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how to introduce some general knowledge about religion...

(5 Posts)
flyingspaghettimonster Wed 13-Jul-11 01:27:38

How have others that are not religious themselves go about introducing a general understanding of the basics to kids that haven't really experienced any religion? I am struggling with a good way to do it - my kids have a vague idea of Jesus as being similar to Father Christmas, from school I think, a really dodgy few bible stories they got from Veggie Tales and they have been to my MIL's catholic church a few times (eldest was baptised, if that's what catholics call it, I am really not well informed)... they still call churches castles which i thought was cute when thy were little, but at 7 and 5 I think I ought to be giving them more information.

What has brought this on is that the other day we walked past the local church near my mother's home - a gloomy smog-darkened affair, with the vicar standing outside handing out leaflets. My 5 year old son tugged on my arm and whispered 'mummy, is that the dark lord and his dark castle?' - which at the time had me giggling, but later struck me that even though my own parents had no religious beliefs, I read the bible and learned a fairly large amount from school about Christianity as well as other religions. My kids aren't getting that at school as they are in the USA school system, which isn't C of E. I don't know how to tell them anything without sounding disrespectful or frivilous, or putting my own slant on things. I've tried saying things like 'that's not a castle, it's a church, it's a place that some people go to because they are religious and they believe it is God's house', but it always sounds wrong to me... my husband is a devout atheist (that must be an oxymoron?!) so I can't get much help from him on the subject, and if I were asked to give a religion it would of course be that of his Great Noodliness the FSM, but obviously I have no intention of confusing my kids like that and making it a joking matter to them.

So how have others approached it? Is there a way to help a child decide for themselves if they would like a religion, to explain it without making it clear that it is not my own beliefs?

Thanks for any ideas...

stressedHEmum Wed 13-Jul-11 09:19:01

This deals with different beliefs in a fairly basic way for younger kids.

This is informative and has some nice photos.

This is very good, full of nice pictures, but the text might be a bit too advanced.

This and This are very good. The 2nd one is internet linked and full of excellent info.

Anita Ganieri retells stories from major faiths in a really child friendly way. The pictures are good, as well.

I think that it's important that kids learn about all religions and beliefs, to be honest. It helps them deal with other people more successfully. My husband is a fierce and aggressive atheist who is completely opposed to religion of any kind, but even he recognises that it is important that the children understand a bit about religion (so that they can realise it's all rubbish angry) The dark lord in his dark castle sounds a bit like something he would say. If you give your children the information then they will be able to make decisions for themselves about whether to have a faith or not. Perhaps start by reading them some culturally important religious stories like Noah's Ark, the Nativity, the Exodus or whatever and give them access to something that explains what religion actually is in a sort of neutral way.

flyingspaghettimonster Wed 13-Jul-11 12:07:25

Thanks for all that info! I have no idea where ds1 got the dark lord bit; probably a computer game. My daughter has been reading an archaeology book her auntie gave her and because my sister is doing a dissertation on burial rites, that is the section of the book my dd is interested in most. Almost every second word is something she doesn't understand yet though; 'christian', 'sacred', 'burial rites', etc. etc. I am definitely going to need to do some research to find ways to approach this without making it sound disrespectful as I strongly believe everyone is entitled to their own beliefs, even the ones I think are a load of bollox. Although, if I am totally honest, my main reason for wanting to introduce an element of choice right now into my kids is to prevent them becoming uber-religious like my brother did - he is now some sort of priesty thing in his chosen religion, broke up with a wonderful girlfriend because they were too scared of being tempted to have sex before marriage, and is generally totally obsessive and actively religious. I would absolutely hate for my kids to rebel against their father's athiesm this way... so I want them to feel they were given all the relevant info in as unbiased a way as possible.

stressedHEmum Wed 13-Jul-11 12:55:21

I think that you are right enough, tbh, about the rebellion bit. If kids aren't given enough, balanced info to feel informed enough they can go completely overboard. A bit like the whole "never allowed sweeties" thing. The first bit of freedom and they go completely overboard.

I used to have a friend whose father was a minister. She was brought up in a very strict, Christian environment, prayers umpteen times a day, modest dressing, no outside friends, everything addressed through biblical perspectives, no drinking, no boyfriends.... As soon as she left home, she completely lost the plot. And she is now a fairly radical atheist of the intolerant variety. I think that it cuts both ways. There has to be a balance and an acceptance of other beliefs.

I think that the Usborne books are a good starting point. They kind of explain what religion actually is before they deal with different faiths. You could take your kids to visit different places of worship (outside of service times) as well. Even visits to graveyards are quite good, you can look at the memorials, read the inscriptions etc. and talk about that.

zulubump Sat 16-Jul-11 21:22:22

Hi OP, I've just posted links to these books on another thread. I got them for my dd who I do take to church, but wanted her to have some idea of what other people believe.
All Kinds of Beliefs
Hide and Seek with God

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