So yea I'm a single father who's child lives with his mother. She's a Christian and I'm am not. She feels that the only way for him to get proper morals is by being a Christian and that it won't hurt him due to the fact that "everyone else is." She is a weak Christian and I'm not really worried about him being a radical but I don't want to push my beliefs onto him. On the other hand I want him to be able to use critical thinking when learning about his religion without telling him what to think and believe. So any advise?
Ernie

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I'm still very much a newbie at this freethinker parenting thing but hopefully I can give you a place to start. I don't want to push my beliefs on my children either but I want them to know that it's their choice.

First off you might want to check out Dale McGowan's book Parenting Beyond Belief. You didn't mention how old your child is which might make a difference. One thing that I think helps a lot is to read myths of all kinds. I ask a lot of questions, like "does this make sense to you?" and "Wow! That's a really nice story. Do you think that this could have really happened?". I also try to instill a wonder about the natural world that is completely non-supernatural. I tend to use words that reflect on the evolutionary process without actually getting too detailed and technical.

When he asks about god I always try to approach it by saying "some people believe this...but I believe this...". Beyond that I don't really talk much about Christianity to them. My hope is that by the time it becomes relevant they will already be in the habit of asking questions and won't fall into the trap of blindly believing whatever they are told. I think you are right to focus on teaching critical thinking and there are some resources out there if you search Amazon.

I'll be interested to see what others have to say too since I'm always looking for new ideas.
Well I'm a married father, fortunate enough to have an agnostic wife who agrees on keeping our daughter's upbringing free from religious influence. It's going to take a certain level of diligence and a lot of effort keeping myself educated so that I have the answers to the questions. Informing your child about the basics of the scientific method and how it is used to extract information from the natural world would be the first step, teach your child the value of critical thinking and I'm sure they'll be able to rationally view the world. That's my plan at least.
Thank you both for responding! My son is 18 months so I still have plenty of time and do think about it. I really want to hear from others so I can see what and how other people do it. I'm probably looking into this to far but do worry about how he views the world and think I'd fail if he replaced logic with fairy tales due to the fact that his mother may have more sway over what he believes because she will be around him much more then I will.
"what do you think?"

That is EXACTLY how I handle things.

My 7 year old announced a while back that he didn't believe in god. I queried him as to whether he was saying that just because that's what I think... he says "you don't believe in god either??"

I try really hard not to indoctrinate. Though, with my 15 year old, I'm much more open and we discuss things at a level I do not with my seven year old.
I have found that treating the Abrahamic god in the same manner as you would Thor or Mithras is a good way to let a child know that the abrahamic god is not special, nor should be treated as such. I second all the advice here so far and your pup is still nice and young, so you have awhile.
I think critical thinking (along with empathy) is one of the best things you can teach your children. Get him to question everything. Make sure he gets all sides of a story and let him figure out which one makes more sense.
Also remember religion has to be taught. It does not come naturally, so if you can counter some of the teachings he will get with empirical reality, he should be able to figure things out in a way that keeps him happy. You don't have to tell a kid what to believe to keep them out of religion, just make sure he know what you believe and all the reasons why.
I really like this approach. My 4 1/2 year old is starting to run into people talking about church and prayer. She also likes to ask questions, and my husband and I are struggling to come up with answers that will satisfy her curiosity without giving religion undue weight.

Kids and magical thinking were mentioned in another thread. I think all of my girl's thinking is magical at this point. It started young, too. She made up a weird ritual thing around Santa when she was 2-it required throwing leaves into the air and leaving offerings of sticks and leaves for the neighbor's garden gnome...

Imagination is great, but it does leave one open to all kinds of interesting ideas. I really dread the day when someone decides to "inform" her about hell or crucifixion or immaculate conception. My kid takes everything to heart, and I anticipate nightmares if I can't preempt some of that.

For the little ones, mythology isn't a great thing to compare because I think those stories would give her nightmares as well. Mostly, what I need is a reasonable answer about religion that's not too much for a 4 1/2 year old. My "some people believe there is a magical person who sees everything and controls everybody's lives," wouldn't do much for her social life.

