What Should Kids Know about Religion? #Giveaway

By Wendy Thomas Russell | November 25, 2013 | 7 comments

If you’re reading this blog, it’s very likely that you 1) are a secular parent, and 2) want your kid to know something about matters of faith and religion.

And that, as you know, makes you a superior human being.

Because you know that only through religious literacy can we satisfy our kids’ natural curiosity, protect them from confusion and ignorance; ensure that they are given a context for religious beliefs; and instill in them a true sense of tolerance for other belief systems.

Calvin and Hobbes on Ignorance

But I’m curious: What exactly do you think kids need know about religion? When you think “religious literacy,” where does your mind go? How much is enough?

There is no right answer here.

Some parents want their kids to know about as many religions as possible; others want to emphasize the religion most prevalent in their communities. Some parents aim to put religion into a historical context — teaching their children when, where, why and how religions took root. (Greek mythology is often a starting point for these folks.) Others are satisfied giving their kids basic, “street” knowledge. (That’s a cross, little guy. Jesus is said to have died on a cross.)

And it’s not just what you teach, but how much, that’s important. Do you want your kid to know what’s in the Bible, the Torah and the Qur’an — or is it enough to know that these books exist and generally what they are?

Like I said, there are no right answers. But if we plan to teach our kids about religion, even minimally, we ought to have AN answer.

So what’s yours?

Tell me in the comments below, or on Twitter (@WendyRussell), and you’ll automatically be entered to win my next holiday drawing. (Read on for details.)

Holiday Giveaway

So, as you may recall, last Monday I held the first in a series of Holiday Giveaways — thanks to all who participated! A winner was chosen randomly on Friday, and congratulations go to Annie L., who will receive a Heroes of Science canvas tote bag and a copy of Brendan Powell Smith’s The Christmas Story.

But it’s not over. Giveaway #2 is launching today, and this one consists of the following:

Giveaway #2Bill Nye DVD. There are two things I can say about Bill Nye. One, he’s freaking awesome. And, two, his DVDs are oddly hard to find. So I’m making it easy for you, by giving away his DVD on evolution. I haven’t seen it and I want to, and if whoever wins this wants to turn around and send it back to me, I should like that very much.

DK Children’s Illustrated Bible. As I’ve said before, this is the best illustrated Bible I’ve ever seen. It’s appropriate for children without whitewashing the stories; and its pictures offer a more historical view of Bible history, which I love. Oh, and it’s little, so it fits nicely in a child’s hands.

The Golden Rule as Expressed by Cultures Around the World. Speaking of little, this gem of a book is short and sweet. Each page is dedicated to one version or another of the ubiquitous Golden Rule. I based one of my blogs (this one) on this particular book. It’s a great reminder of just how long we humans have been trying to treat each other as we wish to be treated — and how important it is to keep trying.

To enter, click here: http://bit.ly/17Ulo0P. Good luck, everyone!


  1. Chris says:

    I’ve been thinking about this one ever since you posted this, and still haven’t settled on an answer I find satisfying. But I’ll give it a go…

    I think, if I had to boil it down to one sentence, it would be something like “I want my daughter to know more about any given religion (ok, well, starting with at least the ‘big three’) than the average believer in that religion.” It’s partially for appreciation for/acceptance of other viewpoints, partially to be well-rounded, but perhaps a slight majority of my motivation is simply because so much of western culture, history, the arts, etc is only *really* understandable with at least some knowledge of religion. There’s probably more I could add, but that’s basically it, I guess.

    I asked my wife how she would answer the “What should kids know about religion?” question. She looked up from her book, thought for about five seconds, and answered it quite simply: “That’s there’s more than one!”. That’s pithy, and pretty damn good, if you ask me. :-)

    …oooo, hey! That’s TWO answers…do we get entered twice? haha! ;-)

  2. Ashley says:

    We love playing “Fact, Fiction, or Belief” with our 6 and 4 year old daughters. This has really opened the door for us to talk about the importance of belief with people, and how we respect all and work to find out what our own is. We have an open door to talk about any aspects of religion and we foster the imagination and creativity of the kids to discuss the facts and culture surround religion, while still allowing for them to create and imagine beyond what is stated – spirituality and religion are still focused on the greatest mystery – so we want to foster that respect for the unknown and let them discover as much as they want, with or without a concrete religion.

  3. Fred C. says:

    “Religion” is the word you substitute for “mythology” when you can be heard by people who believe mythology.

  4. Sam says:

    I would like my kids to know about religions in a historical context, because I’m a history major and I think a global view of any subject is extremely beneficial. And since we live in a predominantly Christian country, I would also like them to know a bit about the bible so that if anybody should tell them, “xxx is right/wrong because it’s in the Bible,” they will not take it seriously because they will know the Bible says a lot of insane crap.

  5. I think it is good for kids to know that one’s religion (if they have one) is most likely connected to where they were born, if not geographically, then culturally. Perhaps the strongest argument against the truth of any one religion, to me at least, is that if you say someone is one religion, then show that if they were born elsewhere in time or space, they would have been brought up in another religion, this highlights the human-constructed aspect of religion. A good train of thought for young critical thinkers to be exposed to!

  6. Angel says:

    I think a little bit of everything is necessary: breadth moreso than depth, historical context and street smarts.

  7. Holly says:

    This is tough for me, because I was a Christian for 30 years before admitting to myself that what I really am is a nonbeliever. So while our older kids were raised going to church and hearing about god, our younger ones were/are not. What I’ve done recently with my 6-year-old is answer her questions directly but not in an overly detailed way. For instance, her Girl Scout troop meets in a church preschool, and there’s a picture of Jesus on the wall. If she asks who he is, I say, “He was a nice man who lived thousands of years ago. Some people think he has magical powers, so they put his picture up and talk about him a lot.” And just today, a guy who was chatting with my 6-year-old in a waiting room handed her a tiny orange Bible as he left. When he was gone, she asked what it was. I said it was a book called the Bible that’s filled with lots of different stories.” Beyond that, I haven’t said much to her about religion. My older kids know I no longer believe (and I suspect they never believed in the first place), but my youngest is still asking very open-ended questions. At this point, there’s no need to get on a soapbox or try to tell her what I believe, when she’s really just looking for simple answers right now.

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Relax, It’s Just God

A Blog for Secular Parents
For parents who aren’t religious, the task of talking to children about religion can be daunting. So daunting, in fact, that the entire subject often gets glossed over or ignored completely. Relax, It’s Just God is a blog (and soon a book) intended to help parents break their silence without breaking a sweat.
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