by Becky Leah, Parenting Beyond Belief Raleigh (NC)
Parenting is hard work, but it’s easier when you have a community you can turn to for support and guidance. For many American families, a church offers this community. Those of us who are non-religious have not always been able to find a community that offers support and guidance for raising our children in secular homes. Many non-religious parents have good philosophical arguments for raising their children in a secular environment but don’t have a community to support and guide them in the daily decisions we must all make about our children’s well-being. The Raleigh Parenting Beyond Belief meet-up group provides this community to non-religious parents and their children.
The Raleigh group was formed in 2007 in response to the release of Dale McGowan’s book Parenting Beyond Belief. The group was formed with the intention of meeting and discussing the book’s topics. The founding members of the group decided that adding a social aspect to the group would be beneficial for parents and children.
While attendance at our events varies depending on the time of year and our members’ schedules, our members have grown steadily in number throughout the past three years. The PBB group now has over 150 members and meets at least once monthly for family events. Many of our members have made lifelong friends within the group. Group members have children of all ages and include blended families, adoptive parents, and families with parents of different religious beliefs. Most of our members describe themselves as atheist, secular humanist, or agnostic.
We enjoy having discussion nights where parents get together to share their thoughts and ideas on specific secular parenting topics, but we focus most of our events on socializing. The group enjoys getting together for potlucks, hikes, trips to the museum, and similar events. Planning a successful event is as easy as finding someone willing to host at their home and asking attendees to bring a dish to share. Our most successful events seem to be the ones that require the least amount of planning. Parents want to get together and chat while their children play. It is reaffirming to spend a few hours a month with other secular parents.
The main reason new members give for joining our group is their desire to feel less isolated as non-religious parents. Our success is not measured by the percentage of our members who attend events, but rather ensuring that secular parents feel a sense of belonging to a community. Even though many of our members do not regularly attend events, they still benefit from belonging to a community of non-religious parents. Membership in a secular parenting group confirms that you are not alone in this journey and there is a support system if you ever need it. For this reason alone, a secular parenting group should exist in every community.
If you have any questions about getting started with organizing your own local group, please post in the comments section and I will be happy to reply.