“The Tribe of None”

Via Suzoz at Personal Political, I’ve just discovered and read this interesting column about raising kids without any religion by Adele Horin in the SMH. Some time ago, the British sociologist Anthony Giddens, until recently Director of the LSE, noted that one marker of a post-traditionalist society was that while we were often “born into” a particular faith, we were free to change to another, an eclectic mix of beliefs or none… One of the really fascinating things for sociologists of religion will be the first good studies of a new generation of children and adolescents who have been raised with no religion. I’d be interested if anyone wanted to discuss this one anecdotally.

ELSEWHERE: Immanuel Rant has some thoughts on politicians, religion and morality sparked off by a column in the SMH by Emily Maguire.

About Mark Bahnisch

Mark Bahnisch is a sociologist and is the founder of this blog. He has an undergraduate degree in history and politics from UQ, and postgraduate qualifications in sociology, industrial relations and political economy from Griffith and QUT. He has recently been awarded his PhD through the Humanities Program at QUT. Mark's full bio is on this page.
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2022 years ago

interesting to see that Adele’s kids were exposed to Xtianity but it didn’t stick. when I have kids, I don’t think I’d want them brought up Catholic like me, but I think I’d want them to be able to choose. but how? the sort of junior phillip adams rationalism her kids display is precocious, but to me unappealing. kids, I think, sense some of the wonder of the unseen as well as the seen world.

Mark Bahnisch
Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

It is an interesting question, yellowvinyl.

I have a friend who was raised by her parents without any religious beliefs. She met a Catholic guy through internet dating and got me to take her to Mass in the Cathedral in an attempt to better understand it. Her reaction could perhaps best be described as culture shock! She liked the incense though…

2022 years ago

An interesting companion piece was the one by Emily Maguire in yesterday’s SMH (27/12) that took politicians to task for their handy linkage of religion to morality as well their the idea of “family values. Link follows:

And if yer interested I blogged a bit on this and started to think (not to hard yet) about morality without god. I was also mistaken in the readers response as the Horin piece seemed to ire the religous where as Maguire’s tended to provoke some agreement. Then again we are at the editor’s mercy.

For the question from yellowvinyl, my take is that you need to encourage your children to think and question. I think that only adds to their sense of wonder (it did to mine). Also expose them if possible to the different religious traditions. Though I’m yet to have a kid as my own to experiment on I think you could give them the ability to make their own decisions. I would not want my kid to say because my dad is an atheist I am too. I’d much rather hear one day “Dad, I’ve thought about it. Here are my reasons for adopting atheism/christian/rastafariansim etc”

I was raised a Catholic as well. It was interesting that the Catholics I knew were very liberal. That had a postive influence on my life even though I’ve wandered into some form of atheism since then.

Anyway, I don’t think children should decide on religion till their 18 anyway.

2022 years ago

the piece by Emily Maguire, and your reflections, Irant, are interesting. it is so true that the religious don’t have a lien on the values debate.

as to the issue of raising kids, I guess it’s a tricky one. people normally have no “choice” as to what religion they are raised in. I’m sure you can inculcate ethical and rational values without a religious grounding, and I guess yr right, Irant, kids can take it from there… interestingly, one of the reasons behind the criticism of infant baptism (and thus the foundation of the Baptist demonination) in the reformation was a belief that people should have the rational faculties and as we would now say, cognitive development, to choose whether or not they accepted Xtianity. the idea being that infants obviously didn’t and thus the “choice” made by their parents for them was spiritually and rationally meaningless.

2022 years ago

I don’t see that kids actually have faith. I can’t comprehend how a child can have a relationship with god/s when they have a childlike relationship with the people surrounding them.
I think the reason so many kids change or drop religion at a certain age (about the mid to late highschool age) is because they are going through puberty and part of that is reassessing how they relate to people. It takes a varying amount of time to work it out – perhaps years.
Ergo only adults can have faith.

Kids believe in God in a similar way they believe in the Queen ie they “know” the Queen exists and people tell them about the Queen but that’s about it.

I came first in my year in Religion when I was 7 years old. Despite being taught religion by a nun it was an exercise in memory and nothing else.
I can’t see how kids praying to god/s is any different to cleaning their rooms ie it is what is expected of them.

As for where morality features; you are merely laying down the socially acceptable and enforced code. Kids will be getting morality from all other sources eg Brer Rabbit, King Arthur, Harry Potter, folklore, stories Grandad tells about growing up in his village in 1930 etc.

Kids are incapable of true religion in exactly the same way they are incapable of having a true romantic relationship. Their brains simply don’t work that way.

From a practical point of view I agree with Irant: “I don’t think children should decide on religion till their 18 anyway”
But I’d replace “should” with “can”.

From a religious point of view I agree with what yellowvinyl cited: “the idea being that infants obviously didn’t and thus … was spiritually and rationally meaningless.”

2022 years ago

the positive thing I think is that we’re all thinking about this issue – contrary to the stereotype of parents or prospective parents who have no religion and therefore no values…

2022 years ago

“the positive thing I think is that we’re all thinking about this issue ”
Yeah, without the hysterical yelling and jerking of knees.
To be fair, that’s a cheap shot.
Evidently irreligious people who talk about morality don’t have a problem that requires yelling and the jerking of knees.

Harry: Hello, stereoytpic religious morals activist!
SRMA: Hello.
Harry: I’ve been discussing morality with similarly unrelgious on the internet.
SRMA: You can’t do that! You’re not qualified!
Harry: And one of them is bisexual.
SRMA: She’s even _less_ qualified! Where are the Luddite Stromtroopers who will shut down this “internet” and save all our children from becoming lesbian pagans?!

Speaking of d!ckheads: I was trying to participate in three simultaneous conversations the other day and I caught someone saying that a media personality said the recent tsunamis were “God punishing the muslims”, neatly ignoring the hindus and bhuddists of course.
Anyone know who that was?

2022 years ago

“Yeah, without the hysterical yelling and jerking of knees.”

I’ve only got one knee to jerk so that must be why I don’t do it that often. harry, you must have missed the bit about me being a bisexual irreligious amputee :)

on the last point, I have found the various op/ed pieces over the last week about whether the awful disasters prove that god does or does not exist or whether latte sippers will blame it on George W. exceptionally distasteful, if not thoroughly contemptible and repugnant. I wish some of these columnists had listened to Scott’s call to shut the fuck up:


2022 years ago

Ms yellowvinyl,
If, in the future and your many and varied adventures, you require more knees for jerking I humbly offer mine in the hope of furthering human progress. During such a time I only ask that you treat them as you would your own, and return them unto me once they have served their purpose.

Harry KA

P.S. No, I am not propositioning you.

2022 years ago

thx muchly, Harry. yr a scholar and a gentleman to be sure. I do have a prosthetic knee (comes with leg helpfully) which I could jerk from time to time should I feel so inclined. but if I ever feel the need…