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January 15th, 2013
08:28 AM ET

iReport: Why I Raise My Children Without God

Editor's Note: Deborah Mitchell, a mother of two teenagers in Texas, blogs about raising her children without religion. An avid reader of the Belief Blog, she said she shared this essay on CNN iReport because 'I just felt there is not a voice out there for women/moms like me. I think people misunderstand or are fearful of people who don’t believe in God.'

By Deborah Mitchell, Special to CNN

(CNN)–When my son was around 3 years old, he used to ask me a lot of questions about heaven. Where is it? How do people walk without a body? How will I find you? You know the questions that kids ask.

For over a year, I lied to him and made up stories that I didn’t believe about heaven. Like most parents, I love my child so much that I didn’t want him to be scared. I wanted him to feel safe and loved and full of hope. But the trade-off was that I would have to make stuff up, and I would have to brainwash him into believing stories that didn’t make sense, stories that I didn’t believe either.

One day he would know this, and he would not trust my judgment. He would know that I built an elaborate tale—not unlike the one we tell children about Santa—to explain the inconsistent and illogical legend of God.

And so I thought it was only right to be honest with my children. I am a non-believer, and for years I’ve been on the fringe in my community. As a blogger, though, I’ve found that there are many other parents out there like me. We are creating the next generation of kids, and there is a wave of young agnostics, atheists, free thinkers and humanists rising up through the ranks who will, hopefully, lower our nation’s religious fever.

Read Mitchell's 7 reasons she's raising her children without God

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Atheism • Opinion

soundoff (1,688 Responses)
  1. Jon

    The idea that someone would flag this article as inappropriate when all the woman has done is share why she doesn't force her children to be religious is disgusting. You should be ashamed of yourselves. Its a good indicator of how far Atheism still has to go in this country. We will not be a silent minority anymore.

    January 19, 2013 at 11:06 am |
    • Seriously123

      What's Atheist for "Amen!"?

      January 19, 2013 at 11:17 am |
    • Mary

      I agree 100%!!

      January 19, 2013 at 1:03 pm |
  2. Uncle50

    Can confirm that Boy Scouts will throw out agnostic or atheist boys as ours had to quit a troop for precisely that reason about 20 years ago. Do good alternatives exist now that will give equivalent experiences for young atheist boys?

    January 19, 2013 at 9:30 am |
  3. Jesus you there ?

    Ok, let's think about this some people believe that space rocks collided and made the earth and we just you know happened.....really ok! It would seem to me that how everything works accordingly earth spins supply's us oxygen an we are just the right distance from the sun not to melt and not to far so we don't freeze I guess my only question to non- believers is if rocks and explosions did in fact happen why are there no signs of life anywhere that we can observe did the space rocks just come to earth because it knew what was best for us? Uh how about the fact that all the planets work as a well oiled machine and if one part was thrown out it would be catastrophic for us maybe Rolex watches just evolved to no maker no designer no engineer just bam! Rolex watch ......... People get real the bible was written to help us as a guide as all writers have a story and you take from that what you need wake up there is good and evil we all know this its interesting to note it is mentioned in the bible and it's very interesting that the book of revelation speaks of things that are very much in line with things happening today maybe you atheists should read it btw the evil in revelations is the government and banks because they are coming for your liberty but don't worry the good will prevail as promised! I talk to god regularly and it works for me I don't believe in miracles or anything but I can tell you I have a wonderful life and god is the reason for that and non believers won't believe this because they don't understand look around people we were designed we were created by a very intelligent being call him what you want I call him god peace people

    January 19, 2013 at 9:24 am |
  4. Jesus you there ?

