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Parents gather to nurture nonbelief

RALEIGH — On Sunday mornings, when many of their contemporaries are taking their seats in church pews, a group of young parents mingle in the living room of a suburban home while their children run around playing games.

This congregation of Triangle residents has no creed or ceremony, just a desire to get together and offer each other support for rearing children without religion. Taking their cue from a primer of the same name, they call themselves Parenting Beyond Belief, and they meet nearly every Sunday, in a city park, an indoor playground or in people's homes.

Americans unaffiliated with any particular faith have grown faster than any religious group according to two recent surveys of the U.S. religious landscape. These "unaffiliated" have doubled in the past 20 years and now account for 16 percent of the population.

Increasingly, they are vocal about their nonbelief and eager to speak out about it.

"No one should be alone in their disbelief," said Keri Rush, 40, of Wake Forest.

Not everyone in the group is an atheist. Some prefer to call themselves "freethinkers" or "humanists," or "spiritual but not religious." Some are even believers. But they share a disdain for organized religion and a desire to rear their children with the tools to think for themselves.

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