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Raising children with/without religion

I have a 4 year old daughter and I don't want to expose her to too much religion/God at such a young age as young children are prone to automatically believe everything they are told. But, I also do want her to be informed to the extent to eventually make her own decisions about belief/nonbelief. Any suggestions or advice on how to do this or how you as a non-believer have raised your children? Thanks!

By kittieblue134
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34 comments

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9

Encourage curiosity and help her build critical thinking skills. We're fortunate enough to have an 11-yo who's receptive to new ideas, but knows better than to accept everything at face value. Keep the communication open with your daughter and you'll do fine.

8

Just teach them about logic and critical thought, don’t even bother talking about religious nonsense.

7

This was a problem my late partner had with her kids. There was no religion in the household yet 2 managed to become strong S. Baptists. She constantly wondered where she went wrong. She finally realized she undervalued the importance of critical thinking. Kids need to learn to question everything.

Totally. I encouraged questioning all accepted beliefs, and they got their own little ' bullshit detectors' from early on by ferreting for the truth. And help them to wrestle the problems out. It can become fun.
Lately my daughter, who is nanny to an 8and a 5 year old, got the older one to challenge the assertion by a classmate that "Americans are bad " by discussing it with him. He came to his own conclusion that they are people like everyone else.

@Tilia That is fantastic. My late partner who grew up in Iran (are all Iranians bad?) was the only daughter with 4 brothers. Her mother fostered her to question everything and she did. From early on she thought religion was silly (even though the family were Moslem) but when she saw what it did to her country she became an activist. She said that if she had stayed in Iran, because of her mouth, she would be dead or in jail. Oh, the stories I have heard.
BTW my ancestry is French from the Perigord region.

7

Introduce her to several religions at once?

Good advice right here!

7

My daughter, Claire has two atheist parents. We never took her to church. Claire is a Democrat and atheist.

We raised Claire to have self-responsibility, and to treat others with compassion, kindness and respect.

We taught Claire:

  1. To enjoy exercise. At 28, Claire still plays tennis, hikes, runs and lifts weights. We took her hiking beginning at 9 months. In high school, Claire was a varsity tennis player all four years, like her dad.

Regular exercise build girls' confidence. Athletic girls see their bodies as competent and strong, not just an ornament on some guy's arm.

  1. Have a healthy diet and lifestyle.

  2. Volunteer to help people in need. Be a good friend.

  3. Love reading, art, music and other cultures.

  4. Writing and speaking clearly with good grammar and spelling. Never used baby talk. Friends marveled at how articulate Claire was at an early age.

  5. To value higher education. Recently Claire graduated from the Univ. of Washington with a 3.9 grade point average.

  6. A hard worker, Claire has a great work ethic. She works for a medical center as a safety and trauma prevention coordinator.

  7. The importance of voting.

  8. Problem-solving and negotiation skills.

  9. We raised Claire without TV or video games. Thirty years ago, research showed screen time hurts kids' ability to read and focus in school, and increases attention-deficit disorders. Now one in 10 kids are diagnosed with attention-deficit disorders. No surprise there.

When she was three, Claire got to choose three, half-hour shows per week, so she would be conversant with other kids. She chose Sesame Street.

Claire and her dad loved watching the Rugrats together when she was 8.

5

"Mama, is Santa real?" my daughter asked earnestly at age six. "Kids on the playground say he's not real."

Gently I explained that Santa is a made-up story. "Thank you for being honest," Claire replied.

"Don't tell Daddy I know," Claire said. "He gets a big kick out of it."

On Christmas Eve before bed, Terry used flour to put tiny reindeer prints on the living room carpet, leading to the plate of cookies for Santa.

5

She will hear things and have questions. When my daughter started asking questions at about 5 years old, I explained that there are 2 ways to understand things, the religious way (God made everything and makes everything happen) which some of our friends and relatives believe, and the scientific way which other friends and relatives believe (have books and explanations ready to explore) and that everyone chooses which way makes the most sense to them, noting the scientific way made the most sense to me and their dad.

I also noted that we love all our friends and relatives no matter which way they believe, but it all comes down to being a good person. We taught that every day.

I would always seize on teachable moments, and for a time, it was Sunday mornings when their dad was at softball practice, that my kids and I would have heart to heart chats about various social or nature topics. I had to laugh one time when a friend of my daughter's asked her what church we attended, and my daughter replied that we were "home churched" which is something she must have made up, as our neighbors were "home schooled" she applied the same idea, I guess. Funny.

Julie808 Level 7 Sep 3, 2018

This is great advice and also beautiful.

4

Be honest and age appropriate and be sure to mention that it might not be appropriate to share with everyone.

4

There is so much "information" about "god" out there... she will have no problem finding it. And then she'll decide. The only reason we feel torn about how early we should introduce our children to religion is because religion is the norm. Don't fall for the bullshit.

4

good luck my kids were raised to question everything religions were just another topic to be studied an even though there mum believed in god none of them found it to be credible you will be her voice of reason peer pressure may come into play depending how religious your community is

weeman Level 7 Sep 2, 2018
4

I have no kids yet. Though I believe that the right way to bring them up is with a mentality to question everything.

