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Peter B

Teaching children about religion

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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!

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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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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.

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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.

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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.

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

Are you serious? Bible-themed sleep overs?

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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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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.

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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.

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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
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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.

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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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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.

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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.

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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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Teach them that there are more religions than just Christianity. Expose them to alternatives, some of which are much more reasonable.

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Are you serious? Bible-themed sleep overs?

Yep.

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.

Ah, no worries then.
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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.

Leo, I would say from parenting experience it is imperative to encourage access to many perspectives, to many ways of thinking, I would want them to dip their toes into all kinds of ideas, I would/have encouraged mine so that they got the experience of making informed opinions. In order for a kid to critically think they have to have something to think about, something of quality. They also have to be encouraged to discuss what is on their mind and not be punished/silenced for it. Leo, I want to add that religion can be presented with quality. I am an Atheist, yet I show my kids I appreciate the traditions of many beliefs; I genuinely find many paths interesting. I am honored to be a part of ones journey, that they would share it with me humbles me.The more a child has been exposed to at home the more they can understand in the way of the diverse perspectives they will encounter in their life.

Edited by Sherapy
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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.

You are correct this can happen, we do meet people who are aggressive and assertive in their views, this can apply to things other then religion too. It is unfortunate and it sucks when it does happen, but a kid or even an adult then learns ways (via the experience) to deal with these situations. When my son was 8 he was in a uncomfortable situation with adults that were religious, he was shook up by it, so his dad and I comforted him, and once he was calm we discussed positive/constructive ways to deal with those moments. He has not had an issue since. For us-- it was a win win he learned (perhaps a bit earlier then we would of wanted )how to handle those types of situations.

Edited by Sherapy
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Leo, I would say from parenting experience it is imperative to encourage access to many perspectives, to many ways of thinking, I would want them to dip their toes into all kinds of ideas, I would/have encouraged mine so that they got the experience of making informed opinions. In order for a kid to critically think they have to have something to think about, something of quality. They also have to be encouraged to discuss what is on their mind and not be punished/silenced for it. Leo, I want to add that religion can be presented with quality. I am an Atheist, yet I show my kids I appreciate the traditions of many beliefs; I genuinely find many paths interesting. I am honored to be a part of ones journey, that they would share it with me humbles me.The more a child has been exposed to at home the more they can understand in the way of the diverse perspectives they will encounter in their life.

I did not state a person should not teach children about religion, I stated it was, in my opinion, not necessary.

Regardless the intent and integrity of the teacher, it is my opinion that the teacher's natural bias always influences what they teach, and how they teach it. In the case of subjective beliefs such as religion, that would mean the teacher subconsciously promoting their own beliefs in favour of any other. It might be subtle, but it is, I believe, inevitable.

However, despite what I believe in this regard, it is still the choice of the teacher as to what they teach. I would not say "this should not be taught" as if a command, but suggest what I believe is not necessary to teach.

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You are correct this can happen, we do meet people who are aggressive and assertive in their views, this can apply to things other then religion too. It is unfortunate and it sucks when it does happen, but a kid or even an adult then learns ways (via the experience) to deal with these situations. When my son was 8 he was in a uncomfortable situation with adults that were religious, he was shook up by it, so his dad and I comforted him, and once he was calm we discussed positive/constructive ways to deal with those moments. He has not had an issue since. For us-- it was a win win he learned (perhaps a bit earlier then we would of wanted )how to handle those types of situations.

Oh certainly, just want to make sure he's aware that this is one thing he should prepare for.

This is a discussion I'm having with my current girlfriend, since she's talked about having kids. It's a bit more complicated because she is religious.

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When this comes up with my son my wife and I have decided to give him books on all religions and allow him to make an informed decision based on what feels right to him. After all traditionally religion is determined by geographic location. I will be happy with him for any religion if any that he chooses.

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be informative OF RELIGIONS AND THE CONTRARY TOO WITH NO RELIGION EXPAND THE OPTIONS OF STUDY JUST DRAG THIS TO THE CHILDREN DONT BE TENDECIOUS JUST DRAG THE INFORMATION OF EXPLAIN AND LET THE CHILDREN KNOW :yes: YOUR WAY

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I did not state a person should not teach children about religion, I stated it was, in my opinion, not necessary.

Regardless the intent and integrity of the teacher, it is my opinion that the teacher's natural bias always influences what they teach, and how they teach it. In the case of subjective beliefs such as religion, that would mean the teacher subconsciously promoting their own beliefs in favour of any other. It might be subtle, but it is, I believe, inevitable.

However, despite what I believe in this regard, it is still the choice of the teacher as to what they teach. I would not say "this should not be taught" as if a command, but suggest what I believe is not necessary to teach.

Leo, I agree by positing for a belief one is stating a bias, and most parents account for this, the way I accounted for this was by telling my children that this is what I think, what I have decided works for me after much thought, and I want you to decide for yourself, period. I have an agnostic, a Catholic, a Christian, and a hubby that says religion who? I'd say I think it is clear that in spite of my position as an atheist they have chosen for themselves. I'll tell you-- I enjoy listening to my sons thoughts on things, I am at the point where it isn't about some right way, it is about sharing journeys, and that they include me is an honor, one I am humbled by. That my boys can share with me who they are is the greatest gift I could ever have. (Of course my sons are 25, 20, and 16.)

Edited by Sherapy
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Oh certainly, just want to make sure he's aware that this is one thing he should prepare for.

This is a discussion I'm having with my current girlfriend, since she's talked about having kids. It's a bit more complicated because she is religious.

I agree it is a great idea to be practical by being prepared. Things do happen. :tu:

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