I often get requests for advice from parents who wish to raise their children without religion, or who at least want to provide a religion -free influence in the lives of their children. While I am far from an expert in the subject matter, I have what I think are some pretty good ideas on raising nonreligious children.
I find that my 4yo boy/girl twins are not scared of monsters, feel empowered against "Bad Guys", and have a generally fantastically realistic view of the world. How can you believe monsters and boogie-men aren't real if you also believe that angels (kind of like fairies) and devils ARE real? We do celebrate Christmas, since it's commercialized and pretty much all of it is based on older pagan or cultural traditions. I just LOVE the little thinkers they're becomming!
It's so refreshing to "talk" to other atheist parents! In my experience their kids tend to be absolutely delightful and thoughtful. My son has been talking politics with his preschool teacher after seeing the Presidential debates (and asking us poignant questions). He also educates his friends on the finer points of Star Wars. At the age of 2.5, he cried when Darth Vader took off his mask. Not because he was scared, but because as he said, "Darth Vader turned good again." Rock On with your Bad Self for raising moral and realist thinkers! You should post some of the funnier things you have encountered from your kids' interactions with religious pre-conceived notions! Thanks!
At my Grandparent's house, my son pointed to a statue of Jesus and asked who the lady in the dress was. My daughter asked over Christmas what angels were and decided they were a type of fairy. Funny for me, but disturbing to my ultra-Catholic sister!
Promoting this. I'm all for raising kids without religion, as I was raised. I don't think I even knew what God was until I was in the first grade and a classmate kept mentioning God and Jesus. Needless to say I was confused by her perception, so I learned more about it from both her and when I would ask my mother about it. She herself is not for organized religions, and I believe considers herself an agnostic atheist.
I'm almost 22 now, and I can still recall my childhood confusion in religion and why it even existed. Why people needed it, and gave it such praise. Regardless I'm glad I was raised without it in my life, however it was always offered to me. My parents never said I couldn't go to church or restrained me to their beliefs, rather encouraged me to see things in my own way rather than be influenced by my surroundings.
More to the point though, needless to say I prefer kids to be raised without being forced into religion, without having a sort of seed of belief planted into their head at an early age. I do however encourage education of religion, and options given to them - after all, kids are young, not stupid, and are capable of deciding for themselves what to believe in. I don't have kids of my own, nor am I trying for any anytime soon, but if the day ever does come, I'm not going to be pushing any religious views on them, not even my own.
Why do we always let religious conservatives frame the argument in such a way that ethics and morality are unobtainable without religion? There are plenty of opportunities to show kids how to be decent upstanding people without having to frame it in a religious context. The simplistic argument of going to hell or doing something because the church told you it's right is outdated and doesn't have the individual use their own self-examination to realize that you shouldn't do something because of consequences rather that it's just the right thing to do. At what point did we get to the point where only punishments and threats work? I teach students in a low income area and for some students unless you literally scream at them, they won't take it seriously. I've had conversations with kids over what the right thing to do was and have them give a very good answer and still not do it because they didn't want to. I think that if you actually parent with the good of the child in mind (not with the focus of being your kid's friend) that raising a kid without religion is not only doable but will benefit that kid in the long run as an independent, thinking, and rational person.
My advice is don't.
If you want your children to grow up and fit into society, they need to know the myths common to their society. The Avengers movie makes more sense if you understand Norse mythology. Much of secular society makes more sense if you have read the Bible.
Take you kids to Church. Allow them the opportunity to understand the ritual and community aspects of shared experiences. Explain your position of non-belief to them, but don't cripple them with hatred.
I suspect that by inoculating your children they are less likely to come home one day and claim they've been born again. If not, at least they've made up their own minds.