How to raise atheist children?
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10-06-2014, 03:28 PM
How to raise atheist children?
My husband and I are atheists and are raising our two children, 8 and 2, as atheists. Our lack of belief isn't a part of our daily lives. It's not something we avoid; it's just as important as talking about the reality of leprechauns – not very. Chupacabras and zombies come up more often than god in our house. I've discovered that this has left a hole in my oldest's understanding of our beliefs. Religious children of the same age are taught about their religion on a daily basis through prayer, church, Sunday school, etc. They can tell her all about why god is real and what he does. We've tried to teach her about lack of evidence and critical thinking, but she hasn't really internalized the ideas.

I would like to help her understand atheism better and be able to resist other people trying to dump their beliefs into her, but I'm having a hard time teaching an 8-year-old about it. I also don't want to turn it into a daily training camp of “why your Grandma is wrong”. Anyone have any suggestions or helpful stories?
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10-06-2014, 03:35 PM
RE: How to raise atheist children?
I say to make them question everything. This tends to make them question the god concept as well.

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10-06-2014, 03:36 PM
RE: How to raise atheist children?
How have you tried teaching her about lack of evidence and critical thinking? What did you say, more or less?

The truth is absolute. Life forms are specks of specks (...) of specks of dust in the universe.
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10-06-2014, 03:37 PM
RE: How to raise atheist children?
(10-06-2014 03:28 PM)Strangelove Wrote:  My husband and I are atheists and are raising our two children, 8 and 2, as atheists. Our lack of belief isn't a part of our daily lives. It's not something we avoid; it's just as important as talking about the reality of leprechauns – not very. Chupacabras and zombies come up more often than god in our house. I've discovered that this has left a hole in my oldest's understanding of our beliefs. Religious children of the same age are taught about their religion on a daily basis through prayer, church, Sunday school, etc. They can tell her all about why god is real and what he does. We've tried to teach her about lack of evidence and critical thinking, but she hasn't really internalized the ideas.

I would like to help her understand atheism better and be able to resist other people trying to dump their beliefs into her, but I'm having a hard time teaching an 8-year-old about it. I also don't want to turn it into a daily training camp of “why your Grandma is wrong”. Anyone have any suggestions or helpful stories?

Classical mythology; when I was 8 I loved stories of Zeus, Pandora, etc. when I was older I began to see the correlation between religion and mythology. I wouldn't tell your child outright the bible is myth because they might repeat it. But if you're asked by child just be honest about it.

As they get older, you can go into the bible stories more. Critical thinking and respect. Smile

Good luck to you and welcome aboard.


But as if to knock me down, reality came around
And without so much as a mere touch, cut me into little pieces

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10-06-2014, 03:43 PM
RE: How to raise atheist children?
I would just encourage them to question the world around them, and walk them through how to think critically as life problems and such present themselves.

I'd avoid being dogmatic about atheism. "This is why grandma is wrong" etc....That would make you as bad as the side youre trying to avoid. Instead approach it as "What do you think of what grandma thinks? Why?"

Smile
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12-06-2014, 09:50 AM
RE: How to raise atheist children?
8 is a bit young to grasp what is being said, be it atheist or about god. Instead just try to teach her to think about what she is being told by friends at this age. I was 12 when I really began to question many aspects of the bible and what I was being taught about god and jesus. By 13 I was solid that I didn't believe any of it.
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12-06-2014, 10:57 AM
RE: How to raise atheist children?
My parents were closet atheists. They did not influence me in any way, except by always providing answers to any questions, whatever they may have been. They also gave me lots of picture books, starting when I was able to turn the pages, about anything and everything. Biology, the universe, you name it. Religion was not a topic at our house.

I went to catholic church for a while, they didn't try to stop me. I went to catholic school, my pick because a friend went there. Then, at age 10 I read the bible and decided to file it away with my other fairy tale books and that was that.

Don't panic when your kids want to explore religion, it's all around them and it would be strange for an inquisitive mind not to have a look. Just make sure you always answer questions with facts, and the kids will figure it out themselves.

[Image: dobie.png]Science is the process we've designed to be responsible for generating our best guess as to what the fuck is going on. Girly Man
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12-06-2014, 02:08 PM
RE: How to raise atheist children?
Thank you for the welcome and for the replies.

We've definitely been trying to teach critical thinking. She at least believes in Santa because she has observed evidence of his existence (although she failed to test the possibility that mom & dad are responsible for the eaten cookies). But it was -her- experiment.

We're totally open to her exploring religion. We became atheists because of learning about religion, not because we didn't.

I like the idea of letting her read about the other mythologies. She's interested in them, and she's starting to get the idea of myths vs. reality. I guess I'm just more concerned that when other people start going on about god, she'll have more to say/believe than just "Nuh-uh". There are a few kids in her class that are a bit persistent about it, and of course, there's grandma. I'm trying to get her to believe what she wants, and not just say what she thinks Mom & Dad or grandma want to hear.

It doesn't help that she only ever seems to have questions about this stuff right at bedtime when she's the most tired and least able to really think about what we're saying.Smile
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12-06-2014, 07:21 PM
RE: How to raise atheist children?
The idea of Santa has been discussed on the forum before. Personally my thinking on that subject is that it is a good critical thinking exercise. When your children really figure it out and ask you point blank, be prepared to give your "You figured it out! Well done." speech.

Give me your argument in the form of a published paper, and then we can start to talk.
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17-06-2014, 06:15 AM
RE: How to raise atheist children?
(12-06-2014 02:08 PM)Strangelove Wrote:  We're totally open to her exploring religion. We became atheists because of learning about religion, not because we didn't.

I like the idea of letting her read about the other mythologies. She's interested in them, and she's starting to get the idea of myths vs. reality.

The mythology option might be a really good segue into religion in general. You can teach her about the mythology of various cultures, and tell her at one point in time, the people really believed it. You can then explain that some of them are still believed and followed by people.

I'm not sure if that would lead to more confusion or not. I don't really have any experience in this field. My wife and I were Christian when we got married, and I was going through my deconversion shortly after my first daughter was born. So, my wife is raising them Christian (I'm glad that she's a quite liberal Christian). That being said, I'd still like to instill critical thinking in her as well, so she's willing to question things that don't make sense.

That being said, it's really funny to see the world through her eyes. She understands that some concepts aren't real, but they make for interesting stories. So, she'll randomly tell me a story about zombies or vampires, and then stop half way to reassure me that they aren't real before continuing. Similarly, she will ask me if various things are actually real if she's in doubt. That list includes:
  • Ghosts
  • Zombies
  • Vampires
  • Wolves
  • Bears
So, she's got the beginnings of critical thinking.
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