Should we actively dissuade our children from being involved in religion?

44


Discussion by: Lar

I have two children. One has declared herself a Humanist. The other has mixed beliefs in Christianity and Buddhism. Should I allow them to explore their beliefs or actively persuade them to become atheists?

44 COMMENTS

  1. I have two children. One has declared herself an Atheist. The other has mixed beliefs in Buddhism and Secular Humanism. Should I allow them to explore their beliefs or actively persuade them to become Born-again Christians?

    • In reply to #1 by whiteraven:

      I have two children. One has declared herself an Atheist. The other has mixed beliefs in Buddhism and Secular Humanism. Should I allow them to explore their beliefs or actively persuade them to become Born-again Christians?

      Persuade them, but please follow these rules first.

      • In reply to #13 by PERSON:

        In reply to #1 by whiteraven:

        I have two children. One has declared herself an Atheist. The other has mixed beliefs in Buddhism and Secular Humanism. Should I allow them to explore their beliefs or actively persuade them to become Born-again Christians?

        Persuade them, but please follow these rules first.

        Huh? Who are you offering advice to? If it’s me, I don’t have kids, so maybe you didn’t get my point. As for persuasion, I think the stuff you linked to is proselytizing with a 2×4. I figured things out for myself about the age of 10-11 probably because of an experience and the fact that while I had a little exposure to Protestant church and a Mom who was brought us as a Rhode Island style Baptist, no one ever bothered me much about it. It didn’t take any atheistic diatribes to guide my thinking.

        So what if this fellow’s kids decide they want to have religious beliefs? If they were being brought up in a religious family and had atheist or agnostic leanings, you’d say so what, leave them to their opinion. One almost gets the feeling that there is a similar anxiety or threat to the atheists beliefs (or lack thereof) as we might ascribe to religious people she faced with the similar situation. Either way, I’d expect to deal with it in an accepting and non-coersive way.

  2. What does the other parent [or parents] think?

    Grandparents?

    What ages are they?

    What country & school type?

    “Actively persuade them” is an unfortunate turn of phrase & of course children of a certain age will kick against parental persuasion. I am sure you meant to write that you discuss with them why you are an atheist & you ask them to explain how they have reached their own position. That should be enough in the long run if you put your arguments in a way that they can understand. If the children are not of a scientific disposition then use a more philosophical approach showing the incoherence of the Christian belief system. Buddhism is a different kettle of fish ~ it can be a Sam Harris style discipline with the woo removed.

  3. I don’t really think it’s necessary to actively dissuade them. Many children seem to gravitate toward the things their parents tell them not to do, anyway. The best thing we can do for the future generation is to encourage rationality and critical thinking, as these tools are essential for arriving at accurate conclusions. I was raised by secular parents who simply taught me the facts about science, even though they never discouraged religion. Once a child is taught to think rationally, hopefully they will learn for themselves to reject faith-based belief.

    • In reply to #3 by skeptic149:

      Many children seem to gravitate toward the things their parents tell them not to do, anyway.

      You’re not the first by any means to state this. I’m wondering if it’s true. Perhaps I wonder this because I obeyed a lot of the things I was told not to do such as: drugs, dropping out, not working hard, etc. That said, I was never specifically told to remain Catholic! (I am atheist). lol

      As an aside, is there any study about many children gravitating away from parental guidances? Just curious. As far as the question in the OP, I’m not really sure but have appreciated the replies.

      Mike

  4. There comes a time when a parent has to actively dissuade their children from believing in Santa, for the good of their own development. I don’t think it is at all incorrect to teach a child right from wrong, or make believe from reality. Religion is make believe, in every measurable way, and in every logical way. I would be more concerned about where such influences come from, and take steps to ensure their fragile mind is well prepared for the assault of real life.

    Not only should you, it is absolutely correct, and your duty as a parent to give your children a good grip on reality, the reality in which they will spend the rest of their lives, where religion, is of as much use as a fervent belief in Santa.

