Raising Atheist Children

May 19, 2013


Discussion by: direred

Fellow atheist parents,

Do you or how do you speak about religion or lack thereof around your children? Do you encourage atheism directly in your household or do you encourage the little minds to be open? I am curious to know how other atheist parents deal with the subject around little ones. Share your stories, please!

Toni

51 comments on “Raising Atheist Children

  • I think this depends on the degree of exposure they are going to have to religion which comes down to the country you live in and the rest of your family. Are they going to be told at school by other children that they are going to hell ? Are they going to be invited over to friends places for parties and discover that it’s a Christian indoctrination party ? I’ve heard of both these kinds of things and worse from US people posting here. If that is the case then I guess you need to do some pro-active vaccination against religion. For us family wasn’t a problem. Also we live in Australia which is pretty secular and public discussion of ones religious beliefs (or lack thereof) is generally regarded as a bit weird. So we said nothing. When asked about “gwad” by our eldest when he went to school (his hearing has never been wonderful) we explained that some people believed in him and he said it sounded stupid. That was the extent of religious education in our house.

    School choice can be tricky as there are some many things to wiegh up not least of all your bank balance. We ended up with them going to a non-denominational school with a Christian ethos so they went to chapel once a semester and there was a chaplain but also a couple of non-religious counsellors. It was academically a good school and co-educational so we were willing to wear the vaguely religious aspects. They had no impact on the kids.

    At a quick glance this website looks interesting

    http://www.atheistparents.org

    and there are some books on this topic. I’ve not looked at any of the above !

    Just make sure you raise them how you want to raise them and enjoy every minute of it as they grow up fast. My babies are 22 and 17 now.

    Michael



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  • 2
    Alistair Blackhill says:

    Just don’t let anyone tell them that they have to believe or they’ll burn in hell for eternity (and the subtle variations) The jesuits know that if the get the child until he’s seven they can hand you the man- they know the obverse is also true. If they can’t get the child before the age of 8 they will never have a hold on them.

    A man/woman is a child who grows old. An adult is a child who grows up…See Romans 5-18.

    Also, they are their own person and you’ll help them grow up until they become your equals (age of majority) See Corinthians where Paul says ‘you are not your own…(Cor1, 26 I think) as what to avoid.

    Best of luck.

    I’m a third generation Atheist on both sides of the family. One of my cousins is assembly of god, from her mother’s side because my uncle didn’t see the harm in sunday school. It didn’t stick with her brother though. When the AOG one tried to convert me I didn’t buy the arguments. If exposed to the ‘proper RE program however, kids will be too scared to refute the arguments and the ‘what if you’re wrong?’ will get them. The ‘what if your parents are wrong? they’ll burn in hell.’ will get them too, unless they’re not exposed to the concept before the age of 8 ~ 10.



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  • 3
    whiteraven says:

    Looking through Discussions for similar topics to yours turns up a number of other threads related to children (titles and links below). These are from the first page of latest-first sorts of each discussion category, so there might well be others. I think there’s quite a few comments in each of these and useful information. It’s worth scanning.

    It would be nice if someone with a special interest in Children and Parenting went through all this stuff, extracted the best of it and put together a well organized compendium of advice, references, children’s books and so forth. I think It could be a useful resource.



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  • 4
    Stephen of Wimbledon says:

    There is no such thing as an atheist household. Potentially, there are households where religion has not penetrated, and those where it has. Most of us live in a home that lies on a scale between these extremes.

    Religion is present in the media, among your children’s friends (and their families), and on the street. Religion forces it’s way into your home. There is no escape.

    Thus; the only course open to those of us who recognise the automatic evils that come with religion is to consider defences. By far, the most superior of these is to engender within our children:

    • Open minds

    • Critical thinking skills – logic and evidence-based thinking can be picked up by children from a very early age

    • A love of knowledge, and a desire for truth

    Because religion will come to your child without your knowledge and outside your control, introduce them to religion. Comparative religion is one of the most effective ways of questioning religion. However, it can also be a double-edged sword; if exposed to religions’ thinking methods too early they can become confused and their critical thinking skills can be undermined.

    A key element is to ensure your child’s understanding is that it is natural to question what we can know and how we know (epistemology). All religions are based on the assumption that we can know things by thinking about them and believing in our thought conclusions (faith). Being able to question why faith is a good way to know is a key defence mechanism.

