Parenting StylesReligion

Religious Instruction 101: In which we introduce the invisible superhero who controls everything

We are Atheists. My entire family is Atheist (as far as I know) and I was never raised to go to church, or pray or anything like that. Mou’s Dad is a non-practicing Catholic (whatever that means), and his mum was a follower of Sant Mat.

And our daughter goes to an Anglican school.

Up until recently, she had no idea what God or heaven or Jesus or the Bible were. When she heard someone singing “God Save the Queen” on TV she (in)famously asked me, “Who is God and why must he save the Queen?”

Why, you ask, have we sent her to an Anglican school? Well, because it is an excellent school and quite we didn’t really have much choice, since she was not accepted at any of the other schools we applied to (there being a massive demand for places in good quality schools in South Africa).

Luckily, the school she now attends is amazing and I couldn’t be more pleased. She is happy and stimulated and learning a great deal. It is close enough to be fairly convenient, and is only marginally bankrupting us. But it’s an overtly Christian school and as such she is being introduced to religion, and especially Christianity, for the first time.

And so our previously angst-free existence has been punctuated with conversations like …

Rose: Mom, what am I?
Mom: What do you mean?
Rose: Am I Muslim?
Mom: No. Mommy and Daddy are Atheist, but you can choose what you want to be.
Rose (displaying agitation): But what AM I?
Mom: I guess you’re Atheist.
Rose: Like you and Daddy?
Mom: Yes.
Rose: Well, that’s OK then.

Our approach has been to clearly state our own beliefs (or lack thereof) and explain why we aren’t religious when it is appropriate, and to give Rose space to make up her own mind as she grows up. Of course, with all the emphasis on rationality and critical thinking, we anticipate the outcome to be Atheist, but if for whatever reason she goes in a different direction, I guess we’ll be able to accept that (or at least that is what we tell ourselves now!).

In the meantime, we have some very amusing conversations.

Rose: Stop! We need to say grace before we eat.
Dad: Ok, you can say grace if you want to.
Rose: “Thank you father for our food.”
Dad (wickedly): Who is this father that you are thanking?
Rose: God.
Mom (looking daggers at Dad): Do you know what God is?
Rose: Um. No, what is he.
Mom: Well, some people believe that God made everything … (floundering) … He’s kind of like an invisible super hero.
Rose (looks at me like I’m crazy): … I don’t like carrots.

I am a little concerned that she doesn’t know all the stories that her class-mates are familiar with: the Christmas story, Noah’s ark, the Crucification. I’ve even thought about buying a children’s bible and then reading it occasionally as a bedtime story. But I’m put off by the cruel nature of many of the stories and since it turns out (rather ironically) that the majority of the children in her class are Muslim, I’ve decided not to bother. She’ll pick it all up in time and since the school has a policy of inclusiveness, I doubt that she will be made to feel like an outsider for not knowing these things.

So over all, we’re pretty relaxed about the whole thing. And every now and then we have a little good-natured laugh at her expense.

Rose: You know, God has a son: Baby de Jesus

And my biggest concern right now is making sure that her birthday party is totally Halaal!


Image credit cidinha28


The mother of two girls (Rose, 6, and Fynn, 11 months), Mombot is a feminist and human rights activist based in Cape Town, South Africa. She has a fairly laid back approach to parenting if you ignore the regular rants about the proliferation of the colour pink, the lack of diversity amongst "girls' " toys, the scarcity of good role models for girls in the media etc etc etc.

Related Articles

Leave a Reply