How to free kids of religion

I’m sure there are many ways to break free of religion, but here’s a compilation of religion-busting strategies for children. Strangely, none of them involve shipping them off to a camp where they’ll be disciplined if they question the word of the Lord and are forced to memorize dogma day after day. None of them involve daily rituals. None of them require threats of eternal punishment for loved ones and yourself if you don’t obey.

Are we doing something wrong?


  1. says

    A follow up to davidct:
    My father would break down passages in the babble and explain to me EXACTLY what was being done to the punished, and just how minor a lot of those offenses were(being female and learned,not believing what the tyrants in charge believed) and then asking me how I would feel if these things were done to me or, to those I loved. A bit harsh perhaps but, truly an eye opening education on the horrors of religion.

  2. grumpyoldfart says

    Tell the children nothing about religion or the bible. Later on, if they are inquisitive enough to read the book or attend church, they’ll piss themselves laughing…

  3. sisu says

    Awesome list! My kids are younger than his (5 and 2) and we do a lot of these things: we watch episodes of Blue Planet and other nature-related documentaries on netflix – National Geographic has some good ones that are accessible even for young kids; we read books about the planets, sun, moon, and stars; and we talk about magic and things that are fun to believe, but aren’t real, like witches and ghosts. We’ve joined the science museum and go regularly. I’m also working on educating myself, and have been reading books like Henrietta Lacks and The Greatest Show on Earth, and watching Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s shows on netflix.

    To this list, I’d add: don’t be afraid to say “I don’t know” when your kids ask you a question! I’m not a scientist by any stretch of the imagination. So when my girls ask me something I don’t know, we figure out who would know the answer, and how to find it out. Sometimes we go to the library, or the zoo, or the science museum; sometimes we look it up on line. I hope it’s giving them the tools to really search for good answers to their questions, instead of just accepting whatever bullshit answer someone in authority feeds them.

  4. opposablethumbs, que le pouce enragé mette les pouces says

    Religion was simply completely irrelevant when I was growing up. Came into contact with it at school, where I perceived it as something being unreasonably imposed on me by school authorities (which was bound to make me feel frightfully well-disposed towards it of course). Even now I still have difficulty fully grokking that there are functioning adult humans, many of whom appear to be intelligent, who actually believe that shit (of course I know there are many millions such – it’s just that deep down I don’t get it).

    (One parasite I did catch, however, was the “you must respect people’s religious beliefs” horse manure. I still have to make a conscious effort to remind myself that no amount of courtesy and consideration mean religious beliefs are any more exempt from criticism than political or other ideological convictions).

    So yes, simply ignoring the whole pile of ordure (as grumpyoldfart suggests) can work perfectly well – though I suspect that YMMV depending on what society you’re living in. It’s probably easier to relegate religion to “other people’s quaint old customs, oh my aren’t they picturesque” in countries where it has less public presence.

    I try to teach my own spawn that it’s possible to have genuine respect (when merited) and courtesy for people while noting that their religious beliefs per se are a steaming heap of excrement.

  5. elronxenu says

    I think a good strategy would be to not let the children be indoctrinated in the first place, such that the parent has to undo it later.

  6. anteprepro says

    Oh, fun. They’ve got a live one over there. Check out his list of the Fallacies of Atheism:

    1. False: “I can know that there is no cause for material existence which is greater than anything found in material existence.” (Category Error)

    2. False: “I can know that there is no existence beyond the mass/energy, space/time existence to which we humans are limited.” (Category Error)

    3. False: “Science has no limits and is therefore the only source of knowledge.” (Failure to comprehend Material limitations of science, and the other types of knowledge commonly in use).

    4. It is false to reject [P] yet claim that you have no belief concerning [P]. (Claim doesn’t match action)

    5. It is false to reject logical claims of first cause deductions based solely on rejection of ecclesiasticism. (Fallacy of Guilt by Association, and Black and White Fallacy)

    6. False: “Theists must show material evidence that there is non-material existence.” (Category Error)

    7. False: “Atheism is based on evidence and logic but needs neither for support in order to reject the existence of non-material dimensions because Atheism need not adhere to the Burden of Rebuttal.” (Special Pleading)

    8. False: “Atheism is not a religion, despite having religious content, beliefs concerning deity, and the propensity to evangelize, and demand that government be limited to their worldview regarding religion.

