I wish I could say that I wasn't in this boat, but I am. My son has been told somewhere, that if he doesn't believe in god and jesus, that he will burn in hell. Now this has bothered him from a very early age, however I am finding, that the older and more analytical his mind becomes, the more he is able to compartmentalize what he actually believes and what he is supposed to believe but doesn't.
One thing I have ALWAYS made sure not to do, is push him. I have very strong Atheist views. I may have an agnostic tendency every now and then, but for the most part, I am a straight up Atheist. The most important thing I can do for my son, is encourage him to ask questions when things don't seem right to him. If he isn't satisfied by the answer he is given, then he needs to keep searching until he finds an answer that leaves him sure or he figures it out for himself. I've told him that anyone who tells him that he is not supposed to ask questions, is deceiving his very nature as a human being, and should not be trusted. If god is real, then there should be no problem asking questions, because all the answers should eventually all end up at that god, being the singularity from which all things come....right??? If they are really sure, then questions and free thinking wouldn't bother them so. I think the most important thing I can do as a parent, is give my son the gift of an open and inquisitive mind, and a love for asking questions and learning. If my son, after all of that were to decide he wanted to be religious, then I am totally will accept his choice, IN THE SAME WAY I will have taught him to respect other people's choices.
It's a constant battle, to try and keep a child's mind open and not shut down. What I'm finding encouraging is that my son tells me more and more of his friends parents, aren't religious and that even a few are atheist, so maybe the social pressure to conform won't be so prevalent with our children. I think it's a worth while goal for us to fight for that for our children, and I think we are making head way. If our children decide to come into faith, it will be because it was of their own doing and choice, and not because they were forced or scared into it.
My son, returned to me one weekend after being away, and was very upset. He told me that he was afraid I was going to go to hell because I didn't believe in god. I saw the fear on his face. I had two points to make to him. 1.) If you were god, and you had 2 good people in front of you, 1 who was good because they wanted to get into heaven, and the other one, who didn't believe in heaven, but was a good person without having to get a reward for it, who would you trust more? The person that needed a reward for good actions, or someone who was good, and expected nothing in return? 2.) If you are a good person and deserve heaven, do you think you could be in heaven without me? It was then I saw the wheels start to turn. Turning wheels, is the sign of a healthy mind. I don't want to sway him to my views. I just want to keep the wheels of logic rolling. That way I don't step on anyone's toes in regard to the other side of his family's religious views, nor do I color them to give my view an advantage. For me, encouraging his intellect will lead him to the conclusion only he can make for himself, as WE all know.
Anyone else out there have any good suggestions?? How do you handle questions of hell from your kids?? Especially when their other parent is religious??
Ya know, I think the best way to handle that for me, was just making sure that my son has a healthy attitude and aptitude for questions. He's 14 now, and while he's not sure what his beliefs are, he's already been able to point out some huge holes in the stories he's being told. In the interest of being fair and letting him decide for himself, I try not to be judgmental or alarmed when he talks to me about what he has heard. I did tell him that ignorance has been responsible for more unnatural deaths and injustice than anything and that it's his responsibility as a human being to think for himself, and NEVER be afraid to seek his own answers. What that is doing for him, is giving him the security that it's OK to question what people say, and that it's in his best interest to do so especially when he's faced with the whole "if you don't believe this you go to hell thing". It's good to know there are people out there that don't believe that and that they are not the monsters some would have them be, but good honest respectable INTELLIGENT people. It won't take long for him to figure out who's telling the truth. Ya know? LOL