Two Items of Business for Secular Parents

calendar-1Okay, people, a couple of items of business on this fine Monday morning. 1. Mixed Marriages: If you happen to be in an "interfaithless" marriage — one partner is religious, the other isn't — you'll want to keep an eye out for Dale McGowan's newest project, a book called "In Faith and In Doubt." McGowan, who announced the book title on his blog last week, promises to show "how religious believers and nonbelievers can create strong marriages and happy families." The book is slated for release around July 2014, but McGowan (author of Parenting Beyond Belief: Raising Ethical, Caring Kids Without Religion) will be blogging about the process in the meantime. Best of luck, Dale!

2. Secular Parents: For those who live anywhere near Long Island, the local branch of the Ethical Humanist Society and Long Island Center for Inquiry are hosting an all-day seminar for secular parents on Sept. 21.  The seminar, titled "Raising Kids to Be Good Grown-Ups," is focused particularly on instilling kids with strong moral character. Segment titles include: "Without God, Will My Kid Grow Up to Be a Criminal?" and "Morality, Religious Concepts and the Cognitive Development of Children." The conference is billed as helping to "foster a society that encourages open debate and critical thought, as well as investing in the future for our children." Speakers include Lenore Skanazy, author of Free Range Kids: How to Raise Safe, Self-Reliant Children (Without Going Nuts with Worry), Dale McGowan (!!!), and Dr. Alison Pratt, a clinical psychologist specializing in cognitive therapy and behavioral analysis, among others. For a schedule, visit: secularparentingforum.org.

Fun Facts about Nones

I've been poring over data as it relates to religious "nones" for, well, far too long. The statistics are really fascinating — but not nearly as fascinating as bullet-pointed lists. So here's both — a mashup, if you will. Read. Enjoy. Be fascinated. nones We tend to lean left. Nones make up 20 percent of the nation's registered Independents, 16 percent of its Democrats and 8 percent of its Republicans. In 1990, those numbers were 12, 6 and 6, respectively.

• We tend to be young. More than one-third of 18-to-24-year-olds claimed “no religion” compared to just 7 percent of those 75 and older.

• We generally avoid the Bible Belt. Geographically speaking, nones live around other nones. Statistically, Northern New England is the least religious section of the country, and Vermont is the least religious state.

• Many of us are first-generation secular. Only 32 percent of "current" nones reported that they were nonreligious at age 12. Almost a quarter of us are former Catholics.

 We have a shortage of women. Only 12 percent of American women are classified as nones, versus 19% of American men.

• Class and education is a non-issue. Nones mirror the general population in terms of education and income.

• Race is a declining factor. Latinos, for instance, tripled their proportion among nones between 1990 (4 percent) and 2008 (12 percent.)

• Kiss us; we're Irish. Asians, Irish and Jews are the most secularized ethnic origin groups. One-third of all nones are of Irish descent.

• We’re sad and stressed. Research suggests religious people are happier and less stressed because of social contact and support that result from religious pursuits, as well as the feeling of well-being that come with optimism, volunteering and learned coping strategies.

• We’ve got brainpower. As individuals, atheists score higher on measures of intelligence, especially verbal ability and scientific literacy. They are also more likely to practice safe sex than the strongly religious and far more likely to value freedom of thought.

• We’re as moral as they come. Contrary to Psalms 14 — which says we're all a bunch of corrupt, filthy ne'er-do-wells — nonbelievers actually score higher than their religious peers on basic questions of morality and human decency. Markers include governmental use of torture, the death penalty, punitive hitting of children, racism, sexism, homophobia, anti-Semitism, environmental degradation and human rights.

15 Secular Songs to Share With Your Kids

Not long ago, I suggested that nonreligious parents share religious music with their kids. I put together a Christian playlist and, later, a Hanukkah playlist. I also recommended some Cat Stevens songs about Islam, including one I love called "Ramadan Moon."  Some readers voiced concern about the ways in which religious songs have been used to indoctrinate children. They argued that the potential downsides to sharing such music outweighed the benefits. But I still think that, as long as we do it right, these musical journeys can be excellent ways to develop religious literacy, learn tolerance for other cultures, and give nonreligious children a way  — should the need arise — to connect with religious children without engaging in all the belief stuff.

But how exactly do we do it right? Well, the same way we approach any other religious knowledge.

wondwo

First, we act as chaperones. We don't just play religious music. We explain what the songs are about, define unknown terms and concepts, and talk about why each song may hold meaning to the religions whence they came.

And, second, we balance out the religious with the secular. In addition to sharing other people's religious songs, we share our own secular songs — and then talk about where these songs came from and why they hold so much meaning to us.

Now, you might be thinking: What the hell is a "secular song?" Is it anti-God music, or just 95 percent of rock-n-roll?

The secular songs I'm talking about are songs that inspire or comfort us; that bring us closer to humanity; that touch on the purpose, meaning and joys of life — without religion.

We all have our favorite secular songs — and I spent a long time paring mine down — but here are the ones I've chosen for my daughter's Secular Playlist. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do — and please don't forget to weigh in with your own secular favorites in the comments!

[Full disclosure: I had to edit this list after I published it because I realized some of the songs actually had religious connotations. This was harder than I thought!]

1. What a Wonderful World by Louis Armstrong (Thanks, Dad!)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E2VCwBzGdPM

 

2. Ain't it Enough by Old Crow Medicine Show (Thanks, Jenny!)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DhzEHtADP-Y

 

3. Imagine by John Lennon

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yRhq-yO1KN8

 

4.  Life's a Happy Song, written by Bret McKenzie

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aDnTo2S2BrA

 

5. In My Life by The Beatles

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zI0Q8ytD44Y

 

6. Don't Worry, Be Happy by Bobby McFarin

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d-diB65scQU

 

7. White Wine in the Sun by Tim Minchin (Thanks, Derek!)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Le1sDyai-JM

 

8. Rainbow Connection by Kermit the Frog

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jSFLZ-MzIhM

 

9. My Favorite Things by Julie Andrews

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E3aBB-J9vhg

 

10. Lean on Me by Bill Withers

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zU97n-HuAJA

 

11. That's Life by Frank Sinatra

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KIiUqfxFttM

 

12: Rocky Mountain High by John Denver

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OwARpaKHx_w

 

13. I Will Survive by Gloria Gaynor

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZBR2G-iI3-I

 

14. Think for Yourself by the Beatles

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yXGSBgr8sbg

 

15. You Are my Sunshine by virtually everyone on the planet (but my favs is Willie Nelson's version)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jDNDELFF1ok