Paul Revere by Cyrus Dallin, North End, Boston



Sunday, January 18, 2015

The Kids Are All Right, Part IV: Secular Family Values Edition

Below is an informative op-ed from the LA Times that speaks to the questions many parents who are raising their children with no religion have.  

Raised in the Catholic faith, I made the decision to not, in turn, raise my children in any religion, but often found myself second-guessing my decision. As they grew and asked question about religion, I told them that when they were old enough to understand, they were free to learn about any religion that interested them and to make an informed decision about joining any faith.  They made the decision to not join any church, mosque, or temple, and it turned out that there was no need for any doubt on my part, since my children are moral, caring, loving adults who are raising their children as they were raised.  In fact, my grandson's teacher, in a parent-teacher conference, told my daughter that my grandson was the kindest student in her class.  
Another grandchild who is not being raised in any faith had questions about religion. Her mother told her that it would be her choice, when she was older, whether or not to choose a faith to study and join.  The grandchild thought about the conversation with her mother and later said that she would probably not join a religion because Evolution made more sense to her.  So there it is.  Mine is only one family out of millions of others who have made the choice to raise their children without a religion and to see that passed on, by choice, to other generations.

The study linked in the following article from the LA Times shows the growing number of Americans who choose "None" as their religious affiliation and the article also shows that the countries where secularism is predominant are stable, with lower incidents of violence than religious majority countries, and that their populations are content and happy.

How Secular Family Values Stack Up
by Phil Zuckerman, LA Times Op-Ed

 More children are “growing up godless” than at any other time in our nation's history. They are the offspring of an expanding secular population that includes a relatively new and burgeoning category of Americans called the “Nones,” so nicknamed because they identified themselves as believing in “nothing in particular” in a 2012 study by the Pew Research Center. 

 The number of American children raised without religion has grown significantly since the 1950s, when fewer than 4% of Americans reported growing up in a nonreligious household, according to several recent national studies. That figure entered the double digits when a 2012 study showed that 11% of people born after 1970 said they had been raised in secular homes. This may help explain why 23% of adults in the U.S. claim to have no religion, and more than 30% of Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 say the same.

 So how does the raising of upstanding, moral children work without prayers at mealtimes and morality lessons at Sunday school? Quite well, it seems. Far from being dysfunctional, nihilistic and rudderless without the security and rectitude of religion, secular households provide a sound and solid foundation for children, according to Vern Bengston, a USC professor of gerontology and sociology.


Another meaningful related fact: Democratic countries with the lowest levels of religious faith and participation today — such as Sweden, Denmark, Japan, Belgium and New Zealand — have among the lowest violent crime rates in the world and enjoy remarkably high levels of societal well-being. If secular people couldn't raise well-functioning, moral children, then a preponderance of them in a given society would spell societal disaster. Yet quite the opposite is the case.


Josh said...

The evidence is overwhelming that secular "values" best religious values, with ample room to spare. It's no contest. It's like if Floyd Mayweather fought a one-armed senior citizen.

The highest crime densities show high religious densities. Criminals incarcerated are far and away religious.

The arguments for religion bringing about morality to the west kind of fall apart even within the context of the religious argument; that is to say, if these values were so great, how the hell did we end up with the Dark Ages in the first place? What took thousands of years to suddenly change what is quite literally and necessarily unchangeable?

I don't rightly have a plan for my children. I won't shelter them from religion, but I won't teach/preach it either. In my mind, there is only one commandment: Be good to one another. We only get one go at this, don't screw your life up, or someone else's, by treating people poorly. What does that other person feel when you ridicule or harm them? Do you want that happening to you? Straighten up!

Secular values aren't necessarily enumerated anywhere or taught as value sets that require strict adherence that I'm aware. One need not subscribe to humanism or anything. But the fewer religious people we have running around justifying selfish acts by attaching a god as a motive, the better off everyone else seems to be.

(O)CT(O)PUS said...

I am not convinced religion per se is the independent variable here. Numerous psychosocial research studies support the view that quality of parenting counts more than other variables. When children are raised in a kind and loving environment, they tend to mirror the values of their parents and raise their own kids accordingly.

If you accept the view that certain religious denominations are more authoritarian than others, then the issue of strict and cruel child-rearing practices comes into sharper focus. The authoritarian mindset approves the use of coercive means to shape, control, and enforce behaviors in accordance with an absolute set of standards. It values obedience, respect for authority, work, tradition, and social order. The authoritarian model is indifferent to pain and suffering. Thus, in my view, when we speak of “religion,” we are actually talking about an authoritarian mindset.

“Spare the rod and spoil the child” is an example of authoritarian thinking that inflicts strict upbringing to force submission. When a cruel upbringing is represented to children as righteous and proper, they may grow into adults who will avenge themselves without qualms by inflicting the same cruel practices on their own children. Society will commend these newly minted authoritarians as upstanding enforcers of the community standard. Thus, cruelty passes from generation to generation and flourishes under cover of piety and patriotism, often with this injunction: “It’s is for your own good.” (Ref: Alice Miller).