    If everyone played by the same rules, if everyone with a religion kept if for them, you would have no reason to be asking this question. The fact is that religious people do not play by the rules, why would they, they are righteous: Other people have enough influence over your child to persuade them that non-sense is real, definitely do something about it …

  5. The stories of the bible, the references and many English phrases and concepts originate in the bible. I think it’s worthwhile knowing these things as kids, because to be left completely in the dark would be missing many of the nuances in conversation and writing. If the family doesn’t practice any form of praying for Devine intervention, or respect for a deity , I just don’t think it would register as an avenue to take. This is what we did with our kids anyway, and it worked for us. They were able to compartmentalise the things they learnt in religious education classes, and what happened in real life.

    Once they became older, I was quite forthright in my stance on the veracity and relevance of religion and I’m really happy that they think the same way. Perhaps they learnt this through osmosis, though I certainly didn’t want to give them anything to rebel against.

  6. The best you can do is assist them to develop their own bullshit detectors, and then let them go operate them on their own. Useful background material lying around can help. The God Delusion would be one. But don’t go thumping it like it’s a bible or something.

    There’s a documentary I saw lately called Zeitgeist that had a segment on the origins of religions including christianity, full of astrological/astronomical connections, which I found put another slant on the wisdom of ancient teachings and writings the religious call “scripture”.

  7. Absolutely you should let them find their own way. Your job, as a parent, is to nourish them, teach them, give them the tools they will need when they eventually go out into the wider world to find their own way. Most, if not all, the people on this site loudly condemn the labeling of children as christian, muslim etc. Should we not also condemn labeling a child atheist.

    Lead them by your example in the way you treat others, teach them to think rationally and love them unconditionally, and you will not go far wrong.

  8. I think the age of your children is a fundamental question that needs to be answered to help judge the situation. As a very young child being brainwashed at school is quite different to young adults making their own informed decision.
    Personally I wasn’t raised to believe anything one way or another, I didn’t really worry about any of it until I started getting threatened by teachers at primary school (making me 9-10) for not praying when told to in assembly (threatened with expulsion but inevitably hollow). That’s when I started asking questions, also asking for the ‘real’ answers to those posed in the songs we had to sing (“who put the salt into the sea” etc, I never once thought it would be a ‘who’).

    Anyway my opinion is do not try and tell anyone what to believe, teach them how to think for themselves and leave it at that. I despise religion at every level, but if an intelligent person makes the informed decision to turn to superstition for their own reasons then that can be compartmentalised to being force fed what to believe by their parents, which I think is child abuse and would hate to be a hypocrite. There is nothing wrong with questioning what they believe and having a debate, but saying ‘believe what I believe’ is absurd and wrong, not something you have said you would do but the ‘should I allow them’ does imply something dangerously close to this.

  9. let them explore, never try to make an atheist but do actively persuade them to be inquisitive, question the facts and how they’re gathered.

    if you’re an atheist and not giving them religious instruction you needn’t worry but be open about your views and encourage them to challenge

  10. Yes, allow them to explore on their own.

    That advice comes with a caveat: Be very wary of the company they keep.

    My advice is based on my own experience. My Daughter recently affirmed that she is an atheist to her Mother – a practising Orthodox Christian. She was also influenced by her two grandmothers, both religious – and one is a priest.

    I made it my job to, in the nicest possible way and with as low a profile as humanly possible, vet all my Daughter’s friends and their families. A little praise goes a long way when influencing the choice of friends, and negatives should be avoided at all costs. I am proud to say that my Daughter has turned out to be a very good judge of character.

    I also encouraged both of her grandmothers to have their granddaughter to visit – including on her own.

    I did not demur when my Daughter was taken to any church, nor did I protest when her Mother insisted that she join Sunday School (which she attended for 3 or 4 years – roughly from the ages of 11 to14).

    I did remove her from religious studies classes for the first four years of High School. Although I was intrigued by the possibilities that comparative religion can provide it was clear that the lessons she started to take in her first year were undermining her critical thinking. I was the first parent to request that their child be removed from religious studies, but once I started the ball rolling several other parents followed suit.

    I was not, to the best of my knowledge (except on one occasion, see below), aided by two other special people in my Daughter’s life; my Father and Step-Mother (she’s known as the Wicked Step-Mother, because she’s wicked). These two are also atheists.

