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Help for a secular parent explaining gods and God


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#1 debi21

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Posted 31 October 2013 - 12:58 AM


Looking for advice. My son is 4.5 and both his parents are atheists. So far he has only been exposed to the word god in African folk tales. But 2 of his 3 most frequent play date friends are devout Mormons. It's going to come up soon.

I feel like I didn't do an adequate job explaining the African gods and worry more about the Christian God. I want to be neutral at least. I think believing in God can be very comforting and wouldn't mind if he did, although I'm not fond of the LDS religion mainly due to feminist issues and that's the primary religion here.

Does anybody have any advice or recommended resources/books? I am also interested in how to explain the difference between African/Greek gods as myths vs the Christian God, giving the latter more respect or weight even though I don't believe.

I realize this can be a controversial topic here. I hope I don't offend anyone with my question. I want to have respect for others' beliefs and teach that to my kids at least.

For a little more info, My family background is Jewish, and after spending some time interested in Eastern religions around age 18, I also spent a few years in my early 20's trying to learn to believe in God, but it just didn't happen. If there were either a UU church or a Jewish congregation closer, I might give those a try with the kids, but they are both an hour away.

#2 nmoira

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Posted 31 October 2013 - 01:23 AM

At that age, I didn't differentiate stories of "contemporary" gods from mythology except to say that more people believe in this or that gods today than in others. For me, that's the only difference worth noting until the conversation has moved to the cultural/historical and literary.

And we went whole hog with god stories from many times and cultures. None were treated as special, and I used the same type of language to discuss Jesus as I did, say, Zeus.

#3 Kathryn

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Posted 31 October 2013 - 08:59 AM

If you don't believe, I don't see any reason to differentiate one culture's gods as more important or worthy of respect than another's. I wouldn't do that. Just because you're around mostly Mormons right now, doesn't mean that will always be the case or that your child will never encounter someone who believes in a different god. You can discuss that most people around you, including his friends, believe in the Christian God, but I think the most important aspect is to teach him that different people believe in different gods and it would be rude to mock those beliefs no matter what they are.

#4 mytwomonkeys

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Posted 31 October 2013 - 09:09 AM

I agree with others. I'm a devout Christian and share with my kids what I believe and why. They attend church with us and are taught our faith, but essentially it is their choice in the end. They know other people believe different things. I think atheism would be the exact same. At an age appropriate level discuss that different people believe different things & since you are comfortable with your son drawing his own conclusions, let him figure it out and simply serve as a sounding board. If religion comes up among his friends, just use it as an opportunity to talk about things.

#5 Myra

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Posted 31 October 2013 - 09:10 AM

Once while we were having dinner at a new friend's house,they bowed their heads for a blessing before the meal. I was curious how my son would react to this, but all was fine until.........at the end of the blessing, the father said something about let us all thank the almighty god.  My son, in his loud and enthusiastic kid's voice, proudly said "Thank you, Zeus!".  There was stunned silence at the table for what seemed like an eternity then dinner went on as usual....

 

Myra



#6 DawnM

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Posted 31 October 2013 - 09:15 AM

I like to explain things in a very matter of fact way.   Christians believe X.   Muslims believe X.  And I try to do it from the perspective of the actual religious followers, not from a particular slant.  I am not sure if I am saying that right, but I don't want to portray something inaccurately.   I grew up overseas and was exposed to many different beliefs.  Even if I don't believe the same way, I want my kids to respect others' viewpoints and fully understand them.

 

Dawn



#7 dbmamaz

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Posted 31 October 2013 - 09:18 AM

At 4 I'm not so sure it will really come up yet?  My 10 yo's best friend in the neighborhood is a conservative christian (i dont know what type exactly).  We just avoided the subject for a long time.  I mean, it came up here and there, idk, sometimes his older sister would joke about religions.  But I dont think it came up for the kids much.  finally one time the neighbor really wanted my son to go to his vacation bible school.  i screwed up my nerves and told the mom I was worried that he would blurt out that he doesnt believe in god and that might upset people.  She assured me it would NOT - she had said at some point that its gods job to make me believe, not hers.  Which explains why we get along!  

 

Anyways, it has not been a huge deal here.  I know some kids get told, pretty young, that they will go to hell for not believing - it depends on the church and how evangelical they are, i guess - some try to get even the youngest to aggressively try to convert people.  urgg

 

I think you can wait until it comes up naturally.

