Advice For Freethinking Kids?

128837916282606782The other day I got an email from an atheist couple who have two kids, one 9 and one 10. They asked me for information regarding websites or literature that might deal with "god pressure" for kids at school. This would be the 4th and 5th grade. Apparently kids at their school are proselytizing and mocking these 2 kids for not believing.

The parents don't want their kids to feel like freaks and also want to help them counter the exasperated 'you don't believe in god!' remarks. Sam, the father, admits that it can be lonely to not believe in god sometimes. I understand. I feel that way too, although not as much as before I belonged to Morgantown Atheists.

Diane, the mother, says they are open to ideas and suggestions. She says they have friends who aren't religious but still believe in god. It's not the same thing.

Seeing as how only about 10% of the population would go so far as to actually use the dreaded A-word, it can be isolating to be godless in a sea of believers. As I've mentioned, I still keep my atheism to myself when around Butch's family. Some of them know we're atheists but it's never been brought up or mentioned. This means that a huge part of what I spend my time thinking about and being an activist over can't be talked about when I spend time with others. It's kind of lonely, in a way.

For Sam and Diane, I suggested they join a local atheist/humanist/freethinker group to get some community support. There's nothing like simply hanging out with like-minded people to feel more connected. In my personal experience, the benefits of belonging to a local organization are numerous. I have felt much happier since joining. Just knowing there are others who think like me is a great relief, in a way.

I know, many atheists are loners and not into joining. I used to think I was like that too. Then I realized I am just picky. I don't want to belong to a group that has wildly different values than me. But having a coffee and talking to someone who is also a godless heathen is, well, liberating and intellectually stimulating.

I have to say something now regarding children and atheism. One of my friends, I think it was Dan, recently commented ( I can't remember if it was here on HDC or Facebook. And I think it was Dan... or Steve. I'm sorry, my friends, I am not positive. Please feel free to correct me) about a conversation he had with his 9 year old daughter. She asked her dad about god. Dan gave a good answer about what god is, and said something along the lines of that's how a lot of people believe. His daughter asked him what he believed, if he believed in god. Dan explained he is an atheist and that no, he doesn't. Then he asked her what she thought about god. She said the smartest, most amazing thing, which told me he's a wonderful dad. She said, "I think I'm too young to decide."

What that tells me is that Dan is raising his daughter, not to be an atheist, but to think for herself. I think the most important thing you can ever do for a child is to teach them critical thinking. Let them figure things out for themselves. Let them reason and make mistakes. Teach them how to think. Not what to believe.


I'm still thinking about what to tell Sam and Diane's kids, in how to deal with other kids who are brainwashed with religion already. Do you have any suggestions, websites, or books that might help them?

11 comments:

  1. I'd sure want to know if my kids were saying anything negative to other kids regarding their beliefs (parent's beliefs). Christians often "get it" if you use the example of, "Well, if Muslim kids were saying your kid's beliefs were wrong," or "If your kids had to recite something from the Koran every morning how would you feel?" It might make it worse or it might open up some lines of communication.

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  2. As far as websites go, I'd highly recommend http://parentingbeyondbelief.com/blog/ It is the blog of Dale McGowan, who co-authored both "Parenting Beyond Belief" and "Raising Freethinkers"
    I haven't had a chance to actually read the books, but judging from the blog, as well as the excepts from the books which are occasionally posted, they're probably pretty great.
    Hope that helps. I know I definitely don't have any idea how I would raise my kids to be skeptical if I had them. You don't want to stifle their imagination, but you don't really want them believing in things which aren't true, either. It's definitely a tough balancing act.

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  3. It makes me sick how Christians like to claim they're "persecuted" for their beliefs and that their children are teased for believing. Yet they have no qualms about harassing others for not believing, for not being in the "proper" sect, for being the "wrong" type of believer, for being LGBT (or anything else "god" doesn't approve of) etc. Funny how it's OK when they're doing the harassing. And of course refusing to let them harass you is also a form of "persecution"....

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  4. Same here Buffy. Kids can be cruel, but the outrageous thing about these cases is that parents will usually encourage kids to keep "evangelizing" (this is, bullying) other kids for their lack of belief. I'd say get together with other non-believing parents (if possible) and instruct the kid how simmilar god is to Santa Claus. That's the only solutions I can think that might be applied to several cases. Oh, and sign the kids for learn martial arts lessons. Not only in case the christian kids might want to share some christian love, but because it gives control to the person.

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  5. I feel so terribly sorry for anyone in this situation - even though I have difficulty imagining what it must be like to live in a theocracy. Over here (UK) it simply isn't a problem. Unless you're one of the very few religiously-inclined, faith - or lack of it - is just never discussed. It simply isn't important. It tends to be treated as a cultural phenomenon: my son is 14, and has learned about christianity, islam, judaism, buddhism, shintoism and sikhism at school. We're atheist at home, but we have all the major religious texts in our library for him to read if he wishes.

    Sorry - that's no help at all...

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  6. I would recommend something like: "I believe in Science and things that make sense and are reasonable, things you can see or least understand. Now that I am older I stopped believing in Santa Claus and other imaginary things younger kids do believe in."

    Something like that can present the message that faith-believe is an appropriate attitude to a phase of your life when lack of knowledge or experience forces you to accept unreasonable explanations. Something that you can out-grow by learning with the help of Science and personal experience.

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  7. That's skeptic dad... Stupid html... :)

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  8. Exactly! It's crazy-making! :(

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  9. Thank you everyone! This is great advice for parents! You are all awesome. :D

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