How to Teach Your Child About Religion

Jenny Lawson (a.k.a. The Bloggess) is always entertaining to read, but this piece about her daughter and religion is especially awesome.

A few weeks ago [my daughter] entered the Sunday School contest for “Make-your-own-Armor-of-God” with a sword she made from cardboard and tinfoil. She won.

When I asked why she wasn’t more excited about it, she said,“I won a bookmark with a dead guy on it.” True story. I assume the dead guy was Jesus, but when I asked her if she knew who Jesus was, she told me, “He was God’s neighbor, or little brother or something” and that “he was always getting in trouble and learning lessons.” I’m fairly sure she’s confusing Jesus with Dennis the Menace. Which is fine, because she’s 6 and she has time to learn. I do, however, feel that it’s important to pass on your knowledge to your children, and this is why I’ve created a short lesson for kids about everything I know about religion.

(Does that mean Mr. Wilson is God since Dennis is always trying to hang out with him…?)

As reader Angie writes, “it makes me happy when widely-read folks who don’t identify as atheists and have a much broader reach write posts like this.” I totally agree.

Lawson’s lesson also contains some very useful Biblical translations for kids:

“A fool shows his annoyance at once, but a prudent man overlooks an insult.” = “Don’t feed the trolls.”

“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” = “Be nice. It makes you look skinnier.”

“If anyone curses his father or mother, he must be put to death.” = “God’s swear jar is insanely severe.”

If you’d like to offer any other religious saying translations, I’d love to hear them :)

(Thanks to Angie for the link!)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.

  • Martin Holland

    Are you the people who would like to erase religion from our history?

    • http://smilechurch.blogspot.com SmileChurch

      Yes Martin. We are working on time machine technology currently, and plan on going back in time and removing all traces of religion from our history. We have that much power.

      • http://twitter.com/Moonpanther22 Kaoru Negisa

        Fortunately, the time machine only has to travel back between 6,000 and 10,000 years in order to get it all. %)

        • Drakk

          We should probably leave a few copies of the essentials behind as well, you know. Like Origin of Species, Newton’s Principia, and the Periodic Table, just to get that lot started properly.

    • http://www.nivex.net/ Kevin Otte

      I don’t want to erase it from our history, just our future.

      • Anonymous

        Assuming that we have a continuity of literate civilization for, say, the next 10,000 years (like the thinking of the Long Now Foundation), would the people in the era 100 centuries from now even know about christianity and other current religions, apart from a handful of scholars? I can see why some christians want to hurry along the “end times,” because they know on some level that their religion, which originated nearly 2000 years ago as a doomsday cult based on a ghost story, has started to show the strains of the generations of efforts to keep it alive artificially. They symbolize their fear of a coming “Jesus who?” era with their fantasy about the rapture.

    • Anonymous

      History has a way of cleaning up dead religions. You have to go out of your way to learn about Zoroastrianism these days, or even to meet a Zoroastrian in the U.S. 

      • imaginarilee

        Unfortunately, history also has a way of creating new ones.

    • Jim Howard

      No, from our future.

      • Jim Howard

        Ooops, didn’t read further down to see same comment.

  • http://twitter.com/Toxicpath Somite

    The best way to teach religion to your children is to teach them none at all.  Religion is confusing and inconsistent and reinforces magical thinking. When children are older and understand the concept of history and other cultures, it can be part of a complete education. It should never be taught as a source of knowledge.

  • http://www.frommormontoatheist.blogspot.com Leia

    I love what her daughter said. It is reminiscent of something one of my freethinking daughters would say. :)
    I usually warn my children about religion. I feel it’s a very dangerous thing. But it is nice to see that someone who willingly sends her daughter to Sunday School be so chill about her daughter being disappointed with her ‘prize’.
    I received a set of scriptures for my 8th birthday as my only gift, and I cried, then I was punished for not being thankful.  Best. Birthday. Ever… :P

  • Tortuga Skeptic

    I’m just glad to not be the only parent saying things like don’t be an asshole to my kids.   Loved her post and had to explain to my son why I was laughing so hard.  I did skip the donkey part, that kind grosses me out. 

  • Anonymous

    (Does that mean Mr. Wilson is God since Dennis is always trying to hang out with him…?)

    Hmm, you might be onto something. He had about the same attitude as God did. >.>

    • http://twitter.com/gordongoblin Gordon

      Ha, I asumed you meant Dennis the Menace from the Beano!

      • Brian Westley

        I prefer the George Lucas version, “Dennis the Phantom Menace”

  • Jennifer Robinson

    I was totally psyched to see this convergence of my two favorite blogs!  I saw this post when she made it recently & thought it was brilliantly funny.

  • Anonymous

    I think this “they should experience it for themselves” phenomenon is silly. It’s based completely on the idea that religion is one of the profound and essential human experiences, and that people who don’t go to church are being cheated of something. That 6 year-old clearly is not choosing to go to church.

    It was a well-written piece, and Lawson seems like a witty and insightful parent. But the societal issues at play here are worth a mention, I’d think. 

  • http://a-million-gods.blogspot.com/ Avicenna

    ‘If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They must be stoned…”
    Get high before you have gay sex and don’t treat gay sex like straight sex. It is entirely different. 

    For starters you have someone to high five after while I can tell from experience that trying to high five a woman after sex tends to end with condescending looks and possibly being asked to leave. 

    • Drakk

      I never understood that verse. Doesn’t it require that one of the men have a vagina?

      Of course, that book says stranger things.

  • JulietEcho

    Just wanted to note that equating thinness with good looks is insanely unhealthy if you’re a parent of a young kid, especially a young girl.  Getting the message that being *thin* is important (as opposed to being healthy, which, yes, usually involves not being overweight) from a parent, or in general, can combine with cultural factors and personality traits to evolve into an eating disorder like anorexia – the mental illness with the highest mortality rate.

    I wouldn’t jump on this if I didn’t know, from personal experience and years of research, how intently young kids take cues from their parents.  If being thin is important to mom, and if mom says that being thin is good, then a kid will start worrying about getting fat.  It’s one thing to teach your kids good nutrition and emphasize that food is fuel for a healthy body, but it’s another when body size and value judgements about what’s “better” or more attractive are brought into the picture.

    Besides, does her six-year-old need to look thinner?  That particular piece of translation just boggles my mind.


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