It seems to me, and I must admit that I am not speaking as a parent, that our society has some severe issues regarding what should be public and what should be private.
For instance, I would consider it to be fairly rude for a stranger, or even a casual associate, to ask me if I was circumcized, unless there was an obvious and good reason for them to ask.
Similarly, the “openness” about discussing religious notions in our country is a false one. It is a tool of compulsion by the majority, attempting to make people in the minority feel that they are somehow in the wrong.
There are times, when I have gotten into a discussion, and have had someone ask me, point blank, if I am a Christian, or what I am. Much of the time, I will answer that I am a non-believer, simply because I feel that the word atheist carries too much baggage with it, but sometimes I will state that I consider my personal beliefs about the unknown to be a “personal matter”, and one which can be safely seperated from policy discussions.
In a sense, I like the latter approach, because I don’t particularly care to go around converting people to my particular brand of atheism (or whatever one wants to call it), I actually don’t particularly care what a person believes about the great unknown, as long as they recognize that other people should be free to believe something else, and that, as a direct result of that freedom, that the protocols defining how we all get along must be derived from something other than what any subset of people suspect to be true in a religious sense.
Basically, society needs to be secular, and the above reasoning is as close as I have come to an argument that should appeal to the religious and non-religious alike. Clearly it needs some fine-tuning, but. . .
So, when it comes to children, and how to address the issues of how a child raised as a non-believer should interact in a world where most people seem to identify with one of the major schools of religious thought, there are a couple of things which seem to be important.
1. Although all of us have an instinctive desire to “convert” other people to our way of thinking, it is wise to “pick one’s battles”, and not waste too much time on those conflicts that one is unlikely to win.
2. Just because the religious might seem annoyingly dense does not mean that they are not human beings. We should feel compassion for them, and not fall into the trap of demonizing them for their inability to grasp what seems obvious to us. This is especially important for children, I should think, as children can be the cruelest of all, and the patterns that take hold in a child’s mind are the deepest, and hardest to change in adulthood.
3. Take a page from the Christians. They often talk about (although they don’t always practice what they preach) leading by example. The principle makes sense, even if what they believe does not. The idea is that a person who leads an exemplary life will command more respect from their fellow man. The hardest thing for a Christian to deal with is an atheist that leads a near blameless life, filled with compassion and grace.