Telling My Kids I Don't Believe
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07-04-2017, 07:21 AM (This post was last modified: 07-04-2017 07:28 AM by phoenix31.)
Telling My Kids I Don't Believe
I am looking for advice about telling my kids, age 6 and 10, that I'm an atheist.

Quick background: I have attended church for quite a few years but recently came out as an atheist to my husband and parents (fundamentalist pastors of my church.) I wrote letters to my close friends and family explaining my situation and telling them that I was not planning to tell my kids right now.

I stopped going to church, with the explanation to my children that I have some things I "disagree" with the church about. They wanted to know what things, but at the time I didn't tell them. I now work on Sunday mornings and am home when they return from church.

Their father wants them to be raised Christian, and I haven't fought that because I don't want to create problems in our family. I figure when they're old enough to decide, they can choose for themselves what works best for them. I listen to atheist podcasts and read related books, but not around the kids.

The reason I haven't just said to my kids, "Hey, I don't believe in God," is because I know this would really upset and scare them. They have grown up in a fundamentalist background and their grandparents are pastors who take this stuff really seriously. Their father believes in miracles and spontaneous healing and tries to instill these beliefs in them. Everyone in their community is a fundamentalist, basically. I know they would be terrified and distraught that I was going to hell.

So this is my plan: I want to engage in conversations with them over the course of time as they grow up and share my opinions and viewpoints on things. For instance, the other night my son brought up the subject of someone at school being gay, and I told him that that's one of the things I disagree with his dad and the church about...that I think it's perfectly fine and natural.

I plan on taking this approach with evolution, premarital sex, etc. Basically, saying, "This is what the church and your dad believe, and this is what I believe," as it comes up naturally in conversation. As they get older, I am imagining that it will eventually come up that I don't believe in God or the Bible at all, but I feel somehow that this gradual approach is better than dropping a bomb.

The only thing I really feel yuck about is that I pray for them at night, and sometimes in the morning I do devotionals with them and pray for them, because it's always been a part of our routine. I think they would miss it if I didn't but I feel like a hypocrite doing it, and feel like I might have a hard time explaining it to them when they get older. But if they ask, my plan is to say that their dad wants them raised Christian, and I'm participating with that, and also that I know the routine brings them comfort and I didn't want to upset that even though I don't personally believe it.

I just wonder if anyone else has been in a similar situation, or even if not, if you think this is a reasonable and healthy way to go about addressing the problem, and any thoughts you might have.

And thanks.
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07-04-2017, 08:01 AM (This post was last modified: 07-04-2017 08:10 AM by RearViewMirror.)
RE: Telling My Kids I Don't Believe
(07-04-2017 07:21 AM)phoenix31 Wrote:  I am looking for advice about telling my kids, age 6 and 10, that I'm an atheist.

Quick background: I have attended church for quite a few years but recently came out as an atheist to my husband and parents (fundamentalist pastors of my church.) I wrote letters to my close friends and family explaining my situation and telling them that I was not planning to tell my kids right now.

I stopped going to church, with the explanation to my children that I have some things I "disagree" with the church about. They wanted to know what things, but at the time I didn't tell them. I now work on Sunday mornings and am home when they return from church.

Their father wants them to be raised Christian, and I haven't fought that because I don't want to create problems in our family. I figure when they're old enough to decide, they can choose for themselves what works best for them. I listen to atheist podcasts and read related books, but not around the kids.

The reason I haven't just said to my kids, "Hey, I don't believe in God," is because I know this would really upset and scare them. They have grown up in a fundamentalist background and their grandparents are pastors who take this stuff really seriously. Their father believes in miracles and spontaneous healing and tries to instill these beliefs in them. Everyone in their community is a fundamentalist, basically. I know they would be terrified and distraught that I was going to hell.

