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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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.

I want to tell my younger brother - he's 13 - about how religion is nonsense but I've never found the courage to do so. Don't really feel comfortable. I'm hoping he gets there on his own as he learns about evolution in school and makes his own conclusions. He's not very exposed to religion at all as we don't go to church nor are my parents religious (though they aren't atheists either) so my parents won't be telling him about "god"....so that might help a bit. Although I'm not sure how my mom would react when he starts to believe god can't be real and all that...she thinks the Bible has some good in it...when I told her I was atheist, she didn't react as maybe a lot of religious parents would, but she wasn't exactly supportive. Another obstacle is that I'm not very close to my little brother and even with my family I don't talk a whole lot. And as I said, I'm a bit uncomfortable talking about these things for some reason.

He's a smart kid, so I really hope he comes to the conclusion that religion is absurd on his own.


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