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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. Franz Klammer

    Guess I am an appeaser...I am agnostic and so is my wife. The grandparents however would like to baptize the baby, anyway so we let them. As long as she doesn't drown 🙂 And I am driving my mother in law to church services on Sunday. They also take care of her during the day and have won the "right to influence". People are born more or less religious and if she were to find solace there, I'd be o.k. with that. I absolutely wont lie to her, that's just too silly or give money to these already over-funded churches. Thus, the little one grows up in intellectual uncertainty about the afterlife and will change her mind about the meaning of life a couple of times, I guess. If that's going to be her biggest problem in life I'm happy.

    January 20, 2013 at 10:15 am |
  2. flo

    I am so happy to know that I'm not alone in giving up religion that I never found answers for and so was never able to completely believe in anyway. People find out that I'm "not a believer" or not "born-again" and they autmatically think I'll eventually reach for guns, knives, or who knows what. Truth be told, I have as many morals as the next person and I definitely live by them. Above all, I try to respect those who do believe in a higher power as well as those who don't.

    The two things that disappoint me the most about "born-again Christians" is how judgemental most of them are, as evidnced by some comments on this board. Also, upsetting to me, is how intolerant most "Christians" are of those who do not believe exactly the way they do. When comparing the more right-wing leaning American "born-again Christian" and the average radical Taliban, there seems to be little or no sunlight between the two groups. I just can't see being any part of all that.

    What ever happened to "live and let live"??

    January 20, 2013 at 9:36 am |
  3. Roman2819

    @Chris388

    Its good to hear of your baptism your testimony. I gather that you have believe for many years now. No doubts we still have questions about prayer and God's will. This is a book for both young and matured Christians: "Understanding Prayer, Faith and God's will"(available at Tate publisher). There are 12 chapters:

    1. Inner doubts
    2. What does the Bible mean?
    3. Prayer: What did Jesus intend to tell us?
    4. "Why doesn't God answer more prayers?"
    5. To pray again
    6. Does Sin impede prayers?
    7. Faith in God
    8. God's will: How does He call people?
    9. Understanding God's will
    10 Being in God's will
    11 Journey of the Bible
    12 Reading the Scripture Fruitfully

    January 19, 2013 at 11:23 pm |
  4. dmvcitizen

    When you stopped believing in Santa, how many people did you kill? Atheists have morals. Hitler had religion

    January 19, 2013 at 11:08 pm |
    • Really?

      How many fallacies can you fit into one argument?

      January 20, 2013 at 5:29 am |
  5. Roman2819

    I was not a Christian initially. I grew up in a country in Asia where where is no religious fervor, where most of your friends and neighbors are not Christians. where there is no public prayer at schools, and where everyone is a moderate (whether christians, atheists, buddhists, muslims). Even so. I believe that God exists because of one main reason: The creation could not have been so complete without a Creator. We are talking about millions of species of fauna, flora, living creatures existing in harmony, and much more.

    After I became a Christian (more than 20 years back), I know God is real. But so is human sufferings. We may not totally accept why God allow sufferings, but He still exists, whether we agree with Him or not. The book, "Understanding prayer, faith and God's will" can be helpful for all who believe, and for all who haven't.

    January 19, 2013 at 10:56 pm |
    • cjeddie8

      Roman, you need to get a clue on evolution, biology and science before you even attempt to write it all off to God creating all of nature, species fauna etc. The size of your brain is a survival adaptation because we were forced to walk erect in search for food. Intelligence is to humans what the turtle shell is to a turtle or incredible speed is to a cheetah. Thank NATURE for your ability to even conceive your existence, it was a perk.

      January 22, 2013 at 9:39 am |
  6. Dan

    You do not need religion to have a moral compass, and you do not need religion to raise morally grounded children. "Act only according to that maxim whereby you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law without contradiction." I take my hat off to the author of this article, and I am appalled and disgusted by the intolerant, hateful, and ignorant comments posted by so many so-called "Christians."

    January 19, 2013 at 10:14 pm |
  7. Learner777

    Aside: One of the greatest treasures that my mother passed along was the however little that she did know about God.

    This was a little seed that it lay doormat for many, many years it has become of the greatest blessings & joys of my life.

    Thank you mom, in spite of the imperfections in both of our understanding, for sharing what you did know.

    Thank you God for being God.

    Thank you God for being a spiritual Father.

    Thank you for being merciful to our imperfections, at times our lack of being 100% logical,

    Thank you that you are an earnest heartfelt prayer away & for being there for those who see their spiritual poverty & need & who hunger & thirst for what is right within our heart & thinking (Matthew 5 & 6).

    Thank you for teaching us how to pray.