So this is my plan: I want to engage in conversations with them over the course of time as they grow up and share my opinions and viewpoints on things. For instance, the other night my son brought up the subject of someone at school being gay, and I told him that that's one of the things I disagree with his dad and the church about...that I think it's perfectly fine and natural.

I plan on taking this approach with evolution, premarital sex, etc. Basically, saying, "This is what the church and your dad believe, and this is what I believe," a it comes up naturally in conversation. As they get older, I am imagining that it will eventually come up that I don't believe in God or the Bible at all, but I feel somehow that this gradual approach is better than dropping a bomb.

I just wonder if anyone else has been in a similar situation, or even if not, if you think this is a reasonable and healthy way to go about addressing the problem, and any thoughts you might have.

And thanks.


First off let me express my empathy towards your situation. I know it must be hard.

I've been an Atheist since I was 14 so it has never been a big secret to anyone that has ever known me. Don't get me wrong... I'm not an activist Atheist. I'm just someone that doesn't believe.

It's very hard for someone to give advice over the internet (or forum) as to what route you should take with your situation. I can only tell you what I did when my daughter was born. My parents are devout Christians. My Mother more so than my Father but still devout nonetheless. I knew eventually that there would be a point in my daughter's life that my Mother and I would come to a tipping point over the way "my" daughter should be raised. It did. It came one night when my daughter and I were discussing the movement of the earth around the sun and why we have "seasons". My daughter made an off comment that "the earth was created in seven days". If I'm honest that almost made my blood boil as the dogma had begun. Though I kept my cool and explained that the bible teaches that but that is not how the earth was formed.

I'll preface this with my parents keep my daughter every other weekend and I do not wish to deny them access to their grandchild. They have done this since she was born. My daughter is now almost 12 years old. My parents belong to the largest (and oldest) church in the state. It's so large that I commonly refer to it as "Six Flags over Jesus". They have taken her to church since she was a baby and she still goes there every other weekend.

I won't go into the specifics of the argument that my mother and I had which was very heated, lengthy, and created some bad blood for a bit. But we finally agreed to a term that I would not tell my daughter that what my parents believe is incorrect (which I actually do believe is incorrect) and my parents would not tell her that I am incorrect (which they actually do believe that I am incorrect).

The point is... My daughter is going to have to make her own mind up as to what she believes. She is very aware that I do not believe in God. As of right now she doesn't show much interest in a God either. She is EXTREMELY interested in science and the why and how things work. For that I am grateful since I believe I have fostered that curiosity into her since she was a small child. "Always ask questions" "Always question the rationale behind whatever "facts" someone might be putting out there". Always question is a code that I have always lived by and I believe it has served me well. That is what drew me to science and to some extent my daughter also. A scientific theory is always questioned and scrutinized before it becomes a popular theory or fact. That is the way it should be.

As to your situation I'm always hesitant to give advice since: partly I only know the part of the story that you describe and partly because I assume there are many more moving pieces in play than you could describe in a forum post. I will say this. I have never lied to my daughter. That said... I have the luxury of that position due to everyone in my family (whether they agree or not) knows that I am an Atheist. Only you can decide on the best way to handle your situation as I'm sure it is a very stressful situation to be in. I was afforded the luxury of my wife knowing that I was a non believer before we were married so it was never an issue since she doesn't believe either. You unfortunately are not afforded that luxury.

I wish you the best in your decision and approach. If nothing else... you can always come here and vent.

Best wishes.

I get to decide what my life looks like, not the other way around.
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07-04-2017, 08:09 AM
RE: Telling My Kids I Don't Believe
You sound like a loving, caring and reasonable thinking person Pheonix31. That's all you can be. With your attitude there is great potential for things to work!
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07-04-2017, 09:26 AM
RE: Telling My Kids I Don't Believe
It's a fine line to walk.

