What would you do if your child said they did believe. Would you leave them to follow their faith or tell them it was nonsense.

(47 Posts)
Mybabyseyes Mon 22-Oct-12 21:48:21

Just wondering as there are a lot of people on hear that see religion as nonsense. But some people get strength and positivity from whatever they believe in. So my question is if you didn't believe but your children said they did. Would you discourage their faith?

I think it would depend a lot on the age of my child and who was influencing them.

I do have a religious belief, so my view may not be what you're looking for. But, I don't think it's ever a good idea to rubbish things that your children have decided are important to them, even if you do think they are nonsense. You can encourage them to question things, and to try to be critical about the messages they are being given, about religion as much as for things the media pushes. But you have to allow them the space to make their own choices, even if you disagree with them.

DelGirl Tue 23-Oct-12 10:46:53

I'm agnostic but live in Italy and so dd goes to a catholic school. She is able to opt in or out of religious education. She went last year when she was 6 and enjoyed it for a while but didn't really get on with the teacher and this year she doesn't want to go. She does talk about Jesus and God and sometimes goes to church with my sis or mum when we are in the uk. She also goes in the church here for a look around or to badger the priest with questions. I neither actively encourage or discourage as I feel it is totally up to her what she wants to believe.

DelGirl Tue 23-Oct-12 10:48:48

however, I would discourage her interest a little if I was to hear of hell and damnation or heavy stuff iykwim

niminypiminy Tue 23-Oct-12 15:41:24

Agree with AMIS. If your children are experimenting with faith, and you discourage it, or even worse, tell them that it is nonsense, then you are discouraging their efforts to find out what they think and believe for themselves.

redadmiralsinthegarden Tue 23-Oct-12 15:50:13

i am an atheist. my 9year old DS doesn't believe; my 6 year old does. I just encourage them to think for themselves and to respect others' views. although, I do also encourage an evidence-based view of life...

mummybare Tue 23-Oct-12 15:57:08

When I started coming out with religious stuff I'd picked up from school, my atheist mum sat me down and explained that these things were not facts, but beliefs, and ones that she did not personally hold. Apparently I got very upset and asked her who was older, her or my teacher... confused

Snorbs Tue 23-Oct-12 16:07:15

I'm atheist. DS is currently looking into Buddhism now that he's decided that Rastafarianism isn't for him. DD used to believe in a Christian God but is becoming less convinced as she gets older.

I support them in their beliefs as far as practicable. Eg my DD wanted to go to a church service a few years back so I organised for my evangelical mother to take her. I've been pointing DS to more info on Buddhism. My DCs know I don't believe but I've always stressed that different people believe different things.

shorttermnamechange Tue 23-Oct-12 16:16:09

I am an atheist, but my child goes to a school which presents God's existence as a fact (despite it being a state primary and not a religious school). I have said to all my dc that some people believe God is real and other people don't, but no one actually knows for sure and have left it at that.

So far all mention of religion is very positive - school visits to church promote the idea that God loves everyone etc. It doesn't sit entirely easily with me, but I will leave it be unless she hears anything negative (homophobic ideas, for example). I would definitely challenge religious messages which clash with my own belief system.

If she grows up to be a believer, I don't view that as bad because religion can be a great comfort to people in their lives.

technodad Tue 23-Oct-12 21:10:43

For me, it really depends upon the type of influence and how that influence is initiated (i.e. by the child or not).

When my youngest DS went to school (the local C of E school selected for him by the local government) he went very quickly (within a week) from being someone who didn't believe, into a child that very much believed.

On his first day at school he was told off for not praying in assembly, which made him really upset (because he didn't want to pray because he didn't believe), but very quickly he was brainwashed by it all and was continually talking about god.

In this instance, since it was the school who seemed to be quite forceful with a religious perspective, I countered it with quite a lot of science based education at home. I discussed with him how he should always look for evidence and facts and not believe everything he is told just because it is written in a book/newspaper or on the internet). By the end of the first term at school, he had given up on his imaginary friend and now continues to an excellent inquisitive and questioning attitude.

