Monday, May 31, 2010

Raising children in a atheist/Christian marriage?

As most of you know, I am an atheist who is married to a Christian; Cori and I have been together for almost five and a half years, and it's been great.

When people learn about our cross-faith marriage, they often ask us how we plan to present our beliefs to our children. Well, to begin with, Cori and I have not yet had children, and we are not planning to have any. This isn't because of our differing beliefs, but rather because we are not, at this time, interested in parenting.

But what if we decide one day to have children? Cori and I were talking about this the other day, and the conclusion we came up with was this: if both partners in a cross-faith relationship have some founding values that they both share, raising children shouldn't be that much of a problem.

What values do Cori and I share?

  • It is important to respect others.
  • We believe that it is healthy to have relationships with those of differing cultures and worldviews.
  • We believe that it is healthy to explore and grapple with different points of view and different beliefs, even with those that might make us feel uncomfortable or threatened.
The important point above, for me at least, is exposing our children to different ways of thinking. I'm an atheist, but I will be very happy to send my children to church or Sunday School, simply because Christianity is an extremely important part of Western culture. How can my children understand much or art, literature or history if they are not exposed to Christianity?

But as parents, we will also be responsible for taking our kids on visits to Hindu temples, Mosques and Synagogues, and to introduce them to common problems with theistic thinking. We will encourage our children to make friends from different cultures and religions, so they can find beauty in variety, and learn that – despite the fact that there are many differing beliefs out there – we are all basically human. I hope that, as parents, our children will learn to respect others, critically assess ideas and beliefs, and not feel threatened by doubt.

After all of this, it will not bother me in the slightest if my children finally decide to become Christians, atheists, or anything else. What they become will eventually be their choice, and I think the goal as parents is to give them enough information so that they can make a choice that is well informed.

What do you think?

(See other posts on our cross-faith marriage)


WayPastDueToo said...

Taking kids on field trips to various religious facilities is a great idea. None-the-less, they will inevitably ask Mom and Dad, "What do YOU believe?" and that can be where it gets tough for parents.

Kids emulate their parents, which is why when parents aren't on the same page, it can be quite the quagmire for children. "Do I 'side' with Dad or Mom?" To some kids, it FEELS very much like picking sides no matter how parents present it.

Most kids don't really launch out into exploring their own belief system on much of anything until they are much older. Until their brains are fully grown, it's typical that they'll grab onto Mom and Dad's beliefs and go with that until they can truly grapple with it all on their own later (if they EVER do).

I've seen this especially with politics. This last election was a hot topic on my son's school bus. He was only in the 3rd grade and yet, he and his friends had very BOLD opinions about O'bama. But really ... whose opinions were they? Clearly, they were parroting their parents dinner table conversation - after all, not many 9 year old kids will do in depth research on an election. Religious views at that ages are just the same. They'll say what "they believe" when it's really what they have come to understand from their parents.

My husband and I face this as a mixed couple although ours is a different situ than yours. I brought my husband into the faith 30 years ago. He went into ministry where he remained until recently. I have since become an EX Christian while he's remained in the faith. We raised our first two kids (who are now grown) in the faith. Our 3rd child hasn't been raised with anything and he hasn't inquired a whole lot up to this point. He's curious by nature - as are most kids - but the topic of god hasn't come up much. MY aim is to teach him critical and skeptical thinking skills so that - when he decides he wants to inquire more fully - he'll have the skills to dig into world religions and come to educated decisions on his own. My husband would prefer to pitch the gospel and get him saved.

Not only does your idea of visiting mosques and temples and churches of various kinds sound really wise ... it would also be FUN and interesting, too. I'd enjoy the heck out of that WITH my son and I'm sure it would prompt all kinds of fascinating discussions. How my husband would respond is a big question mark.

Enjoyed the post!

Dana Harmzen said...

Hi Kevi. Now this is a post I thoroughly enjoyed. I think the exposure to different cultures and beliefs can only be good for a child and also expand their knowledge about the world outside their own family life.

Phil said...


I'm curious to know if Cori's position on this differs from your own. After all, from her Christian perspective, what's ultimately at stake is not raising a well-cultured intellectual in this life, but fate of her potential child's soul in eternity. When I look at the mission of the early church (particularly the apostles in Acts), what I see is their overwhelming desire to present to the world the only matter of eternal value-- knowing Christ and Him crucified. They didn't simply present all the options and "leave it up to the hearer" to choose what was best. The Bible uses words like "persuade", "defend", "contend", and "convince" to articulate the fact that believers should really want the world to know and believe in Christ... perhaps even at the risk of sounding narrow-minded or uncultured. Assuming Cori believes in and would follow the biblical model, do you not foresee potential conflict regarding the centrality of the gospel in your home?

Thanks as always for an interesting discussion topic.

Michael Gormley said...


Does It Exist?

You Had Better Believe It Does...

Bishop Fulton J. Sheen was asked a question by a heckler, about someone who had passed on.

The Bishop replied, "I do not know the answer, but when I get to Heaven I will ask him."

The man replied, "But what if he isn't in Heaven?"

The Bishop answered him, "Well then you ask him."

How many people do you suppose believe in hell these days?

Many non-Catholic sects teach that there is no hell, since GOD is too merciful to send anyone to such a terrible place of torment.

These same denominations teach that the Bible is the
"Sole Rule of Authority", that it was handed down by GOD,
and is therefore to be believed.

Well, if the Bible is to be believed, it has to be believed
In its entirety and not simply what we want to believe.

