Price: US$8.99; International US$10.99
Reading level: Ages 9-12
Paperback: 51 pages
Publisher: Art Bookbindery; First edition (May 6, 2010)
Book website: Why Don’t We Go To Church?
Adults, even parents, are probably unaware of most of the issues children face in their day-to-day interactions with their social groups. Often school children confront moral issues, social pressures and hostility which they don’t discuss with their parents. Even those lucky children who have open, non-judgemental parents may not share their worries because of shame or perceived social disapproval.
I think this is common for children from families where parents are known for being “different.” Their political, religious or social views may not accord with those common in society and the kids can take some flack for that. In today’s pluralist society many children must have to face these sort of dilemmas because they interact with children who very likely have different religious or cultural backgrounds.
Problems of children with atheist parents
Despite the relatively large proportion of non-religious families today the children of atheist parents probably have to confront this problem of being “different” more often than most. And they probably get less assistance in dealing with this because their families are less likely to belong to a community which can reinforce the respectability of atheist views.
So I see a valuable role for books like “Why Don’t We Go to Church.” It’s written for the 9 to 12 year old which I think must be the age group where this sort of problem is most common. It’s also an age where children are open to learning from books. And one thing I have learned about atheists is that they love books and encourage the same love in their children.
In this story Dan loves dinosaurs. This interest leads to him thinking of a great idea for his school science project – “The Primeval Soup.” At the same time he is developing a friendship with Alex, one of his “cool” classmates. So when Alex disapproves of his project because he believes “God started life on Earth with Adam and Eve,” Dan worries that he may lose his new friend.
He goes to Alex’s home for games and a meal. This is an uncomfortable experience for Dan because they pray before their meal and have a bible lesson afterward. Alex’s parents question Dan about his family’s religion and the fact that he doesn’t attend a church. They offer to take him.
All this leaves Dan feeling angry towards his family for being different. Fortunately Mum and Dad are open and understanding. They explain how people can come to different beliefs about gods, and encourage Dan to make up his own mind about such things. As Dad puts it: “Children often believe what they are told but they need to keep an open mind and make their own decisions when they get older. It’s good to be able to read but you need to questions what you are reading or being told.”
They reassure him about his science project. Evolution is a scientific fact even though some people don’t like it. And they are happy for Dan to go to church with Alex’s family so he can learn for himself.
So Dan goes to church with Alex and his family. The experience was “strange” in parts, and interesting in others. However he is probably not interested enough to go again.
Her completes his Primeval Soup science project and wins third place in his class. Despite his apprehension the other kids enjoy his presentation (and the lollies that came with it). And although Alex still disagrees he is happy to be Dan’s friend.
So a happy ending for Dan. But the young reader learns to be non-judgmental, and to accept that others won’t always agree even about facts like evolution. It’s OK to be different and to make up your own mind.
Important lessons and a very nice book for children of atheist parents.
See also: One for the kids
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- Why Don’t We Go To Church? (openparachute.wordpress.com)