    Thank you for parents & people who teach children what they do know about God.

    http://www.bibleanswer.com/teachustopray.htm
    http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=31&ved=0CDIQFjAAOB4&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.preachitteachit.org%2Fuploads%2Ftx_wecsermons%2FLesson_2_-_Lord_Teach_Us_to_Pray_-_Part_One.pdf&ei=9Uz7UICvM4Xe8ATS0YCQAQ&usg=AFQjCNHiud2OrYdFQoy0pXoYP5GUYRLs4A&sig2=FmujD0V2HbUEk1jKxzApow

    January 19, 2013 at 9:31 pm |
  8. Learner777

    Why I Raise My Children Without God’s point #2: God is not logical.

    The writer shows why some people are not logical, but it is not clear why the writer thinks that God is not logical.

    Again, if we apply the posters logic for raising children without God to parents who are at times illogical, then maybe the children should be raised without parents who are at times illogical?

    If we were to do this then there might be a lot of parent-less children! Bummer. And even the leaders of the orphanages couldn’t take care of the children because they too might be illogical at times! Again, bummer.

    January 19, 2013 at 9:26 pm |
  9. Learner777

    Why I Raise My Children Without God’s point #1: God is a bad parent and role model…. Good parents don’t allow their children to inflict harm on others.

    OK. Let’s apply the writer’s logic to us. Did you ever have a child say anything unkind or unmerciful about another child (in spite of your teaching the child to always be kind and merciful)? Many parents have & by the writer’s logic most of us are bad parents & role models. Hence, applying the writer’s logic to us, our children should be raised without us! Wow. OK, given our imperfect efforts, then who would teach our beloved children right from wrong?

    Parents teach. Parents provide instruction. Some children sometime violate those instructions.

    God teaches. God provides instructions. Some children sometime violate those instructions.

    January 19, 2013 at 9:24 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      I wouldn't eternally punish my child for non-belief....so yeah I am a better parent than your god.

      January 19, 2013 at 11:37 pm |
  10. Learner777

    Why I Raise My Children Without God’s point #1: <>
    OK. Let’s apply the writer’s logic to us. Did you ever have a child say anything unkind or unmerciful about another child (in spite of your teaching the child to always be kind and merciful)? Many parents have & by the writer’s logic most of us are bad parents & role models. Hence, applying the writer’s logic to us, our children should be raised without us! Wow. OK, given our imperfect efforts, then who would teach our beloved children right from wrong?

    Parents teach. Parents provide instruction. Some children sometime violate those instructions.

    God teaches. God provides instructions. Some children sometime violate those instructions.

    January 19, 2013 at 9:22 pm |
  11. Sylvie

    Thank you. I try to raise my daughter with the same values. To do what is right based on respect, empathy and dignity for others and ourselves. We live in the bible belt, it has been very difficult to say the least. I wish the deeply religous people who mean well by offering to save us could offer the same respect and tolerance we offer them. I agree with earlier posts; you are brave, and thanks again for giving a voice to us all who feel the same.

    January 19, 2013 at 9:19 pm |
  12. Beth

    I applaud this woman for having the guts to write something like this knowing full well that she will be receiving a ton of backlash. There should be more people like this woman. We shouldn't be afraid to state our opinions because we have different views on religion or anything else for that matter. I am atheist and proud to admit it.

    January 19, 2013 at 7:14 pm |
  13. Scott

    My wife and I are raising our children without religion as we are both agnostic. Our neighbors on either side of us are Christians but we accept each other the way we are.

    January 19, 2013 at 4:13 pm |
    • Lensa

      If you do not lead your children in the way of God..You don't love them. How foolish are you? We are on earth no more than 100 year ..The rest? Why are you against the one that created you? Why do you lead the one you love into darkness. Jesus Christ is real and is true. Evil will tell you something else. If you want to lead your family in the right way I suggest you repent FAST. If you don't...I am telling you the truth Hell is waiting on the door. These is not a fairy tail. It's really. I pray That God helps you see the truth.

      January 19, 2013 at 6:30 pm |
    • Franz Klammer

      I always wonder why a subset of Christians seems to always want to "save" us. If the god wanted us "saved", he could do it, couldn't he, being all powerful? Afraid it will be boring in heaven for eternity with your own crowd? I'll gladly hang out with non-crazies but to everybody their own...

      January 20, 2013 at 10:30 am |
  14. Likemindedmom

    I have called myself an evangelical – fundamentalist atheist!! I am so sick of having to defend my beliefs. I was raised in church. I have wholly rejected that nonsense. When I talk to someone about why I don't believe I refute religious claims with facts, they answer with emotion. I think that there are more non-believers than believers. There is just so much fear and pressure to claim god. As to those that live a religious devout life...not the majority at all.

