My daughter’s main exposure to religion has been the Jewish pre-school she went to. Mostly harmless stuff (challah and grape juice on Fridays, etc). I did get ticked off when they told the story about passover and God killing off all the little non-Jewish boys, especially in a classroom of 30% non-Jews. And when she came home excited about her astronomy class and told me how the earth revolved around the sun because that’s how God set it up. I’ve tried very hard to present my own non-belief in a non-coercive way, and she vacillates on whether or not she believes there’s a god. She wants to not believe because she likes to agree with me (Daddy’s girl :-) ), but it’s hard for her to quite get the idea that the world wasn’t made by somebody. The argument from design was my weak spot for years, so I sympathize. And it’s a bit hard, for me anyway, to clearly explain natural selection at a level that makes sense to a 6 year old. But she has a great grasp on makebelief vs reality, and she is a big fan of our book of stories from mythology, into which I toss the occassional tale from major contemporary religions with no particular commentary, just presenting them all as fairy tales. And I’m determined not to be like my Evangelical brother-in-law, who home schools his kids because he’s terrified of their encountering an idea he can’t control.
That’s one of the unifying themes of the book, so far- that secularists seem generally to feel, as I do, that teaching independant and critical thinking is most important, and that children should be allowed to come to their own understanding. Though we certainly influence them mightily as parents, we have to see our job as preparing them to find their own udnerstanding, rather than indoctrinating them and insulating them from other ideas. Still, it must be frustrating to see your sons taking to heart ideologies you see as harmful.