My daughter is 7, and attends a Sunday school. She doesn't go to church, but she has latched onto the idea via the sunday school, which is partly run by my mother who is religious. Not something she talks about a lot but has told me shes loves Jesus and all sorts of stuff. She's asked me the exact same thing about people being gay and about religion and this is what I would recommend:

Just be honest. Kids are smarter than we give them credit for. I told my daughter that i don't believe, but it's fine if she does. I also openly tell her that there are other religions, and maybe it's something to talk about when she's older. Re: people being gay, again I've told her the same as you, that's just the same as a man and a women being in love, so they can get married as well. I've also shown my daughter the wonders of the solar system, and will answer any question she has as honestly as I can.

Keep a loose link open with them when they ask real questions: sexuality/what's right and wrong/science and so on, and later in life they can decide for themselves. Whilst I'm an atheist, I'd never stop her from believing whatever she wants when she's old enough to decide.

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07-04-2017, 09:53 AM
RE: Telling My Kids I Don't Believe
Personally, I don't think its right for you to pray for them or do devotionals with them. How do I put it, I get asked by christians to pray with them sometimes and I'm thinking "that would be kinda shitty of me to do that wouldn't it?" Like... disrespectful? I mean I don't have much respect for christians, but I would think they would want me to show more respect by not cheapening their rituals by playing with them. Like.... couldn't that also confuse the kids a bit? If you say you don't believe in god but ask god for safety n stuff in prayer?

I wouldn't recommend underestimating the power of indoctrination, your children will never be able to easily decide for themselves if you let the religious influences brainwash them and terrorize them with hell. The day they tell your children that you are going to hell you'll see what I mean.





I mean, don't take my advice too seriously. I would tell my kids "There is no god, santa is dead, life is meaningless, one day you're going to die..... But that's ok cause I love you." (Clearly there's something wrong with me).

DLJ Wrote:And, yes, the principle of freedom of expression works both ways... if someone starts shit, better shit is the best counter-argument.
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07-04-2017, 10:11 AM
RE: Telling My Kids I Don't Believe
(07-04-2017 09:53 AM)JesseB Wrote:  Personally, I don't think its right for you to pray for them or do devotionals with them. How do I put it, I get asked by christians to pray with them sometimes and I'm thinking "that would be kinda shitty of me to do that wouldn't it?" Like... disrespectful? I mean I don't have much respect for christians, but I would think they would want me to show more respect by not cheapening their rituals by playing with them. Like.... couldn't that also confuse the kids a bit? If you say you don't believe in god but ask god for safety n stuff in prayer?

I wouldn't recommend underestimating the power of indoctrination, your children will never be able to easily decide for themselves if you let the religious influences brainwash them and terrorize them with hell. The day they tell your children that you are going to hell you'll see what I mean.





I mean, don't take my advice too seriously. I would tell my kids "There is no god, santa is dead, life is meaningless, one day you're going to die..... But that's ok cause I love you." (Clearly there's something wrong with me).


That video reminds me of something that happened this last weekend at my house. My sister in law (who I absolutely hate) and her 8 year old daughter came over to the house. My daughter and my sister in laws daughter were in my daughters room and something was brought up about church and why my daughter didn't go this weekend. I told her that my daughter doesn't have to go to church if she chooses not to. Sydney (sister in laws kid) responded that she will go to hell if she doesn't. Now... needless to say I'm not really big on Sydney either since her mother (my sister in law) is a horrible fucking person. I told Sydney that "well... since I don't believe in God I'm not too concerned". She then told me that I'm going to hell too. I told her "Since there is no such place as hell I'm not really concerned but you should be a little more concerned about the way your mother is bringing you up". Shit thing to say I know but since I can't stand either one of them I didn't really care. I agree it was the wrong way to go about it but damn it made me feel good.

