In Good Faith

In Good Faith : Secular Parenting in a Religious World

4.31 (29 ratings by Goodreads)
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Part memoir, part cultural exploration, this book covers the author's journey as she grows up in an evangelical Christian home, leaves religion behind as a young adult, and goes on to raise children in a family outside of religious belief. Maria Polonchek weaves a personal story with up-to-date studies and philosophic exploration of what it means to raise secular children in an otherwise religious world. Offering careful and respectful advice for other parents who are raising their children outside of a particular religious belief system, she explores the many other ways of instilling identity, belonging, and meaning into our lives and the lives of children.

Honest and irreverent, the author admits to her religious "baggage" and searches for better understanding of such topics as religious education, morality, awe, death, purpose, and meaning, and tradition from secular perspectives. She interviews experts, looks at various studies, and turns to a variety of sources for answers, while maintaining a casual and personal tone. While she ultimately argues for parents to let their children shape their own beliefs, she encourages families to tend to existential and social needs that sometimes go unnoticed or unconsidered in life outside religion.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 206 pages
  • 151 x 230 x 16mm | 318g
  • Lanham, MD, United States
  • English
  • Reprint
  • 1538126001
  • 9781538126004

Review quote

Poet and essayist Polonchek, having been pushed away from religion by the fire-and-brimstone theology of her Christian youth, revels in her identity as an 'apostate' and secular humanist: 'Because my identity as a child was so rooted in the religion given to me, my identity as an adult is rooted in my deconversion.' Polonchek notes that roughly 80% of Americans identify as religious and that most rely on religious institutions to help educate their children, but then wonders how nonreligious families will provide for the moral formation of their families. Embarking on a mission to fill this gap, she synthesizes the work of Dale McGowan, Arnold van Gennep, and Lawrence Kohlberg and Jean Piaget, as well as the fresh, hilarious musings of Neil Carter on his blog, Godless in Dixie. Religion may have failed Polonchek, but her well-researched, swiftly moving exploration of the development of morality, meaning, and awe during childhood will be worth a look for readers interested in childhood development. * Publishers Weekly * Polonchek's expertise doesn't come from an academic degree or background in divinity or counseling-it stems from her ability to write about her personal spiritual journey. She deftly shares her experience as a parent and reflects on contemporary religious, nonreligious, and moral issues. As a parent, Polonchek has found ways to approach the hope and challenge of teaching morality without religion, awe without it being God inspired, and death without an afterlife. She also focuses on the importance of extended family and community for all, outside of a Christian community. For readers who may find that last part to be a hurdle, there are a number of helpful tips surrounding ways to find common ground and celebrate holiday traditions. There are many books on spirituality for Christian parents but few for secular families-this will fill an important gap. This is not a how-to parenting book. Although the book is written in the style of a memoir, those raising children will find the author's ideas helpful. In Good Faith is a good addition to public library parenting and religion collections. * Booklist * With a toddler who's beginning to question the world around her, I know it won't be long before the topic turns to religion. When that happens, I'll be ready for it having read Maria Polonchek's wonderful book In Good Faith. Maria pours herself into this memoir, sharing the stories, struggles, and solutions inherent in raising a child without religion. I felt like I knew her and her family so well by the end of the book that I only wish she were my neighbor so I could continue the conversation. I have no doubt other readers will feel the same way. -- Hemant Mehta, blogger at and author of The Young Atheist's Survival Guide I loved the thoughtful, intelligent, funny voice in Maria Polonchek's beautiful book. Although Polonchek and I have wildly different views on God, I appreciated her willingness to delve into the nuances of the deep mysteries that all parents consider when raising children. Not only is this book well-researched, but it is full of heart and personality, of good questions and honest answers, of hope and humor. For me, it was a long and familiar conversation with a good friend, and, though you may not know Maria, I'm confident it will feel like that for you, too. -- Katie Savage, author of Grace in the Maybe: Instructions on Not Knowing Everything about God In Good Faith is a timely and compelling book on an increasingly important subject. As millions of nonreligious families, like mine, seek to raise our children according to humanistic values, we will need thoughtfully crafted resources like Polonchek's. -- Greg Epstein, Humanist Chaplain, Harvard University; author of the New York Times Bestselling book, Good Without God: What a Billion Nonreligious People Do Believe Personal, frank, honest, relatable, thoughtful - a timely book for and about raising children without religion. As more and more Americans embrace a secular orientation to life, this book is both helpful and needed. -- Phil Zuckerman, Pitzer College, author of Living the Secular Life What a wonderful contribution - a book that's smart and funny, insightful and practical, grounded in the personal experience of a nonreligious parent who pays attention and writes like a house afire. An important contribution to the growing literature for parents raising great kids without religion. -- Dale McGowan, author of Parenting Beyond Belief, Raising Freethinkers, and Atheism For Dummies; 2008 Harvard Humanist of the Year In Good Faith isn't a one-size-fits-all solution for every parent: That's its beauty. By following the same freethinking instincts that have landed them safely ashore of a religious-free life, readers can use Polonchek's brave and revelatory descriptions of her own experience and her cogent suggestions to raise thoughtful, compassionate, and engaged children without religion. And with her good help, parents can help their children integrate into a world full of religious tradition while neither accepting its ideas nor condemning or ridiculing them. -- Kelly Barth, author of My Almost Certainly Real Imaginary Jesus
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About Maria Polonchek

Maria Polonchek is a Kansas native living in the San Francisco Bay Area. She has published award-winning poetry, short stories, and essays and began writing extensively on the motherhood experience after having twins in 2005. She now has three children and has written for the literary magazine Brain, Child, contributed to the anthology Have Milk, Will Travel, and has chronicled her experience parenting outside religion for The Greater Good Science Center, The Friendly Atheist, and Brain, Mother. In addition to thinking, reading, and writing about parenting, she is passionate about wellness, mindfulness, the outdoors, music, art, and the way all of these things relate to issues of social justice.
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Rating details

29 ratings
4.31 out of 5 stars
5 52% (15)
4 31% (9)
3 14% (4)
2 3% (1)
1 0% (0)
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