Can atheists be good parents?

This question has been rolling around in my mind for several years, but can atheists be good parents? I know the answer if you pose the question to a believer of any kind, HELL NO. But I’m not really interested in the opinions of those cowards who have to believe in an eternal happy ending(not that kind).
My devout Christian wife and I have been together for over 40 years. We disagree on a LOT of subjects, but we do agree on what we believe is the right approach in raising our kids. Be kind to others, work hard in school and anything else that you’re interested in, nothing in this world is free, family comes before friends, and zero booze or drugs until you’re living on your own.
My wife and I have never done any drugs, and have never kept any booze in the house. The MRS. would have the occasional drink when we went out or at family gatherings, and I’ve never drank alcohol in my life, to me it all tastes the same, like crap.
Both of our kids have grown up, gotten married, and have families of their own now. Our son is the owner of an IT security business that also employs our son-in-law. They’ve been in business for over 10 years and have done very well.
Our daughter got her Bachelor’s degree in 3 years and worked for a pipe-line company until she became a stay at home mom after they had their 2nd child.
I’d like to think that I had some influence on them both even though I’m an atheist and they were raised in the church with my wife. A lot of the things that we did in raising our kids are just common sense in my opinion, not the result of Christianity. I worked my ass off for 35+ years to support my family, and I reminded them that nothing in this world is free. If you want something, you have to work for it.
Another thing we did that we both grew up with, family always comes first, and at dinner time, everyone sat at the table to eat, none of this" I’m watching TV" or “I’ll eat something later”. We sat at the table and talked about what kind of day we had and what’s in store for us tomorrow. It sounds corny, but I was raised that way, and everyone knew what was happening in everyone else’s life, no surprises.
We also made sure that they knew that family always comes first. We would have family gatherings to celebrate holidays and family birthdays, and we still do that now. Luckily my 3 sisters and I have always gotten along with each other and their family’s since we all became adults. We’re all flying from Washington state to SO. CAL. next week for my older sister’s memorial. She died in AUG. of 2020, and we’re all going down there to scatter her ashes at the beach we always went to as kids, and we’ll all be there. Family is very important, you don’t need a fucking church for that.
I’m just trying to say that you don’t need religion to be a good, moral person, or to raise your kids. It’s hard work, they can be a pain in the ass sometimes, but in the end, it’s worth it.

Loving, caring, and doing the right thing does not spring from a god.


Can people who don’t believe in wizards be good parents?

Sorry for being facetious, but I cannot see how those questions differ in any objective way, beyond the prejudice and ignorance of those who choose to enforce their superstitions on others.

The golden rule seems like a laudable starting point for me.

Sadly most of is are handicapped by a variety of hurdles we are too young to fully understand, but otherwise yes, I agree that everyone should be able to fully enjoy a free education, and that this should be a life long endeavour.

Well that depends on the family, and on the friends. I dislike absolutes…

Whilst i understand the rationale, I’m not sure such a moratorium is the best approach, rather I think one should be honest with your children, and instil a healthy respect for their own well being.

These are personal choices, but beyond a healthy respect for our own welfare I do not judge, and I have certainly lived a different life.

Very often those behaviours are markedly absent in believers. I mean the question is absurd, like asking can someone who doesn’t believe in the Loch Ness monster be a good parent, do we think Taliban warlords are good parents? I mean what is our criteria for good parent here?

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We can break that down further and attempt to define “good”. And for many, it is a matter or perspective.

Well that is a ridiculous statement. For starters:

  1. Doing drugs is part of the human condition. Everyone does drugs, pretty much every day; even the people who say they don’t.

  2. After telling us how you two have never done drugs; you told us about the two of you consuming alcohol: a well known drug.


Strictly speaking, you are correct. However, from the given context, I suspect the meaning of “drugs” is the colloquial meaning of narcotics or similar controlled substances, while “alcohol” means ethanol, and not the wider group of chemical compounds that carries at least one hydroxyl functional group (−OH) bound to a saturated carbon atom.

Right, when an American says I never done any drugs; what I often hear is I’ve never done the drugs commonly associated with dark skinned people (or some other social group the speaker wants to distance themselves from); because EVERYONE does drugs.

Anyone who tells you otherwise is trying to fool you, or more likely: trying to fool themselves, imo.

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That’s not how I read it (with the caveat that I’m not a native speaker of English, with the possible associated cultural understandings/misunderstandings that follow). According to The Oxford Learner’s Dictionaries, “drug” refers to “an illegal substance that some people smoke, inject, etc. for the physical and mental effects it has” (sense 1) or “a substance used as a medicine or used in a medicine” (sense 2). Sense 1 will then only include alcohol (in its colloquial meaning of ethanol) where it is illegal. However, Merriam-Webster has a wider definition: “something and often an illegal(*) substance that causes addiction, habituation (see HABITUATION sense 2b), or a marked change in consciousness” (sense 2). Granted, this does not exclude alcohol, but on the other hand it includes anything that could cause an addiction or psychological dependence. Since OP explicitly distinguished alcohol from drugs, and since alcohol is not illegal in the US, my conclusion is therefore that he used the OLD definition above.

(*) is it just me, or is this wording somewhat weird?

