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how's best to approach religion with ds when im a non-believer?

(33 Posts)
juicychops Fri 15-Jul-11 21:57:24

ds is 6 and learns about god at school. he knows about god making the world in 7 days - well 6 then a rest day, and he knows basics about jesus and easter/xmas etc.

ive been honest with him from the start and told him i don't believe in god, but its fine if he wants to, he can believe in whatever he wants to as many people believe all different things.

today he was telling me some more about god and he said i SHOULD believe in god.

i then told him again that i don't believe in god just as many people dont, and that he shouldn't tell people what they should and shouldn't believe as everyone is free to believe in what they want to believe in.

my nephew and niece are getting christened next month too so he's learning bits about what it is to become a christian.

I know he's only young, but im finding it hard to have conversations about things i don't believe in where i have to explain things he's unclear on to do with god/jesus etc. all i can say is "well some people believe that god..." etc.
i cant bring myself to say "god/jesus did x y z..."

is this best way to handle it? i don't want him to just automatically believe in what i believe in, i want him to make his own mind up

tigana Fri 15-Jul-11 21:59:36

I go for the "yes, some people believe...." approach.

ds knows both DH and I do not believe in god or jesus, and has said that we ought to. We just say that it's okay not to, and move on.

superjobeespecs Fri 15-Jul-11 22:11:31

oh im at this stage with DD she is also 6 and bangs on about mentions god a couple of times a week i do as you do, just yes dear everyone has different beliefs some ppl believe in god some believe in a different god and some like mummy dont believe in any gods.. its a pain TBH if i'd known there would be so much 'jesus talk' i'd have put her to the catholic school 2 mins away instead of the one she's at sad

mariamagdalena Fri 15-Jul-11 23:59:39

a pro-religious education atheist

Oh this is tiresome, isn't it? I keep telling DS that people believe different things, but I don't shy away from telling him, when necessary, that some people's beliefs are wrong eg latest pile of crap from the school's visiting vicar about people needing to be 'blessed to get the devil out of them'.

Portofino Sat 16-Jul-11 00:12:01

I always do the "some people believe" thing. We live in a very multi cultural envirionment and I am not at all religious but I answer every question with "well some people believe in that...." and explain why said people celebrate Xmas, Easter, Ramadam etc etc.

Dd (7) currently has a buddhist reincarnation outlook. She said to me yesterday that Michael Jackson will come back as a bug as he was BAD. Fuck knows where she got THAT from. Michael Jackson is not a topic of conversation in our house....

pumpkincarver Sat 16-Jul-11 00:13:40

I recommend a book called Parenting Beyond Belief.
Good luck, it's not easy to shield our DC from the idiocy of religion.

budgieshell Sat 16-Jul-11 00:20:43

I have told dc we don't believe. We enjoy bible stories because that is what they are stories that teach us how to be good people. Now that they are older they are more open to other religions and are aware that they can make a choice about what they believe if anything.

razors Sat 16-Jul-11 00:20:55

We live in an area of London in which we have many different religions - I'm agnostic but my dc go to a C of E school - I just tell them that each religion has different beliefs and its up to them what they want to believe. We also go to the Science Museum and Natural History to show them evidence of creation and evolution etc so hopefully all that knowledge will put them on the right path eventually.

Just explain Christians hold one set of beliefs, Muslims another, Hindus and so on.....

Portofino Sat 16-Jul-11 00:21:48

I think the difficulty is that religion is so built into culture, that you HAVE to explain a bit about it to your kids even if you don't believe in any of it. I had a dilemma in dd's Belgian school where RE is optional. Ideally I would like her to learn about ALL religions. The options available were Catholic, Muslim, Judaism, Protestant, Morals. She does Morals. If I had done the Protestant option (which mirrors our family background) she would have been the only one...

It's also important to point out (when it arises) the harm religion can do and how silly it is to hurt other people because of a silly story.

ravenAK Sat 16-Jul-11 01:05:39

Ds went through the 'But Miss Evangelicalyear1teacher says...' phase.

He argued the toss with me (atheist), dh (Buddhist), CM (Muslim), & FIL ('Tory party at prayer' flavour C of E) before deciding mum knows best grin.

I think it's important to differentiate between 'we respect other people's right to believe what they like' & 'we respect such-&-such a belief' (if you actually think such-&-such a belief is ridiculous &/or toxic bollocks...).

No actual need to say: 'Miss X/Grandma/your mate are talking ridiculous, toxic bollocks', obviously, but I think it's a lot less confusing if you state clearly & from the earliest age that YOU don't believe that, but it's absolutely up to Miss X et alia to believe whatever they like, & it's equally up to dc to decide what they believe.

letthembe Sat 16-Jul-11 01:21:16

I approach religion with my DC as some people believe this, some believe that and they can believe what they want as long as they can explain/justify their opinions. For example, when 6 my DS told his teacher (at Easter time) "I don't believe Jesus came back to life because when my nana died, she didn't come back to life." It completely floored the teacher and the rest of the children in the class. i was proud of him.

In truth I want to say, "Religion - it's all a pile of bollocks." But I resist.

hiddenhome Sat 16-Jul-11 15:58:13

It's a shame that so many of you are so negative towards faith. It can be a force for good you know.

letthembe Sat 16-Jul-11 17:35:00

I am not denying it gives many people comfort. I just don't need it or believe it (I might later in life, just not now).

ravenAK Sat 16-Jul-11 17:42:59

I prefer 'clear sighted', rather than 'negative'. grin

I'll agree with you that faith can be a force for good - dh's Buddhism is important to him for all sorts of reasons. But ultimately, I don't believe, & I don't think I'm any the worse for it, & I'm not going to pretend that I don't think it's all a bit...silly.

