By Joan Kurtz
If you are a member of CSJO, you might also consider yourself a "freethinker." According to Webster's Dictionary, a freethinker is "one who forms opinions on the basis of reason independently of authority, especially one who doubts or denies religious dogma." If there are young children in your family, trying to explain this idea to them could be challenging. It has now been made easier with a book entitled, "Just Pretend: A Book for Young Freethinkers" by Dan Barker. Mr. Barker used to be a Christian minister and is now an atheist and co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation.
Written expressly for children, this colorful paperback guides readers through ways to think for oneself, to challenge authority and question stories and myths they may have been told. Some of these myths include Santa Claus, the Easter bunny, unicorns and, of course, God. They are all "just pretend." Because of this, I would not recommend this book to very young children who may not be ready yet to stop believing in any of these tales.
While Christians, Muslims, Jews and Hindus are mentioned, the primary focus is on questioning Christian beliefs. It stresses reasoning and using one's mind as the way to understand these tales and stories are not real. Some examples used are Jonah living in the belly of a whale, the Nile River turning to blood and Joshua making the sun stand still. "Do you think these things really happened?" Questioning the existence of God, being a good person without belief, Heaven, Hell, pain and suffering are also included as the author guides the reader to thinking what is true and what is just pretend.
"No one can tell you what to think. Not your teachers, not your parents, not your minister, priest or rabbi. … Not this book. … You are the boss of your own mind. Your thoughts are free." This book provides an honest discussion of religion from a freethought perspective.