Teaching Teenagers How to Fish

A great big thanks to Molly for her post and for everyone who contributed to the conversation. There were a lot of interesting comments and threads.

I went out-of-town for a few days and didn’t have Internet access, but I’m back to annoy you. I just have a story that I wrote down last week, and maybe you have an “aha” moment from your child or your deconversion that you’d like to share. This was a conversation I had with the younger kid recently.

Like many parents of teenagers, I have a love-hate relationship with my 15-year-old. Don’t ask me who does the loving and who does the hating. I think we both take turns.

I fantasize a lot about whipping out the duct tape during some of our more special conversations. (Please don’t call CPS. I have my urges under control.) This morning, for example, as I’m driving along, bothering no one, my kid says, “I wish you wouldn’t hum. It’s so annoying.” I think about telling him that when he forgets to wear deodorant it’s pretty annoying, too. I think about pulling over and letting him walk to camp, where he volunteers teaching little ones. I wonder how the heck these little kids can adore him when he’s so grumpy. “He’s great,” the camp leader tells me, “such a joy.” It’s funny that your kids are always a joy for someone else yet always a pill for you.

But I don’t verbally punch him back because I’m setting an example (right?), and he is trying desperately to sever the cord between us. I get that. He’s a teenager, and there’s nothing worse than being a momma’s boy.

So this morning, right after enlightening me about my annoying habits, he says, “About religion. Yeah, I’m not so sure about that.” I look around, wondering where that came from. Apparently he had pushed the pause button on a conversation we were having a few days ago. In the meantime, he was thinking, proving to me that he doesn’t just eat and eat and eat and poop. He thinks, too, much to both my surprise and my relief.

“I’ve been thinking about it. There’s really no proof of God. It’s kind of like Santa Claus. You have to grow up and out of your belief,” he says.

I was kind of worried about this kid. His dad takes him to church sometimes, and I really didn’t want him to grow up and become a Stepford Baptist. Being a boy, he respects his dad, who is, in all fairness, a pretty good role model. And being a boy, the last thing he wants to do is identify with me. So everything has to be his decision, his choice, his conclusion. That’s fine.

I don’t want him to believe everything I tell him anyway. That would mean I’m preaching, and he’s just a sponge, listening passively (or not at all) to what I tell him. Blah, blah, blah. No, this is the kid who desperately needs to learn to think because he’s the kind of person who learns the hard way, who takes too many dangerous risks. He needs to understand that jumping onto the roof of a car and holding on spread eagle while his friend puts the pedal to the floor can get him killed. Yes, he really did this, and when I came outside and saw what they were doing, I was the crazy woman screaming down the road behind them.

I know what you’re thinking. This mom needs to get a grip. Her son is crazy.
Maybe. But in all honesty kids do this kind of sh*t. They do. It doesn’t matter how you discipline or how much money your family makes or how much education you have, no one is immune to the dangers, heartaches and frustrations of raising teenagers. If you have an easy child, then hurry up and thank the genetic lottery because you’re damn lucky. Seriously. Our kids are like a lump of clay, and we’re the potter, helping to form them. But while we can affect their shape, they will always be made of clay.

So telling my teenager what to think would be of no use. He needs to think things through himself. I can only ask him questions or answer the ones that he asks.

He continues, “I understand that people want somebody to talk to when they’re all alone or worried about someone they love. It’s like having an invisible friend. But it’s not real. And it’s gotten kind of out-of-hand, especially with adults and how they talk about religion all the time.”

In a way, we’re kind of fortunate living here in Texas where people think religion is a sixth major food group. If we lived someplace else, where belief was kept private, my kid and I wouldn’t be having this conversation about God at this point in his life. He hears adults—strangers–talk to me about their church and their God. And he sees that I just listen. He’s thinking and watching and waiting. He knows my views. Had I argued with these strangers, I would have embarrassed the hell out of him, and he’d have these memories seared into his brain where they could cripple his common sense.

No, I have to teach my kids how to fish rather than catch the fish for them (which they would not want anyway).

“The Bible–I know people think that came from God,” he says, “but there’s no proof of that either. The stories don’t really flow. Sometimes they don’t even make sense.” I ask him if the God in the Bible is anything like the God the Baptist church talks about.

“Not really,” he says. “The God in the Bible is not even nice.”