 

you could get the usborne book of world religions - i picked it up used on amazon but havent done anything with it yet



#8 sunnyday

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Posted 31 October 2013 - 09:42 AM

I really liked the book series, "The Universe Tells our Life Story" for how they explained this. (I'm increasingly uncomfortable with how they made the Universe a narrator, because it is confusing my kids a little on evolution, but anyway.) They basically said that all around the world, as people have formed civilizations and shared stories, they have looked at the world and had questions. Who made it rain? Why do the trees grow? Where did we come from? And they have created stories about powerful gods who are capable of doing these things.

 

And then from there, once we'd explored lots of different mythologies and DS was getting excited about what he knew about gods, I started explaining that lots of people around the world still believe in gods, not necessarily to answer the question "why does the wind blow," but usually to answer "how should we live?" Most of the people in our community believe in one God, and that this God passed information to human beings who wrote a Bible explaining how people should live. The Bible is a very important book for this reason, and the people who visit the church next door to us every Sunday are listening to Pastor R teach them about how they can learn from the Bible about how they should live.

 



#9 Lady Florida

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Posted 31 October 2013 - 09:48 AM

If you don't believe, I don't see any reason to differentiate one culture's gods as more important or worthy of respect than another's. I wouldn't do that. Just 

 

I agree. We treat them all the same. I would just say something like, "Most people where we live believe X. Many people believe Y. Some believe Z. Some, like our family, don't believe in any gods." At that age, there's no need to get too detailed.



#10 hillfarm

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Posted 31 October 2013 - 10:14 AM

I think one of the big things is to tell him that with any given religion, there will be a certain segment of believers who are very doubtful and waver back and forth with their beliefs. There will be "failed" members of any particular belief group who could not or chose not to accept those beliefs any more. The majority are usually the middle of the road people, most of whom make a reasonable effort to follow the tenants of their faith but who have occasional lapses. And there is usually a group of zealots who are very intense about their beliefs, and who often do not see any other religions/denominations as valid and may feel it their right/obligation to force others to share their beliefs.

 

Some consider their supreme deity/god to be very human-like, while others may have a very nebulous god or concept of universal consciousness. Some pray to their gods while others do works to gain favor or alter status. Some perceive their god to take an active interest in humans while others serve a more impersonal god.

 

But the most important thing, IMO, is that most religious people hold their religious beliefs very deeply and are truly hurt when someone casts aspersions on their beliefs. Some react with extreme anger. Many people that you would consider rational and intelligent react in a very irrational and lockstep way when it comes to religious beliefs. It is a very sensitive area and I think it important to give our dc a heads up that religious topics can be a real mine field, so to tread carefully.



#11 nmoira

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Posted 31 October 2013 - 10:16 AM

hillfarm, I think that might be a bit much for a 4yo. :)



#12 Mergath

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Posted 31 October 2013 - 10:18 AM

I think one of the big things is to tell him that with any given religion, there will be a certain segment of believers who are very doubtful and waver back and forth with their beliefs. There will be "failed" members of any particular belief group who could not or chose not to accept those beliefs any more. The majority are usually the middle of the road people, most of whom make a reasonable effort to follow the tenants of their faith but who have occasional lapses. And there is usually a group of zealots who are very intense about their beliefs, and who often do not see any other religions/denominations as valid and may feel it their right/obligation to force others to share their beliefs.

 

Some consider their supreme deity/god to be very human-like, while others may have a very nebulous god or concept of universal consciousness. Some pray to their gods while others do works to gain favor or alter status. Some perceive their god to take an active interest in humans while others serve a more impersonal god.

 

But the most important thing, IMO, is that most religious people hold their religious beliefs very deeply and are truly hurt when someone casts aspersions on their beliefs. Some react with extreme anger. Many people that you would consider rational and intelligent react in a very irrational and lockstep way when it comes to religious beliefs. It is a very sensitive area and I think it important to give our dc a heads up that religious topics can be a real mine field, so to tread carefully.

 

I'm not sure why a four-year-old would need to know any of this, especially the first paragraph.



#13 Snow

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Posted 31 October 2013 - 10:20 AM

I agree. We treat them all the same. I would just say something like, "Most people where we live believe X. Many people believe Y. Some believe Z. Some, like our family, don't believe in any gods." At that age, there's no need to get too detailed.


Yes, I agree with this. Short and sweet. Any follow-up why questions can point back to the "people find it comforting" that you mentioned.

#14 momma2three

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Posted 31 October 2013 - 10:27 AM

I just say "some people believe X.  Personally, I don't, but I think it's very interesting to learn what other people believe, and it's not polite to tell people that you think your beliefs are better.  Everyone believes different things."

