When an Atheist Parent Introduces Her Child to Jesus for the First Time… May 2, 2012

When an Atheist Parent Introduces Her Child to Jesus for the First Time…

Atheist comedian Julia Sweeney (Letting Go of God) recently watched the movie Jesus Christ Superstar with her daughter Mulan.

Julia Sweeney and Mulan (center) with the hosts of the Humanist Network News Podcast

Since Mulan wasn’t raised with religious beliefs, a lot of the story was brand new to her…:

Mulan and I watched it. I thought maybe it was a good way for her to learn about Jesus. HA. She was so bewildered. I realized that since she hasn’t been inculcated with religious behaviors, everything just seems weird to her. Things I would have never had the naive open-mindedness to even ask. For example, at one point she asked me, “Why do those sick people want to touch Jesus?” I said, “Because they think he’s magic and can heal them.” Mulan said, “Why would anyone think that?” Me: “Because they didn’t have very much scientific information.” Mulan: “That’s crazy.” Then I had to stop the film and tell her that lots of people in the world still believe things like that.

Later she asked, “Why are all those women putting oil on Jesus’ head, and sort of leaning on him like that?” I said, “Well, one — Mary Magdalene, is like Jesus’ girlfriend. The other women — well, when you’re a cult leader, or actually this can be true of any very high status man — women fawn all over you.” “Creepy.” Mulan said. Then she fell asleep and I didn’t wake her up.

If they weren’t so used to their own mythology, you have to figure Christians would completely dismiss the idea of a talking snake, a woman being created from the rib of a man, and a guy rising from the dead…

Have any of you had similar teaching experiences with your children?

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  • newavocation

    To bad Julia didn’t fill Mulan in on eating the body and drinking the blood of Christ thing.

  • Olssonjeffrey

    this is hilarious… thank you Julia!

  • Explaining this stuff to my young children is very challenging.  Or rather, explaining it all as a story is easy, explaining *why* people still believe it, is difficult.  Especially as it goes against what my children’s teachers say.

  • My son cried so hard when we watched Prince of Egypt.  “Why would God kill all those children?!” I told him that I don’t understand it either, and that it’s one reason we don’t belong to that religion.  How do Christians answer something like that? It’s not just silly, it’s horrifying.

  • Tim

    My 5 year old son was introduced to religion of for the first time in school (we are in the UK so that is not only allowed it is compulsory).

    In his first two terms he has gone from -“just nice stories but not true”.  To “I don’t like the Bible because it is mean because people get killed in it”.

  • Steph

    I adore Julia Sweeney! 
    I was raised Catholic, but am now an atheist. We’re homeschooling and we just spent a year learning about ancient civilizations in our history studies.  My kids fell in love with mythology, especially Greek mythology.  They didn’t learn about Hebrew mythology until AFTER they had already studied Egyptian and Greek.  It was utterly obvious to them that the Hebrew stories were also myth and it was also obvious to them how these stories must have spread and changed with retelling.  There are just so many parallels between the other ancient myths and the Hebrew bible. We actually read quite a bit of the bible during this time. My kids were flabbergasted when they learned that these stories are still believed by a lot of people.  My daughter, who is very outspoken and smart, was fuming mad when we talked about how the Eve and the apple story is still used as justification for limiting women’s rights.  The whole mythology thing segued in to a comparative religions study as we learned about the rise of Christianity, Buddhism, and Islam.  It was time well spent for all of us.  I learned as much as the kids.  I am amazed now at how much I took on faith in my younger days. 

  • It’d be interesting to see if religious kids have the same bemused opinions of other religions.
    (And by religious kids, I of course mean kids of religious parents)

  • It’s not a big deal if you don’t make it a big deal. Real, me, you, your puppy, the trees, your mom, your toys. Not real, – pretend stuff- Smurfs, Batman, Easter Bunny, Jesus. Not real and scary, – monsters, zombies, Hercules, zombie Jesus. Explaining the world takes time though, a lot of time to explain all the nonsense out there.

  • Sioux

    Even as an adult I find other religions (than the one I was raised in) completely incredible.  I may have moved away from my childhood religion but don’t find Christian beliefs half so curious because I grew up with them. I was at a traditional Zulu wedding (here in South Africa) where a white Catholic friend was freaked out by the slaughter of a cow and prayers to the ancestors.  “How bizarre” she moaned. When I pointed out that she ate Jesus flesh and drank his blood on a regular basis she was completely pissed off at the comparison.

