Darwin Day: Review of Charlie and the Tortoise

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In honor of Darwin Day we read our five year old daughter Tiny Thinkers: Charlie and the Tortoise. The book is written by M.J. Mouton and has beautiful illustrations by Jezreel S. Cuevas. The images are crisp, clean, and the colors pop. My daughter and I really enjoyed the artwork as well as following Charlie on his adventure.

In the book Charlie takes us with him as he explores an island in search for information about the different species that inhabit it. At the end of the book you are provided with a few fun facts about Charles Darwin and are asked the question, “Can you think of an adventure you’d like to have?” To this my daughter said, “I want to go back in time to watch the dinosaurs turn into birds!” It definitely sparked an interest in her to go exploring and to find out more about the world around her.

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My daughter’s favorite part of this book was actually spotting Hitch along the way. Hitch is a beagle that follows the Tiny Thinkers through their adventures.

Though the story is great, my favorite section is Cara Santa Maria’s foreword. Cara discusses how she is a scientist and how she is always seeking answers to the questions she has. This was a great addition because it made my daughter think, “She is like me! I can be like her!” As a parent, my greatest wish is that my children will always seek out information and be confident in the world around them. This book helps with that. I highly recommend this book to any parent with a small child.

Announcing the Raising Freethinkers Virtual Book Club!

Join in on Secular Parenting’s first ever virtual book club as we read Raising Freethinkers this winter! Our book study will start on February 1, 2016, and run for about 6 weeks. The idea behind the project is simple: nonreligious parents across the country and around the world connecting with each other to discuss the same book.

About Raising Freethinkers: A Practical Guide for Parenting Beyond Belief (Dale McGowan, Molleen Matsumura, Amanda Metskas, Jan Devor):

Raising Freethinkers offers solutions to the unique challenges secular parents face and provides specific answers to common questions, as well as over 100 activities for both parents and their children. This book covers every important topic nonreligious parents need to know to help their children with their own moral and intellectual development, including advice on religious-extended-family issues, death and life, secular celebrations, wondering and questioning, and more. (Amazon.com)

If you don’t have a copy of the book already, grab a copy, and get ready for a great discussion!

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Here’s how you can join the conversation:

  1. Stop by the Secular Parenting forums to participate in weekly discussions. New questions are added on Mondays and Thursdays.
  2. Join our weekly Twitter chat each Monday night, 8-9 p.m. CST, using #RFChat2016.
  3. Join the Facebook discussion group.
  4. Write a blog post related to that week’s reading, and share it with us!
  5. Connect with other secular parents in person by hosting a local meetup or finding one near you.

Reading Schedule

Week 1 (Monday, February 1st) : Chapter 1

Week 2 (Monday, February 8th) : Chapters 2 & 3

Week 3 (Monday, February 15th) : Chapter 4

Week 4 (Monday, February 22nd) : Chapters 5 & 6

Week 5 (Monday, February 29th) :  Chapter 7

Week 6 (Monday, March 7th):  Chapters 8 & 9

 

We are excited for a wonderful winter of reading and sharing!

Happy reading!

Corrina Allen

@corrinaballen

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Doing Good Without God

17079546379_0325b61aad_k(1)Foundation Beyond Belief’s National Week of Action–“a way to come together regardless of beliefs to benefit our communities”–was celebrated this April 30th through May 6th. This year my family worked with our local humanist group, the Central New York Humanist Association, to clean up a local park.

We spent two lovely hours enjoying the sunshine and the company of like-minded atheists, agnostics, and freethinkers while raking leaves and gathering litter. My two daughters donned gloves and had a grand time competing to see who could find the coolest bit of trash. (An old bird’s nest was the winner!)  Afterwards, my gals explored the playground and made friends with the kids from other secular families while the adults chatted over donuts and coffee.

As we were finishing up, t17270521371_febacf8f28_h(2)he local Little League coach and his team who use the park’s baseball field came by and were thrilled to see how much we’d spruced up the place. We had a great afternoon showing the community how nonbelievers can be “good without god!”

Looking for a local freethought group to volunteer with?  Check here to find a Beyond Belief Network team near you!

Bill Nye, The Science Guy added to Netflix

We recently asked on Facebook what some of your favorite kids shows were. My answer was Bill Nye, The Science Guy. Sure there are better shows, but I’ve started watching it with my daughter recently, and she enjoys it, especially when I tell her daddy used to watch it as a kid.

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Well, for those of you in the US, it’s become a lot easier to watch this classic with your kids, because it’s now available on Netflix.

Do any of you plan to start watching with your kids, and bask in nostalgia?

 

Bill Nye the Science Guy” by Source. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia.

Happy National Day of Reason!

The National Day of Reason, celebrated annually on the first Thursday of May, was established in 2003 by the American Humanist Association and the Washington Area Secular Humanists. The holiday was started as a way to oppose the National Day of Prayer as the holiday is unconstitutional and discriminates against those who don’t worship the same as those who celebrate it. A national holiday that doesn’t celebrate an entire nation? That doesn’t seem fair.

