Here is my situation, I am divorced and the mother of my three year old is very religious. She knows my stance on religion and is okay with it but doesn't want me to teach our son my world view. I don't think what she asks is fair. I told her that I wouldn't directly teach him anything but would answer any questions he might ask. He is extremely intelligent and my main goal in life is to teach him how to think for himself. I don't want him to believe what I believe or what his mother believes just because we say so. My main fear and what I want advice on is: How do I combat the indoctrination he will get at his mothers church. He only goes every other Sunday but over the next fifteen years that will still be a lot of church.

Any suggestions on what I do or say?

Views: 6

Tags: church, divorce, mother, parenting

Comment by Dan on December 10, 2009 at 7:17pm
Comment by Keith A. Szilagyi on December 10, 2009 at 7:57pm
LOL! Thanks Dan. I've seen that before, not sure it will help but made me laugh.
Comment by Alison Rufus on December 10, 2009 at 8:18pm
I think for now, he's three years old, so for now... I don't think there's much to combat. I guess one way could be to read moral stories too him and ask him what he's learn from them - they will of course do the same thing with the bible at church, but I don't think doing it this way will be much of a threat so to speak. And he will hopefully get the idea than one can be moral without God.
A lot of atheists miss the community of a church (which is also often mistaken for feeling gods love), so maybe take him somewhere he can have community a youth group or something?

Above all I guess, try not to make a big deal of this debating going on between you and your ex wife right now, you don't want him to feel pressured or that any of you disapprove either way. I'm not suggesting you would do that anyway but just to make sure, thought I'd mention that.

Hope those help a bit.
Comment by Galen on December 10, 2009 at 8:51pm
A lot is said about "indoctrination" but I find the concerns to be a bit weak. Children are not as dumb and easily brainwashed as most adults seem to think they are. In fact, they usually have VERY good bullshit detectors. So why does it seem that children are so easily talked into believing things like Santa, the tooth fairy, and Jesus? For the same reason that adults are easily talked into ridiculous things: Ignorance and the natural tendancy of the mind to see patterns in everything (Apophenia), which fills in the holes left by ignorance.

Millions of adults don't understand evolution (for example) any better than most children, so to both age groups the explanation "God did it" makes sense, because that's something they can understand.

I have a young friend who was an atheist long before I was. Since the day I met her, in fact. She was 6 when I met her. I was her babysitter, mentor, and friend until she was old enough to have a life of her own, lol. Her parents were atheists, but never denied her the experience of religion. She attended a Catholic pre-school and went to church services. She was exposed to relatives and such who taught her religious values. Her mother said "I don't want her to believe like me just because it's what I believe, I want her to make up her own mind." And she did. She wasn't indoctrinated because unlike so many other children, she had the benefit of also being exposed to the other side of the story! That benefit led her to conclude on her own from a young age that God was no different than the other fairy tales she knew about.

I guess my point is that you should give your son a little credit and not worry quite so much that he'll be brainwashed. There's a high chance that he could be, just like so many others are (including people 10 or 20 times his age). But there's also a VERY good chance that being exposed to you and the education of analytical thinking would prevent religious indoctrination. Nothing scatters the darkness of ignorance like the light of knowledge and the ability to think for oneself. Don't teach your son what to think, teach him *TO* think, and that will likely be enough.
Comment by Dave G on December 10, 2009 at 9:36pm
Galen is right, teaching him critical thinking skills and making sure he has a good grasp of science, etc will do wonders. Past that, I also like Philip's idea about teaching him about all sorts of religions. I'd certainly have liked to have gotten such an education.
Comment by Aric on December 10, 2009 at 10:54pm
Just wait until he finds out that Santa isn't real. Then, just kind of hint that if people would lie to him about Santa that they would also likely lie to him about god. He'll get it. Don't worry.
Comment by Alison Rufus on December 10, 2009 at 11:00pm
Re: Phillip's comment: He is right of course, that you shouldn't back down... just not let the issue be on him, when it's with you and his mother is what I was trying to say. You don't want him to get eaten up into the I want to please both parents thing and he may - need your support but unbias-ness if he decides against Christainity because from what you have said, mum won't be pleased so much.

Quick question however, what was the arrangement of the religious/nonreligious upbringing when you were together? If it was then reasonable, perhaps you can draw on that agreement with your ex-wife in order to come to the same or similar agreement now.
Comment by B. on December 10, 2009 at 11:50pm
I think going to church every second week will be good for him, so long as it's balanced out with your views. There's no reason to aggressively promote atheism (he is only 3, after all) but I think having parents of different faiths presents a great opportunity for him to see both sides of the argument throughout his lifetime, and make a decision for himself.

As someone that recovered from years of multiple church functions (at least 3 or 4) per week, into atheism, I can assure you, there is nothing that Jesus says that can't be undone by reason.

Seriously, don't protest his church attendance. We still live in a society where that will make you look like the bad guy.
Comment by Keith A. Szilagyi on December 11, 2009 at 3:03am
Philip - Thanks, that's great advice and I think I will take you up on exposing him to more religions then just christianity.

Alison - In my mind this is the most critical time of his life to be concerned about indoctrination. This is an age where children's minds are the most fertile and receptive to believing what they are told just because an adult says so. (One of the things that puts my fears to rest is that my son already won't except things just because anyone says so.) However he is still three and receptive to knowledge as he is being taught.

Zak - I'm not to concerned with civil issues as far as teaching him what I believe. I live in a fairly liberal city.

Galen - I give my son a inordinate amount of credit. He is (and I don't say this out of fatherly pride) the most intelligent three year old I have ever know. He challenges my intellect on a daily basis. You have sparked upon my very plan: Teach him HOW to think.

Dave - Again, I am very much of a mind to teach him critical thinking.

Aric - He already knows that Santa isn't real. We never taught him about Santa. As parents (both of us) it is extremely important that we don't lie to him. We just have a different outlook on what that is on the topic of religion.

Thank you all so very much for replying to my post. You have reaffirmed my initial thoughts on how to approach raising my son and have also given me a couple of ideas.
Comment by Keith A. Szilagyi on December 11, 2009 at 3:18am
I miss a couple of comments when I posted. Sorry

Alison - When his mother and I were together I had expressed my doubts about my faith but wasn't in a place where I could admit, even to myself, that I didn't believe in god. My ex-wife seems to be satisfied with my not teaching him that there is no god but answering his questions when and if he asks them.

I want to make it clear that I don't want to confuse him or make it a battle of who's right.

B - You make a very valid point about him having a balanced view. I don't protest him going to church (although I don't really like it). I understand that my ex is raising him the best she knows how.

I have respect for her beliefs and truly if that is the direction he decides to go in like I am okay with that. It won't be the end of the world. I want him to eventually make an informed decision not one based on emotion.

Thanks again

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