It’s funny how often people seem unaware of that. People also make assumptions about recreational drugs, drug use, and drug users that in my limited experience is not just ill-informed, but flat out wrong. The US it seems learned nothing from the its disastrous introduction of prohibition laws, and the massive foothold it gave organised crime both in the US and elsewhere.

Addiction is a complex issue, and some substances are simply not worth the risk. Sadly without a candid appraisal of the risks of all recreational drugs, and the ludicrous hysteria that the generic and largely meaningless word itself, seems to engender in people who openly admit to never trying any of them, I fear countries will lurch on with the pointless and stupid laws and wars on drugs that currently causes so much misery.

According to Nyarlathotep’s Disreputable Horribly Jaded Dictionary of What Words Seem to Mean to Me from their Common Usage in Society:

Drugs - the chemicals other people put in their bodies.

Medicine, food, painkillers, vitamins, etc - the chemicals people put in their own bodies.

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I should have said illegal drugs, and I have never consumed an alcoholic beverage in my life, I have tried a few in my past, but I’ve always put it down and said “no thanks”. If you don’t believe me, I couldn’t care less. Neither one of our kids ever expressed a desire to smoke or used drugs while living in our home.

Is the concept of someone not doing illegal drugs really that hard to comprehend? Both my wife and I have never touched or used illegal drugs in our lives. My wife was 16 when we met, and married me when she was 19. We saw some of her then friends doing this stuff, and we didn’t want to even be around that shit, let alone try any of it. The smell of pot turns both our stomachs, why would we hang around with anyone doing that shit?
Also, my wife is 100% Mexican, and when we started dating, her soon to be stepfather was black, so you can shove that attitude about race having anything to do with it.

That statement confuses me. It is statements like that, that lead to my very cynical definition above, imo.

The majority of the populations of the Northern European countries: Sweden Norway, Finland, Denmark, are atheists. England also has a pretty high percentage of atheists.

Church attendance in most of those countries is around 3%.

By all counts, those countries rate higher than religious countries: on societal health, overall happiness, lower violent crime rates.

Seems the atheists in those countries are doing just fine, with regards to being good parents.


I don’t think the smell is it’s attraction tbh. Like most things that are enjoyable, over indulging can be detrimental. Though I accept it is not for everyone, and it’s not really my bag, but I am baffled why its use invokes such strong abhorrence from people who openly confess they have never even tried it?

Everyone sets a standard for themselves of “being a good parent”. I can’t imagine anyone who’s had kids who thinks “man - I’m a shitty parent”…

AS to whether a person who has no reason to believe in god can be a good parent???

whewwwweeeee that’s a tougheeeee especially when we’re barely making it you know not running around raping and murdering each other …

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As for me, my objections are mainly threefold:

  1. The strong potential for addiction with opioids, coca derived drugs(*) like cocaine and crack cocaine, and others.
  2. The illegal drug market finances mafia, drug cartels, and other organized crime syndicates whenever someone pays for them somewhere in the supply chain.
  3. The fact that they are illegal.

These objections are equally valid whether I have used or tried any illegal drugs or not. For the record: I have never tried any illegal drugs by choice. I was once tricked into eating “space cake”, but that doesn’t really count.

(*) By “drug” I mean “an illegal substance that some people smoke, inject, etc. for the physical and mental effects it has” as defined by Oxford Learner’s Dictionaries.

I must agree, to most kids illegal drugs are illegal drugs, they usually come from the same dealer. The transition from pot to something stronger and more addictive is a simple transition.

In Canada pot was legalized for just those reasons. To take money away from organized crime and make it much more difficult for minors to obtain drugs. That didn’t work out too well in the beginning, the price of legal pot was higher than from illegal dealers and availability was limited. One major reason for that shortcoming was that each Province was responsible for their own interpretation of how to apply the lawsm and here in Ontario a complicated bureaucracy was set up that closed the door on most small business attempts, but allowed big money growers to dominate the market, with attendant high prices. Time has allowed the handicaps against small growers and small distributors to diminish, where availability is easier and prices are lower.

But no matter what the drug, be it alcohol or tobacco or pot, moderation and not getting seriously blasted is the way. And of course, never drive and be impaired.

I agree with the OPS sentiments, that you do not need church to be a good parent.

For me, I’ve never believed in any god throughout my life, as mentioned before I was very lucky to never have the notion of a god brought to my attention until I was at a British secondary school (roughly 11 or 12yrs old) and it came across as total and utter bollocks.

I’m now 38yrs old and have a daughter from a previous relationship and two sons with my current partner, neither of those partners being religious and yet, we have raised very fine children.

All three are loving, caring and hardworking kids that make me proud on a daily basis.

Luckily, they will have a similar upbringing to me in that nothing will be forced upon them to believe and to work it out on their own.

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Indeed, though I’ve found that some of them would and should think that, if they had a shred of decency in them.

For me this is a mendacious question, like the facile “where do your morals come from if there’s no deity?” Human morality is subjective, exactly the same as unevidenced subjective religious morality.

I think the Hitch once nailed this with a single response. " Can you cite a single moral act a religious person can do, that an atheist cannot?" So the same applies here of course, what parenting skills does a religious person possess, that an atheist does not?