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. Nietodarwin

    If a thumper tells me "I will pray for you" I want to bloody their lip and spit on their shoes. (I don't of course.) Why can't you friggin xstians just SHUT UP about your delusions, it just DISGUSTS the rest of us. (It basically rings of "May god have mercy on your soul", which they say right before someone is executed. Xstians have been KILLING non-believers for centuries, those are the facts. If you would like to be treated better by non-believers in this, our modern society, ZIP YOUR LIPS about your delusion, or "faith" as you all call it.

    January 22, 2013 at 9:16 pm |
  2. Nietodarwin

    non-believers need a catch phrase similar to "we will pray for you"....something like "we hope you figure it out"

    VERY GOOD THERE cjeddie!!!
    How about " I will hope you get more education and etiquette so as not to say something like that to me."

    January 22, 2013 at 9:11 pm |
    • RCharles


      January 23, 2013 at 11:09 am |
  3. cjeddie8

    I would guess if Jesus the man lived here today he would be a humanitarian, an environmentalist, most likely a socialist, who would identify more with the modern atheist than the modern Christian. This is judging by what "historical" accounts exist of his actions which are basically scientists and religious scholars best guesswork. I wonder how he would feel about the commercialization of Christmas and how much our economy depends on it? Or all of the money that flows through Churches?

    January 22, 2013 at 10:00 am |
    • tony

      Human nature hasn't changed much in the past 2000 years.

      January 22, 2013 at 1:37 pm |
  4. Steven Hoefgen

    I read her original essay and all I have to say is she is correct in the way a child would believe, not an adult. She obviously thinks of God through the eyes of a child and as some supreme being sitting high up on a cloud overlooking us all therefore dispelling that idea, and not looking at God through the eyes of an adult who knows that isn't true and has evolved in their belief about who God is and what God is about...

    January 21, 2013 at 7:13 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      You mean just like when we grow up and find that the easter bunny, tooth fairy , santa claus, unicorns, god, leprechauns, are all made up fantasy, and as adults we can see that men made up all of those stories, right?

      January 22, 2013 at 10:04 am |
  5. abelieverinMissouri

    You are not wrong- but you are not right either. Religion SHOULD be a personal thing between you and the creator. But I believe there is SOME creator looking down on us. Do we have all the answers? No. But I trust in the creator. I like the religions of the far East – that hold EVERY day as holy. Sunday is not any holier than any other day. I hope and pray for you and your family and for all that 'don't believe'. Like the saying goes- 'When the ground shakes below you- everyone looks up."

    January 21, 2013 at 5:33 pm |
    • Gregory

      Doesn't it worry you that that the creator looking down does NOTHING to stop the violent deaths of so many? Is the creator aiding the soldiers and murderers, or just totally powerless to change anything?

      January 21, 2013 at 9:52 pm |
    • tony

      Man was made in god's image. Man as a creator usually works in quite large extended teams. That make the idea of a single creator rather a logical conflict.

      January 22, 2013 at 1:39 pm |
  6. David Jordan

    I've always felt it would be better to have a smaller group of people who truly believed (some sort of religious creed, don't care which) and a larger group, in relation to its current size, that admit either no belief or no concern about it. While I suggest it's easier to find one's moral grounding with religion, by no means is it impossible, or even that difficult, to be grounded without it. While it's a small thing, a little less hypocrisy and/or self-delusion on the subject would make the world (this one, anyway) a better place. If done with a spirit of acceptance and accommodation, I wish you good luck on your quest.

    January 21, 2013 at 4:48 pm |
    • cjeddie8

      David (just scattershooting here..) if you took 25 boys and 25 girls lets say age 15 and dropped them in the middle of the Amazon with no human contact for 20 years or knowledge of any god, history or culture. Let's assume they survive after 20 years they will most likely have their own gods to explain what they can't understand and their own moralities. Moralities which would be very similar to ours of today. Human behavior has evolved just like everything else and the rules of behavior are natural to us. We don't need religion for morality. People just use religion to govern morality for power. Always have.

