Category Archives: religion

For Families in Hiding

science picSometimes, atheists email me from parts of the world where apostasy is a serious crime. It’s hard to imagine how frightening it must be to live in a society where, if you don’t believe in god or religion, you or your family could be put to death. When I hear these stories, it makes me realize how lucky so many of us are to live in countries where we can choose to believe or not believe. While things are not perfect, our battles are small in comparison.

This short post is for those families who must hide. I, as I’m sure many do, admire your bravery. You are not alone. There are many parents like you, both near you and far away.

So you ask: How can you raise your child or children as logical, free thinkers without bringing harm to them?
Be sure to read to them – a lot – about all sorts of topics, from all different points of view. Include them in discussions about politics, history, about how things work. Teach them about types of logical fallacies.  Teach them how to question  in their reasoning. Teach them to play chess. Teach them your morality. They will follow your example. They will learn what is important from you and what is not. Stay the course. You’re doing the right thing, the best thing for your children.
Friends and readers — if you have ideas for parents who are raising their kids to be humanists in countries where they could be put to death, please share your suggestions. We’re all in this together, no matter where we live.

How to Help Kids Navigate Religion

One of the hardest things I struggled with was, “Do I tell my kids what I really think about religion or do I let them discover how illogical it is for themselves?”

I went back and forth on this because I thought, well, if I tell my kids that I don’t believe and point out the inconsistencies in religion, then they’ll never have a chance to believe. It’s like never giving them a chance to believe in Santa. Once you understand that religion doesn’t make sense, you’ll always understand this. I know, I know. There are folks who say, “But I *used* to be an atheist. And to those folks, I say, I *used* to believe in Santa.  After decades of understanding how the whole Santa thing works, you just cannot go back unless 1) you never stopped believing in Santa, or 2) you’re lying to yourself about what Santa and the Christmas machine really are.

So what *do* you tell your kids about religion? After a short time, I came to understand that I need to tell them, “This is what other people believe. I do not believe this because it doesn’t make sense.” I’d tell them why and ask them, “Does this make sense to you?” I’d use as examples Bible stories or other outrageous claims, such as “God saved me from getting on the plane that crashed.” Really, I’d say to my kids? Why was that person so deserving, and why didn’t God save the innocent children? Prove me wrong, I’d tell them. Help me understand something I do not understand, that doesn’t make sense.

Sometimes they’d try. Oftentimes they said, there was not a way.

On the other hand, you’re left explaining why smart people do believe. And this is something that I’ve also struggled with because even I can’t figure it out. I’ve told my children that people are afraid of many things, but especially of the unknown. They are afraid of dying and of not knowing what will happen to themselves or a loved one. They love the lives they have — and their families. This is all very understandable, and we should have compassion for people, but it doesn’t make them right. It only makes them human. Remember the comfort you got from your security blanket or your stuffed animal when you were little? Well, some adults need external “things” to comfort them when they’re scared. It makes them feel good to hold onto something, but you know that something—the stuffed animal, for example—can’t save you. Well, in the same sense, believing in God feels good and safe. But God—who has no corporeal existence and is just a wish or belief–doesn’t save you.

Now I know that this doesn’t leave much room for kids to develop religious beliefs on their own, but if you think about all the times you’d have to withhold information, tell your kids “I don’t know,” or outright lie about the existence of God, you’ll see that there’s a lot of deception that goes on in “allowing” kids to choose to believe.

Will I be disappointed if my kids one day choose to follow a religion? Of course not. I just won’t be disappointed with myself for encouraging them to follow some mythical rabbit down a hole.

This is what has worked for my family. If you can offer feedback on what to tell kids, please share your experiences.

 

We Don’t Need “Saving”

This post is in response to an email I received a few weeks ago. I’m changing the name but the email, in its entirety, can be found below my response.

Dear Christian,

It’s been a while since I’ve posted, but I was inspired to write, in large part, because you said in your email, “I feel that your blog runs people in the wrong direction (quickly) whether you know it or not.”

I will talk as openly and as forthright as I can. People who read blogs like this are searching for their “own kind,” for others who question, who have doubts, who think that something just isn’t right with the whole religion thing. This is one of the many places we hang out.

I am not writing to tell you that you are wrong. In the end, you cannot prove your god any more than I can disprove her. However, is God likely? No. Probable? Of course not. Possible? Sure. And so are flying pigs. If God *is* possible, I think it is sheer arrogance to speak on her behalf, seeing that she isn’t present…and hasn’t been for billions of years. I know, I know, you have the “word of god,” which somehow entitles you to be a mouthpiece for this supernatural being who has shown an awful lot of dislike for the creatures she supposedly created. Well, I have an old book, too, and it says nothing about Adam, Eve, and the other fantastical characters in your bible.

