Relax, It's Just God: How and Why to Talk to Your Kids About Religion When You're Not Religious

Relax, It's Just God: How and Why to Talk to Your Kids About Religion When You're Not Religious

by Wendy Thomas Russell


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Relax, It's Just God: How and Why to Talk to Your Kids About Religion When You're Not Religious by Wendy Thomas Russell

A rapidly growing demographic cohort in America, secular parents are at the forefront of a major and unprecedented cultural shift. Unable to fall back on what they were taught as children, many of these parents are struggling, or simply failing, to address issues of God, religion and faith with their children in ways that promote honesty, curiosity, kindness and independence.

The author sifts through hard data, including the results of a survey of 1,000 nonreligious parents, and delivers gentle but straightforward advice to both non-believers andÂopen-minded believers. With a thoughtful voice infused with humor, Russell seamlessly merges scientific thought, scholarly research and everyday experience with respect for a full range of ways to view the world.Â

Wendy Thomas Russell seamlessly merges scientific thought, scholarly research, and everyday experience in a book that gives nonreligious and progressively religious parents a toolkit to assist with their unique and complex issues. Among the topics included in the book: How to talk to kids about death without the comforts of religion; how to talk to kids about your beliefs without indoctrinating them into your way of thinking; how to navigate touchy issues with extended family members and religious friends; what to do if your child gets threatened with hell; what to say (and what not to say) so that your child will feel both capable and free to make up his or her own mind about what to believe.

Interspersed throughout the book are anecdotes from Russell's own experience, providing both inspiration and plenty of comic relief. And at the end is an invaluable Cheat Sheet to World Religions, along with a guide to popular religious holidays.

Says True Parent Magazine:

"'Relax: It's Just God' is valuable for so many reasons. The book offers helpful timelines for how to talk to kids about religion at every age and includes a handy appendix with the CliffsNotes version of each major religion of the world, along with ways to observe their holidays in a secular way. The book's full of useful tools that you and your kids can use when confronted by religious peers and well-meaning family members. Best of all, it handles a potentially heavy topic with a lighthearted sense of humor, giving the reader the sense that we really can relax about it."

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781941932001
Publisher: Brown Paper Press
Publication date: 03/31/2015
Pages: 200
Sales rank: 831,337
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.50(d)

About the Author

Wendy Thomas Russell is a journalist, author and editor. A former newspaper reporter, Russell writes an online parenting column for the PBS NewsHourÂand is the co-founder of Brown Paper Press, an independent book publishing company. Relax, It's Just God is her first book.

Read an Excerpt

Talking openly with children about sensitive subjects is hard. It always has been. In my parents

Table of Contents


Part One: O We of Little Faith
Chapter One: Who We Are
* The Rise of the Nones What's In a Name?
* First, I Lost Hell
Chapter Two: What We're Doing Wrong
* Walking A Tightrope
* Our Most Common Follies
* A Word About 'Religious Hijacking'

Part Two: A New Direction
Chapter Three: Broaching the Subject
* When is the Right Time?
* Simple Words, Neutral Tone
* Answering the Big Questions
* From the Blog: 'God Wears a Green Shirt'
Chapter Four: Giving Kids a Choice-and Meaning It
* Letting Kids Choose Their Clothes (And Their Faith)
* We Can't 'Choose' Facts... Or Can We?
* Measuring the Space Between Indoctrination and Brainwashing
* From The Blog: Coolest Mom Ever
Chapter Five: Teaching Tolerance (Or: How Not to Be a Dick)
* What We Mean When we Say 'Tolerance'
* Raising Kind, Compassionate Kids
* Stereotyping is a Two-Way Street
* From the Blog: Where's an Omniscient Police Officer When You Need One?
Chapter Six: Critical Thinking: Our Ace in the Hole
* Putting the 'Critical' in Critical Thinking
* Letting Our Kids Challenge Us-And Win
* From the Blog: Can the Bible Help Kids Think Critically?
Chapter Seven: Kickstarting Religious Literacy
* Scoot Over, Dora: Making Room for Jesus, Muhammad, and Vishnu Categories of Literacy
* Six Steps to a Literacy Plan
* Choosing Religious Books Appropriate for Secular Families
* From the Blog: Honk if You Love Jesus
Chapter Eight: Got Religious Baggage?
* When Religion's Dark Side Looms Large
* The Inheritance of Anxiety
* 'How Could Anyone Believe that Crazy Stuff?'
* The Good Kind of Baggage
* From the Blog: Glenn Beck Conservatives Expose 'Notorious Atheist'
Chapter Nine: Celebrating Secularism, Science and Sleeping in on Sundays
* Feeding Our Secular Souls
* What Do You Mean Atheists Can't Pray?
* From the Blog: One Set of 'Footprints In the Sand' Enough for This Kid

Part Three: Dealing With Sticky Issues
Chapter Ten: Grandma's Heart is Broken
* Relatives Say the Darndest Things
* 'My Kid is Being Indoctrinated by My Parents'
* Six Tips for Surviving Family Dinners
* From the Blog: It's Not a Competition: When One Parent Believes, and the Other Doesn't
Chapter Eleven: 'Little Timmy's Going to Hell'
* Sticks and Stones and Threats of Damnation
* The Shame Game
* Dealing with Religious Harassment
* When the Best School is a Religious School
* From the Blog: 'Why Would God Care
* Whether I Believe in Him?'
Chapter Twelve: The Dog Died, Now What?
* Heaven Doesn't Help US
* Comforting Kids Without Religion
* Three Tips for Talking to Kids About Death
* From the Blog: Matt Logelin-Widower, Dad, Non-Believer

