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Raising godless children


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  #1  
August 8th, 2006, 09:46 AM
Number_3's Avatar Mega Super Mommy
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Assuming most of us here are parents, or trying to conceive perhaps, do you have a plan for children who undoubtedly come home with questions about god/religion?

I personally try to keep it as neutral and honest as possible, so that they can objectively make up their own minds when they are ready. I will not lie and say that I believe, or slant my answers in any fashion towards one side or another if they ask. I usually say something along the lines of...."Well, some people, like Christians, believe that this is what happened...and others, like (insert religious sect here) believe X to be true...." Now, if they ask for more info, I give them an objective resource, like the library, to look into it further. If they want to know what I think...I tell them.

I guess I feel that it's not my right to assert a belief system on them, nor is it my right to forbid them from exploring one if they should choose to someday. Like most atheist/agnostic parents, I can instill ethics without religion. So far, I have only gotten questions.
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  #2  
August 8th, 2006, 10:56 AM
mrobinson
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I 100% AGREE. I think I will encourage them to read more from a library, like the way I do about any other subject.. I would let them make their own minds and encourage leaning through their eyes.. I'm very open to sitting right there with them if they choose.
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  #3  
August 8th, 2006, 06:47 PM
MommytoZoeAlyssa's Avatar Platinum Supermommy
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I also agree!
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  #4  
August 11th, 2006, 02:54 PM
my_boys_are_my_joy's Avatar Mega Super Mommy
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i have nooo idea how I'm going to approach this.

I agree that I want him to be able to decide on his own what he believes, but you have to give some suggestions and guidance, kwim? My husband calls himself Baptist but have you ever met another Baptist who believes other religions are valid and that Jesus isn't the only way to heaven?

I don't even know how to define "God" to him. We live in a religious society--he's going to ask. And I don't want to disrespect my husband's belief by teaching him something like "God is just pretend" or "God is Santa for adults" but I don't want him to think there's this all-powerful guy in the sky itching to obliterate him either. I'm leaning towards a god=nature approach. I think I'll read the Bible stories to him like I do other works of fiction--as a bed time story to teach a moral.

I sing religious songs with him every day. I grew up with them and still appreciate them for what they are. It's a part of who I am, and I want to share it with him.
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  #5  
August 11th, 2006, 06:14 PM
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My dd is 6 and it's come up quite a bit. I think the 1st time was when we went to a friend's house and they prayed before dinner. My dd had no idea what was going on or what to do. I wasn't expecting it because they'd never prayed before, so I didn't have time to prepare her. Now, I tell her that it's polite to bow your head out of respect for their beliefs, but you don't have to fold your hands or say amen if you don't want to.

I too am telling my dd that religous and spiritual beliefs are personal, no one can tell you what to believe, and it's for you to decide for yourself. I tell her what I believe right along with what other people believe, and I don't make it a secret that I'm in the minority with my beliefs.

My dd has had several theological discussions with her little friends and one of them told her she was going to go to hell! That was really hard for me. I feel sorta badly about how I handled it. I tried to explain what the little girl meant as best I could and also told her what I believe and talked about the idea of reincarnation and other theories about what happens after you die. Then I told her that she is welcome to tell people that her dad and I don't believe in God, but that sometimes it hurts other people's feeling when they find out that someone doesn't believe the same thing as they do. I told her that they sometimes get offended because they think we think their ideas are stupid. But we don't think they are stupid or bad. They're just different and that's okay. However, sometimes they think we're bad. So, you might not want to talk about this stuff with people. That's the part I feel bad about. It was like I was saying there was something to be ashamed of. I just don't want people to tell her that she and her parents are going to hell! She's 6! How's she supposed to deal with that?

Anyway, she's been invited to go to church and AWANA, etc with her friends and I always tell them we've got something else going on, which thankfully so far has been the truth. I don't want her to be preached at while she's still so young and impressionable -- especially without me there to counter it. However, I would like to take her to a few different churches myself when she's older. I want to encourage her to learn all she can about several different religions as well as what it means to be an ahtiest. I want her to be equiped with as much info as possible and let her make her own decision.
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  #6  
August 16th, 2006, 09:59 AM
kadydid
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Quote:
Assuming most of us here are parents, or trying to conceive perhaps, do you have a plan for children who undoubtedly come home with questions about god/religion?

I personally try to keep it as neutral and honest as possible, so that they can objectively make up their own minds when they are ready. I will not lie and say that I believe, or slant my answers in any fashion towards one side or another if they ask. I usually say something along the lines of...."Well, some people, like Christians, believe that this is what happened...and others, like (insert religious sect here) believe X to be true...." Now, if they ask for more info, I give them an objective resource, like the library, to look into it further. If they want to know what I think...I tell them.

I guess I feel that it's not my right to assert a belief system on them, nor is it my right to forbid them from exploring one if they should choose to someday. Like most atheist/agnostic parents, I can instill ethics without religion. So far, I have only gotten questions.[/b]
ITA with this.