An “Amen!” popped into my head, which I dared not say aloud for fear of derailing him on this important journey.

Now, if only he’d think about the importance of cleaning his room.

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57 responses to “Teaching Teenagers How to Fish

  1. An “Amen!” popped into my head

    Sagan.

    xD

      • What a nice story. Just like you expected – that kinda conversation has never taken place in our house in the land of “keep-your-faith-private” :)

        However we discussed about religion the other day – it started from some rather mundane issue or opinion of a religious figure and ended up with quite a nice and thorough discussion. Our son is very adamant that religious people are more or less deceived or duped – he just could not grasp how people would fall into those stories and questionable morality. We acted kinda like lightning rods taking it all in and toning it down with our a bit :) broader experience on life, people and ideologies.

        You must be proud of yourself – in an environment that seems to be so hostile to thinking and rationalizing, you have succeeded in creating an atmosphere in which your son not only thinks for himself but communicates with you about his thoughts.

        • @Konsta I think your son probably has a better understanding of religion than most religious here in America, especially since your kids are educated about religions in school, too. Here in TX –many kids at our schools talk about it and some pressure their friends to go to church with them. If our schools had more kids who have similar views as your son’s, we would not have an issue with evangelizing in the schools.

          When it comes to parenting, I’m never really proud of myself. It’s all a crapshoot. One day a light will go on in your kid and the next day it will go off. One kid will be easy to guide and the second kid might be difficult. My dad used to say you never know how you did as a parent until your kids are well into adulthood.

          • I stumbled upon a great youtube -clip :)
            I don´t remember whether I´ve seen the movie (Billy Madison) but the words of the Jim Downey character could be used in so many conversations with religionistas, especially those of creationist persuation.

      • You who are on the road
        Must have a code, you try to live by
        And so become yourself
        Because the past is just a goodbye

        Teach your children well
        Their father’s hell did slowly go by
        Feed them on your dreams
        The one they fix, the one you’ll know by

        Don’t you ever ask them why
        If they told you, you would cry
        So just look at them and sigh
        And know they love you

        And you of tender years
        Can’t know the fears that your elders grew by
        Help them with your youth
        They seek the truth before they can die

        Teach your parents well
        Their children’s hell will slowly go by
        And feed them on your dreams
        The one they fix, the one you’ll know by

        Songwriter: Graham Nash

  2. He entered the data and came to the same conclusion as you did. I don’t know if there can be a better outcome here. Well done.

  3. Smart kid! I love, “You have to grow up and out of your belief.”

  4. I love when my teenage daughter has those moments of clarity amongst the bouts of insanity. Gives me hope. She’s pretty firmly agnostic, as is her younger brother. We don’t make an issue of it either way. I’m just happy when their major decisions are rational more often than not. Hell, I’m happy when I can say that about myself.

  5. Yes. Boys do this kind of s**t.

    I’m trying to figure out my daughter, personally.

    Sent from my iPhone

  6. Recently my aunt informed my 18 yr old daughter and I, that her granddaughter who is 9 has decided to be baptized. Well my daughter and I are both stunned as we know damn well that a 9 yr old didn’t decide this. Furthermore, my aunt tried numerous times to instill her fear of God into us.
    My kids weren’t raised in a church, mosque, synagog, etc but they learned values. My son is the president of a Best Buddies at UF, giving mentally challenged adults something to do outside of the facilities that they live in. Also, he and his girl-friend foster pets waiting on adoption – while working and attending college. My daughter fights for every downtrodden kid in the Universe and also volunteers with the same agencies as her brother. So other than the need to save their soul, would my aunt give a damn whether or not they believe in a mystical being, and belong to an organization that believes the earth is only 6000 years old?
    Glad their are like-minded souls in the world :)
    I throughly enjoy your posts.

    • @Gena Gaddis. Thank you for sharing. It is really good to hear about young people who have been raised without religion and are making a difference. And yes- the 9 year old no doubt did not come to her decision on her own.

  7. As a practicing Christian, I am a little confused on why you and some of your followers have issues with the teachings of Jesus Christ? One example, can non-believers really disagree with James 1:27? Or anything in the book of James? Actually, anything in the NT?

    The blog I just finished up took me through the Bible with non-believers from Genesis to Revelation. It was a very peaceful blog so I pray that I can join this one without side comments or mis-informed facts on Christianity…but we will see I guess.

