I have an eight year old who is starting to ask about religion(why don't we go to church,did god make everything). I have answered as vague as possible because I don't want him to be ostracized or ridiculed or worse. I'm not going to lie to him about our lack of belief but I want to choose my words carefully. We live in Alabama where people aren't known for their open-mindedness. My husband and I are the only atheists around here so I don't have anyone to talk to about these things. I was curious about what you guys tell your children about god and religion.
Honesty is the best policy as you've already decided but you are in a tough location for this. When my kids were young we still went to church occasionally but always stressed that the religious stories were allegories and metaphors and not to worry about them or take them literally. There are some atheists kids books that might help including Dawkins recent one.
Here is an older post on this topic that might have some things that are still relevant.
Thank you so much. I think Parenting Little Heathens is exactly what I was looking for.
FWIW, i can say how my family dealt with this: they were all very upfront about their skepticism and criticism of religion, but were equally upfront about how it is something to be very discrete about for our own protection. We got the message quickly, and my sister and i rarely discussed our disbelief outside of family and close, trusted friends.
Others have replied to this better than I ever could.
I have a 2 year old and I'm already thinking about this. I also am in the awkward situation of not being out to my parents or to my wife's family. And I'm a "recovering Catholic" who still has a lot of anger issues with religion in general.
I'd like to go the route of complete exposure of my child to these myths from as many religions as I can from the earliest age. The problem is some of them are, quite frankly, obscene. I mean, just look at the story of Lot and his daughters. What the hell? I'm actually quite interested in what it says about the mentality of Christians who pass off some of the horrendous acts of God as morally "good" to their children. I wish I could understand. I never have.
Totally coincidentally, I posted in my blog about this just today about Noah's Ark.
I'll follow this discussion. I'm interested too.
I think that's good advice to introduce him to a lot of different religions so he can compare them. I've also gotten him children' books on evolution and the the big bang. When your child is a little older I would recommend The Story of Everything by Neal Layton. Fun and informative. Thanks for the advice. BTW I enjoyed your blog.
I find it best to ask, "What do you think?" and guide the conversation down the path of reason. I like Joe C's response of being discrete, and that suggesting to your child that discussions of these sorts be made only with Mom and Dad at home in private.
How have you handled Santa, Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy?
I have two children (10 and 14) that are both being raised as Catholics by their mother, but they both know that I am a non-believer. My older one is a thinker and gets it, but my younger one isn't ready for unbelief. I have a feeling she will come around in a couple of years.
My children have been raised as atheists. The questions were usually more along the lines of "Why does (name) believe in (god, zombies, etc.)?" And, yes, the zombie was Jesus. It was the only cultural touchpoint she had for a belief in someone coming back to life, and we had recently watched "Sean of the Dead". I talk to them about belief, and how there are many gods out there, and that we do not believe in any of them because there is no proof that any of them exist.
However, we are also very firm in saying that these are things we can discuss in our house, but not with other people. It is the same as "bad" words. It is good to know which ones people think are bad, and not to say them in public, but they are free to say them in our home. They are very well practiced in the "bad" words situations, so the religion situations fall nicely into place as well.
Eventually it will come out to some people. When it did eventually come out, and it will, I wanted to make sure that they were not ashamed of what they know, but to not denegrate the other person for what they believe. Be prepared for this eventuality. I was not. There were some children that were no longer allowed to play with our children. There were some that were not allowed to come to our house anymore. And there were some who were instructed to continuously ask my children to come to church with them.
To this day, there are some friends who are not allowed by their parent(s) to be at our house after 11:30 pm, even for a sleepover party. You will need to be supportive throughout the process. It is hard to lose friendships at a young age because of the adults around you. Even when you have to put up with the proselytizing pre-teen in your home. I always wanted to be the more reasonable and approachable parent.
I hope that helps.
Yes it does help. Thank you for responding. I think i'm going to take everyone's advice and be honest with him and answer all his questions but stress to him he doesn't need to talk about it with anyone else. I know it won't be kept secret forever but sometimes when people get to know someone first they are not as judgemental. Even in Alabama that's been known to happen.
"Some people believe in a god that made everything but your mother and I don't. We made you, my parents made me and your mom's parents made her. And so on, since before we can remember. Some people think it's wrong not to believe, but there isn't any reason why we have to."
It's a start.