    Also, don’t be afraid to give ‘holy’ texts to your children. Do be afraid of people who offer classes in text studies.

    Peace.



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  • 6
    Ignorant Amos says:

    First, avoid family and societal pressure to have them inculcated with rituals…baptism, circumcision, etc. My poor son capitulated under pressure from his in-laws to have my grandaughter Christened.

    Next, find a school that accommodates all religions and those of none.

    Don’t be tempted to indoctrinate…even non belief.

    Keep an eclectic library of books available…including holy texts, which are the first thing that will put a youngster of religion when not addressed through the rose tinted spectacles of the religions clerics.

    Be honest.

    My two babies are 25 & 23…atheist, and came to it by their choice.

    Best wishes.



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  • 7
    ChrisMcL says:

    I was under the misapprehension that I could ignore talking to my children about God and religion in the same way that I could ignore talking to them about alien abductions. But society just won’t shut up about God and religion. My oldest child was taught the Pledge of Allegiance, with it’s reference to “one nation, under God”, in kindergarten. One of his friends at school wears a gold “T” necklace and repeats the religious dogma fed to him by his parents. So now I am compelled to not do as I had wished: to treat it as a non-subject, and allow my children to come to their own conclusions. Rather, I have to actively point out that God is not real in the same way that Batman is not real. So far this has been effective in responding to the unwelcome societal influence. It has been a balancing act. I only spend as much time to refuting god claims as he is exposed to them. In time, it will be my children’s critical thinking skills that will shield them from superstition, and there will be no need for my intervention. Still I’m disappointed that I have to fight against society on this matter; a society that claims to give parents the freedom to raise their children as those parents see fit.



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  • I made a conscious decision about how to handle this and if I do say so myself (for once) things worked out pretty well. I adopted someone who came from a very religious family. My decision on this before hand was that I would never try to impose my beliefs on her but that I would always be honest about what I thought. So on religious questions I was always careful to not say “here is what’s true” but “here are the different views people have and here is what I think and why”. I imagine part of what ended up happening is that my daughter was rebelling against her birth parents but she ended up being even a more radical atheist than I am. (If only I could get her to study computer science rather than theater)

    One of my favorite stories is the interaction she had once on a public bus when in High School. A couple of mormons got on the bus. Naturally everyone else on the bus tried to look the other way. But not my daughter. She loves to argue with anyone about anything. They started telling her “about the lord” but after a while — and I will bet this might be a first in recorded history — the mormons were trying to get away from my daughter. She kept asking them such hard questions that they couldn’t answer.

    Anyway, for what its worth that is the path I would recommend. First because out of principle IMO atheists should be different, we have reason on our side so we don’t need to indoctrinate our kids, we WANT them to think for themselves and we should focus on that, giving them the right tools to find out for themselves. But also from a practical stand point, I have a few friends that are very religious and they all came from families that weren’t religious at all. (And I was raised to be very religious). Its a natural reaction I think for kids to reject some of their parents’ core beliefs so besides the fact that indoctrination should be antithetical to people who believe in critical thinking it also has a strong potential to be counter productive.



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  • 9
    DocWebster says:

    I inoculated my kids against religion by teaching them about commercialism. Distrusting someone who only has positive things to say about what they’re selling, with no verifiable proof of their assertions, seems inherently logical to a child. After that they apply the same logic to everything they hear from everyone around them. That was the mistake my mom made with me, she taught me to question before she got hooked by the Jehovah’s Witless’. She spent the rest of her life kicking herself for that.



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  • 10
    AfraidToDie says:

    Religion was a non issue when raising our 3 children. It was never brought up, but we let them go with friends IF they wanted to, which a couple of times usually was all they could stand anyway. Early on I told my wife that if she wanted to take them to church and if she wanted to go, it was up to her but I would not participate because I am not a believer. She never went and we went through life never discussing religion period. Today, at least two have maintained they are non-believers and have their own children, who have gone to church pre-schools and their spouses do not go to church either. One was raised Catholic, an may attend occasionally, but very limited exposure for the children. I am confident my grandchildren will all be non-religious based on being able to choose to go to church or not, and without parental pushing. If any decide to believe in “woo”, that will be their choice and I will not push any view on them.



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  • 11
    Granton says:

    I occasionally challenged my children if they came back from Girl Guides (or whatever) with statements like “God made everything”. Other than that, I left them to work it out for themselves.

