Last week, Pitzer College sociology professor Phil Zuckerman lit a small internet conflagration with a column in the Los Angeles Times that cited a grip of recent research suggesting secular families produce kids who are, on the whole, more empathetic and moral than their religious counterparts.
According to a 2012 Pew Institute survey included in Zuckerman’s evidence, more Americans than ever identify their religious affiliation as “nothing in particular. These so-called “Nones” are now included in USC professor Vern Bengston’s 40-year Longitudinal Study Of Generation, the largest study of religion and family life in U.S. history. Bengston’s research finds — and Zuckerman’s own work corroborates — that a strong sense of moral direction and empathy pervades secular family life.
The primary goal of Zuckerman’s column is to assuage whatever doubts secular parents might have about raising their kids without religion, so he goes on to cite various studies that suggest secular adults are generally more tolerant, less violent, more confident, and have better breath than their religious peers.
Whether you find his position comforting or troubling, the main takeaway seems irrefutable: All those “Nones” are having their own adorable little “nothing-in-particulars,” and they’ll grow up in a world with more secular families than ever before.