    Ok, let's think about this some people believe that space rocks collided and made the earth and we just you know happened.....really ok! It would seem to me that how everything works accordingly earth spins supply's us oxygen an we are just the right distance from the sun not to melt and not to far so we don't freeze I guess my only question to non- believers is if rocks and explosions did in fact happen why are there no signs of life anywhere that we can observe did the space rocks just come to earth because it knew what was best for us? Uh how about the fact that all the planets work as a well oiled machine and if one part was thrown out it would be catastrophic for us maybe Rolex watches just evolved to no maker no designer no engineer just bam! Rolex watch ......... People get real the bible was written to help us as a guide as all writers have a story and you take from that what you need wake up there is good and evil we all know this its interesting to note it is mentioned in the bible and it's very interesting that the book of revelation speaks of things that are very much in line with things happening today maybe you atheists should read it btw the evil in revelations is the government and banks because they are coming for your liberty but don't worry the good will prevail as promised! I talk to god regularly and it works for me I don't believe in miracles or anything but I can tell you I have a wonderful life and god is the reason for that and non believers won't believe this because they don't understand look around people we were designed we were created by a very intelligent being call him what you want I call him god peace

    January 19, 2013 at 9:22 am |
    • Seriously123

      The earth was not created for us. We came from the mud and muck.

      January 19, 2013 at 11:00 am |
  5. AtheistMomKris

    As an Atheist and a mother who outted herself to her extremely religious coworkers and more recently her son's cub scout den I just want to say congratulations! Great essay. Hopefully you will have helped many women and men understand that there are people out here who feel the same. I get tired of people looking at me like I have three heads because I don't buy into their fairy tales and myths. I am trying to teach my son tolerance of all religion and allow him to make his own decision. The hypocrisy of many religious people amazes me; My religious Catholic ex has moved to another country and is living with his Catholic girlfriend who will be having their second illegitimate child any day now.

    January 19, 2013 at 8:49 am |
    • Uncle50

      Our two agnostic-atheist boys got through Cub Scouts ok but we're ultimately forced to leave a Boy Scout troop when they were questioned about their religious beliefs. That was 20 years back but I do not think those policies have changed so you might want to check before letting your son move on to Boy Scouts as getting officially rejected like that can be traumatic to a young man.

      January 19, 2013 at 9:39 am |
  6. Sarah

    Thank you, thank you, thank you.

    January 19, 2013 at 7:28 am |
  7. SouthernAthiest

    Thanks Deborah. You are a brave, concerned, companionate, and, above all, thoughtful parent. I'm certain your words won't change the views of those who believe in a god but they will clearly assist many others in being more comfortable with and bolder about their own atheistic beliefs. Again, thanks for being honest in a world in which honesty seems to be in such short supply.

    January 19, 2013 at 7:18 am |
  8. Danew

    I totally agree with the writer! I can't say it out loud without being questioned or shunned.

    January 19, 2013 at 12:07 am |
  9. Hopeful

    This blog made my heart leap for joy. Deborah thank you for your bold bold words. I too have a young son. Belief in God was fine until I started to question and analyze. Then I realized that religion is simply fabricated stories passed down from one generation to the next to make us feel that there is Someone watching over us and "Life after Death". It makes us feel good that Someone guides our every move. These fabrications are wrong to perpetuate and cause much destruction all over the world. Most church goers I know are hypocrites who clasp hands on Sunday but become greedy, selfish, and mean spirited no sooner than the holy water dries up on their forehead. On the other hand I've seen hard working people who assist the needy and volunteer their time without a single glance skyward.

    January 18, 2013 at 11:29 pm |
    • cleag

      I'm one of four children raised in a home that did not practice nor promote religion. I didn't realize at the time what a wonderful gift my parents gave me by allowing us to find "our way" with/without religion. We each believe in something different now as adults and I credit my parents for giving us the freedom to think, educate, and ask questions on the journey to adulthood. I will be forever grateful for not having them force a belief on us or tell us something to just make us feel better in the moment. We are stronger and have more character because we were given the right to choose. More parents should start teaching their kids about being self-reliant.

      January 19, 2013 at 12:08 am |
  10. Cliff

    A typical "I don't understand it, therefore it does not exist" from someone who base reality on their own sense of reasoning. I believe that is the definition of egocentricism.