    I rather worried about NOT sending them to Sunday School. So much of our culture is based on familiarity with The Bible.



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  • 12
    coral708 says:

    I tell my children stories about imaginary strawberries growing out of their head.. pretend to pick the strawberries and eat them. I tell them not to jump in lifts (or elevator), because the lift lady who resides on the top of the lift will be angry with them. You know, the lady who says “door closing.. going up”. Otherwise, who’s talking?

    I tell them about little monsters sitting on their noses. Or the orange juice that is flying around.

    silly stories, and challenge them to figure out what’s real and what’s not. and when it is that I’m talking nonsense.

    Sometimes, my children get very annoyed with me. but when his classmate talked about Jesus to my 8 year old, my child laughed out loud.



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  • 13
    coral708 says:

    There’s something on your face…….. don’t move ! ……………………….. its a nose! oh.. its your nose.

    Its really funny when I convinced my children its possible to bite their own ears… if they turn fast enough.
    They tried really hard.

    Yes, I “troll” my children to inoculate them from woo woo. Its fun…



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  • 14
    Marius Sullivan says:

    The religious indoctrination of children starts early. Religion is all around us. It’s in schools, friends’ houses, TV etc. Society is still largely religious and young children are defenseless against it. How to counter this sub-conscious (and often not so sub-conscious) indoctrination? To actively campaign for atheism is not constructive and confrontational. This is not good for harmony at home. To do nothing is just wrong. What to do and how to do it?



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  • 15
    Stephen of Wimbledon says:

    In reply to #6 by Ignorant Amos:

    Brother Amos!

    It’s been too long between conversations.

    First, avoid family and social pressure to have them inculcated with rituals…baptism, circumcision, etc. My poor son capitulated under pressure from his in-laws to have my grandaughter Christened.

    My Mother is a priest. True, she is an Anglican, and therefore not among the most despicable of priests. For the record she’s a very lovely person, religion aside, and I love her and have always loved her. It is this dichotomy that forces me to adopt a pseudonym here at RDFRS.

    My Mother has 6 grandchildren. 1 is a Christian. Three have visited her without parents, and attended services with her. This is, as far as I can ascertain, the main reason for any confusion in the grandchildren’s thinking. There’s a bigger story here, but my advice is that if you start to worry about things like christening it’s too late. Not too late as in ‘for ever’ just too late to be concerned about them experimenting with religion.

    Experimenting with religion is like experimenting with drugs – a major concern for wise and intelligent family and friends – but often a path that reveals the emptiness of religions. It’s never too late to go cold turkey – and unlike drugs it is possible to leave the habit behind.

    Next, find a school that accommodates all religions and those of none.

    Good advice.

    Don’t be tempted to indoctrinate…even non belief.

    Excellent advice.

    Be honest.

    Top advice.

    Peace.



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  • 16
    FARFARSCHON says:

    Atheism is all about making up your own mind. Kids should be given the tools (eg education) to be able to do this without their parents pushing them in either direction. A “free thinker” (atheist) must be prepared to accept their child becoming a theist if ihe/she wants. But of cause…if provided with evidence-based knowlege about all religions and an ability to think in a logic and critical way the chances of the child turning to religion are rather slim:-)



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  • 17
    OHooligan says:

    In reply to #11 by Granton:

    So much of our culture is based on familiarity with The Bible.

    My kids spent a while under the impression that Jesus was a car painter who got hammered at Easter. I blame my lack of enthusiasm for making them do bible studies.



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  • Our kids were exposed to a lot of religion away from the house, but never from us. We just kept quiet and non committal about the whole thing. We celebrated Christmas and Easter but not as religious holidays, but simply as a cultural tradition that involves having fun. Fortunately they grew up having views that aligned with ours, so we don’t have to fend off conversion attempts by our own children.

    When our daughter was in her mid teens, she commented that she was very happy to have been to Sunday school and kids club etc , as she knew all the stories and most of the oft repeated quotations. These have added to her cultural identity, though they are not given any credibility at all.



