Telling your children you're an atheist now?
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30-07-2013, 08:11 AM
Telling your children you're an atheist now?
I've been "out" to my husband for quite some time now. Can't recall if it's been a year or just six months, but anyway... Over the course of this time (and even before, as I was going through deconversion), I've not attended church. Neither has my husband. The church that we were affiliated with was several miles away (okay more like 25) so he always wanted to save gas and just stay home. Our children have been attending church, via my mother, as she didn't mind the trip or the extra gas money it took.

So recently we've moved into town and there is a church literally up the street that my husband went to as a child. He's started going there now. This last Sunday, he and the kids went to church while I slept in (Ahh, the perks of being a godless bitch!!! Yes ).

Later that day, my oldest child asked me why I hadn't gone to church with them and because it caught me off guard, I simply said that it was because I'd been asleep. It reminded me that I haven't really "come out" to my own kids, and I'm not sure if I should or not. My primary concern is that, if any of you are familiar with Baptist churches, they've no doubt been exposed to "hard preaching" of the fire and brimstone type and I don't want them to worry about me going to hell. Sure I can sit there and tell them I don't believe it's real anymore, but I don't want them to be scared, either.

My husband and I have had our share of troubles (I asked him for a divorce* - okay, I didn't ask, I told him I wanted out - among other things) including my recent turn to atheism, but he's been good about giving the children the choice to go to church or not which I'm pleased about. As long as it's their choice, I can be at peace with the whole thing. But I absolutely WILL NOT go "play church" just to make it seem like everything is as it used to be. So there's the dilemma...

Once they go there enough times without me, the questions will continue, and I need to be prepared with what to tell my kids. How did y'all handle such a delicate conversation with your own children? Advice?

Thanks!

*we're trying to work things out right now...

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30-07-2013, 08:15 AM
RE: Telling your children you're an atheist now?
That is a tough one. My son is only 1 1/2 years old but and while his mother is a believer, she isn't a fire and brimstone kind of attendee.

How old are they?

“Science is simply common sense at its best, that is, rigidly accurate in observation, and merciless to fallacy in logic.”
—Thomas Henry Huxley
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30-07-2013, 08:21 AM
RE: Telling your children you're an atheist now?
(30-07-2013 08:15 AM)TheBeardedDude Wrote:  That is a tough one. My son is only 1 1/2 years old but and while his mother is a believer, she isn't a fire and brimstone kind of attendee.

How old are they?

My daughter is 12 and my son is 8.

To be fair, I've never been to this particular church, so I don't know how "hard" the preaching is. I just know that I was a Baptist for a hell of a long time and Hell was not a subject to be glossed over.

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30-07-2013, 08:26 AM
RE: Telling your children you're an atheist now?
(30-07-2013 08:21 AM)Escape Artist Wrote:  
(30-07-2013 08:15 AM)TheBeardedDude Wrote:  That is a tough one. My son is only 1 1/2 years old but and while his mother is a believer, she isn't a fire and brimstone kind of attendee.

How old are they?

My daughter is 12 and my son is 8.

To be fair, I've never been to this particular church, so I don't know how "hard" the preaching is. I just know that I was a Baptist for a hell of a long time and Hell was not a subject to be glossed over.

Might be worth first talking to your husband about to see what he thinks your kids have been exposed to. See if you can gauge what he thinks the reaction might be.

After that, I'd say the 12 year old is certainly old enough to be expected to have a conversation but the 8 year old (if fire and brimstone is part of the preaching) might be a bit young.

I really have no idea though.

“Science is simply common sense at its best, that is, rigidly accurate in observation, and merciless to fallacy in logic.”
—Thomas Henry Huxley
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30-07-2013, 10:53 AM
RE: Telling your children you're an atheist now?
I agree with TBD that the 12 year old is probably mature enough to handle it. I have a 10 & 11 and haven't discussed my beliefs with them. It will be something I work through with my wife. I tested the waters a couple of weeks ago when we were in Clearwater fl and I made an off-hand comment about the "loony scientologists". My wife objected to the broad brush characterization. She was probably correct in admonishing me for stereotyping but damn, they're scientologists.