    My Daughter asked to be allowed to rejoin religious studies in her last year at school, but only to earn an additional credit (she got an A – tough stuff to learn religion).

    It was round about this time that she asked me about my beliefs. I had prepared for this moment by reading up on the Invisible Pink Unicorn.

    Later we were visiting her Grandfather, when she also asked him. He replied that he is an atheist. My Daughter told him that I am a follower of the IPU, and he revealed that my Wicked Step-Mother had also recently decided to follow the IPU. It took only one more conversation (three in total) in which my Daughter attempted to take up the cudgel for a god, but the IPU is – of course – all powerful. My Daughter has never asked me about religion since.

    It took her three more years to work it out in her head, and be sure enough to tell her Mother.

    I researched other parody religions and, in my view, the IPU is still the best for explaining the absurdities of a deity to a developing mind. If I remember correctly I did bring up the Flying Spaghetti Monster at one point in our discussions to explain how I came to choose the IPU over other gods – but the IPU is still a much better counter to the common claims of theists.

    That is a long-winded way (I’m afraid I’m famous for it) of saying: Trust your kids.

    I cannot tell you the number of times I held my piece, and worried that I was letting my Daughter down. But walking the line of least resistance and honouring their individual intellect will only make them more likely to listen to you when they get around to asking. Just be ready.

    Also, my Daughter has had her own PC since the age of about 9. Some parents would be terrified, but I spent a considerable amount of time ensuring that quality censoring software was in place. I also made sure that she had to ask before any program was installed too, until she was at least 14. She appears to be a happy and healthy girl today, so I think I got it about right.

    This is important because the Net is where religions and dogmas come to die. There is so much good information out there – giving your kids even a sub-set of the Net is to give them access to one of the biggest and best libraries of all time.

    The last piece of the jigsaw is critical thinking. I encouraged my Daughter to study mathematics and science to help her develop a systematic and evidence-based approach to thinking about reality. I also encouraged her to ask questions.

    The worst thing that you can ever do is to say to a kid – at any age – that’s a stupid question, or, stop bothering me. Be constructive; reflect the question back. Yes, sometimes kids do just ask questions to be annoying – but there are ways of pointing out that they’re being silly without murdering their natural curiosity or shouting them down and undermining their self-esteem.

    Today my Daughter dislikes science – but you can’t choose their teachers unless your spectacularly wealthy. Anyway, that is beside the point.

    Apart from that Buddhism is one of the least objectionable religions. Even so, a good grounding in critical thinking, I reckon, would see it off.

    Peace.

  11. I’d just point out in passing why you find this or that belief implausible, flawed, etc, and let them work it out for themselves. It depends how they tend to view and think about themselves and the world whether that would be suitable, though. If they have a strong need for social affirmation (in contrast to interaction and anticipation, which can look superficially similar), for instance, that could override such concerns.

  12. A normal science education should be all it takes to lead a child away from fairy tales. Reading the bible often cures an interest in christianity.

    I would avoid forbidding being religious; to a teenager the forbidden is the most attractive thing in the world. I would share my own opinions and invite the child to discuss it with me. Of course, as you haven’t mentioned the childrens’ ages or where you live more specific advice is impossible.

  13. Every person is responsible for developing their own world view. Your input into your child’s worldview is your right, whatever you decide. The big deal to me is to tolerate and respect whatever they come up with. You do not need to agree and you can argue and dissuade. But, too many people shit all over their kids when their kids choose a pathway that they disagree with.

    It happens to homosexuals, it happens to atheists at the hands of believers. It is patently wrong when it does. It is also wrong in the other direction.

  14. I don’t know why you shouldn’t just talk plainly about your own views. You’ll naturally try to be persuasive, but that’s fine and nobody has to be made to feel like it’s your way or the highway.

    —-//—-

    One simple way I think about this is to start by imagining the sorts of things I would like for my children to understand and appreciate. Some things like evolution are very important, while others hardly register or maybe they require little from me in terms of direct input. Needless to say, my children developing a delusional belief in a sky daddy doesn’t rate very high on my list of hopes for them. However, I would place learning about religion, their cultures and what it may be like to be a believer much higher on the list. This attitude must manifest in my parenting, most importantly probably in what I expose them to and how.