There are at least 54 verses in Holy Scriptures that reference hell by name.

Explain to me why Holy Scripture would even mention a non-existent place so many times?

Hell, Gehenna, Tartarus, exists.

It is the abode of condemned souls, the devil, and demons.

It is the place of eternal punishment.

GOD does NOT send anyone to hell.

Each of us decides with our own free will whether we will spend eternity in Heaven or in hell.

Here is just a sample of the verses which reference hell :
Psalms 9:17, 21:10, 55:15, Proverbs 7:27, Sirach 9:17, 21:9-,
Isaiah *5:14, 30:33,*34:10, 66:24, Ezekiel 31:16-17, Ezekiel *32:27,
Matthew 3:12, 10:28, 13:49-50, 18:8-9, 23:33, 25:41-46, Mark 9:42-48, *Luke12:5, Philippians 2:10, 2Thessalonians 1:9, 2 Peter 2:4, 9, Revelation 14:11,*20:9-15, 21:8

Here are some verses to remind you that hell surely does exist:
Hell and death were cast into the pool of fire: Revelation 20:14

Hell and destruction are never filled: Proverbs 27:20

Hell has enlarged itself: Isaiah 5:14

Wow! Those last two verses hit hard and should be a wake up call.

Apparently there is lots of room left for all the people sending themselves there.

Do you still believe there is no hell?

Jesus Christ made several statements regarding the existence of hell.

Do you believe what He said in Scripture?
Matthew 25:41, "Then He will say to those on His left hand,
'Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the everlasting fire
which was prepared for the devil and his angels

Matthew 25:46, "And these will go into everlasting punishment,
but the just into everlasting life."

Matthew 13: 41-42, "The Son of Man will send forth His angels,
and they will gather out of His Kingdom all scandals and those
who work iniquity, and cast them into the furnace of fire,
where there will be the weeping, and the gnashing of teeth."

If you deny the Word of Christ, you deny Him.

The Catholic Church teaches that hell really does exist.

Please read the Catechism of the Catholic Church,
CCC 1033-1037.

The best answer I have heard to give a person who has said
he or she does not believe in hell is, "Well you will when you get there, as you look down and say - Where am I?"

By then it is too late to do something about it isn't it?

Why not start now and turn to GOD and avoid this place.

That is, just in case it does exist...

Cori said...

I felt it would make sense for me to respond to Phil's question, which was whether, as a Christian, my primary concern would not be for my child's eternal soul which would perhaps cause a clash in terms of Kevin and my approaches to parenting.

I believe that anyone's eternal soul is, fortunately for us, in God's hands. It would be interesting to look at stats of how many children in Christian homes loose their faith and how many people who have come to faith didn't grow up in Christian homes. This is to say, regardless of our upbringing, the choices we make in our lives our between God and ourselves.

I would prioritise upholding the values Kevin lists in this post and be open about who I am and what I believe, but I think I would like to leave my child's eternal soul safely where it belongs - with God.

The harder issue was mentioned in the the first comment, namely, that children have complex relationships with their parents that may influence their life choices in very complex ways. But I guess this would be the case in a home with two Christian parents as well. It's a good issue to be aware of and thinking about, though.

Nikeyo said...

Very interesting and often-times difficult topic! Ironically, I had the same discussion yesterday with someone who discovered I am a recently turned Atheist. My husband remained a Christian, so we dealt with the same problem and came up with similar attitudes.

In the end, we all want our children to grow up thinking for themselves. Hopefully, even the most conservative types want that. I won't mind if our children become Christian, and he doesn't mind if they choose atheism, as long as they can defend their beliefs and have reasons for them.

That's what I think at least.

One thing you may want to consider is family, though. Are Cori's parents and close relatives at all conservative? Do they expect their grandchildren to be raised "properly?" Certainly parenting is hands, but family will always have an influence and it can cause unwanted dissension.

Anonymous said...

I have no doubt that you two would be very fine parents based on what I have read over the past few years. Multiculture exposure is absolutely wonderful, and you are in a great area of the world to create many different experiences for a child. Keep in mind that you are the "answer keepers", and that ultimately molds your child more than any outside influence (until their teen years). Your child will also teach you just as much as you teach them. Through it all, always keep your sense of humor!

Perhaps it would be helpful if people responded with the many different types of questions their own children have thrown at them...then you and Cori can play "how do I answer that?" and get some pre-parenting practice. (haha!)

Here's one to get you started...a little back-story first: My parents' dog died when my daughter was 5 years old. My daughter was very sad about this and wanted to know what would happen to the dog next. I explained to her that the dog was buried and will become a part of the earth, etc...without going into any gory details about decomposition. We dealt with her feelings of missing the dog by drawing pictures and writing poems about it and laying them on the grave. My mother on the other hand told my daughter that the dog sprouted wings and flew up to heaven to meet Jesus. You see my mother chose a spiritual response and I chose a physical response. This confused my daughter, and spawned light debate between my mother and I which ended in us agreeing to disagree. (In some families this would be a HUGE fight.) Ultimately, my daughter made up her own mind that the dog was indeed physically dead, but "maybe" she had a spirit that lives on... but I did catch her once trying to dig up the grave for "proof" (she is my child after all).
So my point is that the first question from a child is usually the most complex question of mankind: "What happens to you after you die"? How would you explain it to a 5-year old?
Have fun with that!
~Dar (Dar Alluding)

Phil said...

Cori, thanks so much for personally responding to my question. As a Christian parent, I certainly know the struggle of trying to instill values in my children while at the same time teaching them to be independent thinkers, and not blindly "inherit" the faith of their parents. Our faith is refined through understanding why it is true, and in seeing how it stands up to competing worldviews. I agree that our souls are ultimately in God's hands, but I also try to remember that within God's redemptive plan is His use of believers (certainly including parents) in leading others to faith in Christ (Rom. 10:14). Thanks again for your feedback!

The Writerly Atheist said...

This post hit close to home for me, as an atheist married to an agnostic, with family members ranging from agnostics to Christian fundamentalists.

My husband and I plan to have kids in a few years, and we know what shared values we want to teach, but I worry about how I will honestly address issues where I have a strong opinion but want my child to have freedom to assess the options.

I'm enjoying your insights into cross-belief marriage and family.

Michael Gormley said...

But what if we decide one day to have children?

"Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.

Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.

For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him." John 6:53-56

Michael Gormley said...

As most of you know, I am an atheist...

Today Some Cannot Accept The Gift Just As It Was In The Time Of Jesus

"'But there are some of you who do not believe.' Jesus knew from the beginning the ones who would not believe and the one who would betray him.

And he said, 'For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by my Father.'

As a result of this, many (of) his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him.

Jesus then said to the Twelve, 'Do you also want to leave?'

Simon Peter answered him, 'Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.'" John 6:64-68

Michael Gormley said...

I'm an atheist...

For some strange reason, these angry and very unlikable people have decided that if they deny the existence of God in their mind, then therefore God does not exist.

It’s as stupid as saying “I do not believe that the Grand Canyon exists, so therefore it doesn’t exist.”

The fact that someone is sincere in their beliefs doesn’t make them right; it only makes them sincerely wrong.

One only has to look around to realize that God made everything. Why is this? One reason is because of the timing and order of the earth, the moon, and the sun.

Anytime you find timing and order anywhere, that in itself indicates a superior intelligence creating it.

Your computer on your desk didn’t “just happen” all by itself. The software that runs your computer didn’t “just” happen” all by itself.

No, they were created by a superior intelligence, man. The same goes for the earth, the moon, and the stars.

The very fact that each day is 24 hours long and doesn’t vary in length all of the time indicates timing and order.

The fact that it takes the earth 365.25 days each year to orbit once around the sun indicates timing and order.

The fact that we know with certainty when and where and how long each solar and lunar eclipse is going to be, as well as when the four seasons begin and end, indicates timing and order.

Timing and order in the universe violates a very fundamental law of physics, the law of entropy.

The law of entropy says that “matter will seek its most disordered state”. One could say that nature always seeks its most ordered state.

Michael Gormley said...

What values do Cori and I share?

Christian first-order values (which secular culture routinely endorses) have direct roots in Christian beliefs.

They were never conclusions reached from other premises; nor did they become values because we took a personal decision to espouse them.

We are all valuable as persons, for instance, because God values us and created us with immortal souls; not because of some independently natural source of value.

We have dignity as human beings not because a constitution gave it to us. Constitutions recognise dignity, they cannot confer it.

They say that rights are entailed by it. It is God the creator who gave us dignity from the fact that as human beings we are made in His image, and because Christ, the paradigm human individual, became “as we are.”

We are all fundamentally equal because there is no hierarchy in importance among souls, and God has no favourites.

The least among us is as important as the greatest because Christ is identified with the least. You can see from this what is meant by the nexus between beliefs and values.

Michael Gormley said...

An Open Letter To Non-Catholics

My Dear Friend,
More than likely, if you have managed to keep your sanity in today's sad and sinful world, you may have been scandalized even at what has been happening in the Catholic Church.

At the present time, she seems to have fallen prey to all the snares of Satan set to trap not only the weakest of men but also the most brilliant of theologians.

How is it, you may well ask, that as a Catholic I can still profess allegiance to my Church? With the help of our dear Lord, and that of His most blessed Mother, I will try to explain. To begin with:


In the Old Testament the Jewish Tabernacle was the work of God - not man. It was God who drew up its plan, giving its exact dimensions, stipulating the materials to be used in its construction, describing its sacred furnishings and vessels for the service, and the vestments and ornaments for the priests who would minister therein.

He gave it a suitable constitution, appointed its rulers, and defined the extent of their power. (See Book of Exodus, chapters 25 through 31, entire Book of Leviticus; Book of Numbers, chapters 1, 3 through 8, and 17 and 18.) 50, since the Tabernacle of the Old Law (which was but a shadow, a figure, of the Church to come) was the work of God, surely the Church of the New Testament (the substance, the reality) must likewise be the work of God.

Keep readinghere!

CRL said...

Anon:"Keep in mind that you are the "answer keepers", and that ultimately molds your child more than any outside influence (until their teen years)."

Keep in mind that in atheist-theist marriages, there are two answer keepers, keeping contradictory answers. These answers essentially cancel each other out, leaving the child essentially able to decide what to believe for themselves.

As the child of such a marriage, I can say from personal experience that, while such contradictions can be annoying ("Mom, what happens when you die?" "You go to heaven and become an angel." *later* "Dad, are ghosts real?" "No, when you die, you die. The only afterlife is in memories." *not direct quotes*)I found my parents differing opinions to be the only thing that kept my critical thinking functioning through Catholic school.

