A fellow blogger and nonbeliever has a dilemma. I’d like to pose his question to our community since I know that not all will agree with my answer and may be able to offer alternative ideas for Jason. The same solution does not work for everyone.

Jason writes about the Vacation Bible School (VBS) dilemma for his 6-year-old here. His wife thinks it’s harmless for their daughter to attend this summer; he thinks it’s not as innocuous as it seems, that it’s brainwashing disguised as fun. Should he allow her to go or stand his ground?

Here are my thoughts:

As many of you know from my blog, my ex-husband is Baptist and has taken my kids to church on and off for over 10 years. (My youngest was 2 and my oldest was 5 when we split.) I’d be lying if I said that it didn’t bother the hell out of me that my ex- was taking my kids to all these things when he knew I was agnostic and didn’t want to indoctrinate the kids. (My views bothered him, too, understandably.)

So I had to take a different approach since I didn’t have any input when it came to time spent with Dad. However, I think it’s worked out pretty well for us–or, at least, for how I wanted my kids to approach religion.

When they were young, my kids went to all the churchy things, including a laying on of hands for a troubled elementary school girl. (That was a real eye-opener for them.) When they came home, I’d asked them all sorts of questions. “What did you think about your experience? What did you learn? Does that make sense? Do you see any similarities in believing in God and believing in Santa, the Tooth Fairy or Unicorns? Can we have fun with characters that are make-believe (think: Mickey Mouse)? Can we scare people with things that are make-believe (think: witches and ghosts)? Do people have to believe the same things? Why or why not? How do we know what someone tells us is true? What questions do you have? Do you ever make up stories? How will your friends know if what you tell them is true or not?” These are the questions (and many more) I’ve asked over the years, and my dialogue with my kids still continues. I try to ask them more than I tell them, especially as they grow older. They don’t want me telling them what to do nor what to think.

I agree with one of Jason’s commenters–his daughter will be exposed to religion and God throughout her life. My kids certainly were. His daughter’s friends will talk to her about religion–as may teachers (a fact for us). I also think that his wife made a good point–their daughter will start learning now what this whole religion thing is about. It’s going to happen sooner or later, and if he can help her think things through now, she won’t be drawn in by its mystery or by the appeal of the occult. He can sit down with her each day after VBS and talk to her about the stories she’s learning. Tell her that, throughout history, there have been many similar tales. He could tell her (now or later) about the history of religion and how it developed: Early man used god(s) to control other men, to bring order to his world, to explain his surroundings and to calm fears, his own as well as others. Religion has been used for power and control and personal comfort. But man cannot answer the big questions it asks: How did we get here. Where are we going. Who made all this sh*t.

Most of our knowledge is hearsay anyway. So this can be a good learning experience for his daughter because it will teach her to think about what she is learning at school, too. At age 6, I don’t think that a stance either way (to go or not to go) is going to make much of a difference. Unless this VBS dilemma becomes a huge, scary issue, one that Mom and Dad argue about,  she’s not likely to have strong associations. Brainwashing is cumulative and takes many years of unchallenged indoctrination.  I think this would be a great time to start her thinking about the topic of religion.

I happen to agree with Jason that VBS is a sneaky way to slip God in on the sly–with all the friends and fun and talk of love. But I look at it this way: When his daughter starts to drive and has a permit, he’ll be there to teach and guide her. That can be true now, too: Jason can be there to guide his daughter and to prevent her from falling for religion. With his help, her destination won’t be belief; it will be understanding, knowledge and skepticism.

What are your thoughts? VBS or no VBS?


88 responses to “VBS

  1. No VBS – find a summer camp instead.

  2. Erica, that was my first thought too. I would think she could benefit more from some other form of summer program. There are arts, 4-H, programs through local libraries, etc. I don’t mind my children occasionally going to church with their friends. In fact, 2 of my kids went to a church preschool. It was much more religious the second time around though. But still, they were small enough they won’t remember most of it and at the same time, they were getting a good foundation of academics from the teacher. I just think there are a lot of other experiences out there that don’t have to revolve around the bible where she could be in a social/learning environment.

  3. VBS brings up many memories for me. I was raised a staunch Roman Catholic, but my parents willingly let me attend Protestant VBS in order to keep me busy and they thought, eh, what the hell, the Bible is the Bible, right?

    I was already attending Catholic school, and I remember the VBS teachers (counselors, facilitators, whatever) being amazed that a Catholic actually knew something about the Bible. Of course, we now know that atheists and agnostics know more about the Bible than most believers. But I digress …

    Six years old, the age of your friend’s daughter, is awfully young to keep things like this straight. I’m not saying don’t do it, but I can see a young person like that becoming very conflicted about what she experiences during the day and then talks over with parents at night. I also foresee a slip of the tongue on her part during VBS, which could cause her embarrassment or ostracization.

    Good luck!

  4. I agree with you, let her go. As long as you are raising your child to be a critical thinker you won’t have anything to worry about. I actually think it is beneficial for them to experience a little bit of religion as an insider instead of an outsider, it helps develop an understanding for that culture. I am an atheist and I sent my daughter to a catholic school through 3rd grade simply because it is the best school in my town. I haven’t actually come “out of the closet” with her about my atheism because I have an extremely religious mother-in-law that would make our lives a living hell but I have encouraged her to question everything she learns. One day on the way home from school she stated “Mom, sometimes I wonder if people made up this whole God thing to make children behave.” That was a proud day for this mama! Also, my husband, who was raised by the extremely religious mother-in-law, is an atheist in spite of the fact that religion was shoved down his throat his entire life. One VBS is not going to make your child a life long believer.

  5. No way! I’d never have let my kids go to Vacation Bible School. There are multiple other camps, projects, and other things to do during the summer that don’t involve someone brainwashing my kids. Jason, I vote no way.

  6. I agree with Erica. 6 seems very young for something like this. None of my Christian friends or family members would be willing to send their child to an Atheist/Wiccan/Muslim/Jewish version of VBS at that age. 6 year olds are still quite concrete thinkers.

    I think it would be fine for kids a few years older than that who have more experience with abstract thinking and the idea that an adult saying something doesn’t mean it’s true.

  7. My own views were shaped by the exposure to a large variety of viewpoints. As long as bullying to make people toe the line does not occur, it might be an eye-opening experience.

    Properly read, the Bible is the most potent force for atheism ever conceived. ~ Isaac Asimov

    from: http://leftofzen.com/quotes-atheism/2008/01/14/

  8. We were confronted with this very question two weeks ago when the neighbors invited our 6 year old son to VBS. We allowed him to go and he came home saying that he had fun but the stories were “creepy”. I was kind of taken back by his keen sense. This particular mega church is using the theme of “grimopolous” which I know nothing about. From his description it sounded like the same old standard scare tactics. All in all my husband and I thought the vibe of the church was all about generating revenues (followers) rather than creating a community of peace and love etc. We should have just kindly turned them down and went along our way although I am positive my son did not receive any real religious messages because he was so creeped out. He didn’t want to go back the next week.

