I am not a parent, but I want to throw in my two cents anyway...I hope that's okay. :]
Warning, long post is long, but I think it's well worth reading.
First off, let me say that this is NOT an anti-christian rant. True, I have met some christian people who did some really awful things to me, but most of my friends are also christians, and they are truly wonderful people. There are good and bad people from every background and denomonation, religious or otherwise. I accept all spiritual paths as valid, as long as they cause no harm. I don't have any problems with christianity on a basic level, only the people (anonymous) mentioned below who hurt me, and people who have done/would do similar things. Woo, now that I've got that disclaimer off my chest...here we go.
I have always loved learning in general, but especially were mythology and theology are involved - I love learning about what people think, and how those thoughts came to be. I think children are healthier mentally and emotionally when they are exposed to different religions enough that they are comfortable asking any questions they have out loud. Don't tell them that they should believe in a particular religion, only tell them that they can if they want to, and that you love them unconditionally - the most important part is love. As long as your child knows s/he is loved, no matter what, they will be far less likely to feel the need to keep everything secret from you, which, in my case and many others, has resulted in depression.
When I was younger and in public school, I was pressured, bullied, and ultimately ostracized for rejecting christianity, which is by far the dominant faith where I live. In the second grade - the second grade! - I finally caved under all the intrusive questions and confirmed the suspicions of my then best friend (henceforth "A") and admitted that I was not a christian. I begged her not to tell anyone else because I was in a really dark place - I doubted myself, my friends and family, and religion of any sort because christianity was pushed on me so hard - I had never wanted a religion, and being forced into faking one never sat right with me, and I had a long way to go before I could be comfortable in my own skin again. The constant bullying had already forced me into a depression to the point that I seriously considered suicide on multiple occasions. At eight years of age. I had begun punching myself, slamming my head into walls, and scratching my arms and legs until I bled.
A ignored my plea, and told everyone in the class, and they proceeded to tell every student in the school. The very same day, only hours later, we had gone to recess, and I was physically attacked for the first time. Seven different girls ambushed me first - Two girls took each arm, two stood on either side of me in case I tried to run, and another stood in front of me with a little pocket-sized bible ("B") and they all tried to force me to say I believed in God. When I did not, the girls pulled at my arms, clothing, and hair, and started to hit me with the bible. We were in plain view of three different teachers the whole time, and despite my screams of, "Help! Let me go!" no one stood up to do anything. All the boys had retreated to the opposite corner of the yard, as far from me as possible, except for one who had previously stalked me who was on a swing, shouting as loud as he could, "Kaitlin doesn't believe! Kaitlin doesn't believe!" like a chant.
Not long after they started hitting/pinching/pulling me, I yanked my arms free, pushed B over (which I later apologized for during this same incident) and ran. Having had some basic training in self defense, and knowing these girls were not as strong as I was, I knew it would work. Unfortunatly, I did not take into account that four of these girls were much faster than me, and they got over the intial shock fast enough that I did not make it to the classroom door before they got to me. (My plan was to run directly to the principals office where nobody would dare assault me and call my mother for help.) I was tackled to the ground. Having hit my face on the mulch, I couldn't see much at all, and I was physically dragged backwards and pinned with my back to a brick wall in the same manner. It was a long walk, though, and they kept yanking me back and forth and slapping me across the face to keep me disoriented. Again, we were in full view of the same three teachers for the duration of the entire walk, and I know they could see the wall where I was pinned.
Once we got to the brick wall, I continued to struggle, and they punched me until I was subdued enough to be pinned down again. They asked if I believed in God, I said "No," and the four girls holding my arms would pull me slightly forward off the wall and slam me back into it as hard as they could, making my shoulders and the back of my head strike the wall. They did this eight times before A showed up and told them to stop. She whispered to B, and then they stopped hitting me and started trying to "reason" with me. I won't go into the details of the conversation here, as this is aready too long.
The next day, A apologized to me for what had happened - and I forgave her. She did not, however, apologize for her personal betrayal, and those are much harder for me to forgive, even all these years later. For almost a month, we all pretended like nothing happened. I went back to acting my old self, the girls went back to sitting with me at lunch, and the guys and I went back to drawing comics at recess. When I was at home, though, it was an entirely different matter - I barely spoke, I barely ate...I got off the bus, walked to A's house, my grandmother picked me up later, we drove home, I did my homework, and I went back to my room and...nothing. I didn't do anything - I had become so consumed by my depression that I would only lay on my bed, or wander aimlessly around my room, and I was entirely numb. I wasn't sad, I wasn't anything. I just stopped feeling.
One day, though, something just snapped in my brain, and I became as angry as I had been numb. I stopped chatting with my "friends" at school. My comics - now drawn while sitting alone - became steadily more violent before I stopped drawing entirely. If anyone tried to approach me, I snarled and glared and tried to pick a fight. The bullying escalated once again, after my second admission that I still did not believe in God. I was shoved against walls in the hallway, I was punched, I was tripped, slapped, poked, proded, pinched, teased, cursed at, and ostricized. I silently simmered in my rage for about a year and a half. I had enrolled in a karate class, where I had learned to slow down and channel my rage into the ability to beat the snot out of my sparring partners. I even set up "practice times" with a girl with a similarly aggressive disposition. We would drive over to a nearby park and head to a small clearing just out of site of her parents and my grandmother (they waited in their cars) and we would brawl for all we were worth until we had to return home. We had a mutual agreement to, a) not hit hard enough to cause any permanant damage and b) to never leave bruises in places we couldn't easily cover. (Whoa, double negative. *cringe* Sorry.) Another part of my anger was directed at christians in general - the only experience I had had with christianity was extremly negative, and I carried a lot of hate within myself for a long, long time, and I'm still struggling, five and a half years later, to let go of the last of it.
Then something else snapped in my brain.
This time, I felt illogically guilty about what had happened. I became meek, quiet, and, once again, depressed. I quit my karate classes, and stopped fighting at the park and at school. I blamed myself for everything that had happened, I began hitting and scratching myself again, and on top of it all, I started questioning my own faith, or lack thereof, and my sexual orientation. I trudged my way through the rest of the year with my grades quickly declining.
I began homeschooling the next year, which was a good chance for me to detach myself from people like that, start over, and begin to heal. I honestly believe that leaving that school when I did saved me from suicide. I had to go through another (albeit much shorter) cycle of depression-anger-guilt-depression again before I began moving on. I am much calmer now than I have ever been, and the freedom of being able to choose my religion that came with being separated from my attackers helped tremendously. If any of the people who bullied me sought me out and apologized, I would fogive them immediatly. I understand that they were motivated by fear, and did not understand the ramifications of what they had done. I do, however hold a grudge against those three teachers: these were reasonably intelligent grown women, and even while witnessing a phsyical assault that would later be drawn out over the course of three years none of them stepped forward to help me, and I resent that. On a similarly hurtful note, my mother never noticed the changes in my behavior.
Please, please don't let your child go through this. Make sure they know that you love them unconditionally, and know their normal patterns. You must teach your children tolerence.
If you suspect that something similar is going on, speak up. Teachers, if you see a child being confronted the way I was, get up and help. It is NOT a harmless game, it is NOT kids just being kids, and it is NOT something they just need to work out among themselves. It is an epidemic, and it needs to be stopped. I was beaten and terrorized for three years, and nobody, not once, ever stepped forward to help me.
So, I've made my case. To recap: Bullying is BAD. Tolerence is GOOD. Let your child learn as much as s/he wants to, but if you try to force him/her into any religion s/he does not want, it will cause your child nothing but pain. Personally, I would suggest waiting until your child is six or seven-ish to start teaching different mythos.