The comments left for the post where I talked about my neighbor who asked to take my kid to church generated a lot of support, which I appreciate, and some criticism which I also appreciate. I can't say I would have handled the situation differently - I don't feel comfortable with handing my son over to strangers even if they promise they're going to church and I don't feel like I should expose my son to religion until he asks about it and wants to be exposed. However, the subject of being open minded came up a few times along with the question "why would you try to keep your child from experiencing religion?"
I feel like being open minded as a parent is just as important as my responsibility as a parent to raise my son in a way that I feel is best for him until he is at a point where emotionally and mentally he's ready to make his own choices. He makes choices now, but there are still things that I decide for him. I decide if he can have ice cream or not, I decide where he's going to go to school, and I decide who he can go off with without me. The point in time where a child is mature enough to make decisions regarding religion and faith is different for every child - some people have children who are very reality based when they are 6. My son is very imaginative, creative and fanciful. My child is still dealing with the death of my father who was the second closest person to my son after me. My son is not at the same place emotionally and mentally as anyone else's kid and the best judge for what is good and what is bad for him right now is me. Not only because I'm his mom but because I'm closer to him than anyone else alive right now and I'm responsible for tempering his exposure to complicated and mature aspects of life like religion and sex and violence.
I don't understand how anyone would want to willingly expose their child to the situation that woman was suggesting. It's as if by offering up my boy to that kind of influence I would be proving something about my own open mindedness that needs to be proven to a stranger. I don't care if this woman feels that I am open minded enough or not - she's lucky I wasn't in a more curmudgeonly mood and didn't yell at her to stop listening in on private conversations and trying to indoctrinate my son as if my beliefs were somehow unacceptable.
Being open minded regarding parenting does not mean allowing every kook and nut job who walks by to have influence over your child. It does not mean allowing people to be extremely socially rude out of fear of seeming closed off or unfriendly. It has nothing to do with forcing your child to be exposed to or even have an interest in religion when the kid isn't curious about religion at all.
I feel I'm an open minded parent because when my son asks me if god exists I tell him that no one knows for sure, some people think there's a god and some people don't. He's asked me if I believe in god and I told him I didn't. When he asked me why I told him because I read a whole lot of books and talked to a whole lot of people and looked at all the evidence and decided that I didn't believe in god - but that doesn't mean he has to agree with me. I've asked if he wants to attend a church service and he has no interest. That's good enough for me. I'm not going to force my son into attending church just so I can have the atheist open minded parent merit badge. That would be me using my son as a tool to further my ego, not doing what my son wants, what he's interested in at this time, or what I feel he's ready for.
I think it's awesome that there are some people who make it a point to take their kids to lots of different services to give them exposure to religions but that's not my way. Personally, I feel uncomfortable going to a church when I know I have little interest in the place beyond using it as a sociology experiment for my kid. I don't want to go to a church where they take my son and put him in a closed off and separate Sunday school area where I'm not welcomed to join in and I know for a fact my son isn't going to quietly sit through a sermon without asking to go home after about 20 minutes. I do have quite a bit of respect for people and if and how they choose to worship - I don't want to be that atheist who crashes the party just so I can feel good about exposing my kid to a theology which I can't honestly discuss without having a completely negative perspective.
My son will grow up and he will get curious and when he does, it will be time to deal with religion. It isn't yet that time for us and to have a stranger suggest that she might educate my kid on religion without me being present because she overheard I was an atheist and me rejecting her offer does not make me closed minded and it doesn't mean I'm shielding my son from religion. I'm just not forcing him to be interested in it. I think that's the right thing to do.
And now, the best vid on open mindedness on the web - enjoy!