  • Gaby A.

    Baby steps, baby steps…She still needs to parse this version, although it is more entertaining than Passion of The Christ.

  • Marguerite

    “The Prince of Egypt” is one of the myriad reasons we slipped away from Lutheranism. When we watched it, my kids had questions I couldn’t answer. All the awful things God is alleged to have done are impossible to explain away, of course, but my oldest was most puzzled by one thing: “If God knows everything, then why would they need to put blood over their doors to identify themselves?” Kids ask awesome questions.

  • Tom Walters

    To be fair – Jesus Christ Superstar seems bewildering to a lot of Xians too… 

  • bgriff

    When my younger cousin was about 5, she randomly spoke up one day and said “there’s no way god created me, mum and dad did, and grandma and grandpa made them. I do things not him”. Basic and blunt but very true. From the mouths of babes.

  • nowoo

    When our son was three he was the ring-bearer at the wedding of a good friend. During the rehearsal, he looked at my husband and me and said, “Why is there a big ‘t’ on the wall?” – it was so cute an innocent a statement that we started to chuckle…..the minister was nearby and overheard the exchange and promptly gave us a dirty look. LOL

  • Suzanne

    I was explaining transubstantiation to my daughter, trying to seriously explain it.  I burst out laughing in the middle of it because it was just so ridiculous.

  • george.w

    Jesus Christ Superstar is a really great opera. I can suspend disbelief long enough to enjoy it – much like watching the movie Alien.

  • Jonni

    Cool! We’re also homeschooling and even though religion isn’t very prevalent in Australia, our kids have asked me many questions about faith, God and the universe. I constantly marvel at the ability of children to see the holes in religious claims while grown adults perform mental gymnastics to make it all fit.
    It feels great to be raising free thinking younglings!

  • AJKamper

    Last month we visited Paris. This was our children’s first time in Europe, and in particular their first time visiting one of the big churches… in this case Notre Dame. As it so happened, it was Palm Sunday, so we had to explain a bit about the rituals, and eventually Communion. My wife started to describe it, and then looked at me helplessly. I said, “Communion is where everyone gets together to eat God.” 
    Abby, our eight-year-old, looked aghast. “WHAT?” she yelled.”
    “Adam!” my wife said.”
    “Well, it’s true!”
    “Yeah, but…”

    Funny just how ridiculous these things sound when you take them out of their trappings.

  • Cal

    I had similar experiences with my sons.  I remember driving with one young son and we passed a billboard advertisizing vacation Bible school. Even as a life-long non-believer, I too was mostly oblivious to it all—just part of the every day scenery, so I scarcely noticed it and did not think about the absurdity of the image of a smiling beareded man in the clouds with sun rays shooting all around him. But he piped up: “Dad… What’s that guy doing in the CLOUDS!?” Later when he had absorbed more about what God was supposed to be, he wondered aloud at why a store that sells, exclusively religious iconography, statues, and worship-wear, had a sign posting that they are protected by electronic security devices. “Shouldn’t God be protecting that store?” Again, I never would have even thought about that, so jaded am I from over-exposure to religious memes.

  • I recently started to introduce my eight year old daughter to all different types of religion and what their adherents believe. Christianity got no special treatment. When explaining that sometimes people such as Christians discriminate and show hatred towards those that are not like them she replied “That’s dumb”. I think her recent bump into reality this past Christmas when she figured out that Santa wasn’t real (the Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy, etc. fell soon thereafter) has helped her understand how people can believe things that they have no evidence for. She also loves science and the need for evidence is something that I have been impressing upon her for some time now.

  • Pacefainter

    Oh my goodness, yes! Our daughter was also not raised with religious beliefs. We had a rather funny incident when my husband’s mom and grandmother were explaining to her the story of Jesus. The got to the part of him coming back and she, being all of about three, wanted to know when everyone else was coming back. They tried to explain that it didn’t work like that. When she pressed as to why that was so, it got sort of awkward and hilarious. We have more in depth conversations now that she’s older, but the sharp intellect of very young children can cut through the mythology like a knife and send the most devout running.