 

When we're studying ancient cultures, I explain "People here used to believe this, but now most of them believe X."



#15 hillfarm

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Posted 31 October 2013 - 10:36 AM

Different areas, different needs. My dd did deal with much of this when she was 4yo. By the time she was 5yo, she was in a children's group activity which included evangelical Christians, Mormons, Seventh Day Adventists, Catholics, Jews, atheists, and one Hindu child. Many of our discussions at home centered on why snack time was so problematic based on dietary restrictions and why it was almost impossible to find meeting times when everybody could attend. We had many discussions regarding why not all members of a certain faith seemed to follow the same rules.

 

If my suggestions are not helpful, please feel free to disregard them. Chastising me for making them is less productive than just disregarding my post and moving on with other, more constructive input.



#16 nmoira

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Posted 31 October 2013 - 10:42 AM

Different areas, different needs. My dd did deal with much of this when she was 4yo. By the time she was 5yo, she was in a children's group activity which included evangelical Christians, Mormons, Seventh Day Adventists, Catholics, Jews, atheists, and one Hindu child. Many of our discussions at home centered on why snack time was so problematic based on dietary restrictions and why it was almost impossible to find meeting times when everybody could attend. We had many discussions regarding why not all members of a certain faith seemed to follow the same rules.

 

If my suggestions are not helpful, please feel free to disregard them. Chastising me for making them is less productive than just disregarding my post and moving on with other, more constructive input.

 

Who is chastising? Questions and observations invite further examination and conversation, which you provided. :)



#17 Mergath

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Posted 31 October 2013 - 10:43 AM

Different areas, different needs. My dd did deal with much of this when she was 4yo. By the time she was 5yo, she was in a children's group activity which included evangelical Christians, Mormons, Seventh Day Adventists, Catholics, Jews, atheists, and one Hindu child. Many of our discussions at home centered on why snack time was so problematic based on dietary restrictions and why it was almost impossible to find meeting times when everybody could attend. We had many discussions regarding why not all members of a certain faith seemed to follow the same rules.

 

If my suggestions are not helpful, please feel free to disregard them. Chastising me for making them is less productive than just disregarding my post and moving on with other, more constructive input.

 

I didn't chastise you.  Your opinion is that a four-year-old needs to hear all that.  Mine is that it's a bit too much for a kid that age. *shrug*



#18 54879525

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Posted 31 October 2013 - 11:18 AM

At that age, I didn't differentiate stories of "contemporary" gods from mythology except to say that more people believe in this or that gods today than in others. For me, that's the only difference worth noting until the conversation has moved to the cultural/historical and literary.

And we went whole hog with god stories from many times and cultures. None were treated as special, and I used the same type of language to discuss Jesus as I did, say, Zeus.

 

Same here.

 

I answer questions as they arise, and they have, but I didn't and do not worry about broaching the subject as if it is something taboo.  They hear stuff from other people and we've talked about it.  Including a woman up the street who told one of my children he is stupid because he does not believe in a god nor wants to go to bible camp.  She is lucky she didn't say it in my presence.  What freak says that to a little kid?  Anyhow...yeah.  So far so good otherwise.



#19 54879525

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Posted 31 October 2013 - 11:20 AM

Different areas, different needs. My dd did deal with much of this when she was 4yo. By the time she was 5yo, she was in a children's group activity which included evangelical Christians, Mormons, Seventh Day Adventists, Catholics, Jews, atheists, and one Hindu child. Many of our discussions at home centered on why snack time was so problematic based on dietary restrictions and why it was almost impossible to find meeting times when everybody could attend. We had many discussions regarding why not all members of a certain faith seemed to follow the same rules.

 

If my suggestions are not helpful, please feel free to disregard them. Chastising me for making them is less productive than just disregarding my post and moving on with other, more constructive input.

 

Just curious.  How did she know the children had parents from all those different religions?  That would not have been on either of my kid's radar at that age. 



#20 54879525

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Posted 31 October 2013 - 11:21 AM

I think one of the big things is to tell him that with any given religion, there will be a certain segment of believers who are very doubtful and waver back and forth with their beliefs. There will be "failed" members of any particular belief group who could not or chose not to accept those beliefs any more. The majority are usually the middle of the road people, most of whom make a reasonable effort to follow the tenants of their faith but who have occasional lapses. And there is usually a group of zealots who are very intense about their beliefs, and who often do not see any other religions/denominations as valid and may feel it their right/obligation to force others to share their beliefs.

