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If You Want Well-Adjusted Children, Bring Them Up Without Religion

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Reprinted from dailykos.com by Th0rn

Contrary to what the Bible-thumpers say, bringing your children up without imposing religion on them is more likely to produce happy, ethical, caring, rational, law-abiding, and well-adjusted children than those found in religious households:

More children are "growing up godless" than at any other time in our nation's history....

The number of American children raised without religion has grown significantly since the 1950s, when fewer than 4% of Americans reported growing up in a nonreligious household... 23% of adults in the U.S. [today] claim to have no religion, and more than 30% of Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 say the same....

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Is this a problem? Apparently far from it:

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.

For nearly 40 years, Bengston has overseen the Longitudinal Study of Generations, which has become the largest study of religion and family life conducted across several generational cohorts in the United States. When Bengston noticed the growth of nonreligious Americans becoming increasingly pronounced, he decided in 2013 to add secular families to his study in an attempt to understand how family life and intergenerational influences play out among the religionless.

Instead of finding dysfunction or moral decay, he was surprised to find strong family bonds, emotional closeness between parents and their children, and high moral and ethical standards, which the parents had taken great care to instill in their children, using rational means.

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"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."....

[N]onreligious family life is replete with its own sustaining moral values and enriching ethical precepts. 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.

For secular people, morality is predicated on one simple principle: empathetic reciprocity, widely known as the Golden Rule. Treating other people as you would like to be treated. It is 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....

Democratic countries with the lowest levels of religious faith and participation today -- such as Sweden, Denmark, Japan, Belgium and New Zealand -- have among the lowest violent crime rates in the world and enjoy remarkably high levels of societal well-being.

It sounds like a multitude of problems -- from crime, to war-mongering, to racism, to low voting rates, to lack of willingness to deal with climate change, all might have the same simple fix....

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