  • Deanna

    My son is now 18, but he still loves the following story.  When he was 3, 4, 5 years old, he loved dinosaurs, knew all the time periods (Triassic, Jurassic, etc).  He could go “toe to toe” with any adult about dinosaur facts. I decided I needed to introduce stories of the Bible, just for cultural reasons.  I read him a story every night from the Children’s Bible with the pretty pictures, and he stayed pretty silent. Then, I got to Noah’s Ark.  As I read him the story, he looked at me and said, “Are you kidding me?”  That was the last night I read that book to him.  

  • Oh, yeah, you should have seen the looks on my kids faces when I explained to them the whole trinity thing. God got Mary pregnant with himself, walked around as in human form for awhile (apparently the rest of the universe didn’t need him then) and then sacrificed himself to himself.
    All I can now, is I can’t believe I actually believed that, I mean it is so preposterous.

  • Annie

    My husband used to keep his hair long and in a pony tail most days.  He also has a beard and mustache.  When my daughter was 5, her friend’s grandmother showed her a picture of Jesus and said, “Now do you know who this man is?”  My daughter responded,  “I sure do, that’s my dad!”

    The religious grandmother could not believe my daughter was unable to recognize Jesus.  I, on the other hand, was delighted.

  • Michelle

    We try to teach our four year-old similar myths at the same time – creation stories, flood stories, redemption stories, etc. He enjoys drawing the parallels among different religions and pointing out all of the things he finds crazy. One day, when he and my husband were out on a walk, they ran into some Mormons who started talking about Jesus. My son looked up at them and interrupted with, “Jesus? That’s like Zeus, right?” Apparently the looks on their faces were priceless.

  • JA

    I homeschool as well and have had the same experience. I’m introducing a lot of differerent mythologies and my 7 year old sees no difference between the ancient mythologies and the Christian or other modern day myths. Every atheist should teach myth and ancient history to their kids from a young age. I think it will do a lot to innoculate atheist kids who are growing up in an environment where Christianity is considered an obvious truth. Oddly enough, my daughter firmly believes that ghosts and aliens are hiding in the house waiting to jump out at her any time they find her alone. For some reason though, she has always found the idea of gods completely ridiculous. Any time they are mentioned she says they don’t exist. I’m not sure why she thinks ghosts and aliens are real but is so adamant gods aren’t. I’ve never even told her gods don’t exist. I just teach her things and let her reach her own conclusions.

  • teressa81

    This is a good article, thank you for posting it. I sometimes have a hard time explaining my viewpoints with my niece and nephew (a ten year old and a six year old.) They sometimes ask me questions about God and I don’t always know how to answer without coming across as dismissive to what their mother believes. Maybe I could show them this video.

  • Annie

    This sounds like a wonderful way to approach things, and I wish I would have thought to do this when my child was younger.  I used to think there was no reason to teach biblical myths like the flood, Moses parting the sea, etc., but these stories are often referenced in literature and good for kids to know about.  I especially like the exercise you described of drawing parallels between various stories.

  • hoverFrog

    Actually Tim, you can opt out of RE lessons in the UK. 

    Personally I think that it is a good idea to get children to understand why people in Israel, the Middle East and the USA still believe in fairy tales as well as the many other religions in the world.  

    As long as they aren’t taught it as fact but as a form of social studies it’s fine.

  • Tainda

    When my daughter was growing up I let her decide what she believed in.  When she was younger she went to a christian church with her friends and even bible school.  As she came into the teenage years she started to question what she was hearing.   Now she is 19 and an atheist like her mom.

    I think not letting your children be free to form their own opinions about faith, or lack thereof, is not a good practice.  If you are open minded with them, they will make the right decision and realize religion is a bunch of fairy tales told to keep the masses zombielike and scared to do anything except what the powers that be want them to do.

  • I remember my high school Psychology teacher telling us about all the different people that wanted to take his young daughter to church with them. Of course he could see right through them: they wanted to indoctrinate her into THEIR brand of religion. In the south, it’s kind of the way of life here. One of the first things people ask you in getting to know you is what church you attend. It just doesn’t cross their mind that not everyone attends church.
    Churches know what they’re doing when they encourage people to bring their kids to church. “You have to catch them when their young!” It’s the mantra of marketing exes and churches these days are a lot like businesses, they want to catch people when they’re young in hopes they will forever stay young. Unfortunately, a lot of people just shut kids up when they have questions or say, “well, the bible says so and the bible is the truth.”

