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Thursday, February 09, 2006 

The Anything God

stardust1954 pointed out this article Raising Humanist Children. The author Terri Mandell has some good advice (like using "one nation under the sky" in the Pledge). My favorite part is right at the end, where she says:
You don't have to tell kids that god doesn't exist. All you have to do is tell them that God can be anything they want it to be, because it's an idea that comes from the imagination.

And then let them figure out the rest for themselves.
I've been letting this seep into my brain for the past week. This feels so right and fits right in with my larger philosophy. I want my children to be independent, free thinkers, full of curiosity and compassion. I don't want to tell them what to think (which I'm sure would be a futile exercise anyway). I value allowing them the freedom to explore and make mistakes if need be, under my protection and gentle guidance. But how do I do this when "God" is such a part of our culture? Ms. Mandell's statement is a way of thinking about the issue in line with my parenting style.

A few weeks back, my 1st grader was telling me that she and her fellow student were talking about God at school. Which god, where? I asked. "He's everywhere!" she enthused. I let her talk and asked questions, but didn't know where to leave it. With this idea that God can be anything, I can really relax about the issue and indulge in creative thinking with her. I also think it'll remove the issue from becoming a "hot button" one for us as a family.

thanks, stardust!

Sounds a lot like the 12 step programs' idea of a "God of my understanding" or "Power greater than ourselves."

I think the danger is that believing in any God may make one susceptible to believing blowhards who think they know what God wants.

I agree that's the danger - the "belief package" that one gets when going along with the god.

But maybe I don't understand your comment... I was thinking of stuff like: "maybe god is purple! and loves ice cream!" so as to start the thought process. Do you think this is a problem?

Do you mean that you're trying to show how silly the idea is by saying stuff like that? Or just get them to start questioning what they really know?

Both, I think.

When my daughter started talking about "God", I asked, "where is he?" "Everywhere!" I looked at her with an eyebrow up, and she took it from there, "He really is, Mom. I know. So-and-so told me. Really. Really." Nothing like the sincerity of someone who believes in the Tooth Fairy.

Here's the new tool in my chest, to be used like this: "does he fly? What do his wings look like?" etc and end with, "wow, what an imagination you have! You know, God *can* be anything you want because the idea of God comes from the imagination!"

and I'm telling the truth! There might really be a purple flying god out there, how do we know?? :)

Getting away from asserting "god doesn't exist" just seems like a real win to me.

Sounds like it's time to teach her about the Invisible Pink Unicorn (IPU.)


This is an answer that I used even when our children were young and we were going through the motions of xianity at the time.

"People believe different things in the world. Some believe in this, and some in that and that is what makes us all different."

Then I would get picture books of different cultures. The library has a great source of books about different lands and how they dress, etc. Six is not too young, my kids loved this stuff at age three. I also introduced them to books on mythology and the greek gods...they have them for children too. And the Invisible Pink Unicorn is a great suggestion too!

Anyway, this teaches them tolerance and respect for other cultures and informs them that there are other cultures and traditions different from our own, around the world and even in our own land.

I am a research freak like my dad! You probably think I am crazy! LOL

But here is a link to Raising Atheist Children from American Atheist. It's got lots of helpful suggestions for young kids all the way up...lots on how to handle peer pressure.

"God can be anything they want it to be, because it's an idea that comes from the imagination." Yes! I need these tools.
"remember to be gentle, not judgemental with your teachings. Many of us have anger about the pain caused by our own religious upbringings, and that anger can really get in the way of many experiences and relationships."
I have that anger problem - not because of past experiences - but my current situation. I bump heads with fundie husband (fundie grandma is the worst!) all the time. I feel defensive when dad and grandma see no problem indoctrinating. I need all the tools and reminders I can get. I know I can be a powerful positive influence on my kids but I need balance - I don't want them to be skeptical and doubt everything and I don't want to be the "angry, god hater". Imagination and make believe are fun. These are good tools.

Hi, Stardust
You asked me Jim, would you give an example of the "shallow interpretations" in the SAB?

Since anything I type gets deleted at stardust's website I have responded to this at my website.

I didn't ask it Jim, Freethoughtmom did. People keep getting us mixed up! :-)
What gets deleted on my blog is excessive evangelizing. I normally do not delete comments.

hey stardust, what would you deem as excessive. Actually wondering and not trying to start an arguement. I have a few atheist friends, and in various converstaions about music, astronomy, science, art, ect. God will come up, and when i mean come up i mean come up. no preparation on my part, just, there it is, otherwise they probably wouldnt be my friends. Anyway, there is always a point in a conversation about God and Christianity where they shut off. I always respect their reaction and oblige, i can never put my finger on what the line is so could you give me an example? Keep in mind that this particular Blogging excursion including yours has been specifically about Christianity and the defense thereof.


Freethought Mom
I found another cool website with lots of other pointers and ideas. It looks like it would be very helpful.


This belief system is called "Deism".

Alternatively you can just try to ensure that they avoid "revealed" religion and stick to ones that are difficult to believe could ever be fundamentalist, like say buddhism.

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  • I'm the freethoughtmom from New England. Welcome!
  • The word rational means having the ability to reason. Reasoning takes time. Giving yourself the space to think is practically a luxury in our society.

    My father is a logical engineer, my mother a caring nurturer. My handwriting with my dominate hand resembles that of my father, the other, my mother. I feel lucky to have both sides to draw from.
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