Should I teach my daughter to be respectful of religious beliefs?

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?

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I have an 11 year old son and 4 yo girl and think about the same issues.  I don't think my son even knows about the Christian aspects of Christmas or Easter.  Should I educate him about those things?  Sort of like an inoculation, expose him to a small sample of the virus so that he more easily fight it off later on (just came up with that analogy, I really like it, wonder if I am the first)  I have more to say about this, but really need to go right now.  I will post more later.  -

Only the basics, let her figure out the rest when she gets older

Should I teach my daughter to be respectful of religious beliefs?

NO.

Or should I let her express her views confidently and then back her up if anyone tells her off?

YES.

How is this even an issue for you? If you teach your daughter to keep her mouth shut just so she doesn't offend a bunch of retards (theists) then you're just doing a bad thing for her. Allow her to express herself. Don't put a leash on her mind and whatever it takes don't allow others to do it either. If someone thinks it's disrespectful to be confronted with intellect they can go fuck themselves. Easy as that. If an 8 year old girl can best you at theology you don't deserve to live anyway.

Stop supporting the notion that religion deserves special respect. It does not. I've had enough of people saying we need to respect religious beliefs. It's just euphemism for "I got a religion, it's a joker, you're not allowed to contradict the shit I spew."

Honestly, I don't mean any disrespect to you, but how is this even an issue for you? I can see how religion might seem like a sensitive issue, but that is exactly the problem. You should not accept the premise that religion is a sensitive issue. If you're are sensitive about your religious beliefs, too bad, you can just go french kiss the asshole of a skunk.

I don't think that's a particularly wise strategy for a mature adult, let alone a child, who wants to get along well as a member of a society and be known as a generally agreeable human being. I think religion is as stupid as anyone does, but the reality is that most of the time getting into a religious or political argument with someone in order to make some kind of statement is kind of a dick move. There are ways to promote the same goal minus the attitude. We have to hold our tongues about hundreds of things every day in order to get along with people, and we don't give it a second thought. It might not be fair, but it's the way we operate.

What I'm saying is that if he wants to teach his daughter the truth, part of that includes a frank discussion of how religion is perceived in the world and strategies for dealing with that reality. One can be respectful of people's religious beliefs and still be unafraid to question them and stand up for reason -- in appropriate situations.

Dan Dennett speaks about teaching the “4 R’s” with religion being the fourth one. More correctly he means teaching children about the history of all religions so they will grow up with a greater understanding and tolerance for them. I think what you need to consider about the school is where the line is being drawn between religious education about religions in general and religious instruction in only one particular religion.

If a child goes into school and says “Santa is not real” should that be considered disrespectful to those children that know this is not the case? I am not being flippant. I mean how it is disrespectful for a child to question religion. It is the child’s job to question everything and to be allowed the freedom to do so. They can and of course should be taught to respect the person and their right to hold a religious view. However if children are to learn to think critically about concepts they need to ask questions. The answers may prove awkward or unsettling for an adult and therefore appear disrespectful but the child is not being disrespectful of that person by asking them questions.

You are not pushing your own agenda by wanting your daughter to think for herself. I disagree with your use of the word “unfair” in the last line. It should read “very wrong”.

“There is in every village a torch - the teacher; and an extinguisher- the clergyman”
Victor Hugo

I'd say be respectful of the people, but don't be afraid to ask questions. And yes, back her up.

"'Well, I believe gods are made up."

Is absolutely respectful.  Your daughter did VERY well, stating her own opinion and sticking up for herself.  Perfect response.  She didn't attack the person.  People espousing religious beliefs aren't expressing what TV show they like.  And even then, you're allowed to disagree with people about TV shows too.

Warn her that many people may get upset at her, and try to save her.  And she doesn't have to be 'out'.  Sometimes we hide things like our atheism, and that's 'ok' especially if you're a kid.  But if she wants to, she should express her beliefs just as any religious person would.

My own policy is that I try not to bring it up, unless it's really appropriate to the situation, but if someone else does, then game on!