  • I think there are a lot of positive lessons in Biblical stories, but you have to do a lot of sifting.  The story of the flood is particularly apt.  Noah received a message that there would be a huge flood, but he could save himself and his family and all the animals of the world with some preparation.

    Meanwhile, something like 10% of people living in earthquake prone areas have made adequate preparations to deal with the aftermath of a major quake.  This figure changed slightly after Katrina, but not much.  When I was in Southern California I was literally the ONLY person I knew who had basic supplies set aside.The story of Esther is a powerful message of speaking out even in the face of strong oppression.

    It’s all that crap about killing your enemies in violent ways and the magical deity we can do without.

  • Godspell is better.  I love Steven Schwartz.

  • Allison

    Like Mulan, I wasn’t raised Christian. Each time I was told more information about Christianity (much of the time by Christians), I was dumbstruck to the “you believe WHAT?!?” level. I’ve never quite understood the appeal of the religion, as most of the central tenets strike me as weird or creepy. I’ve exposed my kids to a wide variety of myths. I particularly remember my oldest running into the Exodus story while watching a show on mummies. He was appalled by the whole thing and it took me a while after that to convince him that Christians weren’t all terrible people.

  • pagansister

    I was raised a Methodist, and had lots of questions, finding what I was being taught by loving parents, just not for me.  Basically mentally left at 17.   At 20, married a born  UU, (in the Methodist church to please parents ).  He  has no belief in God either, and we raised our 2 children in a UU church.  As UU’s they were introduced to many faiths, plus us telling them how we felt, and also having grandparents (only on my side, as my husbands were UU) who were Christian gave them that prospective.   Neither child is a Christian or any other faith and neither are their spouses.    They respect other faiths, but have no use for them.  None of them attend any church now.  Actually, neither do I.  

  • pagansister

     I like Jesus Christ Superstar too.  Don’t have to “believe” in order to enjoy it.

  • Onamission5

    Trying to explain contemporary religious beliefs to my daughter is like trying to explain that Paul Bunyan’s axe carved the Grand canyon. Her face, it’s positively incredulous the whole time. We’ve been having fairly regular discussions about world religions since she was in first grade and her classmates discovered she was not religious (and gave her endless amounts of shit about it), but even now, five years later, she just doesn’t buy any of it. So many questions! Most of which start out, “But… but… why… but… how… can anyone believe xyz?”

  • I can see why he repeats is, that’s AWESOME!

  • Oh there was a beautiful example of that in a documentary on here recently, the one about the removal of the Christian flag at the cemetery in King N.C.- where he juxtaposed the Christian saying they believed in the talking snake, and man in a fish, everything.  Then a Hindu describing Ganesh, and then cut back to the Christian saying a man with an elephant’s head was silly.

    Someone with a better memory recall the documentary?  It was fantastic!

  • I got that evil eye for casually explaining why my son didn’t know what a Big Mac was with “He’s never been to McDonald’s”.  Not sure which is the greater sacrilege in America, not teaching your kid about baby Jesus, or not teaching him about Happy Meals(tm).

  • Onamission5

    Hah! My dd tried a mcmuffin there once because I make my own version at home and she loves them. She took one bite, gagged, and threw it away. The look on her face when asking me how on earth the kids at school could actually think that mc d’s was good food was the same look she gets when asking me how her friend at school could possibly believe the odd things she does about deities.

    It’s an awesome comparison, imsho.

  • Onamission5

    That should read, “the odd things they do…”

    Proofreading is my friend.

  • I’m really enjoying all of the stories people are posting in the comments!

    By the way, Mulan is an awesome, awesome name. (I wonder if she’ll join the army…)

  • Deanna


  • Peg Shambo

    I joined the local UU church when I moved to this area, mostly for social interaction and getting to know people.

    My (ex-)husband and I were raised Catholic and our children attended the same parochial school he had as a child. I started exploring what other religions had to say, even within the Christian communities. Eventually the children went to public schools. Today they are 42 and 40, both atheists. My son’s gf is from a very Christian family. They love each other, but I am concerned whether their theological differences can stand the test of time.

