My children are in elementary and middle school. I have taught them to decide for themselves if they want to believe in gods, devils, and the supernatural. My only stipulation to them is: Know why you believe what you believe. Have good evidence for your beliefs. Don’t believe something just because that is what other people believe. I have encouraged them to avoid getting into debates over religion. I have encouraged them to be respectful of the beliefs of others.
But sometimes some little Christian evangelist on the playground decides that he or she wants to tease my children regarding their non-belief in God. My children will usually respond: “No. I don’t believe in a God. But we are all different. We should respect our differences of opinion.” That is usually enough to stop the little evangelist in his or her tracks.
But what if the little evangelist doesn’t want to let the issue go? What if he or she begins to taunt the atheist children for their non-belief in “God”? How should the atheist children respond? Sure, they could walk away, but I suggest doing some counter-evangelism! It would go something like this:
Christian kid: So you don’t believe in God? EVERYONE believes in God! What is wrong with you? You’re weird!
Atheist kid: I don’t believe in ghosts. I think belief in ghosts is silly and ignorant. I think it is weird to believe in ghosts.
Christian kid: I don’t believe in ghosts!
Atheist kid: Sure you do. If you are a Christian you believe in ghosts. Christians believe that their god is a ghost.
Christian kid: You’re crazy. Christians don’t believe that!
Atheist kid: Sure they do. Christians believe that a ghost lives inside their bodies. His name is Holy Ghost. Christians believe that this ghost is God, the creator of the universe. Just ask your parents. Science says that ghosts do not exist. I trust science. So I don’t believe in ghosts. And I don’t believe that your ghost god is real. I think it is silly and superstitious to believe in ghosts.
(I would love to be a fly on the wall when the little Christian trots home to Mom and Dad to ask why they believe in ghosts!)
Update: Ok. I’ve taken some flak for this post in which I suggest that atheist children be confrontational when repeatedly criticized for their non-belief in gods. So let me offer a non-confrontational alternative response:
We are all different. And that is what is great about America (or whatever democratic country you live in). We are all free to believe whatever we want!
End of post.