    Error in the logic of this woman is not simply she failed to realize there are "many" things she does not understand because she is mere human, but the fact these "simple" things she does not understand are easily understood by a vast many "more educated" and to be frank, "intelligent" other humans.

    EVERYONE believes in some form of god, whether they admit it or not. Because for one to deny the existence of beings greater than oneself, is to declare one as the being who is the greatest and "knows everything." In short, this person believes he/she is god, one who defines right and wrong, fair and unfair, and what is real and not real.

    January 18, 2013 at 11:12 pm |
    • Kraig

      How can you possibly know that "EVERYONE believes in some form of god,..." ? Whatever plausibility you otherwise had is destroyed when you make such an indefensible statement.

      January 19, 2013 at 3:02 am |
    • Rob

      What an insulting comment from an apparent self proclaimed Christian person...just goes to show how blind people become when brainwashed from childhood about the Bible, which is a fictional book!

      January 19, 2013 at 11:15 am |
  11. MorningGlory

    I write to tell you that God exists and loves you more than anything you and your son can even begin to imagine. All your questions are so very good, and come from a mixed up world. A world where evil exists side by side with good. Everyone has the choice for good. It is the choice for evil that causes the problems of the world and is the answer to many of your questions. Our freedom is rooted in discipline not doing whatever we want to do. The plan for you is to help others in some way that will prove so important. I can only ask you not to go another day without God for you and your son. The questions and longing can be quenched. It will take some time, but start now. Say you want theses answers and they will come. Turn to God. Please. I have not been able to get your writings out of my mind. You are so intelligent and your questions are so good. God does exist and is all love. But evil exists too. Please choose good, choose God. He is real and living and is in anguish about the evil and hurt in this world and takes such great happiness in those who choose good. There will be a day when there is more good than evil in the world. There will be peace in hearts and in the world.

    January 18, 2013 at 10:23 pm |
    • Kraig

      I am happy that you believe in something. But your statement of faith pushes me farther away from Christian belief than ever before. Ick.

      January 19, 2013 at 3:06 am |
  12. stopcomplaining

    many of the religious wars that have been fought throughout history has probably nothing to do with religion. it was all because of corruption, greed, and ignorance. anyone can be moral, religious or not.

    January 18, 2013 at 10:22 pm |
  13. Hammerhead2

    We live in a fallen world , no doubt that nothing seems fair and God is the easiest one to blame. You do have free will to refuse or except him. To him this is just a proving ground. I have many doubts myself , but if I break it all down to the smallest organism that eventually put me here , able to experience all I do , where did or what made that tiny organism or the 2 big rocks that collided in space. I respect you all , but I'll take my chances with a God who doesn't guarantee me anything until my soul reaches its final destination. Take Care everyone.

    January 18, 2013 at 6:45 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      Unfounded assertion followed by argument from ignoarnce and ending with Pascal's wager......ugh

      January 18, 2013 at 6:50 pm |
  14. Grimble Grumble the gnome

    Atheist believe in survival of the fittest, you think there's a problem with poverty now, just wait to these idiots multiply, poverty will become even worse. Atheists are so liberal pretty soon they will think child molestation is okay!

    January 18, 2013 at 5:30 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      Apparently your god thinks child molestation is ok since so many of your religious leaders do it.

      January 18, 2013 at 5:41 pm |
    • Roger that

      Apparently Grimble doesn't read the news.

      January 18, 2013 at 6:37 pm |
    • Kraig

      How do you know that athiests are politically liberal? This must be a matter of your belief too, because it is simply not so. Believe it as you wish, there is no tax for being wrong. But you are simply wrong. And while we're on the subject, I wonder what other issues of your faith are also wrong? Can you wrap your head around this concept?

      January 19, 2013 at 3:11 am |
  15. trythison

    I voted for Obama. I think that says a lot about how things are going to turn out when we die.