With that said, if he decided that he wanted to find out more about a religion, then I would be very happy to help him. As long as it is his own choice.

He is now 6 years old and I have great fun being challenged by him on things like Father Christmas and the Tooth Fairy. We discuss how there are a number of different possibilities with Father Christmas, and how he might travel at Mach 6000 (6000 times the speed of sound), or how he might use wormholes to jump through time/space, but tell him that it is up to him to decide if he exists or not. I haven't told him the other scientifically possible theory for Father Christmas, which is that Father Christmas has franchised out the present delivery to an army of parents whilst he sits on his fat arse at home! He is sure that he doesn't exist, and plans to stay up all night to prove it (which I am all up for, knowing that he won't manage it, so it will keep the fun going another year). The funny (and impressive) thing is, he won't commit 100% to not believing in Father Christmas until he has this last piece of evidence, and is still willing to hedge his bets!

He keep saying that the tooth fairy doesn't exist, and I tell him that he needs to make a decision based upon the facts (on the day his first tooth falls out), and if he is right, then he will get double the money under his pillow.

Some might say that it is hypocritical to talk about Father Christmas, but not encourage him to pray at school, but there is a critical difference. Firstly, it is my choice as a parent as to what religion/mystique I enforce upon my own children (and not that of the state). Secondly, Father Christmas and the Tooth Fairy is all part of the process of learning that people lie for political gain. I tell them to behave otherwise Father Christmas won't bring them presents. Churches and the state tell society to behave otherwise they will go to hell. It is nice that they learn the truth about religion in a fun way.

invicta Tue 23-Oct-12 21:21:46

I think it depends how old they are, and what thy are saying. For other children/teenagers, if the religious is mainstream, and seems genuine, then I would feel okay. If it was unusual/ cult like, I'd feel unhappy. I think being too obstructive would make the want it more.

I'd feel a lot happier them dabbling in rligion then drugs!

CrikeyOHare Wed 24-Oct-12 00:03:21

I am atheist - with strong anti-theistic leanings (I loathe religion in all it's forms).

My DS decided he believed in God & was a Christian when he was 12. For three weeks in a row, I took him to our local church & was happy and willing to do so. It bored him to tears & he realised very quickly, as someone who was also interested in science, what a ridiculous lot of nonsense it was.

He then became a Buddhist which lasted for around three years. He's now an atheist.

I do not own my child or his mind. My only responsibility in this direction is to make him aware of the facts. Unfortunately, the moment you apply any reason or logic to religious beliefs they tend to fall apart.

The only interception I would ever make is if he'd tried to join some kind of dangerous cult (which, as much as I detest it, Christianity is not one) or became a creationist.

CrikeyOHare Wed 24-Oct-12 00:11:19

Some might say that it is hypocritical to talk about Father Christmas Yeah, me.

Firstly, it is my choice as a parent as to what religion/mystique I enforce upon my own children (and not that of the state) Nobody, but nobody should force religion/mystique on a child. Whether you do it or the state, it's still completely wrong.

My son enjoyed the whole Father Christmas/Easter Bunny/Toothfairy stuff too. As stories. He didn't have to believe it was true to enjoy it, any more than that the Cat in the Hat was an biography.

And I fail to see what you have gained by telling him to question everything & then lie to him when he does! 600 times the speed of light?? FFS!

CrikeyOHare Wed 24-Oct-12 00:13:04

Sorry, speed of sound. Even so, hard to evaluate evidence when the evidence you've been given is a load of crap hmm. Great lesson.

DioneTheDiabolist Wed 24-Oct-12 00:16:16

Crikey, Interest in religion and science are not mutually exclusive. Many scientists are and have been religious.

BeingBooyhoo Wed 24-Oct-12 00:21:03

i'm atheist

my son attends a catholic school and sways between believing and not believing. i dont encourage him either way he will decide on his own at some point in his life. when he asks me about 'god' i tell him that i dont think there is any sort of god but that it's ok if he wants to think there is. it's up to him what he chooses to believe.