Having two viewpoints within the family almost makes the religious field trips unnecessary, though still a very good idea.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, CRL.
When handled respectfully, a child has much to learn from opposing viewpoints that begin at home. When done respectfully, a child has much to learn about the world as a whole, that people are always going to disagree, and how those disagreements don't have to mean war.
I always thought it was helpful to tell my daughter WHY I believe as I do, whereas my mother has a hard time understanding and/or explaining her own beliefs (as so many people do), which has caused my daughter not to lean the Christian way simply for lack of reason/explanation.
I have tried to help my daughter seek religious understanding for the same reasons Kevin and Cori appreciate history/art/people. However biased my teachings were/are, I believe I've lain a solid foundation and have given my daughter (now 17) a very strong sense of the world and how to make her way in it... while maintaining a respectful, tolerant, and peaceful attitude.
Children also learn intolerance from home - and if family members use disrespectful language or put each other's beleifs down...then what?
~Dar (Dar Alluding)

Sabio Lantz said...

I am Atheist but don't send my kind to church -- yet they understand Christian art and history because I still teach them the stuff but just without all the guilt, fear and snobbish specialness. They probably even know the Bible better than their "Christian" classmates. So I disagree with your reason for sending. I can see it would make your wife happy and a way for community of friends. I get that. But you can teach them religious philosophy, history and art without sitting through sermons, hymns and baptisms in ONE sect.

That said, I agree, it won't bother me if my kids opt to be Christian -- and I have told them so. I agree totally with your attitudes! Nicely written.

BTW, Epiphenom just did a post showing studies imply that raising in multi-faith families tends to produce atheists. (CRL's comment is a case in point)

Cobus said...

Thanx for opening an important conversation. One thing that I'd like to add, and think we need to make part of the conversation surrounds rituals.
Two parents with the ability to think critically through their own beliefs should be able to find these shared values which you describe, Kevin, but the processes by which you arrived at these, is different from the processes needed to instill values in children.
We don't teach critical reasoning to children through a class in philosophy, or appreciation of cultures and religions through a class in diversity studies.
Obviously, what they find modeled (modeled, not always taught) by parents is crucial in the process, but another part is the rituals that become part of the space in which they grow up. The difficulty is that as adults we can use reasoning to replace the function of ritual, but not so with children. So I think an process would be for parents from divers religious backgrounds to try and envision rituals which teach the shared values.

Michael Gormley said...

A Pharisee invited Jesus to dine with him,

and he entered the Pharisee’s house and reclined at table.

Now there was a sinful woman in the city

who learned that he was at table in the house of the Pharisee.

Bringing an alabaster flask of ointment,

she stood behind him at his feet weeping

and began to bathe his feet with her tears.

Then she wiped them with her hair,

kissed them, and anointed them with the ointment.

When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this he said to himself,

“If this man were a prophet,

he would know who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him,

that she is a sinner.”

Jesus said to him in reply,

“Simon, I have something to say to you.”

“Tell me, teacher, ” he said.

“Two people were in debt to a certain creditor;

one owed five hundred day’s wages and the other owed fifty.

Since they were unable to repay the debt, he forgave it for both.

Which of them will love him more?”

Simon said in reply,

“The one, I suppose, whose larger debt was forgiven.”

He said to him, “You have judged rightly.”

Then he turned to the woman and said to Simon,

“Do you see this woman?

When I entered your house, you did not give me water for my feet,

but she has bathed them with her tears

and wiped them with her hair.

You did not give me a kiss,

but she has not ceased kissing my feet since the time I entered.

You did not anoint my head with oil,

but she anointed my feet with ointment.

So I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven

because she has shown great love.

But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.”

He said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”

The others at table said to themselves,

“Who is this who even forgives sins?”

But he said to the woman,

“Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” (Luke 7:36-50)

Anonymous said...

All this talk of hell... how utterly depressing. Muslims also believe in hell, by the way. Fundamentalist Muslims will tell you that you are headed there if you do not believe in Allah, and will quote verse after verse from the Koran to show you that it is true. Why do Christians not believe their version of the story bur totally agree with their own? Would readers please just think about this before raving on and on about hell and judgment.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this post. I love your perspective on this issue. Although I am not in a cross-faith marriage, I am grappling with being an Agnostic new mother with scores of Catholic and Baptist relatives surrounding us. Our challenge is to rear our children with knowledge and respect of all faiths and focus on the values that should be shared by everyone, religious and non-religious. It's good to keep discovering those who have the same mindset, even if parenting has not been experienced yet! Thanks so much!!

Michael Gormley said...

◉ July 2008: The Holy Spirit lit a fire at World Youth Day in Sydney.

◉ July 2009: The Catholic Forum threw wood into that fire with the Tim Staples "The Bible Made Me Catholic" Tour.


◉ JULY 2010: We have not 1, not 2, but 3 International Catholic speakers coming to Australia for
"The Fullness of Truth" nationwide tour!

► Alex Jones - Ex-Pentecostal Minister †
► Steve Ray - Ex-Baptist Pastor †
► Fr. Mitch Pacwa S.J. - Founder of Ignatius Productions and EWTN TV Host †

Come along and bring your family and friends to hear these great speakers give inspiring and moving talks all over Australia - Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra, Brisbane, Perth and Regional NSW.

Come and hear their testimonies and how they came to embrace the fullness of truth found in the Catholic Church.

Talks will cover: The Blessed Virgin Mary, The Papacy, The Bible, The Priesthood, The Eucharist, Marriage, Islam, Free - masonry, Atheism and many more....

daveg4g said...

