“Mommy, What’s Satan?”

By Wendy Thomas Russell | February 10, 2014

Of all the religious concepts that I’ve discussed with my 8-year-old daughter, Satan has been one of the toughest — partly because it seems awkward to speak of something so nasty and awful in a matter-of-fact way. But that’s precisely what makes it a great addition to “Mommy, What’s That?” a new series I launched last week, where you can find simple, straightforward and age-appropriate language to explain religious ideas to children in a non-religious way. So here goes. Satan: The short answer: Satan is the “bad guy” in the Bible. The long answer: In […] Read more – ‘“Mommy, What’s Satan?”’.
Help Inoculate Kids Against Meanness

By Wendy Thomas Russell | July 8, 2013

I’m working on a chapter about addressing scary religious concepts  with kids — Satan, hell, the 10 plagues, that weird thing Abraham almost did to his son that one time. Basically all the rather menacing stories aimed at making people “be good.” Luckily, more and more religious families are viewing these stories as myths and metaphor — which removes their power considerably — but there are still many, many families (and places of worship) who teach these things as history and truth. Unfortunately, when these concepts come up on the playground, they can lead to awkwardness, […] Read more – ‘Help Inoculate Kids Against Meanness’.
On ‘Hell’ and ‘Evil’ — and the Uselessness of Both Concepts

By Wendy Thomas Russell | February 7, 2013

There is no stronger theme in story-telling than the struggle between good and evil. And there are few better ways to drive home a point than to invoke hell as a benchmark. Think, for example, of the power behind Huckleberry Finn’s words when he said, “All right, then, I’ll go to hell.” Mark Twain may have been an atheist, but he was a writer first. All things devil-related make exceptional literary, cinematic and poetic devices. But out here in the real world? Oh, hell no. When I was a news reporter, I covered hundreds of court […] Read more – ‘On ‘Hell’ and ‘Evil’ — and the Uselessness of Both Concepts’.
Armstrong: ‘If I wasn’t a liar, a cheat, or a thief, then I believed that should be enough’

By Wendy Thomas Russell | October 22, 2012

Now that cyclist Lance Armstrong has been stripped of his seven Tour de France titles, dropped by his mega-corporate sponsors, and proven to be a profoundly effective liar and cheat, it seems as good a time as any to talk about how a man’s beliefs (religious or otherwise) mean precisely nothing when contrasted against his actions. Armstrong could have grown up atheist, Muslim, Roman Catholic, or Mennonite (as one of his cheating teammates did), and those labels would have told us little of the man he’d become. Morality is linked to people’s religious beliefs in the same […] Read more – ‘Armstrong: ‘If I wasn’t a liar, a cheat, or a thief, then I believed that should be enough’’.
‘We’ll Miss You When We’re in Heaven and You’re Not’

By Wendy Thomas Russell | September 27, 2012

Religious breaks in any family structure can be painful. People who find out beloved relatives have “left the faith” can feel heartbroken, even angry. In a survey earlier this year, I asked nonreligious parents whether they had “come out” to their own families, and, if so, whether they’d received support. About 28 percent of the respondents answered yes and yes: They were open about their beliefs, and most of their family members had been supportive. About 18 percent answered yes and no: They were open about their beliefs, but most relatives had been unsupportive. The highest percentage — 37 […] Read more – ‘‘We’ll Miss You When We’re in Heaven and You’re Not’’.
‘My Friend Said If You Don’t Believe in God, You Go Into Fire’

By Wendy Thomas Russell | August 23, 2012

My daughter was sitting next to me on the couch earlier this week, playing a game on the iPad, when she stopped and looked up. She’d remembered something that a friend had told her at summer school. “She said if you don’t believe in God, you go into fire,” Maxine told me. “She did?” I asked.”Oh. Well, she’s talking about hell. Have you heard of hell?” “No.” “Some people believe you go there if you don’t believe in God,” I added with as much neutrality as I could muster. “Do you believe that?” she asked. […] Read more – ‘‘My Friend Said If You Don’t Believe in God, You Go Into Fire’’.
‘Kids Who Don’t Believe in God go to a Very, Very Bad School’

By Wendy Thomas Russell | March 19, 2012

Six-year-olds are fickle little things. In the last year and a half, Maxine has gone back and forth numerous times on the whole religious faith thing. For a long time, she divided her week up as follows: “I believe in God three days, and I don’t believe in God two days.” (I never bothered telling her there were actually seven days in the week; logic was obviously not what she was going for.) When last we spoke about it, Maxine had decided she was both Christian and Jewish. A few months ago, she was sitting at […] Read more – ‘‘Kids Who Don’t Believe in God go to a Very, Very Bad School’’.
‘Troubled Youth Such as You Burn in Hell’

By Wendy Thomas Russell | February 9, 2012

During my freshman year of college, I had a roommate whose subversive sense of humor was rivaled only by my own. One day, while wandering around in a thrift store, she spotted a picture of Jesus with his arms around two forlorn teenagers. My roommate bought the picture and penned an inscription at the top. “Dear Wendy,” the inscription read. “Troubled youth such as you burn in hell. Love, Jesus.” I suppose my roommate considered herself a lapsed Catholic, and I didn’t consider myself much of anything. We joked a lot in those days about […] Read more – ‘‘Troubled Youth Such as You Burn in Hell’’.

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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