Note: Please send me a msg about any grammatical (my english is far from being perfect ;-) errors, or any other comments you may have

"...and the Allah throne leans on the seven skies, which lean on the seven earths, which an angel holds up on his wings. The angel sits on a giant rock which is put on the back of a bull with forty thousand feet, and the bull is walking on the back of a giant whale which swims through the vast sea of darkness..."

That's at least what the Muslim cosmology has to say about the whereabouts of our cosmos. The Buddhists would probably find that this is rather naive. Actually the problem is to conceive "how the sky of the four kings holds the sky of the thirty-three gods, and how from one sky to another, the area of the absolute phase with its eighteen Buddha kingdoms stands still along with the area of the non-phase existence where the Nirvana is achieved"...

So many religions, so many theories for our existence... Anyway, everybody grows up with some kind of religious theory of how (and why) we are here, and later in his/her life realises that also science offers such a theory. Some people in the course of their life, get interested or involved in such philosophical questions (because it is of an essentially philosophical nature the question of how and why of our origin, since it serves no practical need, except that of our psychological peace) and after some thinking/reading they tend to lean either over religion xor science. Other people brought up within strongly religious families who happen to become scientists in their life, tend to develop a (strange for me) feeling of reconciliating religion and science theories of our existence, maybe by keeping them in different corners of their brain (:-) and by not letting them interact with each other. Last, there is also the vast majority of people who never give a single thought to such religious/scientific matters.

Since the overwhelming majority of people on earth is religious in some way, there is no problem in raising their children. But exactly this fact poses a problem for non-theistic families within such societies as to how to raise their children. And that's because if there is one issue that is extremely fragile and sensitive in this world.... that is without question, religion.

This writeup was written in order to give a glance on the different approaches that I have seen being applied within various non-religious families non-religious families as to how the children are going to meet/know the World. Or to pose the question more sharply, what do you do when your 5-year old darling only-son, comes up with..."Daddy, is there a god?" (also known as the "is there a Santa-Clause daddy?" problem)...

First of all, there is the obsessed "priest-eater". From the beginning, he tells his children that the things that they are told at school during religious-education are all fairy tales. Since the Marxists exclaimed that religion is opium for the people but nobody believed them, now that science has successfully dived into many former mysteries of the universe and religion is clearly people's opium, the children are required to learn it right away. This kind of education usually results in exactly the opposite from desired goal: The son joins a religious college when sixteen to take revenge on the father.

Second way, or "the good & sweet atheist". Sweetly and calmly, he shows his children the life of the butterfly and how the flowers grow up. He tells them that nature is everything, and that god does not exist. This approach, philosophically regarded, is anti-educational because the rationalistic proof of god's non-existence, is the same with the rationalistic proof of god's existence. The child becomes dogmatic and... it is as if Kant never had existed ;-).

Third way, or "the cultural anthropologist". He believes that young people must get education in accordance with the customs of the society in which they live, or else they will feel like aliens, and will be tortured by conflicts between family and school. Let them grow up with the common beliefs of the society, and as soon as they grow older they will have time and clear mind able to judge and believe/not believe.

This very last way, the anthropological, seems to be the most wise, but only leaves the children with just one vision of the world. And what is more, when the parents are atheists (something that pre-supposes a strong attitude, since they go against common beliefs), it is very difficult (even if they are extremely discreet) to completely hide their scepticism from their children. The result is that the children will always have the impression that something is being hidden from them.

The reason I quoted some parts of the Muslim and Buddhist cosmogony at the beginning of the writeup is because it gives a hint as to how children could be raised. Let me explain myself. First, let's define the goal: You want to raise your children so that they DO NOT become dogmatic, but open-minded and tolerant towards other people. At the same time you want them to believe/not believe in religion and god only after an esoteric search in themselves. Apparently, this can only happen at ages far away from 5-10 years old, because this 'esoteric search' requires thinking, reading, discussing. But in order for this search to be able to take place, the children must have from the very early ages developed a mind ready to objectively accept and independently judge.

In my opinion, this can only happen if the child meets all explanations and theories that various religions teach. And here's where the above cosmology quotes come into use. It's a very perceptive and appropriate way to give the child to understand the innumerable ways of interpreting and explaining the world. And as the child meets the various theories and cosmogony myths, it begins to subconsciously suspect/realize the eternal need of humans to tell tales. Yeap, someone could say that this is a sure way to raise your children as little atheist devils ;-), since only getting acquainted with one myth, is called religion, but getting acquainted with many myths reduces religion to a bunch of fairy tales... I have no answer to this... But one is for sure: In everybody's conscience should be clear that however bizarre other religions seem (see the quotes at the beginning), equally bizarre seems for example Christianism to Buddhists (think of the woman creation from man's rib in Genesis).

Let's summarize. For theist-families, there is no problem since they are the absolute majority. But for non-theist-families, there is indeed a problem. The three methodologies that can be employed are flawed:

The Cultural Anthropologist

-- How was your day at school today David?
-- We had our first religious-education lesson today! The teacher asked us how often we go to church...
-- And what did you say David?
-- Errrr, I said every Sunday...
-- But David...
-- ...All the other kids said that they go every Sunday to the church... Daddy, why we never go to the church?
-- ...Errr, don't you think it's late?! Time to sleep!

The Priest-Eater

-- Mammy, David told me there is no God!!! (crying)
-- David, your classmate? Haven't I told you a hundred times not to play with this little devil?
-- But mammy, David said...
-- Shhhhhh. I will call now Sarah's and Bob's mother and tell her not to let them play either with David.
...
-- Daddy, nobody plays with me at school. They call me 'devil' and mock my ears and say they look like horns!

The Good & Sweet Atheist

-- But daddy, who created the butterfly? Miss Clara told us that God did. And Marry says that every night she prays to Him and He protects her and drives away all bad dreams.
-- Other butterflies created this butterfly, which were created by yet other butterflies. And Mary just thinks that He drives away her bad dreams. Has she ever seen him? There is no god, David...
...(after 25 years)...
-- But Dad, who created the first butterfly? Miss Mara told us that God did.
-- In the beginning there were no butterflies. All species evolved from very primitive life forms. There is no god!
--(wife) DAVID! Do not confuse the kid! He's only 6 years old!
--.?.?.? 'spicy volve privitive life from' ?? Dad?

IMHO, the only way not to make a child dogmatic towards such issues, is by not teaching any child any religion lessons until a certain age. Then, they would have the reason to judge for themselves if they want to believe or not. Everything that children learn very early when they cannot judge by themselves becomes a dogma. And if they learn that the earth spins around the sun... OK, because earth indeed spins around the sun. But... do you really "accept" Jesus Christ at the age of three, or is it that you just find Him there sitting, long before judgement and reason abilities are developed?


Bibliography:
Semiotics in Everyday Life
, Umberto Eco
The Muslim Cosmology, The Papyros Larousse Britannica Encyclopedia

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