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  • 19
    Docjitters says:

    I second (Third? Eighty-sixth?) the advice of simply not enforcing an adherence to anything and exposing them to everything – they’ll question and figure out it can’t all be true and default to non-theism. At least that’s what I did. Looking back, it feels strange there was a time when I took it for granted that (C-of-E) Christianity was true because ‘everybody else was doing it’…

    My father is from a nominally Buddhist family who almost entirely had a non-sensical but relatively harmless happy-clappy conversion to Christianity when his father died. My grandfather was ‘converted’ on his deathbed by an already evangelical uncle and my grandmother was apparently rather unhappy about that. My dad has never mentioned religion and I suspect strongly he is atheist.

    My mother is from a Buddhist family and went to convent school in a nationally Muslim country – she remains a sort of non-specific fatalistic (‘everything happens for a reason’) theist but has never gotten me to do anything. My schools were all C-of-E but presented RE in a comparative way (despite prayers in assembly etc.). The only time I ever went to church was to go to the kids club, sing in a school choir or look at the architecture. Learning the what without being forced to believe (but nevertheless understanding) the why is, I believe, necessary to pretty much all learning where you can’t simply demonstrate the proof to oneself.



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  • I can only talk about this from the child perspective. My Dad was careful to avoid pushing his ideas onto me. He always expected me to have my own independent opinion. It must have bothered him I that I had such a sunny view of communism and held engineers (like dad) as second class scientists. I knew he was an atheist, but I also knew that as a child he attended church daily. Apparently this was coerced.

    I was an early Santa skeptic. I was not punished for this. My Mom set up the first food bank in North America. She was motivated more by her fury at seeing food wasted that a desire to help the poor. I went with my dad each night delivering food hampers. I knew darn well you could not visit every house in the world in one night.

    Mom was extremely contemptuous of Christians. She was always crossing swords with snooty hypocrites. She told me to avoid them, but that was quite difficult given everyone at my school was nominally Christian. I rebelled by sneaking out to churches. I was unimpressed.

    I don’t every recall any discrimination for being atheist. I did not identify as such, just someone who could not make any sense of the nonsense Christians spouted. I was eager to understand it. I felt there must be something valuable in there even if no one could express it. The world made such extravagant claims for it. However, to this day I have yet to hear anything but BS.

    When I joined the YMCA my Dad lied on the form and said I was Anglican. I was shocked that my dad would do something to blatantly dishonest but he said they might not let me in if I did not masquerade as Christian. I don’t remember if there was a similar problem when I joined the cub scouts, but I was called on the swear allegiance to “God and the Queen” which I took as some anachronism not to be taken seriously. I absolutely loved the YMCA and everyone associated with it. I had so much fun. It would have been a real hole in my life had I been excluded. Even to this day I wonder what became of everyone and sometimes google names. One incident I recall was a father-son banquet where the athletic director Bryce Taylor got all the fathers to do a sort of monkey dance. My Dad was far too dignified for such antics, but he joined in. I could not believe my eyes.

    I later came to see Christians as my arch enemies because they gave gays so much pointless grief and spent so much mindless effort trying to get them to commit suicide.



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  • 21
    Ignorant Amos says:

    In reply to #15 by Stephen of Wimbledon:

    My Mother is a priest. True, she is an Anglican, and therefore not among the most despicable of priests. For the record she’s a very lovely person, religion aside, and I love her and have always loved her.

    Me also. My poor mum is indoctrinated in Protestant sectarian bigotry. It is an added problem in Northern Ireland in trying to raise youngsters. The Christian sectarian bigotry is just about everywhere.



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  • 22
    mistermac says:

    In our family, religeon is a silly idea that becomes serious when people want to defend it. We laugh at our religeous aquaintances because they think that life can be explained away with made up answers. The kid down the street couldn’t figure out how dinosaurs can be older then the earth itself is. His parent’s excuse for an answer: Science doesn’t know everything. Man, we outright giggled at that one. The kid is good at playing basketball and has a nurf gun and likes Star Wars so my kids hang with them. We also let our kids know that the Christians and Jews, in our area, practice a prefered orthodoxy that the parents are forcing kids to follow and practice and that no kid on their own would reinvent what the Abraham religeons are all about. Very outdated stuff.



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  • 23
    Stevehill says:

    Kids aged 6 and 4. My recipe (Britain. Oxfordshire. Dawkins country.) Firstly, we moved house. When the eldest was coming up to entering school (September 2011) we decided to move from a village which had no school of its own, but more importantly was served by a very religious faith school in the next village. So we looked at inspectors’ reports on every primary school for miles around (all online), ruling out any that were not good or outstanding, and any that were faith schools. We visited what was left and in most cases interviewed the head teacher. Then we moved to where we are now.