  15. Intelligence is hard wired and out of your control. You can’t propose this on your children, it is genetic. But, listen carefully, if you enforce a critical behavior in your children, you should be aware of that you make it an instinct to them to be critical. There is serious problems with this, if you make it an instinct to them to be critical, then it will be natural for them to be critical, but it will not be based on their own thoughts, it will rather be based on their instinct, they’ve learned to be rational and they cant get rid of this behavior. Now the big problem with enforcing children to be critical and rational is that if they engage in debates (later in life) and suppose they lose a debate. When and if they lose a debate due to their opponenst being smarter than your kids, your kids will not learn their mistakes naturally, because their own skepticism is instinct and not something they learned naturally. The big problem with this is that when they lose a debate, their personal character will be under attack each and every time they lose an argument, their instinct gets attacked and they would not understand why, this can cause trauma, because everything that is instinct is part of a persons character. It is better to let a kid build up a healthy character with few and healthy enforced principles and then let them discover their intellectual side by themself, so that they can learn it really well too. It is always best to let a child learn its intellectual side by themself because people will only become as intelligent as they need to be, in parts of their lives they need a specific intellectual side. Trying to give a child a broad intellectual side is not only a waste of time, it can actually be damaging.

    • In reply to #19 by RealityVisible:

      Intelligence is hard wired and out of your control. You can’t propose this on your children, it is genetic. But, listen carefully, if you enforce a critical behavior in your children, you should be aware of that you make it an instinct to them to be critical. There is serious problems with this, if you make it an instinct to them to be critical, then it will be natural for them to be critical, but it will not be based on their own thoughts, it will rather be based on their instinct, they’ve learned to be rational and they cant get rid of this behavior. Now the big problem with enforcing children to be critical and rational is that if they engage in debates (later in life) and suppose they lose a debate. When and if they lose a debate due to their opponenst being smarter than your kids, your kids will not learn their mistakes naturally, because their own skepticism is instinct and not something they learned naturally. The big problem with this is that when they lose a debate, their personal character will be under attack each and every time they lose an argument, their instinct gets attacked and they would not understand why, this can cause trauma, because everything that is instinct is part of a persons character. It is better to let a kid build up a healthy character with few and healthy enforced principles and then let them discover their intellectual side by themself, so that they can learn it really well too. It is always best to let a child learn its intellectual side by themself because people will only become as intelligent as they need to be, in parts of their lives they need a specific intellectual side. Trying to give a child a broad intellectual side is not only a waste of time, it can actually be damaging.

      Is this a situation you have actually encountered in your experience, or are you just assuming that this will be the turn of events? It sounds counterintuitive not to encourage kids to think rationally about things, but I sense more than a grain of truth in there somewhere.

      • In reply to #20 by Nitya:

        In reply to #19 by RealityVisible:

        Is this a situation you have actually encountered in your experience, or are you just assuming that this will be the turn of events? It sounds counterintuitive not to encourage kids to think rationally about things, but I sense more than a grain of truth in there somewhere.

        I may have got it a bit wrong here. I did not mean to say that you should not explain an answer to your kids whenever they do have a question about something. Of course you should explain it. In my opinion, if a child ask a question about something, usually a parent will give a simple and short explanation of the question to them, in order to make them understand it. I’m deeply against giving children simplified answers. I believe one should give the child the most complex and correct answer there is, no matter how silly and stupid the situation may sound like (can you imagine a professor giving a complex answer to a 5 year old). But it will pay off in the end, the kid learns that the world is not easily understood, and the complex answer you give the kid will teach children to ask better questions the next time, instead of just accepting the simple answer, and then possibly skipping a more complex answer to the problem. Also let kids use their curiosity, let them break vases, let them take things apart, don’t punish them if they sit on the floor and is plucking some valuable gadget apart, if you punish curiosity (despite how annoying it is to see a vase being broken), let the kid explore the pieces of whatever he is doing, so he can learn naturally, that taking things apart is not something that is punished in life.