  9. Wow, Debbie, you gave Jason some great advice that I would have never considered. There are some great comments here as well.

    I am the anti-vbs, I have no issue in admitting that. Here are some questions I would ask Jason:

    What denomination is the church? Southern Baptists are the ultimate vacation bible schoolers! The one nears us, that we had attended for two different periods of time, start VBS on a Monday or Tuesday and end it the following Sunday. That day is for the parents to come with their children to see all that their children have done throughout the week, especially announcements of who got saved over the past few days. Southern Baptists prepare for VBS for a year, as one ends they already have the theme for next year’s program.

    Does Jason know anything about this church, both doctrines and the people? Do they trust these people or are they strangers? Pedophiles aren’t just Catholic priests, this is an issue among different races and religions, seriously.

    What does Jason’s little one know already about faith, Jesus, God, Holy Spirit, and religion? This will be one big outreach on crack for kids for the whole week, can their family handle that? As some have said, maybe this is a way to introduce the god talk to their child, but it may also be a little overwhelming to their six year old.

    Who made the VBS invite? How will does mom and dad know him or her? What is the inviter’s intent? Does that person know the family dynamic?

    Being that VBS is a week long, have Jason and his wife considered their child going for just a day or two?

    I also leave this thought with Jason, his child may just forget experiencing VBS altogether. I was five or six when I went to one and all I remember is the candy, especially the bubble gum. However, that was in Michigan in the 70’s, and I believe it was at a Nazerene church.

    I hope Jason and his family get the answers they need..

  10. I wouldn’t send my kid to VBS.

  11. VBS is clearly an evangelistic event. The church will make no apologies for that. It’s an attempt to reach not only the kids but also the parents who usually come to some kind of final day event. It’s an outreach plain and simple.

    That being said, sending kids to VBS will be the beginning of the preaching (brain-washing).

  12. Patti OSullivan

    I see a bigger issue here than whether or not VBS will harm or hurt an individual child. I stopped sending our kids to VBS because I didn’t want to support the greater institution that hosted it. No, VBS wouldn’t hurt my kids, just as the occasional meal at a fast food restaurant won’t hurt them in the long run. But I don’t believe in supporting industries that promote crappy food. The churches that host VBS usually promote crappy ideas about women and homosexuals. They sometimes support crappy laws that discriminate against women and homosexuals. And they encourage schools and government agencies to adopt crappy policies that lead to an increase in STDs, teen pregnancies, violence against women, LGBT suicide, and a host of other ills. So, Jason, I don’t think letting your daughter go to VBS is harmless. She may not internalize the harmful messages of the church, but some kid will. You won’t change the world by sending her to some other camp, but you at least aren’t supporting an institution that you don’t agree with.

  13. This came up for me today! I am in need of a place for my kids to go on Thursday for 2 & 1/2 hours. I called a friend to see if she could take my kids. She told me that she could but she would taking her kids the huge mega baptist church here in NTX for VBS…and she’d be glad to take mine too!! Oookkkkaaayyy. I call my husband to see what he thinks…I was leaning toward letting her take them because I really need a place for them to go! His thought was No Way! I do have to agree with him. It’s very difficult to be ok with them going and not knowing what they will be confronted with. What if they are uncomfortable? What if other kids find out my kids have never been to church? What if these things make my kids self conscious? So, I decided to send my kids to a 1/2 day gymnastics camp. They will have fun. It will not be religious. I will feel good at the end of the day.
    Before I found this blog…I actually thought that no atheists lived in NTX. I am thankful that I found this “safe place” and I appreciate how normal it is.

  14. I am the Jason. Charity, It was a Southern Baptist church; the woman who invited my daughter we had considered a friend; we’d had her family over to dinner, and we helped her out on several occasions by keeping her kid, but she read my write-up about it and promptly scuttled our “friendship”. She actually blocked me on facebook and wants nothing more to do with my family (she knew we were atheists). Good riddance, as far as I’m concerned. Knowing this woman, I have zero doubts that part of her reasoning for inviting our daughter was to do her good Christian duty and evangelize our daughter.

    Patti O’Sullivan: I had not considered any of your points, but they are powerful. Having read your take on it, that it is wrong to support organizations that sponor hatred (Southern Baptists), I’m thrilled I didn’t send her to VBS. She is going to theater camp next week.

    Thanks, all, for these excellent comments.

    • Jason,
      You and your wife are incredible for handling this situation the way that you have. I saw on your blog where you live and I know how hard it must be for your family. Thank you for your update.

  15. My husband and I had our third child – baby is 5 mos and eldest is 20 (!). About 4 yrs ago we ran a religious non-profit that ended in a firework display of failure that led to a successful exit out of organized religion – lets here it for Xtian drama that beat the shit out and sense into us! Lol!
    Anyway – since then – we decided most joyfully to raise our son to think for himself with no applaud or neigh toward religion. We feel that if we say negative things then we are as lousy as those who say negative things about agnostics or atheists or “non-believers” (I hate that term because we are all Atheist or Agonostic toward SOMETHING as we all believe in something as well).
    Let our child grow up respecting how others think. Let him be one of the few who DOESN’T need to crap all over someone else’s parade (even if we view it as make-believe) just so he can feel somehow superior.
    We all gotta work it out for ourselves don’t we?
    As for VBS – as a one-time-religious-nut – I do believe that all that is taught to our little ones creates neuropathways that eventually manifest themselves in some pretty fantastic ways. As long as the loving parent is guiding child to be thoughtful and to healthfully rebel against any sort of dogma – then I think it won’t hurt. That does NOT mean ;that the teachings at a young age are somehow cancelled out., Allowing your child to be under the sway of any dogma you are uncomfortable with takes some serious consideration.
    Proceed with caution.


  16. Children’s ministries make me cringe but that’s mainly because I came from the Assemblies of God where the whole attitude is “get ’em while their young,” aka- brainwashing. I think kids have a right to chose for themselves what they want to believe so denominations that are hell-bent on saving everyone, I would shy away from. There are some denominations that are not as pushy. My son is very gullible and naive so I have elected not to send him to that sort of thing. Other kids might be more critical and inquisitive like other commenters have mentioned. It all depends on the kid and the church. I went to a sweet little Baptist church for vbs when I was a kid and ended up an atheist after 10 years being a Christian. Good luck!

  17. I totally agree with you. I don’t like the idea of VBS telling my daughters who are 11 and 3 that they are sinners because seriously how much sin can they have committed? :p My MIL loves taking them though so I allow it. The girls love the catchy songs and the activities they do and the crafts. I will talk to my girls afterwards and with my oldest we get into some good conversations. I would rather take my daughters to more storytimes at the library or camps, but it is a few hours a day for a week. I figure I can do some damage control to that. 🙂

    • I appreciate your approach, but what about next year, and the next year, and then they want to go to Sunday School w/ your MIL, and then….. ????