    I should add this was a bit of a challenge. Dawkins uses a map of our bit of the world in one of his presentations to show just how far you might have to travel to get away from faith schools. There’s a lot of it about, and until 1839 you could not be admitted to the local university (Oxford) unless you signed up to the 39 Articles of the Anglican Church and swore a vow of celibacy!

    We have not exercised our right to opt the kids out of RE at school. They learn about all major faiths in a non-proselytising way. We simply then “nudge” the idea that clearly not all of the faiths can be right. From which it is a short step to concluding that maybe none of them are. There are (rare) school trips to the local church e.g. for Xmas carols. We don’t object, but nor do we ever go to church for any other reason save to look at the architecture. Both kids have appeared in school nativity plays and had fun. The scripts were, shall we say, suitably inaccurate for multicultural participation, verging on heretical. I like this school.

    They are both still too young for “serious” conversations, but when the opportunity is given we say that some people choose to believe in gods and find it comforting, and we respect their choices, and we respect them as people, but actually we think it is all a bit silly. As and when they get older, and lose faith in Santa Claus and fairies and unicorns we will simply reinforce the idea that gods belong in the same category.

    I’m not above using the ammunition faith-heads serve me on a platter either. When people do very bad things in the name of religion, anywhere on the scale from homophobia and misogyny to child abuse and blowing up buildings, I’ll take it as a gift from their god to the atheist cause.



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  • 26
    storyoftheblues says:

    I simply told my kids that if they believed in God and Religion they would go to the big bad fire. Seems to have worked.



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  • 27
    Wiwaxia says:

    Yes, we encouraged our children to have open minds – by encouraging science and rational thought.

    We discussed what other people believe, and made it clear that there are lots of different beliefs. We had books with pictures of children from different religions, and what they believed. We had a childrens’ bible, and discussed the stories along side all the other stories that we read to them – they were in no doubt that these were stories and nothing more.

    They were not withdrawn from RE at school. We see it as part of your education, and much of literature is based on religion. We also used it as an opportunity to discuss issues that they brought home from school – underaged sex, drugs, etc – how often do you get an easy opening to talk about issues like that to a 13 year old? One son decided to take a GCSE exam in RE (age 16) – not because he believed, but because it was an easy qualification that didn’t require much work.

    We did experiments in the kitchen, visited museums, watched videos, provided science books. We encouraged thought about how things work. The children saw us watching Attenborough, Brian Cox, Dawkins, and reading and talking about science and engineering.

    Our children knew that we didn’t believe in god, and that some other relatives did, but because we wanted them to have a good relationship with their grandmother, that we were not going to be rude about that belief. Fortunately their grandmother didn’t force her beliefs onto the children – she knew it would not go down well with us.

    As they grew older our sons watched Youtube atheist videos and debated creationists on line. Now in their early 20s they’ve heard all the religious approaches before, and have a good answer to all of them. They are also have a mental toolkit to evaluate new ideas and concepts and make sensible decisions about them.



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  • 28
    mmurray says:

    In reply to #6 by Ignorant Amos:

    First, avoid family and societal pressure to have them inculcated with rituals…baptism, circumcision, etc. My poor son capitulated under pressure from his in-laws to have my grandaughter Christened.

    Yes you’ve got to try to make a stand with that first baptism or all the rest just seems to roll on ..

    Off-topic: But have you seen http://www.strangenotions.com? It’s meant to be a meeting place for rational discussion between atheists and catholics (run by catholics). You can guess how that’s going. Some discussions going on about early christian history that would benefit from your (lack of) ignorance though!

    All the best – Michael



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  • 29
    CatherineD_tcp says:

    My Little one is still pretty little, he’s only 3 so I don’t tend to bring up religion and I’ve been pretty lucky that grandparents have respected boundaries and have refrained from mentioning it, instead I tend to focus on the positive, teaching him about science and the natural world!



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  • 30
    whiteraven says:

    So direred, are you a participant in this? Has anyone provided anything useful to you? Got enough or want more?

    I’m not reading all this because it’s no use to me, but there’s getting to be enough stuff in the Discussions to write a book.



