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cultural literacy and non-religious families?

post #1 of 45
Thread Starter 
Maybe there's a better forum for this -- I don't know. Mods, feel free to move it.

DH and I were raised in Christian churches, but our beliefs are pretty much in flux now, and attending church doesn't at all feel right. It also feels awkward for us to talk about biblical stories to DD (only 2 now, but this will be more of an issue later) because we're not really believers.

Still, I think it's important in western culture for children to be at least somewhat familiar with Judeo-Christian stories and beliefs. Otherwise, you miss out on a lot of literary, movie, TV, and musical references.

For other non-religious or non-Christian families, how do you introduce the stories to your kids without it feeling awkward?

Honestly, I know I wouldn't have any problem reading stories from other faiths to DD, or especially from the "dead" religions like the ancient Greek, Egyptian myths. I guess it's just my/our conflicted relationship with Christianity that makes it feel strange.

Are there any "neutral" biblical story books out there for kids? You know, ones that don't have a religious message beyond what's in the story itself? We have a lot of books that MIL has given us, but they are very instructional.

ETA: we're not necessarily anti-religion, and if DD wants to be a part of a church when she gets older, that's fine.
post #2 of 45
We go with "some people believe" and "some people believed." When it comes to religions that are still widely practiced today, I may also give examples of real-life people they know who believe in those things. I don't differentiate between Greek mythology and Christian mythology (for example) even though one is now widely considered ridiculous while the other is widely believed to be true. I let my kids decide for themselves what they want to believe in. When we deal with books that speak as though the story is TRUTH and GOD exists, I make sure to preface the story with "this was written by someone who believes it's true, and so that's the point of view of the story." This is certainly easier to discuss with a 6 or 7 year old than a preschooler. With younger kids, I avoid those stories. They can't understand the nuances anyway, and many of the stories are just too scary.

I don't know of any neutral bible story books. Sorry. You may just have to edit and preface yourself.
post #3 of 45
You might want to check out the books "Parenting Beyond Beliefn raising ethical, caring kids without religion" and "Raising Freethinkier: a practical guide for Parenting Beyond Belief" both by Dale McGowan. They are excellent resources for how to parent kids in a religious culture when you are not necessary religious yourself.
post #4 of 45
I would approach this from an anthropological approach - I would talk about how different people have different religions, and read about a lot of different religions.

There are a fair number of books out there for world religions aimed at kids, and that don't appear to privilege one religion over another.
Many Ways: How Families Practice Their Beliefs and Religions
A faith like mine
Usborne Book of World Religions
One World Many Religions

I'd also then read stories from the major religious traditions. I do think it's important for people to be familiar with the basic stories of the Bible as part of cultural literacy. But, people should also be familiar with basic stories of all of the major religions.

You could start with creation stories, for example, and read those. You could read about the major festivals of the world's religions/traditions: what is Rosh Hashanah? Eid al Fitr? Diwali? Lunar New Year? Easter?
post #5 of 45
I know what you mean. My parents were both raised Christian and I was not. I had to read parts of the bible in HS English because it is such an important reference to so much literature. I don't feel like I missed out spiritually, but I sure do terrible on Jeopardy categories that have anything to do with the bible I don't have any advice but it is something that I think about.
post #6 of 45
We belong to a UU church and in Sunday school the kids learn about all religions and the religious stories are taught as just that, stories.
post #7 of 45
Isn't it funny that we can sit down and read "Goldilocks and the Three Bears" with no issues at all, but trying to tell the Noah and the Ark story is all "umm, and some people think" and "this is just a story" and "well, except to some people blieve" and "maybe it could have..." "but probably not"...


I hear you, I have been wondering the same exact thing! So far we've just avoided it all, but I really don't feel that's right, as I'd have no problem reading a story from another religion either--I'd read it like a story. But Christian ones--I get so uncomfortable!

We attended a Unitarian Universalist congregation before DS was born, and due to attachment (he had to be with us!) vs. noise (him noisy in the sanctuary) issues we haven't been but twice with him. He's almost 3, so we're finally going back and looking into their 'sunday school' to find out what they say and how they teach religion with their open views. Do you have a UU congregation? Have you considered it?
post #8 of 45
Quote:
Originally Posted by hipumpkins View Post
We belong to a UU church and in Sunday school the kids learn about all religions and the religious stories are taught as just that, stories.
Ha! How funny, posted at the same time!
post #9 of 45
We do just tell stories to them. DD heard about "this girl Noah and all the kids laughed because she built a boat," , so I told her the story of Noah. I don't delve into the religion part, mainly because I'm not sure how I feel, so I just tell it as a story the same way I would anything else.
post #10 of 45
My husband is a pretty hard core atheist and I'm a former English teacher. I consider knowledge of the Bible mandatory because it's a constant reference point through all of western literature. So our Bible is on the same shelf as the books about Buddhism and Wicca and Norse mythology and Greek mythology. They will all be taught pretty equally. (There are other religions and mythologies represented but I'm feeling lazy about listing them.)
post #11 of 45
OP - I really relate to your post. I had a very positive Lutheran upbringing where church was the center of our social lives yet somehow, that level of involvement doesn't feel right for me anymore.

DH had very wacky religous experiences when he was a child so he isn't comfortable in any organized setting at all.

Yet we do feel like the educational aspect is very important.