GrimmaTheNome Wed 24-Oct-12 00:26:40

We've brought up DD to think, and examine evidence. So if she does develop a faith it will be her faith. I could imagine we might indulge in robust discussions if that ever happened, but it wouldn't be on the basis that my views outweighed hers (she's 13 so well past thinking mummy is right about everything )

I'd probably be entirely happy if she went for Buddhism; OK with liberal christianity; not very happy with some of the other alternatives ...but its not my life.

firefly11 Wed 24-Oct-12 00:30:28

I wouldn't do anything about it. I am not religious, don't identify with any particular faith (maybe Buddhist would be close but not quite either). I was brought up by parents who insisted I prayed to their God and threatened to disown me if I didn't believe in what they believed in. Well I didn't give a shit by the time I was in my late teens and told them I didn't believe in it, and they didn't disown me in the end - was just some kind of stupid threat they give to little children who are scared to disobey, on hindsight. My children are not my property, they are their own individuals, and if they chose to believe in God, Gods or Goddesses etc. then that's their choice. I would however, be concerned if in future they became religious fanatics who believe in holy wars and the like though... to me that would be a sign that I've failed in my parenting in some way!

technodad Wed 24-Oct-12 08:47:57

Ummmm Crikey

In order for Father Christmas to get round all of the houses in the given time he will have to travel at Mach 6000, this is not a lie, it is a theory based upon scientific understanding.

I don't tell him "Father Christmas exists and he does travel at Mach 6000". We discuss how he might do it, and how fast he would have to travel, and it is down to him to decide. The very first occurrence of him questioning his existence was initiated by him.

technodad Wed 24-Oct-12 08:53:05

In terms of "enforcing mystique/religion", I tend to agree, but as soon as you present something as a fact (I.e. "father Christmas is coming tonight") on a child's brain, then you have enforced your view (or your desire to have them believe in magic) upon them.

If you have ever said these words to your own child, then you have done exactly what you disagree with.

Are you saying that you have never said "Father Christmas is coming tomorrow night" to your kids?

Arcticwaffle Wed 24-Oct-12 09:00:13

DP and I are card-carrying atheists, Dawkins-style, but if our dc choose to follow a religion I will shudder inwardly but outwardly I will support them. My parents are strict evangelical christians and we didn't really have much choice about following this as children, and I think they were totally out of order trying to force/brainwash a religion onto us. So I won't give my children a hard time for believing different things to me.

Of course it's hard to not influence your children so at the moment my dc are all atheists, but I do tell them they are too young to make up their minds for sure on these issues and they need to think for themselves. So I'm trying to give them explicit permission to think differently, something my parents didn't do.

expatinscotland Wed 24-Oct-12 09:13:08

I am now a non-believer. It wasn't always so, but over time and much thought I've come to this conclusion.

DD2, however, derives great comfort from religion. She is 6. I let her get on with it. She hasn't asked to go to church, thankfully.

Pretty much what Snorbs and some others have done.

Live and let live.

OwedToAutumn Wed 24-Oct-12 09:23:12

A bit off track, but relevant to technodad's comments above.

I really hate the way Father Christmas is used as a "boogie man", as in "If you don't behave the way I want, you won't get presents." I would never do that to my DC, perhaps because of the major guilt trips put on me by my Christian parents, while I was growing up. (Disclaimer - I am not saying all Christians are like my parents!).

To answer the question in the OP, I would always try to respect my DC's beliefs, whatever they chose to believe in. I know first hand how alienating it is to children when their parents refuse to accept their different beliefs.

Jux Wed 24-Oct-12 09:33:12

DD has found a philosophy which works for her. It is a lovely, peaceful thing, and I support her as well as I can, though I have no belief in it myself. It has given her strength, tolerance and helps her through some very bad times.

DH is anti-religion, fairly rabidly, but even he doesn't rubbish it in front of dd as he can see the difference it has made for her.

TiAAAAARGHo Wed 24-Oct-12 09:38:31

I'd make sure, as others have said, that my child knows that belief is not the same as fact. I'd also encourage them to ask lots and lots of questions, and would keep an eye on what they were being told (i.e. anything homophobic/racists/etc would be challenged immediately).