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  • 31
    Laurie Fraser says:

    Why pussyfoot? I told my kids in no uncertain terms that religion was bullshit. Let’s face it – like homeopathy or numerology, religion deserves zero respect. Don’t beat about the bush, people. Tell them flat out: religion is crap.



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  • 32
    Imaculotus says:

    “A child’s mind is a beacon, it is not a slate of your past regressions, nor a personification of your own scaffold of success. A beacon is to be opened, it is a gateway rather than a hamper of thought. We may not teach children the way of life, but the way to life, and reveal to them its glory. It is teachings that make a slave, but variety that makes an emperor. A child is the epitome of clarity and ambition, and it is our duty, as adults, to feed them not our own expectations, but their own possibilities.” – Autorean ~ The best way to raise your Child/Children is to teach them to always doubt their beliefs, but never their morality. Teach them what you think is right, and allow them to elabourate on that with their own little ideas. and on a personal note, it would be best to teach them to stay away from religion, just for your own piece of mind and atheist integrity. But dont tell them that nothing lies beyond, to be honest, that idea may scare some children, to know this is the only life they may have. Perhaps teach them that whatever lies beyond is but a possibility rather than something we could concieve ourselves in our comparatively weak human minds.I believe in aliens, but I would only go to the extent of teaching my children the possibilities of other worldly beings, but truley never encouraging delusion.



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  • 33
    whiteraven says:

    In reply to #31 by Laurie Fraser:

    Why pussyfoot? I told my kids in no uncertain terms that religion was bullshit. Let’s face it – like homeopathy or numerology, religion deserves zero respect. Don’t beat about the bush, people. Tell them flat out: religion is crap.

    Why pussyfoot? I told my kids in no uncertain terms that atheism was bullshit. Let’s face it – like evolution or climate change, atheism deserves zero respect. Don’t beat about the bush, people. Tell them flat out: atheism is crap.



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  • 34
    DocWebster says:

    In reply to #33 by whiteraven:

    In reply to #31 by Laurie Fraser:

    Why pussyfoot? I told my kids in no uncertain terms that religion was bullshit. Let’s face it – like homeopathy or numerology, religion deserves zero respect. Don’t beat about the bush, people. Tell them flat out: religion is crap.

    Why pussyfoot? I told my kids in…

    I see what u did there



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  • 35
    alonthemed says:

    In reply to #33 by whiteraven:

    In reply to #31 by Laurie Fraser:

    Why pussyfoot? I told my kids in no uncertain terms that atheism was bullshit. Let’s face it – like evolution or climate change, atheism deserves zero respect. Don’t beat about the bush, people. Tell them flat out: atheism is crap.

    Haha! If I told my kids that atheism was crap they would rightly point out that a lack of belief in an untestable claim can NOT be judged subjectively. Precisely in the same way that not collecting stamps can not be judged to be an interesting or boring hobby and “off” can not be described as a good or bad tv channel (although IMO “off” is immeasurably better than Fox news)

    It is however possible to judge religion as being crap. Whether or not you agree is another matter.

    Al



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  • 36
    Lonevoice says:

    Reply to Stephen of Wimbledon 19 May 2013 10:57 AM.

    I don’t wish to be confrontational in any way, but there appears to be a slight inconsistency in your comments
    “those of us who recognise the automatic evils that come with religion” and “to engender within children Open minds, Critical thinking skills – logic and evidence-based thinking can be picked up by children from a very early age, a love of knowledge, and a desire for truth.”

    Whatever aspects of religion have led you to refer to “automatic evils” is inevitably upsetting – many aspects of religion have produced much good but I know it’s not perfect by any stretch of the imagination. Some might argue that you are not being open-minded in making such a sweeping statement.

    Also, what do you mean by ‘evils’? Could it not be that we have an innate perception of good and evil as objective benchmarks that lead us to conceive of, understand and use such words. If there were no such objective benchmark, as I guess you would conclude, these words do no more than express an individual’s opinion. After all, my perception of what is good or evil will differ from yours. Opinions are neither good nor evil unless you have something to measure them against. Words like these that carry an objective connotation ought to be used more carefully by someone who claims to rely solely on logic.

    On the matter of a desire for truth: who can claim to have that? As a Christian, I would say that Jesus is the truth. I realise you would reject that statement. However, to quote Pontius Pilate at Jesus’ trial, “What is truth?” We won’t get that age-old conundrum settled here, but let me ask how would YOU know if you found truth? Furthermore, the sole use of human reason to determine truth cannot ever achieve that objective. People change, times change, opinions change, cultures change – does truth change? If it does, then, by definition, it can’t be true. Or am I mistaken?