Seeing that atheists do not show up in your church and try to talk your congregation *out* of belief, I’m not quite sure why you folks show up where we gather and try to talk us *into* belief, unless, of course, you think there are brownie points to be earned in saving “souls.”

I believe in the concept “live and let live,” so if you want to believe in your fairy tales and superheroes, and you are not hurting anyone, then good for you. Belief is your security blanket, and I will not try to yank it from you. You have books to recommend? That’s so funny. Everyone has books for us to read, and yet, we are probably the most well-read bunch on the planet.

You say that you keep coming back here, that you find these conversations fascinating, even though you’re not comfortable. May I suggest that you’re energized by the intellectual honesty of these discussions? Perhaps, like us, you recognize the fact that god doesn’t make sense but you’re afraid, so you hold tight to an ego that says, “I am human. Special. Chosen. Loved unconditionally by God. Therefore, I will never die.”

The parents and other folks who read here are brave. It’s not easy to face and accept mortality, that there’s no “big plan,” that we live and die here, on this planet. If we’re lucky, we appreciate this fact and enjoy the short time we have. Sure we could sweep reality under the rug and pretend, but are you really living if you have to lie to yourself, if you have to live in fear that this invisible, deaf and mute god might reject you or harm you at any moment (think great floods and fires)? Do you find it rewarding to argue a position that is indefensible? To hold tight to religious dogma that has brought so much trouble throughout the world and throughout history?

You pray for me? Don’t waste your time. It’s silly. You think it’s going to get you into god’s good graces? Can you prove that? Can you show even a tiny sign that your heaven is “out there”? Of course not. Why don’t you do something for your fellow man instead? With that time you’d use for prayer, volunteer. With the money you give to a church, help others. We put our money where our mouth is. You should, too. The meme to the right explains it all: “God is for you,” meaning god is literally a thing for you and for your emotional neediness.

_____________________________________________________

Hi Deborah,

I wanted you to know that your blog is exceptionally hard for me to read.  Personally I feel that your blog runs people in the wrong direction (quickly) whether you know it or not.  Regardless of my discomfort though I keep coming back to it.  I find the “other side” of the Religious (?) discussion fascinating.   I’m not really sure if Religious is the right word to use in this context.  Anyway my real reason for writing is to recommend 2 books for you:
1) Finding Truth: 5 Principles for Unmasking Atheism, Secularism, and Other God Substitutes – By: Nancy Pearcey  (the fact that you’re mentioned in the book makes me believe you probably already own a copy.  It’s the reason I found your blog to begin with )
2) The Great Emergence: How Christianity is Changing, and Why – By: Phyllis Tickle
Finally I wanted you to know that I’m praying for you.  I do believe in a Heaven, and for admittedly selfish reasons I hope to have conversations with you in Eternity.  Which is a really funny concept because eternity encompasses everything (including now).  I hope this isn’t our only correspondence.
Thanks,
Just Another Christian

The True Mystery of Easter

If your kids have ever asked, “What is Easter?” you’ve probably struggled—like me—with how to tactfully explain this odd holiday. To nonbelievers, it’s a day of renewal and rebirth. Maybe you indulge in chocolate bunnies or color eggs. But to many—too many people–it’s a crazy tale unlike any other. God sends his son to pay for the sins of his prototype humans, Adam and Eve. Because Eve(l) was such a naughty girl, lured by a talking snake to violate God’s rules, all of mankind was sentenced to the death penalty. Not exactly a fair God. But, wait, in the ultimate sacrifice, God sent his own son (read: we’re not his children, no matter what the song says) to suffer, die, and rise from the dead so that we may….suffer, die, and rise from the dead, too? Not sure how Jesus was *literally* supposed to save mankind, but the story claims Jesus died so we can live.

Easter makes no sense.

It’s a constant battle of logic between believers and nonbelievers. In an op-ed today in the NY Times today, the author, William Irwin, writes: “It is impossible to be certain about God.”

This is a conversation atheists often have with believers: We cannot claim with certainty that God does not exist. And it’s true. We cannot answer definitively any of the big, important questions such as what was here before the big bang, what drives the force of evolution, and what exists in the rest of the universe. Yet atheists can claim with near-certainty that God does not exist. The story of the big guy in the sky, listening to our prayers, tinkering with our world (or not), is just as possible as dragons, leprechauns, and monkeys flying out of ….. our bottoms.

So, what is Easter? Around the third century, a group of old men determined it would be the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox. It was the perfect day for planting the food ancient societies needed to sustain them.

Thankfully, we are far removed from those laborious days of growing crops for our families, but why so many of us still believe in crazy myths is truly a mystery.