To me the difference is that dh is a grown man who has given it a good deal of independent thought. I don't want my dc taught Xtianity or any other faith prescriptively, which is what they get.

If they decide for themselves that they want to be Jains or devout followers of the flying spaghetti monster, that's fine by me.

hiddenhome Sat 16-Jul-11 18:45:02

Why do you deny your children the opportunity to learn about Christianity? They can choose whether or not to follow it as they get older.

To you it might be silly, but children do often have a faith in God, why take that away from them?

ravenAK Sat 16-Jul-11 19:21:31

I don't, & since they're at a state primary, which holds an obligatory daily act of worship, I couldn't if I tried. Well, actually I could. I could withdraw them from the assemblies & RE.

But since I do think it's important for them to learn about different faiths, which rightly or wrongly have such an impact on how people interact with each other, I don't.

They also sometimes attend mosque with their childminder, & dh also holds Buddhist meditation sessions at the house.

Oh, & my best friend's into Wicca. & their stepgrandmother is very much at the evangelical end of Xtianity.

Absolutely no denying of opportunities to learn about faith here.

onagar Sat 16-Jul-11 20:10:31

While 'some people believe' is fine in most cases you should be prepared to tell a child "that is wrong" in some situations. After all you can't have a blanket rule that anything anyone tells them is okay if they believe it. if their new teacher said that "black people are not proper people - it says so in the bible" you wouldn't let that pass...would you? In the end it is down to parents to decide where to draw the line.

hiddenhome, I hope you are giving yours a good grounding in Scientology. Make sure they know all about the lizards in case they want that to be their religion when they get older.

zulubump Sat 16-Jul-11 21:12:55

OP, I take my kids to church fairly regularly, though I haven't worked out what I believe about it all yet. Sometimes I worry a bit about them having just the one viewpoint of religion presented to them, so I ended up buying a couple of books for DD. They are:
All Kinds of Beliefs
Hide and Seek with God

The first one might be a bit young for your ds, but it gives a good little description of different religions and also that some people don't believe at all. The second one has a number of short stories that describe different ways of experiencing God (eg in church, in nature, in the wonder of the universe - also saying that not everyone would describe this as experiencing God as such). My dd doesn't like to take my word for anything, so I found using books to talk about these things made it easier.

JohannaM Sun 17-Jul-11 01:13:57

I take issue with the "Altar Egos" link. I don't think anyone should put children into any religious organisation. As Dawkins has pointed out, children are too young to be categorised as "Jewish", "Muslim", "Christian" etc. They need to make up their own minds by having all the information at their disposal.

As to the OP. I hope you've pointed out that the Creation myth is precisely that and has no basis in fact. If you are concerned give him the facts about religion. Explain to him (obviously aim it in language a six year old can comprehend) that all human societies have their stories about how the world began, how humans came to exist, and why there is suffering and death, but that none of these stories is any more "true" than any other.

I'd recommend a copy of Stephen Law's The Philosophy Files (written for kids) that you can read together or maybe get hold of Helen Bennett's "Humanism, What's That? A Book for Curious Kids" .

Religion is also a force for great harm. While there are plenty of perfectly nice people who believe in some or other Great Flying Invisible Fart, find comfort in it and use it as a motivating force to be nice, there are a whole lot of other people whose Great Flying Fart is their excuse for racism, homophobia and misogyny.

ravenAK Sun 17-Jul-11 01:46:44

I think it's the symptom, not the cause - bigots use religion to justify their inherent bigotry.

On the whole I think we'd be better off without it.

But you can't use 'faith...force for good' OR 'religion...force for great harm' as a reason to have, or not have, belief in a religious faith.

I've taken a good look at several of the options & concluded that it's all a load of bobbins, as I imagine you have too, SGB, & as my eldest has.

Whether believing in God would make me a nicer person or give me an excuse for letting rip with all my nastiest suppressed prejudices is neither here nor there tbh -I don't find any of it believable.

I really do object to religious instruction (as opposed to religious education) in school. Children shouldn't have to reconcile respect for their teachers as adults in authority, who are there to teach them important skills & knowledge, with being expected to give equal respect to someone's private superstitions.

VictorianIce Sun 17-Jul-11 09:41:46

I struggle a bit with the idea of being able to 'choose' your own faith, I don't think that's really how it works (although now I've said that, I'll probably be regaled with stories of children of nice C of E families who chose to follow Thor following extensive research of all world religions...)

And I'm muddling up religion and faith, which I think are different, although possible overlapping.

I think the 'choice' for most prople comes down to 'dominant cultural religion' or 'not-dominant cultural religion' eg 'Christian' or 'atheist'. Also, I'm not entirely sure children do have faith in the same way as adults. They're learning about the world, and when the same person (or organisation - 'School') is telling them that 2+2=4, red and blue makes purple and God made the world in 6 days, it's not easy for them to differentiate which bits they are allowed to doubt or question. If the last point in that list is expressed as a fact about the world we live in, ("Christians believe that..." ) it allows them to consider different possibilities.

This post is bordering on incoherent grin

Would answering their questions with other questions help? "Why do you think I should believe in God?" You're not going to change your views, but it might help chidren to explore the philosophy behing it all more fully. I have a 1 year old whose greated philosophical problem is "why can't I have more cake?" so we're not really there yet. smile

JohannaM Sun 17-Jul-11 11:49:37

VictorianIce. No school should be telling children that a god made the world in six days. That completely contravenes government guidelines.

Religion shouldn't be taught in schools but philosophy should. Asking questions (to which no one may have the definitive answers) is a good way to encourage children to think. Where philosophy has been taught in Primary schools - the kids have enjoyed it because there are no absolute rights and wrongs.

I don't know who said it but Dan Dennett quotes this aphorism, "Philosophy is questions that may never be answered. Religion is answers that may never be questioned." grin

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