Being a parent is a new adventure every day, dealing with what seems to be something always ready to test you and today was no different. As I have said before in posts and podcasts, I wanted to wait until I felt that my daughter was old enough to understand what the word “atheist” meant and that her father is one of them. My reasoning for this was to hopefully one day be able to sit down with her, knowing that she was able to fully understand the conversation we were having and what we were actually talking about. In my mind I was striving for eight years old because that is when I began to question religion. Well that day unexpectedly came today, and here is our story.
I have always stated that my daughter was too smart for her own good, and I can proudly state that may have something to do with her raising. Always teaching her to question everything and to never lose her interest in reading. She recently turned six and I must say she has taken both of these teachings to great use.
It was a very gloomy day here; I was sitting at my desk rereading “Mom, Dad I’m an Atheist” by David McAfee to prep for our hangout on September 28. As I was reading, I hadn’t noticed her walk up, but I heard her little voice read the title of the book, to my surprise without ever hearing or seeing the word she pronounced “atheist” perfectly. Which was then followed by “Daddy, what does atheist mean?” I accepted that the time has come, not that I was dreading it, but I knew she believed in God and wasn’t sure how she would take it. I always preach honesty is the best policy, especially with parenting.
I told her the definition, “An atheist is someone who does not believe in God, and your dad is an atheist.”
Her jaw dropped with a surprise look on her face, “You don’t believe in God!?” she exclaimed “Why not?”
Now before I go on, I need to clarify that we have had many conversations on the cosmos, big bang, evolution and even mythology and modern-day religions. Slowly exposing your children to these allows them to think on their own and with the intent of allowing them to make the decision for themselves. I knew I had to handle this with care; obviously I wanted to explain my position, but this would the first time doing so to such an innocent mind. Setting down my book, I walked over to my book shelf and pulled out the Bible (King’s James Version to those who are wondering), we sat down on the couch together and opened up to Genesis. I read it aloud, after every verse stopped to talk about what we just read, taking my time to answer any question that she had. In the past we have had the discussion on God creating light on the first day, but the light source on the fourth day. This time we got hung up on the part about the moon being a light source.
As I read that, she stopped me asking, “Daddy isn’t the moon a rock and the sun is a star? Rocks don’t make light, only stars do, we read that in the space book you bought me.”
I was shocked she remembered but I told her to grab it and find where it said that in the book. Jumping off the couch, she ran into her room very excited, she came back out flipping through the pages and found exactly what she was looking for. I had her read it aloud to confirm that her suspicions were true.
“That is one of many reasons that Daddy doesn’t believe in God or that the bible is true. We read the first page and already found all these errors, and Daddy knows that there are many more in here because he has read it. If you want we can read it together and talk about the issues that are in the bible.”
She was very excited. “Yes, please!! I don’t think I trust God anymore.”
I couldn’t help but laugh, but I took the time explaining to her that she can believe in what she wants, and I only wanted to explain to her why I didn’t and that she shouldn’t solely make a decision just because I have. An innocent question that led into a two-hour discussion, and I can’t stress that enough. Taking the time and having the patience to handle these difficult questions and answering them truthfully was very important. To conclude our conversation, we sat down and watched Disney’s “Hercules,” a children’s movie about Greek Mythology. Explaining to her that in their time, this was their religion and they believed in many gods. So in one day we were able to cover atheism, the Christian God, science and mythology, a very successful day in my book.
Parenting is tough, but it is a responsibility that I am proud and honored to have. There is nothing more you can do that has a direct impact on the future of this planet more than taking the role as a parent. It is something that I take very seriously, teaching compassion, understanding, equality, and to always question. I understand I am not a perfect parent, but really who is? All I can hope for is to watch my children grow into a very happy life, with or without a belief in a deity.