Skepchick Quickies, 7.20


Jen is a writer and web designer/developer in Columbus, Ohio. She spends too much time on Twitter at @antiheroine.

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  1. Per the “free thinking” child:

    First – the father is worried about the influence of the Bible now…even though his elder child is named Elijah? I know it’s not an uncommon name, but even this not-int0-0rganized-religion chick hears Elijah, and thinks “The Lord is My God”. Granted, it’s mostly associated with Hebrew, but that is SUCH a Biblical name.

    Two – the 6-year old (named Theo…”Divine Gift” in Greek…are we sensing a theme?) is making rough syllogisms based on the knowledge he has. Now I think we should never underestimate the intelligence of kids – they are brilliant little sponges. However, you can overestimate their attention span AND trigger their sense of indignity damn quick.

    Answering the question first by saying “your question presumes that Jesus was God” is going to raise the kid’s hackles. Period. You’re attacking what Mommy taught him is right…and you’re not answering his question, to boot. As an added bonus, you’ll make him cling tighter to the religious teaching he is actually receiving and about which you have given tacit agreement.

    Second – what’s wrong with “Well, butterflies are just a type of bug, and bugs just don’t live that long. Why don’t we go to the library and check out a book on butterflies!”

    In one fell, non-judgmental swoop you have the child reading a book that isn’t the Bible, learning about science, getting used to going to the library to answer questions, and you now look like a cool parent (especially if you pick up a Butterfly Kit – kids do like projects).

    It’s not the only way, but the best way to get kids thinking is to actively, physically engage them. Telling them the equivalent of “because I said so” and throwing books at them that do the same will take you nowhere. The Bible, after all, has all SORTS of really cool shit in it (plagues, disasters, lots of begetting ;) ) – you gotta compete.

    While you’re at the bookstore, you can compete by picking up D’aulaire’s Book of Greek Myths – a classic. Great pictures, short compressed, basically kid-friendly myths…and it introduces the concept of religion as mythology….

  2. Perhaps if Cyclone had named their new self-powering robot GRZR instead of EATR, there would be less concern. EATR just seems like one of those names that bad sci-fi writers come up with to show you how stoopid and reklzz them scientists r.

  3. I wonder what the robots would do if the dead human was on top of a nice bed of leafy greens.

    And “We completely understand the public’s concern about futuristic robots feeding on the human population, but that is not our mission” is the best thing I’ve heard in awhile.

  4. Re: Elijah’s Dad – No offense meant to anyone who may think differently, but I don’t think that marrying someone of a vastly different faith is a good idea, just as I don’t think marrying someone who doesn’t share similar politics is a good idea. A little variation is expected, and not all points should be agreed upon, but if you’re not comfortable with your spouse raising your children with their views instead of your own, then don’t marry that person.

    The battle for the child’s mind is going to damage everyone involved.

  5. @Zapski: That begs the question of what happens if two believers marry and one leaves the faith for freethinking (such as my situation). Luckily, our kids were old enough at that point for it not to matter.

    I don’t think that (at least in my case) the differing is a good reason to divorce, though it could be for some couples.

  6. re: teaching children to be free thinkers:

    I think the way to teach any child (even those who’ve been indoctrinated to believe the Jesus myth) to be a free thinker is to just keep talking to them. And listening. And asking them questions. And answering their questions. Guiding a child to be a critical thinker is practically a way of life. We try to answer our son’s questions about anything with the best information we have at the time. We also tell him when we don’t know the answer and then we try to find it together. If he has his mind set on something, we don’t really argue it, cuz that’s the path to insanity. Kids don’t give up, at least mine doesn’t. He’s almost 5 so maybe it will get better in the future. :)

    Anyhow, I think it’s about the same with kids as it is with adults – plant a seed, teach them to question. Keep listening and talking and someday you’ll see how it all turned out.

  7. As a recent de-convert, I struggle with the matter of how to counteract my wife’s religion in the kids as well. Actually “struggle with” is too hard a term. “Think about casually and musingly” is closer. And “counteract” really isn’t what I’m trying to do with my wife’s religion so much as make sure that’s not the ONLY thing they ever learn about….

