How secular family values stack up
A lack of religion while growing up appears to have little effect on ethical standards and moral values
Sociologist Phil Zuckerman discusses how studies show what 'nones' have always known – not believing in something supernatural isn't synonymous with being amoral. Parents who raise their kids without religion are doing just fine and possibly even better than their religious peers. Overall, not believing in God seems to make people and their offspring more tolerant, less racist, less sexist, Enviro-friendly, and their kids care less about what's cool.
A few stand out items:
"So how does the raising of upstanding, moral children work without prayers at mealtimes and morality lessons at Sunday school? Quite well, it seems.
Far from being dysfunctional, nihilistic and rudderless without the security and rectitude of religion, secular households provide a sound and solid foundation for children, according to Vern Bengston, a USC professor of gerontology and sociology."
Bengston (mentioned above) supervised a 40-year study of religion and family life across generations—the largest ever coordinated—called the Longitudinal Study of Generations. He recently added atheist or agnostic families to the mix alongside the rise in their self-reported numbers. And rather than discovering families unbound by the glue of God, performing nightly Satanic rituals in lieu of a nutritious dinner, he found… functional families with actual ethics and values and shit.
"He was surprised by what he found: High levels of family solidarity and emotional closeness between parents and nonreligious youth, and strong ethical standards and moral values that had been clearly articulated as they were imparted to the next generation.
"Many nonreligious parents were more coherent and passionate about their ethical principles than some of the 'religious' parents in our study," Bengston told me. "The vast majority appeared to live goal-filled lives characterized by moral direction and sense of life having a purpose."
Chief among those: rational problem solving, personal autonomy, independence of thought, avoidance of corporal punishment, a spirit of "questioning everything" and, far above all, empathy."
It turns out that the Golden Rule thing… doing unto others as you would have them do unto you, is, Zuckerman writes, "an ancient, universal ethical imperative. And it requires no supernatural beliefs."
"Studies have found that secular teenagers are far less likely to care what the "cool kids" think, or express a need to fit in with them, than their religious peers. When these teens mature into "godless" adults, they exhibit less racism than their religious counterparts, according to a 2010 Duke University study. Many psychological studies show that secular grownups tend to be less vengeful, less nationalistic, less militaristic, less authoritarian and more tolerant, on average, than religious adults.
Secular adults are more likely to understand and accept the science concerning global warming, and to support women's equality and gay rights. One telling fact from the criminology field: Atheists were almost absent from our prison population as of the late 1990s, comprising less than half of 1% of those behind bars, according to Federal Bureau of Prisons statistics. This echoes what the criminology field has documented for more than a century — the unaffiliated and the nonreligious engage in far fewer crimes."
This just goes to show that raising a child in religion simply isn't requiring when raising a child.