Religious belief has traditionally provided human beings with a reason to think that their individual lives have a purpose, and that the existence of humanity as such has a purpose. Atheism, on the contrary, has generally taught that both individual human beings and (eventually) humanity as a whole have no purpose in the universe, and that they will be definitively annihilated in the course of time (human beings after their short spans of life, humanity - at latest - when the earth finally becomes uninhabitable). In the light of this prima facie deeply depressing prospect, the question of life's meaning or purpose within atheism has posed a peculiarly difficult challenge to atheists since the origins of modern atheism in the seventeenth century.

Religious believers have traditionally not been slow to point out that atheism must lead to despair, since it deprives humans of the hope that injustices in this life will be corrected in the next, and frustrates what would appear to be their natural desire to live forever. It also frustrates humans' hope that reality is fundamentally good rather than bad or indifferent with respect to them, and deprives them of any genuine motivation to act in the world.

To these objections atheists have firstly generally responded (quite reasonably) that even if all this were true, these unfortunate consequences would not disprove atheism. However, atheists have differed significantly on the further question of whether it is actually true that these consequences would indeed follow as alleged by their religious objectors.

daveg4g said...

Some atheists have taken a relatively upbeat attitude to the consequences for meaning and purpose of atheist beliefs. The eighteenth century atheist La Mettrie, for example, proposed that the fear of death arose only from the religious belief in afterlife punishments, and claimed that thoroughly discrediting this idea would free human beings of an exaggerated anxiety about death.[1]

Many atheists have also appealed to the (ultimately Epicurean) argument that death has no significance for human beings, since by definition they cannot be there to experience it. D'Holbach, for example, stressed that for these reasons death should not be a cause for anxiety.[2]

There are numerous contemporary defenders of this position. The philosophical atheist Michael Martin, for example, may also be said to share this relative optimism.

Martin points out that human beings find individual projects intrinsically meaningful regardless of whether their lives as a whole are meaningful (which the atheist must admit they are not).

Similarly evidence that the sum total of human achievement will be annihilated in the heat death of the universe, as is supposed to be highly probable on current physical predictions, does not make present human cultural achievements meaningless for us now.

For so long as we are here they are meaningful. Martin appeals to the fact that there are happy and fulfilled atheists as evidence for this.

Adopting a detached 'God's eye' view on things from where the sum of human activity can be seen to be meaningless is just one perspective humans can take up towards things, but humans are not obliged to adopt this perspective rather than the ordinary (meaningful) one, and they therefore need not become despondent.[3]

However, it is probably fair to say that it has generally been admitted among the majority of thinking atheists that the fear of annihilation could not be so easily set aside.

Claude-Adrien Helvetius (1715-1771) and Denis Diderot (1713-84) admitted that the consequences of a consistent atheism were depressing, and they sought comfort in ersatz forms of survival, such as species survival.

Diderot, for example, affirmed that the individual perishes, but the species has no end.[4]

One might include Marxist 'scientific atheism', Social Darwinism and reformist secular humanism of a Dawkinsian sort as forms of atheism that attempt to address the problem of meaninglessness by promoting faith in an ersatz form of survival.

That is, in the two former cases, species survival and its progressive perfection, albeit to be achieved in quite different ways.

In the latter case, the progressive improvement of the human condition would be achieved through the weakening of the influence of religion.

daveg4g said...


But many atheists - particularly those most preoccupied with the consequences of atheistic belief for individuals as opposed to societies - regarded appeals to such survival substitutes as ultimately a form of self- deception, and sought other solutions to the problem.

√Čtienne de Senancour (1770-1846), for example, regarded the only solution to the problem of mortality in healing humans from the 'illness' of wishing for immortality.

According to Senancour, one can only suppress this fear by applying all one's energy to the present life.[5]

De Sade took this idea of immersion in the immediacy of present life a step further.

Dismissing the wish for immortality as a contemptible urge, he advocated complete absorption in sensuality, the repeated pleasure of sex, inflicting suffering and even death, as a means of extinguishing the fear of mortality through forgetfulness in the fullness of the senses.[6]

daveg4g said...


Nietzsche, like De Sade, also suggests a fundamental affirmation of the natural urges (the 'will to power') against Christian 'slave' morality as the proper response to the question of meaning.

Nietzsche's affirmation of power and its exercise by the (by our standards) amoral superman creates meaning where it is not previously given.

Similarly, existentialists such as Sartre in the twentieth century affirm that human beings find themselves in a meaningless ('absurd') world and need to create meaning and purpose in their lives in absolute freedom, since there is no pre-existent meaning or purpose to life.

daveg4g said...


Still more depressingly, perhaps, other atheists sought to extinguish the fear of annihilation by stressing the generally miserable nature of human existence and thus encouraging detachment from life and even hopeful anticipation of death as a long awaited rest from the burden of living.

Nicolas de Chamfort (1741-1794), for example, described life as an illness, for which death was the 'medication'.

According to this particular eighteenth century atheist, life was a prolonged agony from which death could liberate those unfortunate enough to have been born.

Chamford himself acted on his beliefs by finally committing suicide.[7] Nor was Chamford a lone voice: in other respects optimistic atheists such as Diderot, Charles Pinot Duclos (1704-72) and Helvetius also in certain moments stressed the virtues of contemplating the relative wretchedness of existence in order to lessen the fear of annihilation.[8]

In the despairing individualist atheism of Schopenhauer, Stirner and von Hartmann this strategy is taken a step further.

Schopenhauer unequivocally describes the wretched nature of human existence and places his hope in the will to annihilation.

It would have been better if human beings had never been born, but given that they have come into existence suicide remains a legitimate (or perhaps even desirable) option.

In Hartmann's Philosophy of the Unconscious (1869) his profoundly dispiriting atheistic philosophy finishes with a call for the collective suicide of humanity.

