Here’s an email we received about raising kids while atheist with an unsupportive family.
I am a fan of the show. Like so many other atheist i grew up in a very religious household, my mother is an evangelical Christian and performs in gospel music groups, she has been seen on gospel music television, and has performed all over the united states, there are several evangelical pastors in my family that is centered around a church that is owned and operated by members of my family, (Uncles, Mother, Cousins etc) I was the first Atheist to “come out” in my family and in the years that have followed there has been at least one other who credits me as an inspiration to be honest about her beliefs, there are a few others of the younger generation that have secretly confessed to me they share the same beliefs that i do but are afraid to admit this to their parents for fear of being rejected.
I have a 4 year old son, who I love with all of my heart, I am divorced and have custody of my lil boy, He loves science and enjoys learning. at four years old he can name the 8 planets and tell you things about each, he knows what gravity is, and can explain the water cycle and photosynthesis, he can do 3 part addition in his head and is learning some very basic pre-algebra, he is sounding out words and starting to read from flash cards, and can tell you who the president of the united states is. His education is very important to me and i work extremely hard to ensure that he has the best education that i can make available to him.
I have ran into a problem that i do not know exactly how to handle, when explaining the water cycle to my son about a month ago, he informed me that his Granny (my mother) taught him that “Jesus” makes it rain, i explained to him that is not true and conducted a science experiment in my kitchen where i boiled water and let him see steam builds up on a pot lid and watch the water drip back down in the pot and showed him this is how the rain works, evaporation, condensation and precipitation, we watched some children’s videos on the water cycle on youtube, and he now gets it totally, my mother also taught him to say his prayers at night and “Jesus will protect him from bad dreams,” but when he continued to have nightmares he straight up asked me, “why do i still have bad dreams if i prayed to Jesus.?” I felt like i could not lie to him, and told him that some people do not believe Jesus or God is real, but some people like Granny do believe he is real. He asked me what did i believe, I had no choice i could not lie to him, i told him i do not believe in god, and ever since then he has said that he does not either, although he does believe in spider man cause he met him once at universal studios in Florida. i was hoping that this issue would go away cause i knew that it would cause a huge storm in my family, but unfortunately it did not and the very next time my son saw his Granny he confronted her and told her God was not real. I was kind of proud of the little guy but at the same time i knew the trouble that was about to come,
When my mother asked me about this we got into a heated discussion where i had no choice but to defend my position, now i normally try and avoid these conversations with my mom, and only debate religion on a few public forums under the handle PreacherBoy, but the conversation became very heated, and she of course insisted God was real, evolution was not true and used every tired elementary apologetics argument to prove her point, and she went straight first to if we came from monkeys why are there monkeys, i beat that down fast, then she jumped straight to prophecy profiled, i rebutted with knowledge and facts and shot down all of her points, then she said something that i was absolutely floored by. My mother a woman who is not dumb, she is a registered nurse, and is very intelligent, she has been to several countries around the world, and is a very capable woman, actually said to me that she knew the bible prophecy was true because the bible speaks of earthquakes, there are earthquakes now and there were no earthquakes two thousand years ago, my jaw nearly hit the floor at the ignorance coming out of the mouth of a woman who i love with all of my heart. I cannot allow my son to be taught such nonsense.
well apparently the issue is weighing heavy in my sons little mind and heart cause he is now telling random people that Jesus is not real. including his mother who i am divorced from, she is not a Christian but is a believer but not an educated one, i call them holiday Christians, they go to church on Easter and call out to God when bad shit happens, like the old commercials, (Jesus take me away!) i still say his prayers with him at night although he doesn’t say Lord, (Now i lay me down to sleep) he says “I pray the world”
Ive got no problem for him saying the pledge of allegiance or any of the other nonsense crap some atheist make big stinks about, as long as they don’t teach creationism in the class room, ill pick my battles on the stuff that really matters. But i have no idea how to address this issue with the family, I cannot in good conscience teach him that he was born flawed and if he doesn’t beg for forgiveness from a creature that has done far more evil than my son will ever do, then that all loving creature will burn him for all eternity, I cant teach him that as fact, but it is going to distance myself from my family, my mother’s attitude toward me has changed the last couple weeks although she has known i was atheist for years, now it has really blown up and i don’t know how to fix it. I am very close to my mom, and it breaks my heart that she now harbors the hurt feeling toward me.
Now that my son has come out to his mom, she is upset at me as well, although we are divorced, and she is fairly reasonable, i am afraid that this will cause a huge divide, and it has made me worried what might happen if my son announces his thoughts at his public school, where they pray before meals. will he suffer from discrimination from teachers and other students now because of my values, would it have been better for me to remain quiet and let him figure it out for himself when he gets older? I am deeply against indoctrination, but am i guilty of the same thing by teaching him that its ok to believe in whatever he wants, and it is ok not to believe. Do you have any advice on how to handle these situations?