        Every parent have a deep strong belief that everything should be taught to a child. In my humble opinion, almost nothing should be taught to a child. The ultimate goal is to let the kid learn as much as possible by him or herself, and then step in when something went wrong. As much of reality must be taught to children by experience. Experience is the only knowledge, enforcing experience indirectly on children can cause children to become bad analysts later in life. Enforced experience can teach a child not to go there at all, because the child have heard their parent say so (indirect enforced experience), but if the child will find him or herself in a situation where they cannot avoid that situation (later in life), they are forced to use part of their experience they don’t currently possess and problems arise.

        • In reply to #22 by RealityVisible:

          In reply to #20 by Nitya:

          In reply to #19 by RealityVisible:

          Is this a situation you have actually encountered in your experience, or are you just assuming that this will be the turn of events? It sounds counterintuitive not to encourage kids to think rationally about things, but I sense more than a grain of truth in there somewhere.

          I may have got it a bit wrong here. I did not mean to say that you should not explain an answer to your kids whenever they do have a question about something. Of course you should explain it. In my opinion, if a child ask a question about something, usually a parent will give a simple and short explanation of the question to them, in order to make them understand it. I’m deeply against giving children simplified answers. I believe one should give the child the most complex and correct answer there is, no matter how silly and stupid the situation may sound like (can you imagine a professor giving a complex answer to a 5 year old). But it will pay off in the end, the kid learns that the world is not easily understood, and the complex answer you give the kid will teach children to ask better questions the next time, instead of just accepting the simple answer, and then possibly skipping a more complex answer to the problem. Also let kids use their curiosity, let them break vases, let them take things apart, don’t punish them if they sit on the floor and is plucking some valuable gadget apart, if you punish curiosity (despite how annoying it is to see a vase being broken), let the kid explore the pieces of whatever he is doing, so he can learn naturally, that taking things apart is not something that is punished in life.

          Every parent have a deep strong belief that everything should be taught to a child. In my humble opinion, almost nothing should be taught to a child. The ultimate goal is to let the kid learn as much as possible by him or herself, and then step in when something went wrong. As much of reality must be taught to children by experience. Experience is the only knowledge, enforcing experience indirectly on children can cause children to become bad analysts later in life. Enforced experience can teach a child not to go there at all, because the child have heard their parent say so (indirect enforced experience), but if the child will find him or herself in a situation where they cannot avoid that situation (later in life), they are forced to use part of their experience they don’t currently possess and problems arise.

          I’m sorry, I think we may be at cross-purposes here. I wasn’t suggesting that one give the child a lengthy lesson about how to think, but I meant that by example showing one’s own kids how to work things out by themselves and by gentle guidance. For example, when my then 7yr old asked if Santa was real, because he had started hearing things to the contrary, I asked him to think about it. Did he think that reindeer could fly and land on the roof etc.?he reluctantly came to the realisation that Santa must be a fiction and that the kids in the playground were right.

  16. I don’t try to dissuade my grandson from belief in Jesus; however, I do tell him that Jesus is one of Santa’s little helpers or one of Santa’s reindeer. When belief in Santa disappears, so will his little helpers.

  17. It is equally bad to tell a child that Santa is real as it is to say that Santa is not real. When the child grows up, and he hears people talking about that Santa is real, he will wonder why his parent told him santa is not real. If parents tell their kids santa IS real, and your child grows up to hear from someone that santa is NOT real, he will wonder why his parent told him santa was real. Even though it may sound very wise and rational to tell a child that santa is not real, it is always more destructive to tell an irrelevant thing to a child, when the answer does not provide any significant usefulness in life. If the child have a neutral view of Santa, and he socialize with a group of people who do not believe in santa, he will learn from whatever group of people he likes to be with, that santa is not real and he learns to adapt to that group which he naturally falls into. If you teach the child something about santa and he socializes with a group of people he enjoy being with, and they have a different view of santa, the child cannot adapt to them, and unnecessary conflict arise. There is no point in teaching the child that santa does not exist, because his or her intelligence WILL find out sooner or later, but in a much better way than being proposed an answer to this at an age they are not really able to understand logic anyway.

