this movie from the start. While it isn’t fast-paced, I found it gripping. The character development was deeper than we get on most movies today, seemingly. While the family is a brother, sister, and two lesbian mom’s, this story wasn’t about lesbian parenting.

This movie did a fantastic job at showing the family as a typical American family in the 21st century. This is a family, while not necessarily among the status quo, who is dealing with the same day-to-day issues. The moms are dealing with the same challenges most all married people deal with after having been married for many years. The kids are dealing with sex and identity just as the majority of teenagers deal with in real life. The characters are deep, complicated, and human. I highly encourage anyone of age to see this film.

The purpose of this post is not to expound the virtues of the movie. I don’t need to do that, the movie speaks for itself. Instead, I came across this movie review and it really, really upset me. I get that this review is coming from a Christian perspective, however, I think Christians themselves should be angry over these people. This post would be way too long for me to go into everything I would like, but here’s one example that really raised my eyebrows:

THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT is a despicable, crude, obscene example of the moral perversion running rampant in today’s godless secular humanist society and in the homosexual “community.”

Really? The homosexual “community”??? I cannot tell you how irritated I am at the patronizing effect of those simple quotes around the word. I am not homosexual, I have been married to a woman for over 14 years now. However I am woefully aware of the terrible way our country treats those in the GLBT communities. While Tools like the person that wrote this review will argue that gay marriage trivializes marriage…they seem perfectly content in trivializing people when they write with this attitude. Do you want to have a Christian attitude and spread the love of Jesus, then don’t cheapen other people.

Next line: As such, it also shows the complete breakdown of morality among most, if not all, liberals and leftists, especially among those who promote homosexual and “transgender” behavior, including the approval and promotion of such evil perversion among the world’s children.

Already dealt with the quotes above, so I’ll let them go on this one. Instead, let’s look at this:

“Complete breakdown of morality among most, if not all, liberals and leftists…” Just curious, was Jesus a Republican? Oh, what I meant was “was Jesus a conservative?” I’ve known a good many pastors and teachers in my lifetime that would argue that Jesus quite revolutionary. I think what really irks me about this line is that the Tool just makes this blanket statement, as if he or she (let’s face it, it has to be a he) just has a personal axe to grind. The “breakdown of morality” is a pretty big claim, especially to pin it on one group of people. Just what is the “breakdown of morality” anyway? I get tired of the same old accusations leveled at me or others like me because I am fairly liberal (formerly conservative) and an atheist (formerly Christian). I won’t go into detail on liberals and atheist reasons to be angry when it has already been done so powerfully.

The main message of this movie, which includes very strong explicit sex scenes and abundant obscene language and doesn’t make much sense, is that homosexual couples and families have problems just like traditional heterosexual ones, but that, like traditional families, love, forgiveness and family bonds can overcome those problems. This is probably what a licentious, lamebrain, loony leftist will see. A media-wise person, however, will discover an obnoxious, obscene movie with unappealing, confused characters. He or she also probably will note that this movie proves that homosexual couples who have children are indeed perverted, damaged, misguided people who lack the moral sense that comes when people accept a biblical worldview, turn away from sin, and continually seek refuge, redemption and salvation in God through Jesus Christ.

Okay, what appear to be the standard ad hominem attacks notwithstanding, I feel like the Tool is getting somewhat close to seeing past his own hate colored glasses when he says that the main message is that homosexual couples and families have problems just like traditional heterosexual ones, but that, like traditional families, love, forgiveness and family bonds can overcome those problems.” What I took from the movie is that it didn’t focus on the homosexual part at all. It focused on the family and their situation. The fact that the Tool can’t get over the homosexual part is really his problem. This movie was so much more than that.

Here’s a great line from Tool: “this movie proves that homosexual couples who have children are indeed perverted, damaged, misguided people who lack the moral sense that comes when people accept a biblical worldview, turn away from sin, and continually seek refuge, redemption and salvation in God through Jesus Christ.” By this point, I am just laughing. It does help to write my way through sometimes. Look at the first three words in the above quote…”THIS MOVIE PROVES.” Anyone else see a problem with that? *crickets chirping*

Look, here’s the deal. No religion, Christianity or other, has a corner on the market of morality. As the Tool in our study shows, beliefs don’t equal morals. In fact, I personally think morality to be a load of hogwash anyway, but that’s a topic for another day. Just look at that quote above. If you were a non-believer, how would you feel about the Tool saying that he and the people like him have a higher moral sense through Jesus Christ. If you are a believer, how do you think the non-believer feels when reading this sort of message. I don’t care whether or not the Tool liked the movie, but I would rather he write an honest review treatise on what he sees as wrong in society.