Cruel child rearing practices have social and historical implications. Violence is learned in the home. Obedience is a condition of beatitude. Sometimes abused and traumatized children reenact their childhoods on the political stage and turn themselves into demagogues and tyrants, or become the adherents, adulators, and henchman of tyrants and lunatic ideologues. Cruel and abusive child-rearing practices are the source of all injustice and tyranny in the world.

Oso said...

Me and most of us at the totally agree with Josh.

Shaw Kenawe said...

I've personally known exceptions to what you've described in your comment: children of very religious, very strict, even harsh upbringing, who made the choice as adults to do the complete opposite of what they lived under as children.

I've also seen families whose parents were gentle, kind, and loving and who have seen their children grow into cruel and unfeeling tyrants.

I know those are exceptions, but I've seen it happen in my lifetime.

Shaw Kenawe said...

Sorry, the comment @3:47 was directed at (O)CT(O)PUS.

Oso @3:25, I'm not sure I get what you're saying.

Shaw Kenawe said...

Josh, this post isn't definitive, but it does point to the fact that families can and do raise caring, responsible, loving children, even if they do not follow a religion.

And (O)CT(O)PUS has brought into the discussion some valid points.

Rational Nation USA said...

Excellent post. It reinforces the validity of my own parents decision to leave religious choice to their children. My own children had the same choices.

Josh said...

"Josh, this post isn't definitive..."

No. But each piece of evidence, however anecdotal or narrow in scope, adds to the whole -- a picture that seems to be coming together rather well to say that religion, while maybe not the only detrimental factor, is a stifling, criminal-attracting, immoral agent acting against the best interest of humanity.

It doesn't even necessarily have to result in secular children turning out better than religious children either. A stalemate would render void the myth that morally upright people need adhere closely the holy words of X or Y. It would work to show that cultural and geographic traditions of passing down value sets doesn't influence good behavior or good objective values unless those values passed down themselves are good objective values, not just superstitious scare tactics which undeserving laurel-resters claim are responsible for everything good to ever happen on the planet.

Shaw Kenawe said...

From Pitzer College, Claremont, California Study

Values, Beliefs, Opinions, and Worldviews

It is often assumed that someone who doesn’t believe in God doesn’t believe in anything,
or that a person who has no religion must have no values. These assumptions are simply
untrue. People can reject religion and still maintain strong beliefs. Being godless does not
mean being without values. Numerous studies reveal that atheists and secular people most
certainly maintain strong values, beliefs, and opinions. But more significantly, when we
actually compare the values and beliefs of atheists and secular people to those of religious
people, the former are markedly less nationalistic, less prejudiced, less anti-Semitic, less
racist, less dogmatic, less ethnocentric, less close-minded, and less authoritarian (Greeley
and Hout 2006; Sider 2005; Altemeyer 2003, 2009; Jackson and Hunsberger 1999; Wulff
1991; Altemeyer and Hunsberger 1992, 1997; Beit-Hallahmi 2007; Beit-Hallahmi and
Argyle 1997; Batson et al. 1993; Argyle 2000).

Concerning political orientations, atheist and secular people are much more likely to be
registered Independent than the general American population, and they are much less
likely to be right-wing, conservative, or to support the Republican party than their religious
peers (Kosmin 2008). Keysar (2007, 38) reports that 50 percent of American atheists
are Independent, 26 percent are Democrat, and 10 percent are Republican and that 43
percent of American agnostics are Independent, 22 percent are Democrat, and 15 percent
are Republican.

Shaw Kenawe said...


Criminality and Moral Conduct
In many people’s minds – and as expressed so clearly in Psalm 14 cited at the outset of
this essay – atheism is equated with lawlessness and wickedness, while religion is equated
with morality and law-abiding behavior. Does social science support this position?

Although some studies have found that religion does inhibit criminal behavior (Baier
and Wright 2001; Powell 1997; Bainbridge 1989; Elifson et al. 1983; Peek et al. 1985)
others have actually found that religiosity does not have a significant effect on inhibiting
criminal behavior (Cochran et al. 1994; Evans et al. 1996; Hood et al. 1996). ‘‘The claim
that atheists are somehow more likely to be immoral,’’ asserts Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi
(2007, 306), ‘‘has long been disproven by systematic studies.’’
Admittedly, when it comes to underage alcohol consumption or illegal drug use,
secular people do break the law more than religious people (Benson 1992; Gorsuch
1995; Hood et al. 1996; Stark and Bainbridge 1996). But when it comes to more serious
or violent crimes, such as murder, there is simply no evidence suggesting that
atheist and secular people are more likely to commit such crimes than religious people.

After all, America’s bulging prisons are not full of atheists; according to Golumbaski
(1997), only 0.2 percent of prisoners in the USA are atheists – a major underrepresentation.
If religion, prayer, or God-belief hindered criminal behavior, and secularity or atheism
fostered lawlessness, we would expect to find the most religious nations having the lowest
murder rates and the least religious nations having the highest. But we find just the opposite.