    You should let your child learn the things that you do, not the things that you say. Superficialness evolves if you say something to a child, but do a completely different thing, they do not learn good things from this. Children grow respect of their parents, if they make mistakes in practice, but don’t try to enforce a solution of these mistakes onto their children. They grow up, and will love their parents for who they were, and not what they said, despite any faults in their parents.

    Children WATCH their parents and how parents solve their OWN problems, they do not listen to parents telling their kids how to solve the problems of the parents. Be yourself and solve your own problems as a parent, and let your kid watch what you do.

    If you’re happy, your child will learn to be happy. If you try to teach a kid how to be happy, he will learn how to teach other people how to be happy. Show kids that you’re happy. :)

    You don’t have to teach your kid how to love their own parent, children cannot and will not stop loving their parents, parents are the primary socialization step in their lives, they cannot forget them, they will not forget them and they will (at any price) try to be like them. Don’t ever waste time trying to force them to be someone you are not yourself, because your kid will do everything in their power to become JUST LIKE YOU.

  18. The only thing I can tell you, is based on what I know, personally. I have been an atheist for many years, but many years later in my life, I encountered a manifestation from God and I didn’t ask for it to happen. I analyzed the circumstances repeatedly to a point where I am sure about what I currently know. If you want an advice from me, I am absolutely not against atheism and the free thinking that follows in that, I grew up as an atheist. But if you want my advice, be a little bit cautious exactly what you decide to teach him, there is alot of mystery in this cosmos that is not obvious to many people, just be careful with how determined you will teach your kid, whatever you will teach him, based on my advice and what I know, you can use what I’ve said, not for truth, but use it as a tool to reduce your determined state and approach your child with a bit more neutral mindset, because you never know :)

  19. I think one of the biggest mistakes people make in discussing child care is to forget that children are sentient life forms with minds and rights of their own. Not saying you are making that mistake just that I observe it a lot and not just in theists. I absolutely think you should let them explore their own beliefs and make up their own minds. Although if you want to maximize the chance that they become atheists I would say you should… also let them make up their own minds. A couple of my close friends had parents who tried to indoctrinate them to secularism or in one case an actual hatred of religion. They grew up to be either religious or new age spiritual. On the other hand the strongest atheists I know are people like me who were raised by religious parents but came to realize it was BS. I think its a feature of maturation that we are more likely to rebel or at least seriously question the beliefs that our parents hold most dear.

    • In reply to #29 by Red Dog:

      I think one of the biggest mistakes people make in discussing child care is to forget that children are sentient life forms with minds and rights of their own. Not saying you are making that mistake just that I observe it a lot and not just in theists. I absolutely think you should let them explore their own beliefs and make up their own minds. Although if you want to maximize the chance that they become atheists I would say you should… also let them make up their own minds. A couple of my close friends had parents who tried to indoctrinate them to secularism or in one case an actual hatred of religion. They grew up to be either religious or new age spiritual. On the other hand the strongest atheists I know are people like me who were raised by religious parents but came to realize it was BS. I think its a feature of maturation that we are more likely to rebel or at least seriously question the beliefs that our parents hold most dear.

      I’ve encountered this situation quite a few times myself. I think the individuals involved just wanted to lump the whole lot of beliefs and attitudes onto the “disliked” parent, and live in the opposite realm. That’s the reason I was not at all dogmatic about passing on a particular mindset on religion. Happily things turned out in accordance to my own thinking, but it’s not a big deal.

      • In reply to #30 by Nitya:

        In reply to #29 by Red Dog:

        I think one of the biggest mistakes people make in discussing child care is to forget that children are sentient life forms with minds and rights of their own. … I think its a feature of maturation that we are more likely to rebel or at least seriously question the beliefs that our parents hold most dear.

        I’ve encountered this situation quite a few times myself. I think the individuals involved just wanted to lump the whole lot of beliefs and attitudes onto the “disliked” parent, and live in the opposite realm. That’s the reason I was not at all dogmatic about passing on a particular mindset on religion. Happily things turned out in accordance to my own thinking, but it’s not a big deal.