    9. False: Atheism has no ethic or morality attached to it, yet claim that “Atheists are good without God”. (internally contradictory: non-coherent)

    10. False: “Since there are demonstrable myths, then all references to non-material existence are declared to be myths by association” (Fallacy of Guilt by Association)

    A consistent finding: Christians and logic go together like oil and water. Now matter how much they claim to love logic, no matter how far up the ladder they get in a professional world where knowing logic is the key point of said profession, they butcher logic every fucking time.

  7. raven says

    None of them involve daily rituals. None of them require threats of eternal punishment for loved ones and yourself if you don’t obey.

    You left out beating up your kids. If you can’t brainwash them or lie to them convincingly, you can always smack them around and torture them.

    That is a common practice in some fundie circles. They even have widely circulated manuals on how to do it, e.g. the Pearl’s. They also have advice on how to avoid Children’s Protective Services.

    Occasionally they get carried away and kill their kids. Oh well, another human child sacrificed to the Sky Monster god.

  8. raven says

    AFAICT, religion owes its existence to early and intense brainwashing of children plus every mechanism for social conformity ever invented.

    Backed up by occasional murders of defectors.

    If you can’t believe silly myths you can always believe that a bullet to your head will ruin your whole day.

    Without all that, it just seems to whither away.

  9. raven says

    Oh, fun. They’ve got a live one over there. Check out his list of the Fallacies of Atheism:

    That is quite a load of strawpeople and gibberish. You can be sure that whoever wrote that may have heard of logic but has never seen it.

    If theists are making a claim, that god exists and loves me and hates you, it is up to them to prove their claim, not up to anyone else to disprove it.

  10. Nutmeg says

    Helping your kids become religion-proof sounds like a good idea. But I have to say that this list reminds me a little too much of similar lists that I saw when I was a Christian, on how to atheism-proof your kids.

    In particular, the idea that “we have to get to them early” rubs me the wrong way. I worked at a Christian summer camp for two summers, and we often heard that we had to teach the kids about God when they were young, because by the time they were adults they’d be too resistant. I’m not comfortable with any kind of indoctrination of children, whether it’s with religion or atheism.

    Some of the ideas on this list were more about teaching your kids critical thinking skills, which is great. I don’t plan to reproduce, but if I ever did, I’d rather teach my kids how to think than what to think.

  11. anteprepro says

    Nutmeg, considering 3 and 5 as well as my own experience, I agree and I think the tact we should take is to avoid the straight-up atheistic stuff and to simply try to prevent the young ones from getting inundated in religious propaganda. It’s hard to argue that lack of immersion is just another form of indoctrination, and it’s the best way to ensure that the children will be able to grow up and apply the Outsider Test to all religions. Too much cognitive dissonance to apply the test to “their own” religion otherwise.

  12. kreativekaos says

    Movie Review for the doc, ‘Waiting for Armageddon’:

    ‘I laughed, I cried, I almost ran screaming from the room’.

    Anyone interested in documentaries showcasing the dangers of the ancient irrational insanities in the 21st century should watch this one. The stupidities being force-fed and regurgitated by youth (and others) is as scary and depressing as it is sickening. Would love to hear some thoughts on this doc.

  13. alkaloid says

    I don’t have children and doubt I ever will. However, if I did, I’d probably teach them not to accept anything without evidence and about the processes of science, and make sure that they knew that there was an entire world of philosophy and ethics aside from what Christians say.

    I’d also warn them that most of the time the more people talk about ‘forgiveness’-especially if they’re religious-the more likely it is that they’re probably trying to rob you in one way or another.

  14. =8)-DX says

    My number one skeptical approach to my daughter (who is allowed to go to church with Grandma if she wants), is to simply say:
    I don’t believe that because X, your grandparents do because Y. What do YOU think?
    Similarly with questions about magic, dragons, astronomy, myths. Sometimes I trick her by making something look like magic (items moving, strange sounds, hidden surprises) but despite loving it she seems to have the knack of seeing right through me and telling me how I did it.

    Hopefully my daughter will get the gist – it’s up to her to decide what she will believe in, and hopefully she’s getting the tools that will enable her to discern fact from fiction by herself.

  15. laurenmcgrath says

    I like this list, however, sending kids to a blatantly atheist blog or youtube channel might be crossing the line depending on how well you know the kids. Kids are smarter than we give them credit for- arm them with critical thinking and encourage them, don’t put the answers directly in their faces, because that certainly defies the point of them learning to question what is in front of them.