... without inciting anger from my mother and his mother?

My mother sent my nephew to a bible camp this summer and now he has a curiosity towards Jesus and heaven. How do I remedy this without starting a holy war in my own house?

Sorry if anybody thinks this doesn't belong here, I wasn't sure where else to post it, and it's been bothering me a lot.

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Replies to This Discussion

With close Christian family, your nephew will likely have lots of exposure to Christian ideas growing up. It's not ideal, but it's inevitable.

As a non-theist with a Christian wife and a five-year-old daughter whose spiritual beliefs have not yet taken shape, I find it helpful to step into my wife's shoes. Most of us here have our reasons for wanting to keep loved ones from Christianity: it's false, it's damaging, etc. But from my wife's Christian perspective, if her daughter does not find Jesus, she will burn in hell and be miserable for eternity. And that would really suck.

With that, I think your approach has to be something you can live with (your nephew knows exactly where you stand), and also be sustainable (no holy wars in the family). Here are some thoughts off the top of my head. Since I'll be starting this journey myself in the coming months or years, I welcome any feedback, criticism, etc.

* Be comfortable dialogging about Christian ideas without trying to refute them. Have a mutual discussion about your thoughts and feelings. Sharing & engaging vs. persuading.

* At my daughter's young age, she can only follow very simple reasoning. And "Mommy said so / Daddy said so" makes it right. Really I'm not sure how well she grasps that conflicting views can in fact exist. Which makes me wonder if I should even bother presenting them yet...

* Your nephew is probably not old enough to understand why his mother would be so angry with you for telling him there is no God. If only he could understand and would be respectful of her beliefs, that would be a big help.

* It's probably safer and more diplomatic to say something like "I don't believe in God" than it is to say "God doesn't exist".
I think it's really, really important to let children of all ages know that a lot of people don't believe in God. I was in high school before I even knew there was such a thing as an atheist. Don't take it for granted that children know there's a choice.

To that end, I think one of the best things you can do for any child is to be someone they admire while openly disbelieving in God. Children want to emulate their adult role models, and anytime a kid idolizes you, that's the perfect time to just let them know: Some people believe in God and some don't. That knowledge in itself will spark lots of questions. And that's a great thing.

Re: Santa and the Easter Bunny. I think adults get more out of the whole thing than children. Tell a kid that he's getting lots of presents, or gets to eat lots of candy, and he's a happy camper. He doesn't give a damn if the Easter Bunny, Santa, or Aunt Mamie is dishing out the goods.

Sorry if that's a bit harsh, but I just don't think it's a great idea to teach a kid that some things are real and magic, especially when they're young because that's when the most core beliefs about the nature of reality are beginning to form.
I was absolutely devastated when my parents told me Santa wasn't real. I cried for hours because I was upset that they lied to me.
That reminds me of the day I had a Christian friend over with his 9-year-old son because we were exchanging gifts on the day of the Winter Solstice. I'd explained that people have always celebrating around the time when the days would get longer bringing back warmth and light and growth.

I'd given the son some gifts and as the guy I knew was leaving he said, "We don't celebrate winter. The cold and snow and gray days aren't something WE celebrate."

I replied, out loud in front of his son, "And we don't believe Jesus was the son of god so we don't celebrate that."

Under his breath he said, "Thanks for saying that in front of my kid."

The next time I saw him, about a day later, I was braced for a tongue-lashing. I didn't get any. I guess he didn't have an argument.
Shouds like he wanted his kid to be free of the trap he has found himself in.....

M.
He said it really sarcastically/angrily.
Well maybe no then, but kudos for spelling it out for him!
Thanks! I wish someone had told me the whole Jesus story was a belief and not factual information. It was presented to me as historical fact and I was well pretty old before I realized it wasn't regarded as fact by the rest of the world.
Ooh, I'm really glad this discussion came up... It turns out that how my daughter understands my position as doesn't love Jesus rather than doesn't believe in God. Brianna if you're reading this I retract my earlier comment: five years is a perfect time to start talking to kids about the non-existence of God. I'll do that as soon as possible... once she gets back from church... :-(
My parents 'felt convicted' to teach my brothers and I that Santa Clause was not real; they were afraid that once we realized it was a lie, we'd also come to question God's existence. We were told that he (Santa) wasn't real and that all the kids that believed in him would eventually come to know the truth. I remember saying to my dad once, "I think Santa is probably pretend like you say, but I kind of want to believe in him ... is that bad?" He told me that if I really wanted to believe, I could, but that he didn't want to teach it as true. I then expressed concern in how I should react to friends that did believe. He told me just be smile and let them believe. I also explained that it was lonely being the only kid with that view and he told me not to worry; that someday they'd also learn the truth.

It's sick in a way, but it served their purpose in delivering the message "they don't believe you now, but they will!" which mirrors the Christian worldview, ironically enough. As I grew a bit older and saw that my friends were indeed learning 'the truth' about Santa , it only solidified 'my' little views on God, especially when other kids didn't believe - I just thought back to those Santa days.

Based on that, my personal opinion is that it's best to separate fact from myth, and to start early. Kids should have fun with myths, but should also know the difference between fact and fiction. I know that some may think it's just cold to deprive a child of Santa or the Easter Bunny, but they have imaginations ... they will find their own unique ways to fantasize if ever they need mental comfort in something.

I don't think it's fair to push a certain comfort on them - like God or even Santa Clause. I think both are sending the message that happy lies > facts. Maybe there are emotionally sensitive people in the world that do better with a view to lean on. That's fine, but I'm sure they'll have no trouble finding one on their own. I think we all have a tendency to lean on happy lies sometimes - and I don't think it's always bad (they can allow cancer patients a better experience in a shortened life, for example). Fantasies are natural ... but we can't improve unless we get out of our comfort zones once in a while. Therefore, I think emphasis should be placed on truth and learning to handle it.

I agree with what many have already stated, that it's important to demonstrate that it is not only okay but essential to question the world around you. Nothing should be 'pushed' - and kids should be encouraged to try and figure out the 'whys' on their own.

"Son, you are in time out because you hit your sister. Do you know why that was wrong?"

In everything, I think they should be encouraged to try and find the answers on their own rather than having it pressed on them, which doesn't leave the sense of freedom to think independently. Super-strict parents are really only a) teaching their child to follow blindly or b) setting them up to rebound in the opposite direction just to spite them (often 'blind' rebellion).

I like that my parents didn't lie to me about Santa Clause; contrary to popular belief, I do not feel deprived. :) I only wish they could have been just as honest about God and the Bible! Yes, I blame by deprived childhood solely on those things! >.< blahhh
You don't directly teach him that there's no god. You teach him that he has a trustworthy conscience, that he is capable of understanding the universe, and that he lives in a fascinating and intriguing universe. If he redefines 'God' to fit the criteria I mentioned so be it and it's just semantics, otherwise he'll drop religion.

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