    • There isn’t anything wrong with the teachings of Jesus. He taught us to ‘treat others as you wish to be treated’. So did Gandhi, Buddha, Muhammad and many other great people throughout history. This doesn’t mean any of them were a god or any form of a god. Just people who taught that people should take care of each other.

      • @Anonymous And I agree with you: “There isn’t anything wrong with the teachings of Jesus. He taught us to ‘treat others as you wish to be treated’. So did Gandhi, Buddha, Muhammad and many other great people throughout history. This doesn’t mean any of them were a god or any form of a god. Just people who taught that people should take care of each other.’

      • “So did Gandhi, Buddha, Muhammad and many other great people throughout history.”

        A derailment:
        I think you can remove muhammad from that list, because according to the violent history of the spreading of islam, he forced people to believe in allah and killed or ordered his followers to kill those who refused to believe. To kill people is not a good thing.

        • In much of the Bible, especially the Old Testament, there are laws that command that people be killed for absurd reasons such as working on the Sabbath, being gay, cursing your parents, or not being a virgin on your wedding night. Jesus didn’t teach this and neither did Muhammad. Only the books written after their deaths supported these notions.

    • “As a practicing Christian, I am a little confused on why you and some of your followers have issues with the teachings of Jesus Christ?”

      If you think you have to believe in a god to do good things, you’re wrong. You do not need to believe in a god to live a happy, good life with good moral. You do not need to believe in a god to do good things to other people.

      It is not only the teachings in the NT I as an atheist have trouble accepting. It is the whole concept of religion, the idea that there is an invisible guy in the sky that has created the whole universe and all in it and that say you have to believe in him or elles you’re lost and going to hell.

      I also have trouble to accept the idea of an afterlife. I see the bible and all other so called “holy” books only as results of their authors vivid imagination and their desire to have an instrument of power they could use to discipline people. And it is really no proof of any gods existence, it is only old thoughts, ideas, dreams, fantasies and fairytales written in a book.

      • Met states: If you think you have to believe in a god to do good things, you’re wrong.

        Nope thats not what Im saying…close though. I might tackle the Christian definition/idea of a “whole good deed” after I post a few more times…but to answer your question…Thats not what I’m saying.
        How did you even read that? Seven minutes just passed and still trying to figure out why and how you read that. And very interesting that you re-worded my statement/question, never answering my question then preceded to answer your own question.

        Why do some have issues if someone wants to raise children to the teachings of Jesus Christ?
        “treat others on how you want to be treated”
        “love your enemies”
        He even tells us to pay or taxes.

        @Metron
        You stated:
        It is not only the teachings in the NT I as an atheist have trouble accepting.

        I pray that its none of the above that I mentioned. Although if you want to stay mad at the world, thats on you. I’m honestly sorry if Christians upset you.

        @Deb
        (half-joking…again) I’m going to get you to capitalize God at least once…even if you use God at the beginning of a sentence.

    • @James 1:27 If that’s pure religion, I’m all for it. The problems come when people believe that not only does a god exist but that Jesus was his son and we must believe in him or suffer for eternity in hell. I have no idea what you personally believe, but the NT seems pretty clear on that. If you want to cherry pick or water down that message to something more palatable, fine, but once you do, the whole necessity to believe in the first place kinda disappears.

  8. When I say “followers”, I mean blog followers

  9. I know this is about 4-years late but did you ever answer Clifton on your “about” blog? You linked it to a wordpress but that page expired, he makes a great point.
    I was just curious to read your response.

    • Clifton´s question was not great, it did not have a point and above all it was not a question. It was a snide assassination attempt learned from cretin website methinks.

      I cannot for anything that is good in this world understand how the pious can even think that we unbelievers were void of morals just because we do not accept JC as our saviour or Yahweh as a head honcho.

      People were very well capable of living without killing or stealing from each other prior to religions AND totally capable of committing those even after they have been told that Yahweh wants you dead if you wear polyester/cotton mix.

    • @James I agree with Konsta and Metron, and I’m not sure that my response to Clifton will add anything. But, here is what was posted several years ago. BTW, Clifton’s comment shows a superficial understanding of human nature, but it is this mindset that is prerequisite to religious belief:

      Clifton, I have no problem posting your comment. Thank you for taking the time to write. The question you ask is an interesting one. Since I know there are some really smart atheists and agnostics–much smarter than I–who might read this, I’m going to welcome them to comment on this very common, long-standing question of: How can atheists and agnostics be moral?