3

Encourage them to ask questions and to seek answers. Encourage them to look for sources and proof. There are some amazing fairy tales out there that are taken for truth. My ex got excited about hearing about a monk that was resurrected, that bodily fluids were actually leaking out of his body and he came back to life. And I went "really, you believe that?" Talk about "news" stories like that, and PLEASE talk about bias in news reporting. Faux news makes me break out in hives.

3

As many others have said, it's best to raise them with the truth.

I also believe they should actively encouraged to eschew belief in ALL
gods and ALL religions. They're going to be inundated with the religious
beliefs and influence of others. They should know from the earliest age
possible that ALL of that is nonsense, and no matter how attractive it is
made to sound, to not fall for any of it.

There is no rational way to make an informed decision to believe in that
which does not exist. ALL religious beliefs are rooted in delusion.
All children should know that, and have it reinforced constantly.

KKGator Level 9 Sep 3, 2018
3

My whole family is agnostic. I would have never known. My mom made me go to Sunday school until I was 11 to learn about religion. After throwing a fit every week, she asked if I believed in god. I said no. She defends the way she went about it, I told her it made me feel like I was going against what she believed. Children should know what religion is, since it holds such a large place in all cultures. But the more we start teaching them it's just a fairy tale, hopefully it'll start to lessen its hold in generations to come.

more than a fairy tale its superstition and a cult!

3

A good question that I’ve been considering myself. I’m looking for a child to adopt (from the foster care system), and by the age of five or six they will have already been exposed to religion from their birth parents or foster parents almost definitely. When my mother was a kid she attended a Unitarian church, and they took trips to all different churches, synagogues, etc. to learn about other religions, and in their Sunday school I know they talk about nature and building strong communities, not so much about God or the Bible. I’ve considered that, but first I’d like to go in and talk to them about being a Unitarian atheist, ha...

Jenelle Level 6 Sep 3, 2018

if all you want is to be part of a group then ok but don't get trapped in the rituals

3

I raised my children to not be religious but they were exposed to many religions.

They played Nintendo with Buddhist monks when said monks were visiting to make a sand mandala.

They the local rabbi's hobby was puppetry including having one that looked like him.

They knew the local Imams and helped raise funds when someone firebombed one of the mosques.

They learned that you stand on the first sung word of the "African American National Anthem"

Exposure to and respecting all religion is, perhaps, an inoculation shot against all the bullshit.

If ou take your kids to a Unitarian Universalist church they are very good at religious education and very many Atheists (hard to explain,). Also comprehensive age appropriate sex education.
O.W.L. for Our Whole Lives..

On Edit -

Those particular monks took their tea with unsalted butter.

It approached the fat content of the yaks milk they were accustomed to.

3

It takes a lot of indoctrination to make a kid believe in a magic invisible man in the sky who is all good and all powerful, but won't help starving children or kids dying of cancer because of "free will".
You won't hurt her by informing her about religion, as long as you let her know they're just stories.

3

I think that is one of the hardest questions that every agnostic or atheist parent has to answer. My son was bombarded with the religious dogma from his mother, I tried to be a counter balance and interest him in the science's. I never criticized my exes beliefs in front of my son, hoping that he would have a well rounded education that would allow him to make an informed decision on his own. He doesn't discuss it openly with me out of respect for his mom, but he is pursing a degree in physics. Hopefully that is a good sign.

3

Let them imagine what they will, believe anything they want. Just teach them the difference between know and believe to be true.

powder Level 8 Sep 2, 2018
2

Raise children with the truth! They are being lied to so much how are they to know what is true. I was pushed into religion of mother. Don't know if dad believed. He asked me if I believed I said no. He just humm nothing else. I did not need his approval to understand the truth I just need the truth.

2

I raised two daughters without religion. I did not force my atheism on them' not did I force religion on them. Instead, I raised them to make their own informed choices. As adults, both considered religion, but chose to be agnostics, at the least.

2

If you want your child to make their own decision, will you be including Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, animism, Wiccan, and satanic beliefs? There's a lot more. We just didn't have religion in our lives. They never asked.

1

I did not allow my children to be heavily exposed to religion until they demonstrated the ability to reasonably converse about the topic with me, then I didn't limit their exposure, but actively discussed the things they were being exposed to with them, helping them form reasonable conclusions about it, showing them how certain teachings didn't match observable reality, asking them about how people might believe it even if it was false, etc.

I also actively told them that I did not believe, and explained the flaws in the arguments for belief.

but I started teaching them logic when they started talking.

1

While it is important to allow your children to eventually come to their own conclusions with regard to the god question, you also shouldn't be made to feel as if you have to hide it from them that you don't believe. If they ask you why then you can give your reasons, while also trying to explain why other people do believe. If you present your atheism as something you don't want to discuss it might make them think it is an untenable position, ironically enough, and push them toward a religious mindset. I see nothing wrong in saying that I hope my daughter grows up to be non-religious even though I would love her all the same if she decided to adopt a god at some point, and in exposing her to multiple religions she can judge for herself as she often does that none of them make any sense.

Jahrta Level 4 Sep 4, 2018
1

I ask questions based in morality in a way someone of their age can understand. I do this to get them thinking. Is it ok to hit? Is x ok for boys but not girls? (x the variable, not Methylenedioxymethamphetamine) What makes a lie bad?

Squirrel Level 7 Sep 4, 2018
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