Murder rates are actually lower in more secular nations and higher in more religious
nations where belief in God is deep and widespread (Jensen 2006; Paul 2005; Fajnzylber
et al. 2002; Fox and Levin 2000). And within America, the states with the highest murder
rates tend to be highly religious, such as Louisiana and Alabama, but the states with
the lowest murder rates tend to be among the least religious in the country, such as Vermont
and Oregon (Ellison et al. 2003; Death Penalty Information Center, 2008).

Shaw Kenawe said...


although there are some notable exceptions, rates of most violent crimes tend
to be lower in the less religious states and higher in the most religious states (United
States Census Bureau, 2006). Finally, of the top 50 safest cities in the world, nearly all
are in relatively non-religious countries, and of the eight cities within the United States
that make the safest-city list, nearly all are located in the least religious regions of the
country (Mercer Survey, 2008).

Oso said...

Here's an example of an authoritarian bully, and a pastor at that:

"A pastor at the Bible Baptist Church in Hasbrouck Heights, New Jersey is coming under fire after his church posted a video of him claiming to have converted a “smart aleck” youth by “punching him in the chest as hard as I could.”

(O)CT(O) got it right.

Dave Miller said...

I think I could make the argument that any belief, sometimes taken to an illogical extreme, can cause damage.

Tillich argued that whatever it is that is held incredibly near and dear to us, becomes our religion... be it God, or even something like nationalism.

What that religion is, and how it is expressed, or lived out, for me, becomes the potential for problems.

I think Josh would be hard pressed to defend his claim, not qualified at all, that religion "is a stifling, criminal-attracting, immoral agent acting against the best interest of humanity."

Has it, or is never, a source for good?

I would say yes it has. Even Nick Kristof, writer for the NY Times acknowledges the positive work of Christians worldwide in his book "Half the Sky."

But I clearly share the frustrations of many here when confronted by a lot of the bad we've/I've seen in the name of religion.

Shaw Kenawe said...

Dave, this post was to show that people who do not embrace religion are capable of being loving, caring, moral people.

Non-believers are often discriminated against, even to the point that in some states, they cannot hold political office. Of course we know that's foolish.

Radicalism in anything brings death and destruction.

Dave Miller said...

No doubt Shaw... I was mostly reacting to the comment Josh made..

BTW... what a game from Brady tonight. I sure hope he brings home another trophy to Boston. He's one of the best ever...

Josh said...

"I think Josh would be hard pressed to defend his claim, not qualified at all, that religion "is a stifling, criminal-attracting, immoral agent acting against the best interest of humanity."

Prison populations - far and away religious.

Criminal dense populations - far and away religious.

The vast majority of the world's biggest acts of inhumane atrocity - religious.

The Dark Ages - religious.

Most territorial disputes, land theft, etc - religious.

Most terrorists - religious.

Is that to say that religion provides nothing good to the people? I don't know; I don't really think about in perhaps the same terms.

For instance, the most moderate religious people I know personally or know of are moderates not because they're religious per se, but rather because they choose to only follow the parts of their religion that they believe moral. A fundamentalist who follows the word to the letter is a bigoted, perhaps violent, oppressive individual. Someone who believes in equal rights for woman and homosexuals and freedom, etc, is someone who is not following exactly the written word of their religion, but rather are interpreting it differently for themselves.

Even charity, which I hold in high esteem, comes often with a caveat. Are people acting generously because they believe it's the right thing to do, or are they seeking a reward or seeking converts?

Religion, by its mere existence, seeks to control individuals. Demanding one only have a certain god, demanding one follow rules A-Z. Etc. So "stifling" seems accurate. We know how women, homosexuals, slaves, etc, are treated in most scripture, so "immoral" seems accurate." And we know that countless people have used and still use their religion as justification for evil, so "criminal attracting" seems accurate.

What am I saying that's out of bounds? I'm not saying all religious people are bad people. My family is religious. I know some great religious people.

(O)CT(O)PUS said...

There are many common misconceptions with regard to research studies – psychosocial, attitudinal and opinion studies, longitudinal studies, marketing studies, political polling, etc. There are flaws in study design that often give faulty results - such as researcher bias, experimental bias, sampling error, flaws in definitions and study parameters, and errors in interpretation.

In physics, one plots planetary trajectories with accuracy using linear algebra. When studying human behavior, one looks for patterns of behavior using statistical methods. Human behavior is not billiard ball physics; the psychosocial sciences are imprecise at best.

Statistics are measures of probability. The purpose of statistics is to separate random error (also known as background noise) from statistically significant observations (known as ‘strengths of association’).*** People tend to mistake statistical significance as deterministic: Wrong! Just because one research study reports a statistically significant result, it doesn’t mean X persons will behave in Y ways every time … or even 50% or 25% of the time. There may be patterns or correlations or central tendencies – weak or strong - yet there will always exceptions.

Unfortunately, there are folks who tend to quote study reports for purposes of engaging in wanton and gratuitous stereotyping. Like politics and religion, studies are all too often abused to justify personal biases and prejudices.

*** We measure the validity of a correlation (Kramer's Rho) on a scale of zero (no or very low significance) to one (high significance), or on a ‘T’ test (where ‘p’ is equal to or greater than 0.05, the threshold measure of validity).