Thanks all for the book suggestions! I am adding those to my reading list.
post #12 of 45
Thread Starter 
Thanks y'all. It's good to hear from people in the same boat (a Noah reference?) who have figured out how to do this. I can definitely see us having some comparative religion sources for DD to peruse as she gets older, and maybe it's not all that important how often she hears the stories while she's little. EXCEPT, we are in the south (in case the "y'all" didn't tip you off) and there probably will be the expectation by her teachers that she will at least know the biblical creation story and the Noah story, and the other basics, so we'll have to fill her in on some things pretty early. BrandiRhoades, your anecdote made me realize this.

In actuality, there is a good chance that the preschool she attends will be church based because there simply aren't very many alternatives in the area, and this cultural literacy concern has me thinking that maybe that's not a bad thing. We'll certainly choose the most liberal program we can find, but I'm cool with her getting some religious education while she's too young to proselytize.

Thanks again for all the thoughtful responses.
post #13 of 45
I would suggest getting something that tells the bible stories (Usborne Children's Bible seems nice from what I can see at Amazon) and read stories from that, interspersed with stories from other religious myths (Greek, Egyptian, Norse, etc). It would be a good way to gain the knowledge and reference points.
post #14 of 45
You can tell the stories just like any other. You don't even need to frame it in a "some people believe" context. David and Goliath, you can tell the story without even broaching if it's true for example. Do you spend time worrying about any of the other childrens stories you tell being true? Is Hansel and Gretal true, Where the Wild Things are true?? Did it matter as a kid?
post #15 of 45
Quote:
Originally Posted by Arduinna View Post
You can tell the stories just like any other. You don't even need to frame it in a "some people believe" context. David and Goliath, you can tell the story without even broaching if it's true for example. Do you spend time worrying about any of the other childrens stories you tell being true? Is Hansel and Gretal true, Where the Wild Things are true?? Did it matter as a kid?
Honestly, the only reason why I'd add "some people believe" is because so many kids are taught that it's true. So, you'll have kids talking about how the story of Noah is true at an age when they won't insist on Hansel and Gretel being true. (My older son was beat over the head with the Jesus crucifixion story when he was 4,on a playground, by a peer!) We also do "some people believe" with Santa and the Tooth Fairy - for the same reason. It helps them to understand that they may hear these things as though they're facts, and that they should be respectful towards the people who believe such things, but they have the right to make up their own minds.
post #16 of 45
Quote:
Originally Posted by rightkindofme View Post
My husband is a pretty hard core atheist and I'm a former English teacher. I consider knowledge of the Bible mandatory because it's a constant reference point through all of western literature. So our Bible is on the same shelf as the books about Buddhism and Wicca and Norse mythology and Greek mythology. They will all be taught pretty equally. (There are other religions and mythologies represented but I'm feeling lazy about listing them.)
Yup - I totally missed most of the Biblical references in literature, but I caught most of the classical ones. I was brought up non-religious so I didn't get that cultural steeping in Judeo-Christian traditions, but I read lots of other mythology.

For that reason, I have a copy of the Bible and some other religious texts, plus books on world religions and mythology. I consider them reference materials and storybooks, and I think from an educational perspective it's a good idea to expose my kids to them.
post #17 of 45
You've received very good suggestions. I am in a similar situation. I read "Parenting Beyond Belief" and then did a world religion unit with ds (we homeschool) using some of the books LynnS recommended and some other resources I found. We had already studied Greek and Roman history and myths and moved into medieval history (crusades,) so it was a nice precursor into the rise of Christianity.

We are now starting to go to a non-denominational free church that we attended a long time ago. The ministers are UU trained (is train the right word?) ministers, it is very, very open, and without a creed. They have a wonderful Sunday school program that focuses on world religions and tolerance as well as promoting an individual spiritual journey. I know that there are some agnostics (and at least one atheist.... ) that attend this church - it's that open. If I was more energetic, I'd take the dc's to a variety of churches and places of worship (synagogues, mosques, etc.) and I may in the future.

I balked at even going this route for a long time, but we are in a very religious belt and with the abundance of homeschooling families doing HS for religious reasons, I felt that it was important that the dc's understand what religion and spirituality were all about so that they can make their own personal decisions regarding religion with an open mind and heart. It's also been very helpful as we discuss current world events.

Another nice book is "Sacred Religions: Stories of World Religions"
http://www.amazon.com/Sacred-Myths-S.../dp/0963832778

And I really like "What is God?" although it's not a stand alone.
http://www.amazon.com/What-God-Etan-...5317311&sr=1-3
post #18 of 45
subbing
post #19 of 45
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Calidris View Post
I would suggest getting something that tells the bible stories (Usborne Children's Bible seems nice from what I can see at Amazon) and read stories from that, interspersed with stories from other religious myths (Greek, Egyptian, Norse, etc). It would be a good way to gain the knowledge and reference points.
That looks pretty good. Duh. Why didn't it occur to me just to read THE BIBLE? But it does have to be just the right version. I like how this one focuses on the well known stories.


In reference to a discussion by PPs -- I also don't know how I feel about the "some people believe" phrase. I think that will come into play when (not if) DD is preached at or when she starts questioning, but maybe not at first.
post #20 of 45
Posting another thread with some additional ideas for books & resources:
http://www.mothering.com/discussions...light=religion
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