    January 18, 2013 at 3:38 pm |
  16. Grimble Grumble the gnome

    Atheists are immoral idiots

    January 18, 2013 at 2:53 pm |
    • sam stone

      You are an imbecile. Walk in front of a speeding bus

      January 18, 2013 at 3:04 pm |
    • sam stone

      Wow....another mouthy C word. I guess it can stand for Christian, too

      January 18, 2013 at 3:10 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      Gnomes are lower than trolls

      January 18, 2013 at 4:09 pm |
    • Roger that

      Here's a good one you may have heard...prayer changes things.

      January 18, 2013 at 6:41 pm |
    • Kraig

      Sigh.

      January 19, 2013 at 3:11 am |
  17. Science

    At its best here and peer reviewed .No go-d(s) required. Proven right here on this tread!!!

    http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2013/01/17/belief-blogs-morning-speed-read-for-thursday-january-17-2013/comment-page-2/#comment-2107898

    January 18, 2013 at 10:39 am |
    • *

      * "thread" (not "tread")

      January 18, 2013 at 12:07 pm |
  18. Why I raise my children without God?

    It becomes a lot more easier for me to justify my wants, needs and my 'morals' . After all I become wormfood when I die and that is what I tell my children, live like there is no tomorrow and when you die, you just die. Moral of this lesson, there are no morals, morals are what you make for yourself.

    January 18, 2013 at 10:31 am |
    • myweightinwords

      So, only people who believe in a god can be moral?

      Which god? Which morals?

      Perhaps you should take a good look around you. There are atheists everywhere living good and moral lives.

      January 18, 2013 at 10:51 am |
    • LinCA

      @Why I raise my children without God?

      A belief in an imaginary friend is not required to have morals. On the contrary, not being hampered by such delusions helps see reality as it is. It allows you to see the consequences of your actions in the present, and how they affect the people around you and society as a whole. Not believing that there is a reward waiting after you die, allows you to evaluate the rules you have to follow to receive that reward on their merits.

      Being religious doesn't make you "moral" or "good". Following the rules supposedly set by a god doesn't make you any more moral than foot soldiers following orders from a tyrant. It makes you obedient at best, complicit at worst.

      But, if believing fairy tales keeps you from murdering your neighbors, please don't ever shed your delusion. The safety of your community relies on your continued mental illness.

      January 18, 2013 at 10:58 am |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      If the only thing keeping you from hurting others is a belief in god than by all means keep believing, but that really does not say much about you or your sense of morality. it just proves you can blindly follow orders.

      January 18, 2013 at 11:27 am |
    • ME II

      "It becomes a lot more easier for me to justify my wants, needs and my 'morals' . "

      Actually, it is more difficult. In a religion, morals are handed to you in the form of doctrine. An atheist, on the other hand, is ultimately responsible for their own decisions and their own ethics.

      January 18, 2013 at 11:39 am |
    • arealday123

      You may not know God, but He knows you.
      You may not teach your children about God, but He will show them who He is in time.
      When they learn about Him, they will then know how little you actually knew.
      But they will forgive you, they will pray for you, they will love you despite your teachings because that is what He will teach them to do...

      You may not want Him in this life, but you may want Him in the next.

      January 18, 2013 at 1:53 pm |
    • sam stone

      if you need a god to have morality, you have no morality

      January 18, 2013 at 1:55 pm |
    • sam stone

      "You may not want Him in this life, but you may want Him in the next."

      what makes you think that there IS a "next" life?

      which god do you speak of?

      January 18, 2013 at 2:05 pm |
    • sam stone

      arealday: can you answer the question, or are you, as i suspect, yet another post and run cowardly christian?

      January 18, 2013 at 2:35 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      "You may not know Bigfoot, but Bigfoot knows you.
      You may not teach your children about Bigfoot, but Bigfoot will show them who He is in time.
      When they learn about Bigfoot, they will then know how little you actually knew.
      But they will forgive you, they will pray for you, they will love you despite your teachings because that is what Bigfoot will teach them to do...

      You may not want Bigfoot in this life, but you may want Him in the next."

      Just as valid.

      January 18, 2013 at 3:47 pm |
    • End Religion

      Now that I know Bigfoot loves me, suddenly life just makes sense. It is my Truth.

