My wife and I have been devoting a lot of mental energy into how to approach religion with my children (One three years old and the other 8 months). I, like other Atheists I have met, have wished my sons to decide for themselves which path to take by educating them as they grow in the different religions of the world, as well as the secular studies of math and the Sciences. As a step toward this, I have no expressed my view to my three-year-old concerning religion or gods. Honestly I had not intended to for some time, hoping to approach the subject when he was older and more able to understand these concepts. I am at odds however, since a recent trip to grandma's house was complete with a trip to church. Her mother and father know our views. (Not fully to the extent of Anti-theists, but they recognize us as Atheists) My wife's sister even spoke up and mentioned that it was not ethical to bring him to church considering our views. It was done regardless. I also found out that she has been praying with him and they were saying prayers over meals resplendent with signs of the cross.
Since that time, he has been asking about god and making comments like "Jesus is alive." Talking about Baby Jesus, God and nativity.
I find my objectivity being forced. He doesn't understand the concepts of god, and to tell him my view removes my sincerely caring decision to let him decide his path. How do you tell a 3 year old boy that "that is just what grandma believes." I equate that with "grandma is lying;" which isn't the case. She believes in Catholicism fundamentally, devotedly, and fanatically. (A source of constant tongue-biting and restraint for myself and my wife in order to keep the peace)
I feel, however that I cannot remain passive anymore when it involves my son. My wife and I have decided to not allow, for the time being, to leave our son with her parents unsupervised. My wife brought up the idea and it is her parents we're talking about, after all. We have also decided to abstain from prayer with her family. Normally, we don't mind that they pray before dinner and what not. It has not harmed me, though it makes me sad to see such supplication and grovelling. Now, however, I'm starting to view it in direct light as a threat to my son's inability to be objective due to his age.
Their religion and self-assured superiority of moral fiber have been a constant thickness to the air for the last decade. I know our abstaining from their prayer this year will be an insult to them, to say nothing about our likely keeping them from watching him unsupervised again until he is older. I had never thought I'd be in this position before, and am uncertain how to progress. There are, of course, other considerations I have not even described that complicate the issue further, but I want to stick to the core of what is going on.
I have discussed this on a blog I created linked to my facebook and am getting angry outcries. Everything from "You are using your kids to hurt their grandparents, to direct finger shaking at my reprehensible harshness.
I am a man. I am by no means a moral compass for anyone. I have faults and feelings that I regret. But by no means do I feel that I am using my children. A breech of protocol is a light infraction. This elongated act is subversiveness and violates the right of a moral couple who wish to raise their child as they see fit.
Let me put this in perspective. Take any devoutly (or even mildly) religious person you know. Say they let their 3 year old come over to my house. At supper that child begins to pray, but before he can, what if I stopped them and said "God is a myth and does not exist." Then perhaps, after our meal, say I took him over to meet some of my other atheist friends and we indoctrinated him in all our beliefs. That religion is harmful to humanity, a relic of human infancy.
Would that be ethical? Would that make you a little upset?
If you are a believer in free thinking, you would most likely be quite upset at the blatant disregard for a parents right to raise their child as they deem moral.
View this in the light of my morality, wherein religion is poisonous, immoral, corrupt, violent, sadistic and dehumanizing. Consider that my child went to church to learn how to be a good little Christian. I am quite livid, and protecting my child's developing morality and intellectual freedom are as significant as their physical well-being
I would like to add, that if my child does decide to become a Christian, Jew, Muslim or Hindu, I will support their right to believe. I would take them to church or synagogue or mosque if that is what they wished (And have even entertained ideas of doing that when they were older as part of their education). But it will be a decision they must make, free from the sinister manipulations and predations of moral police at the ripe old age of 3.