Losing Our Religion

A seismic shift is under way. The fastest-growing religious affiliation in the country is now…no affiliation at all. Many adults are simply leaving religion behind. But as they become parents they're confronting an uneasy question: What about the kids?


Want the benefits of belonging to a religious group but not the religion itself? Here are a few ways to start.


Try one of the many secular and “religious lite” options that are sprouting up across the country with a new emphasis on families. Start with an online search in your area for: liberal Quakers, Buddhists, Unitarian Universalists, humanistic Jews, and secular humanists.


Consider a visit to the Brighton-based Cradles to Crayons, which redistributes lightly used clothes and toys to kids in need across Massachusetts. The group will set your family up for two hours of child-friendly volunteering your kids won’t soon forget.


You don’t have to be part of a religious group to create a meaningful ceremony. Greg Epstein, Harvard’s humanist chaplain, combines elements of different traditions to create personalized wedding, funeral, baby-naming, and confirmation ceremonies. “It gives parents a chance to think,” he says. “‘What kind of parent do I want to be? What values do I want to teach my kids?’”


Removing religion from your life doesn’t mean giving up on spirituality. For a wake-up call, visit the Cambridge Insight Meditation Center, which offers “Little Buddhas” meditation classes for families with children ages three to nine.

Moral Instruction

Even without belonging to a religious institution, you can impart moral values to your kids. For the little ones, picture books are a good place to begin. Try Love Your Neighbor, by Arthur Dobrin, and The Golden Rule, by Ilene Cooper.