An Atheist Christmas Coloring Book

Mindposts.com has an excellent (and free) downloadable coloring book for children of atheist parents, explaining the history of the Christmas traditions:

I *so* want to see an expanded version of this.

With Daniel Dennett as Santa Claus.

And Christopher Hitchens as Rudolph (he already has the red nose…)

What would the other New Atheists be…?

In any case, make it happen, artists!

(Thanks to Rick for the link!)

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff P

    Nice,

    Most of them were quite good.

  • http://andrewfinden.com/findothinks/ Andrew

    “It’s a custom as old as can be
    even for Atheists like you and me”

    What happened to not labelling kids?

  • Cheryl

    My first thought was PZ Myers as Frosty the Snowman.

  • asonge

    I liked it, but I’d rather give my kids something world-view neutral. The “Atheists like you and me” bit is too close to indoctrination for comfort to me. I’d be happy if my non-existant kids would choose to self-identify as atheists, but I’m just really scared of creating any type of us-vs-them mentality.

  • http://randomatheist.blogspot.com/ RandomAtheist

    We’re definitely printing this one for the kids, and sharing it with our secular homeschool group…awesome! Thank you for posting!

  • http://annainca.blogspot.com Anna

    This looks cute, but if any parents are looking for actual books explaining the origins of Christmas traditions, I wholeheartedly recommend The Winter Solstice by Ellen Jackson and The Shortest Day by Wendy Pfeffer.

  • Ken

    Yeah, I have to say I won’t be giving this to any of the children I know. As atheists, we should not fight indoctrination with different indoctrination. It’s OK to educate kids about the historical roots of Christmas, but when it got to the “Atheists like you and me,” it lost me.

  • Danny Wuvs Kittens

    This is Jesus, that son of a bitch, he’s ordering his bots to fuck up your shit.

    -my submission.

  • http://godobscuresperception.blogspot.com God Obscures Perception

    I don’t know if I would want to push atheism on my hypothetical children like religion was pushed on me. I’d be happy to give them generic “Winter Wonderland” coloring books.

    Also, that coloring book doesn’t look like much fun for coloring for young kids. Looks like more fun for adults though!

  • Claudia

    Ugh, this pisses me off to no end. I love the idea of a Solstice coloring book, and think the different solstice myths are an awesome subject for the kids of nonbelievers (comparative religion, history, lots of color and fun) but the indoctrination of this book is on level with any “The baby Jesus loves you” Christian coloring book. They’ve taken a great idea and a real need; culturally relevant resources for atheist parents, and then run roughshod over our supposed principle of not fighting indoctrination with indoctrination.

  • TychaBrahe

    What about Festivus and Newtonmass?

  • NeuroLover

    Well, found my wrapping paper for this year! :)

  • http://www.mindposts.com Rick M

    Thanks for sharing the link to the coloring book.

    Regarding Indoctrination. The goal of Mindposts.com, and of the coloring book, is to encourage the self esteem of rational kids. Atheism is not a philosophy, but rather the side effect of rational thought. Telling kids that irrational mysticism might be correct in the future is psychological torture.

    It is not the Agnostic Christmas Coloring Book.

  • http://kaleenamenke.blogspot.com Kaleena

    Did any one else read the About page at Mindposts?

    “Through Reason, we see the justness of Capitalism…”

  • Nordog

    Did any one else read the About page at Mindposts?

    Smells like Randian Objectivism.

  • http://arkonbey.blogspot.com Arkonbey

    Of course, the second thing that came to my mind was the old Dead Milkmen song “Methodist Coloring Book”

  • captsam

    Nordog, you do know Rand was an atheist. capitalism is ok if you can monopolies out of it.

  • Rieux

    I liked it, but I’d rather give my kids something world-view neutral. The “Atheists like you and me” bit is too close to indoctrination for comfort to me.

    Yeah, I have to agree. Something like half of the captions are just cloying, in-your-face argument that doesn’t seem to me to make any sense in a presentation to small children. (“Quite deranged”? Wha?)

    Perhaps we could keep the drawings but rewrite the captions (maybe drop the rhyme scheme, which is annoying anyway) so that they’re less bizarrely aggressive? Surely there are worthwhile things to say about the history of Christmas traditions that don’t amount to “religion is stupid.”

    I hasten to add that I don’t think there’s anything wrong with atheists arguing that religion is stupid—though a more specific focus on a particular religious idea is better. As a lesson for children, though, “religion is stupid” leaves a huge amount to be desired.

  • Nordog

    Nordog, you do know Rand was an atheist. capitalism is ok if you can monopolies out of it.

    Well, yes, of course I know that Rand was an atheist, and that her “Objectivism” is likewise of an atheist stripe, and further that she is a “champion” capitalism.

    Thus my post.

  • Laura

    Yeah, not completely on board with this one either. The content is enjoyable for adults in the atheist community but for children at the level of coloring books and simple rhyming captions it’s just needlessly confusing. A person needs a LOT of background knowledge for this book to make sense.

    The images look poorly resized and they’re all in different styles – something tells me that they aren’t the original work of someone at Mindposts…

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com hoverFrog

    The idea is sound but I found it a little creepy. I’d like to see a colouring book that is simply free of the baby Jesus myth. That or include all the other solstice myths and stories too. Pretty much as it is today anyway.

  • littlejohn

    Hitchens in dying as a result of years of heavy smoking and drinking. You might want to omit the red nose joke. I assume he reads this blog.

  • Claudia

    Atheism is not a philosophy, but rather the side effect of rational thought.

    Agreed, which is why instructing children that they are atheists and telling them outright to reject religion is wrong, particularly the labelling of children that young.

    Telling kids that irrational mysticism might be correct in the future is psychological torture.

    Holy hyperbole Batman! Teaching a child that god will send them to burn in hell if they don’t believe is emotional abuse, but your statement goes WAY beyond that. Basically you are saying that telling a child that the possibility exists that a given mythology might be correct is abusive by definition. I don’t think it’s correct, but your use of something as strong as “psychological torture” is problematic, at best.

    I tend to agree that we shouldn’t pretend that the claims of religion are merely up in the air and to each their own, but that’s a big step away from instructing very young children to self-identify as atheists and learn that people who don’t think like they do are “deranged”.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000586562927 muggle

    Jesus Fucking Christ! Let my grandson enjoy just being a kid, for fuck’s sake. He will not be subject to this. No fucking way.

    Is this even necessary? Frankly, there’s a zillion secular Christmas coloring books around. No mention of baby jebus. Grandson will get one of these to enjoy coloring. (Though actually his grandmother’s more apt to color them than he is.)

    And, no, I’m sorry at 7, he does not need no lecture on comparative religions and how Christmas evolved. Jesus Fucking Christ.

  • Stephen M

    I nominate James Randi to be portrayed as Santa. He already has the requisite beard.

  • http://annainca.blogspot.com Anna

    I’m not really interested in labeling children, but if young kids haven’t been taught to believe in gods, then they are atheists by default. I was an atheist when I was at the coloring book stage; I just didn’t know there was a word for it. In fact, I didn’t yet realize that there were people in the world who weren’t atheists.

    I’m not sure there’s anything wrong with parents recognizing that their children don’t have god-beliefs and teaching them the correct word to describe themselves. My parents never bothered (they’re not atheists, but rather totally apathetic), so I just sort of worked everything out on my own. I guess I learn more towards teaching my children the correct terminology for what they are.

  • Claudia

    @Anna the problem is that atheism as a label is unlike other labels about religion. An atheist is someone without a belief in gods. However this term can apply to two vastly different groups of people:
    2. People who have no god belief because they are unaware of the concept. Given the world that we live in this is essentially restricted to children and people with cognitive disabilities.
    1. People who, being fully aware of the existence of god belief, reject said beliefs for whatever reason.

    The distance between both groups of people more than merits their own words, but atheism sadly covers both, and this is a problem.

    I object to someone identifying a 4 year old as a “Catholic” because that child knows as much about the Trinity as she knows about long division, and religious labels carry a lot of baggage (and rivalry and implied enemies lists). Though technically a 4 year old raised with no religion is an atheist, I cannot pretend that “atheist” is ordinarily understood under definition 2 than definition 1. So if I label a very young child an atheist, I’m applying a religious label to a person too young to understand all that comes with that label. Sure, the child is technically an atheist, but it feels like trying to get away with a bait and switch. A very young child is not a Democrat or a Republican or an Anglican or a Libertarian…she is a child. I think it is inappropriate to mark them until they are ready to mark themselves, even as we raise them to be skeptics and (hopefully) arrive at a good conclusion.

  • littlejohn

    My wife teaches English on the poor side of town where about half her teen girls are mothers and will not graduate. She has labeled them without any qualms, despite their tender age. They’re “idiots.”

  • Nordog

    Here’s an interesting (imo) hypothetical:

    Let’s say a group of atheists go on a cruise, and like Gilligan et al. they become stranded on a desert isle. In time they have children.