Appendix: Cheat Sheet to World Religions (and Holiday Guide)

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Relax, It's Just God: How and Why to Talk to Your Kids About Religion When You're Not Religious 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I can’t believe this topic hadn’t been broached in a book before. I would agree with the other reviewers that this book is for the religious and nonreligious alike. It’s more than just about talking to your kids about religion, it’s about how to teach your children tolerance and respect for other cultures and ideas. What I loved was the author’s emphasis on “religious literacy,” how to introduce young children to different philosophies and cultural concepts, and in turn teach them how to value other people’s ideas and humanize other points of view. The “cheat sheet to world religions” in the appendix was especially helpful for me as we adults know so little about the myriad religious customs and practices around us. I am so grateful as a soon-to-be parent for this wonderful resource and I’ll definitely be utilizing the lessons as I raise my child.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was the perfect book for me. I was raised without a strong religious identity best described as “sorta Christian,” but my husband was raised Hindu with mantras, a family guru, and all kinds of traditions and beliefs that were really foreign to me when we met. Having to learn about his religion in order to understand his family was fascinating, but the novelty wore off when our first child became old enough to understand that his father’s religion was different than that of his peers.  Relax, It’s Just God, helped me break down the complicated and interconnected emotions I had on a topic that has never felt comfortable. With a good dose of humor, the author provides a framework for moving beyond the uncomfortable space between belief and disbelief and underscores the importance of encouraging children to come to their own conclusions about god and religion.  Mixing research and expert opinions with some of the most charming personal stories, this parenting book was fun to read. Religious literacy is so important in understanding our local communities and our world. My now seven-year old is already seemingly able to navigate going to temple with his grandfather, discussing moral values at the weekly chapel his Christian-based private school holds, and enjoying the traditions and celebrations of his many Jewish friends.  My personal parenting goal is for my child to be thoughtful and curious about faith and religion, and to grow into a person confident in his own beliefs and accepting of others. The lessons in this book makes me confident I can continue to help him on that journey. 
lucywatson More than 1 year ago
As a practicing Catholic, that went to Catholic school and grew up in a community that was majority Catholic, it was an enlightening experience to read this book. Catholicism was all I knew growing up, and even when I left home to go to college and was no longer "obligated" to go to church with my mother, I still went because it brought me peace and comfort. I am following my family's practices of bringing my children to church and putting them in Catholic school, however, now being in a community that has a variety of religious and secular beliefs, am trying to ensure that my children are not only aware of those differing viewpoints, but also are respectful and welcoming of them. Having this book as a guide to do this has been very helpful, as there is nothing like it out there. This book was informative without being condescending, and made what could be a dry topic entertaining. It also takes the edge off a normally taboo subject, arming people with the right information and words to use to avoid divisive conversation. Wendy Thomas Russell does a fantastic job of explaining why you should talk to your children about religion, how to do it and what to do, and even advice as to how to handle some specific uncomfortable situations related to religion. I also love the cheat sheet to world religions and holidays in the appendix - a perfect guide for me to explain to my children the other religious views that are out there! This is a great book for both non-religious and religious parents to read.
thegritchenkitchen More than 1 year ago
DON'T JUDGE THE BOOK BY IT'S COVER, though targeted to non-religious parents, this book is a great guidebook and resource for ALL parents, religious or not.  Ms. Russell's dry humor and stories keep you entertained while her advice is practical and appreciated.    
C_Bartley More than 1 year ago
I can't say enough good things about Relax, It's Just God. Ms. Russell brings a much-needed and extremely refreshing approach to secular thought and parenting, providing a wonderful collection of techniques for educating children about religion. And, in so doing, she also provides the parents excellent material for their own reflection, thoughtful discussion, and growth. With this book, Ms. Russell walks a perfect path of compassion and understanding, with reasoned thought and touching, heartwarming stories, and humor sprinkled throughout--but without ridicule. Relax, It's Just God is an absolute joy to read, and refreshingly free of the sour, elitist, intolerant vitriol which dominates the writing (and/or comments sections) of some other writers in the atheist/agnostic/secular/free-thinking community. I've been an avid reader of Ms. Russell's blog for several years. The book is much more than a mere compilation of blog posts, containing more information, but is in some ways a perfect distillation of the blog, both equally clever, smart, and obviously motivated by genuine compassion and caring. Although Relax, It's Just God is intended mostly for non-religious parents, it is most definitely not to the exclusion of the religious. Regardless of where readers may fall on the religious spectrum, I think only the most unreasonable on either end could actually come away from it with serious complaints. The book sets and maintains a tone that is more--much more--than mere tolerance or coexistence. It successfully delivers the messages that actions matter more than belief and that an approach which embraces free-thinking religious literacy and education--not indoctrination or silence--is the most promising and effective. To be clear, Ms. Russell is absolutely NOT advocating a "teach the controversy" position or one which claims all sides are equally valid or true. Rather, Ms. Russell's position here is similar to Dale McGowan's: teach the facts, honestly and without bias, but also include un-biased education about beliefs which the child will likely encounter. Lead/encourage children to be free-thinkers, well equipped to make decisions and conclusions on their own, and to better understand/appreciate society, culture, arts, politics, etc.--all of which have many influences from religion. In short, Relax, It's Just God advocates a mature, well-reasoned approach to fostering religious literacy that stresses fact, education, understanding, and compassion. As such, it is the one with the best chance of ultimately effecting a positive change. Pure excellence.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago