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Ask the Patriarch 217
What to tell the children?

from: Greg Titus

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I was raised attending a Lutheran church, and am now a member of the UCTAA. I don't have children, but I would like to in the future, and I'll probably, with my mate's approval, raise them as Apathetic Agnostics.

My question to the Patriarch is: With much of North American history, culture, and figures of speech derived from religion, how would an Agnostic parent introduce the more common sayings or expressions to the children?

Thanks,
GT

The Patriarch replies:

Greg:

As in the previous question, I think it would be useful for those who have actually brought up children as disbelievers to provide the benefit of their experience in this area.

As for my own thoughts, I'll start off by referring you to Miscellany 238: Raising Children Without Religion. This provides a brief list of reasonably books, some for parents, and some for children, which should assist you.

I think it is important to develop a consistent message for your children and stay on message over the years. It's not just in handling common terms of speech; it's the pervasive background religion throughout our culture including holidays, prayer on so many public occasions, politicians invoking god, etc.

As your children develop and can handle ideas of increasing complexity, you could make your children aware that many people outside your family have thousands of different religious beliefs; some of these beliefs are ancient, some comparatively recent. Make the point that because of the differences, these beliefs cannot possibly all be right. And as there is no objective for any of these beliefs, it is quite possible that they are all wrong. You yourself see no reason to pick one set of religious beliefs over any other, and good reasons to reject the whole lot.

Let your children know that they are free to make their own decisions on religion as they grow up, but impress on them that of rationality and skepticism should be applied to religion as well as other areas of life.

I think if you start with an overall theme and direction and stick with it, you'll be able to handle the details - such as explaining why everyone celebrates Christmas - when the time comes.