      It’s kind like those little Princess Birthday Statues that you buy for your kids at Hallmark. The age 1 statue is $1.99, Age 2-5 remain pretty cheap. Then you’re hooked — You can’t stop now… by the time you get to 16 they’re like $50 each.

      They get the kids going with simple little games, color sheets, and singing time all the while they’re delivering the message.

      Food for thought….

      • @Dennis. I agree. It was my understanding this was a special request from a friend. As parents, we guard our kids carefully-their bodies and their brains. Exposure to other ideas and other’s views seems ok. Brainwashing isn’t.

  18. Wow. This is a great dialogue and thoughtful comments from all. I knew, as a divorced parent, my perspective would not be the same. I had to accept VBS (there’s a CHARGE for that?), and keeping the peace for me was important. I didn’t want conflict with the other parent and more heartache for my kids.

    I have to tell you guys this: I was working on a post about something similar today, and I am laughing as I write this (though some may not think it is funny). My 18 yo is volunteering at a Baptist VBS this week. One of his teammates asked him to help out with the tennis part of the camp. The kids are middle-school aged. I asked my kid why he volunteered, and he said, “Because **** asked me to.” He shrugged. “It’s no big deal.” So a nonbeliever has infiltrated their ranks, and they don’t even know it. Which made me wonder–how many people who fill the pews, who help out in church camps or with other programs, really don’t believe? I’m sure they all have their reasons….

    • Deborah, I know a prominent citizen in our community who admitted that the only reason she goes to church is because of “appearances”. Your right, there are many more people than we think who masquerade in church so that they can contribute to the community in other ways.

  19. I’ll add to this that part of the reason I’ve asked for advice is that I reserve room for doubt if I possibly can, so I ask myself if I am wrong quite often. I have no illusions that I cannot always shelter her, nor do I want that, but I feel like I have to pick my battles, make decisions in an attempt to do what is best for my daughter.

    Also, this was the first time my wife and I disagreed over one of these decisions. Neither of us are believers, so we are on the same page as far as that goes, but I’ve seen that just because we are philosophically similar doesn’t mean we won’t disagree about how best to parent.

    This has opened a conversation between us about parenting and shone some light on how we see our roles as parents. This is a good thing because these dilemmas are only going to become more frequent as our daughter grows.

    For the first time, I’ve seen the importance of these kinds of blogs and communities, and I feel enriched for having reached out to the atheist/agnostic parenting community. Thanks again for the input. It helps.

    • @Jason. Thank you for sharing. Other parents can relate and/or may face this issue, too.

      It seems agreement on the big points (you both don’t believe) is most important, but it takes a lot of courage to debate these topics within a marriage.

  20. My kids went to Catholic School, which included a religion class and a mass each week. It didn’t faze them as far as what they (don’t) believe. And it was a great educational experience. We have to be careful, as non-believers, that we don’t get as paranoid as many believers about exposing their children to other belief systems. Would I send them to a Vacation Bible School? No, because I think it’s a waste of valuable summer family time! But if she doesn’t have control, then no sense in stressing over it. Just like he doesn’t have control over how she speaks logically to her child when she is with her. There’s nothing to say that she can’t break down each one of the myths the child is being taught in their time together.

  21. My knee jerk reaction was to say “No way.” I personally despise how church and God are packaged and marketed to kids. However, I think Deborah’s position is very rational. Another thought: what about explaining VBS to your daughter in plain terms, and ask her if she wants to go?

  22. To be honest, I can’t personally imagine anything called a “vacation bible school” located in Mississippi as anything other than a thinly veiled attempt at early indoctrination. True, any American child who doesn’t live under a rock is going to learn about Christianity simply by way of osmosis, so there may be some merit to going ahead with this and getting it over with … but I myself wouldn’t take this approach. Leaving the means through which such concepts are introduced in the hands of people who have a clear vested interest in one particular outcome is too risky for my taste.

    That said, I’m not clear if this is more of a camp or a school type setup. From what I gather in the comments, she’ll be coming home every night. If this is the case, then I see far more flexibility in being able to mitigate the potential effects of any kind of long-term exposure to this stuff.

    Bottom line, I agree with Jason for all of the arguments he already presented.VBS isn’t “harmless” and there are other ways to socialize.

  23. If we’re raising our children to be free thinkers, we shouldn’t be worried that some bible school is going to brainwash them. I enrolled my daughter in VSB one summer when she was in kindergarten. She didn’t “get” it. Then she was in Girls Scouts and they had a special day once a year where the girls went to church. She didn’t “get” that either. Then she attended a most awesome summer day camp (go karts-climbing walls-pool etc) that happened to be Christian run. She loved it except for the bible reading part. It made her uncomfortable. We didn’t try and sway her in any direction. She made up her own mind. Religion was not for her. We feel better for having exposed her to a little of it rather than forbid it which might have made it seem more attractive, (if that makes any sense).

  24. Why should children be used as guinea-pigs? You don´t expose a child to Hell´s Angels hoping that criminality would not stick either (and no, I do not exaggerate comparing the two)
    Every child is born an unbeliever – that is the natural way to be.

  25. Personally I think 6 is too young to be a huge critical thinker with the way religion is presented at such places. I went through a phase of trying to be more willing to go to different types of events and I went to a “MOPS” meeting (stupid me, didn’t know it was apparently a religious based group) with my neighbor. I didn’t get anything out of the mom time, but when I picked my daughter up from the kids playtime next door she had a cute little ocean craft and the woman told her to tell me what is was, my daughter said, “The ocean.” Then the woman asked her, “and who made the ocean?” and my daughter looked at her, looked at me, and said “God.” That was just 60 minutes of “playtime!” Promptly gave my daughter a rundown on religious beliefs, probably not in a very helpful way for her five year old mind, but I was pretty wound up! I think there are plen of ways kids are exposed to religion without what I see to be the indoctrination approach of a VBS.

    • @Rhya LOL. I bet that was a shock for you when your daughter answered, “God.”

      My kids went to a private (religious) preschool and kindergarten and public school after that. But they still heard lots of stories about God and the devil. Can’t get away from that around here!

  26. I love reading your posts. You come off as clear, rational, and intelligent. It’s nice to know that I am not alone as an atheist parent. My daughter (now 18) was not raised with religion. Although I don’t believe in god and feel that religion is the cause of most of the misery in this world, there have been times when I felt guilty for not exposing her to religion so she could make up her own mind. I agree with your comment that Jason’s daughter will be exposed to religion during her life. My daughter came home from high school one day and said that they were examining the bible as literature. She lamented the fact that she didn’t know any of the stories that they were discussing, even though her Muslim, Jewish, and Buddhist classmates did!

    Although I’d love to see religion done away with, the fact is that religion has been around for centuries, and probably will be around for the foreseeable future. Giving our kids the tools to examine and critically think about different topics helps them navigate the many challenges of life, including religion.