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07-04-2017, 11:25 AM
RE: Telling My Kids I Don't Believe
I am a father of 3 (10,7,4) and they are aware that I don't believe. Granted, my situation is different than yours because I had stopped going to church before they were born but my wife totally wants them to be christian. Like you, I want them to think for themselves and not be indoctrinated. I would stop praying at night with them as that will only confuse them. When the inevitable questions come to your husband, he can point to that and say that you really still do believe on god, "see she prays to jesus at night with you." If you don't want to do it, try just talking about what their favorite part of the week was. That is what I do. I don't know what type of marriage you have but in mine, fortunately, it wasn't based on religion so it survived my exit from religion. I know this will cause tension but frankly there is no way around that. If you don't want your kids brainwashed, that is a fight you are inevitably going to have. It is worse depending how fundie your husband and in-laws are. My wife is very religious and also very, very active in her church which is an evangelical one. All you can be is yourself.

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07-04-2017, 11:42 PM
RE: Telling My Kids I Don't Believe
I'm really sorry to hear about your situation, that must be so difficult Heart

I wish I had some useful experience I could draw on here. The closest I have is that my dad "indoctrinated" me to believe I was inept, and I believed it. He ground down my confidence over the years, to the point where I was eventually suicidal. My mum watched him do it, and did nothing. I know it's not exactly the same, but indoctrination of any kind is so wrong and you should have at least some say in how your kids are raised.

I do understand that your situation is doubly difficult though, with everyone around you being fundamentalist. I think your gradual approach is totally understandable, and dealing with questions as they come may well be more likely to work than simply announcing stuff. I feel like having to still partake in rituals is unfair on you, and may confuse them in the long run. Maybe they'd be upset to find out you've been pretending.

But it's easy for me to say. I can't imagine how tricky it is being trapped in a world of fundamentalism. I wish you all the very best.

I have a website here which discusses the issues and terminology surrounding religion and atheism. It's hopefully user friendly to all.
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08-04-2017, 01:08 AM
RE: Telling My Kids I Don't Believe
I empathize with your situation very much. When my kids were younger, the whole family went to church and we all believed in God. Their dad and I got divorced when they were 7 and 9. As my children got older, I told them they can believe anything they want. I continued to believe in God for awhile. My son (who believed in God more than any of us) began to question whether or not there was a God when he was about 12 or so, I followed and my daughter soon after. Their Dad also doesn't believe anymore. We are all Atheists now except my daughter is agnostic. She thinks religion is based on fictitious books but isn't sure if there is a higher power or not. They are 18 (daughter) and 20(son) now. By encouraging them to learn on their own and come to their own conclusions, they both believe in evolution and are very liberal.
My point is that if you encourage your kids (as they get older) to explore and learn, they may choose Atheism on their own. Also, it might be easier to say that you don't believe in the religion or the Bible than to say that you don't believe in God. I agree that the influence of your family (all being religious) is very strong and it makes your situation uniquely difficult. It is such a waste of time to spend your life believing in and following the rules of a fictitious book about a fake savior. You owe it to your kids to have a chance to get out. Good luck.
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08-04-2017, 08:17 AM
RE: Telling My Kids I Don't Believe
(08-04-2017 01:08 AM)47average Wrote:  My point is that if you encourage your kids (as they get older) to explore and learn, they may choose Atheism on their own. Also, it might be easier to say that you don't believe in the religion or the Bible than to say that you don't believe in God. I agree that the influence of your family (all being religious) is very strong and it makes your situation uniquely difficult. It is such a waste of time to spend your life believing in and following the rules of a fictitious book about a fake savior. You owe it to your kids to have a chance to get out. Good luck.

I agree with this. I grew up in a very religious family and I'm the only Atheist that came out of my family. But at age 14 I just couldn't take the stories that I was being taught as literal. So I began my own journey (as many of us on here have done) and I "personally" believe it has made me a better person for it. Morality isn't based on any type of religion and my moral compass isn't controlled by some supreme being. It's controlled by my own actions. The mistakes I make I learn from them. The successes that I achieve I contribute to me and others that helped me get there. I don't need a belief in a higher power to justify either of those things.

I get to decide what my life looks like, not the other way around.
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