        I agree. I want to emphasize that for me the most crucial thing here is an ethical choice. I think its wrong to push ideas on to kids. They have the right to make up their own minds and their beliefs will be much stronger when reached on their own rather than spoon fed from parents. Which doesn’t mean you can’t present them with information. With my daughter I always tried to make a distinction between saying “here is what I think and why” as opposed to “here is what you should think”.

  20. When my children were young I taught them how to figure out if something is true or not, using the best, most practical, comprehensive summary of science that I’ve ever seen:

    http://www.csicop.org/si/show/field_guide_to_critical_thinking/

    We went through examples so they could see WHY the FiLCHeRS method works.
    I told them that they can follow any doctrine they want, but would expect them to see if it’s true first or they’re wasting their time. I am now the proud parent of three grown-up kids who can think for themselves and win arguments against me! That’s a result.

    • Thanks Dave, I’ve never seen this before.

      Here’s a working link: A Field Guide to Critical Thinking

      In reply to #32 by Dave H:

      When my children were young I taught them how to figure out if something is true or not, using the best, most practical, comprehensive summary of science that I’ve ever seen:

      http://www.csicop.org/si/show/fieldguidetocriticalthinking/

      We went through examples so they could see WHY the FiLCHeRS method works.
      I told them that they can follow any doctrine they want, but would expect them to see if it’s true first or they’re wasting their time. I am now the proud parent of three grown-up kids who can think for themselves and win arguments against me! That’s a result.

  21. I think it really does not matter what they believes. But parents should teach them to love and respect other people. They must be taught to live happily. I am a strong non-believer, neither I believe in religion nor in god. But my parents are religious. They taught me to love life. And I think that is the best way.

  22. More important than teaching children what to think is teaching them how to think. When they understand logic and the pitfalls of common logical fallacies then they can rationally evaluate their own current beliefs, alternative beliefs, or no beliefs at all. Explore with them the logic of all topics, not just religions. Peace.

  23. They’re human beings, and I don’t believe in talking down to anybody, not even kids. Don’t jump straight to didactics, though, or else the relationship between you and them will get neglected, and in the meantime will probably effect how they come to view your points.

    If you must teach them anything, just teach them generic critical thinking skills, how to think in abstract terms more comfortably than intuitions would allow, and then wait until they’ve learned enough and grasped enough information to hold a position or to express an interest before you think of discussing the issue with them. And then discuss it like you’d discuss any topic with an adult; politely, respectfully, cooperatively, and without preaching to them or dominating the discussion.

  24. What would your reasons be for dissuading or, as you imply, not allowing them to explore their beliefs?

    Let us say, hypothetically, that your primary issue with religious faith is that it hampers one’s ability to think critically and independently. I’m not saying that that is your reason, but if it is then how will not allowing them to explore their own beliefs be conducive to the ultimate goal of helping them think critically and independently?

    I can’t say more because I don’t know your situation: how old your kids are; whether the environment you live in is conducive to critical, independent thinking or run over with aggressive evangelicals; and what your goals are.You’ll have to think about what is really important to you and how best to achieve it.

  25. Lar:

    My theory is that any child who is left to their own devices and not actively submerged in religious dogma will have serious reservations about the existance of a deity. So with that I think it is safe to allow them to exlore and come to their own conclusions. My son, who is 12, knows that i am atheist. I told him to decide for himself what he thinks. My mom drags him to church every chance she gets and made him memorize the lord’s prayer. I grit my teeth. I asked him as neutrally as I could, “what do you think of church?” He considers it entertaining (southern baptist services) but didn’t think much of the sermons, based on biblical stories, made sense. Well of course they don’t. Any kid not trying to please their parents would freely admit that church sucks and the bible sounds far fetched.

    Another thing is I don’t think Buddhism is a religion or worship’s any gods. I’m no expert though so check on it. The beauty of atheism to me is that it comes naturally to anyone who is not brainwashed at a young age. There is little need to “actively persuade”. Where as with religion, you need to preach it with emotion and zeal in order to get people caught up in it. Logic is not on their side.

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