    • @Jan Thanks for writing. I agree–my first choice would be to do away with religion, though I do see how much comfort it brings people. My second choice would be to have religion kept to the places where it belongs (church or the home). On the other hand, it does make for interesting study….

  27. We had this same dilemma a couple of weeks ago and I actually searched this site and online for discussions (didn’t really find much). Our son is 5, soon to be 6. His best friend is going to vbs at a church of Christ and I considered sending my son, but we decided not to. My son attended a Methodist run preschool and even went to kindergarten there, so he’s been exposed to religion. I think this age is tough. He is old enough to understand about religion, but not really old enough to know he can think what he wants and not what someone tells him. He told us that be believes in God when he’s at school (i.e. when someone is telling him about God), but not at home (where I tell him that we don’t know if there is a God, bible stories are just stories, we decide for ourselves etc.)
    Even if it as an option, we would not continue to send him to a religious school because of his age. My husband made the point that vbs will be hours of religious doctrine being pushed onto our son, while school’s main focus was learning with a little religion thrown in. Maybe in a couple of years once he understands better we’ll let him go if he wants to, but for now we want to limit the brain washing.

    I was also struggling with a decision about my younger son, who’s about to turn 3. I was planning on keeping him home with me next school year and then send him to the same Methodist preschool next year. However, I found a church that offered just one day preschool and I liked the idea of having that one day to go to my older child’s school to help out, have lunch with him etc. The problem is that this preschool is in a church of Christ church and there were pictures of Jesus, bible stories plastered all over the walls of the classrooms. With some trepidation, I went ahead and signed him up, since at age 3, everything is just a fun story (Jesus, Santa, superman all seem as real or fake as each other). I’m still not comfortable with this decision, but I’ll pull him out of there if if I don’t like it, and he go elsewhere next year.

    • @Louise If you ever have a question e-mail me, and I’d be more than happy to ask the community. I took 8 years worth of posts down a few months ago. I actually did talk about VBS a few summers back.

      It seems to me that mom and dad being united in their decision is most important! It makes for a peaceful family.

      If it makes you feel any better, my kids went to a Methodist preschool and then a Presbyterian kindergarten. (The only preschools we had back then were through the churches and they were more helpful than harmful.) I just kept talking and talking and talking to them.

      • I almost did email you, but didn’t know if you answer individual questions. I’m so glad my husband and I agree on this topic. I have no regrets about sending my oldest to the church school. It is a wonderful and caring environment and I also felt my child was safe there. Of course people do then assume we are religious, but there aren’t really any other preschool options here.

        Reading these comments also made me confident in our decision about vbs, so thank you.

  28. This is an extremely well written piece. You helped your children by teaching them skepticism. Question the things that are around you. Find logical, provable facts to support what you believe. This has probably led them to the point where they are able to deduce and explain why they do believe or don’t believe something.

    In this post, you pose a serious question. As a single father, recently concluded a divorce, I find myself in the same kind of situation where I believe one thing and my ex believes another thing. This has forcibly placed my six year old daughter at a crossroads. Who do I believe? My mommy? Or my daddy? She feels that she has to choose between us, because that’s the position where her mother placed her. This seems to be the position where your ex-husband placed your children when you separated and divorced.

    I have tried to find ways to reconcile the situation in my daughters mind. It’s okay to choose nothing. You don’t have to choose what mommy thinks. You don’t have to choose what daddy thinks. Her mom makes her feel like she can’t love me or my family members while she is with her mom. I tell her it’s okay for her to love everyone on both sides (I specifically name all the family members).

    Her mom is on the extreme side of the spectrum where religion is concerned. I see the damage that it can do inside of a child. I see the hurt it can cause the life of the person practicing and all the lives around them.

    True Christianity isn’t an occult. It’s not a group of people who are superior because they believe in Jesus Christ. It’s not a group of people who have secrets or knowledge that’s not available to outsiders. The God that I believe in is a universal God. He doesn’t play favorites. Life, whether good or bad, happens to everyone. It doesn’t matter if you’re a good person or bad person. It doesn’t matter if you believe in Him and serve Him.

    It is a religion that is meant to inspire the good in people. To move them to help those around them.

    I sincerely apologize to you all on the behalf of everyone who calls themself a Christian, but represents something totally opposite.

    As to answer your question about whether to send your child to VBS or not. This is the answer I supply. The Bible gives instruction to those who attempt to evangelize. It teaches us not to use worldly entertainment to entice people to give their life to Jesus Christ and to join our Church. So, truthfully, all VBS programs are dishonoring what the Bible actually says, which invalidates what they’re trying to do. So, I choose not to send my daughter. Instead, we watch movies at home and play games at home.

    • LanceThruster


      I sincerely apologize to you all on the behalf of everyone who calls themself a Christian, but represents something totally opposite.

      This actually means quite a lot to me. When one encounters Christians who seem to represent nothing that might resemble Christ’s teachings, it’s hard for a non-believer to point out that their behavior is anything but Christian (though sadly, their behavior is often quite typical). When it comes to issues of doctrine, one might as well be debating how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. At some point, we will learn as a society to treat each other with compassion, consideration, and respect as the default position. What unites us should always be far greater than what separates us.

      • Very nice, LT: “At some point, we will learn as a society to treat each other with compassion, consideration, and respect as the default position. What unites us should always be far greater than what separates us.”

      • By no means am I saying that “Christians are perfect.” We all offend other people with our behavior from time to time. I’m just saying that as a group, Christian’s should be less judgmental.

        I think Christian’s forget that the point of the gospel is to reveal to us our humanity, our nature for failure, mistakes, bad choices so that when we see other people we will realize that we’re all in the same boat together. No one is better than anyone else.

    • Dq, first let me say I’m sorry for your divorce, and I wish you all the best in resolving issues with your ex-wife as you both raise your child.

      You make an excellent point about VBS! When I was a Christian I would absolutely despise all the sales tactics in church, and VBS is certainly one of them. It’s part of the reason why I turned down offers to both volunteer and for my little boys to attend while I was still a believer.

      As a teenager in youth group at an AG church, I was personally offended at all the ways leadership sought to entertain us. I felt as though they were insulting my mind and belittling Jesus. I believe it’s good to have fun, but when a church or ministry focuses on having a good time all the time they are neglecting to assist people in understanding the bible and knowing God.

      It reminds me of a “King of the Hill” episode. Bobby ended up in some kind of touble and Hank thought that it would be a good idea if Bobby hung out with a youth pastor. That guy was one of those “cool” long hair dude types who spoke slang and chillaxed with skaters. Bobby starts wearing a “Satan sucks!” t-shirts. Of course, Hank is upset at the word “sucks”, and freaks out when he sees a pierced cross earring in Bobby’s ear. Bobby tells him that it’s his “witness”. Other things happen, and Hank starts to feel as though Bobby is rebelling more with his new convictions, not less. Finally, at the end of the show Hank pulls out a box with all kinds of fads from the past including a “Members Only” jacket. Bobby laughs at all the mementos. Hank then tells him that he just didn’t want to see “the Lord in this box.”

    • @dqfan2012 Your comment was very moving. I agree with the sentiment expressed by others–you are an incredible spokesperson for Christianity.

      I do feel for you and your daughter-that’s so unfair to put her in a place where she must choose or show loyalty to only one parent. Divorce is hard enough on parents and kids, but I can tell you that things, at least for me, do get easier over time. The anger and hurt subside.

      • My relationship started out bad. We got married fast. We got married for the wrong reasons. I’ve had seven years to deal with my emotions related to my marriage. I can honestly say that I don’t have anger or related to what has happened between my ex and myself.

        I do find it hard to deal with certain things when they involve our daughter. For example, making her feel that she has to choose/show loyalty because someone is wanting to be immature. I decided when my divorce began last year that I would be the adult and voice of reason in my daughters life. While it is hard to pick and choose battles, I will continue to stand strong for my little girl. I learned that if I don’t advocate whats best for her, no one else will or can.

  29. No way. I run into this same argument with my husband. He would like my son to go to weekly youth church towards earning his confirmation. Says it can’t hurt. I don’t want my son involved in any Catholic church activities. While he earned Communion, (I had to compromise), I put my foot down on anything further. So definetely no VBS. Plenty of other ways to spend the Summer around kids w/o this brainwashing.

  30. @dq: You are truly in honor of your faith. I sometimes wish I could portray similar virtues as an unbeliever. Now the best I can do is not to mock people of faith to my kids and live my life hoping that they see that one does not need faith or religion to be good.

  31. It depends on how you want to rear your children, I suppose. Do you want to expose them to all things, give them the freedom to choose what is right for themselves, and have an open dialogue as a parent when they ask tough questions? Do you want to make religion seem forbidden because you don’t believe therefore, almost forcing your non-beliefs on them?

    As I’ve said before, I grew up Church of Christ. I was very, very active in my church as a child and took it very seriously until I was about 17. I had started asking questions at 16, things like “If God made us in his image, why are there pedophiles?” “Because Eve at the apple.” “Well, how is it that God says all sin is the same? I don’t understand how rape and murder is equal to lust in your heart.” “Because those are the rules and you need to pray more because your faith is obviously weak.” “If God gave us all a brain, then why aren’t we allowed to use it by asking questions?” “It’s called faith for a reason.” “If God is a humble and loving God, why does he require us to worship him? That’s opposite of humble” “You are dismissed from class.”

    Now, here I am at 44…with two teenage boys who were baptized Catholic. My youngest attends a Catholic high school and he is openly Agnostic. He doesn’t share this at school, but it is very hard for him to keep his mouth shut in religion class sometimes. My oldest is also agnostic. They both attended public and catholic schools. They both went to church with their father on occasion. They both did VBS.

    We told them when they were growing up that religion was a personal choice. That their father and his family were catholic and I was just human (LOL) and that we would give them the church background but that they needed to choose for themselves. And they have. (Much to their father’s new wife’s chagrin. I’m a heathen slut with no morals, btw.) (that’s great christian step-parenting right there.) We were open with them about everything. We answered the questions they asked without judgment or frustration. And they have chosen.

    So long story short, as long as there is a non-judgmental parent who is willing to let them find their way on their own, I don’t thing VBS is going to hurt them. She may embrace the church at first. I loved my friends and the social aspect of my youth group…but one day, she’s gonna use that brain “god” gave her and start asking questions and she will realize that “faith” is not always the answer.

    Sorry. I wrote a book!

    • @oatmellow Your family situation sounds a lot like mine. I guess the VBS issue really depends on how well the parents communicate and what sort of child you have…BTW, I am offended for you that the new wife calls you a “heathen slut.” First, I bet she would never, ever refer to a man like that. And second, she is very insecure and is hiding behind religion. I bet you make her feel threatened. Shame on her for lashing out at you. I’m sorry on behalf of women everywhere!

      • @deb Well to be fair to her, (haha) I don’t marry everyone I date like she does. I am currently “living in sin” as she told me and MY KIDS. Which makes me “immoral” and a “bad parent”. She is VERY insecure. And I just find a lot of humor in the situation. I’m sad for my boys because they see her for who she is and they see who their father is becoming and they no longer have a good relationship with him because of it. But that’s his choice and he’ll regret it one day.

        It only bothers me when she involves the boys when she bashes me. They’ve both blocked her from Facebook (because she’s ‘one of those’ post about the ex-wife people) And she blocks anyone who tells her she’s being childish by posting stuff about her step-kids mom. She has issues and I find it VERY amusing.

        I ended up blogging about religion today for the first time in forever. Since she reads my blog daily (STILL) I figure she’ll get a bug up her bonnet about it and the ex will call me and tell me to ‘stop picking on his poor wife.’ I’m a heathen slut! What else should they expect? LOL

  32. My friend left Mormonism about a year ago. Today her nine-year-old child doesn’t remember much about the religion despite having been indoctrinated weekly at home and at church for over eight years. I don’t think a six-year-old is going to be converted for life after a week of VBS.

  33. My sister taught Sunday school for a while and ended up quitting. As Chritian as she is, she didn’t like the fact that they were wilfully brainwashing Kindergarteners. She said the curriculum they had, the answer to every question was “Jesus” By the end of the class, you could ask them what they had for breakfast and their eyes would glaze over and they’d say “Jeeesuuus.”

    There are plenty of summer programs. I just got a Living Social deal for a 7-12 year old Lego Science camp. It’s also 5 days. My daughter is currently at horseback riding camp. Today, my son is rock climbing with his day camp. I guess it all depends on what, as parents, we feel is important. For me, giving my children independence, and instilling a deep sense of confidence through personal achievement are all at the top of the list.

    • @Shanan Great idea on the Living Social camp. I signed my kids up for Camp Invention several summers (highly recommend); chess & cooking camps and all sorts of sports camps. My younger kid is going to a wakeboard camp this week, which is also great fun. There is no shortage of camps in the summer, at least in big cities.

    • “For me, giving my children independence, and instilling a deep sense of confidence through personal achievement are all at the top of the list.”

      @SHANAN WINTERS — LOVE your philosophy! My kids are all within a few years of 30yo. I aimed at this as well thinking I wanted to make them REALLY GOOD at something (almost didn’t matter what) and competent at lots of things. Let me tell you, it is a tremendously rewarding feeling to see all three of my kids successful, confident and truly making a difference in this world for the good!

      • Wish this form had a “like” button 🙂 My kids are younger… but every time they try something new and succeed… every time they learn a new skill or idea and turn around and start perfecting it… that is when I know there is success happening. I can’t wait to see all the interests they develop over time, and where it leads them throughout their lives!