  • repeats it
    (and I was misreading for ‘loves’ for ‘repeats’, as in assuming he tells the story himself)

  • pagansister

     Guess only time will tell with your son and his GF.   I can understand your concern, but they will need to work that part of their life out for themselves.   She must know how your son feels, yes?   In my case, both children married spouses that had the same feeling about religion. Our one grandchild will not be raised in a faith background.   

  • Onamission5

    I did, and I didn’t, when I was Growing Up Fundie. On the one hand, everyone else’s beliefs were ludicrous and wrong. On the other hand, their beliefs were an awful lot like mine, so I had many, many unanswerable questions.

    Obviously the cognitive dissonance wasn’t sustainable for me, but for some, they just never examine why they think the Trinity is more credible than the Corn Maidens, except to dismiss them as the work of their evil deity/former angel. Or, conversely, they apply the “many ways to heaven, many paths to (my) god” dogma and that way lay claim to all other forms of religious expression.

  • I_Claudia

     I dunno, judging by the photo Mulan seems pretty young. I think cannibalism is a bit of a mature subject for someone that age.

  • That picture is from several years ago. My apologies for not making that more clear.

  • m1n4

    Most of my family from my dad’s side is catholic. Once we were at an aunt’s wedding and they were giving the sign of peace and one of my cousins told gave it to my sister who didn’t know what to do and stood still, so my cousin asked her to “give her the sign of peace”  believing that everyone knew what she meant, my sister responded (in a really loud voice) that she didn’t have it and maybe someone else did.
    After that incident, she and her parents made sure they never spoke to us again…

  • Deanna

    Gotcha.  And, yes, he repeats the story, too.  He’s had plenty of years at Camp Quest each summer to share his anecdote.  

    I’m feeling nostalgic so here’s one more story. 

    My husband and I took our son, at age 4, to a small town
    celebration, just a get together of the community.  We immediately gravitated to the kids’ Arts & Craft tent.  I noticed that a local
    church was staffing the tent, based on the sign stating so, but didn’t think
    much about it.  I saw beads, pipe cleaners,
    wire, glue and construction paper, and groups of kids busily creating things. Looked good.


    My son stood in line, waiting his turn, and finally, he
    could begin his craft:  making a
    cross.  But just not any cross.  He was told he had to put specific colored
    beads in specific areas of the cross, with narration by the church volunteer:


    “We are going to make a cross, to signify Jesus’s death and rebirth.


    “These four red beads represent the blood of Jesus,
    where Jesus was nailed to the cross in the hands, the stab wound in his side,
    and the crown of thorns worn on his head.”  


    My son’s eyes just kept getting wider and wider.  I yanked him away, and we checked out the
    dancers on stage.


    My son was four. 
    He didn’t know about cruelty or stabbing or blood (except for boo boos).
    And it made me realize how quickly Christian children are indoctrinated in the
    gruesome concept of the cross.


    Growing up Catholic, I didn’t realize how numb I was to
    the concept, until I saw it spelled out in front of my son.


    And, what really startled me and made me sad is that the
    young church volunteer had no problem discussing death and blood and stabbing
    to the very youngest of children.


    A disturbing day.

  • Katherine

    Do you have any books that you can recommend? My daughter is 3 and I haven’t broached the subject yet but I’d like to do something similar. 

  • I was taken off guard reading my 5 year old a Berenstain Bears where they go to church, and the kids go to Sunday school, and learn about The Flood.  And he was pretty stunned.  I want him to be ready for that, and realized I’d been kind of avoiding biblical myths.   So we got Jan Brett’s version of Noah’s Ark, and it’s very nice.  I mean, I suppose it’s worth knowing that God committed genocide, but I don’t think it’s appropriate to show a kid ‘Saw’ either.  (oh, now I KNOW one of the Christians is going to snark at me).

    Of course there’s The Magic of Reality, but although we browse it, I doubt it will hold a three-year-old’s interest.

    You might want to check out the FB group “Moms beyond belief”.  The Dad’s version has a list of books we’ve tossed together, with no particular theme other than we think they’re good kids books, and most have some kind of atheist/agnostic/skeptic interest.

    Something else I’ve for a while was talk with him about fantasy/reality distinctions, like how Spiderman the cartoon isn’t real, but how Spiderman the movie, even though it has ‘real’ people as actors, also isn’t real.  And how do we know? Just talking about it has gotten him thinking about the distinction, and how to figure it out.