 

Some consider their supreme deity/god to be very human-like, while others may have a very nebulous god or concept of universal consciousness. Some pray to their gods while others do works to gain favor or alter status. Some perceive their god to take an active interest in humans while others serve a more impersonal god.

 

But the most important thing, IMO, is that most religious people hold their religious beliefs very deeply and are truly hurt when someone casts aspersions on their beliefs. Some react with extreme anger. Many people that you would consider rational and intelligent react in a very irrational and lockstep way when it comes to religious beliefs. It is a very sensitive area and I think it important to give our dc a heads up that religious topics can be a real mine field, so to tread carefully.

 

failed members?  Wow....

 

So is that what atheists are?  Failed members?



#21 KarenNC

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Posted 31 October 2013 - 11:22 AM

I agree that there's no value to your family in treating one group's god as inherently more real, important, or valuable than another's if you don't believe in any of them. When my daughter was that age, we used an ice cream analogy in that there were lots of flavors but some people only choose a single flavor or small group of flavors, while some don't like ice cream at all. Now, we're Neopagan UU's, so that worked well for us since we were very comfortable with the idea of existence of ice cream. ;)  That may not work as well for you.

 

There's a UU religious education curriculum for 5-12 yos that deals with various religions that might have some ideas. http://www.smuuchurc...e=re-curriculum It's a free download. You could also check into RE materials from the Church of the Larger Fellowship (the UU resource for those not near a congregation). http://www.clfuu.org/



#22 nmoira

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Posted 31 October 2013 - 11:24 AM

failed members?  Wow....

 

So is that what atheists are?  Failed members?

 

 

Not as catchy as "minions" though, is it? :D



#23 Mom-ninja.

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Posted 31 October 2013 - 11:27 AM

 I am also interested in how to explain the difference between African/Greek gods as myths vs the Christian God, giving the latter more respect or weight even though I don't believe.

I don't treat them differently. The Christian faith doesn't get any special treatment or more respect/weight than any other religion. When I read my kids religious stories and they ask if the stories are real, I tell them the stories are fiction. Then I add that some people believe the stories are true, but I don't. If they ask I tell them why I don't; however, as they've gotten older they figure it out on their own.



#24 54879525

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Posted 31 October 2013 - 11:28 AM

Not as catchy as "minions" though, is it? :D

 

At least minions are cute and funny.



#25 54879525

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Posted 31 October 2013 - 11:30 AM

I don't treat them differently. The Christian faith doesn't get any special treatment or more respect/weight than any other religion.

 

The only special treatment I give it is to say that many people you'll come across (when talking to my kids) are Christians.  In other words, it is one of the current belief systems.  I don't know if that is special treatment, but it is how it is.



#26 54879525

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Posted 31 October 2013 - 11:31 AM

check-in-minion.jpg



#27 Mom-ninja.

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Posted 31 October 2013 - 11:35 AM

I agree that there's no value to your family in treating one group's god as inherently more real, important, or valuable than another's if you don't believe in any of them. When my daughter was that age, we used an ice cream analogy in that there were lots of flavors but some people only choose a single flavor or small group of flavors, while some don't like ice cream at all. Now, we're Neopagan UU's, so that worked well for us since we were very comfortable with the idea of existence of ice cream. ;)  That may not work as well for you.

 

I totally believe in the existence of ice cream!



#28 Mom-ninja.

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Posted 31 October 2013 - 11:35 AM

My ds is wearing his minion sweat shirt today.



#29 Lady Florida

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Posted 31 October 2013 - 11:41 AM

we were very comfortable with the idea of existence of ice cream. ;)  That may not work as well for you.


I do believe in ice cream. I do. I do. :)

#30 Spryte

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Posted 31 October 2013 - 11:43 AM

I prefer the word "enlightened" to the word "failed."

 

When DS was 6 or so, and we had been studying ancient Egypt, he had quite a playground conversation with another 6 year old.  DS likened the bible to ancient Egyptian myths, and was told that he was going straight to Hell.  

 

Getting out the minion shirts for today.  :)



#31 54879525

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Posted 31 October 2013 - 11:45 AM

I prefer the word "enlightened" to the word "failed."

 

 

Well when wanting to toot my own horn sure.  But it isn't that magical really.  I simply don't believe there is a deity of any sort.  The last time I believed was around the age I also believed in Santa Claus. 



#32 nmoira

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Posted 31 October 2013 - 11:46 AM

I do believe in ice cream. I do. I do. :)

 

 

*grudgingly*

 

 

 

I do too.



