I am wondering when to start teaching my son about Atheism. He just started Kindergarten in a Utah school, so I know the theist discussions (especially regarding mormonism) are coming, it is just a matter of time. What I am wondering is whether I should wait for the questions and start teaching him then based on what he is asking, or if I should be proactive and start before he comes home with questions. My only hesitation to starting now is the fact that he seems to have no concept of what the word "god" even means, let alone any idea of what religion is or what it means. Opinions? What approach do all of you take with your kids, and why? Please be specific. Thanks!

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Hi Jenni,

I have three kids, ages 6, 4, and 2, and my 6-year-old was in kindergarten last year. I take a more proactive approach. I talk to my 6-year-old the most since he's the most capable right now of understanding religious concepts. I talk to him pretty regularly about science, reason, and naturalistic ideas, and I think of it as an "inoculation" against the religious indoctrination that surrounds us in our culture. My wife is LDS and we all go to church every Sunday because that's important to her. My wife and I agree on the values, but I throw out the supernaturalism. A lot of what I teach my kids is to offer a different perspective on whatever they learned in Sunday school. So for example, they learned last week that "Jesus is a God of miracles," so I showed them other "sons of God" and talked about miracles being 1) just stories or 2) a natural event that people can't explain yet.

I've recently started writing down what I share with my kids at atheistdad.wordpress.com. Given that you're in Utah, you might find what I tell my kids in response to LDS teachings helpful. I hope to keep it updated at least once a week. I wish you luck!
Great response Kevin.
My daughter asked me about god when she was about 5 years old because her friends had said they believe in god and asked if she did too. She didn't know what to tell them seeing how she didn't know about this god person/thing. LOL Poor kid. I had to then explain to her about the bible and how everything in it is most likely a huge made up fairy tale like the ones I read to her at night. And that some people just really believe in it... how they go to church etc. I actually preferred her not knowing anything about the matter until someone mentioned it to her.
You are your childs mother, he loves you and respects your opinion more so than anyone else in his entire world. If someone (a christian) were to explain god to him before you do, take comfort in the fact that he will most likely come to you immediately asking questions. He will also believe what you say over anything someone else says. That's the power of being mommy ;)
Oh and my husband and I are both Atheists so god had never been mentioned in our house up until then.
Don't lecture your kid about atheism, give him just enough space to let him figure it out on his own. He might surprise you, and he'll be all the better for coming to natural conclusions on his own. Just give your child a good tool set for learning: critical thinking/logic, logical fallacies, cognitive biases and how indoctrination/propaganda/teaching work.

I can't speak highly enough about teaching your children using Socratic questioning and mental conditioning instead of indoctrination. Three things are used to identify indoctrination: method, content and intentions. Make sure you don't go down the path of indoctrination even if you consider your intentions just, at the end of the day your still trying to make your kid believe what you believe. Just starting off teaching your child atheism you'll fail on 2 of these 3 tests before we even examine your methodology.

Here are a couple resources to help get you started for real:


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eUB4j0n2UDU
http://www.therebedragonsfilm.com/
I have been talking (a little bit) with my daughter about it since I can remember. She's 4 now. She always tells me that she believes in god even if I don't. I assume that is because everyone she knows outside of her home does. I just tell her that's OK even though I really don't want her to believe in god.

I would say that you need to start before your child starts school and they start saying the pledge. I really wished they didn't start that until kids are old enough to understand. (Well, I really wish they'd just take out that "under God" part.
As someone who was never taught theism and who has an Atheistic son, all I can say is that atheism is born in us. Much like any belief system, belief in a God has to be taught. I have always dealt with my son openly and honestly, and asked him for his opinion. He was taught non-theism as a baby from his own observations about the world and by my answers to his questions. A theist kid will be told: "because God made it that way" when a theist parent doesn't know the answer. I always said, "I don't know, let's look it up in a book." These conversations would start out from "Why is the bus so loud" and evolve to "What is sound" and end up at "Where do atom's come from."
My only suggestion is that you get some some great science and history reference books and read them so you can begin to instruct your son on the fundamentals of the universe and the world. Your own curiosity about the nature of humans and the world will instruct him more than any other source ever can.
He has gotten slightly different view from my wife who is a life-long Buddhist regarding an after-life. That;s a whole other discussion. I simply am honest and tell him we go nowhere when we die. He had a surprisingly easy time with this concept even after I was diagnosed with cancer. Perhaps it is his nature, perhaps it's because of my honesty and openness with him.

Religion is like a virus and kids need to be innoculated as early as possible. I have frank and age appropriate discussions about atheism with my kids (age 8 and 5). This is what I say: God is an imaginary friend that many people have. You can NOT tell people that god isn't real they may get very upset.  

I blog about my experiences (and other things) as an atheist dad.

My daughter is six but when she was four she started asking me questions about who the first person alive was. I read her a kids book on evolution called "our family tree". I also read her a book called "you with the stars in your eyes". Which I am sure would be too new age for most on this site but for our family it was used to spark a conversation about the big bang theory .. After reading it we made a poster of the solar system. She has friends that go to church and she asks questions. I tell her that people born in different cultures believe in different dieties and that mommy and daddy don't believe in those things. I told her a bit about a few different religions and also included some facts about the ancient Greek gods. I have never told her what to believe but I answer her questions in a way that I hope will keep her asking more questions. There are words she uses sometimes that are religious words ... Like pray but she really means wish. She is definitely a child that wants to believe in magic and fairies ... So when I talk to her about evolution and science I make sure that the tone of our conversation is filled with the wonderment and excitement.

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