My son debates the existence of God at school

School started back for my fourth grader last week, and I was taken aback when he came home and told me about a little playground debate he had with his classmates about the existence or nonexistence of God.

My son knows that I'm an atheist, while his mother is a God believer. We've had several, mostly, civil debates about God and religion, but I have never forced my views upon my children. And besides taking them to church on occasion, my wife doesn't push her beliefs onto them either.

The basis of the school ground debate was pretty typical and you can imagine what the arguments were, especially coming from 10-11-year-old children.

However, I must admit that I was not quite ready to explain to my son how he should handle such debates. He argued that there is no evidence for the existence of God, but his arguments were based on what he has heard me say—as well as some just plain common sense.

I'm not sure though if I was correct in telling him to avoid such arguments with religious people. I guess I was concerned that the religious parents would make stink out of it when they heard about it. I realize that such discussions are inevitable amongst children, but I'm not sure if it was right to tell him to ignore such discussions. What do you think?


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Comment by Artor on August 25, 2011 at 1:19am

I think it depends on your judgement of the parents and people at school. If you think there might be reprisals, discretion could be a wise move. If you think they might be receptive, then no problem. But if your kid ever catches trouble for saying the truth, don't even think of not getting his back.

Comment by Becca on August 25, 2011 at 1:36am

Children should be allowed to talk amongst themselves about 'forbidden' topics. I'd let your son know that he has every right to state his beliefs or lack there of and shouldn't be ashamed or afraid to do so. Talk to him about how some people (especially other kids parents) can be sensitive about religion so if he is going to talk god with other kids to  keep the conversation calm and respectful. And to change the subject or stop if it seems someone is getting too upset. I'd also as much as possible try to talk your son about what he is saying and hearing at school on this subject. That way you can keep tabs and ensure the conversations aren't going too far or turning in a negative or hurtful direction for anyone involved. If it does seem that the conversations have become inappropriate then you can step in and tell him to stop for a while.


Of course if there is real threat of discrimination from school and peers it might be best to tell him to avoid the topic but explain to him why you want him to do that.


Comment by Kristen Kramer on August 25, 2011 at 7:09am
Stand up for your sons right to tell the truth. I live in a very conservative area but my children know that I have their backs if anyone ever tries to give them trouble about the truth and facts. I want my children to be freethinkers so there is no way that I would tell them they have to not talk about something. Atheism is not a dirty word and it and the truth do not need to be shoved in the closet.


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