Question from Crystal:
Hello! Hoping you can help me. I am an atheist and my son, who is 7, is, without knowing the word, already an atheist. Not because of me but just because he is smart, logical, scientific. Which is great! But I want to teach him to be tolerant of others’ beliefs. Also I want him to be able to understand, on some level, some of the biblical references in literature. Can you recommend a comparative religion book for kids that is NOT written from a Christian perspective? he is very bright and not a typical 7-year-old boy so can understand “young reader” type books. I’m looking for something written at a higher level than a kid’s picture book. thanks!
Answer by SmartLX:
That’s the right question to ask. Many books on comparative religion are written by Christian theologians, who can’t resist adding to the basic message: “These are all the major religions and what they believe…and here, here and here is why each of the others is wrong.” We get a lot of visitors from people in Christian courses that use these kinds of books.
A good start is Our Religions, which covers seven major religions and has seven different authors (plus one collator). The section on Christianity is written by a Christian theologian, the section on Islam is by an Islamic scholar, Taoism is covered by a Taoist and so forth. The authors are there to write introductions, so while they may state their cases against each other they are still required to provide good information. While it’s not specifically aimed at kids, its introductory nature encourages simplicity.
Beyond that one, I can’t recommend any books as neutral with much confidence, but that doesn’t mean good books aren’t out there. An Amazon search can be very enlightening, though. Each of the books featured has a few bad reviews saying what people don’t like about it; people of a given religion are quick to point out when a book appears biased towards one of the others, or gives incorrect information about their own. If you want something not Christian-centric, look for the one fundamentalist Christians hate.
Finally, I should mention The Heathen’s Guide to World Religions by William Hopper, which is basically an atheist humourously tearing them all down equally and not even trying to be neutral. At least it’s honest.
Question from Crystal: