My husband and I are agnostic. His ex-wife is Christian. His children (ages 7 and 11) go to church with their mother and very religious stepfather. She has told them that she divorced their father because he wasn't Christian and that it's not okay to not be Christian (she left out the part about her adultery, but I digress). They have learned in church that all non-Christians go to hell and are not loved or forgiven by God. We found a worksheet from church with a list: Christian/Non-Christian. Under the Christian list, there was a glistening gold heart. Under the Non-Christian list, a flat black heart. Under each was a list describing the wonderful things that happen to Christians and the horrible things that happen to Non-Christians. You get the picture. The oldest son believes that my husband's grandmother, his great-grandmother, will go to hell when she dies because she is Jewish. They have been told not to question the Bible (or their church's interpretation of the Bible) because they are too young to know God.
While I do not agree that children should be manipulated in this way, it is clear that their mother will not be changing churches. I'm afraid she may also use my husband's non-Christianity as leverage with regard to the boys. She gets to be good while her ex-husband is evil. My husband and I would like to teach the boys and my daughter about many religions and cultures, but the boys have been taught that anyone who tries to take you away from Jesus is evil and sent by Satan to throw you off course. Any time my husband tries to talk about it with the oldest, he gets quiet and ends the conversation. I always imagined I would let the children decide after they were well informed about many spiritual options and given the whole truth about Christianity's role in history. Would it be best for us to ignore the topic of religion with the boys, at least until they are old enough to make their own decisions? Should we take our chances and expose them to different religions (and atheism)?
Read another response by Oliver Leaman, Peter Smith