Raising Ethical Heathens: 17 Values I’m Teaching My Kids Without Religion

Children should have the right to research faith and belief systems with an unbiased heart, and to then choose which, if any, to follow. There is no One Right Way.

My husband and I were both raised in strict Christian households. So when we had kids of our own, naturally our parents assumed we would do the same. But we’re bucking that tradition, and have decided to not raise our kids with any particular religion.

Our kids know about Christianity.  They have heard stories about Jesus and know there is a book called the Bible in which you can read about him and his religion.

They know bits and pieces about Hinduism, Judaism, Islam, Paganism, Buddhism, and other religions.

They know about reincarnation and know that some people believe our souls keep coming back as different living things—my oldest really likes this idea and wants to come back as a peacock.

They have been to places of worship and understand that some people go there to talk to and about their gods.



They know that people wear different outfits, which are sometimes based on religious teachings.

What they have not heard is that any of these beliefs or practices are “wrong.” Just different.

And we are “just different” too. Our kids are not being raised to follow the teaching of any one religion.  Instead, we are instilling these intrinsic values and beliefs in them:

1. Be Kind and Gentle to everyone and everything. Treat others the way you want to be treated.  Have love for humanity and the universe.


2. Enjoy life as much as you can.  Assume this is all you are going to get.  There may not be an afterlife.


3. Search for beauty and good in everything.  Everything has a positive side.  If you don’t see it, create it.


4. Test yourself, your ideas and beliefs.  Trust what your senses and intuition tell you. The more extraordinary the claim, the more convincing the evidence must be to support it.


5. Use Reason and Creativity to solve problems. Don’t count on anyone else solving them for you. You are empowered.


6. Take care of your body.  If it’s not working right, the rest of this list can be much more difficult.


7. Use your Powers for good.  Make the world a better place for yourself and everyone else by doing as much good as you can.


8. You are an animal, and you have a place in the world as all animals do.  Try not to abuse your position.


9. Learn as much as you can and pass on your knowledge.


10. Take responsibility for your actions.  There is no supernatural force to blame for any harm you do.


11. No person is better than you, and you are not better than any person.  Mutual respect is the key for the survival of the human race.


12. Choose your ethics and stick to them.  Do not let another person tell you that your beliefs are wrong, and learn to tolerate differences in opinions.


13. Live without fear.  Most fear is unhealthy and unhelpful.  Use your gut instinct to choose how to respond the best way in a situation where you may be in danger, but do not live in that state.


15. Believe in yourself and what you can accomplish.  Always look for new ways to be amazed by yourself, and new ways to transcend your own limits.


16. Follow the rules of the place where you are.  Sometimes they don’t make sense to you, but do your best to follow them.  If you really don’t like the rules, or believe that they are hurtful, then find a new place to be.


17. Gravity works.


So far, even though they are little heathens, they are doing just fine.  They are bright, ethical, and don’t appear spiritually lost.



We’re going to continue to encourage them to study different beliefs as they grow.  At the very least, it will help them understand what others believe.  If they choose to follow a religious or spiritual path, I will stand behind their decision and understand it as best as I can— much like any other choice they make in their lives.

Originally published on One Fierce Mama.


Elizebeth Tong is a mom, wife, metal smith, logistics engineer, bassoonista, beer snob, teacher, henna artist, humanist, gamer, quiet activist, maid, amateur psychologist, perpetual student, knitter, drill sergeant, nail biter, musician, milkmaid, writer, ombudsperson, geek, traveler, baker, photographer, pack mule, foodie, bitter philosopher, lover, nurse, sister, comedienne, farmhand, stargazer, role model, Rock Bander, daughter. Read more from her on her blog, One Fierce Mama.

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