I’m astonished by my 10 year old son. He told me the other day that he is uncomfortable singing a Christmas song at school and doesn’t want to sing some of the lyrics. I asked him what song and why.
The song is “Away In A Manger.”
He said he doesn’t think he should have to sing it since he is an Atheist and doesn’t believe in god or Jesus and he feels uncomfortable singing about them. We fully respect him for his decision. I also told him that if the teacher asks why he isn’t singing, that he should express those feelings to her. His comfort level around me vs a teacher may be very different. I understand that at his age he may not be able to express his concerns to an authority style person. If he needs us to explain to the teacher why he isn’t singing, we will.
This isn’t the first time my son has expressed that he is an Atheist. The other memorable moment that I have witnessed was when he was seven and said to another child that he doesn’t believe in god. This other child was dumbfounded and started asking my son how someone could not believe in god. This other little boy just couldn’t grasp the concept. Perhaps in the same way that my son can’t grasp the concept of believing in god.
Now, back to the Christmas Season, as an Atheist I still enjoy the holidays. I wish people a Merry Christmas. I sometimes say Happy Holidays. I gladly and respectfully return a greeting to friends or strangers based on their beliefs. When I was a child, I had to sing religious based carols because I was going to a Catholic school. A part of me still enjoys hearing them from time to time since they remind me of my childhood.
The idea of a mythical person bringing gifts through a chimney to place under a tree inside our home has always been a part of my family’s Christmas. Sometimes we open gifts on the 24th, 25th or 26th. The date doesn’t matter. Baby Jesus isn’t a part of our custom. If anything, we are sharing in the Winter Solstice with family and friends.
As an Atheist parent, I normally don’t discuss religions with my family. My children have asked in the past why we don’t go to church and I’ve explained why this is. I have also explained to them that they are more than welcome to explore different ideologies throughout their lives. Currently, all of our children feel that they are Atheists. I’m not going to close off their own free will to explore and question life. If they so choose to find religion or god, that is their choice.
Reading books is the best way to find answers in this world. We encourage our children to read and expand their knowledge through books. As well, if they have questions about anything, they are encouraged to ask. Sometimes our dinner topics can be uncomfortable, but my wife and I don’t feel the need to sugar coat or ignore their queries. Being an Atheist doesn’t mean we can’t be open minded. Far from it actually.
If a time comes that our children do become religious- we will respect their choice. First and foremost, being a parent is about love and understanding.