The first thing I must acknowledge is the fact that I don't have children. There are many reasons why but the most obvious would be the fact that I consider myself too young, despite what my mother says, and I haven't found anyone whose DNA I want to mix with mine.
I adore children's books and the other day I found The Story of Everything, a pop-up book about evolution, at Ross. I was reading it to my 8 year old niece and 3 month old nephew. My nephew didn't seem to care for it but my niece was incredibly interested. She's being raised Catholic and is familiar with their story of creation but she was very accepting of the fact that there was a big bang 15 million years ago and life started in the sea 365 million years ago. In fact, she summed up the entire book when we were done with, "So there was a big bang, then there were fishes, then the fish grew legs and turned into dinosaurs. There was a boom (the sound I made for the meteorite), most of them died, mammals took over and smart monkeys turned into humans? Then the humans made cities and in another million years we might turn into something else?"
The entire event made me wonder... what books do atheists read to their children? How do atheists raise children in a theistic world? And does anyone else try to influence the children of their family to question the religion of their parents?
I'm sorry if this has been asked before. I searched the first five pages in the forums I thought most likely to have it and didn't find anything so I started my own discussion.
I have a 2 year old and a 6 month old. So far it hasn't been an issue, but we plan on mostly raising the boys to question everything. We want them to think logically and critically before accepting any particular idea as "fact."
It isn't really a challenge to raise them atheist - that's the natural state of being. You have to be TAUGHT to believe that there's a God. If you just learn what's good, and about being nice... you don't need a deity injected into everything. As for what we read to them, the vast majority of books are seriously agnostic. There are a few that I kind of skim over bits that talk about thanking God for mommy, or whatever. My parents are pretty active Catholics, and they have one book that kind of irritates me (an ABC book with a sub-title of "I can do anything with God!"). But, Dr. Seuss says nothing about faith. Neither does Sesame Street or Goodnight Moon.
I love your niece's summary of a few million years of history! I can only hope that my kids have the same sort of understanding of the world.
I think that's the biggest challenge with atheist parenting. Explaining to them why others believe what they do and especially dealing with their attempts to convert your child and indoctrinate him/her.
Also the social aspect of religion. Especially in rural areas, it may be hard to find some activities that aren't influenced or organized by religion
LOL. I love this!!!!
My own son is almost nine and he knows his dad and I are atheists. I don't find it a challenge at all to raise an atheist child in a theistic world. We talk a lot about choices and accountability, and I let him know he can bring any questions or thoughts to the table. My husband and I both attended a small, Christian university and we both studied religion quite a bit. We have bibles and other religious books around and he knows he can read them any time he wants.
One thing that is extremely important to me is that he not make fun of anyone for their faith, so we remind him that while he's allowed to think and believe whatever seems right to him, it's never okay to tell others their beliefs are wrong. On the rare occasions religion does come up with is buddies, he either says "I don't believe in god" or "I don't feel like talking about that".
Baby books were super easy. We stayed away from crap like Baby's First Bible and read classic baby stuff. Now that he's older, it's a little harder. He picked up a book about a kid detective from the library a few months back and I discovered it was all about how god wants you to behave. He hadn't started it yet, so I let him know it was a book about god and I told him he could read it if he wanted to. He chose not to. Other books surprise me too, because I don't remember them as religious. A Winkle in Time is very religiously themed, and that made for some good conversations. The same with the Narnia series.
I do believe that having religious texts and learning how to read/interpret them will be important for him later in life. Like it or not, literature and life is full of religion and he will miss out on so many references if he doesn't have at least a base knowledge of the bible and Christianity. But right now he has no interest in learning about religion and I'm not about to suggest it to him. If or when he starts running into references on his own and wants to find out more, I will be there to help him.
A funny aside: When he was five we were at a play date. The other children were 8 and 6 and come from a long line of Lutherans. They were out in the sand box when the 6 year old asked him if he believed in heaven ( her cat had just died). He said no. She retorted he was going to hell. He said he didn't believe in hell. She asked if he believed in god. He said "Yes. I believe in Neptune, angry god of the sea!" The other kids said they wouldn't play with him if he didn't believe in their god and they all came inside. Their mother handled it beautifully and told them to get over it. After we left she told them they weren't allowed to end a friendship over religion. Four years later, they are still some of our best friends.