Book Review: Parenting Without God

Parenting Without God: Experiences of a Humanist Mother, by Jane Wynne Wilson

I found the tone of Parenting Without God to be rather obnoxious, which considering my own position on its subject matter and the fact that I’m a Dawkins fan, is really quite something. It is littered with ‘of course’ and ‘obviously’ and ‘fortunately,’ which makes it sound arrogant and judgmental. Friends who have recently accused me of being the same should note that I am nowhere near the end of the spectrum.

Despite being titled ‘Parenting Without God,’ the book has a far broader scope than parenting, and covers a number of issues (such as breastfeeding, for example) where one’s religious stance is surely irrelevant.

The useful parts of the book are those chapters looking at distinguishing fact from fiction, explaining death, and coping with the inevitable Christian influence of school. Even so, the book provides few helpful suggestions, and the scant three paragraphs on Father Christmas consist of little but ranting and anecdote. I can read my own blog for that.

The author clearly states that the book is not based on studies or research, but on her own practical experience, and this is very clear throughout.

The basic tenet of the book, that parenting should be honest and reasonable, is of course sound; but I find myself feeling affronted on behalf of non-humanist parents at the suggestion that these values are not compatible with religious belief. Furthermore, I know of plenty of non-religious parents who still allow their children to believe in Father Christmas; even for Christian parents, this is largely a secular and cultural tradition, and the book does not acknowledge either of these possibilities.

I do not feel that Parenting Without God added anything to my understanding either of Humanism or of parenting. There is very little in this book that the reader could not get from a more general parenting book such as ‘How to talk so kids will listen’ (Faber & Mazlish) or Sears’ ‘The Discipline Book.’

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