We can do all of the other leg-work at home, but I really do need a socially acceptable answer to that out in public, loud-in-a-quiet-place question about god. I have a feeling we'll be searching for awhile. Has anyone else found one that works with their munchkin?
Yeah, the greek myths can be a bit scary.. :) My son liked the monsters part of it when he was younger and my daughter is totally fearless, so I hadn't really thought of it that way.
Unfortunately, your daughter will likely come up against some bigotry by just not attending church. At least this is what it is like where I live. My son was cornered and harassed by 3 other 6 year olds yelling "you WILL believe in Jesus!!" in first grade. A friend of ours at a different school was kicked and punched for saying he didn't believe in god. Fun times! At 10, my son has learned that for now, there is a place and a time for voicing your beliefs, school is not that place just yet (this is NOT how I would want it, but I am working on it). But then, I grew up with agnostic parents and never believed in god and wasn't hassled about it til I was in high school when it was fun to get someone's ire up anyway.
You never know what you will run into, but don't compromise your kid's education out of fears of possible futures. My daughter's friends (she is 6) know full well we don't attend church and don't think god is real, but she is still very popular at school.
I've found quite a few myths at my library that are completely appropriate for pre-schoolers. Picture books. I can't remember the name of it but one of the books I found was a collection of creation myths from other non judeo-christian cultures.

I guess my kiddo hasn't asked much about god in public. I'm not sure how I would respond. Probably I'd say something as neutral as I could depending on the question and then tell them we can talk more about it at home. I wouldn't want to get into a long discussion in public but also wouldn't want to brush the question off entirely because I wouldn't want to sent the message that questions are taboo.
My brother is in the same position...and my 12 year old niece is doing remarkably well at coming to her own ideas. We were just talking about it tonight, as a matter of fact.

Her mom is a fundamentalist in the worst way, and when she was growing up I was really worried about what they were doing to her, but who am I, y'know.

My brother got out of the Army to stay near her and have more of an influence. He never pushed his views on her, but answered all of her questions honestly and let her know she had a mind and she could reason for herself to find what she believes.

So over the years as she has been around us, she sees the difference, and she thinks her mom is kinda flaky and just told me tonight "Sometimes I think there might be a god, and sometimes I don't think there is, but I know one thing, evolution is so cool"

I think she will be fine : ) If your ex can push her views, you can counter it with reason.
Be yourself, love your daughter, and educate her to science and inquiry. I think that is all we can really do.
I really need to learn to read all responses before answering lol, see below. In case anyone is wondering, I'm the brother. and I didn't know the Beeg Seester was on this site. Just joined today. Great Googily Moogily
I should have looked further down before flying off on my own tangent I guess. I am in a similar situation, and I am told often that I need to hide my views from my daughter so that she doesn't lose her morals. I do let her know that I am an Atheist and I constantly show her right and wrong, and that she doesn't need a reward from above to act properly. You say you don't want to push your beliefs on him, and I agree. Children should be able to grow into whatever they choose to be as long as there is proper guidance towards doing the right thing. This is of course a gray area based on an individuals idea of what the right thing is. I tell my daughter simply that if it harms another person or impacts them negatively, it is most likely not the action to take. It takes a lot of talking and examples to raise a decent person, but I don't think you need to hide who you are from your son, especially if it doesn't make you out to be a bad person. Judging by the fact that you cared enough to examine your son's best interests, I sure don't think you are.
Ernie, IMO the best gift you can give to your child is to teach her HOW to think as opposed to WHAT to think. I have had many discussions about belief systems with my 7 year old, who is quite thoughtful and mature about such topics. We have read a lot of mythology from many different cultures (Greek myths are very popular and easy to find, but our library has loads of stories from Polynesia, Africa, Native American nations, etc.), as well as some stories from the Old and New Testament. I have presented all of these as being on par with one another, and explained them as early, pre-scientific cultural exercises in understanding the world and various natural phenomena thereof. When he asks me, I parse my own beliefs (or lack thereof) as positions at which I have arrived through my own personal experience. In general I'm trying to give him a sense of ownership for his own belief system, in contrast to indoctrinating him into any faith or world-view. So far this is working out well for us. Good luck with your little one!

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