I am a devout atheist. I don't believe in a higher power and I don't believe that morality is exclusively the preserve of the religious. I would vastly prefer not to be having conversations like this with my 4 year old.
"Why don't we go to the church and see Jesus?"
"Jesus isn't in the church. He's just a man who died a long long time ago that some people think was magical. We don't go because I don't believe that a magical man made the world. We have visited churches, because they are beautiful, but I don't want to go to listen to the vicar talk."
"But the baby was magic and they all worship him. Mrs (blank ) said."
"Well, the baby probably did actually exist, and some people might have worshipped him, but most probably he was just ordinary and then people just started to believe he was magic, and that's why they built the churches."
"What will happen if we can't go to the church?"
"But everyone else is! I'll be the only one!"
"No, you won't"
"Yes, it's on Friday!"
And lo, I had not read the letter in the bottom of the book bag which informed me that the whole class is attending church on Friday. Just an assumption there, that we all won't mind. Well, I do mind, I mind a fair bit. I mind enormously that the story of Christmas is taught as real, to a bunch of 4 year olds who don't have the ability to understand metaphor. I mind enormously that they'll be taken to church, which will also tell them it's real and really happened, and that a baby is the only thing that can "save" you from an unspecified state. I mind enormously that the link between church and state is such that schools are still obliged to peddle religion. I mind that schooling is not secular, as it is in France. I mind that we still have unelected Lords in the House just because they are Bishops. I mind that these people can pass or deny laws that might affect me on the basis of a faith that now only a small percent of the population actually adheres to. I mind that i'll look mean and he'll stand out of I choose to withdraw him. So he'll have to go and i'll have to spend weeks answering questions about a largely imagined God dreamt up by Church, and end up drawing a diagram of the Big Bang and having to read the bit of the Bill Bryson book that explains it to me in response.4 is, I think, a little young for me to be explaining that Christmas is a midwinter celebration, that we celebrate it for other reasons too, and that the church merely hijacked it at this point to stamp out any last remaining vestiges of paganism and con people into going to church instead, in much the same way they allowed Sheela-Na-Gigs and Green Men to be carved into roof beams. I've just told him that it's a story, just a story. And now both kids are playing their own version, in which Mary has a lot of Disney Princess dress up shoes and Jesus is a sort of super baby that can fly. Mixed in with a reprise of his performance as an Innkeeper, which was Niro-esque in brevity and scowling. To me, this isn't a lot more far fetched that telling children that they are born in sin and need to be saved. School, butt out of my (non) religious life.