I am an atheist. I do not believe in God, or any other type of supreme being. Gail believes, but not devoutly – she basically doesn’t like the idea of death as being the end. The way she once put it was “I have to believe that there is something else afterwards – that my grandparents aren’t just gone, that they’re out there somewhere, and I’ll see them again someday.” So I think she belives in some kind of afterlife, but not necessarily in God. Anyway, we’re not a religious family, by any stretch. We don’t go to church, or talk about God, or say grace before meals.
This past weekend, we went to visit our friends’ cottage on Lake Huron, and a few other friends came on Sunday as well. We had a big BBQ lunch, and just before the kids sat down to eat, one of the mothers started to sing grace – “Oh, the Lord is good to me, and so I thank the Lord…”, and most of the kids sang along. Ryan and Nicholas just stared at everyone, not having any clue of what they were singing or why. Nicholas actually smiled at the end and said “Let’s sing it again!”
Once again, I’m forced to wonder how I’m going to handle the inevitable religious questions when they come up – What’s God? How did He create the Earth? Is He watching us all the time? Do I tell him “some people believe that the Earth was created by God… but I think it’s a load of crap”? At some point, he’s going to ask “Why does God allow people to die, or to be hurt?” and I won’t have an answer for him (though I suppose religious parents don’t either, other than the standard “God works in mysterious ways”).
Ryan knows a little about God, from Beavers and kids at school, but eventually he’ll want to know more. Should we send him to Sunday school? In a perfect world, I’d like him to be educated on lots of different religions (including atheism), and let him decide what he does or doesn’t believe. In the real world, that can’t happen. Most religious people are religious because they were brought up religious – they are taught about God and Jesus and the Bible from a very early age, and it never occurs to them to question the teachings. This leads to the faith that is necessary for any religion. You can’t just read the Bible, the Qur’an, and whatever other books there are with a totally open mind, and make an informed and unbiased choice as to which one you’re going to believe – that just ain’t the way it works.
I’m not sure I want someone telling my kids all the standard Bible stories about God and Jesus and whoever else as if they are cold hard facts, but anyone who knows these stories and can give them any kind of religious education is going to believe that they are cold hard facts.
I went to Sunday school for a while as a child, and my parents remember asking me if I liked it. I said that yes, it was fun and all, but they talk about God an awful lot. It’s possible that I missed the point entirely.