      Clifton’s Comment:

      I’m not sure I understand your position…in one statement, you say there is no god, and thus no absolute truth, but in another statement, you say that we should live “ethical” lives. So, who defines what is ethical and what is not?…please don’t reply with “well, we all agree murder is wrong”, because in many times throughout history (especially in evolutionary development), killing was the way to determine which species was more developed than others. So, who determines this?…I mean, if there is no god, and no ethical standard that I would need to live by, then what keeps me from living the way I want, and killing anyone/everyone I don’t like…if you say this is wrong, then wouldn’t you be the “intolerant” person you keep saying that religious people are like?…

      And, please post my comment and don’t be some “bigot” and “intolerant” person that you claim others are and you aren’t…

      My response:

      I don’t recall ever saying “There is no god.” That statement has too much certainty for me, and I just do not know. I do say that we cannot know if there is a god. Quite frankly, I doubt that a god(s) exists, and if (s)he does, I believe it is not the god we have come to know in the bible. (Not sure where you read “bigot” either, but that was not my comment. )

      Do you really need religion to “stop” you from killing or living as you want? I hope not. That is a very limited way of seeing the world. You can kill if you want to, right? I’m sure we can come up with quite a few serial killers who were Christians, such as the BTK killer.

      I believe that my morality is actually stronger because it is my own, because I do not think someone is looking over my shoulder. I have only my conscience to guide me. How do we grow this internal morality? It is complex.

      I agree. Killing is not wrong according to the universe’s laws. (The universe is neither moral nor immoral.) Killing is part of the natural order of things. But we have evolved into societies with laws, ideals and “morals.” Morals come from several places: 1. We are born with a tendency to be “moral” (as defined by humans). That’s why babies learn to smile, not frown. 2. We are taught morality by our parents (hopefully). That’s why children are taught to respect others. 3. We learn morality from school and our friends. That’s where children learn to share. 4. We examine our own beliefs and set up a framework of what is right and wrong. Some of us never move into this phase.

      My morals are not the same as yours, no doubt, but I believe they benefit a higher good.

      • Kind of half joking here but you stated:

        Clifton’s comment shows a superficial understanding of human nature, but it is this mindset that is prerequisite to religious belief:

        Do you have any evidence to back this claim up?

        On a more serious note you stated:

        I believe it is not the god we have come to know in the bible. (Not sure where you read “bigot” either, but that was not my comment. )

        In the NT, God is a loving God. It feels like you personally have the same issues that the first Christians had, which is part of the reason why they broke away from the jewish tradition and followed a loving Jesus.

        • @James 1:27 “In the NT, God is a loving God. It feels like you personally have the same issues that the first Christians had, which is part of the reason why they broke away from the jewish tradition and followed a loving Jesus.”

          Patti & deo can address this in more detail since they are both professors and immersed in the history of religion. I’ll just offer what I know from my studies.

          It would be impossible for us to “have the same issues that the first Christians had.” The single biggest reason why people moved from worshipping many gods to worshipping one god was that they needed a more personal god. Living conditions were awful. It’s hard for us to understand, in a nation where even our poorest have enough food, energy, water and healthcare to survive. In spite of all the bad stories we hear, we are actually living in one of the most enlighten and least violent times in history. We’re pretty damn safe compared to how our ancestors lived.

          It was not a simple transition. The Roman Catholic Church (the original Christian Church) was immersed in paganism, taking their holy days, rituals and attitudes. Magic was a big part of the church for a long time, and it still is, albeit less so and less obviously so.

          Stepping back, you can see that the institution of religion is evolving; it is changing as we (as a society and individuals) change. And it doesn’t happen all at once; this evolution of attitudes about religion and god is like a wave or even several small waves. Religion is already playing a much smaller role in our lives. In other countries–where Konsta lives–religion is hardly an issue at all. We are headed that way. It’s just taking a little time.

          For you, the NT and OT are your authority, your law. We do not recognize it as such. It’s nothing more than a collection of tales, fables and perhaps, historical tidbits.

