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How Do You Raise Kids In An Ex-Christian Household?


Merlin
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     For the past couple of weeks, I've been dealing with an issue that has turned out to be a whole lot harder to handle than I would have ever previously imagined.  My ten year old daughter has been asking me questions about God and the Bible.  Some of the kids at school are starting to get involved in their local churches, and they have been asking her to get involved too...  They've been telling her how much fun they all have, and now, she feels like she might be missing out on something really exciting.

     So far, we've been able to have some really good discussions about the importance of using logic to analyze and solve problems.  We've also been able to talk about why some of the stories in the Bible seem more like fairy tales than reality.  For example, tonight, she asked me how it would be possible for a man to live inside a fish for three days without the fish digesting the man.  She then proceeded to tell me that she thought somebody probably just made the whole story up.  I was shocked and impressed that she was able to see through the absurdity of the 'Jonah and the Big Fish' story all on her own.  So, in a sense, I feel like we are making progress.  Nonetheless, I feel like I could really use some help in handling this situation.

    If any of you have experience as it relates to raising children in an ex-christian household, please feel free to share it.

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I let my daughter read the Bible… like any novel... (age 12/13) I told her that some people believe this is true, but that I did not because I didn't see any real evidence for it - but that it was important to some people and to be careful what she says so she didn't hurt others feelings.

 

She laughed her ass off and only got about halfway through the Eden story.

 

I strongly show her how to search for correct information and instruct her in scientific principles and critical thinking skills - I started with commercials and claims for products so she could be immunized against commercialism… the rest followed naturally.

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I let my daughter read the Bible… like any novel... (age 12/13) I told her that some people believe this is true, but that I did not because I didn't see any real evidence for it - but that it was important to some people and to be careful what she says so she didn't hurt others feelings.

 

She laughed her ass off and only got about halfway through the Eden story.

 

Thanks for the advice Ravenstar. :)  It sounds like your approach is working really well.  I can only hope that things go over that smoothly with my daughter.

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Sounds like you are afraid you kid will be sucked into a cult.

 

I try to give my son a good foundation of science and humanism.  Science is really cool and I'm good at it because I grew up watching PBS and later TLC.  (Back when TLC was good.)  Anyway there are a lot of good nature documentaries out there if interested.  I would recommend the modern remake of Cosmos.  It's good.  The point is give them something positive that is better than religion.  Science is true.  Humans is ethical.  Christianity can't compete with either one.

 

Try to encourage your kids if they don't want to go to church.  Church is boring and they will naturally not want to go.  It only takes a little nudge to protect them from indoctrination.  On the other hand youth groups are fun so your kids will probably want to attend that.  When I was that age I was really into Jesus and it felt like I was the only kid at the youth group who was serious about Jesus.  Most of the kids there won't be deep into the religion.

 

However still keep an eye on them and what they are doing.  It's a tough call but you don't want to leave your kids with the wrong fundie church.

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However still keep an eye on them and what they are doing.  It's a tough call but you don't want to leave your kids with the wrong fundie church.

 

I couldn't agree more with your sentiments as they relate to leaving my daughter in the care of the wrong fundamentalist church.  As a child, I was forced to attend an evangelical church, and the emotional and psychological damage that I incurred because of the belief-system I was taught to embrace was devastating to say the least.  That is exactly the kind of situation that I would like for my daughter to avoid altogether.

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I explain what I believe to her, and tell her that different people have different beliefs and she can choose what she wants to believe, do the best she can, because ultimately there is no real proof for any of it.

 

As we live together, I would be sharing my point of view on things.  And it probably will influence her. 

 

But I don't believe that kids have to be our clones and believe exactly the same things we do.  I believe that each person is an individual and has their own path to choose.

 

But I think it's important to seem to be accepting of her beliefs, that way she can share them and if there is some big mistake you could somehow point it out (to prevent her from going some bad way) in some way that she wouldn't find offensive (so she wouldn't start hiding things).

