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Hi everyone, this is my first discussion here. Pleased to meet you all!

I'm a father of two young kids. The older one is in early grade school, so it's time to figure out how to inoculate them against religion. I'd like to trade notes with other parents, if there's anyone here who's been attempting anything similar?

What I've been doing so far is to discuss dead religions (aka mythologies) as part of the bedtime story process, with the point being that people believed these things back in the day every bit as fervently as modern religious adherents do today. I mean, human sacrifice, right? You don't do that if you're not fully invested in your theology. But most of that discussion is down the road a bit, and for now I'm trying to lay groundwork.

So far we've been through Greek and Norse mythologies. I read up on some story or another before bedtime and then relate the story orally just after lights-out. It's been a lot of fun, and educational for me too. Oh and I've also read a bunch of Narnia, which is less fun but patently ridiculous, and therefore probably useful for later comparisons to the original. ("That Jesus guy? Yeah, he's the lion that keeps popping up and glowing at people.") But Narnia seems pretty slim pickings when you've got Ginnungagap through Ragnarok to play with.

Eventually I want to mine a pile of entertaining whack from the Bible too, and maybe other non-dead religions with interesting stories. I'm not quite diving into that yet because I want to feel confident I won't get called into the office because my child's been giving some religious kid a few home truths in the schoolyard. I mean, it'd probably be good for them, but I'd rather keep out of other families' business.

So... has anyone else here done something like this, or thought about doing it? Any pointers to other fertile mythologies that I should consider digging into? Other completely different approaches that might be worth a try?

Tags: child, children, education, mythology, stories, story

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It just turned midnight and I am very weary. I will chat with you tomorrow and tell you some of the things I did about religion. I like what you are doing. Great ideas and well worth the effort. Good night! 

Mythologies might be a good start, but before long the christians will have your kids firing back at you with Jesus, and your kids will believe he is real. (People told them so.) At this time you will have to add Jesus and the Bible to mythologies and let the kids know. Everyone wants to believe, so you will likely have to add Jesus and the Bible to stories of Santa and the Easter Bunny.

The school may end up calling you in if the occassion is right, but what you teach your children privately is none of their business. Likewise, they have no right to teach religion, and we all know that children will talk.

I see it as giving them critical thinking skills to help kids protect themselves from one of many forms of fraud and deceit out there. Yeah they'll probably be skeptical if that's what they see from their parents.  Heck, my parents took me to church on Sundays but I still could tell they didn't really buy it.  But I want my kids to be as ready as possible for motivated cultists, of the sort I thankfully never met as a child.

Michael: I'm not expecting to get too much Jesus-pressure, being as my kids will probably only go to public school in Canada. We're in a reasonably multi-cultural environment, where I think we're a bit protected by inter-religion detente.

Maybe you're right though and I should get into it sooner rather than later, sensitivities be damned. I've done maybe two Jewish/Christian stories already and nobody got hurt.

I have never lied to my child about anything, and he knows it. I never lied to him about Santa, the Tooth Fairy, or even the Easter Bunny. So the one and only time he asked me about god and Jesus I told him absolute truth. I have never had one GOOD reason to believe either of them ever existed, and until I have a really good reason to believe that it is true, I am not going to believe it. Kinda like Unicorns or Genies. He hasn't ever asked since...

On why believing is not an option for me...

There is an invisible creature that follows me everywhere I go. It reads my mind and knows my deepest secrets. The creature loves me, but it is jealous and will punish me if I don’t love it back. Since it reads my mind, the creature can even punish me for my thoughts. I must never have doubts about its complete power over me or I will be made to suffer horribly. I would do anything for the creature, even die or kill, because to do otherwise is to be doomed. The creature rewards me when I’m good. Sometimes it grants me wishes. If I am very good, when I die I will get to spend forever on my knees worshipping at the creatures feet. If you don’t believe in the creature as I do, you are a fool and you are damned for all eternity.

These words are not my own and I copied them from somewhere, but it pretty much sums up the god issue.

I have never lied to my child about anything, and he knows it. I never lied to him about Santa, the Tooth Fairy, or even the Easter Bunny. So the one and only time he asked me about god and Jesus I told him absolute truth.

Scary thing is, this is what my Fundie in-laws told me when I first started visiting. I made a comment about Santa to the kids, and they were like, Oh we don't believe in that. The mom said something about how they never lie to their kids; they want to be trusted.

