I am fortunate enough to be in a position where I not only have a hand and a say in the raising of my 2 year old twin grandsons, within this position I am also fortunate enough that they are being raised as atheists. Like my atheist father I and their father will be teaching them about religion as much as and as often as possible, but unlike my father throughout their younger years they will hear Bible stories in the same context as fairy tales and children’s stories about dragons, Hobbits, Trolls or giants. I grew up going to Sunday School in Protestant churches to learn about the Bible all the while knowing my dad did not believe in god. But I took those that did believe and their beliefs seriously; I don’t want my grandsons to think of religion as anything other than make believe. There is one drawback to this that I can foresee however; that is how do I teach them to be respectful or at least not disrespectful to the religious who take their beliefs seriously? Or do I end the unconditional respect that is granted to religion, the religious and their institutions beginning with my grandchildren.
I say I begin to end this unearned respect demanded by and given to religion. The twins will grow up looking at those that believe in the Bible and worship god the same way they would look at someone who believed in Grimm’s Fairy Tales or worshiped the Wizard of Oz. If I am going to teach them what I believe then they are going to grow up looking at god no different than Santa Clause or the Easter Bunny. The boys are not going to be lied to about these fictional characters and told they are for real, but I also cannot raise them as if they don’t exist because at least as far as Santa is concerned during the Christmas season; yes I refer to the holidays as Christmas because that is what it has always been to me, Santa is everywhere and all the other kids are lied to about him. I remember trying to explain to my youngest daughter why Santa was at every store we went to one afternoon, I think I told her he had helpers that dressed like him because everyone wanted him to be everywhere and she told me that the elves were his helpers, to which I had no reply. My grandsons however will be told the truth, Santa is just pretend, and that it is fun to pretend so lots of people pretend to be Santa and parents pretend that presents they buy were really brought from Santa just because it is fun, no other reason. I will tell them the same about the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy, it’s just things we do for fun.
Although I will have a tough time selling the fun to pretend in god story; there is very little if anything about god that is ‘fun’ or ‘funny’. But then we humans do find it fun to scare the hell out of each other so I guess that works as well.