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?
..i think its highly important that parents teach children to be respectful of others; regardless of the whos or why fors. My daughter, Veda, is 4 years old and she is questioning the existence of the "God" that her friends and a lot of her family believe in. I feel its crucial that I, as her mother, encourage her to be honest and to question anything that doesn't make sense. Her biggest struggle at the moment is the fact that there is no mention of dinosaurs on the ark. I brim with pride, to be honest, but I will not sway her any way. I want her to believe what she believes because she weighs the evidence and makes an informed decision.. not because I tell her what's what. It seems I digress.. lets see.. oh..lol. the point is this: all children should be respectful of what others believe.. failure to do so is no less than an insult.. if we hope to debunk the myth of a fairy tale god who incites war and bigotry.. we must not offend his flock.
I guess I am a little ambivelent on this matter. Because on one hand I raise(d) my children to be Atheists, because that is what both my husband and I believe to be true. But on the other hand I know how much trouble it got my oldest into both with peers and religion classes (dunno if you guys have those mandatory religion classes in elementary school) - So I suppose I chickened out a little with my other kids, and sorta pull a 'don't ask, don't tell' thing. I'd never tell them to not stick to their guns, but to maybe not "wear" it in public.
I felt guilty that my oldest got in all those trouble for defending what we taught her from home. Which landed her in situations she had not needed to be in otherwise. And I am not about to make an atheist martyr out of her. So I told her to just ignore people and their jesus/mohammad talk, and walk away. So in a way I think both things, but I can't help but to think that it's not her fight, it's mine.. You know what I mean right?
Should they be respectful to religion? Well, I think you should be respectful to people who are respectful to you. So if those people are okay with her being atheist, I think that she should be okay with them being religious.. (Of course if people are pushing their God on you, then it's no longer respect, and it's whole other discussion)
Yes, I DO know what you mean. That is what I have tried to explain about feeling torn on this. I want to support my daughter to think critically, I am proud of the way she has considered religion and the conclusions she has come to and I want her to stand up for what she feels to be the truth. The problem is that it's me who is a 'fight your corner, don't be afraid of controversy, challenge everything' type and always have been and she is not. She is a 'Why can't we all just get along, please like me' type. This is why I am so afraid of making her an atheist martyr as you so beautifully put it and having her fight my battles. Even tho she has come to these conclusions on her own she cannot realise the hostility she could encounter because of them. I would thrive on that and take on all comers - she will just get upset. However, I do not want to tell her other views are just as valid and worthy of respect because they are NOT and she knows that. She asked me if there is any evidence for gods and we googled it and thought about the things that came up - miracles and near death experiences related to loads of different gods and she decided they were no evidence at all. Its very tricky. Thanks for your response.