I have 3 boys, ages 14 (prior marriage), 9, and 6.  I have been an out-of-the-closet atheist for 6 years, but I have always tried to look at the world as a scientist.  (The mental discord of this is what finally forced me to admit my atheism.)

I constantly talk about science, math, and logic with my younger two.  I have tried to not force them to be atheists -- I constantly show them other viewpoints.  But I do encourage them to question.  And so they have become critical thinkers.  It's almost a fine line to walk.  My nine-year-old hears or sees an ad, and immediately picks apart how they are trying to manipulate his view.  Or he hears his friend say something about church and he later explains the flaws in the logic to me.  Looks like "emergent behavior" to me... I was merely teaching critical thinking! :)

I have also taught my kids the golden rule.  They are very kind and well-behaved.  I have no worries there.

But here's the problem.  They have no social context.  I am surprised how often Christian bible stories come up in every-day life, and my poor kids have no clue of the back-story.  I find myself explaining stories to them... but it all feels ridiculous (today due to a political cartoon I tried to explain talking to god via a burning bush, with a straight face, to a skeptical kid.)  I am caught in the middle.  It's bullshit, my kids and I both know it, but it's the world we live in.

I have internally debated (and occasionally suggested) that we all go read the (Christian) bible together.  But it's too long and obtuse (and nasty?) for 6 and 9 year olds.  I am not ready to fully explain the meaning of "to know" in Job, for example.  And yet... not telling the story for what it is, is lying.  Yuck all around.

I suppose I should find a kid's bible story book, and read it with them.  I want to present it as "This is what many people believe", and leave it at that.  Perhaps in later years they can read the source for themselves.

My questions:

  • Suggestions for which book, appropriate for smart 6 and 9 year olds?  Evangelical books would turn my kids off, guaranteed.  I want to teach literature and culture, not try to convert.
  • But what about non-christian views?  There is no single "The Bible".
  • And how do I approach it?  How many times can I say "Some people believe..." with a straight face?

Mostly I want to help my 9 year old understand his friends and his world better.  I understand it because I started there.  But it makes no sense to a modern scientific youth.

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Stop trying to avoid your viewpoint. Be straight with your kids. I was brought up by atheists and taught to question. So i read christian theologians and apologists on my own. When your kids are ready and if they are interested they will read both sides.

I assume that most of their peers do not know a great deal about the bible. So just a cursory perusal of bible stories should bring your kids up to speed. And after you have read and examined those stories you might want to investigate indoctrination. And i say that because it was very difficult for me to understand how others could be so gullible and stupid. It might help your kids adapt and understand.

Yeah, I'm not trying to avoid my viewpoint.  Maybe my last bullet sounds too "PC" with the "some people believe" thing.

Good point, mentioning indoctrination.  That can help them bridge the gap between "good friend" and "stupid belief".

They could get some exposure and context watching movies, too...though I suspect their attention span  isn't long enough for something like The Ten Commandments.

It'd be far worse if you were reading the Koran.  When reading the Koran I was struck by how much time it spent giving its own take on the Bible, it retells many of the stories with its own spin on them and will even do so two or three times in different Surahs.  The arrangement of the Surahs doesn't lend itself to a chronological read-through.  (It's roughly by length, with the first Surah being short, then the rest in roughly decreasing size order, not chronological order...and the chronological order is important!)  Within the longer Surahs, multiple broad topics are covered and the jump from one to the next can be a bit surprising, one verse you're talking about what is haram, the next, oh, look out of the blue let's talk about Lot.  Did Mohammed do that, or did that happen after he died?

At least with the Bible the story of Noah is told only once.  (It's my personal favorite for "most ridiculous" perhaps because it's not just another "so and so did a magic trick" story, but because what Noah is supposed to have done is very concrete, and when you think about it, would have needed lots of magic tricks that aren't mentioned to house and feed the animals--then you have to explain a lot of things the actual writers from 1000 BC or so wouldn't have known about.  (How all the marsupials just happened to wander off to Australia and nowhere else, just f'r'instance.)

There is a really good literal Jewish translation of the Bible without the Christian 'spin'.

It's interesting that it opens with 'In the Beginning gods made the world' yep, plural. There's a point for debate right off the bat. In the 10 commandments it clearly states 'Thou shall not commit murder', which is a very different thing from 'Shall not kill', another point for debate.

This will stimulate them, identify the modern contradictions for them and arm them with a good solid base to counter the arguments they are likely to come across. At the end of the day someone called Jesus may well have said 'love each other', in any case that's not a bad thing to have said, we can all learn something positive from that, it's just a shame most modern Christians forget the basic teachings of their own god.

In the 10 commandments it clearly states 'Thou shall not commit murder', which is a very different thing from 'Shall not kill', another point for debate.

Many modern Xian translations use the word murder here.

Another site I frequent has a guy on it who will jump on anyone who quotes "Thou shalt not kill" and I immediately counter with, "Hey, if you're going to bitch about this, then go after King James.  It's not these peoples' fault the most popular version of the Bible in the English speaking world got it wrong."

That's true, but you'd think given how integrity is important to them that they'd correct such an obvious foul-up.

Well here's the problem, many sects believe that if there is a conflict between the KJV and the old Hebrew/Greek manuscripts...the manuscripts are wrong!  (This would help with the ol' Isaiah 7:14 virgin/young woman issue too.)  God, you see, was apparently looking over the translators' shoulders and making sure they corrected any mistakes.

I'm not claiming every sect that favors KJV thinks like this, but a lot of them do; I've heard the New International Version (popular with some other sects because of its relative readability) sneeringly referred to as the "Nearly Inspired Version."

Three movies:

The Passion of the Christ

The Life of Brian

Bill Maher's Religulous

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