I am in the UK where RE is broadly Christian and my daughter's school is taught by a vicar and a Christian and stories about floods and rivers of blood and killing the first born sons caused her to get very upset when she was 5 and I removed her from RE. This worked well cos the school is otherwise excellent and she has good friends there.
She is 8 now and wants to start doing RE again as she is no longer frightened of the stories. We spent some time at home looking at all the major religions and their beliefs and creation myths and also at Secular Humanism and the Big Bang and Evolution and taught her to think critically. She absolutely loves science and decided that gods were obviously 'pretend' and announced she is a secular Humanist. She reads a lot and enjoyed The Magic of Reality and The Greatest Show on Earth. She wants to be a biologist.
I am a little worried about certain things she says having never been taught to respect religion more than any other opinion. She has not been taught to disrespect it either and I have told her that other people have beliefs and given examples. However, she is only 8, does not know people are sensitive about their beliefs and still says things like 'Some people think the bible is non-fiction don't they?' and asserts very strongly that the story about God making the world in 6 days is rubbish. One teacher told her that she believed God was watching over them all and she said 'Well, I believe gods are made up.
' I am unsure if this was rude of her and disrespectful of the teacher's belief and I should talk to her about it even tho I do not feel personally that religion should be respected. Religion is nonsense and harmful nonsense but I have never said this tho she knows we do not believe in gods.She does not know about the human rights abuses caused by religion for example. You know how little girls like to right about things? She knows a lot about different gods and about evolution and she likes to share this knowledge. Just as she'll 'correct' someone's maths or vocabulary like other girls do, she will also 'correct' their belief in a god. :-S
Should I work with her about not doing this or am I then buying into the idea that religion has some special right to be respected? I just don't want her to get into trouble cos she prides herself on being a good girl and she really does not know religion is a sensitive subject. In reality tho, if someone says to her that they believe a god exists and she says she does not believe that one does, two opinions have been expressed, haven't they? Neither person has the right to be offended. The same as if a child says God made us and she says we evolved? Two opinions. If disagreeing is disrespecting then both have been disrespectful? She would never say anyone was stupid or laugh at them or anything. She does not even know many people do laugh at Christian over here.
What do you think? Should I take some time explaining that religion is sensitive and she should not blatantly contradict it with a different opinion in the same way as she would if someone was talking about a favourite TV programme or song? Or should I let her express her views confidently and then back her up if anyone tells her off? My protective motherhood side is warring with my evangelical atheist side! Apart from letting her read Richard Dawkins (and not The God Delusion yet) I have not ever told her I think that religion is a bad thing - just that we don't believe in gods so I have not taught her to think my way but I am very pleased she does think this way. I feel as though by letting her say what she really thinks I might be pushing my own agenda on her and she is a little girl who likes to conform and be praised for good behaviour and hard work. She would get really upset if someone told her off and she would not understand why? It would be unfair for anyone to tell her off and I would say so loud and clear but that would not stop her feeling upset?
What to do?
You should teach your daughter to be respectful of other beliefs, but also that she's deserve's respect for her's and should be allowed express them. Letting her say what she want's isn't forcing your agenda onto her, you let her make her own mind up so don't be afraid to let her speak it!
If someone tell's her off you should then step in and let rip on them! But I think it must be pretty similar in the the UK as here (Ireland) in that very few people would do that (I hope).
I'm finding it difficult to be respectful of your excessive and incorrect use of apostrophes. :-)
I believe ONLY that your daughter should be taught to respect the RIGHTS of others to believe as they wish; NOT those beliefs themselves, and NOT the intellectual vacuity of those who hold those beliefs. Most of my friends and relatives are Christians. I hold no animosity for any of them. In respecting their right to believe as they wish, I NEVER initiate religious discussions. However, if THEY choose to do so, I don't hold back my strongly anti-religious opinions. Generally speaking, they do the same, because we do genuinely like each other. As a matter of fact, I'm in love with a lady who believes that a person with an amputated arm can get it to grow back by praying.
Without exception, I have found all of the Jehovah's Witnesses who come to my door on a Saturday morning to be very nice, engaging people with whom to converse. I must admit, though, that I am a bit less sanguine about Mormons, who tend to be young, tall, white, and arrogant.
Respect and civility should be default positions for everyone but if the other person refuses to accord you the same, it is up to you whether or not to continue being respectful or civil. Obviously, these are going to be iffy situations for your daughter since most adults don't consider children to be intelligent thinking beings, sadly.
That said, you may want to read The God Virus by Darrel Ray. Also, scientists have found that there is only a very slight difference in the brain functioning of someone with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder doing their rituals to reduce anxiety and a religious person performing their religious rituals. Further fun information/ammunition: meditation produces the same effects in the brain as prayer.
So, while there is some validity to the other analogies mentioned, medically religious practices most resemble meditation and a learned version of at least one mental disorder. :D
Could not agree more! Wrote a blog about that.
I think that you should teach your daughter to focus on asking questions. First of all people like being asked questions. Secondly, I think that everyone everyone needs to calm down a little bit and realize she is 8. She will almost certainly be told off and she will have to develop a thick skin. It happens. you should teach her express her views confidently, but also teacher when to express her views. Frankly when studying a religion it is easiest to assume a god exist and then later reflect on what you learned without that assumption.
Zac, I agree with your "First of all people like being asked questions."
Listen carefully and you will hear their pleas to ask them the same question.
Helen, consider teaching your daughter this pragmatic, if Machiavellian, view: The more people who believe they will have happiness in a future life, the fewer people who will want a share of her happiness in this life.
It's difficult to speak your mind with people that are deeply integrated with the main religions of the world. For now, I'd advise against speaking freely. the main reason is that Christianity is a very violent and hateful group. They like to deny it for reasons unknown(maybe they think atheist are as foolish and think they are peaceful) even though the bible teaches it and it's clear as day(they like to deny this part too) If you really care for her safety, you should just tell her to keep subjects of religions to yourself. When someone ask her about religion, her reply will be "I don't know"
Also since she is such a young age, she would be outcast, and it is a terrible feeling for a child that young.
Are you in America? I have heard it can be very like this in the US but in the UK, God is a bit like Santa Claus. KIds begin believing in him and then it dies off and most of us are atheist or non-religious. The rest are largely apathetic Church of England or apathetic Catholic with a sprinkling of devout Muslims and varying Jews and the odd Sikh and Hindu. She would certainly not be a minority.
No I am in Canada, but it's getting more hateful here in Canada. Random acts of violence. etc..Also kids can be so mean these days. Stuff that happens here that I never even imagined.
I think everybody should be taught to be respectful of other people. At the same time, everybody should be aware that some people harbor unrealistic beliefs, and while most of them are very nice, some of those people can be a bit unstable and unreasonable.
I also think that everybody should be encouraged to learn more about the world, form their own views from what they learn, and be ready to defend those views.