#33 LucyStoner

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Posted 31 October 2013 - 12:04 PM

I believe in ice cream's ability to make me feel crummy in my tummy.

(Girl with lactose intolerance runs away.)

#34 albeto.

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Posted 31 October 2013 - 12:12 PM

Does anybody have any advice or recommended resources/books? I am also interested in how to explain the difference between African/Greek gods as myths vs the Christian God, giving the latter more respect or weight even though I don't believe.

I realize this can be a controversial topic here. I hope I don't offend anyone with my question. I want to have respect for others' beliefs and teach that to my kids at least.

 

I wouldn't make any differentiation between mythological gods just because one is a current belief in much of your community. If you want your kids to have a respect for people who hold different beliefs, I think that starts at home. When you answer their questions, do so with the same kind of seriousness and courtesy that you would answering non religious questions. No giggling, no underhanded comments, no rolling of the eyes. A straight face and serious comment models the kind of respect you're looking for, and lots of information can be communicated non-verbally. 



#35 hillfarm

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Posted 31 October 2013 - 12:15 PM

By "failed members" I was referring to anyone within any religious group who have not renounced that religion but who are not able to or willing to adhere to the "rules" of the particular system. I have no idea whether there are failed atheists. Perhaps those who started to believe, just a little...? But I have met many who referred to themselves as a failed Catholic or failed Methodist or a failed Jew or whatever. I think minions (cute though they are) aren't really the same thing.

 

SparklyUnicorn, you asked how my dd knew which children in the group had parents from which religion. Usually the child announced that they were of X religion. At the young age of 4 - 6yo, they were all rather proud of anything that made them unique, so usually seemed very proud to proclaim that they couldn't eat pork because they were Jewish, or that they couldn't meet on a certain day because of a religious holiday they were celebrating then.

 

Also, I was involved with leadership of the group and most times, the parents would also tell me the same thing, especially about dietary restrictions. Dd often was within earshot of these conversations and would ask me about it on the ride home. A large number of our religious conversations took place in the car, with her still strapped in her booster seat.

 

Some kids may be more curious at an earlier age due to their own nature. Others get lots of exposure to people of other beliefs and that triggers discussion earlier for them than for those who aren't exposed to it as early. I wasn't really expecting to have much diversity of religious faith in my area, since it is pretty rural. But dh works at an area university and there is a much more diverse group of people there. The group I mentioned was a children's play group that was formed by one of the professors.



#36 Alessandra

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Posted 31 October 2013 - 12:27 PM

At 4.5, your ds is pretty young for abstract explanations. One way that I found helpful for young kids was introducing them to concrete aspects of different religions. Our libraries are full of picture books about kids celebrating various holidays or just living out a Christian, Muslim, etc life. (We are in a multi-cultural area -- it doesn't sound as though you are though.) Having various religions/cultures portrayed through the eyes of children can have more impact that sophisticated explanations, imo. We also used a number of books recommended in the Core Knowledge curriculum; it does religions in 1st & 2nd grades, but many of the picture books are fine for younger kids.There are Waldorf books (Festivals Together, All Year Round) that have ideas for celebrating cultural/religious festivals. 

 

For yourself, you might enjoy this

http://www.amazon.co...ow do spell god



#37 Alessandra

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Posted 31 October 2013 - 12:31 PM

There's a UU religious education curriculum for 5-12 yos that deals with various religions that might have some ideas. http://www.smuuchurc...e=re-curriculum It's a free download. You could also check into RE materials from the Church of the Larger Fellowship (the UU resource for those not near a congregation). http://www.clfuu.org/

 

Thanks, just downloaded the UU pdf.



#38 Mom-ninja.

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Posted 31 October 2013 - 12:44 PM

I believe in ice cream's ability to make me feel crummy in my tummy.

(Girl with lactose intolerance runs away.)

Can you eat coconut milk? Cause I've had yummy coconut milk ice cream.

 

Gelato is generally tolerated if one is lactose intolerant.



#39 54879525

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Posted 31 October 2013 - 12:56 PM

By "failed members" I was referring to anyone within any religious group who have not renounced that religion but who are not able to or willing to adhere to the "rules" of the particular system. I have no idea whether there are failed atheists. Perhaps those who started to believe, just a little...? But I have met many who referred to themselves as a failed Catholic or failed Methodist or a failed Jew or whatever. I think minions (cute though they are) aren't really the same thing.

 

And why would this be important information for an atheist parent to explain to their 4 year old? 

 

You should probably mention your own religious background because I think it would be helpful to the OP. 



