It's been a long time since I've been around here, but I'm trying to be a bit more active now that I'm done with my student teaching and am quietly awaiting news on the job front.
Anyway, I am the proud papa of a rather gifted (and I say that with little dad-colored-glasses as he's been speaking complete complex sentences since he was 2 and reading on his own since he was 3) now 4 1/2 year old boy. My wife and I are generally on the same page as far as religion goes, in that we don't believe in it nor see a need for it, but my family is mostly Catholic. My brother and sister-in-law are actively indoctrinating their own children into the church (4 and soon to be 1) and have had their 4 yr old saying "grace" at every meal since she was able to do so. This includes family get togethers, which is the only place my children are exposed to this sort of thing.
My son and his cousin are very close since my son doesn't go to a big day care and therefore has few friends and even fewer of which are close to his own age. He's very bright, but has recently begun showing a surprising streak of wanting to be like his cousin. I say surprising because in most other areas of life he's probably best described as "bossy," and definitely a "leader" of sorts.
During the holiday season, he was very adamant that he wanted to believe in Santa Claus. We hadn't "done" Santa in our family as we don't celebrate Christmas. We do exchange gifts on Solstice and talk about the wonders of nature and how the days will start to get longer and the nights get shorter, etc. etc... Then we go to Grandma and Grandpa's house for Xmas to do gifts with them and have family time. We compromised on that this year and told him that we would "pretend Santa" because that's really all he wanted anyway, and he was happy with that. So "Santa" did stockings at our house this year.
All that to tell you that the other night, after having a dinner with my parents and his cousins (where his cousin again said grace), he asked if he could say grace, and why we didn't do it...
I'm at a loss. I want to explain why we don't believe in that sort of thing; however, and here's the rub, we're not "out" to my family yet. It was hard enough this Xmas when my son let slip "Some people like to pretend Santa" to his cousin who fully and 100% believes in said jolly fat man still and who's parents encourage said belief as part of the "magic of christmas."
I really do NOT want the news that we here are atheists to come from the mouth of my almost 5 year old in the form of (among other possibilities) "God is Santa Claus for adults..." or simply "We don't believe in grace because we don't believe in gods."
I worry that any answer I give him now as for WHY we don't believe the same things as his cousin and grandparents will be parroted to them and sound even more harsh and judgmental than most religious people already perceive logical reasons for atheism to be.
Oh, and "coming out" while probably an eventual inevitability, is really not an option right now as we are still very much indebted to my parents at the moment both in terms of money and property, and while I know my parents are fairly moderate, I worry what such news would do to our relationship. Especially since they've apparently been going to church a bit more regularly lately than they did when I was a teen.
Anyway, not sure what I expect here except maybe some sympathetic readers, a bit of advice from those who might have already shared my position (or those who haven't but have some ideas how to deal with it). And if you read this far, you deserve a cookie... we have them you know. We are the "dark side" after all. :-)