  34. Upfront: I am a Professing/practicing, Protestant, evangelical Christian and my comment will be made through that lens/worldview.

    As one commenter has pointed out, VBS is an outreach event for many churches. It’s also an educational event (called ‘brain washing,’ I believe, by some here) for children who are members of the local churches…many of which have made their own professions of faith already.

    I think it’s excellent that the author and (apparently) many commenters are doing their best to teach their children to be critical, logical thinkers. Those qualities are in short supply in our day. Just watch the news. I’m having a difficult time, however, reconciling the accusations of the Church of brain-washing children with some of the points made in this post and by some commenters. As a thinking, functioning adult, once I was confronted with the claims of Jesus in the New Testament (and the claims of who God is in the Jewish record known as the Old Testament), I was left with no choice but to consciously profess faith in the historical Jesus as presented. No brain-washing required! What a deal!

    I went to church regularly as a child and attended VBS on several occasions. I was merely presented with facts (claimed as objective truth, to be sure). I’ve never once felt like (then or now) that there was ever an attempt to brain-wash me by any church volunteer. Having said that, I professed Christianity for a long time before I understood what the Bible was really claiming about God and humanity. I lived in a way that was antithetical to the message of the cohesive canon of writings about God known as the Bible. That doesn’t negate my claim that brain-washing isn’t a fair accusation-it just means that once the desire was in me to know more about this God-man Jesus, I soon found that many evangelical churches had watered down the depth and breadth of the message of Jesus, his gospel, and the implications of calling myself his disciple. In other words, bad theology was pervading in many places. The only thing akin to brainwashing that had occurred was the watering down of the message and the lowered expectations of those who say they follow Jesus. Thankfully there seems to be a recovering of the true, once-delivered Gospel given by Jesus to his earliest followers in small segments of the Protestant evangelical church.

    I’m having a hard time seeing the difference between what many here are calling brain-washing and what is happening in some of your homes with these leading questions and the assumption that Jesus and the Tooth Fairy are of the same non-historical, undocumented, unfounded, mythological substance. I’m not claiming that you or your
    Children MUST believe what I say is true…but surely there are enough critical thinkers in a forum such as this to be able to renounce such unfair comparisons and teach your kids to do the same. ‘Come and let us reason together,’ as the God of the Bible has implored of humanity. Even if it’s a watered down version of the Biblical claims about God, humanity, faith, etc., I can personally attest that there is only as much brain-washing happening at VBS as you allow yourself to believe there is. Ask questions, talk about the biblical claims your kids are hearing, discuss it among your friends and family, compare the New Testament claims about Jesus, Peter, Paul, and the Roman Empire to recorded history from the period, but please be intellectually honest enough with yourself and your kids to let them come to their own conclusions about Jesus and the Bible….lest you be found doing what you wrongly accuse the Church of doing. That’s an honest, heart-felt request/response from a sane, rational, critically thinking, logical Christian. Blessings to all of you and your families.

    • “I went to church regularly as a child and attended VBS on several occasions. I was merely presented with facts (claimed as objective truth, to be sure). I’ve never once felt like (then or now) that there was ever an attempt to brain-wash me by any church volunteer. ”

      We are all born non-believers; to not believe in god – to not even know of god – is our default position. People have to be taught god and religion, they have to be inculcated. When you are subjected to a theology or belief system when you are young and impressionable – and just don’t yet have the power of critical thought, of discriminating between fact and fantasy – when you are made to attend instruction in that belief system, participate in its rituals, repeatedly over time – that is brainwashing, or at the very least, indoctrination. This is why it’s so darn easy to make kids believe in Santa Claus! And hey, there’s probably as much written about Santa as there is about Jesus – that certainly doesn’t prove that either of them are real.

      And nobody who is undergoing “brainwashing” or even indoctrination are usually aware that that’s what’s happening, because it’s always called something else.

    • @Jimmy Thank you for joining the conversation and being respectful of our ‘non-beliefs’. It does mean a lot to me, personally. I always respect my friends beliefs. I remember when I was a Christian, how true it was to me. I understand that, and sometimes, I miss being able to ‘believe and just give it all to god.’ But I can’t anymore. Too many questions that are unanswered. Too many conflicts, no real resolution.

      I believe Jesus as an historical figure. I do NOT believe he’s the son of God. In my church, we weren’t allowed to study the ‘history of Jesus.” Only the biblical history of Jesus. And that’s a fairly common thing around the south. There are many more liberal leaning churches that expand their studies of Jesus to include historical data and welcome gays and hippies and druggies and try to do the good the talk about. But…I’ve opened my eyes too wide now. I can’t shut them again and believe that Jesus was born to a virgin who was impregnated by God…I believe the bible is a book of tales, much like Grimm’s Fairy Tales…that gives us stories with morals. I believe the bible has been bastardized by man, and is being used by man as a tool to control with fear.

      I cannot believe in a god that allows children to be molested, raped, starved, killed and explains this away with “It’s all in My plan.” NO. Men do those things and if a god allows those things to happen, he is not a god I want to worship.

      When I asked too many questions in my church, I was shamed. I was hushed. I was punished. I was sent to “counseling.” I was told my faith was weak and I needed a refresher course. I was riddled with guilt. At my Grandmother’s funeral, I was surrounded by 5 Deacons of my church (all men) and told “If you don’t return to your church and your faith, your grandmother will never rest.” AT HER FUNERAL.

      And that sealed my fate with god right there. They had been trying to rebrainwash me. They failed.

      I know MANY good Christians who live as Jesus did. I love them for the people they are and admire their faith. Any remaining faith I had, died the day they buried Mema.

    • Hi Jimmy–I appreciate your respect in commenting here. I just want to say that both Jesus and Santa do have a historical basis–according to our knowledge base (hearsay for us now) they were both real. Then they became legends. We do not have accurate details about either, including the exact date of Christ’s birth or death. It’s our duty to separate out what appears logical and rational from that which is not logical and rational. (This could be a huge discussion, so I’m going to keep it short.) We use common sense to evaluate claims. So, if I told you now that I have only a mother (my father was an angel), you would not believe me. If I told you that I could turn wine into an actual person’s blood, you would not believe me. If I told you that I could hear every person’s thoughts all at the same time, you would not believe me. Yet people believe unreal stories like this for a variety of reasons, including that they were told over and over and over that these stories were true from the time they were very young. Religion slips kids a mickey when they are too young to question. If that’s not brainwashing then what is?

      I don’t have a problem with my kids learning about religion, but it’s my job to ask them questions, to make them question, to share with them the history of religion I know. It’s also my job to teach them that they cannot and will not know a lot of things, and that’s OK.

    • Like others here, I’m having a hard time reconciling the description of your upbringing and the subsequent assertion that no brainwashing was involved. For you to accept one particular set of unsubstantiated supernatural claims and reject countless others on the basis of faith can only come about by regular indoctrination at an early age. Institutions like the VBS can wrap it up in as many happy songs and silly games as they like to amuse the mind of a 6-10 year old, but the underlying message – believe – is still underneath it all.