      January 22, 2013 at 10:11 am |
  7. Richard


    I'm sure that you've heard by now that you are most definitely not alone. We have a large non-theistic community here in Phoenix including people who identify as atheists, agnostics, skeptics, freethinkers, and humanists, and many are families raising kids without religion. We are all very grateful for the excellent article you wrote and we thank you for speaking up so eloquently. If you ever happen to be in the Phoenix area, feel free to look us up. You would be most welcome!

    January 21, 2013 at 3:42 pm |
  8. Atheist Mother of 2 in CA

    Thank you very much for your bravery.! I absolutely agree with you and struggle with many of the same issues. It took me a while to admit I was agnostic and then even longer and harder to admit I was really Atheist. I feel we as a nation have moved in such a positive direction as it pertains to civil rights that I can finally be free to express my beliefs and discuss them openly. This is in no small part due to people like you. So thank you again!!

    January 21, 2013 at 2:34 pm |
  9. Sam

    There can be three “wills” in this world.

    a. God (The Good),

    b. Satan (The Evil One)

    c. Human will.

    Human will can align with God or Satans will. We can all agree that there is good and evil in this world. Human beings needs to be tested inorder to be proved good. We accepting testing for education, jobs etc. By accepting God we are doing good and by rejecting him we are doing evil. After Jesus Christ returns and establishes his kingdom, there will not be evil. You can read about this glorous time in the book of revelation in the Bible. God has to be God before he can be framed to be as a parent. God is a role model based on his own definition, not based on the human one. God is loving and is a righteous judge to be holy, pure and worthy of honor! If God created us like robots without allowing for free will, the same folks would complain that God is a tyrant that he does not allow free will. Free will comes with responsibilities. If a person escapes from their responsibilities, makes choices that are evil, it is not God’s fault.

    Full article at http://godandhumans.wordpress.com/2013/01/21/why-families-should-raise-children-with-god/

    January 21, 2013 at 2:25 pm |
    • Gregory

      If God cannot change the actions of any person because of "free will" then God is totally without any power. Why would anyone worship an ompotent God? I keep hearing phrases like "Almighty God" but he/she/it doesn't seem to have done anything notable for over 2,000 years. Even then the reports were all negative – mass killings of innocents by a jealous and petty galactic criminal.

      January 21, 2013 at 10:05 pm |
    • tony

      Who willed the drowning of 250,000 in the last coupla Tsunamis? It couldn't have been mankind. But here's a clue. God parted the Red Sea, what, about 1000 BC?.

      January 22, 2013 at 1:43 pm |
  10. Clayton

    I know there is a God ,also I know that God will not work with me on my own terms.
    In a world that the bible is being kept aside systematically and we now act on God like he is our Husband or Girlfrend there will be issues and confusion.
    Yes we can cook if we read the cookbook or do any other choir of skill if we read the instructions. There was no way this woman would be able to inform her kids or herself about the power of God. She was in the dark and it is the right decision for her to leave religon. However her existence will not be regarded as the new way of being a parent or motherhood.

    January 21, 2013 at 1:13 pm |
    • cjeddie8

      you don't know there is a God. Don't lie to yourself, it's a sin right?

      January 22, 2013 at 9:15 am |
  11. Bobbie

    As an Athiest (with an incredibly extensive, practicing religious background... trust me... I've been there), I enjoyed reading this article. I have wondered how, if I ever have children, I would raise them. I decided your method several months ago, but it is incredibly refreshing to see a legitimate publishing of such beliefs. I will raise my children without the presence of a god. I will teach them of the philospohers of past (Buddha, Jesus, Pythagorean, Aristotle, etc.) as they are to history; teachers in their own right. If my chidren, when they are old enough, decide to follow a religious path, I will support them in their decision. I will not tell them that if they harm a child at school, pray to a higher power and all is forgiven; I will not tell them that a being will protect them during a storm (unless, of course, that being is me or their father). I will reaise my children to to morally entact, intelligent beings to are not afraid to question things because other people tell them that it is wrong.

    I will raise my children without a god.

    January 21, 2013 at 11:16 am |
  12. veryhappynonbeliever

    Please add another voice of support. It is time for nonbelievers to come out of the closet and be heard. AND be free of harassment. Remarks such as "I will pray for you" are unwanted and unacceptable, as well as a form of harassment. To each his own, and leave others alone! We don't want your "help"!