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However, The National Day of Reason serves as part of an effort to have Americans celebrate reason while bringing awareness to the importance of separation of religion from government. A national day that unites rather than divides the people. Although the holiday is primarily celebrated by those in the secular community, anyone who stands for reason, and wants to see positive change in America can celebrate.

There are events being held today, May 7, 2015, around the country, but anyone is free to start their own event. The purpose of this day is just to be an active part of your community while promoting positive change. Help out at a shelter, offer a public service, or engage in a reasonable discussion with others. Be the change you want to see and include your children in doing so!

Do you support this holiday? If so, please take the time to check out the National Day of Reason website, and fill out this petition to help the effort.

May the Fourth be with you!

Growing up, Star Trek was a big influence on my deconversion to atheism. It helped to teach me to look at things from different perspectives, and to think critically.

I like The Star Wars, but am not a diehard fan. So, when I found this video of Tim Russ from Star Trek: Voyager explaining Star Wars day to me, I felt I would share it with everyone!

Happy Star Wars Day! May The Fourth Be With You!

I’m glad I’m raising my kids without religion, that Jedi thing just seems to cause trouble. 😉

Share your #SecularFamily on #OpenlySecular Day!

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Today is #OpenlySecular Day! It’s a campaign started by Openly Secular to help raise acceptance and awareness of the secular community.

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We’d like to invite you to help us show the world what it means to be a #SecularFamily! Post a photo of your family doing something you love on Twitter, Instagram, Google+, or to our Facebook page with #SecularFamily and what makes your family special.

The “Torn Allowance” Conundrum.

What would you do if you walked out the door and discovered that your child had shred their allowance and left it on the floor?

What if I told you that their reason for tearing the money was because it “wasn’t enough”?

It’s a fair question that Kandice Moore, who blogs at RaisinEmReal, answered in response to a Facebook post that shared this story.

Ms. Moore, before offering her advice, makes a side note about the “flack” she receives for supporting spanking.

“There are just times in parenting where spanking is not only called for, but down right needed”

This statement is what leads me to believe she feels that would be an appropriate consequence in this instance. Her formal response is to make the child tape the money back together and then “force” them to use it towards the family utility bills, and also to contribute several months worth of allowance the same way. Her concept is that this would teach her child the value of money.

Before I can respond to her advice, I have to deal with the the inferred consequence of spanking the child.

I get it! I totally would want to spank my child as well! I can say with utmost certainty that if I came out and found money purposely shredded at the door to my bedroom because it “wasn’t enough” I would EXPLODE inwardly. I would literally see red. In fact, I would have to go into the other room and NOT face my kid until I came down from Mt. Rage and entered the Valley of Calm Calculation. It is my job is to educate and raise my child and therefore I would want think of an appropriate and effective response.

The reason I am an atheist is because over time I found there was overwhelming evidence for a natural world and no legitimate evidence of a deity. I would wager most people become atheists or lose faith in religion because of compelling evidence against the concept of a deity. Which then leads me to suspect that a majority of secular parents are probably evidence driven people.

Well, spanking has also been (and continues to be) researched rather rigorously and thus far been linked to have a strong correlation to antisocial and aggressive behavior in children (http://www.apa.org/monitor/2012/04/spanking.aspx). There is a huge body of evidence to suggest that alternate forms of behavior modification should be used instead and as a person of reason, I follow that suggestion. To do the opposite and spank my child despite knowing that it’s harmful and ineffective in addressing the root of the problem is, in my opinion, cruel. Despite what some of the highly religious might think about us secular families, we are not actually cruel or amoral. 🙂

Which brings us back around to finding a solution! And I applaud Ms. Moore for coming up with a more long term solution! I don’t know how effective just telling a kid their allowance is going to a bill would be but I agree that they clearly don’t know the value of money, and as a good parent I would want to educate them. As a kid I got allowance every month without any stipulation of earning it (I just had to budget it into various categories). My wife received money every week for doing chores growing up. I think removing the “you get money every (insert random time interval here) with or without any work” and replacing it with a “you get a nickel/dime quarter for every chore/work around the house” makes more sense. It provides instant reward at a sustainable rate for parents that the child can pocket and spend on their own. They can save up for their candy or toy and work extra to earn extra. If they don’t want to participate in this then they can be broke. Of course you’ll have to walk them by stores they would want to purchase at next time you go out to really let them feel that financial pain but whatever. The message here is a simple: “If you feel you are entitled to handouts then no more handouts. You want money, you $&%# earn it just like the rest of us.”

My wife was thinking there could also be another educational piece here with having them volunteer to help or work with people who are less fortunate. I think that a multifaceted approach is better than just a single solution for sure. I’m sure you fine folks will also have ideas that would be appropriate and effective. Spanking in my opinion doesn’t make the cut. Teaching a child to fear their parent doesn’t address the actual underlying problem and possibly adds more difficult problems down the road according to current studies.