    January 19, 2013 at 4:12 pm |
  15. Gunny

    Faith and Fact are not the same.

    January 19, 2013 at 4:06 pm |
  16. RJ

    Non believers have stood quiet for too long. We will no longer tolerate being treated as second class. Our respect for others' religious beliefs will only be given in cases where our lack of such belief receives the same respect in return.

    January 19, 2013 at 3:56 pm |
  17. agnosticatbest

    Thank you for speaking for many who believe and are surrounded and pressured by an intolerant community. You are certainly not alone and appreciated by so many!

    January 19, 2013 at 2:57 pm |
  18. Jan

    YOU FOOL!

    IT IS MORE EXHASTING TO LIE
    TO YOUR OWN CHILDREN THAN TELLING THEM THE TRUTH.
    IT’S ALL ABOUT YOU, SWEETY.
    ALL YOU WANT IS PUBLICITY.
    GEE MAYBE YOU’LL GET ON THE JAY LENO SHOW.
    I DOUBT IT THOUGH. HE HAS MORE CLASS,… WHERE YOU HAVE
    INCOHERENT CHATTER.

    I MEAN, REALLY!
    WHAT GIBBERISH!
    I LEAVE YOU WITH THIS SWEETIE.
    MARK: 8:36. READ!
    AND THAT’S NO GIBBERISH!

    January 19, 2013 at 2:35 pm |
    • agnosticatbest

      Jan, you are the epitome of the typical fanatical uneducated religious nut! You harm Christianity more than you help. You do not speak for so many sane Christians. You are a detriment to your own community and should be shunned.

      January 19, 2013 at 3:01 pm |
    • Gunny

      You can't handle the truth.

      January 19, 2013 at 4:05 pm |
    • Athy

      And turn off your fucking caps lock. It makes you look stupid. Are you really stupid? Boy, what a dumb question, huh?

      January 19, 2013 at 5:09 pm |
    • Dan

      Jan, when you write tripe like this, you really are doing the Devil's bidding!

      January 19, 2013 at 10:15 pm |
  19. Abraham Medina

    I hope this mom will never experience having her children shot by other children or her own children killing other children since they have never been taught that The Ten Commandments from God himself is all about and from which the whole world has based laws that define what is wrong and what is right... Good luck to you godless and defiant mom...I don't think you will still be smiling as your lovely picture shows, when you become the victim of another child or person who shot you or your loved one because that person who wronged you was never taught or informed about God who defined what is right or wrong...

    January 19, 2013 at 12:23 pm |
    • Mark Fleck

      To the woman who thinks that atheism leads to crimes against humanity. One word: Hitler. Two words:Manifest Destiny.

      January 19, 2013 at 12:38 pm |
    • Mary

      Just because she chooses not to teach her children about God, doesn't mean that her children will grow up to be killers. You don't need to be taught about God to know from right or wrong. I think it's horrible that you being religious has the nerve to say this to a mom that isn't religious. Get a grip!

      January 19, 2013 at 1:02 pm |
    • Jeremy

      I am an atheist and i stand with her.

      January 19, 2013 at 3:48 pm |
    • AgnosticAndProud

      Abraham, more blood has been spilled on this planet in the name of religion than any thing else. Some of the nicest, kindest people I have known were Atheists. Some of the most judgmental, back-stabbing, greedy people I have known were Sunday-go-to-church-goers. Religion is a four letter word in my world. Yet, I am spiritual and I "hope" there is a God that will right this world someday, but I doubt it very much. If you are what I should become more like to be a "Christian", just kill me now. I would rather be dead. You should try living more like Jesus. From what I hear, he was at the very least, a good, kind, non-judgmental person

      January 19, 2013 at 5:12 pm |
    • Sherrie

      I was raised without religion of any kind. I have never shot anyone. My children were not raised with religion of any kind. They have never shot anyone either.

      Your argument is flawed.

      January 19, 2013 at 6:19 pm |
    • Adam

      I'd just like to note that Atheists make up over 20% of the american populace, and growing.

      They make up less than 1% of the prison populace in America. This means a randomly picked out christian is more likely to have committed a crime than a randomly picked out atheist.

      Now tell me again how Christianity is a better teacher of good morals.

      January 20, 2013 at 1:42 am |
  20. Atheistmom

    Thank you for writing this essay. You are not alone, there are thousands of us who feel the same way and raise our children just like you do, but don't talk about it outside of our families, in order to avoid the anger of our more religious friends and co-workers. I've never written any comments before, but i want to show you my support and thank thank you.

    January 19, 2013 at 12:10 pm |
    • Likemindedmom

      I also commented for the first time ever. This is an issue to big to ignore.

      January 19, 2013 at 4:15 pm |
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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.