Can we teach our children
to recognize indoctrination attempts
by the religious believers?
I'd love to be able to tell you that, yes, there is a magic bullet, a way to make 100% certain that indoctrination attempts do not reach our children's ears or minds. Alas, there is not. What we do have, however, is time and reason.
Raising children is a journey.
Along the way we will enter Mordor as often as we enter Narnia; it's not really possible to avoid all detours and I'm not sure it's necessary. I can recall dozens of times when the issue of religion raised its alluring head to my children, times when they felt attraction to the tales and saccharine of various beliefs. As a freethought parent, a true skeptic, parts of me wanted to hide the kids in caves until it was over. But we all know that that isn't possible, nor is it preferable.
If there are going to be mind games being played, and there are, we want to be in the forefront of defense. And, delightfully, that isn't all that hard to do. No, we can't compete with cute zucchini singing songs or other magical allurements. But there isn't really the need to. Because we have reality on our side.
Learning about the reality of the planet on which we live is enough.
Our children will go through the normal stages of childhood, including those years of truly wanting to believe in magic. I remember my daughter, one time, sending me to the library to pick up books on how to do magic. When I brought home a nice selection of books on magic tricks she said No, Momma, not tricks, real magic! Of course, I had to take her to the library and show her that there are no such books and I had to explain why. Because magic isn't really real. 😢 I agree that it would be fun if it was real, but, alas, it is not.
That is why we pretend. 😃
Sadly and surely, there will be concerted efforts by someone to indoctrinate your child. The Sweet Tiny Baby Jesus story. Noah. Heaven. The Lord who will put you into HELL if you don't believe, etc.* Even with little extra-familial conflict there will be those who attempt to tell these stories to your children behind your back. It is inevitable.
The challenge at those integral moments will be to remain calm.
You will want to do what I did.
Feel like fleeing.
Want to shield your child.
But what I finally realized is this. There is no way around it, there is no healthy way to forbid it or avoid it; the only way is through it. Magical thinking is a completely normal part of our children's cognitive development, which is probably why they are so targeted at such young ages. Our children will learn by exploring the ideas and by rejecting them one by one.
Here's what it looks like when we remain calm: we look at the various weird claims and ask Hmmm, I'm not seeing any sign of that. Let's look it up. 😃
For example, hell and heaven. We looked through telescopes and saw absolutely mindblowing planets and stars and other objects, objects completely amazing and worth knowing more about - but no heaven. We looked deep into the earth. We saw strata and dirt and rock and minerals, more stuff that was interesting to learn more about - but we did not see hell.
Shrug. Hmmmm. Wonder why that is..?
For a fairly long while my children believed in various magical ideas. And I had to allow that.
Why? So that they could figure it out themselves.
With one caveat, this does not mean being cavalier about allowing the kids to go to VBS with Grandma; that's an entire other story.
In the meantime, calmly and fun, we are learning about various bits of scientific reality. The water cycle. Fossils. Dinosaurs. Animal lives. The human body. Weather. Chemistry. The stars. Plants. Fish. Etc. We are learning what is real. Continue to learn more, continue to be curious, continue to explore anything at all that interests you and your children.
And enjoy the journey.
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First Generation Atheist Parenting
On Being an Atheist Parent
How to Explain Religion to my Child