The Santa Myth, Some Thoughts

Christmas 2010 was my first Christmas as an atheist. As such, it was difficult for me to watch my children go through the motions of Santa Claus. “How can I let them believe in something I know isn’t true?” I thought. It reminded me too much of my own belief in a mystical man who magically bestowed gifts upon me. I was concerned that fostering this type of belief would encourage my kids to believe other magical men to be real, if you catch my drift. Well, Dale McGowan gives me hope that the Santa myth is not only not harming my kids, but could actually be doing them some good.

I recently discovered¬†The Meming of Life,¬†Parenting Beyond Belief author, Dale McGowan’s,¬†blog. Today I read a post called “Santa Claus – The Ultimate Dry Run,” which I recommend you head on over to read right now. McGowan believes that the Santa Claus myth is a great way to open a child’s mind – and what a perfect age to let those free thoughts flow! I’m no longer worried about my children believing in Santa, because I know I’ll have a great opportunity to teach them something meaningful about free thought in the near future. Thanks for this, Dale!

Sharing the Holidays with Religious Family

About two months ago, I “came out” as an atheist to my mom, who did not take the news well. I actually expected her to be accepting or at least not be bothered too much by my new belief systems since she is not particularly religious or spiritual. I was wrong. We got into a heated (and silly) argument via email for a few days that consisted of her telling me that god would show himself to me, and then she asked me never to speak the words, “I don’t believe in god,” to her ever again.

Now’s it’s Christmas and we packed our family into the wagon to drive seven hours to visit Grandma. For the two days since we arrived, not a word has been spoken about my profession of non-faith. It’s as if nothing has changed.

My mother’s bibles (she owns four) are still covered with the dust of 10 years of non-use. She’s still smoking, still poisoning her body with prescription drugs, and still being dishonest to her husband about her spending habits. So I have to wonder, why the big fuss about my choice of life stance? It makes no sense to me.

At least we’re not arguing, and the kids are having a great time. The best part? I can be who I am because she knows who I am now. I feel so free.

Kid Question: Where is Jesus?

I had it easy as a kid. I was given my answers to all of life’s big questions and was told, “This is the truth. Accept it or be damned to hell.” So, being afraid of living my life burning (but never able to die) in hell, I accepted the “truths” given to me. So if anyone ever asked if I believed in god or if I was going to heaven, I knew exactly how to answer them. I never questioned that Jesus died “just for me” or that he rose from the dead. Therefore, in Oklahoma, I was considered quite normal.

My children will not have it so easy, and I’m ok with that. I must admit, my kids attend a Methodist day school. We enrolled them there because they went to a summer program once and had a great time. They are getting a wonderful education at this school, the hours are perfect for our work schedules, and, as Christian schools go, the kids are not having god shoved down their throats the way they would at other schools. They learn about science, how to explore their world, and how things work. It’s really a very good school. However, it does present a challenge.

We don’t talk about god or Jesus at home because my husband and I don’t believe in god. But my oldest, who is four, is starting to ask questions about what she learns at school. Her first question: “Where is Jesus, Mom?”

Now, since she attends a Christian school, I must choose my words carefully. Can’t have her running to tell her teacher that mommy says Jesus is worm food. I simply said, “Some people think Jesus is in heaven.” To which she replied, “Jesus is a sweet little baby.” And that was the end of that.

It struck me in that moment just how close we are to the age of curiosity about these kinds of things, and I decided I’d better be prepared. I’m figuring out answers to as many questions as I can so I can give her a good response that encourages thinking and curiosity. I don’t want her believing something just because mommy does. That’s the beauty of my life stance.

How would you answer this question if your child asked it? Or how have you answered it?

Are you a freethinking parent?

Did you happen upon this blog because you are a non-religous or freethinking parent? Your’e not alone. Follow me on my journey as I raise two kids to be responsible, caring, and ethical people without imposing “magical” ideas upon them. You can start by reading all about me.