Whether it’s to instill traditional family values or simply to get them into a good school, many parents raise their children to be religious in the belief that it is best for them.
But it turns out there’s just no need, with studies showing that children raised without religion do just fine – and in some areas, outperform their religious counterparts.
In a recent op-ed in the Los Angeles Times, sociologist Phil Zuckerman explains that far from bringing children up in a moral vacuum, atheism can give them better clarity about right and wrong – because beliefs are more likely to be rooted in empathy than fear of punishment in the hereafter.
He found that a secular upbringing provides children with firm moral foundations.
One of the (many) problems I have with religion is the idea that morality springs from faith. I'm pretty sure that most Christians in America believe they are morally superior to atheists. So let's say it together:
Believing in God does not make you a moral person.
Morality comes from empathizing with other people. It comes from walking a mile in their shoes, trying to understand them, and treating them the way you wish to be treated, all universal ideas that don't belong to any religion. Rote belief in scriptural pronouncements doesn't teach you how to be moral, which takes wisdom and understanding. And since many religious beliefs are antiquated, horrific and hateful, being religious makes you more susceptible to bad moral choices.
He quoted studies that found atheist teenagers were less worried about fitting in, more tolerant of others, less likely to exhibit racism, and more likely to support women’s equality and gay rights.
Zuckerman also pointed out that atheists commit fewer crimes as adults – making up less than 1 per cent of the US prison population, according to Federal Bureau of Prisons statistics.
Meanwhile, a study conducted by the University of Chicago found that children brought up in secular households showed more empathy and kindness than those raised in religious ones.