  10. A few things:

    First, I love your sarcasm :)

    Second, my oldest – my only teenager at this point in time – is a total mama’s boy! Okay, not in front of other people, but in private, the boy loves his mom. My husband tells me, “You know you’re his best friend, right?” Well, I don’t know about that, but we are close, and I absolutely treasure it because I know it’s not something I’ll be able to count on with my other kids necessarily. Not that my teenage son doesn’t drive me crazy or piss me off sometimes – he does.

    Anyway, I appreciate what you say about letting them come to their own conclusions. I think that’s important because then they own it, you know? It’s interesting with my teen – even a year or so ago, he would tell me, “I don’t know what I think of god and all that stuff. I’m undecided.” Now he identifies himself atheist. He’s aware of my views and my husband’s views, but we’ve never tried to push it on him or his siblings – we just discuss things from time to time, and try to discuss from different angles. I’m not sure why he’s suddenly decided that he’s atheist – no doubt our view have influenced him, and I suspect the fact that his girlfriend is atheist is also quite an influence, but I’d also like to think that he’s thought it out and come to his own conclusion.

    In any case, he seems to be pretty capable of discussing these issues with other people who don’t share his views. He has a good friend who is from an evangelical Christian family, and the two of them regularly debate religious topics, and it seems that they both remain mature and respectful about it. My son also told me about a time not long ago when he was walking home from school and was approached by two Mormon missionaries, and he listened to their whole shpiel about the golden plates and Joseph Smith and the Native Americans and whatnot, and then he calmly posed some intelligent questions to them about what they had presented him with. When he relayed to whole exchange to me, I was actually a little dumbfounded at how well he had handled it – probably better than I would have.

    • @Lisa Sarcasm? I was serious! :) Your son sounds like he has his sh*t together. It’s funny–those Mormon missionaries were probably not much older than your son. I wonder how they reacted to your son’s questions. Who knows, he may have planted a little seed of doubt. Here in TX, it’s a big deal when a kid identifies as atheist. There is one girl who has “outed” herself in high school, and I think a lot of kids were not too friendly towards her.

  11. Getting children to think for themselves is an uphill battle. Last night we had a wicked lightning storm. The rain was coming down in sheets. My 18 year old son wanted to go out and run around in the downpour. He loves the rain. I pointed out to him that there was lightning and that since our bodies are about 60% water, we are basically ‘lightning rods’. So I thought it wasn’t such a good idea.
    He returned to his room and reported to his friends that “my father said I couldn’t go outside”.
    This statement got me thinking. Why am I the ‘bad guy’? So I confronted him.
    I asked him how many brains did we have between the 2 of us. He probably wanted to answer 1 (his own) but he agreed that there were 2. Then I asked why he needed my brain to figure out if he should go run around in a lightning storm. This stopped him dead in his tracks. I could see the wheels turning and an understanding reveal itself.
    Hopefully this understanding was to use his own brain and think about consequences before acting.

    • @Anonymous That was an great approach you took with your 18yo

    • @ Lighting storm story…
      I dont want to focus on this story too much but I ran in lighting storms on golf courses all the time growing up, never once got struck,. Perhaps you should have explained the benefits of running around in a Lighting Storm (don’t knock it until you try it…its a blast…especially when the hair stands up on your arm when your sliding on the green) and the true odds of getting struck. How the odds change near power cables and trees. Break it down more…near oak trees, pine…then out in the open…and where you live.
      Did you know that talking on the phone is the number one reason why people get struck by lighting in the house. http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2004/06/0623_040623_lightningfacts.html
      Perhaps if he knew the odds were so slim he would have ran out there.
      my question to you:
      When he reported back to his friend that he wasn’t going…did he use the phone…if he did, that was a greater risk than sending him out there…just saying.

      I only rant in unorganized thought about baseball and fun childhood memories like lighting storms. This is not the norm…feel free to delete if you want Deborah.

  12. Deborah, I love this post! My daughter will be 15 in a few weeks so I’m right there with you. She declared herself atheist about a year and half ago but I attribute that decision, not so much to what I did or didn’t teach her but to what she saw and heard from other kids at school. A kid told that Christianity was “better” than any other religion and anyone who worshiped any other God was going to hell. All that did was make her mad. “How could all those other religions be wrong?” She can’t stand for anyone to be treated unfairly and regularly stands up for kids at school who are being teased for whatever reason. I know that most of that comes from her experiences with her younger brother who has cerebral palsy. She has and will always be an advocate for people who are different.

