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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I cannot recommend highly enough reading Parenting Beyond Belief and Raising Freethinkers, both edited by Dale McGowan. Questions will come, as I know from experience. Those books have wonderful peas for how to handle the myriad situations we experience as nontheists in a religious society.
Thanks for the recommendation - I will have to look for this book. All the reviews I read for it are really good. I could definitely use some help in this particular area.
We are in a similar situation. Our son will start kindergarten next year. We plan to bring the subject up before he goes to school. If only there was a world in which all children had no concept of god! What a liberating place that would be :)

We want to be the ones to introduce the subject of religion. It's actually kind of like eating healthy... most people don't because they choose not to even though they know it is bad for them to make that choice. My son goes around telling me how other people are eating too much sugar or food that is unhealthy :) So God is like that in that most people believe in God because they want to even though it doesn't make sense (and it isn't good for them!).
We focused more on critical thinking and exposure to belief systems both historically and cross culturally. Once more I will promote comic books because they are really a modern form of polytheism. (WB"C" took this idea too far at comi-con and the, mostly kind spirited, mocking of them ensued with great enthusiasm, signs and outfits.) Anyway, that has been our approach. He was exposed to it in our community and family before pre-k. I took him to mass with my sister once but we had to leave because he didn't like the 'spooky castle'. (Point for Scooby Dooby Doo!)
I think it really depends on where you are and your child's temperament and of course your own goals. I personally try to walk a balance - I don't want my kids to be ignorant of religion but I also don't want to be too emphatic and place more importance on the topic than is necessary. I'm fortunate to have always lived in areas that are not so in your face about religion so I feel like I have more time to take it slowly. You may not have that luxury.

I brought up the subject with my oldest when he was 5 and he had absolutely no idea what I was talking about. We talked about it again a bit within the last year because he asked what a church was. But other than that I've chosen to wait to approach the subject in depth. Specifically, we are homeschoolers so I will teach about gods in the context of history. We'll also focus more on critical thinking and make sure the kids have alternative explanations for the ideas religion proposes.

Dan Barker has a couple of books for Skeptic kids that you might want to check out in a year or two. "Maybe Right, Maybe Wrong" and "Maybe Yes, Maybe No".
Jenni:
We, too, are in a similar boat; our son started kindergarten yesterday, and we live in the heavily evangelical city of Colorado Springs. I am certain it won't be long before religion becomes the subject of conversation among his peers.

I would agree with both Mandie and Dawn regarding the reading material, and I'll even cede the super hero parallel. My kids LOVE the comic book heroes, and they are also aware they are make believe; would that it were so easy with "super heroes" like Joshua and David.

For our part, my son is obsessed with science and space. What grander a topic than space to show our kids just how immense and untamed our universe is. I know it's pretty old school, but Carl Sagan's Cosmos series pretty well kept our kids' attention and helped them see the hugeness and grandeur of space.

Final plug: They Might Be Giants (greatest band in the history of everything -- ever). Their newest album Here Comes Science is not only a super catchy, totally fun album, it speaks about the reality of science, the importance of putting claims to the test, and even gives a shout out to evolution. Definitely go buy it. Now. (Includes DVD with music videos.)

-ian

(On a side note, my son and I went to New Life Church last Sunday just to get a feel for what the place was like and uh ... wow. It's about the furthest thing from a church one could likely imagine. Cafe, bookstore, classrooms, business offices, uniformed security guards, plain-clothes security guys with FBI-style earpieces ... the place was insane.)
That church sounds creepy.
It is, indeed!

Reading back my response, I see I didn't quite address your initial question, Jenni. I think my point with what I wrote was the importance of fostering curiosity. Asking questions is very much not the religious way.

When you're a kid, there are few things more amazing than astronauts, stars, planets, dinosaurs and gorillas -- take that little one's amazement and match it!

As far as introducing the whole God / church / religion concept, that's a bit more sticky. My son and I talked about God and church and evolution on the way to school this morning, and you can definitely see the gears turning, but these are concepts that take time to absorb, at least from a freethinker's standpoint.

Regardless what he takes away from each of these conversations, I make sure my boy knows that everyone is free to believe whatever they like, but we don't believe in god. We believe in science. (He loves saying "I believe in science!" How awesome is that?)

One last bit of advice I would offer is back in the natural curiosity realm. Too often we, as parents, dismiss many of the myriad questions lobbed our way by our little ones with a "just because" or an "I don't know." Let's stop doing that and show our kids we are just as inquisitive as they are, and we are willing to do some legwork to find out some real answers:

Why is the sky blue? Learn the basics of spectroscopy and tell them.
Why is grass green? Learn to describe the process of photosynthesis to them.
Where did my [dead] cat go? More sobering discussion, for sure, but teaching our children the reality of life and death and how it affects us and how it occurs in nature will much better prepare them for such things in their adult lives. I assure you none of our dead animals have gone to heaven.

OK now I think I'm just babbling.

Hope some of this helps!

bible capitalism

as opposed to secular capitalism? and privatized like a mofo; remember what happened with the vatican in America? FFRF newsletter has a blotter on all the pastor/preist crimes, it's disturbing.

Hehe. The title made me laugh. Kids are born atheists - you can only teach them religion.
So true!!
Right on point, Bryan. Funny, and tragic, how we must devise ways of teaching our kids religious philosophies with the aim of specifying their falsehood.

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