Wednesday, July 20, 2005

What Do You Tell The Kids?

Dear Internet Diary,

Another message board exchange I'd like to share with you.

This is a subject I'm going to have to face myself within the next few years. My wife and I have a son and he'll be turning five November 27. Most of us here agree god is a myth. Atheism however is not a very popular position to take, especially when it comes to child rearing. Now I don't want my son growing up any differently than anybody else, and that includes religion. Earlier this year, he was attending a church sponsered school two days a week and he loved it. He's an only child, so naturally he loved being around other kids his age. For those of you with kids, exactly how did you handle this? If you don't have kids, feel free to put in your 2 cents worth.

Oh, man. That's like pretending your kids aren't adopted, and then springing it on them when they're 16. Don't. Do. It.

Your kids are not "normal." There's nothing you can do to change that. Pretending they are is worse. Your kids have an atheist father. They are right now on the default position: i.e. they are natural atheists. Many kids are bombarded with images of Jesus from birth. I was born with a crucifix--dead jesus--above the crib.

Treat bible stories like you would any other stories. Parents who are thoughtful read their kids Grimm tales when they think they are ready to hear them. Those stories were meant to be more than just fairy tales. They are meant to teach lessons--and sometimes those lessons might not be lessons we want them to learn. So whatever do we do? We discuss. We don't dictate. We discuss, no matter how young. We tell them what we think about things. There's nothing you can do about your kids thinking you are a kind of god right now, but they're going to know when they are teenagers, that you're not. Guaranteed.

The very best possible thing to do is to be honest, talk, talk and talk. Create an environment where talking to you is a good experience. Praise independence and curiosity. Never ban books. Take them to the library once a week. Take them to a protestant church. Take them to a catholic church. Take them to a jewish service. Go to a unitarian church. Go eat the lime jell-o. Learn about Buddhism. Read mythology of all kinds. Buy a telescope and find some kids' websites about space. Talk about philosophy. Realize that a moral compass does not and never really comes from a church. It comes from you, and it comes from reality.

If they have a good education, a reason to want to be curious, an appetite for knowledge - what's to worry about? Well, everything. Always. But that would make you, well, "normal."


Anonymous said...

Well put. My wife and I are probably going to have our first child in the next two years, so I've thought a lot about this. Obviously I'm not going to teach them religion, but I think you're right about the need to teach them ABOUT religiona. Children always need to rebel. They'll latch on to whatever is opposite to their parents. I know I did it. I don't want to put them in a position in which rebellion takes place in a church. Exposure should help avoid that.

Hellbound Alleee said...

Yes, and...

don't trust that they will simply do the opposite of what you want. They're much more clever and devious than that. By the time they're teenagers, they see through the "rebellion=opposite" thing. The key is giving them a foundation. he need to rebel, though, goes so far beyond just doing the opposite. It's about creating an identity that is totally seperate from mom and dad. Lots of moms and dads make the terrible mistake of thinking that their kids are extensions of themselves. That could not possibly be further from reality.

Sure, it seems so loving to think of your kids as extensions of your body, but in reality it's presumptuous and rude. Sure, you feel pain if they do. But it's purely psychological. And it's not their fault.

We just hope that the kids will understand that whoever they are, whatever their age, they are total and complete individuals, who upon majority, are going to have to be responsible for their own mistakes. Mommy and Daddy are there to help make that happen. And teaching them to be religious undermines all of that.

Rev. Barky said...

I often wish I had not grew up with all this religiosity, however as one who came to atheism out of catholicism I have one thing a natural atheist does not - an understanding of religion and why people beleive it.
That, and my early fear of sex kept me from getting having sex too early and being stuck with a baybee.

Hellbound Alleee said...

Come on, rev. Don't give religion credit. I mean, teen pregnancies aren't prevalent among atheists. It's a problem for the religious. What kind of sex education does religion give you? What kind of access to contraception does religion give you? How does that work?

If religion protected us from early pregnancy, we wouldn't need abortions. We wouldn't need contraception. Clearly, if you look around, it does not. Fear of sex? Sure. But for most people, the fear of sex given them by religion was not enough to overcome the desire. And hell--why should it?

I was brought up with religion. But I can tell you this for sure: religion was thrown out the window as far as it could go when it came to my sexual education. As it should be.

What do I credit my religious upbringing with? Years of fear and guilt. The only good thing was a dark sense of humour and a nostalgia for lime jell-o molds that goes away if I manage to eat some.

Hannah Gerber said...

Smart, sassy and plain-spoken! AND our profiles are very close in our interests. So glad I stumbled upon your blog! I will be checking in daily!

Rev. Barky said...

True, Alleee, religion is no guarantee of responsible sex - perhaps you are right, though about not getting laid as a teen and all the misery it caused - just my awkwardness and natural fear. In fact sex was never spoken about. Judging from my adult experiences, I'm somewhat glad I had some apprehension because I've seen so many young people whose lives are devastated by early pregnancy. As one who holds no great love for rugrats, I was wise to be able to get a VS before some clocker jacked me into it - and a few did try!

There are far better ways to teach kids about sex than telling them is is wrong.

Some Random Girl said...

pray for them that they do grow up believing in the Lord with more faith than you. Pray for the release of whatever pain you blame on God.

Hellbound Alleee said...

...and make sure they grow up with their eyes clear, and not glazed over, like Jules here, who blessed us with his/her little Voodoo incantation. Lets hope she/he has no actual hands on experience with children, and that she/he does nothing but pray her little gris-gris.

Hellbound Alleee said...

Does anyone actually believe that praying works? Could we find out? I'd like for as many Christians who think they hold the key to "God's Power" to pray for me, right here in this blog. Something we can really tell must have come from God. It doesn't matter if it doesn't happen right away. Maybe pray for me for exactly one year from now. And then you can't make excuses. Think about it as hard as you can, and then write a nice creative voodoo---I mean, Christian prayer. And we'll see what happens! If it's for me to die, that's fine too. If you are christian enough to want terrible pain for me, go ahead and show it like the twisted "saved" "unfinished" beasts you are!

Go for it!

Rev. Barky said...

Ooooohh my! I'm a tremblin' a'fo da Load! Dat mumbo jumbo gibs me du heeebeee jeebees! Pleeese ka'nd laydah, pleeeees don' com out wit no mo' uh dat mistry talk! We heeethens can't take much uh dat - no sireee!
We soo full ub da shaym fo' denyin' the hebenly fathuh! Mercy, mercy!