  • Tim

    Thanks for the reply.  I am aware of our opt-out right (and a member of the NSS).  But rather confused about whether to exercise the opt out in the case of our son.  The school is a non-church school and we assumed (unwisely) that this would mean the content would be more or less OK and I agree that some exposure to what other folks belive is needed.  Turns out the local evangelical vicar come in twice a week with a “monkey” glove puppet to tell them stuff that is not appropriate for their age.  It makes me angry with the otherwise very good school.  Battles are being fought with the school over the principle.  We have met a surprising number of other non-believing parents and made some good friends along the way and from next year we will have a NSS member on the Governors!*, but i am not worried about my son.  he is smart enough to realise it is all fake.  He even told the vicar that his chimp glove puppet was an ape not a monkey.   

    *for US readers, the Board of Governers is, I guess the closest thing we have to a school board.  AIUI, a Church school is set up so that the church is able to appoint a majority of the Governors.  A non-church school has most of the places filled by election of parents by the parents with a few spaces reserved for teaching staff, elected members of the community and (county) education authority appointees (who are often local conciilors).  This means that the Church cannot comand a majority and control the Board.  However the problem with this school is that although it is a non-church community school it was formed 5 years ago following the merger of a non-church junior school and a church infant school.  This means that many of the staff, policies and links with the local church were carried over into the new school as were many of the Governers.  This influence is fading but not fast enough IMO.      

  • Elijah

    simply because they dont belong in the Kingdom of  God.. .to other kingdom  if it

  • elijah

    For them to remember the blood shed in exchange for their life.

  • elijah

    He could be anybodies daddy anyway.. .and a heir of the Kingdom of  God.

  • elijah

    then who created your mother and your grandmother and you great grand mother.. ..Some Body who is Self-sufficient can only do that.

  • Demonhype

    I’ve always been a little doubtful of the “religiousness” of JC Superstar, even when I was still a believer.  It seems like more of a “Jesus as a historical figure” than the usual happy-clappy Jesus praise-fest you’d expect.  It ignores the parables and doctrine and such and even leaves out miracles much like the Jefferson Bible.  (Yes, there was the leper scene, but I noticed that there is no confirmation of healing–which I have a hard time believing a religiously-motivated Jesus musical would leave out–and it ends with him being overwhelmed.)  Herod’s song is very atheistic too:  it amounts to “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, and why should you be exempt from this standard?”  (I only ask what I’d ask any superstar:  What is it that you have got that puts you where you are?)  Whine about “mockery” all day long, but that’s usually the cry of the tone troll.  Jesus dies at the end and that is the end of it–no resurrection, no suggestion of resurrection, no hint of it.  Even Godspell had that taking-down-the-body happily-dancing-in-the-streets thing, which suggests the whole “christian” message and fulfills the religious angle quite nicely!

    And most of all, Judas is not only portrayed in a sympathetic light, he is portrayed as outright questioning Jesus, to the point of asking questions I’ve only ever heard unbelievers utter (such as “what if I just stay here and ruin your ambitions?)  He’s still questioning even after death!  Presumably not from hell, and not singing lyrics about how wrong he was and how right Jesus was, but continuing his doubt and questioning and challenge of Jesus!  How religious is a musical about Jesus where the guy who has the most songs and screen-time is openly questioning and challenging him–and never stops?  And you have to love those questions in the finale:  “Who are you, what have you sacrificed?”  “Do you think you’re who they say you are?”  What kind of religious musical leaves anything that open-ended, especially in the finale?  Much like the leper scene, that sounds like something that was intended to be questioning, but written delicately enough so that the religious members of the audience will read the religiosity into it while more doubting members will pick up on the ambiguous language, which is something doubters have been doing for centuries already.