MrsArchieTheInventor Wed 24-Oct-12 09:42:04

DS (9) is of an age and sensibility where he can make up his own mind, and he's erring towards the side of agnostic, kinda like Father Christmas; he wants to believe but the evidence, to his mind, just isn't there. I do believe in God and DS and I have interesting theological discussions about what we believe and why, and it's reassuring that he isn't led by my personal beliefs.

There's no right or wrong answer to faith.

I've always found it strange that some atheist parents promote Father Christmas to the level that they seem to - he's always watching you, he judges your behaviour, he gives out rewards and punishments accordingly. A whole set of "theology" has been worked out to explain FCs supernatural abilities, and parents even manufacture evidence to convince their children because they want Christmas to be "magical".

And it's deemed totally fine to tell these untruths to children. But if a parent tells their child anything vaguely similar that they do actually believe, that is considered unacceptable influence.

I never once used religion as a threat/promise to make DS behave. But people use FC for that while telling me I shouldn't raise him to follow a religion... I find it very odd.

GrimmaTheNome Wed 24-Oct-12 10:15:24

>some atheist parents promote Father Christmas to the level that they seem to

do they? Not IME. I told her the story of St Nicholas, and I certainly didn't manufacture evidence (anathaema to any scientist), and was quite pleased when at a young age DD became skeptical from her own observations. Christmas was of course no less 'magical' once she knew it was just pretend.

Not you Grimma, but some do. The floury footprints, the taking a bite out of a raw carrot, the tinkling bells outside in the garden in the middle of the night...

I don't have a problem with people "going along with" the whole Father Christmas thing. It's the use of FC as an alternate "bogeyman" that bothers me, and pushing children into believeing something you know to be a lie.

GrimmaTheNome Wed 24-Oct-12 10:49:04

AMIS - IME its not so much atheists who play that sort of game - I think its more 'apatheists' (the people who don't really give a toss either way about god). I inferred from Owed's post that her christian parents made FC into a bogyman ... I don't know why anyone does that to a child.

Probably not careful-thinking atheists. I guess I class as atheists anyone who tells me I'm in the wrong to have brought up DS in the context of my religion grin

niminypiminy Wed 24-Oct-12 12:54:02

I was brought up in a family of atheists who are on various points of an atheistical spectrum ranging from indifferent to rabid Dawkinsite. I began going to church as a teenager and as an adult became a Christian. My family don't like it, but they don't trot out quite so much anti-Christian stuff as they used to; I would never attempt to 'convert' them. But if they start with the old canard that religion falls apart when you apply reason and logic to it, I will argue the toss -- and I usually win.

technodad Wed 24-Oct-12 16:38:36

AMIS said: Not you Grimma, but some do. The floury footprints, the taking a bite out of a raw carrot, the tinkling bells outside in the garden in the middle of the night...

I don't have a problem with people "going along with" the whole Father Christmas thing. It's the use of FC as an alternate "bogeyman" that bothers me, and pushing children into believeing something you know to be a lie.

AMIS. I agree with you that these things should never be used in a negative sense. A child should never be told that FC will hunt you down and eat you if you are bad (aka your bogeyman analogy), but what is wrong with using the little white lie as a positive motivations.

There are various levels that parents use positive motivation with kids:

- If you behave whilst we are shopping you can have a sweet.
- If you play with your sister for an hour while I do some work, I will do lego with you.
- If you are a really good girl this week, I will get you that book you have been asking for.
- If you are good and meet your targets, then Father Christmas might bring you more presents.

Where is the harm, and why is the last one somehow evil, when the first two are acceptable? Hey, the Father Christmas bit of it may be an untruth, but the rest is true (as a parent, I am likely to get them something nicer if they consistantly behave!)

The whole floury footprint and carrot biting is all about making an event feel magical for a small child. It is no different from when I do a magic card trick - you get the same look of excitement on their face as they try to work it all out (it is what being a child is all about). The fact that it only lasts for a couple of years before they work it out, but that there is a great educational spin you can put on them learning the truth is another bonus. I fail to see how this hurts anyone, actually, the way the FC myth convinced my kids to eat their vegetables means that it has had a very positive impact on their life expectancy smile.