'Well, I believe gods are made up. '

I am unsure if this was rude of her and disrespectful of the teacher's belief

Are you serious?


I believe the earth is round.


Whoops, crap, did I offend anybody? Sorry, I have no Idea what I was thinking saying something horrible and rude like that.

Once again this is fitting.

You need to be a lot firmer, and support your daughter and her right to think for herself and express her opinions and share facts. Anything else is just wrong.

I would love to support her if she wanted to make a stand. The point is she doesn't. I have told her she does not have to pray if she does not want to in assembly. The headmistress said children don't have to pray but must bow their heads and close their eyes and clasp their hands. Told my daughter I'd tell the head that she would sit quietly but I would not permit her to be forced to pretend to pray. This could not be a problem -  if other children wanted to pray they would not even know she was not. My daughter said she did not want to do that - got upset at the idea of standing out. I wanna get the balance right between warning her her attituide towards religion, whilst completely supported by us, might get her negative responses at school cos that would worry her and also encouraging her to be confident in her own opinions. Its hard.

The headmistress said children don't have to pray but must bow their heads and close their eyes and clasp their hands.

The headmistress sounds like a cunt. I understand why your daughter does not want to stand out. If you allow this though, you must be very careful and attentive. No matter how smart your daughter may be, children are inherently impressionable.

Now, you should really make sure that your daughter understands one thing. It's not important what a bunch of worthless vermin might think about her. I always tell this to people, however it's not as easily transferable to children of course. Being singled out is a horrible experience for any child, so I can't really hold it against you, or her, if she wants to "pretend to get in line" with all these ridiculous rules. But only as long as you as a mother still stand behind her and support her in everything. It's always wonderful to have someone who backs you up..

Also, don't try to sugarcoat it to her. She should be aware that she is not doing this "to be respectful." She's doing it because others are disrespectful towards her beliefs. That's really all it boils down to.

Christianity becomes a minority here, its very unPC to criticise it. I remember someone here from one of the Scandinavian countries saying that criticising Christians there is seen as bullying and its getting a bit like this here. There is an attitude where its almost like mocking those with special needs.

Sorry for the redundancy, but once again, do not accept the premise. There is nothing special about these sniveling rats or their bigoted fantasies. Becoming a minority? Good, but a sickness has to be wiped out completely or it will only come back worse.

Thanks, everyone, thought I would get some bolstering up here. I have always been happy to be controversial but my daughter is a different type - very sensitive type - wanting to be liked and not upset anyone. Also, those Americans among you may not realise that as Christianity becomes a minority here, its very unPC to criticise it. I remember someone here from one of the Scandinavian countries saying that criticising Christians there is seen as bullying and its getting a bit like this here. There is an attitude where its almost like mocking those with special needs. I have been very outspoken with the headmistress myself about my daughter's education but it is quite possible that if she says something about a christian's belief making no sense it will be treated as though she had used a horrible racist word to a black child or something.


I feel very strongly that it should not be like this and am thinking when I write to the headmistress about her taking RE again, I will say something about my daughter having her own opinion on religion which I know they will accept as equally valid as any religious belief and encourage her to express it. That might work as the headmistress is a bit scared of me now. (She got snarky when I took Lucy out of RE cos of the horror stories and said that she'd have to take history even tho the Tudors were quite gory. I replied that unless she was planning to teach that Mary Tudor is still around, should be worshipped for murdering people, is all powerful and could kill anyone at any time, my daughter would not fear for her life in the same way she did about the Christian god. She avoided me after that.)

" I remember someone here from one of the Scandinavian countries saying that criticising Christians there is seen as bullying and its getting a bit like this here. There is an attitude where its almost like mocking those with special needs."


I think you are onto something there. In a sense that is already the case, i.e. they have a "special need" to believe in garbage.  Maybe one day religion will be viewed as a genuine mental illness that needs treatment.

Maybe smoking is a better analogy for religion in the sense that you have the right to do it, but please try to do it on your own time and try not to poison everyone else, especially the kids. 

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