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Any advice: Explaining our athiesm UPDATE post inside

My mother gave me a head's up tonight that the next time I see my nephews (which may be as early as tomorrow) they will most likely ask me about our religious beliefs. I guess I always knew the day would come when we would have a conversation about religion, but I never formulated a plan as to how best to explain our beliefs and asnwer their questions because I guess I didn't think the day was going to come so soon.  But evidently, they asked my Mom about our beliefs tonight and she didn't tell them anything, just that they would have to talk with us to ask us what we believed.

The boys are in 4th and 2nd grade and have been brought up Baptist going to church almost every Sunday and attending Sunday School and other church related activities their whole lives. 

Anyway ... both my husband and I are athiest and our 3 year old DD has not been brought up in a church or been taught any religious customs.  I know that this is going to be upsetting for the boys and that they will "worry" about us (and especially about DD). I don't know what, if anything, I can say to them to lessen their worry or upset.

Any ideas?

Re: Any advice: Explaining our athiesm UPDATE post inside

  • Have you talked with their parents about what their thoughts are? 

    Have they handled this situation with other atheists they know? 

     

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  • Just explain that you don't feel the way they do, that many people have different beliefs than them, and it's okay if everyone doesn't believe the same thing.  Usually a simple answer will do it with kids.
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  • Hmmmm.  I think this is something the parents of the boys need to explain to them.  It's their responsibility to teach their children about different beliefs and customs.  There will be countless times in the children's life where they will encounter something/somebody who is different and have questions.  It's the parents who need to be ready to answer those questions.  Do they expect their homosexual neighbors to explain their preferences to their children?  No, of course not.  

    I feel like the parents of these boys are shirking their parental responsibilities by relying on you to teach their children about differing beliefs.  Hell, they might not even like the explanation you give as it will likely go against some of their beliefs.  

    My point:  Don't touch this one.  Not your job. 

  • I have to agree with PastryPuff.

     

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  • Yeah--I am a little surprised that the parents of your nephews don't want to be involved in this. However, assuming that you are clear that it is okay with them for you to speak to their children about this if asked...

    I would say that if they ask you, explain your beliefs. If they get upset about it, that is on their parents to deal with (meaning if they get upset because they will now think that your DD is going to hell or something). 

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  • Thanks everyone for your input.  I didn't mention the parents of my nephews in my post ... not because they wouldn't want to be involved in the conversation, but because they probably don't even know that the boys are curious right now.  The conversation came up btweent he boys and my Mom last night while she was watching them.  They most likely have never even asked their parents or they would have said something to my Mom about that last night in the conversation they had.

    I am pretty sure that my sister and her husband are aware of our beliefes because we do not attend church and a Justice of the Peace officiated our marriage ceremony in a non-religious location.  But I don't think we have ever had any prolonged discussion of our lack of faith.  And we certainly never spoke of how we might broach the subject with thier kids (they were 4 years younger when we got married and even less equipped to handle the news/idea).

    What I was/am worried about is that we will see them today before I have a chance to say anything to my sister about it or ask her what she would prefer and they will probably bring it up in public over lunch and I will suddenly be "on the spot".  I don't want to do the wrong thing.  I don't want to upset them and the conversation needs to be held in a different place under different citcumstances.  But kids are kids and they ask questions and demand answers before moving on.  I need to figure out the longer conversation to be held later, but I also need to figure out how to handle this without upsetting them today.

  • If it comes up at lunch you could simply reply, 'we don't go to church' and change the subject. 8 and 10 year old boys generally aren't interested in deep theological discussions.  
  • I think that you are overthinking this. 

    If you do believe that the parents would want to be involved, they just aren't aware that the question is coming up, then you need to involve them.

    If the kids ask you today, if I were you, I would come up with some rather noncommittal answer that will satisfy them for now, and then tell your sister that it is coming up so that she has a chance to address this with them. 

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  • imagepastrypuff9000:

     

    My point:  Don't touch this one.  Not your job. 

    This. Just simply say Well sweetie, lets not talk about that right now, how is school going, and let the parents know that they are asking and out of respect for them, you felt maybe they would like to handle this one. These kind of things are best left to the parents. 

  • I would say something very noncomittal or general and let their parents know after (if they aren't present at the conversation) that Billy and Bobby were wondering about your religion, and you just said x because you wanted to leave it up to them to discuss different religious beliefs with the boys.  I wouldn't overthink it too much- the boys already know that you don't go to their church, and they surely have many classmates and neighborhood friends that don't go to their church or don't go to church at all either.  
  • imagepastrypuff9000:

    Hmmmm.  I think this is something the parents of the boys need to explain to them.  It's their responsibility to teach their children about different beliefs and customs.  There will be countless times in the children's life where they will encounter something/somebody who is different and have questions.  It's the parents who need to be ready to answer those questions.  Do they expect their homosexual neighbors to explain their preferences to their children?  No, of course not.  

    I feel like the parents of these boys are shirking their parental responsibilities by relying on you to teach their children about differing beliefs.  Hell, they might not even like the explanation you give as it will likely go against some of their beliefs.  

    My point:  Don't touch this one.  Not your job. 

     Ditto.

