I just read this article about a precocious 8-year-old atheist. I must admit, I found it slightly disturbing.
Before I go on, let me state for the record that I am a non-believer, but I also don't "believe" in atheism. Sometimes I even feel that atheists are just as dogmatic in their beliefs as non-atheists. My husband is slightly more antagonistic to organized religion than I am, but he also had it forced on him as a child quite a bit more than I did. We are trying to raise our daughter (who is also eight) to be a "freethinker". Of course, if she chooses to believe in god (or anything else for that matter), that is her business. I have said such things as I think belief in god is basically the same as believing in fairies, and it's fine to believe in those sorts of things, but I don't.
The fact is, I worry that because she respects my opinion and looks up to me, that she will choose to be a non-believer for those reasons, rather than coming to that conclusion on her own.
I even worry sometimes that religion provides a moral compass that I might not be able to provide on my own.
What I found disturbing about this article though was that it did not seem to me that this child was a freethinker at all. The parent in the article did not sound like she shared the above concerns about her own relationship with her daughter. The child in qustion seemed like a little adult, perfectly groomed to be exactly what her parents want her to be. I find this sort of thing every bit as distasteful as children who are doggedly christian and damning people to hell.
The books recommended to this child were not age appropriate, or even that great, in my opinion. He did not suggest a single female author, they were all mired in the great male classics canon. Not only that, but I can't imagine what any of them have to do with cultivating critical thinking in a young child. Especially a young girl growing up in the 21st century.
I am of the opinion that children should be children, and for the most part they should be left alone by "well-meaning" adults. They should read things that are written for them, written with the intended audience in mind. And when they are not reading, they should be outside getting dirty. Eight-year-olds should be running in wild packs with other children, learning physics and biology through their adventures in nature. Pardon my saying so, but the little girl in this article doesn't sound like she'd have much in common with kids her age. And all the books in the world are not going to help her with that problem.