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I allow my kids to attend church and church-sponsored events with friends when they want to.  They usually tell me about how much fun the activities were, how good the food was, and how stupid the lesson was.  When I think about church, I feel like they should be getting more education related to ethics, psychology, and healthy behavior.  I've been talking with my wife lately about visiting a UU church in order to see if it might help to meet that need.

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Thanks for all of the responses you've provided me with so far.  You all have given me a lot to ponder over.  Recently, I found this video on youtube that covers the subject at hand, and I found the information covered within it to be interesting and helpful.  If ex-christian parenting is something that you are interested in, please watch this video.  It's thought provoking to say the least.

 

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A couple other resources you should check out CptPicard:

 

 

and

 

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/godlessindixie/2014/11/08/am-i-raising-my-kids-to-be-atheists/

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A couple other resources you should check out CptPicard:

 

Thanks for the video Glareth!  That is exactly the kind of material that I was hoping to find.  My favorite quote in the video was, "Empower them to think for themselves, and you liberate them for life."  As of right now, I'm trying very hard to teach my daughter to be an honest critical-thinker.

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I would also get them to read about other religions (if their really interested) and read about what they all believe so that the kids can see that it's all as fake as fairy tales/fantasy, etc and that way they know to avoid religions in general if they know its all fake.

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You might also consider explaining to them how adults who are in need or who are in emotional upheaval can find the stories of god's love enticing. Believers never give the whole picture of their god during evangelism (many don't even know the whole picture). I had a few friends in my early church days that came in through Over-eaters Anonymous or Alcoholics Anonymous and a Christian "sponsor". Imagine a grinning Kirk Cameron telling you how great life can be... Eeeeewww!

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A couple other resources you should check out CptPicard:

 

Thanks for the video Glareth!  That is exactly the kind of material that I was hoping to find. My favorite quote in the video was, "Empower them to think for themselves, and you liberate them for life."  As of right now, I'm trying very hard to teach my daughter to be an honest critical-thinker.

 

And in my opinion, that is the best you can do for her. Glad you found the video useful ^_^ My daughter is too young to understand any of this stuff at this point, but I tend to agree with C0nc0rdance on the matter of religion and plan to take an approach similar to his when she is old enough. For me, whether we like it or not, we live in a pre-dominantly religious world. Better that we educate them on the many faces of religion properly than shelter them away from it completely. Maybe you could attend this church with your daughter and then have a discussion about it afterwards, asking what she thought about it, etc? Since you've been raising her to think critically, I wouldn't doubt her ability to view the situation clearly and objectively.

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Good advice from everyone above. We left xtianity when our kids were 11 and 13. My daughter felt liberated (she was scared of Hell and sin) but my son still misses all the pizza parties!

 

Like any recruitment campaign, churches are smart with young people. They offer them a fun environment with pizza parties and movies - which young kid doesn't love THAT?! I wonder how happy xtians would be if agnostics started doing that with their kids? In my part of the world schools are over crowded and teachers can barely keep up. Local churches send young missionaries into these schools under the pretense of 'helping out'. Of course they tell the kids about the pizza parties and before you know it they're baptizing them.

 

The best advice I can give is don't be afraid to engage your child as she grows up. Don't overload her either though. There's a dark side to staring at the 'abyss' too much before it starts staring back, and young minds especially can't handle it well. Young minds like unicorns and fairies for a reason - the harshness of reality isn't always the best thing to talk about too much either. I'm certainly not advocating religion as a comfort blanket over reality, but just cautioning that a kid needs to be a kid! :)

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The Dale Mcgowen book for parenting just came out, it's called "Parenting Beyond Belief."

I haven't read it yet, but I do like his books, Good Without God and In Faith And In Doubt.

Parenting Beyond Belief is a book for secular parenting with humanistic values. His wife was an evangelical Christian for awhile before she ultimately deconverted.

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The Dale Mcgowen book for parenting just came out, it's called "Parenting Beyond Belief."