Does God Exist?

Well, it seems as though there’s yet another religious tool floating around the web. Actually, I just came across it on Facebook for the first time…

Forget the fact that this little project has been proven fallacious. I’m more interested in the rather absurd argument it presents. While I never intend for this blog to be a breeding ground for religious debate and endless back and forth on *you show me yours and I’ll show you mine* proofs, I do however like to occasionally point out some issues with apologetics.

1. To equate cold and darkness with an idea or concept is a problem. Cold and darkness are observable through our senses. Whether they are real, or just the absence of their opposite, doesn’t really matter. They “feel” real. If we can experience something (or the absence of something) through our senses, it’s real (practically speaking).

2. Evil is a concept, and idea. To say that evil is the absence of God could be correct. To say that evil is the absence of good could be correct. Perhaps good is the absence of evil? Perhaps good is the absence of God? Which way is the right way? And why? It is no more correct for person “A” to assert that Evil is the absence of God, than it is for person “B” to assert that Good is the absence of God.

3. The implicit “appeal to authority” of Einstein as a defender of the faith is really disingenuous. If Einstein were a believer, I could understand. However, the poor fellow is still to this day misquoted and misjudged. Einstein was not a believer! One can debate all day long the actual views of Einstein on this. What is safe to say, is that he was no believer in a personal God.

I am a deeply religious nonbeliever. This is a somewhat new kind of religion. I have never imputed to Nature a purpose or a goal, or anything that could be understood as anthropomorphic. What I see in Nature is a magnificent structure that we can comprehend only very imperfectly, and that must fill a thinking person with a feeling of humility. This is a genuinely religious feeling that has nothing to do with mysticism. The idea of a personal God is quite alien to me and seems even naive. -Einstein in a letter to Hans Muehsam (30 March 1954).

I assure you that I am not trying to be provocative, just realistic. If you are a believer, I don’t care in what, you need to be aware that what you see as a foolproof argument in favor of your belief tain’t necessarily so. I find that religious debate (political debate too for that matter) over the internet is a waste of time. It needs to be understood by both sides that the chances of anyone actually having his or her mind changed because of an argument is infinitely small. Arguments and proofs are not going to change minds. The believer will not look at arguments from my point of view, with an open mind.

In essence, the above video will have its desired effect on those who are already prone to believe. The nonsense of the argument will be just that to non-believers…nonsense.

Guilt

The second installment of my series on “Why I Won’t Raise my Children in Religion” has to do with the issue of guilt.  Richard Dawkins, in his book The God Delusion, quotes the American comedienne CathyLadman as stating “All religions are the same: religion is basically guilt, with different holidays.”  While she may have been exaggerating the point, I find truth there as well.

When I consider the Christian creation story, what stands out to me is the immediate entrance of guilt onto the scene.  This perfect, omniscient, omnipresent God creates the world and all that’s in it in six days…and it was good.  This God creates the perfect world and the perfect human (except God did mess up since it was an afterthought that he realized that it wasn’t good for Adam to be alone).  Regardless, everything is going swimmingly until Adam and Eve (perhaps Eve was most at fault) were deceived into eating of the tree of knowledge.  Even if you hold this story as true, you must realize that Adam and Eve couldn’t have been created perfect as they had an obvious curiosity that needed to be fulfilled.  Something was missing, they wanted to be like God.  They were not living according to their nature which is to pursue knowledge.  A favorite defense of this is that they were created perfect, but God also gave them “free will.”  Free will is a much offered explanation of Adam and Eve, and our situation since the fall.  I find this an argument that makes God out to be even more deplorable than usual because, according to the Christian:

  1. God gave mankind free will so as not to have “robots” worshiping him;
  2. Mankind chose to use that free will to reason and gain knowledge, in essence to not behave like robots;
  3. God punishes mankind for using the one thing he gave us that truly separates us from the other animals.

Religion has through the ages guilted mankind into a faithful servitude.  It provides a constant denigration of mankind and who we are as fools who will never do right or know right without god.  I am tired of being told that I am not worthy of what god has done for me, when in fact, I have only lived according to the nature that he supposedly gave me.  I am tired of religion preaching to us how base and vile we are without the holy spirit.

The other night I watched the movie Religulous for the first time.  There was an interview with a U.S. Congressman who couldn’t say whether or not humanity would know right from wrong without God.  This was a U.S. Congressman!  The idea that we get our notion of right and wrong from a god that created us six-thousand years ago is insulting.  Religion specializes in the art of debasing humanity, and as a population here in the United States, we seem to embrace it.

