Today Elli was telling me about a problem she had at school. Someone in her class was apparently ranting at everyone about how Katy Perry is a bad person because she doesn't believe in God. Elli was confused and upset by this. A few years ago she had decided she believed in God (though what she thought that meant was unclear) but now she is a decided atheist. She was really unhappy that people would call her, Wendy, and I bad people because of our atheism and we spent a while hashing it out together. I tried very hard not to push any particular viewpoint because I wanted to see where she went with it on her own.
After a little while she concluded that telling people that they are mistaken or incorrect is fine but calling them bad people because of their religious belief or lack thereof was not okay. It took her a bit to make that distinction but she got there and it made me really proud that she did so. I have plenty of disdain for religion itself but there are lots of religious people who are good folks and I am glad she feels the same way. It is important to separate our feelings about a set of ideas from all the people who are associated with those ideas. There is a correlation between religion and certain types of terrible behaviour but it is not causation.
It made me think back to my younger years and some specific incidents with my parents. I recalled a few times when I was wrestling with a particularly thorny problem and they sat back and waited even though they could have just stepped in and told me what to do. I get that a lot better now. Not only is it a good idea to let children learn to reason in this way - it is also a wonderful part of parenting. Seeing a small person finally grasp a concept on their own without prompting is definitely one of the highs.