I haven't read it yet, but I do like his books, Good Without God and In Faith And In Doubt.

Parenting Beyond Belief is a book for secular parenting with humanistic values. His wife was an evangelical Christian for awhile before she ultimately deconverted.

 

Hi Leo,

 

FTNZ also mentioned Dale Mcgowen.  He has some interesting videos on youtube.  I may have to pick up his new book.  Thanks for the advice!

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I'm not a parent, but I was raised by ex-Christian parents, so I do think I'll chime in here.

 

It seems like there's really two issues here:

 

1. What/How/Whether to teach your child about religion.

My parents were very matter-of-fact about religion, and placed no restrictions whatsoever on what their kids could read or ask about it. The idea was, "some people believe X and some people believe Y, and that's okay. It's not what people believe, but how they treat each other that counts." We read all sorts of mythology books, and religious books. When it comes down to it, it's about respect. 

 

There's a difference between indoctrinating your children into religion, and teaching about religion. Indoctrination leaves no room for critical thinking, and stifles the right to individual choice. In my case, my parents weren't religious, but the extended family (and most of society) was. There may also be a huge cultural gap in understanding between yourself as a former insider, and your children, who will be outsiders to that whole experience. Christianity is full of symbols and practically its own dialect of dog-whistle insider terms. Children, especially, take things very literally. You may find yourself having to explain things so obvious that you never thought of them before. Consider the following:

 

"Washed in the Blood of the Lamb." 

 

When I was small, I really was quite certain that most adults in my world were part of some sort of weird human sacrifice and cannibal cult. It just went without saying, it was so obvious. As an adult, I really see no reason to change my mind about Christianity. In the most literal possible sense, it's a human sacrifice religion, as much as that of the Aztecs. 

 

So, be open, be impartial, present facts, discuss things, encourage thinking, support individual choice. Don't be judgmental, because your kids are definitely smart enough to figure things out for themselves. 

 

2. Dealing with social issues - inclusiveness and isolation - caused by child's peers/society being Christian.

This is something different, here. If your children are not feeling included by their peers or society, then that's what needs to be discussed. You can be very honest and frank about your concerns, and theirs. 

If it's a camp to go to or something to belong to that you're looking for, there's plenty of non-Christian summer camps or activities, like sports, or science stuff, and creative writing workshops, craft things, etc. Start clubs, if you want to. 

 

Christianity is just part of the "background signal" of the culture. It's there. You're not going to be able to - nor should anyone - shelter children from other points of view. You can teach them how to ask questions and think for themselves, and discuss their feelings.

 

So, if little Timmy told me that Billy wants him to go to Bible camp with him, I'd say: "Why do you want to go with him?" and/or "Billy goes to Bible Camp, because his family believes that it teaches him his religion, and they believe X, Y, and Z. What do you think?" "Why do you think that Billy wants you to go with him?" "I'm concerned about some of the moral values they teach at Bible Camp, but maybe you can invite Billy to join you at Pottery Class." A kid can ask questions, and it may not be what it looks like on the surface. Maybe if your kids ask about Bible Camp, they're really wanting to hang out with friends, it could have nothing at all to do with religion. Everything's a chance for discussion, though.

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You might also consider explaining to them how adults who are in need or who are in emotional upheaval can find the stories of god's love enticing. Believers never give the whole picture of their god during evangelism (many don't even know the whole picture). I had a few friends in my early church days that came in through Over-eaters Anonymous or Alcoholics Anonymous and a Christian "sponsor". Imagine a grinning Kirk Cameron telling you how great life can be... Eeeeewww!

So very very true. I would rather just be honest with them. Even if it gets a little uncomfortable. Life is uncomfortable, so why not just go by the old saying "honesty is the best policy." I would rather tell them the truth than get sucked into a death cult. I hope it works out for you brother. -peace 

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You know your child best.  Does she gravitate toward make believe and try to ignore life realities?  Then I'd be super careful of any type of youth group that involves trying to perform "spiritual" acts like meditation on god, praying and laying hands on each other.  If she really wants to attend some kind of group, maybe there's a nice liberal church that doesn't get too uptight about things.

