How to Raise an Atheist Family

Question:  As an atheist, how do you raise a family in a \r\nsociety that seems to condemn atheism?

Penn Jillette:\r\n Well with the kids it's really tough. Just the other day my daughter \r\njust turned five, you know, she was playing with her cousins and one of \r\nthe cousins came to my wife and said, "Moxie said God is mean." \r\nMoxie.... that's my daughter did not say "God is mean." She said, "There\r\n is not God." One of the older children said, "Oh my God." And she said,\r\n "You shouldn't say that because there is no God." She's cobbled \r\ntogether "You shouldn't say that" from school with "There is no God" \r\nfrom us. And it's really hard. I think it's really tough because people \r\nunderstand atheism so poorly.

I mean, the number of people that \r\nsay is atheism Satanism still is remarkable. I mean, atheism is as far \r\nfrom Satanism as you can get. Christianity is close to Satanism. At \r\nleast they, some of them think they're Satan. Atheism couldn't be \r\nfurther away.
\r\n
\r\nIt's a little hard and I think that I am very sympathetic to people who \r\nare surrounded by Christian people - religious people, I'm sorry, \r\nsurrounded by religious people, theists, and have to be a little more \r\ncloseted. You know, I don't believe in... I mean, I believe the parallel\r\n to gay rights is exactly the same. I don't want to out anyone, you \r\nknow, against their will. I don't even think it's immoral to be quiet \r\nabout it. It's just not in my makeup to be quiet about it but my \r\nsympathy.
\r\n
\r\nI just spent—I'm not going to go into it too much because it's very \r\npersonal—but I just spent a wonderful dinner with there men who were \r\nHasidic Jews, payos, the clothes, English was not their first language, \r\nalthough they were born in Brooklyn. Never read a book in English until \r\nthey were 25 years old. And completely within this religious \r\ncommunity—their wives, their children, the extended families. And they \r\nhad become atheists, and were talking to me about how they were losing \r\ntheir whole community and their whole families. And I think they \r\nexpected me to say, I think maybe they even wanted me to say, "Well suck\r\n it up there's no God, do what's right." And that was as far from my \r\nfeelings as possible.

I said, "Oh man, you love your children. \r\nYou love your family, you've got to keep loving 'em. And you got to make\r\n a lot of concessions for 'em. And I'm just glad I'm not going through \r\nit." And I think that's my answer to someone who says they're having a \r\nhard time. "I'm glad I'm not going through it." You know, my mom was an \r\natheist at the end of her life. My dad died a Christian and I loved him \r\nwith every part of my heart and I would never have let religion get in \r\nthe way. Fortunately he felt the same way.
\r\n
\r\nRecorded on June 8, 2010
\r\nInterviewed by Paul Hoffman

It can be tough, especially with young kids, because people understand atheism so poorly.

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