Talking to kids about religion

When the ‘Best’ School is a Religious School

By Wendy Thomas Russell | May 29, 2014

This is an issue that comes up a lot in secular families. (So much so that I’m not sure why I’ve not written about it sooner.) In so many areas of our country, religious organizations have cornered the preschool market. (I remember when I was school-shopping for my daughter, religious preschools outnumbered Montessori-based programs 5-to-1.) Which brings me to a letter I received recently from a reader who lives in the Chattanooga area — not exactly the country’s secular epicenter. Not surprisingly, the most convenient, affordable and trustworthy preschool in her area is at a Baptist […] Read more – ‘When the ‘Best’ School is a Religious School’.
“Mommy, What’s Confession?”

By Wendy Thomas Russell | May 22, 2014

Last week, I gave you some simple language with which to explain Catechism in a non-religious way. Today, because it’s sort of related, we’ll tackle one of the specific rites of passage taught at CCD: Confession.  First, let me say this, rites of passage are massively important parts of organized religion. Without rites, there would be nothing to be affiliated with, nothing to conform to, nothing to hold a group together. Beliefs are important, too — don’t get me wrong! — but beliefs are more like the foundation. Customs are the framework. They make religion religion, rather than […] Read more – ‘“Mommy, What’s Confession?”’.
“Mommy, What’s Catechism?”

By Wendy Thomas Russell | May 15, 2014

This segment of “Mommy, What’s That?” — a series where you can find simple, straightforward and age-appropriate language to explain religious ideas to children in non-religious ways — comes courtesy of a reader, Chris. Chris told me that some of his daughter’s friends are in CCD — short for the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine AKA “Catechism” — and he is having a little trouble coming up with the language to explain it to his little one. If you don’t know already, CCD is basically Catholic instruction for kids who attend secular schools. It’s meant to 1) teach about […] Read more – ‘“Mommy, What’s Catechism?”’.
From the Mind of an 8-year-old: ‘Who Made Up God?’

By Wendy Thomas Russell | February 18, 2014

My daughter is on her rope swing, looking out into the blue sky just beyond the fence line of our front yard. She is thinking quietly. And deeply, as it turns out. “Who made up God?” she asks. “What?” I say. Because I am inside and can barely hear her. “Who made up God?” she asks again. I walk to the open door, pondering the question. It sounds as though she might expect me to name someone — an actual person responsible for the creation of this great character that she’s heard so much about. “Quentin Tarantino,” […] Read more – ‘From the Mind of an 8-year-old: ‘Who Made Up God?’’.
“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?”’.
Addressing ‘God’ in Secular Families: When is the Right Time?

By Wendy Thomas Russell | September 16, 2013

When my daughter was 2, and barely out of diapers, she had her first Potty Emergency. We’d been having lunch when suddenly she rose and sprinted to the bathroom with the speed and determination of a hunted deer. I’d been hopeful she made it in time, but when I arrived several seconds later, she was standing in front of the toilet, fully clothed, staring down at a puddle on the floor. Her little shoulders had fallen. Without looking up at me, she shook her little head and said exactly what I would have said in […] Read more – ‘Addressing ‘God’ in Secular Families: When is the Right Time?’.
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?’.
‘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’.
‘Jesus Gosh!’: Explaining Religious Sensitivity to a 4-Year-Old

By Wendy Thomas Russell | June 24, 2013

When exactly is the right time to broach the subject of religion with children? It’s a common question not easily answered. Kids are so different. The brain develops at different speeds and in different ways. What interests children at any given age runs the gamut of possibilities and is constantly in flux. So parents like me, we look for openings. We keep our ears open for conversation starters, and signs that our little ones might be ready to think a bit deeper about life and people and beliefs. We want them to be old enough […] Read more – ‘‘Jesus Gosh!’: Explaining Religious Sensitivity to a 4-Year-Old’.
Daddy, Daughter Discuss God (Again); More Cuteness Ensues

By Wendy Thomas Russell | May 13, 2013

My husband and 7-year-old daughter had another totally awesome conversation about God a few days ago. They used to do that from time to time, but it’s been a while since the subject has come up in much detail. I sure love it when it does. The talks are always fun, insightful, thought-provoking and, frankly, cute as hell. They also present Charlie with golden opportunities to teach Maxine about honesty, diversity  and the importance of kindness. Anyway, this one’s particularly good, so I wanted to share: Maxine: Where do you think God is? Like, which house or school… […] Read more – ‘Daddy, Daughter Discuss God (Again); More Cuteness Ensues’.

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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