I’m a big fan, etc. etc., and I, like you, am in informed atheist who chooses to pick and choose my battles with people of religious persuasion… including my family. However, recently, something has been bothering me. My family takes my little sisters to church every sunday (aged 13 and 8, the younger being 13 years younger than me) and this weekend the youngest asked my why I never go to church. I didn’t really know what to say. On one hand, I think she should know that I am an atheist (and of course I would explain to her exactly what that means), but on the other, I know telling her that would upset her. She LOVES church and tells me so all the time. I feel guilty for saying something I think she won’t understand and might upset her, especially given her age. At the same time, I think telling her MY beliefs is no different than my parents imposing their religion on her. So, what do you think? Spill my guts, or smile and tell her to run along?
If she’s still getting visits from Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy, then there’s no harm in letting her be a child for a little while longer, especially if she’s just being fed the watered-down Sunday School fantasy ride most churches are serving up these days.
It would be a different story if your church was particularly hardcore with its scare tactics about hellfire and damnation, or if your baby sister had any anxiety about its ridiculous mythology. She loves it though, and that’s okay for now.
Once she knows the truth about Santa Claus and clearly demonstrates the ability to exhibit logical thinking, feel free to have a frank and honest discussion about your beliefs.