Xmas is a children's holiday. Nowadays its chief function is to sell kids on the notion of a fairy-tale god who is looking out for them and who will give them love and protection from all harm (if and only if they believe in him, that is).
I watch my own bright 5 year old granddaughter getting sucked into the holiday by the ubiquitous social pressures in her public school mainly from the other kids who have been sold on the fairy tale by their own families and cultures. She knows already that I, her "grandpa," do not believe in it but I dare not pressure her in the slightest way: I simply agree that, yes, grandpa does not believe in any religion, and leave it at that. I have seen too many cases of pressure backfiring and leading kids to take the oppositional or religious position in response to heavy handed parental pressures. Madalyn Murray's son, whom she had to use in her battles with religion, for example turned around and became a fundamentalist preacher as did the son of Ediwn Kagin, the late legal adviser to American Atheists.
The way to avoid this trap is to do what McKerracher suggests in her book "Secular Parenting in a Religious World," which is simply to treat religious belief as another view that people can have but that doesn't make them bad or evil: it's just something we don't go along with like advertisements for things that are not for us.
Let the kids discover for themselves what is wrong with it. That way we can allow them to develop their self esteem as intelligent & thinking young people. All we have to do is resist our own impulses to disparage religion and just agree with them when they hit on the truth which they will because of the greater presence of atheism in today's world. We should keep books around the house that compare the various religions of the world as well as a few atheist books for kids like the ones that Dan Barker, co-leader of FFRF, wrote "Let's Pretend: A Freethought Book for Children" and "Maybe Yes and Maybe No." These are available on Amazon.
We can gradually and gently introduce them to freethinking by following their belief in Santa Claus as they discover he is just imaginary like the tooth fairy. A gentle question like "Do you think Santa Claus is real" can start them on the road to questioning religious belief. If they then ask me "what do you believe, granda?" I would answer by showinh how I tell truth from fiction by saying "well let's see, do I think there really are reindeer that can fly? Never seen any that can. Maybe that's just a nice fairy tale that grownups tell children when hey want them to behave."
When we let the kids discover the truth for themselves about Santa it is probably the very first time they will use their intelligence to discover something true about the world with no help from their parents. That way they can learn true freethinking and avoid becoming just "oppositional".
HOW WE MIGHT GENTLY FIGHT AGAINST IT
A more proactive thing we should think about doing is to gently ask children who are being swept up into religion by social pressures what they are being told should happen to people who don't believe. Even young children know it is not right to hurt people because they believe different things than we do. When we see these kids being sold by the pretty Xmas songs, decorations and festivities into something we adults know is basically slavery, we can gently dissuade them by asking that question: What is the religion saying should be done to kids or their parents who don't believe in it? Should they be punished? Are they bad people? That may be the first time they will think about this true part of religion that should not be kept hidden from them.
Nice post. In my case the grandkids are all out of control and too old now to deal with for any of this. In fact, all 3 have now been to prison. I do have a great granddaughter who might qualify to be kept out of wrong paths and gently guided. Chances are she too will stay in this awful cycle. The irony here is that police and correctional people will tell you all of this happens because these children came from families that "did not have god." Then occassionally you have a crying and repenting child who will tell you "they found Jesus while in prison." (My first reaction would be what was he in for?) Then they get out and find "old friends" and this all starts over again.
For some gangbanging is grand, working for a living is not real, and nothing has any values. The most I can see that brought any of this on is unstability. Children need stability in their lives at all times. Not having this stability is where the parents fail them. If a cycle of unstability starts it is hard to break that cycle. Showing good stable values also promotes love. Children have to feel secure.
Too late for some of us, but you are doing a good job, Eric. In my situation my children would have to actively pick it up with their children. Where was I when my children needed me? I was busy raising somebody else's children.
Yeah, I know how you feel, but you never know with kids. Sometimes if you stay with them they surprise you in the end and come around.