 

It sounds like she's really inquisitive about things based on your successful conversations with her so far... that's such a cool age 10.

 

good luck!

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My kid starting asking some questions.  I guess it's from being at school.  I tell him that I don't know or have the answers to that.  He will have to figure some of that out for himself.  The other question, like, "Is grandpa in heaven?"  I just say yes.  I don't mind my kid being exposed to religion.  He can make up his mind about it when he gets older.  

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Remind your child that the basic progression of Christianity is Fun, then love, then fearing your own natural thoughts. 

 

Encouraging your child to be skeptical of others' opinions, always question things and really analyze something to see if it makes sense is a good weapon.

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2. Dealing with social issues - inclusiveness and isolation - caused by child's peers/society being Christian.

This is something different, here. If your children are not feeling included by their peers or society, then that's what needs to be discussed. You can be very honest and frank about your concerns, and theirs. 

If it's a camp to go to or something to belong to that you're looking for, there's plenty of non-Christian summer camps or activities, like sports, or science stuff, and creative writing workshops, craft things, etc. Start clubs, if you want to. 

 

Christianity is just part of the "background signal" of the culture. It's there. You're not going to be able to - nor should anyone - shelter children from other points of view. You can teach them how to ask questions and think for themselves, and discuss their feelings.

 

So, if little Timmy told me that Billy wants him to go to Bible camp with him, I'd say: "Why do you want to go with him?" and/or "Billy goes to Bible Camp, because his family believes that it teaches him his religion, and they believe X, Y, and Z. What do you think?" "Why do you think that Billy wants you to go with him?" "I'm concerned about some of the moral values they teach at Bible Camp, but maybe you can invite Billy to join you at Pottery Class." A kid can ask questions, and it may not be what it looks like on the surface. Maybe if your kids ask about Bible Camp, they're really wanting to hang out with friends, it could have nothing at all to do with religion. Everything's a chance for discussion, though.

 

I think that this is great advice.  My daughter is really interested in musical theater right now so I'm planning on signing her up with a local children's theater group.  Some people may disagree with me, but I would much rather see her get involved in secular activities as opposed to the church related kind.  Every night, she watches YouTube videos and dances and sings along with her favorite artists.  Ariana Grande is her favorite right now.  I think that this will be a great opportunity for her to get involved with something that she is really going to love.

 

As far as the Bible is concerned, I'm happy to say that we've been making great progress.  One of my daughter's best friends has lesbian parents.  The other day she learned that the Bible teaches that homosexuality is evil.  This really upset her.  She told me that she thought that the Bible wasn't right about this.  This opened up a door for me to show her some other passages in the Bible that really shocked her.  For example, she couldn't believe that parents used to stone their kids for disobedience.  She owns a children's Bible that was given to her as a gift.  Because she had only read her heavily edited children's Bible, she had no idea that these other teachings in the unabridged Bible even existed. Needless to say, I think her interest in getting involved in church is quickly dissipating. 

 

This brings me to another point.  I really think that the decision to publish children's Bibles that leave out all of the controversial passages is very deceitful.  I can't really see how Christians justify this practice when it is clearly at odds with the teachings that they supposedly believe in.  For example, Deuteronomy 4:2 states, "Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract from it, but keep the commands of the LORD your God that I give you."  Does anyone else see a problem with this?

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^^^ Upvote like a million. Especially the part about the children's Bible. It's probably my background, but although I knew there were "stories from the Bible" books, I had no idea that there were children's Bibles, with a bunch of the content excised. It is "deceitful" but that's not all: it's positively damning to the integrity of the argument for Christianity, especially Christian moral superiority. 

 

I mean, come on, when the actual, unabridged, content of your scriptures is so outrageous that even a little child's moral compass would be offended or compromised, that's when you know you're dealing with some seriously jacked-up stuff. 

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