      January 18, 2013 at 4:56 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      I am glad you see the truth now ER.

      My favorite peom is "Bigfoot prints in the sand"

      One night a man had a dream. He dreamed
      he was walking along the beach with Bigfoot.

      Across the sky flashed scenes from his life.
      For each scene he noticed two sets of
      footprints in the sand: one belonging
      to him, and the other to someone with really big feet.

      When the last scene of his life flashed before him,
      he looked back at the footprints in the sand.

      He noticed that many times along the path of
      his life there was only one set of footprints.

      He also noticed that it happened at the very
      lowest and saddest times in his life.

      This really bothered him and he
      questioned Bigfoot about it:

      "Bigfoot, you said that once I decided to follow
      you, you'd walk with me all the way.
      But I have noticed that during the most
      troublesome times in my life,
      there is only one set of footprints.
      I don't understand why when
      I needed you most you would leave me."

      Bigfoot replied:

      "My son, my precious child,
      I love you and I would never leave you.
      During your times of trial and suffering,
      when you see only one set of footprints,
      it was then that I carried you."

      January 18, 2013 at 5:52 pm |
    • Uncle50

      Agree with Me II: as an atheist I had to construct my own moral system, which took several years, and then apply it consistently. That process can lead to a much broader set of moral imperatives for everyday life than say the Ten Commandments, and therefore require more changes in one's behavior.
      Example: if human-caused co2 emissions cause climate change that endangers future human welfare, then I am morally obligated to reduce my co2 emission footprint. Believing that, I could no longer morally use my RV and gave it away to charity.

      January 19, 2013 at 10:06 am |
  19. Grimble Grumble the gnome

    I'm a gnome that lives in a garden. My home is under the ground, and I love the fresh air and green grass. I have the ability to talk to wild life, and I talked to a frog that was in my garden over the summer. The poor guy read one of Richard Dawkins books, and now he thinks he's gonna turn into a prince!

    January 18, 2013 at 9:03 am |
    • SImran

      "the ability to talk to wild life" – and I am as.suming that god gave you these magical powers.

      Why don't you ask the frog to pray to the god, the Lord since that might be the only way he turns into a prince?

      January 18, 2013 at 9:13 am |
    • Grimble Grumble the gnome

      Evolution, gave me the ability to talk to wild life. Not only that but at one time mermaids existed because we came from fish! Not only that but big foots existed

      January 18, 2013 at 10:15 am |
    • SImran

      Oh, then I am sure you must be a worshipper of evolution. Do you by any chance serve at the Darwin temple? I heard 'bout one, but dont know where it is.

      January 18, 2013 at 10:24 am |
    • Librarian

      @GG the g,

      I talk to people who read The Bible and who think that they are going to turn into invisible beings when they die!

      January 18, 2013 at 12:13 pm |
  20. Grimble Grumble the gnome

    Charles Darwin married his 16 year old cousin!!! That's gross! And the leader of the new atheist, Richard Dawkins has been married like 3 times cause he's probably such a jerk to live with. He can't even keep a marriage together yet you idiots think he has all the answers. You stupid communist, drug addict, alcoholic, stupid, low IQ idiots

    January 18, 2013 at 8:54 am |
    • Damocles

      Ahhh yes, this makes total sense because no believer has ever married young, or their cousins, or ever been divorced. Truly they have the moral high ground.

      Keep grumbling because you are just too damn cute when you do.

      January 18, 2013 at 8:58 am |
    • psych ward staff

      Marriage to cousin was quite the regular thing back then. What was gross was Lot's daughters seducing him with wine immediately after the three of them were saved from S&G being destroyed for immorality.

      January 18, 2013 at 9:17 am |
    • Librarian

      GG the g,

      Emma Darwin was 30 years old when she married Charles. Where do you get this 16 year-old bit?
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emma_Darwin#Marriage

      January 18, 2013 at 12:18 pm |
    • meifumado

      looks like this Gnome has evolved into a troll!!

      January 18, 2013 at 12:19 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.