    We certainly have our moments and I’m sure the next few years will be touch and go as she starts high school next week. But I’ve always told her that as long as we communicate, and recognize when there is a break in communication, we’ll be okay. Because sometimes that “pause” button will really get us in trouble.

    • @Tracy I think that is so true–as long as communication continues between parents and kids, you can still have a big influence in their lives. It’s interesting that your daughter can see the big picture–one religion is not “better” than the others–when so many adults can’t. It gives us hope that our children might usher in a new perspective on religion. Thank you for sharing.

      • @deb and tracy
        Just so you know…Christians are taught in the NT to accept all religions…God calls us to all different religions. So I am sorry that “that Christian Girl” said that…John 14:34-35 one of my faves James 1:27 to name a few.
        Interesting thought though Tracy…Where did the girl say that other religions were wrong, she just said one was better than the other. And remember I disagree with her saying it…but she did not say they were wrong. Just saying.

        • @James I also know from sitting in church not long ago (same one the girl goes to) that some Christians also believe that “anyone who isn’t Christian is going to hell”. (southern Baptist)

          The girl also told my daughter that all Muslims were terrorists. The tone of her declaration was that Christianity was the only religion worth following, that all the others got you a direct ticket to hell, therefore they were the WRONG religions to follow.

          This is what the girl is being taught and that type of intolerance is what my daughter took objection too. When my daughter had asked me about religion in the past, I always gave her the “Well, X religion believes this, but XX religion believes this” speech. I wanted to give her as much information as possible so that she would learn to think critically about the issue and decide on her own.

          I hope this answers your question.

        • No, James 1:27, “just so you know”, Christians are NOT taught to accept all religions in the New Testament in the Bible. Jesus clearly states in the Gospels that He is the way and no one comes to the Father, but by Him. This is a common theme throughout the Gospels and the teachings of Paul in his Epistles to the Church (followers of Christ, called “The Way” at the time) after Christ’s existence on the earth. It is also made clear throughout those sections of the NT, as well as the book of Hebrews, that accepting His atonement, blood shed, the cross, and His resurrection are the only way to eternity in heaven. As far as I’m concerned, all of that gives ammunition to Christians to think that they’re better than or holier than all other religions and the non religious. I’m sure that you can pull out a scripture here or there to support your claim, but they are outweighed by chapter upon chapter of the very opposite notion. “Dividing the word” is simply a fancy way to say “cherry pick”, and that’s probably the biggest issue with Christianity that all of us have who follow this blog. Many of us are here because we studied the Bible, prayed excessively, and attended Church consistently for we were doing all we could to remain in the Faith. However, continuing to do all of those things is what led to our doubts, resulting in our de-conversions. We’re former Christian moms and dads, Bible College graduates, former intercessors, teachers of religion, ex-pastors and former missionaries. I assure you, we know what the Bible reads, and what the Church teaches. I know that you and other Christians think that we all left the Church because we got tired of being treated like shit, (and think that your kindness will lead us to repentance, causing us to go back to Jesus). As big as all of that was/is, many of continued on as Christians because we didn’t want to punish God for his people acting like asses. At some point, we realized that it was much more complicated than that and left.

        • @James 1:27 Charity spoke well for what I believe, too, and for how we all got to the place we are. Not sure what your intentions are. You’re welcome to join any conversation, but please remember that we are not trying to convert you and we don’t want you to try to convert us.

  13. Nicole Hauerwas

    a good kids without religion post.

    On 5 August 2013 16:41, Kids Without Religi

  14. Debbie thanks for sharing such a personal story. You have a talent for writing… I felt like I was in the car with you and your son through the whole conversation!

    I have to say one thing that stuck with me is I was impressed with your son’s empathy. He said “I understand that people want somebody to talk to when they’re all alone or worried about someone they love”. Well – for me anyway God is definitely more than that – but it still shows a lot that your son *attempted* to understand the other side, rather than just saying “those believers are all a bunch of f&*%ng idiots”. It speaks to his maturity (most teenage boys I assume are not very empathetic) and also to your success in trying to teach him to have an open mind.

