Last winter my 12-year-old son and I went out for a jog to prepare for an upcoming wrestling tournament. These training runs are also excellent opportunities for us to talk about the state of things; school, sports, friends, life.
One time he asked me, “Daddy, are we atheists?” I think my son had noticed long ago that some of his friends go to church on Sunday mornings while we sit at home and read the newspaper.
My initial inclination was to say “yes we are atheists” and explain my reasoning. I was not raised going to church and never do as an adult. But I don’t view atheism as something that I take satisfaction in spreading to others. If I persuaded someone to somehow drop their belief in God, I would feel bad about it.
But on the other hand, I would be disappointed if my son went to Sunday school with some of his church-going friends in the neighborhood and came home with a new spirituality.
So I told him that I was atheist but that he need not be. I encouraged him to keep an open mind, learn about what various religions have to offer, and in due time decide for himself whether he believes in God. I figure at some point in his life, he will give religion a good look and come to some conclusion about what part it will play in his life.
I guess in the final analysis, it is more important for me to teach my kids not what to think but how to think.