God Is King Of All The GhostsI don’t talk about religion in our home. Or at least I try not to.

While I think having a moral compass and personal spirituality are important bases for a great life, I’m not doing it because of any robed, bearded, mythical being in the sky. You do it because you respect people, and you want to have a positive impact after your limited time here is done and you turn into a pile of dust.

Former Reykjavik Mayor, Jón Gnarr, has written a great explanation of why he doesn’t believe in god. It’s a great story that explains the importance of community, and culture, but absolutely dismisses the existence of any flying spaghetti monster. Religion is a political tool, a substitute for critical thinking, a close-minded, often misogynist ideology, he argues. I agree.

So no religion in our house. Recent studies have shown that growing up secular is actually better for kids, so that how we roll.

In your house? Different rules, probably. And that’s fine. Except when your kids and my kids go to school, those different rules mix.

This is how it works for everything. From bedtimes to toys to language to diet, you can set up the rules how you like them in your house, but once your kids get out in the real world, the rule book is out the window.

“When you die,” Charlie told us over dinner. “When you die, you get to see god.”

It wasn’t quite a spit take, or a choke, but I put my fork down and paused. Thanks Charlie’s best friend for dropping this nugget of playground wisdom.

“Who is god?,” I followed up. Like I said, we don’t talk religion in our house. One day the complexities and fallacies of belief systems will be discussed, but for now I want my kids to believe in themselves, so the notion of “god” has never been discussed.

After a thoughtful pause, Charlie offered “he’s the king of the ghosts,” and returned to his plate of noodles and cucumber slices.

See Also: Parenting Beyond Belief To Raise Free-Thinking Kids

I’ll accept that answer. Then Zacharie moved in. “God is a legend, so he’s not real,” he explained. (Okay, maybe I’ve done the “god isn’t real” thing once or twice). And then the two of them talked about legends and how different people believe different things, and then their favorite song came on the radio and I was told to turn it up.

Saved by Ariana Grande.

The Sober Second Thought

This incident happened a few weeks ago and has been rattling around in my head ever since. I’m steadfast in my atheism, but how do I balance that reality with the world around my kids that chooses to so intricately blend religion, culture, and mythology?

Has my cone of silence about religion has left my kids vulnerable? Charlie knew nothing of god, so when his BFF gave him his “explain it to me like I’m 5, because I am actually 5” speech about god, Charlie bought it. Zacharie did when a kid started spouting all sorts of bizarre Jewish things to him in Grade 1 too.

See Also: My Kids Have Never Been To Church And I’m Not Ever Going To Take Them

How should I handle it in my home? Do I empower my kids with the critical thinking skills, and confidence to tell their classmates that they’re full of shit? Do my boys come right out and say god is make believe and an excuse for people not willing to look deeper into science to find the real reason things happen?

There’s always a debate each December about Santa in the early school grades. Most all of us play along with this wonderful ruse, but some don’t. They’ve got older siblings and the mystery has been solved, or they’ve got fundamentalist family beliefs that are not to be hijacked by a jolly red suit.

There’s an unwritten rule that once you know the Santa Secret, you keep it secret and don’t ruin the fun for others. The rule works because we’re all in on the joke. We don’t ruin it because, eventually, when the kids are old enough, they figure things out.

But what about religion? Are those of us who have “figured it out,” expected to nurse the god plot along for the spiritual enjoyment of others? There is no naïve, pure joy gained from watching other people believe in god the way we watch kids with Santa.

It doesn’t work because those who believe in god, a being no more plausible than Santa Claus, are not in on the joke. They don’t ever get it. They never grow out of their spiritual naïveté. It deepens. And it makes things worse.

So, I won’t play along with the god games on the playground. If you’re going to let your kid bring their stories to school, I’m going to let my kids bring theirs. It’s only fair. Isn’t it?

Image via Waiting For The Word on Flickr

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  1. Matthew Dekker March 20, 2015 at 9:52 pm

    Speaking as a former evangelical Christian who still has many close friends in that community, can I make a gentle observation? I don’t think this is your intent, but this post comes across as fairly patronizing and condescending towards those with some sort of spiritual/religious beliefs. I’ve read your blog for a little while now, and get the impression that you are a very thoughtful, sensitive, and empathetic person. My experience suggests that one of the most powerful things we can do is to model respectful disagreement. Just some food for thought

  2. buzz March 21, 2015 at 8:19 am

    I dont care what you do in your own time, until it affects me. I live in an area where Catholic schools are taxpayer funded and the government actively resists equality for all students because they are accommodating to religious fundamentalists. So, yes, I will be condescending to those who bring their misguided religion to school and the playground.

  3. Kate March 26, 2015 at 7:22 am

    I have this problem ALL THE TIME. We are a science-loving, evolution-teaching, atheist household. However, the rest of the family is not. My mother-in-law and Grandmother are particularly hard-core in their faith. I okay with that. If their church family gives them community and happiness, I think that’s great. What I don’t think is great is leaving church pamphlets all over my house about great churches in our local area. I really hate the spiteful emails my husband gets because Nana wants to be together with ALL of her family in Heaven and clearly we are just doing this to deny her joy in Paradise. I particularly don’t appreciate my daughter being indoctrinated when they think we’re not looking. (Though it was pretty hilarious when said Daughter said, “Oh, so Jesus is a ZOMBIE” to my 95-year-old grandmother when she was marched up to and “learned” about an etching of the rolling away of the stone.) I hate having to repeat over and over again that Grandma and Nana believe in a story because it makes them happier, but that we believe in reality at our house. We just stay quiet when Nana and Grandma are talking and then we talk about it as a family unit after we leave. We started Jr. Kindergarten this year and had the same spit-take when we were informed that “God lives in all of us” at the table. We were not expecting it at all since we HAD the talks about how some people believe different things because that is what works for them. Proselytizing classmate. What do you do? Peer acceptance is a powerful thing. We are constantly reminding her to politely say “We don’t believe that at our house, but I’m glad you have something that works for you. Let’s play blocks.”

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