Something has been bothering me and I haven't been to keen on asking this question because, well....it seems a bit taboo...maybe?
So as many of you know I was a Christian for over a decade and yada yada....became and atheist. The entire mindset around marriage, commitment, love, family, raising kids, having kids, having sex....everything is or seems somewhat different. It's as if the idea of having a family, getting married, and sharing your life with someone is not as central to having a happy and fulfilled life from the atheist perspective. This may be a wrong impression, (and I may be WAY off base here so please correct me if I'm wrong) so I'm going to just ask my question. Honestly and sincerely:
Do atheists want to get married and have kids?
What do you say?
I suppose we're talking generalities and everyone is different. I understand that, but it seems that atheists as a group are far less interested than theists. I'm wondering if that is true, why? If it's not true, then why does it seem that way?
I certainly can't speak for all sperm donors, but for some of us fathers, the same is true.
I suppose I'll jump into the conversation here.
Honestly, I don't know how you got the impression that we may not want to. The instinct to procreate is one of the strongest driving forces of all creatures. I think as a whole we are less interested in the ritual of marriage, but I haven't seen anything to show that atheists generally speaking don't want a long-term relationship or a family. I would say most people regardless of their supernatural beliefs or lack thereof want to find a spouse and have a family.
I personally have been ambivalent about a family and marriage until recently when I realized the urge was kicking in. I found myself daydreaming of how I would raise my children one day when it occurred to me that I really wanted to do it, and it wasn't just a possibility. Being a father and a husband is something I really want one day.
Maybe one of the reasons we aren't all talking about why marriage is important is because for some people it may not be. Typically, we as a group are not ones to tell others what will be beneficial to their lives. There are a lot of ways to have bad relationships, and there are a lot of ways to be a bad parent. Like any endeavor, if we stumble through it without knowing what we are doing, it's not going to make us happy or fulfilled.
Also, when I was Catholic, it was an unspoken assumption that we would all participate in as many sacraments as possible. So if we weren't going to join the church as a priest or a nun, then we were going to participate in the sacrament of marriage (with another Catholic, of course), have lots of little baby Catholics, and then perpetuate the cycle all over again. Marriage is so valuable to religion because other than missionary work, the missionary position is one of the surest ways to make new believers.
I don't think that atheists regard marriage as unimportant. It's just that religions tend to carry it with the utmost esteem since it's one of the few places that religion has made itself seem necessary in people's lives. It's like engagement rings. Diamonds weren't a girl's best friend until Zales came along and said so. Religion wasn't important to marriage until they said we can't do it without them.
It'd be interesting to see a breakdown of how people value marriage and reproduction by world-view/philosophy/religion. I don't know but one other atheist IRL. The other (supposed) atheist in my family has got both children and a wife--and seems to like them both! : P`
In my case, I'm not that hot on the institution of marriage, given its history. On a personal level, I've seen a lot of misery come out of marriage. Honestly, I wish marriage were abolished and we switched to civil unions. I'd marry my partner if they wanted to get married or for practical purposes, if we were going to cohabitate for more than a few of years. Marriage isn't one of my life goals though.
Children? Uhhhhh. Children. I am not parent material! I would reproduce, perhaps, if I could clone the child from a painlessly-harvested DNA sample, incubate it in an artificial uterus, and then pay for an excellent full-time wet-nurse, nanny, and tutors. I'd want to send it to top schools and provide for extra-curricular development. I'd feel obligated to check in on it now and then, but it might be best for the kid if it had low-Kairan exposure.
So basically, I'd have a kid if all I had to do was donate my dna, pay for its care, and visit it a couple of times a week. Otherwise, I think the whole process might really fuck one or both of us up.
I've decided, if I should ever get unreasonably emotional about reproducing, that I will buy a very high-maintenance dog and make an 25-year donation commitment to a children's charity. There are enough of us humans around--unwanted, unsupported, without a place in the world, malnourished, or just plain maladjusted--that it's probably better for me not to make another one.
Procreate yes. But living in such close vicinity to the same person until you die is just not for me.
Maybe the two-parent family is going by the boards, but the prognosis for children isn't good. Statistically speaking, children in intact 2-parent homes do measurably better in terms of safety, health, and wealth than children raised by one parent or a parent+step parent.
If that's the case, Unseen, there will be social or economic reasons for it, and they can be examined and addressed. Two parent homes are not magical - if they work better it will be for reasons that may have several ways of being resolved.
This will be the challenge that needs to be addressed. Once, society was structured around the two-parent family way, and that's why a two-parent family fits better into it. We need to get under the surface of how this works, and find ways to address it properly.
Still, for now, the 2-parent family is closer to the ideal in terms of providing for and protecting children. More income. More 1-on-1 time. More irrational (instinctual) attachment to the child than a step parent or live-in boy/girlfriend is likely to muster.
It's a statistical fact, so of course, there are single-parent and step-parent families that are wonderful and are actually doing as well as or better than any 2-parent family they grew out of (due to divorce, death, or abandonment).
At the same time, individual cases are irrelevant to statistical facts unless they disprove those facts due to their abundance. However, right now, the statistical facts favor intact 2-parent "normal" families. ("Normal" meaning not a step parent or mere live-in partner.)
And beyond actual parenting, lies the value that male and female role models play in a child's life. I learned compassion and sensitivity from my mother, and strength and resolve from both my Dad and my Grandfather.
Without even one of those components, my indomitable personality would have formed differently.
I didn't want to get into the imporance of two-sex parenting because it's radioactive nowadays, but since you brought it up, while many well-adjusted children grow out single-parent and step-parent families, having parents representing both sexes is an undeniable positive factor.
Many will argue that male friends, uncles/aunts, etc., can provide role models for a gender that isn't represented in the core family unit, but having both sexes around on a daily basis and with actual obligations regarding the child and the other parent, and not as some sort of occasional visitor has to be better for developing healthy attitudes toward male and female sex and parenting roles.
Of course, to the person who wants to say that sex roles are irrelevant or even perhaps bad, this won't be very motivating.
I've never been overly concerned with setting off a Geiger counter or two --
I'm one of the few people who absolutely did not want to have children - I never played with dolls, had tea parties or did any of the associated 'play-mother' activities. I do think parenting with applicable role models is probably a good thing. Sadly, bad parenting is often worse that no parenting. A lot worse. So in the end, I'm of a mind to say that loving parenting is the best kind. After that, everything else is secondary. First must come love and security.