do atheists indoctrinate their kids?

People say they raise their kids in values neutral environments so they themselves can appear to be reasonable and rational free-thinkers. Truth is, it’s absolutely impossible to raise kids that way and everyone knows it. Sure kids can grow up and decide what to believe once they are mature enough to do so but to say they haven’t been taught a specific ideology and that that ideology isn’t superior in the eyes of their parents is absolutely absurd.

The The Isaiah 53:5 Project has an interesting post encouraging parents to make sure their children know the correct opinion on everything from religion to global warming to happiness. Because apparently there is one definitive, correct opinion to have on every complex issue under the sun.

Luckily for me, I was raised a similar household. I knew the correct opinion on everything by the time I left home at 18. And if I wasn’t sure about any new topics, I knew I could pray for the correct answer to be magically beamed to me, or simply ask my parents.

However, now I’m a little bit older, I’m beginning to suspect there is a flaw in that approach:

  • There is no correct opinion on anything. There are opinions. Opinions that hopefully are formed based on evidence, facts and careful analysis. Everyone, regardless of how clever they are, still comes to different conclusions.
  • I don’t want my children to mindlessly parrot my opinions. I’m pleased that my daughter probes, questions and challenges what I say. She looks for reasons and answers.
  • I’m already annoyed I have to put up with the traditional invisible creatures of our childhood culture, like the tooth fairy and Santa Claus. Most kids also go through religious phases. I’m prepared for her to be interested in any traditional superstition that seems real to her. I’ll encourage her to question and investigate everything, and let her form her own opinions.
  • I can’t even imagine telling a child what the ‘correct’ political opinion is on anything. Unbelievable. It’s one thing to believe your child will fry in everlasting torment if they don’t follow your belief system, but to think in this diverse, constantly changing world that one political system or outlook is correct?
  • My children as they get older will be made aware of my opinions on everything from religion to climate change to happiness. The learning environment and associated discussions will not be neutral. But even at this pre-school age, I explain that every family is different, everyone has different beliefs and everyone has different opinions. And I ask what she thinks and why.

Arm your children with the ability to think through things by themselves. That doesn’t mean attempting to hide our opinions as parents. Only the truly insecure need to ‘teach’ their children to follow illogical fantasies and evidence-weak belief systems as ‘correct’ opinions.

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