    So that basically means I don’t ever tell my kids, “There’s no proof for God,” anymore than I don’t tell them, “Santa Claus is made up.” Granted, my oldest is only five right now. But who wants to be the dick who ruins Santa Claus for a five-year-old. That honor is supposed to be reserved for sixth-grade bullies and older brothers, not dads… unless your kid comes right out and asks you.

    With kids, I don’t think you need to make a special effort to teach them critical thinking. They’re interested in freakin EVERYTHING. If you talk with them long enough, you’re going to cover a wide variety of topics which all just add to the “brain arsenal” of a normal, healthy thinking and imaginative person. At some point they’re going to realize on their own that magic isn’t real, that Santa Claus doesn’t exist, and the things their Sunday School teacher tells them don’t make sense. And if you’ve had an open and honest communication during those formative years, without a prominent history of being a dick on matters you don’t agree with, chances are they’ll ask you about it and you can point them in the right direction of the truth.

    Mind you, I say this as a de-convert from a Church that doesn’t waste hours and hours indoctrinating kids on the fears of eternal hell. In those cases, I might tend to agree that a more direct approach might be necessary before lasting damage sets in. But if a wife and other people from a church are otherwise sane, I see no reason to go out of your way making YOURSELF look like an angry asshole just to prevent your kid from having one more imaginary friend.

    FWIW: my de-conversion story

  8. @FFFearlesss:

    With kids, I don’t think you need to make a special effort to teach them critical thinking. They’re interested in freakin EVERYTHING.

    Agreed. All you have to do is step back and let them explore for themselves.

  9. @QuestionAuthority: I’ve seen that situation result in divorce, and (sadly) some messed up kids. But it’s a very different thing than going into a marriage with someone who’s philosophy is vastly different from your own. I think a marriage can survive that kind of change, but I’m doubtful of it as a starting point.

  10. You can talk about both sides of the issue and let them make up their own mind but you have to remember that the goal is to provide them with information that they can process with the thinking skills that they have now, and that it is the process of improving those thinking skills that is the most important. The goal isn’t to give them facts, but to give them the thinking skills for them to find and (most important) evaluate the “facts” that they find.

    What you are “modeling” for the child is how to take facts (which you supply, but which ideally the child already knows), and how to manipulate them by thinking processes (which you articulate).

    Being able to say “I don’t know” and really mean it is important. Saying “I am not sure about that”, and asking about how does he/she know that? If the answer is an appeal to authority “because mommy told me”, asking “how does he/she think mommy knows” is a legitimate question. The child knows that there were butterflies around before mommy born, so mommy couldn’t have seen Jesus make them. This is a very touchy and tricky issue. You can’t put words into anyone else’s mouth.

    The child is coming with a question because the child sees an inconsistency, how could Jesus make butterflies when they only last for a couple of weeks. The child has figured out that there is something fishy about ID when the products only last 2 weeks. That is a great place to start. I think the thing to do is to increase the “fishyness” about ID. You want to win the “war” (allow the child to grow up to be a critical thinker), individual “battles” (did Jesus make butterflies of species X) can be lost.

    The ultimate goal is for the child to be arguing with you about who is the most skeptical. When one can be asked about Santa Claus and answer “I don’t know, I have never seen him, but then I have never been to the North pole so I can’t be sure” (with a straight face), and get an exasperated rolling of the eyes, you know that you have won. Saying “I don’t know” is always a correct default answer, the likelihood might be 10^-100000, but as long as it is non-zero (and if the terms are not exactly defined it always is), saying “I don’t know” is always correct.

  11. I agree with Zapski – entering into a marriage where you have a reasonable expectation of producing children with vast differences in religious beliefs just isn’t a good idea. You can’t do much about one person de-converting after the marriage, so you just have to deal with it if you can. My de-conversion was the last of many other issues that led to the separation of my wife and I. Fortunately for us, no children were involved. We could have worked it out, I think, if it were just a religious difference (and kids were not a possibility for us due to physical problems), but in this situation there was a lot more going on.

  12. Encouraging your kid to read widely things that they are interested in seems to be working for us. Our daughter isn’t much interested in things that we pick out for her, though occasionally we pick one that works, but she does read a lot, including some science and other nonfiction. She will occasionally argue with us after we make some pronouncement, so I think she’s doing OK in critical thought.

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