When I became an atheist, my children were in Kindergarten and first grade, they already knew about god and the whole bit. Now that they are older they know my opinion on the whole thing, and I have told them they can believe in any religion that they like (or take on their own version of god) I have one child who I think will be an atheist for awhile, and then when he gets older will become a right wing republican neocon Just to rebel. My middle is such a sweetie, and he believes in god but does not believe in hell or any of that. My baby not knowing my parents will probably never hear about god until they start going to school.

My oldest last year at school told someone that he doesn't believe in god. Then when they were all hanging out they started teasing him about going to hell, he got mouthy (he is 12 and in his big talk stage) and told them the only reason they believe in god at all is just because their parents told them too. Then another kid said that he didn't believe in god either. And none of the boys knew what to say and walked away.

I love that my kids can stand up for what they believe in, and they have the choice to believe in what they want.
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  #7  
August 16th, 2006, 02:09 PM
smt smt is offline
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Quote:
Assuming most of us here are parents, or trying to conceive perhaps, do you have a plan for children who undoubtedly come home with questions about god/religion?

I personally try to keep it as neutral and honest as possible, so that they can objectively make up their own minds when they are ready. I will not lie and say that I believe, or slant my answers in any fashion towards one side or another if they ask. I usually say something along the lines of...."Well, some people, like Christians, believe that this is what happened...and others, like (insert religious sect here) believe X to be true...." Now, if they ask for more info, I give them an objective resource, like the library, to look into it further. If they want to know what I think...I tell them.

I guess I feel that it's not my right to assert a belief system on them, nor is it my right to forbid them from exploring one if they should choose to someday. Like most atheist/agnostic parents, I can instill ethics without religion. So far, I have only gotten questions.[/b]
I am not sure that being "neutral" is the best option because neutrality does not have to imply honesty. Sure, any person will be free to believe whatever they want, but much of what they believe will be based on what they are taught as children. Being perfectly neutral (assuming that were even possible) could lead a child to follow virtually any absurdity that comes along. I want to teach my child, not only what I believe, but WHY I believe it. For example, I consider BibleGod to be morally bankrupt based on violent Old Testament stories and basic logical issues relating to freewill, and events in the garden. I really don't want my child thinking such things are "right", moral, or logical. I want my child to be able to discern reality from fantasy and fact from fiction.

Where this gets hairy is that my wife is currently Catholic. We were Protestant when we got married, and after I became agnostic she decided to switch to Catholicism since I no longer cared where she went. My wife sometimes prays with my 3yo daughter at night, sometimes prays at meals, reads bible stories, and wants her raised in the church. In addition, I go to church with her and the kids because a.) I want to be involved in what they do, and b.) I want to know what they are being told. I have a real problem with all of this. For example, I was reading to my daughter (she gets to pick out the books, and picks a children's book on Noah's ark) and while I was reading the story to her I mentioned to my wife how convenient it was that they left out the part about God judging his own creation for expressing their freewill that He gave them. Not only did he wipe out the "sinners", but the children, fetuses and almost every single animal alive. Yet God saved who he thought was the most worthy man and his family, who later cursed his grandchildren (and thus their descendants) for seeing him drunk, naked and passed out. Let's just say that this questioning did not go over very well with my wife! She said... can't you just read the story to your daughter? Well, can I? Can I ignore the immorality in the story? I can I honestly teach my child something that I think is morally wrong?

Anyway, all that being said to say that I don't think being neutral is a good thing. I don't know how this will all play out with my wife, Right now, we are ignoring the issue as much as possible and tolerating our different beliefs. I suspect I will have to take each event as it comes and try to explain why I don't like "x" story, or whatever.

For those interested, there are a few good articles on atheist parenting here: AtheistParents.org
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  #8  
August 16th, 2006, 03:54 PM
Number_3's Avatar Mega Super Mommy
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I am not sure that being "neutral" is the best option because neutrality does not have to imply honesty. Sure, any person will be free to believe whatever they want, but much of what they believe will be based on what they are taught as children. Being perfectly neutral (assuming that were even possible) could lead a child to follow virtually any absurdity that comes along. I want to teach my child, not only what I believe, but WHY I believe it. For example, I consider BibleGod to be morally bankrupt based on violent Old Testament stories and basic logical issues relating to freewill, and events in the garden. I really don't want my child thinking such things are "right", moral, or logical. I want my child to be able to discern reality from fantasy and fact from fiction.

Where this gets hairy is that my wife is currently Catholic. We were Protestant when we got married, and after I became agnostic she decided to switch to Catholicism since I no longer cared where she went. My wife sometimes prays with my 3yo daughter at night, sometimes prays at meals, reads bible stories, and wants her raised in the church. In addition, I go to church with her and the kids because a.) I want to be involved in what they do, and b.) I want to know what they are being told. I have a real problem with all of this. For example, I was reading to my daughter (she gets to pick out the books, and picks a children's book on Noah's ark) and while I was reading the story to her I mentioned to my wife how convenient it was that they left out the part about God judging his own creation for expressing their freewill that He gave them. Not only did he wipe out the "sinners", but the children, fetuses and almost every single animal alive. Yet God saved who he thought was the most worthy man and his family, who later cursed his grandchildren (and thus their descendants) for seeing him drunk, naked and passed out. Let's just say that this questioning did not go over very well with my wife! She said... can't you just read the story to your daughter? Well, can I? Can I ignore the immorality in the story? I can I honestly teach my child something that I think is morally wrong?

