Recently, Courtney Heard, aka Godless Mom, posted 7 Atheist Parenting Don’ts, advising against some actions taken by atheist parents who contact her, and that, in her mind, “are complete no-nos”.
It is, in general, a good list; however, I have to disagree with her on one of the items in the post:
Don’t refuse to attend family functions in religious buildings. If you’ve been invited to a family wedding at a church, or a Bar Mitzvah at a synagogue… just go. Refusal to do so, based solely on the grounds that you are an atheist, is petty. By refusing to go, you’re assigning power to the religious venue and don’t think for two seconds your kids won’t pick up on this. If you want your children to see a church or a synagogue as just another building like any other, then don’t give it the power to keep you out.
Now, I’ve written why I don’t go to any religious ceremony (no, not even weddings), and it’s not just “because I’m an atheist” — that would, indeed, be petty.
There is a case to be made for not attending religious ceremonies, and not taking your kids to any, either. I don’t attend family functions in religious buildings for the same reason they would not attend a family function in a Satanist temple: the ideologies the buildings stand for go against every fiber of my being, and I fail to bring myself to be lenient with organized superstition, and demonstrably false and deadly ideologies. Their existence is the worst stain in human history — why would any self-respecting anti-theist pretend otherwise?
So no, I wouldn’t want my children “to see a church or a synagogue as just another building“, because they’re not. I would want my children to see churches, mosques, and synagogues for what they are: places where bigotry and magical thinking are constantly drilled into people’s heads. None of that happens in the mall, a bank, a museum, the gas station, or the burger joint around the corner.
I fail to see why a loving family would knowingly invite any one of their members to a place or setting where they would feel uncomfortable and unwelcome, and I don’t think it is too much to ask to extend that courtesy to atheist relatives as well.
It is not OK to invite your vegetarian relatives to a restaurant that has no alternative to meat, and it would be a dick move to invite your FC Barcelona fan relatives to a sports bar devoted to Real Madrid.
Same goes for religion: if a family doesn’t respect their atheist members enough to have gatherings in places and settings where everyone feels welcome, what all the kids will pick up on, then, is that it is OK to treat atheist relatives (and atheists in general) with less amount of respect and love than that afforded to everyone else — such a self-deprecating behavior is, definitely, something I wouldn’t want my kids to think it’s OK.