Feel free to share your ideas and even other parenting conundrums. Even though I disagree with some of what Ms Moore wrote, I am glad she wrote about the problem. Mental exercises like this allow us to problem solve before we have to take on a challenge like this ourselves.

In the Beginning: Sharing Creation Stories With My Kids

Over the last few months, my daughters and I have snuggled up together under blankets to read our latest bedtime stories from an anthology called “In the Beginning: Creation Stories from Around the World.”

5375620635_8bca6b05af_oLike a good humanist Mom, I wanted to make sure my girls knew all about various religious traditions rather than being indoctrinated into a specific viewpoint. I wanted to make sure all religious myths were given equal footing in their lives rather than hearing only stories from Genesis. I wanted to make sure they saw the rich tapestry of beliefs that make up the cultures of our world rather than think one particular story was “divine.” I wanted a cozy yet educational experience with lots of reflection and deep thinking.

What I got instead? Two young girls doubled up laughing!

It started with the very first story, the very first page. “The Pea Pod Man” is an Eskimo myth about a trickster raven god. Here is how it went.

Me (reading): “Time was, there were no people on Earth. The first man still lay inside the pea pod.”

8 year old (giggling): WHAT? Like, inside a bean??

Me: Yuimagep!

And it continued through the second story, “Quat the Creator,” a myth about a sun god who creates humans from wooden puppets.

Me (reading): “The brothers were all named Tangaro, but–”

6 year old (interrupting): They all had the same name?!

[Pause for 10 minutes of laughing.]

Me (reading, a bit later when Tangaro the Fool had created, buried, then forgotten his own wooden puppets): “What he found there had rotted. He was forced to leave his puppets buried, they smelled so bad.”

Girls: Hahahahahahaha!!

At this point, I admit I was chuckling along with them and by the time we got to Tawis-karong beating up his brother with a bag full of corn and beans in “The Woman Who Fell From the Sky,” we were just howling at all the ludicrous things in these stories!

Should I discourage the laughing? Maybe. Am I worried that they’ll laugh when they hear others share their Judeo-Christian creation stories? A little. But frankly, I’m glad they recognize the ridiculousness and rather relieved they aren’t prone to falling for the fiction. At least not yet. And we have some time to work on polite but truthful responses to religious traditions that won’t offend. Or won’t offend as much.

 

Source:

Hamilton, V., & Moser, B. (1988). In the beginning: Creation stories from around the world. San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.

Photo Credit:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/horrigans

Review of CNN’s Atheists: Inside the World of Non-Believers

CNN recently shared a special on atheists.

This report was refreshing because it was an honest look at atheism on a major network. However, I didn’t find myself loving it. That could be my own fault though. When this special was promoted, I thought it would be a documentary showing the lives of a wide variety of atheists to give a good look at how diverse we are. They barely touched on the diversity.

Where were the other female atheists? They only showed one female who shared her story alongside a female minister. Where was the atheist family? They only had the religious family living in the bible belt with the atheist son in college. Where were the young atheists? The youngest was the college student. Where was the diversity of ethnicity? Atheists are not all white males, but that’s mostly what you see in this. The report basically boiled down to men of religious background who found atheism was a better fit for them. I simply feel they didn’t do justice to how diverse we are.

Additionally, I feel they could have interviewed other prominent atheists. They only sat down with Dave Silverman and Richard Dawkins. I understand why they were chosen, but they can come across as very abrasive. Dave Silverman is known for being an “in your face” atheist which can turn a lot of people off from what he has to say. Dawkins used to be this way but has mellowed out over the years which is one reason I actually liked his part in this special. They could have chosen Hemant Mehta of Friendly Atheist who sits on the board of directors for Foundation Beyond Belief. He would have been a great contrast to Dave Silverman and has been interviewed by CNN before. He even said he’d be willing to do the show! What gives CNN?

With that said, I appreciated them showing the pain and isolation atheists go through when coming out. It’s a sad reality that many experience. They can lose their loved ones, homes, jobs, and community respect. This follows with isolation when they don’t know other atheists. Having more groups like David Gormley’s Skeptics Society at UNG can definitely help those new to life without religion and help debunk misconceptions of atheism through their “Ask an Atheist” event.

Although, David Gormley’s story is sad even with him having this group of like-minded peers. He grew up in the Bible Belt with a father who is a deacon. His parents said they weren’t surprised when he came out, however, their relationship still changed. Their conversations are meaningless, and his father even said it’s like they’re talking to a dead person. It’s truly heartbreaking to hear such things come out of a parent’s mouth. It’s no wonder this young man chose to start the Skeptics Society at his school, and I hope the group grows with the help of this special report!

Overall, this special was well done. Though it was a short special, they could have gone with a different approach. However, for a 45-minute program, it did justice to atheism and I recommend others check it out!

Please feel free to leave your comments on what you thought about it.

If you are reading this blog and have found that since coming out as atheist your family has disowned you or is treating you poorly, please check out the following resources. You are not alone.
Atheist Haven
Secular Avenue

CNN has since posted an additional Q and A.