As you know from my posts on MN, I am very atheist. But being an atheist doesn't mean that you take all the wonder out of life, quite the opposite actually!

I am an atheist and have been since my early teens. If my children decide that they believe in a god then I will be absolutely fine with it, as long as it is their own decision.

I am uncomfortable with the Santa myth but it is so pervasive that it is hard to avoid. Santa doesn't bring gifts in my house though, we are very clear on who they are from as they are bought with love and consideration.

CrikeyOHare Wed 24-Oct-12 19:33:06

Are you saying that you have never said "Father Christmas is coming tomorrow night" to your kids?

I only have one, TechnoDad, and no, I have never said that to him. And I certainly never said that he wouldn't get any presents from Father Christmas if he didn't behave.

BUT.....we did have the Santa experience, because it's fun. He knew it was a story that was played out over Christmas & we had great fun with snowy footprints & half eaten mince pies. A bit like a play or a pageant - but I was the present buyer & stocking filler and he always knew that.

CrikeyOHare Wed 24-Oct-12 19:44:23

Crikey, Interest in religion and science are not mutually exclusive. Many scientists are and have been religious.

Yes - we keep being told this (by Christians, funnily enough) but it's total nonsense.

There are indeed Christian scientists, but really not that many these days. And those that are admit that their religion is kept separate from their science, simply because the two are not compatible.

Faith = I believe 'cos I just do.

Science = experimentation, evaluation of data and conclusions based on verifiable evidence.

These are compatible...how?

CrikeyOHare Wed 24-Oct-12 19:52:13

But if they start with the old canard that religion falls apart when you apply reason and logic to it, I will argue the toss -- and I usually win.

Frankly, I doubt that. Don't know who said it, but I've always thought this is true: "If Christians understood logic, there wouldn't be any Christians".

Oh - and my other favourite: "Don't understand science? Try religion".

Yeah, yeah, yeah - I know. I'm being rude wink.

DioneTheDiabolist Wed 24-Oct-12 20:32:27

Faith is experiential.
Science is experimental.

It is ridiculous to say that belief in science negates faith and vice versa.

The Big Bang theory was first proposed by a catholic priest.shock.

DioneTheDiabolist Wed 24-Oct-12 20:36:49

Btw, I don't think you're being rude, more bigoted.wink

getoffthecoffeetable Wed 24-Oct-12 20:47:26

I think it'd be good to leave your DC to make up their own mind. It's only your opinion that it's all nonsense. It's not fair to rubbish your child's beliefs. Leave your DC to reach their own conclusions, you could have a talk about other religions and views too so that your DC can make an informed choice of their own.

CrikeyOHare Wed 24-Oct-12 20:56:47

Yes - Father Le Maitre did propose the BB. He then had stop the moronic pope from claiming that he'd proved Genesis.

No - faith is belief without evidence. Science is ALL about evidence, dear.

Bigoted, Dione because I am incapable of believing the childish, superstitious, completely illogical nonsense that you do?


DioneTheDiabolist Wed 24-Oct-12 22:54:33

Not at all Crikey. Bigoted because you are intolerant of different views. And given your post, unscientific as I have provided evidence of religion and science not being exclusive and you still maintain your original position.

Dione how is faith experimental? Otherwise I broadly agree with your posts.

getoff - exactly.

GrimmaTheNome Thu 25-Oct-12 09:02:22

Joyful - she said it was 'experiental' not 'experimental'. Science and religion are mutual exclusive activities, they operate on totally different bases - but neverthereless, the same person can do both if they can manage to switch modes. (turned out I couldn't, so I had to discount the 'experiential' as being essentially something just happening in my head rather than having any external reality)

Ah. Oops. Sorry! blush Sleep deprivation affecting my reading abilities again - that makes much more sense!

RedMolly Thu 25-Oct-12 11:38:18

I would be fine with ds finding his own path, even if it was not mine. I would however be far from happy if this was a consequence of him being taught faith as fact in school. He's not yet two though, so i have a little while before i need to worry about that!

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