#40 ThatHomeschoolDad

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Posted 31 October 2013 - 01:28 PM

I think one of the big things is to tell him that with any given religion, there will be a certain segment of believers who are very doubtful and waver back and forth with their beliefs. There will be "failed" members of any particular belief group who could not or chose not to accept those beliefs any more. The majority are usually the middle of the road people, most of whom make a reasonable effort to follow the tenants of their faith but who have occasional lapses. 

 

I agree with your idea of a continuum, from extreme zealot all the way to questioning, casual observer.  Like anything else, I suspect it's a bit of a bell curve.  What I'm less sure about is the term "failed."  By putting it in quotes, are you using is as it may be interpreted by the very religious who see anyone outside their particular faith as less perfect, or even doomed?  Or, is "failed" in the more general sense of someone seeking, yet not quite finding fit/answers/comfort/acceptance in a particular faith and sort of checking that off and continuing to search in another direction (or not)?

 

In the latter instance, it's not the best choice of words, but I get it.  In the former, it smacks of the exclusionary, the otherness that has kept religions warring since....well, since forever.  Like "fallen," "failed" is a loaded term, and that barrel tends to be pointed exclusively at those who don't agree with us.



#41 ThatHomeschoolDad

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Posted 31 October 2013 - 01:36 PM

By "failed members" I was referring to anyone within any religious group who have not renounced that religion but who are not able to or willing to adhere to the "rules" of the particular system.

 

Sorry, it took me so long to get around to clicking REPLY that the thread moved on without me.  Your definition of "failed" seems to assume an all-or-nothing approach to any given faith.  That is far from reality.

 

I wouldn't call the Christmas-and-Easter crowd failed, and I wouldn't assume there is only one way to be, say, Catholic, or Muslim or Jewish.  If that were the case, there would be zero separation between Orthodox and Reformed, between Presbyterian and Lutheran, and there wouldn't be the vast spectrum of members within any of those "official" designations.



#42 debi21

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Posted 31 October 2013 - 01:56 PM

I want to thank everyone for their responses so far. Also, especially thank you KarenNC for that link to the UU curriculum. They have a lot of resources listed in there, which I will try and make use of.

 

Your comments have had me thinking more deeply about my concerns. We are in what I fear might be a difficult situation, outsiders in an extremely homogenous community (95%). My husband had an extremely poor experience with it as a child and he still has resentment about it. While I am open with others about not being LDS, even I don't dare admit I'm an atheist around here. I feel like my son needs to somehow learn to be sophisticated in this, and that is an unreasonable expectation I know. But I fear he will alienate every child around him if he says he or his parents don't believe in God. At the same time, I feel like I am trying to teach him some kind of deviousness in disguising what we truly believe, and that feels awful as well because he is still all sweetness and kindness and innocence.

 

While God hasn't come up on our playdates, the mothers I am with often talk about moral virtues and modesty with their 4 year old girls (and honestly the modesty admonitions at age 4 distress me) in front of my son, and it seems impending. In addition, even though I work with him at home, I am putting my son in a light, play-based preschool next month, mainly because it is frequented by all the neighborhood boys on our block and surrounding, hoping he will make friends who are geographically very close. However, there is little doubt that they ALL go to the same church on Sunday, except him. I think it is very likely that there will be a question why they don't see him Sunday. (I know there was with my husband in 1st grade anyway). I have already told the teacher that I am hoping he will make friends and that we aren't LDS. Hopefully, she is as tolerant as she appeared to be to my face.

 

I guess I am terrified of him being friendless. Simultaneously, I am realizing I don't want to start him down a path of pretending to be someone he is not this early in life.

 

 



#43 Kathryn

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Posted 31 October 2013 - 02:11 PM

I grew up atheist. I was aware that my friends were Christian and that their parents would perhaps not like our not being Christian. I just didn't talk about it. If asked where we went to church, I said we didn't. I don't recall anyone ever pressing me beyond that. If we weren't Christian now and I was worried about my children being stigmatized for not being so, I guess I'd just tell them to say we don't discuss our family's beliefs.

#44 albeto.

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Posted 31 October 2013 - 02:15 PM

I guess I am terrified of him being friendless.

 

The reason people like me speak out when possible is to help break down the bigotry people like you and your family face. I am angered that you have to choose between having friends for your children, or being honest. This kind of social blackmail really ticks me off, in case you haven't noticed.   :laugh:



#45 Alessandra

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Posted 31 October 2013 - 02:24 PM

I want to thank everyone for their responses so far. Also, especially thank you KarenNC for that link to the UU curriculum. They have a lot of resources listed in there, which I will try and make use of.