That broke my heart. I never felt cheated by my parents- quite the opposite! Those are some magical memories, and were very real at the time. Meanwhile, think of the ultimate horror show of lies they are feeding their kids instead! Truly harmful lies. Sad thing is, the adults probably don't even realize they're lying....

We recently bought a copy of Darwin's book about reality, but have no kids of our own. Just nice to have on hand in case kids visit, or maybe it'll be a good gift one day.

I think kids have great BS detectors naturally built-in. All it takes is exposure to sane people, who don't take it so seriously, and perhaps point out to them some of the contradictions and hypocricy.

With the kids in my husband's family, I don't say much at all. They know we're non-believers, so when THEY bring stuff up, we casually toss out a couple of comments, nothing preachy or confrontational, just to make them think about what they're being spoon-fed.

I think that's what worked for me, the gradual realization that not everybody was running scared of this God character, who was also terribly fickle regarding my prayers and unimpressed by my church attendance. It was while commuting to one of my first post-college crap-a$$ jobs that I began to think. "All my life, I've been good, worked hard, been a "good Christian," and this is all that comes of it?! " A living hell of commuting and slave labor.

Long train commutes give a person plenty of thinking time ;-]

Christine: I agree on the memories bit.  I respect the "never lie" perspective, but we went with the Santa routine and our son's reaction when he found out the truth was roughly what I remember of my own experience: a bit of disappointment, and then a more sophisticated understanding that the play acting adds to the atmosphere of an enjoyable holiday.  So we put cookies, milk and carrots out each Christmas Eve, and he's excited to see them gone on Christmas morning.  Then the presents and all that, but no mention of that scary sky-creature Michael describes.

We also went with the tooth fairy, largely because it seemed like a good distraction from any worry about that piece of bone falling out of your head.  Of course he didn't buy it for a second, because he remembered Santa and wasn't about to be taken in again!  Still, a bit of silly tradition with some money at the end of it - a good deal from his perspective.  And losing teeth became something to look forward to instead of worry about, so a win-win overall.

I'm not that worried about consistency in every detail, I just want happy, well adjusted kids that don't get sucked in by cults large or small.

Due to all my screwups in life and in knowing what to believe, my oldest is in her 40's and believes god is like a wishbook. Pray or flip a coin. "Yep, god sure spared us, but his tornado tore the hell out of the neighbors."

She doesn't stop to muse about how much fun god had in doing alll of this. "Oh, god, you naughty raskel!"

We are just not raising ours with religion.  We do discuss it, because the kids have asked why my husband and I do not believe in god.  I think what helped my 13 year old daughter the most was being nearly tormented in school by classmates when she was in the 3rd or 4th grade because she admitted that she didn't believe.  I think the reaction from students (such as , "Do you want to go to hell?") completely turned her off.  

Kudos, B. Fletcher, for being a good parent!    Your methods seem sound, and hopefully with a broad background in mythology, the kids will recognize the non-dead religions also as "just another story".  I would try to make critical thinking a key component -- not grilling them, but occasionally tossing out something like, "Do you think that this really happened?"  and then "Why, or why not?"  I think that it's never too early to teach children critical thinking skills, though I get some push back from parents on this who want to extend "that precious time of innocence".

I like Richard Dawkins' approach in his wonderful children's book "The Magic of Reality", in which he describes several beliefs simply and non-judgmentally, and then introduces current scientific thought on those matters.  He doesn't present one as ignorant and the other as true, but lets the child compare them and draw their own inferences.  An important part of this method is presenting more than one view on each subject in each session.  Young children typically have quite short attention spans, and it's a lot to ask of them to reach back into memory and recognize the contrasts and similarities of tonight's story with one from a couple of weeks ago.

Anyway, keep up the good work, and thank you for helping to create a new generation of thinkers rather than followers!  My Mom would have been proud of you.

}}}}

I wanted my kids to decide on religion based on their own experiences and having enough knowledge about it to make an informed decision. As an atheist, I wasn't about to teach them Bible stories myself, or buy them religious dogma, so I put them in Catholic school K-8. With no indoctrination occurring in their home life, they were able to get an objective look at how religion impacted people just during school hours and school events. They saw first hand how religion doesn't somehow make a person good, and in many cases witness people who were religious but were actually quite horrible. They never even knew I was an atheist until they were well out of high school. Now we frequently joke around about the absurdity of religion.

Looking back, I can't say this was the best approach. The reality is that a lot of money was spent on a parochial education that was certainly no better than a public school one. In fact, it may have been worse, since art classes were sacrificed to squeeze in religion classes.

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