Parenting for Inoculation Against Indoctrination

Posted on January 29, 2021


A young woman voices a common concern of parents who want to protect their children from religious indoctrination in an atheist group online:

I’m currently pregnant. My partner and I do not share faith. He grew up and still considers himself a Christian, but he doesn’t actively practice or attend a church, even before the pandemic. We recently had a small argument that led to him telling me he felt disrespected about his religion because, when we discuss it, I refer to the Bible as a story and the people, including Jesus, as characters, which I do. I refuse to believe it is truth and talk about it as such. However, I do not talk down on his faith at all, especially in day-to-day life, but if he wishes to discuss it, I’m open and honest, as I always am.

My worry is that he and both of our religious mothers will push religion onto our child as it grows. I explained that I would be open to our child exploring religions, all religions and not just Christianity, when they’re older, but I want nothing put on them as they grow, including trips to church with his mother. He seems okay with it, but will also randomly get defensive and I worry he won’t put his foot down with his mother, like I will with mine and will force me to be the bad guy, so to speak. I will, as I have no problem with it, I just don’t feel like it’s my place, especially if we agree.

Has anyone else navigated something similar? How did you handle religion in the early years, from birth to 3 or 4, compared to later on when they understand more? Is it wrong of me to not want my child indoctrinated from such a young age? And what is the best way to approach this with my future in-laws and my mother, the latter of which already hates my atheism?

The best defense against indoctrination is to always refer to myths, legends, and stories as such.

Teach your child earth’s history starting at the Big Bang, human history starting in Africa, and religious history starting with humanity’s earliest religious expressions and all the religions that exist worldwide, pointing out how religions live & die, like humans do.

Fill your home with nonfiction books about the REAL world. Teach your child about nature and that everything has a natural explanation, so religion is unnecessary. By cultivating a strong relationship to and understanding of reality, your child will be able to resist bullshit, not only from believers, but from any source.

Do not let your child be alone with adults who will try to convert them until they’ve reached the age where they can stand up for themselves. If they are presented with fiction as fact, have the evidence to refute it on hand in your home library.

One of the most disgusting attempts by Christian adults to prey on my children happened not long after I moved to Adrian to teach. I lived in the historic district, and my children had been playing down the block at a neighbor’s house, when they ran back home, shouting for help. They told my housemate and me that some people were talking to them about Jesus and inviting them to church. Fortunately, while I was paralyzed by anger and fear for my kids, my housemate, a practicing Wiccan, responded swiftly and decisively.

She ran down to where the predators were and told them that it is WRONG to talk to kids about their religion without their parents’ permission, and then she went one step further, and said, “I’m a practicing witch. How would you like it if me and my coven came to your neighborhood and started teaching your kids about our religion without your permission?!?”

My children are adults in their mid-30s, and they made me proud when, at a recent funeral, they sat up straight and looked, unblinking, at the Christian preacher who repeated several times, “Heads bowed, eyes closed…” as he tried to convert folks in their vulnerable, grieving state. I’m so glad I was there to see it! I had to stifle a giggle, and in my mind, I was shouting, “These are my kids! They think for themselves! They bow to no gods, no masters!”  

It is NOT easy to protect one’s children from toxic, dehumanizing, religious ideas, but it can be done. I’m always happy to share my experiences, information, and resources with parents who are engaged in inoculation against indoctrination. It’s a tough job, but much needed if we wish to live in a secular democracy.

No photo description available.

lisa eddy is a writer and editor for-hire, researcher, educator-for-hire, youth advocate,  musician, and gardener.

On Twitter: @lisa_eddy
On email: