What’s it like to be raised without religion? The kids raised by the author of “The Earthbound Parent” share their thoughts


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Meet the kids raised by the author of “The Earthbound Parent”

Author Richard Conn believes: "Only by allowing kids to learn that we are in this world together, that we have a limited time to live, and that we have only one another on which to rely can we truly enable them to flourish and begin to build a just and peaceful world for future generations."

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August 2023: A Note from Hope Katz Gibbs, founder, Inkandescent® PR + Publishing Co.Are you a parent tired of the persistent belief that your child’s moral values, ethical principles, and ability to distinguish between what is right and wrong must come from religion? Do you wonder how you can ever teach your child to think for herself in a culture that values uncritical obedience over critical consideration? Or do you fear what the future holds for your child in a society that views unquestioned faith as a virtue and a questioning mind with suspicion?

If so, you are going to enjoy “The Earthbound Parent,” a book by author and father Richard A. Conn, Jr. He argues that the solution is clear, and it rests not only with you but all parents with similar concerns. In this volume, he demonstrates why all parents who value science and reason can help stop the centuries-old practice of religious indoctrination. He also offers advice on encouraging children to discover the world and their place in it for themselves. “Only by allowing kids to learn that we are in this world together, that we have a limited time to live, and that we have only one another on which to rely can we truly enable them to flourish and begin to build a just and peaceful world—not just for their generation but for all future generations,” Richard believes.

Nikita and Natalie Conn

On this episode of the Authors Between the Covers podcast and video show: Richard’s daughters, Nikita, 16 and Natalie, 13 (pictured right) interview him about what it was like to be raised by an “Earthbound Parent.” How was their upbringing different from their religious friends? Do they appreciate their dad’s perspective? Will they raise their kids the same way? And so much more!

About Nikita: A featured singer in the National Children’s Chorus, a Grammy award-winning, highly competitive organization, Nikita also competes internationally (Italy, Russia, Japan, US) in classical ballet and modern dance, winning silver several times and gold in a worldwide competition. She is an accomplished pianist and speaks English, Russian, and Mandarin. She is also a very good chess and tennis player.

About Natalie: Natalie is top of Connecticut’s state math testing exam and a highly acclaimed tennis player (winning several USTA events in her age group). She won the CT state chess championship in her age group and continues to be trained as part of a national program run by Grand Master Jennifer Shahade. She also speaks English, Russian, and Mandarin, some French and Turkish. Her instrument is the guitar.

Click More below to find the Foreword of the book by Robyn E. Blumner President & CEO, Center for Inquiry Executive Director, Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science. You’ll also find the Preface of the book by Richard, which will give you invaluable insight into his argument for raising Earthbound kids. 

Foreword: The Earthbound Parent

By Robyn E. Blumner President & CEO, Center for Inquiry Executive Director, Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science

Want to raise smart, grounded, and moral children, fully equipped to navigate the world and flourish on their own terms? Richard A. Conn, Jr. tells you how. In this much-needed and timely volume, he shares his proven recipe—tested and refined over decades in his own home with his four children. It includes lots of commonsense ingredients, such as loving hugs, solid role models, exposure to a variety of cultures and foreign languages, and minimal television, but here’s the real key: no religion added.

Informed not only by his long-standing experience as a father but also by his considerable international experience as a lawyer, consultant, and investor, Conn underwrites a strong alternative to religion for raising children. He endorses a humane, caring, and responsible attitude toward others and the world while rejecting what he calls “nihilism.” In so doing, he presents a set of eminently reasonable precepts, guidelines, and suggestions for ethical but secular child rearing, showing how to ensure that children internalize moral values without the fear of a supernatural threat. In this regard, The Earthbound Parent offers a gentler and more instructive version of Richard Dawkins’ oft-cited (and to my mind, accurate) view that raising children with a fear of eternal damnation is a form of child abuse.

Unlike many other parenting guides, The Earthbound Parent is, by design, as much a how-to as a why-to. Thus, Conn writes not only for those parents who have abandoned religion altogether—or who never had it to begin with—but also for those who often find themselves sitting uncomfortably in the pews. While acknowledging that religion can provide solace and other tangible benefits, he touches on the all-too-familiar ways that religion can justify hostile attitudes, shocking discrimination, and violent actions—all while inhibiting critical thinking, scientific discovery, and practical reason-based government policies. By calling on parents to resist the temptation to succumb to inertia or simple habit when deciding how or when to introduce religion, he advocates not only for the benefit of children but also for the advancement of society as a whole.

Yet, Conn understands the difficulty many parents face when determining whether to raise their children without religion and covers the intellectual, emotional, and practical elements parents must consider in making this crucial decision. While he aims to persuade the reader of the net harm caused by religion on both a micro and macro level, he does not demean those who have faith. Still, for those parents who themselves identify as religious, his recommendations are perhaps best suited for the ones who think bromides such as “thoughts and prayers” are never a substitute for reasoned action and change. And for those parents who see the benefit of raising their children in a secular manner but fear losing beloved traditions, he advises that raising children without religious faith need not mean completely detaching them from the family’s cultural touchstones or heritage. I’m reminded here of comedian Sarah Silverman’s joke about her own religio- cultural identity as a Jewish atheist: “I’m Jewish, but I’m totally not.”

Conn’s insightful text will be, dare I say it, a revelation to many parents who want to raise their children to be happy and successful but who have been socialized to believe that religion is a necessary part of that formula. He both exposes the deleterious effects of supernatural beliefs and proposes a path forward without them. The ideas he presents deserve to be considered by all who care about the arc of civilization; collectively, they trace an effective approach for reducing religious influence and its worst excesses in our society and politics.

The Earthbound Parent is thus not only informational but also aspirational. Indeed, its aim reflects Richard Dawkins’ observation that religion, like almost every other aspect of culture, depends on its intergenerational transmission for survival. And just as genes are subjected to selective pressure, so too are cultural ideas. However, the needed pressure to curb or inhibit the transmission of harmful religious beliefs will not occur in isolation; thus, we all have an obligation to apply our own form of pressure.

Only through collective cooperative behavior can we create meaningful change in the face of long-entrenched religious faith and dogma. Conn, for his part, is fulfilling his own obligation in how he is rearing his children. And now, through this book, he calls on other parents to do the same, so that all children—present and future—will cease learning that human life is nothing more than a trial run for some future heavenly (or hellish) one. After all, humankind is a social species, and we will be unable to solve our most-pressing worldly problems—whether as individuals or a global society—if we continue to teach children that seeking answers from an imaginary figure in the sky has more value than working toward reality-based solutions here on Earth.

Preface: The Earthbound Parent

By Richard A. Conn, Jr.

This book encourages you to raise your children without religion or religious belief of any kind. It maintains that a belief in god or gods is a delusional state of mind—just as delusional a state of mind as a belief in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, or an imaginary friend— and it maintains that delusional states of mind are dangerous for both individuals and societies. It contends that we should not hold beliefs merely because they calm our fears or gratify our desires or because our ancestors held certain supernatural beliefs that have been passed along through the ages, that we should remain agnostic about things for which we have no evidence, and that the dogmatism that religions support is dangerous for both individuals and societies. It explains a thought process that leads away from religion and toward critical thinking. Moreover, it constitutes an argument against passing along religious doctrines to our children and offers practical suggestions on how to raise children without religion.

I approach the subject as a parent who wants the best for my kids—I have four of my own plus two grandchildren. I care deeply about imparting proper values to them and helping all children challenge assumptions, reason for themselves, and develop confidence in their own judgment.

What do I mean by saying religious views are “delusional”? I use the term in the commonsense manner, as defined, for example, in Wikipedia (“a belief held with strong conviction despite superior evidence to the contrary”) and the Collins Dictionary (“a belief held in the face of evidence to the contrary, that is resistant to all reason”).

I have no doubt that many of you will find my criticisms of religion and my prescriptions for parenting upsetting. Everyone is entitled to believe whatever they wish and I realize that most of the world is religious. I am not advocating banning religion or vilifying those who hold religious beliefs. Rather, I seek to help inoculate children against such beliefs. A child’s innocent belief in Santa Claus will not result in the killing of people, but an adult’s extremist belief in a God or gods can. The battle over who has the best imaginary friend has led to the butchering of countless people throughout recorded history and remains a root cause of horrific violence today, both on the individual and societal level. If you agree with me that people killing one another is a thing to be prevented however possible, then perhaps you will allow me to explore with you a first step toward ending religiously motivated violence and conflict.

You may be raising your child in an environment where critical thinking in the realm of religion is strongly discouraged or even punished. You may worry that if you raise your child without religion and religious beliefs, she will grow up without moral values, ethical principles, appropriate standards of conduct, and the ability to distinguish between what is right and wrong. You may sense a conflict between your desire to encourage your child to learn how to think for herself and make judgments of her own, and your religious culture’s insistence upon uncritical obedience and “faith.” Or you may believe that raising your child to be a critical thinker will only result in her ostracism from polite society, or her condemnation to hell, or some other natural or supernatural punishment.

This book responds to the above-mentioned worries as well as to many others that caring parents may have. Designed to be a stand-alone, relatively simple, concise yet comprehensive work, it encompasses concepts, practical tips, and the thinking of other authors when and where relevant. Whether or not you choose to raise your child without religion, I hope that the perspectives this book offers will convince you that there are alternatives to religious indoctrination and that they do not lead inexorably to a life without values or meaning. I hope that the book will persuade you that people can lead meaningful, peaceful, and productive lives without believing in a god, or indeed relying upon any other kind of supernatural being to explain existence and give a purpose to life. And I hope that, whether you are slightly religious, very religious, or somewhere in between on the religious spectrum, you will be left with fewer reasons than you currently have to demonize those who do not believe in your god—or, indeed, in any supernatural spirit at all.

I do not find it hard to imagine (to paraphrase John Lennon’s “Imagine”) that there is no religion: no heaven above, no hell below, and no god to send us to either one. Indeed, I find it difficult to imagine it any other way. I can easily imagine how ancient people may have needed a god or gods to explain the world they found around them. Why would a peaceful blue sky suddenly darken into a terrifying thunder and lightning storm? Why is there something rather than nothing? Why do we exist at all? What happens to us after we die?

A belief in supernatural forces (gods) seems to me to be so primitive that I find it hard to understand how people, and especially educated people, can still hold it today. How can we cleave to religious belief systems that have led, and continue to lead, to so much fear, hatred, war, death, and destruction in the world? The costs of religion at our current stage of civilization outweigh the benefits. This book explores why we cling to religion in the face of overwhelming reason to reject it.

This is not just a “why-to” book, however; it is also a “how- to” book that is intended to describe how you can, and why you should, raise your children without indoctrinating them into religious belief systems that have led to all that fear, hatred, war, death, and destruction—in short, so they might understand that we are bound on this Earth together and recognize that we have only ourselves on which to rely.

Click here to buy your copy of The Earthbound Parent!

About Richard Conn Jr.: As an international corporate lawyer, Richard has been the Managing Partner of Eurasia Advisors since 2003. Prior to that, Richard practiced international corporate law for nearly 20 years as an equity partner with Latham & Watkins and founded the firm’s Moscow office in 1992. He served as a key advisor to the Presidential Administration of Russian President Boris Yeltsin and as President of the Moscow-based Foreign Bar Association. A longstanding past member of the Board of Directors of the U.S.-Russia Business Council and the International Crisis Group’s International Board of Advisors, he regularly consults with the World Bank, Members of Congress, and the Administration regarding C.I.S.-related issues. He Co-Chaired the U.S.-Russia Business Council and American Chamber of Commerce (Moscow) joint initiative to facilitate Russian accession to WTO.

Richard delivered the keynote address at the United Nations to open the U.N. conference addressing establishing a worldwide Sovereign Debt Restructuring framework and authored “Towards a Sovereign Debt Restructuring Framework: Less is More” in Joe Stiglitz’s book Too Little, Too Late: The Quest of Resolving Sovereign Debt Crises, Columbia University Press, New York, 2016. He lectures at Columbia University’s Harriman Institute of Russian, Eurasian, East European Studies, Institute for New Economic Thinking, Centre for International Governance Innovation, and Columbia University’s SIPA Center on Global Economic Governance.

Richard ran in 2010 for the Deputy Presidency of the World Chess Federation on an international ticket headed by the 12th World Champion Anatoly Karpov with the support of the Thirteenth World Champion Garry Kasparov and is an avid chess player. He сhairs the Advisory Committee of a non-profit organization that has already taught chess to over 4 million public school second and third graders in the U.S.

Richard, a Dartmouth College and Fordham University Law School graduate, clerked for the Honorable Gordon Thompson, Jr., Chief Judge of the U.S. District Court, Southern District of California. He co-authored Collier Labor Law and the Bankruptcy Code, M. Bender (1989). Richard is fluent in Russian and Spanish. Learn more at eurasiadvisors.com.