In his The Self-Destruction of Chrisitanity and the Religion of the Future (1874), Hartman predicts that humanity will come to a collective realisation of the futility of their atheistic fate, and choose to bring about their collective annihilation.[9]

As Minois notes, in certain respects these forms of atheism can be regarded as the most complete atheisms, since they allow for no God replacements: nation, race, progress, democracy, etc. Existence is looked in the face and is judged futile.[10]

In the twentieth century the celebrated British atheist Bertrand Russell would also draw something like these depressing conclusions, as does the contemporary atheistic writer John Gray in his influential (and disturbing) Straw Dogs (2002).[11]

Up until the present the New Atheists have not engaged at any length with these issues, although it is to be expected that a fuller discussion concerning meaning and purpose will eventually be forthcoming as the controversies develop.

Gray, John. Straw Dogs: Thoughts on Humans and Other Animals. London: Granta Books, 2002.
Martin, Michael. Atheism : A Philosophical Justification. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1990.
Minois, Georges. Histoire de L'atheisme. La Fleche: Fayard, 1998.



[1]↑Georges Minois, Histoire de L'atheisme (La Fleche: Fayard, 1998), 371.
[2]↑ Ibid., 369.
[3]↑ See Michael Martin, Atheism : A Philosophical Justification (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1990), 13-23.
[4]↑ Cited in Minois, Histoire, 363.
[5]↑ Ibid., 364.
[6]↑ Ibid., 365.
[7]↑ Ibid., 369.
[8]↑ Ibid., 370.
[9]↑ Ibid., 508.
[10]↑ Ibid.
[11]↑ John Gray, Straw Dogs: Thoughts on Humans and Other Animals (London: Granta Books, 2002).

a39greenway said...


Satan Does Exist,
Whether You Choose To Believe It Or Not

And He Is Patiently Waiting To Grab Us All...

Believe it or not, some churches really do teach that satan does not exist. I personally, have had contact with one that teaches this cruelest of all lies.

This teaching is right up his alley as he would like us all to think he does not exist.

Just think how much easier his job becomes if he can get people to believe it.

I cannot imagine how anyone can ignore the fact that such evil does exist.

In order for anyone to teach this blatant heresy, they have to deny many Bible verses, thus by doing so, they call GOD a liar. Here are just a few examples...

But He said to them, "I was watching Satan fall as lightning from heaven." Luke 10:18

Now Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan, and was led by the Spirit about the desert for forty days, being tempted the while by the devil. Luke 4:1-2

And the Lord said, "Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat." Luke 22:31

But Satan entered into Judas, surnamed Iscariot, one of the twelve. Luke 22:3

But Peter said, "Ananias, why has Satan tempted thy heart, that thou should lie to the Holy Spirit and by fraud keep back part of the price of the land?" Acts 5:3

Satan is mentioned by that name about 50 times in Holy Scripture, but yet, he has many more names also...

a39greenway said...


Satan, names of:

Abaddon (place of destruction)......Rev 9:11

Accuser........................................Rev 12:10

Adversary....................................1Pet 5:8

Ancient Serpent............................Rev 20:2

Angel of Light...............................2Cor 11:14

Angel of the Abyss.........................Rev 9:11

Angel of the Bottomless Pit............Rev 9:11

Angel(s) that Sinned......................2Pet 2:4

Apollyon (destroyer).....................Rev 9:11

Asmodeus.....................................Tob 3:8,17

Beelzebub.....................................Lk 11:15

Belial/Beliar.................................2Cor 6:15

Crafty One...................................Sir 11:29

Destroyer.....................................Wis 18:25, 1Cor 10:10

Devil...........................................Rev 12:12

Dragon........................................Rev 20:2

Evil Spirit from the Lord...............1Sam 16:14

Father of Lies..............................Jn 8:44

God of this World.........................2Cor 4:4

King............................................Rev 9:11

Lucifer........................................Isa 14:12, Rev 9:1-2

Lying Spirit.................................1King 22:22

Murderer....................................Jn 8:44

a39greenway said...


Power of Darkness.......................Lk 22:53, Col 1:13

Prince of Devils...........................Mt 12:24

Prince of the Power of the Air......Eph 2:2

Prince of the Spirit......................Eph 2:2

Prince of this World.....................Jn 12:31,14:30,16:11

Roaring Lion...............................1Pet 5:8

Ruler of Darkness.........................Eph 6:12

Satan...........................................Lk 10:18, Rev 12:9,20:2

Sinner..........................................1Jn 3:8

Star that fell from Heaven.............Rev 9:1

The Beast.....................................Rev 20:4

The Destroyer..............................1Cor 10:10

The Devil.....................................Rev 12:9,20:2

The Enemy...................................Mt 13:28

The Evil One................................1Jn 5:18

The Red Dragon...........................Rev 12:3,9

The Serpent..................................Gen 3:1, 2Cor 11:3, Rev 12:9

The Spirit of Error.......................1Jn 4:6

The Tempter.................................1Thes 3:5

The Wicked One............................Mt 13:19, 1Jn 2:13

Satan, the master imitator of Christ:

The greatest imitator of Jesus Christ is a spiritual being called Lucifer or Satan (Rev. 12:9).

Examine the evidence:

1. Jesus is the "King of Kings": Rev 19:16.

Satan is "king over all the children of pride": Job 41:25.

2. Jesus is the "Angel of the Lord": Gal 4:14.

Satan appears as an "Angel of Light": 2Cor 11:11-14.