    January 21, 2013 at 10:34 am |
  13. countercult

    Deborah, Your essay inspired an excellent sermon on Sunday. I see that you are seeking with an open mind. Our whole church is praying for your faith walk.

    January 21, 2013 at 10:25 am |
    • veryhappynonbeliever

      Please add another voice of support. It is time for nonbelievers to come out of the closet and be heard. AND be free of harassment. Remarks such as "I will pray for you" are unwanted and unacceptable, as well as a form of harassment. To each his own, and leave others alone! We don't want your "help"!

      January 21, 2013 at 10:33 am |
    • cjeddie8

      non-believers need a catch phrase similar to "we will pray for you"....something like "we hope you figure it out"

      January 22, 2013 at 9:21 am |
    • Satan

      Or say Bite Me

      January 23, 2013 at 10:37 pm |
  14. Jennifer

    Thank you for speaking out, Deborah! You are definitely not alone.

    January 21, 2013 at 8:34 am |
  15. RayBaby

    The reason Atheists should fully support religious groups and activities.

    In my 30s and 40s, I used to debate religious believers on the subject of the existence of God. From grand arguments to petty discussions such as “why does every tornado victim say ‘I lost everything but thank Jesus I was spared?’ Why do I never hear anyone say, ‘that damn Jesus just blew my house down.’?” Decades of these debates failed to sway a single believer. Logic, reason, and dismissing their beliefs as akin to believing in Unicorns, Leprechauns, and the Tooth Fairy produced not a single convert.

    30 years later I have changed tactics. I now encourage ALL religious believers of ALL religions. Put aside your desire to compare a belief in Jesus to a belief in Santa Clause. Put aside your objection to prayers in schools or the display of the Ten Commandments on some courthouse lawn. Encourage these things. Here is why.

    ALL religions share a common and very important purpose. By all religions I do not mean, Catholics, Methodists, Evangelicals, Mormons, etc. etc. etc. I mean all religions: Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, etc. etc. etc. We must support and encourage these beliefs because they ALL share a very important purpose. If the millions and millions and more millions of human beings who have be slaughtered over the centuries in the name of one loving God or another had been allowed to live and procreate, the population of the planet would be about 30 billion people today, and we would all starve to death.

    These religious believers are performing a very valuable service; leave them alone, let them proceed. You need only turn on a television or pick up any newspaper to learn about the latest incidence of the members of one religious group slaughtering the members of another. Over the centuries these groups have become quite good at removing human beings from the earth. Do not belittle them – encourage them. They all help hold down the population of the earth. They all help reduce the demand on our food supply.

    If there really was a God, we Atheists would be his chosen people. If you asked me to name a time when Christians slaughtered Muslims I would say, “That’s too easy.” We call that the Crusades. If you asked me to name a time when Christians slaughtered Jews I would say, “That’s too easy.” We call that the Holocaust. If you asked me to name a time when Muslims slaughtered Christians I would say, “That’s too easy.” We call that 9/11. Now religious folks I have one question for you. When is the time in history that you can point to when Atheists killed anybody to promote Atheism? You cannot – because it has never happened. If there really was a God, we Atheists would be his chosen people because we do not kill his people. (Please save your comments that Stalin was an atheist and he killed millions of his own people. Yes he did, for political reasons not to promote his atheistic beliefs.)

    So join me. Support all religions. The planet needs fewer people and religious groups are very good at providing that service.

    January 21, 2013 at 5:15 am |
    • AK

      " When is the time in history that you can point to when Atheists killed anybody to promote Atheism?"

      How about during the entire period of the Cold War, from the Russian Revolution to the fall of the USSR, and the continued suppression of Christians in China today?

      No, of course the Comrades would never do *anything* like that....

      January 21, 2013 at 11:14 am |
    • JQ

      AK, you are welcome to your own opinion but you are not welcome to your own facts. The Communist regimes did not kill to promote the religious belief "atheism". They killed in order to solidify their political and authoritarian grip on their citizens. Something Christian, Muslim, Hindu, and Buddhist dictators have shared in common with their atheist counterparts for millenia.