Anyway, all that being said to say that I don't think being neutral is a good thing. I don't know how this will all play out with my wife, Right now, we are ignoring the issue as much as possible and tolerating our different beliefs. I suspect I will have to take each event as it comes and try to explain why I don't like "x" story, or whatever.

For those interested, there are a few good articles on atheist parenting here: AtheistParents.org[/b]
I get what you're saying as far as neutrality is concerned. Maybe a better word for what I aspire to do here is objectivity...? At any rate, it has already bitten me in the proverbial arse, since my DD who is 7 has already gotten the 7-year old scoop on god and called herself a believer the other day after spending time with her friends at a party. She asked me today why it is that I don't pray. Then, to my wonderment, my 10 year old son chimes in and answers for me.."Because she doesn't believe in that invisible guy...and there's no such thing anyway".

So, I now find myself explaining my position. Again, I still believe I can explain my position without pressuring her to buy it. I'm confident she won't accept all forms of absurdity because we teach her morality in other venues. Eventually, I will have to get to the meat of it with her, which will include moral reasons for my non-acceptance of deity, but it's not only the Xian Bible/doctrine we'd be talking about here. That just happens to be one of the most unacceptable on my list. Slippery slope indeed!
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  #9  
August 16th, 2006, 04:54 PM
smt smt is offline
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Well, your 10 year old "got it" so there is still hope for the 7 year old
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  #10  
August 17th, 2006, 07:02 AM
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I think we will stick to teaching history and, when they can start to grasp it well, logic. If we succeed in teaching history and logic to our children, I have confidence they will make good choices in this matter!

ETA: of course, science is in there, too :-)
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  #11  
August 17th, 2006, 02:01 PM
smt smt is offline
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I think we will stick to teaching history and, when they can start to grasp it well, logic. If we succeed in teaching history and logic to our children, I have confidence they will make good choices in this matter!

ETA: of course, science is in there, too :-)[/b]
Some people consider the Bible to be a history book. As in "His Story".
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  #12  
August 17th, 2006, 02:07 PM
mrobinson
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This thread shows me why we all seem to get each other on the debate boards!
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  #13  
August 17th, 2006, 02:09 PM
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Quote:
Quote:
I think we will stick to teaching history and, when they can start to grasp it well, logic. If we succeed in teaching history and logic to our children, I have confidence they will make good choices in this matter!

ETA: of course, science is in there, too :-)[/b]
Some people consider the Bible to be a history book. As in "His Story".
[/b]

Hopefulyl I can counteract that with true histories Or maybe we can dissect Bible stories from a historical, logical, and scientific view. Guess my kids would have to be kinda dorky like me to want to spend any time doing that...but, hey, there's always dinner conversation
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  #15  
August 21st, 2006, 12:36 PM
Number_3's Avatar Mega Super Mommy
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Since my SO is baptist and I'm atheist we decided to just teach them about both and then when they're old enough let them decide which they would prefer...whether it mine, his, or something else. Just because I don't believe in God doesn't mean that my children won't...so I'm letting them decide.[/b]
Welcome to the board!

I have a question for you on this topic. Children often make it their goal to please their role models (i.e. mom & dad, or other caretakers). What will you do if you find them at odds with this? (since mom & dad's views are essentially opposing forces, intellectually speaking)
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  #16  
August 21st, 2006, 11:50 PM
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In my teenage years, I sort of went on this quest to find a religion that suited me, and ended up researching a lot of different religions - but in the end I found that, while I found them all interesting and fun to research their various stories and theologies, I didn't actually believe any of them. They were just stories, just like all that bible stuff were just stories to me.

I never had any faith, I guess. Just thought it was all to silly to be serious. I think I stopped believing in a god around the same time I stopped believe in santa claus.

I figured I'd tell Kaya the stories of all the different religions I've read about just like I'd tell her any ficticious story.

I do worry about the whole scenario described above - about her going to school and having some kid tell her she's gonna go to hell. That's what I hate about most organized religions. The whole idea that if you don't believe a specific thing, that you're destined to 'burn in hell' no matter how good a person you are. It's just the stupidist idea in the world to me.

I worry about how I'll be teaching Kaya about religious things though since my DH isn't exactly agnostic or athiest. He was raised Seventh Day Adventist and even went to a private 7thDayAdv church school till middle school. He and I just don't talk religion. At all. He doesn't actively follow any religion - it's not a part of our lives at all.

He says he doesn't approve of organized religion because it does more harm then good (and I agree). The last time 'god' came up in a discussion between us, he said that he believes that "God is Math". heh.

I'd hate for him and me to be answering Kaya's questions about god in two totally different ways - I know at some point we're gonna have to talk about it - but seeing as how she's only 3 months old, I think we've got a little time to sort it out.
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