  • I'd check with their parents first, then offer up a little analogy about different not being bad (favorite foods, cultures, etc...). Then, explain where you get your values and what they are. For example: they believe in the good Samaritan, you give to charity because you believe what goes around comes around. Or something like that. I'd definitely try to talk to the parents first. GL
  • this is a perfect example of people being different. i have no idea why they'd 'worry' about you. that's just weird.

    i think if i were you i'd want to explain it to them-that way they get it right from the horses mouth and not 2 baptists who (seeing as how religious they are) probaby aren't the right ones to explain.

    it's perfectly acceptable to explain to them in a broken down term-i like broccoli, you don't. use symbolism to explain it to them in terms they can understand. for example: you like to play football, I don't. just becuase we dont like the same things doesn't mean that either of us is better or worse than another-just different. they may ask questions but they're also very young-they may just not be able to understand at this age-which is fine. they wont shun you for the rest of their lives if they dont understand 100%. you can always explain it agin when they're older and are able to understand more.

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  • I think this is something their parents need to address, not you.

    If you were a lesbian would your sister want you explaining that to them?  I dont see the difference in explaining that  vs explaining your religious belief.  Assuming you and their parents have a relationship, let them handle it or it could cause a family rift.

  • imagepastrypuff9000:

    Hmmmm.  I think this is something the parents of the boys need to explain to them.  It's their responsibility to teach their children about different beliefs and customs.  There will be countless times in the children's life where they will encounter something/somebody who is different and have questions.  It's the parents who need to be ready to answer those questions.  Do they expect their homosexual neighbors to explain their preferences to their children?  No, of course not.  

    I feel like the parents of these boys are shirking their parental responsibilities by relying on you to teach their children about differing beliefs.  Hell, they might not even like the explanation you give as it will likely go against some of their beliefs.  

    My point:  Don't touch this one.  Not your job. 

    I totally agree wth this. I would even go further and suggest that they are hoping that the kids will be able to guilt-trip you into converting...

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  • I had this same conversation with my niece when she was about that age. I just said that I didn't believe in god, and when she asked if I was scared of going to hell I said I didn't believe in that either. I also explained that you can be a good person without god in your life, and that if I'm wrong, I'm sure god would forgive me. I'm sure there is much praying for my family going on in my brother's house.
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  • Thanks again for all of your opinions/advice. 

    I have no intention of taking over my sister's parenting role/responsibility and I do not think it is my place to teach her kids about different religious and non-religious views.  Never did, never will.

    As it happened, lunch went smoothly with NO QUESTIONS ASKED!  Whew!  That was a relief!  Her boys are very questioning, smart, and curious.  And based on the way they have always been, I knew that once a question was asked it would be very hard to steer them onto a different topic.  Her boys just don't work that way.

    For the PP who said she didn't understand the idea that they would be worried about me and my family - as an athiest I find the idea odd (there is no reason to worry about damnation), but looking at things from their perspective it makes complete sense to me.  They would fear that we would all be going to Hell.  And they love us and wouldn't want us to suffer, etc.  They would worry about our future.  Even if they wouldn't understand exactly what it means to be an athiest, they would understand that according to their belief system our ultimate fate would be in jeopardy. 

    Now I look forward to talking with my sister and having the time to decide with her the things that she might want and not want me to say about our athiesm before the boys have a chance to ask.

    Thanks again.

  • Yea, I would handle this by talking to your nephews parents, explain your desire to respect *their* upbringing and religious instruction to their kids and that Mom gave you the heads up that your nephews may be planning on asking you questions.  Then ask them (the parents) how they wish for you to proceed.  They may wish to intervene or have a pre-talk with the boys, or they may wish to be present during the conversation.  They may wish that you be free with what atheism means, but do not wish for their age, for you to explain it by framing it against whatever religion they are being raised.  There's a lot of hypotheticals, we couldn't possibly touch them all - but the kids' parents know how their little guys' minds work and what likely you'll/they'll have to deal with. 

    Edited to say: I didn't read far enough down the thread, and see that the lunch and was uneventful.  I would still call your sister so that if the kids bring it up in the future you won't be caught with the same "what ifs" you were worried about this time.   

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  • Definitely a job for their parents.  I know I wouldn't want somebody else discussing religious differences with my kids, beyond maybe to say that different people believe different things, and that's ok.  Which honestly is all my 7 year old 2nd grader would care about (and even more than my 4 year old is likely to understand).

    If they ask, tell them everyone is different and this is something they should ask their parents about.  Then change the subject.  IMO you're overthinking how "worried" a 2nd and 4th grader are going to be about your customs or lack thereof...unless they're extremely religious themselves (in which case I definitely don't think you should touch this issue!),  they'd be like most kids of that age I know in that they'll hear you believe differently, shrug, and move on.  They're not going to stay up at night worried you, your DH and your DD are going to hell or something.

  • Glad it went well. Agree that its not your job to explain it.

    Its atheist. Beliefs.  Their. (Maybe you were typing fast on those last two but you should probably follow the standardized spelling on atheism.)  Not being bitchy, just hopefully helpful.

  • You got some good advice; but I wanted to chime in on the issue of the boys not being easily steered to another subject. You don't have to answer every question asked; and if they get pushy, you can say "I'm sorry, but I'm not going to discuss that with you". Bratty kids who won't take no for an answer don't have to be placated.

     

     

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  • imagepastrypuff9000:

    Hmmmm.  I think this is something the parents of the boys need to explain to them.  It's their responsibility to teach their children about different beliefs and customs.  There will be countless times in the children's life where they will encounter something/somebody who is different and have questions.  It's the parents who need to be ready to answer those questions.  Do they expect their homosexual neighbors to explain their preferences to their children?  No, of course not.  

    I feel like the parents of these boys are shirking their parental responsibilities by relying on you to teach their children about differing beliefs.  Hell, they might not even like the explanation you give as it will likely go against some of their beliefs.  

    My point:  Don't touch this one.  Not your job. 

    THIS

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