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Raising a kid in a religious family

Hi, I was wondering if there is ay advice someone might have on raising a kid in a family that is religious. Just to give you a background: I'm an atheist in India but brought up as a Hindu. My parents, wife and wife's parents are all quite regligious, but accept my atheism with some sadness - the same way I accept their religiousness. We do have arguements sometimes but mostly it's live and let live from both sides.

But now I have a kid (4 yrs). My wife like him to pray while I don't. But whenever I try to tell him that god is just made up, my wife tells me to stop "spoiling him". My idea is that my child should hear both arguements and make up his own mind. If he chooses religion even after hearing my side, so be it, but don't deny him the knowledge.

What do other atheists think?

The best way to combat superstition is by replacing ignorance with wisdom and facts. Without hostility one can encourage an understanding of science and the use of critical thinking, that is the best way to discourage superstition. Superstitious mythology usually falls with education. Teaching people that any claim should be supported by objective testable reality is a good approach. Teaching someone to look for the facts instead of believing something on faith is not the same thing as just opposing a religion. A person can (through teaching) give someone the ability to dispel myths through inspection of the facts, and that will give them a perspective on what is reasonable fact based information and what is an unreasonable belief. Once a person has the necessary knowledge and knows how to apply critical thinking to the mystical they usually realize that it has no merit.

Teaching the facts about how the universe and life in that universe evolved is far more important than sitting around arguing about faith. Darwin, after a lifetime of study and thought, wrote the "Origin of the Species" and then presented his theoretical argument to the scientific community and to the public. It was accepted as sound theory because there was plenty of evidence to back it up. Mapping the human genome proved that Darwin was right, every species evolved, they were not created. Believing that everything was created in some mysterious way that nobody could possibly ever understand is not that different from believing that the earth is flat. Mankind evolved over a long period of time from primitive animal ancestors.

In order to know the difference in science and pseudo-science you have to know why something like Intelligent Design or creationism is not science and does not answer anything. One of the claims of evidence for intelligent design is intricate cellular components, because they claim they couldn't have evolved. They say that they can't be broken down into smaller, simpler functional parts. However, research shows the cellular machine (exactly the kind of structure that Intelligent Design say indicates design) were there all along and were acquired and assigned a new function. There is proof that cellular complexity is reducible, and that disputes the claims of Intelligent Design that it is not, because it only requires that existing components be reassigned for a new purpose, with inevitable mutations providing extra ingredients as needed. Google the court case concerning the "flagella" - (Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial). The flagella were an issue in the case in Dover Pennsylvania (used as proof of design); it is the hair-like propellers used by bacteria to move. Their component parts are found throughout cells, performing other tasks.

There is no scientific theory based on creationism or Intelligent Design. There is nothing that does not have an explanation; it is just a matter of continuing to look for the answers. Once people are educated many things they once believed will fall apart under the weight of critical analysis, because that is exactly what happened to Intelligent Design once it underwent critical analysis by the scientific community, and that is why it is widely considered pseudo-science today.

Pseudo-science is anything that has no legitimate theory does not answer anything or make predictions, and cannot be falsified. Most pseudo-science has taken authentic scientific theory and developed rebuttals (called theory) in order to promote creationism. The very fact that creationism is still an issue is just another example of the prevailing problem involved with the exploitation of ignorance.

I think that it is very sad to substitute the wonder and mystery of science for a lot of nonsense because the mysteries of space and other scientific fields are far more fascinating, and what can be learned is far more reliable than beliefs in myths. We all have to be brave enough to decide to go forward and not retreat into the darkness. It does not require any knowledge or critical thinking to believe in unsubstantiated claims written by unknown writers of ancient myths. These areas of study can only tell us why civilizations decided they needed religion, but religion itself does not tell us a thing. It would be far more beneficial to give someone the tools that they need to understand the real world that they live in and they will figure the rest of it out by themselves if they are very smart.

Linda, I agree completely. Although raised in a religious household, I started reading books on physics (Feynman, Hawking, etc.) and astronomy when I was around 14-15 and started questioning the entire "God" theory. I also started seeing the corruption in organized religion - my own as well as others.

I've read Dawkins "The God Delusion" and his recent "The Greatest Show on Earth", both of which are amazing books. And clearly lay down the absence of this presence quite nicely.

The problem is to balance a 4yr old's "fun" in doing the religious rituals - ringing bells, getting "prasad" (basically a form of supposedly blessed sweets), singing songs etc. with plain simple facts. Kids his age kind of get bored very quickly. Also, my family objects to my putting those thoughts in his head.

I do want him to know both sides of the argument and then make up his mind. I dont want to brainwash him into atheism - that would make me as bad as the religious zealots. But how do i convince/put it across to my family? Any one else who has gone through this sort of issue?

"The problem is to balance a 4yr old's "fun" in doing the religious rituals - ringing bells, getting "prasad" (basically a form of supposedly blessed sweets), singing songs etc. with plain simple facts" . A lot of Jewish Atheists have this problem, too. They combat it by holding on to some of the traditions of their ethnicity, while cutting out some of the folk tales and superstition. You could introduce some fun "rituals" that have a basis in reality-dinosaur books, a trip to the planetarium-and he will have just as much fun doing those things.

" Also, my family objects to my putting those thoughts in his head."

You need to let them know that you are not putting ideas into his head any more than they are; you just want him to have the opportunity to think for himself. He can't think for himself if he is fed only one story.

"I do want him to know both sides of the argument and then make up his mind. I dont want to brainwash him into atheism - that would make me as bad as the religious zealots. But how do i convince/put it across to my family?"

You have as much of a right to share your beliefs as they do theirs.


Do people have more right to convince someone at a very young age that they must identify themselves with some religious belief, and do it by enticing them with goodies and promises, than someone has to teach them about nature and science? Is it fairer to promote belief in imaginary deities or the supernatural while disparaging asking questions? Religion is candy! Some countries that have a predominant religion are theocracies, and other religious countries use oppression to force religion on the populace. I have never witnessed a situation where I actually believed that people were allowed to make up their own minds about religion without coercion of some kind. Religion is blight on humanity.

If religion has been so successful at teaching the public ethics with delusive beliefs why is war and crime a huge problem in the most religious countries, and is far lower in the countries that are less religious? Ancient religious practices and the divine Ponzi scheme (pay now and collect after death) teach people to be greedy play dumb and don't ask any questions.

A place to start...

THanks a ton, everyone. I have already started introducing my kid to science by explaining in hopefully simple enough terms about the stars and planets, trees and how they grow, etc.

I'm a science fiction nerd so have started showing him Star Trek :) That should at least make him question the enormity of the universe and whether "creator(s)" were responsible for it or natural processes.

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