      You say that we are potentially doing the same to our children by telling them that stories of God are similar in nature to those about Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and so on. Teaching children to identify myths, fairytales, and tall tales when they hear them isn’t indoctrination or brainwashing; it’s teaching them to think critically by giving them the ability to distinguish between verifiable claims (the earth orbits the sun, gravity causes the tides, etc.) and those based on nothing more than oral traditions from a time when we still believed that natural phenomena were all caused by “the gods”.

  35. Jimmy, my nephew was in danger of failing theology class in high school because he challenged “truth” with historical discovery. He is a product of both religious upbringing and teachings of critical thought at home. He is also a lover of history and archeology. He did a lot of self-study. And when he challenged the teaching convention, questioning the changes that have been made to the Bible over time, at his Christian high school, he was quickly knocked off his “high horse” of independent thought, and told to answer the questions thusly, or fail. THAT… is brainwashing.

    • @Shanan Jeez. That is bullying. That is coercion, and there’s no place for either in a classroom. I had no problem going into school and talking with the principal when a teacher crossed the line. And I would not have a problem with sending a letter or a column to the editor. That’s effective, too.

      • Yep, it’s bullying. It’s also a private Christian school. My nephew lived to tell the tale… and I think came out wiser for it. But the thing is, when you are teaching a belief as part of an educational curriculum, you’re already in a conundrum.

  36. @Jimmy, I appreciate your taking the time to answer honestly. However, to put an exclamation point on what Lisa said above, have you ever heard anyone say “I’m a believer (in anything) and I’ve been brainwashed.” Of course not, because if you’ve been brainwashed, you don’t recognize it. That’s the whole point of brainwashing, no?

  37. @ Lisa: I appreciate your viewpoint. We fundamentally disagree on the question of having an innate knowledge about something or someone outside of and bigger than ourselves while we exist on the earth. That’s not why I commented here…I don’t mind addressing it but I don’t want to hijack the post/comment thread.

    @Shanan: I applaud your nephew having the courage to think for himself and to question traditionally held beliefs when they started to conflict with his positions. I’d be interested in knowing the specifics of that situation, especially regarding the historical discoveries. There has been a vast amount of agreement among secular historians over the centuries about Jesus of Nazareth’s existence. Their major disagreement is usually the nature of who said he was (God in the flesh).
    I’m not claiming that the Church and it’s para-church affiliates are without error in their application. Nor are secular organizations perfect and without error in these matters either. This sounds like a very unfortunate incident.

    My only problem with calling that situation brainwashing is that the same thing happens in public schools and universities across America daily and no secularists cry ‘foul.’ Just because the publisher wrote the history textbook with certain omissions doesn’t mean the omissions didn’t happen or that they didn’t profoundly impact segments of the population. Just because the science text was printed without any reference to a viable alternative theory on the origin of life and the universe (or address the lack of cohesion among the prevailing evolutionary models for that matter) doesn’t mean that one doesn’t exist. When the authority of the state approved texts are questioned by inquisitive minds who can think critically and don’t believe what the text says is all there is to the story, those students/parents are told to accept it at face value and move along. Do you see the similarity? Where is the outrage towards the taxpayer-funded school system for it’s ‘brainwashing’?

    I hate sales tactics as much as the next person–Jesus and the Gospel stand on their own merit and need no sales pitch. But to equate bad methodology in presentation (as some have done–not you, Shanan) with brainwashing is a step too far. When I think of brainwashing, the methods used by regimes in recent history to attempt to make members of other countries defect come to mind. The tactics used by other religions to do the same thing come to mind (e.g convert to Islam or I’ll cut your head off). I also think about some cultic groups that claim to be Christian (but are identified as otherwise when core beliefs are exposed) that impose all sorts of hellishness on their followers, supposedly in the name Jesus.
    I see none of that happening in the segment of the Church that I’m involved with. Neither does that happen in my home as I teach my kids about Jesus and the faith that was graciously given to me. We talk and have candid conversations. They are smart, even for their age. They don’t need a sales pitch from me. They don’t need me to disparage secularism/agnosticism/atheism/humanism by comparing those viewpoints to fairy tales. They can think for themselves.

    C.S. Lewis was very succinct when he penned in Mere Christianity:

    ‘I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: “I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.” That is the one thing we must not say. A man who said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic–on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg–or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.’

    • @jimmy: Thank you for your apparently well thought-of posts. We can disagree on the big issues yet remain civil.

      There are a couple of points I think I need to address but the one which smacked right in the face was the thinly veiled stab at science. The ToE is the prevailing “truth” about how we have ended up with this biodiversity. There are NO competing theories – even though someone could prove the theory of evolution wrong, that does not mean that creationism is true. There is no scientific theory to back any of it up. Thus I really loath the people who want to “teach the controversy” – there is no such thing. In every single one of credited universities the people who do science for living teach the ToE and expanding universe. No matter how hard a preacher shouts, the reality will not budge.

      If you decide to continue on this blog, I am looking forward to more discussions.

    • LanceThruster

      C.S. Lewis lost me with his speculation in “The Problem of Pain.”

      see: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism/essays/the-problem-of-pain/

      In the next, briefer chapter, Lewis considers the origin of animal suffering. He states the problem forthrightly, recognizing that animals are not moral agents that do not deserve punishment for their actions and cannot be perfected by pain. He also admits that there is no firm way to answer this question. However, he does write the following: “From the doctrine that God is good we may confidently deduce that the appearance of reckless Divine cruelty in the animal kingdom is an illusion” (p.133).

      I can’t imagine a more horrific or vile message than to think that it only *looks* as if animals are suffering.

      I’ve often said that the God of the Bible drowns innocent babies, puppies, and kittens (if you believe the Flood narrative). To get a feel for how obscene this is, imagine you were the one replacing the air in their lungs with water as the babies, puppies, and kittens struggled in a terrified frenzy.

      Who but a sociopath could do such a thing?

      I see the God of the Bible (if “He” actually existed as little better than these sadistic golfers [shudder] – http://americablog.com/2013/06/turtle-beaten-to-death-golf-club-wisconsin.html

    • There also the critique of Lewis’s trilema (Mad, Bad, or God).

      from – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lewis%27s_trilemma#False_premises

      A frequent criticism is the claim that the statements and actions referred to by Lewis were an invention of the early Christian movement, seeking to glorify Jesus.[18] According to Bart Ehrman, ‘there could be a fourth option – legend’.[19] Lewis himself denied the accounts of Jesus were legends: “I have read a great deal of legend and I am quite clear that they are not the same sort of thing”. [20] N. T. Wright, a leading New Testament scholar, comments that Lewis’s argument “doesn’t work as history, and it backfires dangerously when historical critics question his reading of the Gospels.”[21]

  38. @Kathy: As I stated early on, I professed Christianity as a cultural norm sort of thing before I actually understood the Gospel for myself. That’s different than brainwashing. I professed because everyone else did, I realized what was really going after the fact and had a chance to walk away (remaining as immoral as I’d always been), I chose Jesus and the Gospel for myself when I realized the truth of who he was/is didn’t change based on my feelings or emotions.