    The only people on the island are the adult atheists and the newborn children.

    Do the adults ever need to mention theism and atheism as the children grow up?

    Do they need to discuss them even among themselves?

  • http://annainca.blogspot.com Anna

    Claudia, I agree that there are two kinds of atheists. For lack of better terms, we can call them “default atheists” and “conscious atheists.” I have always been an atheist, but obviously I’ve been both kinds at different times in my life. However, for me, the line is pretty blurry. When is the exact moment a child transitions from default to conscious atheist? It is the first time they hear about gods? The first time they realize other people believe in gods? I can’t pinpoint the instant that I stopped being one and started being the other.

    The distance between both groups of people more than merits their own words, but atheism sadly covers both, and this is a problem.

    I’m not really convinced we need separate words. I have always considered atheism the natural state to be in, so if children are still in their natural state, then I would describe them as atheists. Theism is what seems unnatural to me, something that has to be taught and reinforced in order to get children to believe in it.

    So if I label a very young child an atheist, I’m applying a religious label to a person too young to understand all that comes with that label. Sure, the child is technically an atheist, but it feels like trying to get away with a bait and switch. A very young child is not a Democrat or a Republican or an Anglican or a Libertarian…she is a child. I think it is inappropriate to mark them until they are ready to mark themselves, even as we raise them to be skeptics and (hopefully) arrive at a good conclusion.

    I can see your point, and I wouldn’t say “You’re an atheist” point blank to my child, but I don’t really consider atheism a religious label. It’s not the same as having actively been taught to believe in something, in my opinion. I’m comfortable telling my child “A long time ago people believed in gods and goddesses” or “Some people believe in them, but Mommy and Daddy think gods and goddesses are imaginary.” In that context, I would feel comfortable sharing the word atheism with my kids. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with them knowing the accurate label.

  • http://annainca.blogspot.com Anna

    Nordog, sounds like a fascinating social experiment! I’ve always wondered what would happen if we were able to raise groups of children without introducing them to the supernatural. It would be interesting to find out if they developed supernatural beliefs on their own, or if those beliefs came about as a result of primitive humans evolving and developing the ability for abstract thought. We don’t know if modern children exposed to actual scientific information would create the same kinds of religious systems that ancient peoples did, or if they’d create any at all.

    Your hypothetical situation sounds great to me. That’s how I wish I could raise my kids. I would love to live in a secular society where I didn’t have to worry about my children being exposed to a lot of (IMO) silly and/or harmful beliefs. In that Gilligan’s Island scenario, people could just go about living their lives and would never have to mention theism or atheism at all.

  • Claudia

    @Nordog the answer depends on just how hypothetical we’re being here. If, for some magical reason, we could safely expect these children to grow up and develop their own society without any outside contact (I think colonizing an alien planet would be a better hypothetical for that) the teaching would be different than in the scenario you laid out.

    In your scenario, I would consider it the height of irresponsibility to not teach them about the outside world because there is a very high chance there would be an eventual rescue and hence they would need to be prepared for what they’d see and hear. These children I think should be raised the same as children in larger society; as skeptics but without labels. Teach them what people believe just as you would any child.

    In the other scenario, the question is trickier because you are essentially given the chance to start a new society. In this scenario every spare minute not spent surviving would have to be spent, by the adults, teaching and recording previous knowledge, to give the next generation as much of a head start as possible. The single most important thing would be to teach them science and to record and make numerous backups of the accumulated knowledge of the adults. Here I see the role of religious education differently. Religions would be good to teach as a matter of history (knowing where your ancestors came from) but beyond that I think it would be important to stress that magical thinking is a weakness that is inherent to humans. If you’re going to be in the business of establishing a new society, you need to give it as strong a skeptical base as possible. This is not done by ignoring religion, but actually pointing out what religion is and how it comes to be, so that you can in some way try to prevent it’s establishment a second time. It’s not at all clear that you would succeed, but certainly it would be worth trying.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000586562927 muggle

    Anna, sure, but that coloring book is nothing but ad hoc commercialism of the new Atheist movement. It’s more about politics than religion. It’s not trying to raise Atheists. It’s trying to raise activists.

    Like I said, for FSM’s sake, let kids be kids. It’s freaking obvious as hell they stole those pictures from the dozens of other coloring books I mentioned that don’t mention Jebus or anything superstitious except in most (but not all) Santa. And I still maintain that Santa is the best GD exercise in critical thinking ever.

    Christ, is the stick so far up our butts now that we can’t even let kids just relax and enjoy life? If so, how are we any less repressive that Xian parents?

    Let them learn and grow and stop shoving shit down their throats. Learning and growing is their kid job. And, frankly, let’s merely encourage a love of that so it doesn’t end at graduation but they become a lifelong seeker of knowledge.

    That’s where my fundy nutjob mother fucked up. She encouraged reading. Not that she could have squelched it in me if she tried. I was always naturally curious. That she hated and did try (unsuccessfully) to squelch.

  • http://andrewfinden.com/findothinks/ Andrew

    @Nordog

    Actually, check out some of the research being done by Dr Olivera Petrovich which is suggesting that even in predominantly secular Japan, a kind of theistic belief is the default for children, even if no one tells them about a god.

  • http://annainca.blogspot.com Anna

    Muggle, oh, I’m not defending the coloring book. I mean, it’s cute, but it seems more like the sort of ironic gift you would give an adult for Christmas. I suppose you could give it to a child if you wanted, but children at the coloring book stage are probably not even reading independently, let alone are at the age where they would understand the text.

    I think children should be taught about the origins of the holidays in our culture, but it doesn’t seem like this coloring book is a good way of doing that. The books I mentioned upthread by Jackson and Pfeffer would be better alternatives. If I were teaching my kids, I’d be inclined to lean towards something that’s neutral. I think there’s a way to teach children about religion and atheism without labeling them, while at the same time making them aware of accurate terminology.

  • http://annainca.blogspot.com Anna

    Andrew, I had never heard of Olivera Petrovich, but it sounds like she’s doing interesting work. However, if you read this article, you will find that the children she studied have been exposed to the idea of a deity. When the children are given “forced choice” questions, one of the options for how certain things came to be is “God.” That’s a far, far cry from what I’m talking about. If you expose your children to the idea, then it’s already an image or concept that has formed in their minds. Taking four-year-olds from Britain (who quite likely have heard of the notion of God from parents/school/television/movies/peers) is not a good way to measure whether theism comes naturally to children. Those children have been exposed to theism long before they’ve even been asked the question by the researcher.

    Even the Japanese children do not live in a society that is free of supernatural beliefs. They have been exposed to the concept of a god in Shintoism, even though the article correctly points out that the god is not thought of as a creator. This paragraph is quite telling:

    I’ve also established that children’s natural concepts of God aren’t purely anthropomorphic. They certainly acquire a conception of God-as-man through their religious education, but no child actually links the representation of, for example, God-as-Jesus with the creator of the world. Rather, their images of God the creator correspond to abstract notions like gas, air, and person without a body. When you press them, they of course fall back on what they’ve been told, saying things like, “I know he’s a man because I saw him on the telly,” or “He’s just like my daddy.” These are very rational responses, but they’re not natural conceptions formed by children. Rather they’re imposed by the culture in which the children live.

    What I’m talking about is what would happen if you raised children in a completely secular environment. No religious education. No mention of deities whatsoever. I don’t know if those children would create gods and goddesses out of thin air, but it’s not a given that they would. The Pirahã people of the Amazonian rain forest have no deities, no supreme spirit, no creation story. It might be rare for a society not to develop those beliefs, but their existence shows that it can happen and it has happened in the past. I wonder if it might be more likely to happen if the society was not evolving, but already started off at the point of knowing about science and technology. There’s no need to invent a thunder god if you actually know where thunder comes from, for example.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000586562927 muggle

    Oh, Anna, sorry. Hmmm, when I was in school, about 5th grade or so, we were taught about Christmas traditions as well as other holidays in other countries with no comment on whether Santa (by any name) or god existed for not. Don’t they still do this in schools when introducing kids to other cultures or am I just showing my age?

  • http://annainca.blogspot.com Anna

    Muggle, I suppose it might depend on the school. I don’t remember ever really being taught about the origins of most holidays in elementary school. National holidays like Columbus Day and Thanksgiving were discussed, and we did arts and crafts for Halloween and Valentine’s Day and the winter holidays, but I don’t remember learning about the symbolism or where all the traditions came from, at least not as part of a set lesson in Social Studies. The one place I do remember learning about different cultures was in one of my Charlie Brown Super Books. I loved that book because it gave a global perspective and explained all kinds of holidays that were never mentioned in school, like Passover and Ramadan and Lent, and it did everything in a totally unbiased way. It’s out of print now, but if you can snag a copy, your grandson might enjoy it.


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