Believing in nothing in particular and growing up without faith is becoming a trend in this country. The nonreligious, also referred to as “Nones”, are on the rise- especially among Millennials. There is a LA Times op-ed column getting a lot of attention from younger generations titled, How Secular Family Values Stack Up. The premise of the column is that families raising children without religion are creating moral children with values. No more Sunday morning Bible lessons needed because people are finding morality without God.
A 2012 Pew Research Center study found the following:
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, according to several recent national studies. That figure entered the double digits when a 2012 study showed that 11% of people born after 1970 said they had been raised in secular homes. This may help explain why 23% of adults in the U.S. claim to have no religion, and more than 30% of Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 say the same.
So how do children raised without God stack up to those raised on a foundation of religion? According to a study by USC professor, Vern Bengston, he was surprised that the nonreligious had strong ethical standards and moral values.
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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 said. “The vast majority appeared to live goal-filled lives characterized by moral direction and sense of life having a purpose.”
What defines secular moral values and ethical precepts?
The author’s research and other social science studies define nonreligious values as: “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. As one atheist mom who wanted to be identified only as Debbie told me: “The way we teach them what is right and what is wrong is by trying to instill a sense of empathy … how other people feel. You know, just trying to give them that sense of what it’s like to be on the other end of their actions. And I don’t see any need for God in that. …
Ah, yes, that same secular Golden Rule or empathy value that never seems to apply to the unborn and why secularists embrace abortion as a right and deny the immorality behind it. But I digress…
Research results determined that secular child-rearing creates Godless adults who “tend to be less vengeful, less nationalistic, less militaristic, less authoritarian and more tolerant, on average, than religious adults.”
According to the article, children without religion grow up to be more accepting of global warming, women’s equality and gay rights. Which I might add is the doctrine and theology of the secularist or atheist- some might even call it their “religion”. But I digress again…
The author even claims that the nonreligious engage in fewer crimes. According to the Federal Bureau of Prisons, “Atheists were almost absent from our prison population as of the late 1990s, comprising less than half of 1% of those behind bars.”
The article makes the case that the belief in God is not needed to raise a moral society. Many comments from the column show a large percentage of both Millennials and Generation Y are in complete agreement.
The fallacy of this op-ed is that it defines secular family values as nonreligious. Millennials are declaring they have no need for God to live a moral and ethical life but they do have a religion- it’s just me-centered not Christ-centered.
One of the greatest Christian writers of our time wrote about this age old debate of moral relativism and the natural law theory verse religion. A former atheist, C.S. Lewis explained the natural law theory of the nonreligious in his book titled, Mere Christianity.
C.S. Lewis puts this morality issue between the religious and nonreligious in the context of what it means to be a follower of Christ. I’ll just end this article with a quote from his book and let you decide whether raising your children on me-centered religion verse Christ-centered is really worth it?
We must, therefore, not be surprised if we find among the Christians some people who are still nasty… That was what people objected to about Christ during His life on earth: He seemed to attract “such awful people.” That is what people still object to, and always will. Do you not see why? Christ said ‘”Blessed are the poor” and “How hard it is for the rich to enter the Kingdom,” and no doubt He primarily meant the economically rich and economically poor. But do not His words also apply to another kind of riches and poverty? One of the dangers of having a lot of money is that you may be quite satisfied with the kinds of happiness money can give and so fail to realise your need for God. If everything seems to come simply by signing checks, you may forget that you are at every moment totally dependent on God. Now quite plainly, natural gifts carry with them a similar danger. If you have sound nerves and intelligence and health and popularity and a good upbringing, you are likely to be quite satisfied with your character as it is. “Why drag God into it?” you may ask. A certain level of good conduct comes fairly easily to you. You are not one of those wretched creatures who are always being tripped up by sex, or dipsomania, or nervousness, or bad temper. Everyone says you are a nice chap and (between ourselves) you agree with them. You are quite likely to believe dial all this niceness is your own doing: and you may easily not feel the need for any better kind of goodness. Often people who have all these natural kinds of goodness cannot be brought to recognise their need for Christ at all until, one day, the natural goodness lets them down and their self-satisfaction is shattered. In other words, it is hard for those who are “rich” in this sense to enter the Kingdom.
The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Barb Wire.