3. "God is light," and in Him there is no darkness: 1Jn 1:5.

Satan appears as an "Angel of light": 2Cor 11:14.

4. Jesus is "God manifest in the flesh": 1Tim 3:16.

Satan is the "god" of this world: 2Cor 4:4.

5. Christ has a bride, who is a city: Rev 21:9.

Satan has a bride, who is a city: Rev 17:1-9.

6. Jesus cites the scripture in conflict: Lk 4:1-8.

Satan cites the scripture in conflict: Lk 4:10.

7. Christ preached 42 months: 3 passovers-Lk 3:23, Jn 2:13,5:1,6:4,12:1.

The Beast preached 42 months: Rev 13:5.

8. Christ means Anointed, Christos, Messiah: Act 4:26, Psa 2:2.

Satan is "anointed" as a "christ": Mt 24:5.

9. God desires worship: Jn 4:23-2.

Satan desires worship: Mt 4:8-10.

10. GOD's Church is the House of GOD: Isa 2:3, Heb 10:21

a39greenway said...


Satan's church is the Synagogue of Satan: Rev 2:9,3:9

11. The Holy Spirit is of the Lord: 1Sam 16:14

The evil spirit from the Lord: 1Sam 16:14

Satan, attributes of (or lack of):

A. He is a "created" creature... This fact is stated twice in the context of Ezekiel's lament Ez 28:13,15. As a creature, created by God, Satan is limited in his operation and ability.

1. Satan is not omniscient. He is limited with regard to wisdom. Satan knows only what God permits him to know.

2. Satan is not omnipresent. He is limited with regard to location. He can function only in the places where God permits.

3. Satan is not omnipotent. He is limited with regard to authority. He has no more power and authority than God allows.

4. Satan is not eternal. He is limited with regard to creation. His longevity is God's provision for His own purposes in grace.

5. Satan is not just. Because of his determined self-centeredness, he is limited with regard to fairness. He will never judge fairly.

B. He was "perfect in beauty"... Ez 28:12 He was not the foolish character ridiculed today, with humanistic tendencies and weaknesses.

C. He was the "anointed" cherub... Satan is not human, he is of the created order of angels, "Cherubim", Ez 1:4-25,10:1-22. As a created creature, he is responsible to serve God.

D. He was "without iniquity"... He was "...perfect in his ways" until he exercised his will contrary to God's will.

He chose iniquity, therefore, he is responsible for the consequences.

E. He was created to serve God... Satan was appointed by God to a position at His eternal throne, rule, and government, Isa 2:2,14:13, Joel 3:17.

In his rebellion against God, he lost that privilege forever. Concerning Satan's origin, remember, "all things including Satan (as an angel) were created by the Lord Jesus Christ, and for Him..." Col 1:16

Kevin Parry said...

TTo Michael Gormley / daveg4g / a39greenway

One of the main reasons why I started this blog was to provide a platform for mutual discussion and the exchange of ideas. I appreciate your participation on the comment section, but I’m afraid that by cutting and pasting large tracts of text in your comments, you might stifle any meaningful discussion taking place.

I am loathe to turn on comment moderation, as I firmly believe that people should be free to write anything they like on my blog, provided that they respect the space of others. Over the years many visitors to this blog - atheist and theist alike - have show respect in the way they communicate: by writing concise comments; using their own words; keeping to the topic at hand; and writing with the intent of receiving a response.

I look forward to your participation along these lines.

Michael Gormley said...

Kevin Parry said..
The important point above, for me at least, is exposing our children to different ways of thinking.

When thought (thinking) realises that whatever it does any movement that it makes is disorder…..then there is silence.

Michael Gormley said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sabio Lantz said...

@ Kevin

WordPress has a wonderful "Spam" option that can come in so handy at times like these.

I am signing out of this thread because it no comment policy rules are being honored.

Kevin Parry said...

To WayPastDueToo, Nikeyo, Dar and The Writerly Atheist
Thank you so much for sharing your experiences. I wrote this post with the full realization that both Cori and I speak on this topic with some amount of naivet√©; after all, we don’t have kids. I’m sure as parents you can start out with great ambitions, but the actual work of raising kids can be complex. I admire your fortitude, and both Cori and I have learnt from your comments.

CRL wrote
Keep in mind that in atheist-theist marriages, there are two answer keepers, keeping contradictory answers.

I like your comment. I once heard that the learning process starts at the point when a person realizes a contradiction – something that doesn’t make sense in the context of what they already believe – and then they the question: why is there a contradiction? As a parent, I will be stifling my child’s development if I expose her to only one worldview. I will be withholding from her the tools of how to learn, and how to handle contradictions and difference that she will experience in the world out there.

Cobus wrote
One thing that I'd like to add, and think we need to make part of the conversation surrounds rituals.

This is a really insightful point. What would be an example of a ritual? I wonder if camping trips, family get-togethers, and holidays can be regarded as rituals. What do you think?

Zoe said...

Kevin writes: After all of this, it will not bother me in the slightest if my children finally decide to become Christians, atheists, or anything else. What they become will eventually be their choice, and I think the goal as parents is to give them enough information so that they can make a choice that is well informed.

What do you think?

Hi Kevin,

What comes to mind for me is that in theory it may seem easy to say that you wouldn't mind your children chosing Christianity. When it comes to the actual practical application of that belief, you might change your mind or you may find it not as easy as it all seems now. Do you know what I mean?