    On the matter of ‘open minds’ itself: is (A) open-minded or (B) closed-minded for a person to believe that there is the possibility of a Divine Being that we cannot discover through human reason alone? Answer (A) or (B)?

    Just a thought.



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  • My wife and I, culturally Jewish, but only culturally, never talked about religion or non-religion to each other or to our children. The subject never came up. Once when our daughter was about 9 years old, she asked me, just trying to sort out things she had heard, “Do you believe in God?” I answered, “No.” That one syllable was good enough for her. Now she and my son-in-law are raising a couple of children the same way. I would venture to say that the less discussion the better–just show by example.



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  • 38
    Ignorant Amos says:

    In reply to #28 by mmurray:

    In reply to #6 by Ignorant Amos:

    First, avoid family and societal pressure to have them inculcated with rituals…baptism, circumcision, etc. My poor son capitulated under pressure from his in-laws to have my grandaughter Christened.

    Yes you’ve got to try to make a stand with that first baptism or…

    Just paid a visit to that link you provided. What are ya trying to do to me Michael, give me a nervous breakdown? A couple of minutes of that asinine ignorance nearly caused me an embolism.



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  • 39
    Red Dog says:

    In reply to #36 by Lonevoice:

    Reply to Stephen of Wimbledon 19 May 2013 10:57 AM.

    I don’t wish to be confrontational in any way,

    I agree. To talk as if all the worlds problems can be blamed on religion is naive and simplistic especially for people who claim to believe in critical thinking. I disagree with you on the relative merits of religion, I think it does far more harm than good. But I agree that to assume it is just inherently evil and that no good ever has or can come from religion is obviously false to anyone who isn’t biased by hatred of religion. I actually have a similar argument with people in political communities about capitalism and corporations. I agree that corporations do a lot of bad things but I don’t think that capitalism per se is inherently evil or that the world would suddenly be a worker’s paradise if we abolished all large corporations.

    On the matter of ‘open minds’ itself: is (A) open-minded or (B) closed-minded for a person to believe that there is the possibility of a Divine Being that we cannot discover through human reason alone? Answer (A) or (B)?

    Its not a fair criticism to say you are close minded just because you reach some conclusion. If someone said “there is no God because Richard Dawkins said so and he is a great scientist and never wrong” then they have a closed mind (and they also don’t understand science or Richard’s own ideas). If they say that the concept of God serves no useful purpose in any scientific theory and that the various arguments for a God are flawed and then give you reasons they aren’t close minded at all.



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  • 40
    Lonevoice says:

    In reply to #39 by Red Dog:

    In reply to #36 by Lonevoice:
    To Red Dog,

    I realise my comments might have seemed to imply unfairly that someone is closed-minded just because they have reached a conclusion. Thank you for pointing out that inference, although that is not what I meant at all and I would agree with your reply on that point in principle. After all, I myself have reached a conclusion – that God exists – and I naturally would not regard myself as being closed-minded. Neither would I say that anyone who does not believe the same as me is closed-minded per se.

    However, my comments were specifically in response to a post that was phrased in a way that to me, seemed imbalanced. The content of the original post by Stephen of Wimbledon appeared to imply that children who accept their parents’ faith do not think for themselves – or, more to the point, that parents who seek to pass on their faith to their children don’t want their children to think for themselves. These things may be true of some people, but sweeping generalisations are unfair.

    I was not brought up in a Christian home; I came to the conclusion that there is a God on my own when I was older. Yes there were conversations with friends that helped me formulate that conclusion, but they did not “force religion down my throat” and neither did I blindly follow what my parents forced on me (because they had no faith when I was young). Enjoy your day.



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  • 41
    Thrinaxodon says:

    Before, I go on…I’m back.

    Now, I wouldn’t personally encourage teaching them atheism, I would teach them critical thinking. Also, it depends on exposure. That’s all.



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  • 42
    mmurray says:

    In reply to #38 by Ignorant Amos:

    In reply to #28 by mmurray:

    Just paid a visit to that link you provided. What are ya trying to do to me Michael, give me a nervous breakdown? A couple of minutes of that asinine ignorance nearly caused me an embolism.