    • LanceThruster

      “It ain’t those parts of the Bible that I can’t understand that bother me, it is the parts that I do understand.” ~ Mark Twain

      Such as…

      During many ages there were witches. The Bible said so. The Bible commanded that they should not be allowed to live. Therefore the Church, after eight hundred years, gathered up its halters, thumb-screws, and firebrands, and set about its holy work in earnest. She worked hard at it night and day during nine centuries and imprisoned, tortured, hanged, and burned whole hordes and armies of witches, and washed the Christian world clean with their foul blood.

      Then it was discovered that there was no such thing as witches, and never had been. One does not know whether to laugh or to cry…..There are no witches. The witch text remains; only the practice has changed. Hell fire is gone, but the text remains. Infant damnation is gone, but the text remains. More than two hundred death penalties are gone from the law books, but the texts that authorized them remain.

      – “Bible Teaching and Religious Practice,” Europe and Elsewhere

  39. Jimmy, I pretty much agree with all the comments in response to yours. Being a former evangelical christian myself for most of my 40 years, I know that I could see bits of brainwashing throughout my walk, and even more once I left Christianity.

    Brainwashing happens every Sunday: before church starts think about what was said in sunday school. I am certain that it was a precursor to what will be the theme throughout the music/”worship” segment, and will be preached/”taught” from the pulpit. Listen to the music that’s playing from the sound system before the beginning of service, what kind of mood or tone does it set? Service starts, announcements are made, singers sing then comes the offering. The basis for tithes and offerings? None from the New Testament, often the book of Malachi is used. Jesus came to replace those bloody sacrifices so that they might stop, but the idea of tithing didn’t cease with it? Between offering time and the sermon there may be a testimony or two that goes along with the theme for that Sunday, maybe even along the lines of the series the preacher may talk about anywhere from four weeks to four months or even longer. Still, before the sermon are the congregational prayers (like the “Lord’s Prayer” or “The Nicene Creed”) and/or confessions spoken in unison (such as “As we give today’s offering we are believing the Lord for jobs and better jobs………..” or “This is my Bible, I am who it says I am, I can do what it says I can do……..”). After all of this comes the sermon, sometimes even standing while the opening scripture is read. Preacher preaches as congregants follow along in their Bibles, and take notes. Then comes the close of service, and there’s either another offering or healing altar call, and/or an invitation for salvation. At this point a church musician comes to play the organ or piano and plays an old hymn or some other traditional church music. Maybe it’s a more modern church and the musician uses a keyboard or guitar as he or she sings a Matt Redman, Jason Upton or Misty Edwards song. At this point the lights are often dim, and the pastor makes a very sweet, and sensitive plea for souls and/or money. Others take a different approach of screaming for 15-30 minutes or more for souls, etc.

    And that’s just one event on one day of the week for many church going Christians.

    • If there really is a God who created the entire universe with all of its glories, and He decides to deliver a message to humanity, He will not use, as His messenger, a person on cable TV with a bad hairstyle. ~ Dave Barry

  40. I used to be okay with VBS, until my younger son came home crying after a bad experience. He wanted to go with his best friend one afternoon, and I didn’t want to be one of those people that refused to let him have anything to do with religion. I told him to go, have fun, and just be respectful. I told him not to do anything he didn’t want to do but to use his manners. He was probably 8-9 at the time. When he got home, he burst into tears. I asked him what was wrong. He said a lady made him say he was “saved” but he told me he didn’t mean it, and it gave him a bad feeling in his stomach to say it. I was furious. This church was bullying children (children!!) into saying they were saved so they could boast about it to anyone who would listen. It took me an hour to calm my child down and let him know that first and foremost he did nothing wrong, and second, that any adult that would make a child say something that they didn’t want to was not a good person. It took all I had not to go over to that church and unleash my fury. I have seen churches try to bribe children into bringing other children to VBS with promises of little junk trinkets from China, but “You don’t get one if you don’t bring a friend!” In my mind, VBS was always about children introducing other children to their church, having fun, safe activities to do, and hearing a little bit about the “good book”, not being bullied, bribed, and tricked into becoming Christians. It’s despicable. My policy is, if it’s not a wedding or a funeral, we do not step inside a church. Period.

    • @Amanda..I used to live in a very small town in northeast PA and down the street lived a pastor and his family of 5 kids who were all very nice and we were friendly with them. They never pushed their religion on me, that is until I became pregnant. One day, two of the older kids came to visit me and they tried to “save” me. They said if I wasn’t saved or if I didn’t baptize my baby, it would go to hell. I told them that if I really believed that would happen, then that was not a god I wanted to have anything to do with. They tried a few more times and finally gave up.

  41. My daughter has been going to all kinds of Bible schools and camps every summer for the last 6 years, she absolutely loves it because her friends go there. In addition, it’s a very inexpensive way of babysitting 🙂

    I, a lifelong atheist, am absolutely not worried about her being brainwashed there: she’s an independent thinker and when she hears me laughing about the myths of religion, hell, paradise, god, devil etc., I’m pretty sure she’s drawing clear conclusions. She may become religious in the future, who knows… But this is her life after all and my love for her has no conditions whatsoever.

  42. Can we scare people with things that are make-believe (think: witches and ghosts)?

    If people are good only because they fear punishment, and hope for reward, then we are a sorry lot indeed. ~ Albert Einstein

  43. I think if Punky asked me to go to VBS, I would perhaps let her go, with the expectation that we could have discussions afterward about how she felt about things, what she learned and what she thought. I am not interested in indoctrination, no matter what side of the fence it’s on.

    Of course, my kid isn’t even yet 1 and a half years old, so I have a while to go. I think I will start with something easy like potty training!

  44. I agree with one of Jason’s commenters–his daughter will be exposed to religion and God throughout her life. My kids certainly were. His daughter’s friends will talk to her about religion–as may teachers (a fact for us). I also think that his wife made a good point–their daughter will start learning now what this whole religion thing is about. It’s going to happen sooner or later, and if he can help her think things through now, she won’t be drawn in by its mystery or by the appeal of the occult. He can sit down with her each day after VBS and talk to her about the stories she’s learning. Tell her that, throughout history, there have been many similar tales. He could tell her (now or later) about the history of religion and how it developed: Early man used god(s) to control other men, to bring order to his world, to explain his surroundings and to calm fears, his own as well as others. Religion has been used for power and control and personal comfort. But man cannot answer the big questions it asks: How did we get here. Where are we going. Who made all this sh*t.

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