I have a little collection of Golden Books (I think) which have biblical themes- The Good Samaritan, the Christmas story etc. Just a few. I happen to love them- the pictures and the simple stories are very appealing.
If we had kids, I'd probably read them, but de-emphasize the religious aspects and treat them like the fairy tales that they are. Maybe skip the parts about how God does this and that- haven't read them in a long time so I forget to what extent they're full of "god" crap.
I almost gave them to my youngest niece for the holidays this year- her family is Born Again, so she's already being raised in the cult, so what would the harm be?
Her older brother, who asked me about evolution this past summer, is what's stopping me. He sees now that I'm not one of "them," and I don't want him to wonder why I'd be okay with giving further propaganda to his sister. Did Aunt C change her mind about religion? Does she have trouble with the concept of morals without it?
So I'm on the fence. They are cute and enjoyable books for a young kid, but I don't want to enable the indoctrination process, either. Although I managed to grow out of it. Will the kids think it's an implied endorsement at this point? I want them to know they can count on me if they ever need to talk about their doubts, if they ever need to.
I actually got to take a look at the last book -- Billions of Years, Amazing Changes by Laurence Pringle -- at the library, and would heartily recommend it! It powerfully lays out, in an accessible manner, the evidence for the "theory" of evolution being as valid, useful, and supported an explanation of the world as the "theory" of gravity [that creationists somehow accept].
I just finished reading the comments to your discussion, Christine, and I agree with not exposing an innocent mind to the delusions. I had forgotten that when I realized religion was an underlying mind-binder that kept me stuck in an unhealthy situation, I threw all my books,so very many of them, in the trash. I have no regrets about that removal of garbage from my home.
I like Future's, "The pages would make excellent cage liners."
and Sentients statement: "it's not going to hurt anyone to throw them away."
and Spud's, "I think religion does more harm than good,"
and Larry's, "Repulp them. Burning them would only create more air pollution."
I especially like The Magic of Reality by Richard Dawkins, Illustrated by Dave McKean
As for enabling the doctrination process, I honestly doubt a children's book could do anything to your niece that her parents and/or pastor haven't already done to her. If her family is Born Again, I'm sure they're much milder than the stuff she's hearing at her church. ....And the Good Samaritan is actually a story showing that it is wrong to judge someone by their religion. *shrug* I just don't see your niece and nephew looking back on their lives in 20 years with dewy eyes saying, "I'm a born again Christian, and it's all because of those Little Golden Books my aunt gave me when I was 5!"
How open are you about your beliefs with the family? Perhaps you could give them the books in your nephew's presence while announcing: "I thought you'd like them because you still believe in this kind of stuff." That would certainly get your point across.
But I have another thought: will he even notice? In my own family's experience, older brothers do not give the slightest crap about things people give to their younger siblings, unless it's something cool like a new toy (in which case you also have to give him something or there will be a fight : p).
Old books from childhood, given to a young niece and nephew already indoctrinated with religious dogma will reinforce the thoughts with which the children will grow.
An alternative perception of life and how it works may provide a seed to stimulate their imaginations. Religious parents may not allow such material, however, if the children are to have a chance to start questioning early, they may be able to avoid some of the negative influences religion has made in some of our lives.
The subtleness of "us vs them" philosophy transmits easily. As are notions of how to determine right and wrong, moral and immoral.
I can imagine the niece and nephew looking back in future years, remembering the alternative stories as they incorporate new experiences with a larger world.
The worse that can happen is the parents will object to alternative stories of evolution, and taking personal responsibility for actions, and not waiting for some magical power to rescue them.
Quite a dilemma here, so write inside them "I outgrew these. Maybe you will too." Then just file them away somewhere. Whoever reads them will then get the point. In fact, it can serve as a positive statement for atheism.
I remember way before I could read, my grandfather read his bible. I asked what the book was and later they read some of it to me. I especially liked Revelation because it talked of bizarre things and even Michael the Archangel. (Maybe I liked that because I was "Michael.")
Many years down the road I liked TV with its many westerns, etc. Even in a fundy church I didn't see what that would hurt, but these people didn't want you to watch TV. I was told the programs "didn't have anything about Jesus in them." Imagine that. Better yet, imagine an episode of "Gunsmoke" built around this theme. This is really what the christians want, but it's absurd!
Now back to writing inside your religious story books like I said before. I think this is the best and most effective method. To destroy the books just sounds too christian. (My stepfather was always destroying mine.)
Dennis, I like your idea of writing in them "I outgrew these. Maybe you will too." That's similar to what I've determined to say to anyone talking to me about their religion from now on. I plan on saying something like "I was indoctrinated into religion as a child, but I finally escaped the brainwashing a few years ago, and I hope you can too."
That being said, putting your wonderful statement in a book can easily be negated with a black pen.
I like your response, Spud. Clear! Unambiguous!
I tend to agree with Tara, it's doubtful these books would actually teach her anything she hasn't already been taught.
If we had kids, I'd read the stories as shorthand versions of what people are brought up with. I'd also read to them from another favorite book about Greek mythology (more for older kids.) Nothing wrong with teaching them about these and other myths; the real problem is bringing them up to take it all so seriously.
I've also got a book of the original Grimm's Fairy Tales, which are also fantastic- my father waited 'til I was a teenager for that one, and it's not the sanitized Disney version of things!!
A part of it is also a desire to share some of my childhood stuff with the kids in my life, and those books are easier to part with than the others, which I still enjoy on rare occasions. Don't want to give them to my non-religious nephews.......although their parents would protect them from getting too far into it.
I wouldn't write anything in them, but would make it clear that I loved them along with all the other fairy tales.
I agree with you, Joan: showing children all the alternative views of life is the best way to encourage them to think for themselves. I am definitely going remember The Magic of Reality, thanks for that : )
The problem in this case is that the children are young (at leas the niece is?) and the parents are deeply religious. (I think that) Christine is trying to connect with the children without pissing off and/or alienating her family. It would be nice if the parents were open to other worldviews, but going on my experience with Born Again Christians, that most definitely not the case. Part of my (thankfully distant) family is Born Again, and "us vs. them" describes them perfectly...they are always on the hunt for horrible, evil Non-Christian(TM) things that will destroy their children's souls and doom them to an eternity away from Him ("non-Christian" includes anything that is not overtly Christian). It is very discouraging that people think this way, but I really don't think going head-to-head with the parents on their beliefs is going to accomplish anything.
I also wanted to say that a majority of atheists in the US today grew up in religious households *raises hand*...these are the same stories WE heard as children, over and over again. And yet, we are atheists. So I just plain don't think a few children's books will dictate their entire religious worldview.
But, on that note, exposure to other worldviews, as well as critical thinking skills, are important. If it were me, I might hold on to the books and read them when the kids come to visit. That way you could ask them what they thought about the stories without their parents hovering around. Or you could read books that aren't religious at all.
That should have read g-children. Not girl,children. Damned phone auto correct.