      January 23, 2013 at 8:39 am |
  16. Sara

    An essay response to your post. "Why I raise my Children with God."


    January 20, 2013 at 10:59 pm |
  17. Janie

    Mrs. Mitchell,

    As a person who is Christian but not in the sense that some represent it, I want you to know how much I support you as a mom and a human being. We have never forced our kids, now grown, to do exactly as we say, regarding religion although we did take them to church when they were kids (not all of the time). They were also lucky to live in a small city where they were friends with kids of all ethnicities and religions from all over the world.
    My late dad was a minister and although he never lost his personal faith, he did question the hate-filled people he saw increasingly before his death. It troubled him greatly that some people thought it was their way or the highway.
    As a person who is now mostly over PTSD (official diagnosis) due to the last two years of threats, violence, vandalism and other attempts to drive us from the small west TN town where we live, I fully understand why you wonder about these people who are really no more than busybodies. We have endured much for our refusal to put up a cross in our yard after someone our local officials knew from the start had complained about a cross on our water tower. 2011 and 2012 were literal hell for the most part due to the violation of our civil rights and deaths of innocent pets and farm animals. Our reputation was tarnished as a vindictive neighbor (now ex neighbor) deliberately spread the word that we were the ones who had brought a federal lawsuit against our town when she and the local elected officials (who also had a hand in the rumors as well as trying to shut down our organic farm) openly spoke that we would be driven from this area. The threats also were found on the internet and it was not until attorneys stepped in and a few professional local law enforcement people protected our rights that things improved. Still, we have to keep up surveillance cameras for protection because some of those "good Christians" just seem to want someone to hate regardless of validity of gossip.
    As we say in our church Peace be with You and know that there are some of us who respect and applaud your strength to stand up to bullies.

    January 20, 2013 at 8:18 pm |
  18. Amy

    I am thankful to live in a country where I am free to practice my religion as I believe. I don't go to church (instead studying on my own) and I don't believe in God as an omnipresent being but rather a part of our conscience – many "Christians" take offense to that. Thing is, religion is not an all-or-nothing deal, as it means different things to different people. Many people I know don't actively participate in religion, nor do we drag our children into it, because we are not all-or-nothing people.

    January 20, 2013 at 3:17 pm |
    • Janie

      Thanks, Amy.

      January 20, 2013 at 8:10 pm |
    • cjeddie8

      Amy don't worry about it. Christianity is like snowflakes, no two interpretations are similar. It's all over the place. That's one of many reasons its so tough for me to believe.

      January 22, 2013 at 10:04 am |
  19. roman2819

    Someone posted earlier, he wants to hear from a hindu or buddhist family why they rais etheir chuildren different from Christian beliefs. I grew up in a country where there ar emany religions and my friends are either free thinkers, buddhists, hindus, muslims and Christains (such as myself, though i was not raised as a christian, i became one before i turned 20).

    Many buddhists, taoists, hindus and muslims are born into it, which means their parents and grandparents and b4 had those beliefs.The children follow as part of tradition. Some of them may choose a different path later on, such as a buddhist or free thinker may accept Jesus. Of course, some Christians also walk away from thair faith or lose interests.

    My first cousins and their parents live in Malaysia, a family of almost 10 people. Ibitially they were freethinkers. One day, 25 years back, one cousin accepted Jesus. As time goes by, anotehr accept and more follow, including the mum (my first aunt). My uncle accepted Jesus abot 3 months before he passed on at late 80s).

    Anyway this is a book "Understanding Prayer, Faith and God's will" http://www.tatepublishing.com/bookstore/book.php?w=9781620241431

    January 20, 2013 at 12:11 pm |
  20. Rob

    Good for you. I was raised Catholic and in those days if you asked any type of question that was logical you were chastised. I am glad your essay received some publication. There are many here that are 'afraid' to talk about it to others. I am not one of those, if someone tries to shove their beliefs down my throat or my children they will quickly have a history lesson on their faith.

    January 20, 2013 at 12:06 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.