So, I refuse to raise my children under an umbrella of guilt.  I will not tell my son or yet-to-be-born daughter that they are unworthy of anything.  They need to know that they have the potential for doing nearly anything they want in life, and I will encourage them to pursue that to the highest and most ethical degree they can.  I choose to raise my children to the best of my ability with an appreciation for the uniqueness and diversity of humanity, to question authority (even mine as painful as that can be), and to think for themselves; that when they are pursuing their utmost, they have an abundant capacity for empathy and compassion.  I think this is the greatest gift I could ever give my children, the confidence to be, love, and appreciate themselves.

Self-Interest

The first in a series of “Why I won’t raise my children in religion” is based on the subject of self-interest.  I ask that you stick with me here as the will take some explanation.

I have a personal philosophy that every significant action we as humans take is based out of self-interest.  When I say self-interest, I don’t mean it negatively.  In fact, it is self-interest that drives us to act humanely.  When driving down the road, I know that it is in my self-interest to obey the law in order to stay alive.  Likewise, it is also in my interest to make sure that I am not the cause of injury to another so as not to violate my values.  Our very foundation of laws and ethics are centered around each of us living as well and as long as possible.  I don’t believe that we obey authority strictly because we don’t want to suffer the consequences of not obeying, but that the reasonable person will obey because he or she knows subconsciously that the laws are there to preserve.  This is why civilization works.

The first issue I have with religion of any stripe is that it is perhaps the only activity in which we:

  1. Invent a figurehead (God) who is infinite, perfect, and conveniently inexplicable;
  2. Worship this figurehead for *his* infiniteness, perfection, and inexplicability;
  3. Decide to love this God and commit ourselves to a lifetime of devotion; all so we can
  4. ATTAIN SOME SORT OF PARADISE AFTER OUR DEATH.

My question is this, if there were no salvation, would all Christians love Jesus and devote their lives to him?  I think not. (Think Pascal’s Wager)  Religion is a way to try to pursue our own self-interest and gain a sense of belonging all while espousing the altruistic nature of it.  We can feel good about ourselves because we are part of a group that is devoted to “something greater than ourselves.”  In short, we love God because of what we can get out of it.

The problem is that this is not a true love relationship. It is far too one-sided to be any true relationship.  Trying to love an invisible, infinite, defineless being is pretty difficult.  Religion loses the relationship focus and becomes susceptible to political and ideological competition.  It also becomes less about the virtue of the core beliefs and more about knowing that my worldview is superior to yours because of all the other people that agree with me.  Indeed, religion and faith are tools to classify and divide, not to pursue the altruistic values in which they are shrouded.

Recognizing the inherent self-interest with which we all live our daily lives, we can see and appreciate the unique qualities and independent nature of every person.  We are all different; we look at the world from different perspectives.    We can think for ourselves, come to our own conclusions, and with the exception of our selfish behavior, be ethical in our dealings with other because we inherently see how that behavior benefits us in the long run.

The problem with this worldview is that we are also selfish. There are plenty of examples of how we act in selfish ways every day as opposed to acting in our self-interest.  I view selfishness as the “I want what I want” complex.  Damn the consequences.  Selfishness is different than self-interest.  Self-interest is acting in a way that agrees with our values and the values of society in order to be a productive and respected person in the long-run.  Selfishness is the short term interest that tends to go against our values and the values of society, and consequently, somebody loses.

When it comes to parenting my children, I think the trick is helping them to live according to self-interest, not selfishness.  If my son acts in self-interest, he will be ethical, helpful, loving, and good because he will inherently understand that living according to these values will be good for him in the long run.  However, he does not need the Church to set the rules for him and tell him how to act so he can earn his great reward after he’s dead.  No, living in the present, enjoying life now, and getting the daily reward of feeling good about himself for living according to his values is so much more pleasurable.

Just a Little about Me

Hello all,

Welcome to the SecuDad blog.  I have long realized that secular parenting is gaining traction in popular culture, but we have a long way to go.  It occurred to me that the only way for those of us that care deeply about secular parenting to continue this trend is for more of us to make our presence known.  This blog is not intended to portray me as some sort of expert, just a secular Dad that is working through parenting along with everyone else.

At the date of this writing, I have been married for just 2 months shy of 13 years.  I have a wonderful wife, a two and a half year old son, and a little girl to be born in just a month.

While I am relatively new in the parenting field, I think that one of the best ways to work through thoughts, questions, quandries and such is to write about them.  To put these out for public consideration and response is perhaps the best way I can learn and grow.

While this blog is written from a secular viewpoint (I am an irreligionist) for other seculars, I encourage people of faith to read, consider, and respond accordingly.  My intention is to always write with respect for people, although not necessarily for viewpoints that strike me as unworthy of respect.

Thanks for your readership, and Best Regards.