An article from Patheos just popped up on my newsfeed that indicates that children raised in non-religious households tend to be more kind and empathetic than their religious counterparts. I know this may seem counterintuitive, but it is entirely true in my experience and other friends that have left the church and are raising their kids without religion.
Based on my experience, here are a few reasons that is so.
- No guilt / sin / you fall short of the glory of god – so the child doesn’t ever look at themselves as a failure or disappointment in need of forgiveness. When they do wrong, they take responsibility for it and ask forgiveness of the person they wronged.
- Others are not sinning. Kids just see people, not life choices to agree with or not. There is actually no thought to what category someone belongs in. They ONLY see the person, no judgment. I also find that they are the first to stand up when they hear people being put down.
- Girls are equal to boys. There are no messages of women need to submit to men, let their husbands make decisions or speak for them. So both boys and girls just respect each other as equals and stand up when they see others being devalued.
- The only truth is what is real and observable. The kids have no problem discerning fact from fiction or understanding the role that evidence plays in identifying reality. They do not believe in magic but absolutely love keeping magic alive in their imagination and pretend play.
- No prayer means that when someone is in trouble, the kids think of active solutions to help the other or ways that they can support someone by listening to them, hugs, whatever. It also means that if they have a problem, they brainstorm and figure out the best way to solve it.
- No angels and demons, god and satan always fighting over them. No figures standing over them while they sleep. No invisible eye that sees everything they do every moment. When we first stopped speaking as if there was, the biggest change I noticed in my kids was they were sooooo much less fearful of things.
- No heaven or hell means that life right now has meaning. That every day is precious. Kids take much less for granted. There is no cosmic do-over. They have today to make a difference in this world. This also means that they do not have the burden of thinking that friends, family, people just walking about the earth doing their lives are going to hell. So they don’t feel compelled to intervene or invade others to make sure those others believe what they do.
- No bible means no stories that conflict with reality. No cognitive dissonance trying to reconcile a loving god with slavery, rape, animal sacrifice, wiping out of the human race, a man sleeping with his daughters, a man willing to kill his son on an altar or any of the other atrocities in the Bible. We still have bibles in the house and the kids can read them whenever they want. They do on occasion and come to me in disgust or confusion because it doesn’t make sense.
Kids are naturally empathetic and without an us/them distinction or being told they are not part of this world and to avoid worldly things or others that may try to lead them astray . . they are free to interact with others that are different from them without fear. They can listen to the ideas and opinions of others with an open mind and consider what they are being told. They are confident in their own evaluation of information and in their own abilities. They don’t count on an outside invisible influence to intervene – they problem solve and take responsibility for their own actions, accept that those actions have real consequences, and actively work to make things better because they know the work of humans can change the world.