Ack, I've wandered from your topic. Back on topic.... Even with the difference in ages, I think one way is to start a conversation about different beliefs with both your kids. Explain that there are several mainstream religions which claim existence of their view of a god, that throughout history there have been other religions which have gone away and there are also some people who don't believe in a god at all. Your husband should have no objection up to this point as it is factual and if your objective for the talk is to "preach" tolerance of others, you've probably (1) helped them to be better human beings no matter what they choose to believe and (2) pave the way for their understanding your point of view without causing too much friction with your husband. It can't hurt to have him present as well.

If they ask you what you think I'd be probably go with "I am not sure" in order to ease them into the idea without placing yourself in a category that they've been told at church is evil.

Just my opinion.
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30-07-2013, 11:31 AM
RE: Telling your children you're an atheist now?
Last week's TTA podcast is an excellent discussion about talking to your children about atheism esp when you and your spouse disagree.
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31-07-2013, 06:21 AM
RE: Telling your children you're an atheist now?
I think the first thing you would want to do it prepare yourself for the litany of questions you're bound to get about why you don't believe.

“One of the painful things about our time is that those who feel certainty are stupid,
and those with any imagination and understanding are filled with doubt and indecision.”

- Bertrand Russel
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31-07-2013, 06:46 AM (This post was last modified: 31-07-2013 06:54 AM by Hafnof.)
RE: Telling your children you're an atheist now?
When my (now 7 year old) daughter came out with religious proclamations I disagreed with I told her that some people believe other things. I would talk to her about some of the different things other people believed. It took probably six months of this before she asked me "and what do you believe", giving me space to say "Oh, I don't believe any of that stuff". Since then I've answered her questions in a fairly straightforward dry way, and tried to make room for my believer wife to have her input also. I still query her on proclamations she might come out with and encourage her to delve into her reasons for making them.

I always try to give her explicit permission to try on different ideas and to think about what she believes for herself. She's still bouncing around and so she should be. Dawkins has a quote talking about how we shouldn't label children as Muslim, Catholic, Protestant, or any religion any more than we would label them Keynesian, Marxist, Free Market Capitalists, etc. I agree with his point and I think Atheist (given the way it is usually used and the baggage that comes with it) is not a label that is correct to apply to a child either. Her beliefs are not defined yet. She'll come to her own understanding in her own time. Right now she's just starting to come to grips with the first questions that she needs to ask to find her answers. I welcome her trying on different ideas. I encourage her to keep thinking, and coming up with new ideas an approaches.

I post about my experiences with her from time to time:
* http://www.thethinkingatheist.com/forum/...x-year-old
* http://www.thethinkingatheist.com/forum/...-at-church

Give me your argument in the form of a published paper, and then we can start to talk.
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31-07-2013, 09:13 AM
RE: Telling your children you're an atheist now?
Thanks everyone for your input and advice.

Introducing them to other religions/beliefs sounds like a good idea, whenever it comes down to the time where I start explaining just why I don't believe.

And yeah, I figured they'll probably have lots of questions and no doubt I won't anticipate all of them.

I'll have to check out that episode of TTA, and Hafnof, I'll check out your posts as well.

It's just nerve-wracking, thinking about coming out to them (even to just one of them, since my daughter will comprehend more of this than my son will), but it's not nearly so bad as when I came out to my husband.

I mainly just want them to know that it is okay to not believe anything. When I was a kid, I had no idea that there was any such thing as atheists. I thought that everyone had at least a casual belief in God ("The Man Upstairs" and such) and just figured that the only reason some people didn't go to church was because: 1. They didn't like the people there (labeled them as hypocrites, etc.) 2. They didn't like the pastor. 3. They were just plain lazy and wanted to sleep in. 4. They didn't want to follow God's rules but wanted to pray to him when it was convenient.

Nowhere in my mind did I know there was another option and I don't want my children to grow up as naively as I did.

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31-07-2013, 09:39 AM
RE: Telling your children you're an atheist now?
You can also try getting the Magic of Reality by Dawkins as a book to leave around for them to read. When my son who was not yet 9 read the chapter with me on evolution and small changes not being visible but over large time scales it was, it was exciting for me to see his mind grasp the concept instead of being told something. The book addresses other religions and their beliefs sporadically in each of the chapters.
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