Religious literacy

5 Reasons to ‘Design Your Own Deity’

By Wendy Thomas Russell | April 7, 2014

When I first found this “Design Your Own Deity” magnetic play set, I was a little pissed at you. Yes, you. All 15 of you. Because if you guys would have just TOLD me that this existed, I would not have been forced to find it, completely randomly, behind a bunch of other cheese-ball stuff at a warehouse-sized gift emporium in Palm Springs this weekend. “Seriously,” I thought, holding this priceless* item in my hands and trying to conjure each of your 15 faces. “Do you guys even know me anymore? There is literally nothing I […] Read more – ‘5 Reasons to ‘Design Your Own Deity’’.
It’s a Gift from God, Y’all

By Wendy Thomas Russell | April 3, 2014

Want to know what the Bible says but don’t want to read the damn thing? Yeah, you’re not alone. But Good News! In his newly published book, God is Disappointed in You, author Mark Russell has managed to rewrite the Bible—in all its crazy glory—the way you and I and, frankly, anyone under age 80 would rather read it. While completely accurate, Russell uses layman’s terms, contemporary metaphors, well-appointed slang and plenty of profanity to liven things up. And the best part? It’s short. Like short-short. Like, the entire 2,000-page Bible is condensed into 192 pages. And that […] Read more – ‘It’s a Gift from God, Y’all’.
Everything You Need to Know About Islam to Get Your Kids Up to Speed (Okay, Maybe Not EVERYTHING)

By Wendy Thomas Russell | January 13, 2014

You know what my life is missing? A Muslim kid. There’s no doubt that if I had Muslim friends with a Muslim child, I would be telling my 8-year-old a lot more about Islam than I do — not just because I would want her understand her friends’ beliefs, but because it would naturally just “come up” more often. Having a living, breathing religious person in our midst really is the perfect invitation for religious literacy I’ve ever found. And vice versa! That’s part of the reason I’m glad some of my friend’s children know about […] Read more – ‘Everything You Need to Know About Islam to Get Your Kids Up to Speed (Okay, Maybe Not EVERYTHING)’.
Are Mormons Christian? Here’s the Simple Answer

By Wendy Thomas Russell | January 6, 2014

This weekend I was sitting in the living room with my daughter, listening to music on my iSomething-or-Other, when a song from the Broadway musical The Book of Mormon came on. The song was “Hello,” the musical’s perfectly executed opening number (and the one featured at the 2012 Tony Awards, below.) Maxine was fascinated by the song. She loved all the doorbell-ringing, and the goofy voices, and the part when Elder Grant asks, “Are these your kids?” She must have replayed the song four or five times before moving on to something else. But, all the while, […] Read more – ‘Are Mormons Christian? Here’s the Simple Answer’.
What Should Kids Know about Religion? #Giveaway

By Wendy Thomas Russell | November 25, 2013

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. But I’m curious: What exactly do you think kids need know […] Read more – ‘What Should Kids Know about Religion? #Giveaway’.
Quick! What the Hell is Diwali?

By Wendy Thomas Russell | November 1, 2013

Here’s the Diwali installment of Relax, It’s Just God’s beloved* Holiday Cheat Sheet, a series offering parents the quick and dirty run-down on major religious holidays, so that they might come across as intelligent beings to their kids. I’m sure you guys remember all this stuff from last year, but rest assured, Diwali is just as cool and fun as it has always been. Why? (C’mon, you don’t remember this?) Let me count the ways: 1. Fireworks 2. Bollywood music 3. Poker 4. Cool back story 5. Curry 6. Candles 7. Shopping  * too strong? Holiday: Diwali Pronounced: Di-VAH-li […] Read more – ‘Quick! What the Hell is Diwali?’.
Can the Bible Help Kids Think Critically?

By Wendy Thomas Russell | August 26, 2013

Once upon a time, I would have choked on my own vomit at the idea of buying a children’s Bible for my daughter. The way I saw it, the Bible was an indoctrination tool. I no more wanted to crack that book open than I wanted to get her baptized or plan her Bat Mitzvah or teach her to pray toward Mecca five times a day. It was all the same to me. In my mind, only religious people read the Bible. But, times have changed. Today, I don’t equate the Bible to religion; I equate […] Read more – ‘Can the Bible Help Kids Think Critically?’.
Crucifixion Story, As Told By a Freethinking 7-Year-Old

By Wendy Thomas Russell | August 15, 2013

A couple of weeks ago, while walking along a gravel road in the French countryside (!!!), my 7-year-old daughter, Maxine, decided to tell her 4-year-old cousin the story of Jesus’ death. It hadn’t been a recent topic of conversation in our house or anything, but we’d just passed by a very old, very Christian cemetery, so that must have been what prompted the storytelling. The narrative was classic Maxine — relatively accurate, deliberately paced, full of distractions and incredibly amusing, with an editorial comment or two thrown in along the way. After the story was […] Read more – ‘Crucifixion Story, As Told By a Freethinking 7-Year-Old’.
‘Golden Rule’ — Beautiful, Universal and Very, Very Old

By Wendy Thomas Russell | July 15, 2013

It is a common misconception that the Golden Rule began with Jesus. In fact, it’s part of the reason some Christians think of their religion as synonymous with morality. After all, to treat others the way you want to be treated is the essence of moral conduct. And it was Luke 6:31 in the New Testament that quotes Jesus as saying: “As ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.” (Matthew 7:1-5 also addresses the topic.) But Jesus didn’t invent the ethic of reciprocity anymore than did Muhammad, who said: […] Read more – ‘‘Golden Rule’ — Beautiful, Universal and Very, Very Old’.
Only Five Religious Books Have Won the Caldecott — Most Before 1963

By Wendy Thomas Russell | April 1, 2013

If you’ve ever perused the religion books within the children’s section of your local library, you’re probably aware that it can be a bit underwhelming. Whether you’re going for a book about the life of Buddha, the history of Confucianism, or the holiday of Easter, so many of the books are old and outdated, clearly written for religious children, or without much literary merit. It sticks out particularly because there are so many great secular children’s books — brilliant, award-winning books that will stick with our kids for the rest of our lives. Sometimes it’s […] Read more – ‘Only Five Religious Books Have Won the Caldecott — Most Before 1963’.

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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