And that was it.
“I’ve explained to them [in the past] that some people believe God is waiting for them, but I don’t believe that. I believe when you die, it’s over and you live on in the memory of people you love and who love you,” she said this week. “I can’t offer them the comfort of a better place. Despite all the evils and problems in the world, this is the heaven — we’re living in the heaven and it’s the one we work to make. It’s not a paradise.”
This is what facing death and suffering looks like in an atheist home.
As so many millions of Americans turn to clergy and prayers to help their children sort out the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, parents like Drizin do not. They don’t agonize over interpreting God’s will or message in the event. They don’t seek to explain what kind of God allows suffering, and they don’t fudge it when children ask what happens to people who die, be they Grandma or the young victims of Newtown.
But that doesn’t mean atheist parents are alike in what they say, believe or do.
As the number of Americans rises who say they don’t believe in a supernatural God, atheists have become more public and confident, spurring a boomlet of church-like Sunday schools for children where secular ethics are taught, and parenting groups where people meet to discuss things like the overbearing religious grandparent, how to teach world religions in the home and ways to help children navigate conversations with religious friends.
Such institutions and groups reveal a range of child-rearing views among atheist parents.
Many want their children to have regular rituals tied to traditional religion, like attending a house of worship, lighting Hanukkah candles or decorating Christmas trees. Some began giving thanks before meals when their children were born, directing their gratitude to the people who grew and made the food. Others say a pre-meal thanks to “God,” a non-supernatural concept they have shaped. Polls show 11 percent of atheists say they pray occasionally (6 percent say daily) and many consider themselves highly spiritual, experiencing transcendence in the wonder of space, nature and connections with other human beings.
Some say they want their children to be open-minded and that convincing their children of atheism is not important. Others feel it’s dangerous to unbiasedly present children with world views that aren’t based on scientifically provable facts.