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Teaching children about religion


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#1    Peter B

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Posted 18 December 2013 - 09:23 AM

My wife and I aren't religious, although we were both brought up in religious families. Our oldest child is now at school, and some of his friends come from religious families.

We realise we'll have to explain religion to him, but we're not sure how to approach it. We want him to be respectful of others' beliefs, even though we don't agree with them, and we also want him to have enough knowledge to understand what his classmates might talk about.

So how do you explain the concepts of God and religion to a child who's had no religious education, without being trite, confusing or disrespectful? The most common religion here is Christianity but there are no doubt children whose families belong to other religions too. Having said that, families with no religion are probably just as common.

Any thoughts (whatever your religion or lack thereof) would be appreciated.

Thank you!


#2    Paranoid Android

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Posted 18 December 2013 - 09:50 AM

Tell them that some purple believe there is a creator who put everything on this planet, that it didn't just come about by random chance. Tell them that these people believe God created the world for humans, because he loves us. If you love him back (he became a human himself, called Jesus) he will never forsake you. These people believe that because of Jesus, when we die we won't really be gone because God will be there in a place called heaven to be with us in joy, for all eternity.

Then explain that you yourselves don't believe this, but many others do, and they sincerely believe it with all their hearts, so respect them for that difference in opinion.

From there it's up to you how far you would like them to investigate. And be prepared to deal with the possibility that they may believe it, how would you react - are they going through a phase, do you forbid them from going to church with a friend, that kind of thing? Of course, your child is only 5 or 6 if he's juststarting school, so this is llong term thinking. But as a 5-year old, I think the first two paragraphs is sufficient to this. I doubt another 5-year old Christian could explain their beliefs any better than this, so why try?

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#3    davros of skaro

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Posted 18 December 2013 - 10:11 AM

First off do not underestimate a child's capacity for understanding.

I would treat it like Santa Claus as I would for my own child.I would tell my child Santa is not real, but respect those children in school that do.More explaining is needed, but make them understand people do things differently, and it's not his place to interfere.

Make him understand that People have different beliefs on how things are by not knowing, and made to believe different things out of tradition.Tell him Religious ideas have been with us for a long time with evidence of grave goods placed with early man.
Let him know the science of what we know, and he can chose what he wants down the road when he is more knowledgeable.

I would show him, and explain this video, and like I said, do not underestimate what a child can absorb.I would tell him to not delve into others beliefs, and just nod his/her head at the other students if they bring it up.

https://www.youtube....h?v=Ln8UwPd1z20

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https://m.youtube.co...h?v=79Lmmy2jfeo <-- "Mythical Jesus" Dr. Carrier
https://m.youtube.co...h?v=IybD2xzkhtc <-- "Mythical Moses" Dr. Price (starts@10:20)
http://www.unexplain...howtopic=272571 <-- Science Behind Irrational Beliefs
Inanna the Goddess of love was crucified, then after 3 days/nights was resurrected. An over 3,000 yo Tablet saying this is proof of it's truth. Praise Jesus Serotonin Christ!

#4    shadowsot

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Posted 18 December 2013 - 10:25 AM

Teach them critical thinking skills, that will keep them out of most of the harmful religions. Teach them so they can think then let them figure out religion fr themselves. Explain some people believe in one god, some believe in many gods. Talk to them about mythology of the Greeks and Egyptians.
And at the end of the day realize you can offer them advice and infrmation, but they'll make up their own mind.

Bit of a warning, not knowing where you are but I've heard from many atheist parents that their children get bullied in schools with lots of religious kids, and they also get constant offers t let their kids go to Bible themed sleep overs where they try to preach to the child.

It was so much easier to blame it on Them. It was bleakly depressing to think that They were Us. If it was Them, then nothing was anyone's fault. If it was us, what did that make Me? After all, I'm one of Us. I must be. I've certainly never thought of myself as one of Them. No one ever thinks of themselves as one of Them. We're always one of Us. It's Them that do the bad things.
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#5    Frank Merton

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Posted 18 December 2013 - 10:29 AM

I think it's impossible to expect that children won't generally be raised in the religion of their parents, much as I also think that is unfair to the child.


#6    Ealdwita

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Posted 18 December 2013 - 11:39 AM

View PostShadowSot, on 18 December 2013 - 10:25 AM, said:

Bible themed sleep overs where they try to preach to the child.

Are you serious? Bible-themed sleep overs?

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I can teach you with a quip, if I've a mind; I can trick you into learning with a laugh; Oh, winnow all my folly and you'll find, A grain or two of truth among the chaff!
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#7    GreenmansGod

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Posted 18 December 2013 - 12:45 PM

I was brain washed as a child, not by my parents, but by babysitters, friends and Baptist Bible camp.  My mom thought we would have fun at camp, if she had only known what was going on I don't know if she would have sent us. There is a lot of peer pressure out there and people have this idea religion is good no matter what and they want to indoctrinate your child in it.    Having had that done to me in childhood I was very careful with my kids and taught them about all religions and made sure they had a good grounding in real history and science.  Don't depend on the school to do it, here in the States they are some of the worst offenders in religious indoctrination.  One of my kids ended up falling in love with a Christian girl and got sucked in, but I have notice of late the education I gave him has payed off and he is starting to rethink his choices.   As a Pagan we try not to indoctrinate our children in our religion,  what religion they go with or no religion is their choice.  Education and critical thinking are the safe guards to prevent getting sucked into a cult.     Good luck, I am glad you are taking the time to think about this.