 

Your comments have had me thinking more deeply about my concerns. We are in what I fear might be a difficult situation, outsiders in an extremely homogenous community (95%). My husband had an extremely poor experience with it as a child and he still has resentment about it. While I am open with others about not being LDS, even I don't dare admit I'm an atheist around here. I feel like my son needs to somehow learn to be sophisticated in this, and that is an unreasonable expectation I know. But I fear he will alienate every child around him if he says he or his parents don't believe in God. At the same time, I feel like I am trying to teach him some kind of deviousness in disguising what we truly believe, and that feels awful as well because he is still all sweetness and kindness and innocence.

 

While God hasn't come up on our playdates, the mothers I am with often talk about moral virtues and modesty with their 4 year old girls (and honestly the modesty admonitions at age 4 distress me) in front of my son, and it seems impending. In addition, even though I work with him at home, I am putting my son in a light, play-based preschool next month, mainly because it is frequented by all the neighborhood boys on our block and surrounding, hoping he will make friends who are geographically very close. However, there is little doubt that they ALL go to the same church on Sunday, except him. I think it is very likely that there will be a question why they don't see him Sunday. (I know there was with my husband in 1st grade anyway). I have already told the teacher that I am hoping he will make friends and that we aren't LDS. Hopefully, she is as tolerant as she appeared to be to my face.

 

I guess I am terrified of him being friendless. Simultaneously, I am realizing I don't want to start him down a path of pretending to be someone he is not this early in life.

 

Oh, dear. Your situation sounds a lot more difficult than I had imagined from your original post.  It is hard to be the only person, not part of a group, especially a religious one, since some religions proselytize. It is easier if you are part of something. Is there anything near you that you can be affiliated with (even if you only go once a year, lol)? In my area, you could join Ethical Culture, for example.

 

http://www.nysec.org

 

I hope you find some friends who value diversity!



#46 strawberrymama

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Posted 31 October 2013 - 02:42 PM

We, too, are outsiders in a homogeneous society. Not to the same extent, but I have faced similar concerns. 

I have found that 3 things happen. 

1. Intolerant people will out themselves. It may be obvious, or it could be them telling you that they are tolerant of your faithlessness-which is a sure sign that they are not tolerant at all.

2. The truly open-minded and open-hearted is seek you out. 

3. Outsiders will band together. 

I happened to notice one day that almost all of my friends were from other places. It doesn't seem to matter where. Just anywhere that is not here.Two of my closest and most solid friends are locals. They have never once mentioned"tolerating" my faith. 

 

The moral of the story is: this will sort itself out. Be honest when necessary, reveal as much or as little as you feel comfortable with. Don't feel you have to hide. The right friends will not expect you to be anything other than what you are.

Seek out inclusive and secular activities for your family, of course.



#47 redsquirrel

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Posted 31 October 2013 - 02:55 PM

I explain religions in the same context as mythology. What we now call Greek myths are really the stories of their religion and culture. Christians have their own mythology and stories that are part of their culture. I also made sure my kids knew LOTS of myths at that age. They love them. Get your hands on D'aulaire's books on Greek and Norse Myths. That will make a good start. I also read them lots of creation myths from different cultures.

 

I might look into a UU church in your area. I am guessing there isn't one, but it is worth a shot even if you have to drive a bit. My family attends and it does give us a quick answer to 'what church to you go to'. You don't have to be a christian or even a deist to attend a UU church. I am atheist and I have no problem attending. My kids have friends there and the RE (religious education) program is really good.

 

 

I have a good friend who was in a similar situation and she started telling people her family was Jewish. It was almost true, she was half Jewish, but raised secularly. Her husband and kids were not Jewish. But it was in an area that was very homogenous and that bought her some protection from the constant asking her family to go to church. But it seemed that while the people she was living near wouldn't understand or accept atheism, they did accept Judaism with a bit more ease.  At the very least is gave her 'non-scary' outsider status. No one every asked her any questions about it or expected her to practice. She just told a couple people her family was Jewish and word seemed to spread and that was that. It wasn't like her family was accepted, just the constant asking and pressure to attend church stopped. They had been categorized, and that was really all that the community wanted.

 

 



#48 Mom-ninja.