I'm just saying, it's really difficult to know, until you know. *smile*

I sense a great ease between you and Cori and your acceptance of one another, and I think you'd be great parents. Here's the thing though Kevin and even Cori...imagine that your child choses hardcore fundamentalist Christianity? Legalism to the core. You may love them. Allow them to chose their path, yes. But not be bothered by it one bit...not likely.

We just don't know what the future holds.

Spoken as a child who did chose the fundamentalist path. :-(

~ Zoe ...

Hugo said...

BTW: I think the book titled "Parenting Beyond Belief" includes some discussion of families with mixed-faith parents. I have lent it to a friend, so I haven't read it myself yet, but still, I feel confident in recommending it. ;) (Contributions from many authors/thinkers, Dale McGowan pulled it all together.

Wesley said...

As an ex-missionary, as our two sons grew to be teenagers, I sat them down and basically said this:

"Whatever you choose as life's core values and beliefs, choose them because you have examined them thoroughly and found them to be the most rational. Don't believe in something, such as Christianity, just because someone else does, or even because your mother and I do. Make it your own, don't inherit it from other people."

When they started asking awkward questions in Youth Group, and got superficial replies, or even accusations of being "rebellious", they soon made their choice and stopped attending church. A few years later, my wife and I also stopped, and eventually "converted" into non-theists.

I think a non-christian and christian partners in a marriage can agree that children should choose for themselves, without being brainwashed in a church. But it is crucial that children be raised to be able to think independently, and NEVER be discouraged from asking questions. No question should ever be forbidden by intellectually honest parents. If the questions are too threatening or scary for the christian parent, then their faith is faulty and frail.

search4db said...

It's very nice to have found your blog. It sounds like we have a lot in common. I'm coming up on 5 years of marriage, no kids yet. My wife and I were raised Christian, but about 2 years ago I began to doubt and am now more atheistic than Christian. My wife is still a very devout believer. We have been struggling with what it will look like to raise kids. She'll be taking the kids to church while I stay home I suppose. But I want to have an equal voice and not simply let our kids have a narrow sphere of influence like I was raised with. Every time they get home from Sunday school, I feel like I'll want to reiterate that "Daddy thinks the Bible stories are make-believe" so that I'm not deferring the right to shape my children's views to random Sunday school teachers. I get frustrated, I think what I really need here is some perspective, which your post helps provide. I look forward to perusing your previous posts too, looks like good stuff.

Anonymous said...

I love this guys logic and perspective, it shows great ignorance.

(For some strange reason, these angry and very unlikable people have decided that if they deny the existence of God in their mind, then therefore God does not exist.

It’s as stupid as saying “I do not believe that the Grand Canyon exists, so therefore it doesn’t exist.” )

How about we turn that on it's head just for a laugh.

For some reason these people think that just because they believe in the existence of god in their mind, that he must really exist?
It's as stupid as saying i believe there is an imaginary bridge across the widest part of the grand canyon, even though no one has ever seen it. Would take a lot of blind faith to walk across it!!

Laura said...

This was a very interesting post. My favorite part was Cori's response...I am in a long-term cross-faith relationship (he is Atheist, I am Christian), and only in the past few weeks has the concern really come to mind. I wasn't worried at first, but I think I have found my faith is maybe more important to me than I realized. I am especially concerned about how we would raise our children. He is very supportive of my faith, and says that we could raise our children Christian with an understanding of all faiths. He also talks a lot about morals...and that having good morals and values in a family doesn't just happen because of Christianity, there are other ways to get there. It doesn't stop my stress and concern, though!

Not that searching your problems on Google will solve them, but this was a post that certainly put me on the right track. So, thanks to both of you, especially Cori.

Anonymous said...

Dear waypastdue,
You hit on the point that I have started searching for because I need help getting the communication skills that you and your husband must surely practice when discussing what to say to your youngest without drawing battle lines.

I have been an atheist since my teens and am in a long distance relationship with a girl of Mormon upbringing for a year now. It may look silly being worried at this stage but when so much effort to stay together is being made I want to make sure that we are not wasting each other's time. She is a sweet gentle girl that does not attend services but is a believer. At the beginning I attempted to talk to her about faith, it resulted with her putting a lid on the whole discussion because it hurt her. I do realise that back then we started at two different places, I was ready to debate with distilled logic and she never had the question raised in her life. Now, further in I don't mind having the disconnect on the most important question but we must meet somewhere in between if we were ever having a child... How do I 1- Ask for a comprehensive list of ideas off her so that we can talk about what I can let my child hear (in church) and what I simply cannot allow... fear, creationism etc.... she is a girl of science and of theist belief but I cannot get her to think about/talk about the dogmas that she may allow to be taught to her kids. She has loyalty to her upbringing and I fully understand but I we will need to communicate about the specifics soon... after all, her time is more valuable. 2- How did you communicate the differences in beliefs to your child when asnwering inquisitive questions? When two people genuienly believe that their own answer is the right one, where can you meet when it comes to the child that you are responsible for. I feel like we have a long way to go and I don't even know how to start getting there without provoking a pained deflection from her. Thank you for any advice and apologies for poor layout-phone

Thin-ice said...

Interesting the way MichaelGormley and a39greenway think that building a wall of Bible references somehow is rational argument for proving their point. To me it's quite the opposite. It shows that they cannot think for themselves.

The Bible is nothing but writing of ancient goat herders. There is nothing supernatural about it. And children should be taught that while there may be some truth and wisdom contained within, there is also much ugliness and immorality. It is best that they be taught to be independent learners and seekers of knowledge that can be verified. That is the best gift you can give to your children.