    In addition to gently guiding our children to what we believe is the right path (non-belief for you, Catholicism for me) I think it’s also important to teach them that people of different belief systems are not necessarily better, worse, or wrong, and to always speak about such people with respect and empathy. After all we’re all in this together, whether we want to be or not. ;-)

    • @Molly Love this: “I think it’s also important to teach them that people of different belief systems are not necessarily better, worse, or wrong, and to always speak about such people with respect and empathy. After all we’re all in this together, whether we want to be or not.” We’re also fortunate that we have the awareness and the ability to choose. :)

  15. Oh and also, I think there are actually studies that prove children are “worse” for their parents. No, I don’t have any references on hand. But I read something once that said children give their best and their worst to their parents because they feel “safe” with them to fully express their very best and very worst. That made me feel better because like you, I have had everyone tell me what perfect angels my children are… but…. I rarely see it myself. ;-)

    • @Molly I just read your comment about kids giving parents their best and their worst. I’ve heard that before, too, and I really hope that’s true. I guess I will know in about 10 years, and you will know in a little longer than that! :)

  16. James 1:27 says, “As a practicing Christian, I am a little confused on why you and some of your followers have issues with the teachings of Jesus Christ?” It’s not really the teachings of Jesus that we have a problem with. Mahatma Gandhi said, “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” Jesus, if he actually existed, supposedly taught loving your neighbor as yourself, and taking care of the poor and downtrodden. Not hatred, bigotry, and xenophobia.

    • @Kathy I love that quote – “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”

    • I use that quote a lot too. Usually Christians who follow Jesus first then the OT are more patient and are less likely to say a non-believer is going to hell….like Jesus said…”who are we to judge”

  17. Hey Debbie,

    Great story!

    Just a few days ago I watched “Little House on the Prairie” with my little boys. It was the first episode, “Harvest of Friends”. It was really good, and both my boys seemed to enjoy watching my favorite childhood show with me.

    One scene shows Charles going to sleep as he was getting ready for church. Caroline lets him rest and takes the girls to church. Rev. Aldon scopes the room and notices that mostly women and children are present. He then talks about how we are all sinners, but those who do not honor the Sabbath (absentee husbands and dads that Sunday) are even bigger sinners. Naturally, Mary and Laura are ashamed by the sermon because they love Pa and their God. At that moment, without one sound from me, my eight year old shakes his head side to side. He says “Church really isn’t THAT big of a deal.” I almost fell out of my seat! I looked at him and paused for a moment and calmly said “no, it isn’t.” I didn’t fully understand that until I was almost five times his age! I was so stinkin’ proud of him, He just gets it, and I hope he never forgets it.

    Thanks for another great post.

  18. A bit tangentially relates, but you might want to share this story with your son re: riding on the outside of the car. This horrible accident happend up the road from us this spring…just one week before high school graduation. And all I keep thinking is, what the heck is wrong with these kids?!? Don’t they think? (no, unfortunaltely they do not.) Tthe driver is facing charges. Two lives ruined, but one life lost. Maybe this will get thought to him. Good luck. http://www.arlnow.com/2013/06/04/breaking-man-clinging-to-life-following-skateboarding-accident/

    • @Helene Thanks for sharing this. I read about that accident. I was really sorry to hear about that. I hope these stories will make a difference not only to my kid, but all kids….

  19. I would consider his response a resounding success – he’s using his brain and making his own decisions. My middle son has been invited to a friend’s church on Sunday (long story, scout-related) and I’m wondering how that will turn out. Not that he will be “saved” or anything, but what stories he comes home with. He is in about the same place as your boys with regard to religion or lack thereof, and as long as he continues to think, then I’m happy.

  20. I have been following your blog for a while now and this story really hit home and my son is only 7 ( going on 37 – thinking he is all knowing of the world but can’t yet tie his own shoes. ) Your insights and approach to parenting has been a great inspiration and I just wanted to say Thank you from one Free Thinking Mother to another.

  21. I applaud your 15-year old son in thinking about God and the Bible for himself, and you for encouraging such reflection. There is, however, one objective error in what he expressed about the Bible which should be corrected. Namely, that “the stories of the Bible don’t really flow.” I take that statement to mean that he doesn’t see any connectivity between individual Bible stories. Such a conclusion can be arrived at only by reading the Bible piecemeal, one story at a time here and there. If one starts at the beginning and moves forward systematically, he or she will find that it traces one family line throughout, hence providing astounding continuity and connectivity (or “flow”) between stories.

    This is well worth the time to investigate further.

    Sincerely,
    Jim

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