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Posted 01 November 2013 - 07:48 AM

I have an idea of where you live. I lived in the same area during my high school years. Yes, I felt the sting of being the "different" one. People assumed I did not have manners, morals, and behavior that jived with their religion. I was left out of many activities and lots of people ignored me. Then there were the people who talked to me and "befriended" me with the sole purpose of inviting me to their church. The seminary class in high school really delves into how to proselytize. So even when people were nice to me I learned that I couldn't let my guard down and allow myself to really think that I was making a true friend.

 

As a previous poster mentioned it's true that "outsiders" will usually find each other. One of my best friends was Buddhist and we were like glue.

 

That said there are people who did actually become my friend who realized that I was a decent person despite not being of their religion. In fact, I even dated a guy for two years and he was a great boyfriend. He did, however, try at various times to convince my why I should convert. He eventually gave up and let it drop.

 

I had two really good friends who shared my lack of beliefs. We were close friends for years. Then they converted. They dropped me like a hit potato because I was no longer "worthy" and I was dangerous to their newly cleaned slate. The kicker is that they both had a past of drinking and sex. One of them became pregnant at 14. I'm not saying that makes them "bad" or "immoral" people, but I find it incredibly ironic that *I* was "unworthy" when I had never participated in drinking or sex. It was simply the fact that I didn't accept their new found religion that made me of bad cloth. I was even the one who stood by this girl's side while she was pregnant in school and people were shunning her and playing cruel jokes on her. Then just a short while later I no longer existed. Oh, well.

 

I guess what I'm saying is that it is not impossible to live in a place in which you do not share the religion of the majority. However, it's in no way easy. It's hard for a kid, but I think it's harder once you hit middle school/high school age than elementary.

 

If you live where I think you live it's not just a matter of not bringing it up or not discussing religion. When you meet someone the first question is "What's your name?" and the next question is "Are you (insert name of religion)?" Religion is brought up all the time because it is such an integral part of life for the majority of the population. Kids are taught to ask their friends if they are of their religion and if the answer is no they are taught to invite you to their church. All the time.

 

Don't expect their to be separation between church and state in schools. There isn't.

 

Your ds is only 4. It's not going to get easier. Honestly, if you have an opportunity to move, I'd seriously consider it. Because the religion issue will *always* be an issue.



#49 Saddlemomma

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Posted 01 November 2013 - 08:47 AM

First of all, thank you for asking and being open-minded.  Explaining Christianity can be very difficult for secular people due to the varied denominations out there and a plethora of them calling themselves Christian.  But, how do you know if they are really Christian?  If you stick to the core, essential Christian doctrines you will give your child the correct definition of a Christian while explaining who God is.

 

  1. Deity of Christ - Jesus is God in flesh; He is the proper object of faith; He is both God and man; He is one person in the Trinity (one God existing in 3 persons - Father, Son, Holy Spirit - they are all coeternal and of the same nature = monotheism (there is only one God in all existence)
  2. Salvation by Grace - Salvation is not universal resurrection.  Rather, it is the saving from God's righteous judgment.  Furthermore, salvation, which is the forgiveness of sins is accomplished by faith alone.
  3. The Resurrection of Christ - "And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith," (1 Cor. 15:14).  "And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins," (1 Cor. 15:17).
  4. The Gospel - "But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned!  As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!" (Gal. 1:8-9, NIV).
  5. Monotheism - There is only one God (Exodus 20:3; Isaiah 43:10; 44:6,8)

These are the 5 critical core doctrines declared by the Scriptures to be essential to be Christian.  If someone does not endorse and believe in the above, they are not Christian despite assertions otherwise.  A non-regenerate person will deny one or more of these essential doctrines.   Please note that there are other derivative doctrines of scripture that become necessary also, the Trinity being one. For more information on the above, see http://carm.org/esse...of-christianity (the above information was taken from this site.)

 

You will need to parse this down to your child's level, but I hope this helps.

 



#50 NotSoObvious

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Posted 01 November 2013 - 08:54 AM

Debi, where in Utah are you? We were in south Salt Lake county for five years. We love, love, loved our UU church in downtown Salt Lake and it was worth the 40 minute drive.

If you are in Cache Valley or Southern Utah....sigh. I don't know how I'd survive. We finally moved and we were in a pretty diverse area (for Utah). I didn't want my kids growing up somewhere where they felt like outsiders and were constantly singled out for being different. My husband and I used to be Mormon, so it's not like we didn't know the whole culture- which probably made it even worse, actually.

I'd be happy to chat about our experiences if you wan to PM me. We ended up going to the UU church so that our kids would have "church" and not feel so different.

 

ETA:I just assumed Utah...maybe you aren't there...




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