Religion has much to offer parents: an established community, a defined set of values, a common lexicon and powerful symbols, rites of passage, a means of engendering wonder, comforting answers to the big questions, and consoling explanations to ease experiences of hardship and loss. But for most secularists, these benefits come at too high a price. Many feel that intellectual integrity is compromised, the word “values” too often turned on its head, an us-vs.-them mentality too often reinforced. Religious answers are found unconvincing yet are held unquestionable. And so, in seeking the best for our children, we try to chart a path around the church. That’s what Parenting Beyond Belief is all about.

In the decade since the first edition, the religiously unaffiliated have grown from 15 to 23 percent of the US population, and a full third of Millennials (born 1981-96) now identify as nonreligious. Books, online resources, and organizations have risen up to meet the need of this growing population. More public figures have identified as nonreligious than ever before. And many political analysts credited the religiously unaffiliated as a deciding factor in the election of President Obama in 2012—something unimaginable ten years ago.

The world of secular parenting has grown and matured as well. A dozen other books have been written. There are hundreds of secular parent support groups nationwide. A tiny handful of secular parenting blogs and forums has given rise to entire networks and scores of articulate, insightful blogs by experienced secular parents. A group called Grief Beyond Belief addresses grief, loss, and talking to children about death, all in a nonreligious context. Foundation Beyond Belief gives secular families and individuals a nonreligious option for regular volunteering and giving, and Sunday Assembly has done the same for nonreligious gathering. In ten years, Camp Quest, the secular summer camp that had grown from 1 to 6 locations in the decade before the first edition, has grown from 6 to 16 in the decade since, including locations in the UK, Norway, and Switzerland. And the global Sunday Assembly movement, a brilliant and inspiring secular alternative to religious congregations, wasn’t even a glimmer in its founders’ eyes in 2006. Born with Sunday Assembly London in 2013, it has now grown to 70 Assemblies in eight countries.

Now a new edition of PBB adds many of these new voices to the mix, including Dr. Marvin Berkowitz on secular moral development, Dr. Katherine Miller on evolution education, Dr. Phil Zuckerman on community without religion, Rebecca Hensler on secular grieving, and Sanderson Jones on the phenomenon of Sunday Assembly.

One thread runs throughout the book: encourage a child to think well, then trust her to do so. Removing religion doesn’t guarantee kids will think independently. In order to really think for themselves about religion, kids must learn as much as possible about religion as a human cultural expression while being kept free of the disturbing idea that they will be rewarded in heaven or punished in hell based on what they decide – a bit of intellectual terrorism we should never inflict on our kids, nor on each other. They must also learn what has been said and thought in opposition to religious ideas. If my kids think independently and well, then end up coming to conclusions different from my own – well, I’d have to consider the possibility that I’ve gotten it all wrong, then.

Either way, in order to own and be nourished by their convictions, kids must ultimately come to them independently. Part of our wonderfully complex job as parents is to facilitate that process without controlling it. Raising them without the constraints of traditional religion can help, but that by itself is not enough. We also need to keep learning from each other how to do it well.

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