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#8    Moon Gazer

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Posted 18 December 2013 - 01:06 PM

I'm Pagan and do not push my beliefs on my children.  They do sometimes attend things with us such as a camp at Mabon where there was a ritual.  However, I do let them know my beliefs and tell them that other people do not believe the same as me.

I do try and teach them about other religions and also let them know that it's ok to not believe in any of it.

I myself enjoy reading and learning about other religions so I actually find it fun myself and we often do crafts and things on other religious holiday and learn about the history of those beliefs.


#9    Peter B

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Posted 18 December 2013 - 01:53 PM

View PostShadowSot, on 18 December 2013 - 10:25 AM, said:

Bit of a warning, not knowing where you are but I've heard from many atheist parents that their children get bullied in schools with lots of religious kids, and they also get constant offers t let their kids go to Bible themed sleep overs where they try to preach to the child.
Australia.

Not a particularly religious country (God made the weather too nice to sit in church on a sunny Sunday morning!) but also a generally fairly tolerant one these days.


#10    thyra

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Posted 18 December 2013 - 03:00 PM

All you can do is make them love reading which will help them have a healthy conscience. I think a kid should have a very good library beside herself from very early age on. The library should include all sorts of books from different backgrounds and absolutely should have the classics.

Other than that nothing is needed. Everybody has their own inner guiding system and such things are learned through choice among possible options. You just keep the kid aware of them.

Edited by thyra, 18 December 2013 - 03:04 PM.

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#11    Agent0range

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Posted 18 December 2013 - 04:22 PM

I'm a Christian (I don't go to church) and my wife is an atheist.  We don't push religion on to our children at all.  My daughter is at the age where she does ask questions, and I tell her what I believe and what my wife believes, and we don't ridicule each other's beliefs while talking to our daughter.  If she wants to be a Chrisian, Muslim, Jew, Buddhist or Atheist, that decision is hers to make when it is right for her.  It has always been my belief that religion is a sham if you had to be dragged into it from birth.


#12    Purplos

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Posted 18 December 2013 - 05:14 PM

I mean no disrespect here, but it always boggles my mind when people don't know how to explain something to their children. Just give em the facts, your opinion, and let them know everyone, including them, are free to make their own opinions.

I think everyone should definitely teach their kids about all major religions at least (impossible to teach about all of them I'm sure) because they are a huge force in the world.

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#13    Sherapy

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Posted 18 December 2013 - 05:37 PM

View PostPeter B, on 18 December 2013 - 09:23 AM, said:

My wife and I aren't religious, although we were both brought up in religious families. Our oldest child is now at school, and some of his friends come from religious families.

We realise we'll have to explain religion to him, but we're not sure how to approach it. We want him to be respectful of others' beliefs, even though we don't agree with them, and we also want him to have enough knowledge to understand what his classmates might talk about.

So how do you explain the concepts of God and religion to a child who's had no religious education, without being trite, confusing or disrespectful? The most common religion here is Christianity but there are no doubt children whose families belong to other religions too. Having said that, families with no religion are probably just as common.

Any thoughts (whatever your religion or lack thereof) would be appreciated.

Thank you!
IMO. That you have even asked this  question speaks to me of the quality of your parenting((wise.) I'll answer from my personal experience. The moment this really matters is when your kids begin to ask these types of questions (around 5-7). It is at this time that you as a parent will model tolerance or intolerance. This is the moment we set a foundation of tolerance. This is the moment when we tell our kids the simple fact that people can and do believe many things, they have a right to do this. I simply said to my kids when the time came that this is what they believe, this is what I believe and when you are older you will decide what you believe. In the mean time, you have an opportunity to learn something new about your friend and you must always be respectful of another beliefs.That was it. I am an Atheist, my husband an Agnostic, two out of three of my kids chose religious paths. Each path is practiced in a way that is tolerant.


#14    Sherapy

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Posted 18 December 2013 - 05:42 PM

View PostPurplos, on 18 December 2013 - 05:14 PM, said:

I mean no disrespect here, but it always boggles my mind when people don't know how to explain something to their children. Just give em the facts, your opinion, and let them know everyone, including them, are free to make their own opinions.

I think everyone should definitely teach their kids about all major religions at least (impossible to teach about all of them I'm sure) because they are a huge force in the world.


I veer from your position, I think it is an excellent question and speaks of the quality of the parenting, which is humble, genuine, and honest.


#15    Leonardo

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Posted 18 December 2013 - 05:51 PM

I agree with Shadowsot.

It is not necessary to teach young children about the various religions, but it is necessary to start teaching them about critical-thinking. Begin with teaching them to think independently; that they don't have to agree with their friends to be friends; that what a person believes to be true might only be true to that person; etc.

Once the child learns how to think, they can make their own mind up regarding what to think.

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