    Lol. Sorry about that but we need you! “Asinine ignorance” is a nice description of it though. It’s meant to be a place for atheists and catholics to meet. Someone was going on about it being a chance for atheists to hear the true catholic message for the first time. Sadly they really think like this. No sign of any visiting atheists taking up the cross though.

    Michael

    PS: For anyone wondering what this is about: http://www.strangenotions.com.



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  • 43
    Ignorant Amos says:

    In reply to #42 by mmurray:

    In reply to #38 by Ignorant Amos:

    In reply to #28 by mmurray:

    Just paid a visit to that link you provided. What are ya trying to do to me Michael, give me a nervous breakdown? A couple of minutes of that asinine ignorance nearly caused me an embolism.

    Lol. Sorry about that but we need you! “As…

    I spent a good many hours over there last night/this morning Michael. I particularly enjoyed your interaction with that moonbeam “David” on the God-of-the-gaps thread…entertainment of the first order even if very frustrating at points. The lengths the eejits will go too to shoe horn doctrine and their batshit crazy beliefs into what science is understanding about everything. Ya couldn’t make it up.

    Apologies to all for the O/T comment..



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  • 44
    Light Wave says:

    I answered all my childrens questions with truth, facts and rational explanations, they learned about all religions from me and school as I did, I encouraged them to read as widely as possible and never just accept or believe anything, but question its authenticity and research to find the truth, not in peoples opinion but in scientific facts….I taught them to see the bigger picture and to strive to improve humanities future for all of us who share the Earth.



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  • 45
    B.Atrash says:

    well if you raised them on atheism they’d do nothing but being closed minded plus that they’d have some social problems with their friends the best thing to do is to teach them both science and religion after learning them how to question so they can be truth seekers and principles owners



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  • You teach your children the truth… as you currently see it . That means the world will always have lots of children who have the same faith/beliefs as their parent….just like it always has! Little muslims have muslim parents, little christians have christian parents and so on…. well no surprise then that little atheists have atheist parents. One very good thing about being an atheist… you can still celebrate christmas…. it’s not like your gonna go to hell!!



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  • 47
    marcfromgermany says:

    I´m not a parent. But in my opinion : Just tell them the truth if they ask. I they dont .. dont bother them with worthless thoughts.



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  • 48
    Jakquinn says:

    In the UK I never meet very religious people, even the local Christian schools the children I grew up with that went there are not believers. The UK is no longer a Christian country and for that I’m very happy. You have to have a very simple mind to believe in religion and believe all those fairy tales. Easing a child in the UK is easy, don’t mention religion to children, and even if you do they won’t believe it. When I say the UK I’m not really talking about Ireland. Religion is pushed on quite a lot of children over there. Hence the catholic/Protestant IRA deal. I would like to know how many wars would never had happened of there was no religion.



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  • 49
    Alan4discussion says:

    In reply to #45 by B.Atrash:

    well if you raised them on atheism they’d do nothing but being closed minded

    Really?? Regarding all gods as fantasy stories, is somehow more closed minded than believing one fantasy is real, and all the others are fictitious?
    I think there is some difficulty with pretending the reverse projection of a narrow view of one religion, can represent a more open mind than a wide view of many religions.

    plus that they’d have some social problems with their friends

    I have not seen this in schools or in the community. Perhaps if they live in an area of religious bigotry it could be so.

    the best thing to do is to teach them both science and religion

    This seems confused and appears to mean indoctrinate them in some pseudo-science religious claims to confuse them about science.

    Atheist children are usually taught science and learn ABOUT religions and their myths.

    after learning them how to question so they can be truth seekers

    Science is about methodology to seek testable truths. Education is about literacy and clarity of communication.

    and principles owners

    Children’s principles come initially from modelling conduct on parental examples of ethical behaviour. There is no need for ethical philosophies to be based on religions. Indeed a great deal of antisocial conflict comes from disputes between religious groups, and between specific religious groups and wider society.



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  • 51
    debaser71 says:

    In reply to #45 by B.Atrash:

    well if you raised them on atheism they’d do nothing but being closed minded plus that they’d have some social problems with their friends the best thing to do is to teach them both science and religion after learning them how to question so they can be truth seekers and principles owners

    WHy does teaching them the truth about religion automatically mean not teaching them about science, open mindedness, and critical thinking?



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