Religion Through the Eyes of a Science-Minded Child

I have hesitated to share this story for awhile now because I know what the default reaction will be from a large chunk of our society (that I am forcing my views on my children). As many of you know, I am an atheist. But unlike many proud Christian parents in this country who happily announce to the world that their children are also good Christians, I prefer for my kids to make up their own minds. I have never discussed my views on religion with any of my three boys. If they have questions, I will answer them but I do not tell them what they should or shouldn’t think. The only thing I ask is that they approach everything in their lives with a respectable level of critical thinking.

A couple of months ago, however, the inevitable conversation came up. Again, I did not bring the subject up, but one night, the oldest boy came to me (the other two were at a sleepover) and said, “Dad, what’s an atheist?” My response to him was simply, “Well…an atheist is just somebody who doesn’t feel that any gods or supernatural beings are necessary to explain the world around us. ‘Theism’ is belief in gods. The prefix ‘a’ means without. Therefore, an a-theist is simply somebody without belief in gods”. His response back to me was, “Oh. So…you mean like you and me?” To which I replied, “Son, I’m not going to tell you what you are or are not. I think figuring out how we view the world around us is a journey that each of us needs to take on our own. But since you’re asking…yeah, that’s how I view the world”.

I want to reiterate that I have never discussed my views with any of my children before this conversation. I’m sure they pick up on subtle clues, but I have been far less direct than people who drag their kids to church every single week and drive into their heads that Jesus is the one and only way to salvation. The oldest boy loves science. Always has. And even at his young age, he was having trouble reconciling the stories he’d heard from the Bible (we did go to church for awhile because it was important to their mother) with what he knew to be true from actual observations of the world around him.

So many people think that religion, or at least belief in some supernatural power, is something that just comes naturally to the human brain. I’m not convinced that it is, though. If we had the level of understanding of the physical universe that we have today, but we did not have religious dogma passed down from generation to generation, would there really still be any need for it? I don’t think there would be.

3 thoughts on “Religion Through the Eyes of a Science-Minded Child

  1. Tim,

    I think we’ve discussed this in our previous conversations, but if not; I’d like to share…

    I grew up with no formal religious upbringing. My father was “drug” to church and rebelled and stopped going once he was on his own. My mother saw religion as a personal relationship between God and the individual, so she stayed away from organized religion. In my youth, church was Vacation Bible School at my Grandma Sturtz’ (Dad’s mom) church and the Roman Catholic church I attended with my Mom’s aunt. Fast forward to 2003 – 2006 when I met Cullin and was fully introduced and decided to join his Roman Catholic faith.

    I never really thought of myself as religious, and didn’t fully believe in everything that religion said. I was very scientific, and skeptical. Then, I joined a church and started to see what it was about.

    Since then, we moved to Des Moines, found that this Roman Catholic Diocese is much more conservative, and left for the Episcopal faith (which is much more compatible with my lifestyle and mindset)…

    In my many journeys from non-faith, to faith, I’ve found one constant: I still don’t know the answer to the main question: what the hell is going to happen after I die! … …

    You’re a great guy, and a great dad. No matter what, you’ve succeeded in life. The fact that you will do whatever you can to help your kids only goes to reinforce that (:

  2. Thanks, Nick. I’ve always valued your opinions on this topic and I am very happy that you and Cullin have found a community that is a good fit for you.

    As far as what happens after we die…it definitely is difficult to get over that hump, but I assure you, it’s possible to be okay with idea of simply dying and going back to the same way you were for the billions of years before you were born. It isn’t as romantic, to be sure, but it does tend to elevate your appreciation of being here while you have the opportunity.

  3. I do have to admit that I’m terrified of death. If there is nothing, I know that I won’t realize it or be aware, but I’m afraid of losing all that I’ve worked to become.

    I’d like to make sure that people would remember me, but alas, I doubt that I’d be in that tiny, tiny portion of humanity.

    Of course, the theoretical physics side of my brain says that there could be infinite universes and death could just be the transition between them.

    What happens next is the question that everyone has, and is the one question that we will all have an answer to some day. I think we should all just enjoy the fact that we’re still here to ask the question and not try to use it to look down on others for how they see the answer…

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