    Now Godspell strikes me as the kind of thing a believer would write post-JC Superstar because he was disgruntled at all that was left out of JC (and I was in Godspell in HS).  Godspell is very happy-clappy and very proselytizing, focusing entirely on Jesus-stories involving salvation of believers and damnation of unbelievers, Panglossian best-of-all-worlds God-has-his-reasons-for-your-pain apologetics (It’s All For The Best), emphasis of the  blood-sacrifice aspect of the crucifixion, and, of course, copious amounts of outright God-praise songs (Day by Day).  I lost interest in that almost as soon as I was an atheist–in fact, a bit before–but JC has always fascinated me.  Especially the 1973 version that does not ignore the text in order to force the story into the traditional and mainstream structure.  (You know, Pilate is evil, Judas is greedy and evil, that sort of thing.  There’s something weird about hearing Judas’s complex lyrics being sung by someone who might as well just hunch over and rub his hands together in eager greed for his bag of silver.  It’s like vinegar and oil.)

    Someone said on a forum many years later that JC was written by (at the time) atheists.  I have never been interested enough to find out if that was true, but if it is it answers every single question I have ever had about that musical.

  • Sindigo

    I was raised a Christian and believed until I was 11. It was because bits of doctrine didn’t make sense to me. Specifically the “benevolent God lets kids die without ever getting to hear about Jesus so sends them straight to hell” bit. That and the “He died for *your* sins” (what does that even accomplish?) bit. The rest of it though, the magic tricks, the Christmas myth, the heavenly chorus and converse hellish screams, as far as I understood it at the time, made complete sense to me.

    Now, I get to be a father (in a couple of months) and my daughter will be raised in a non-religious household. I wonder how my mother will react to our choices in raising a (hopefully, but it’s my daughter’s choice) atheist. I guess she’ll have some contact with religious thinking, especially at school as we’re in the UK. I wonder if she’ll come to the same conclusions I did. Or that little Mulan did. She seems like a well adjusted kid.

    I’m not sure about Mulan as a name though.

  • Demonhype

    That’s always been a big problem with me–the sifting.  I always ask why I should choose the bible and sift through the crap and the evil and the genocide and violence for some “moral and uplifting” message when I can get the same kind of thing from another source without having to wade through the sludge.  (And it gets worse when you have to make justifications for the sanctity of the sludge while also making justifications for why you are morally allowed to ignore or avoid it.)

    I remember something KafirGirl wrote about how she watched Wall-E and found it a million times more ethical and uplifiting in its message than pretty much any religious text she’d ever read, which are always either obscenely immoral or just boring and dead.  That’s pretty much how I feel.  I’m being shown a pile of pearls and a pile of shit.  I am being told I can take a pearl but that there are assuredly pearls inside the shit-pile that I can dig for if I like,  and I’m being encouraged to dig through the shit-pile without any valid argument or justification for why that is the preferable route–the best they can come up with is an unevidenced assurance that the shit-covered pearls are somehow much bigger and nicer than the ones that have never touched shit, which I sincerely doubt.

  • Tom Walters

    Nowhere near enough singing in Alien though – at least the lyrics don’t seem to rhyme.

  • Joad

    What a wonderful post, I will have to share with my teenage daughter. She was not raised with religion as her step-father and I are atheists. When she was 7 or so, her father decided to show her the real meaning of Easter so he showed her a picture of Jesus bleeding on the cross and told her how wonderful it was that he died for us. Later that evening, I was awakened to nightmares and crying. The poor child couldn’t figure out why her dad liked to have pictures of a man murdered and said it was good that he was killed and bleeding. Not surprisingly she will have nothing to do with Christianity and I never had to say a negative word. 

  • Dubliner

    In Ireland most schools have religion classes too. It hasn’t effected non belief in my three children. Depending on their personality they either politely challenge the doctrines or do a silent eye roll. In fact having my lot in the class may well be helping other children to question dogma. I found that especially with my youngest who is articulate and compassionate and well able to argue an alternate viewpoint in religion class. It actually does seem to be having a positive effect on opening the minds of some children. Mind you of late his religion teacher just avoids asking him questions since the answers make her uncomfortable.

  • You have to be careful with the Berenstain Bears. The series used to be completely secular (Stan was Jewish!), but one of their sons turned evangelical and sold the rights to Zondervan, a Christian publishing company. So there are the regular Berenstain Bear books, but there are also religious ones, and it’s difficult to tell them apart.

  • You must be thinking of In God We Trust:


  • Thanks!  (And on the Berenstains.  I can handle a Christian perspective, but that one was like a Chick Tract)

  • MsYeiri

    Have you tried explaining her how a bright and well-educated man like yourself came from a wild animal like the monkey? Crazy, right? I wonder what little Mulan would say about that?

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