Family Matters

Well, I can only hope that the SCOTUS does the right thing tomorrow when it hears arguments from Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood challenging the ACA on religious principles.  No, you should not be able to decide for and to judge your employees with your cherry-picked views on what your god or goddess would want. If Hobby Lobby has the money to throw away on lawsuits, it must charge way too much for its craftiness.

Onto other family matters….Like many of you, I try to remain tolerant to other’s beliefs. After all, we have relatives and friends, coworkers and neighbors who are of all different faiths, and we all want to get along. But every week, I receive emails about the frustrations of dealing with religious family members who are not very tolerant of our lack of belief.

Usually, it’s the grandparents, but sometimes there are issues with siblings, cousins, aunts and uncles—even the other parent. I get that believers are encouraged by their preachers to save lost souls. I get that our parents are terrified they will look down from heaven and see us burning in hell. But these are their unsubstantiated fears, wants and desires, and our families need to understand that we don’t share them.

So, I’ll give one example, and if you’d like to add your concern or suggestion, please feel free to join in. Jessica is 9 years old. She is being raised by secular parents who have talked with her about God. (For example: “Some people believe in a man in the sky who is watching and listening to our every word. We don’t believe this. It doesn’t make sense, and there is no proof. Does it make sense to you? Why or why not?”)

Jessica’s maternal grandparents are devout Baptists, and they want to take her to church. It’s no secret they want her baptized. Jessica’s mom says, no, that’s not going to happen, but she knows her daughter adores her grandmother and wants to please her. And mom knows that having loving grandparents beats the hell out of having no grandparents.

So mom might want to agree to let Jessica go, letting grandma know that she will use this as a lesson for her daughter. Mom realizes that, in her town, Jessica will be up for recruitment by classmates as well as family, so it’s best to show her what religion is about.

It’s important that, when Jessica return home (or after church, if they all go together), mom and dad sit down and talk with her about the experience. What did she like about it? What did she not like? What did the preacher say? Does it make sense? When a preacher makes an outrageous claim (God is watching) that she wants others to believe, she must back it up with evidence. Did this preacher do that? What other things do people believe in that are not true? (Santa, the Easter Bunny, Ghosts, Bloody Mary) By questioning their daughter, mom and dad are empowering her to find her own answers.

This is what I suggest because, if we tell our children “no,” and grandmom becomes upset, our kids will feel responsible, and they will be caught in the middle. They also may grow more curious. So we want to educate our children; we want to expose and brush away the mystery of religion.

Is it right for relatives to pressure us or our kids to go to church? Of course not. Yet by the time they graduate from high school, many of our children will have been to church or to church-based activities with their friends. We need to make sure that they are not easy targets, that, just like discussions of drugs or sex, awareness helps them make better decisions. Talk to them early and often.

Kids are capable of reasoning things out. They will understand.


38 responses to “Family Matters

  1. I just had a very interesting experience with my son (who is seven). An older brother of a classmate recently passed away from a sudden illness. He was one of those exceptional teenagers, poised at the edge of greatness, excepted into gifted programs and known and liked by everyone in the community, young and old, the one that if you are religious, cannot understand why god would take such a beautiful person. I heard the comment that “God always takes the good ones young” so often, I thought my head would explode. Anyways, to show our respect to the family (who are devout catholics) we went to the viewing which was in our city’s largest Catholic Church, and we were there 5 hours waiting in line. It gave my son plenty of time to take in the church and what I dont usually give a second thought to gave him nightmares the following night. And that was all the images of christ on the cross, some with blood dripping from his hands, a bloody thorny crown wrapped around his head. And I couldnt help thinking of how children are indoctrinated, with images of death, and an angry god in the forefront, the thought of someone watching and judging you all the time. And the more I thought the angrier I got. I did explain to my son the history behind this image, so that he could process it without the supernatural, that are there are people out there who are intolerent and sometimes they do things that are horrible to people. Like in war. He understood that. And I get why those images are there to remind those of the sacrifice, but jeesh… where are the pictures of love to offset this? It is no wonder that children fall in line without question. They are scared shitless!
    As a side note, I was not raised with any religion, so I often look at this from a complete outside view. And often I see so many parallels between different faiths, be it mormon, scientology, catholic, koran. But when I mention this to anyone of faith they completely lose it. He or she cannot process that their belief is almost identical to another, if you change a few names here and there and circumstances.

    • I had nightmares as a child, one I still remember vividly like it happened yesterday. I was dreaming that the devil was pacing outside my bedroom window carrying balloons! I was so afraid to leave my shade open after that. I remember the scary images they showed us in church and Sunday school. I think that was part of what kept me from wanting to learn more, I was just scared. I also refused to be baptized because I was terrified of water!

    • @baloo Great comment. Thank you for sharing. Yes, that’s very true–the images inside the Catholic church as unsettling even to adults. This is a great point: “And I get why those images are there to remind those of the sacrifice, but jeesh… where are the pictures of love to offset this?”

      If God is love, he sure doesn’t show it….

  2. I was raised in a house where I was allowed to decide for myself if I wanted to go to church – but without any boundaries or guidance. No one took an interest in my religion seeking and it was more like I was searching for a place to belong. That’s how the church sucked me in. That’s how this whole mess with PTSD and other anxiety disorders in my life happened. Because no one was there to guide me into what I was feeling. I wasn’t made to question, I was given the choice and at such a young age, I believed everything I was told.

    This is just the type of post I needed to remind me how to bring up the subjects and to help guide my daughter in thinking for herself. Because at the end of the day, she can be religious if she wants to be, if that’s where her heart leads, but she will search her mind before giving up her ‘soul’.

    • @Rachael, At least you are able to step back and see what went wrong and where you can help your beautiful daughter. Awareness is everything…I doubt she will fall for religion.

      • She a pretty smart cookie! 😉 I like to think if I give her choices now and let her decide things now – that she can make good choices in the future.

  3. I think it’s really hard to be a kid who doesn’t go to church just based on what I have seen my kids go through. Sometimes I feel like I am leaving them out of a big part of the social world. I do let them go if they have a friend who invites them. They go and we do talk about it to try to reason it out. My one son was bullied for going to church with his ex-friend. The ex-friend used the fact that we as a family don’t go to church against him to get people to turn on him. There are so many challenges! I think in the story above, I would agree to let the girl be baptized only if she is comfortable with it too. I was never baptized and I know this upset my mother, but at the time, I was terrified of water and I was afraid I would drown in the pool of water they used. My sister was baptized and my mom was very proud of her for it. In a way, I think I’m glad I never did it because I wasn’t a believer then either, even as a small child. But in this case, if the child is okay with it and she knows how much it would mean to her grandmother, then I think it would be okay, especially with the support of her parents who talk openly about it all.

    • Hi Gina. I don’t know if you’ll read these comments, but I am so sorry to hear that your son was bullied for not going to church. That is heartbreaking to hear. Were you able to talk to the school or the kids parents? Are things better now?

  4. In the end, the spiritual path is one of personal choice.

    And the adoption of a religion takes a long, long time.

    So it is doubtful whether a few trips to church with Grandma and Grandpa will do anything other than strengthen family ties at best, or send the Little One scurrying off in horror, at worst.

  5. Jessica’s parents should take her to a church service without the grandparents first. This way the parents can be there as an anchor to reality, helping Jessica to see that she doesn’t have to participate if she doesn’t want to. And after the service, the parents can be better equipped for the “what the preacher said” talk after the service. They should also attend the intended service with the grandparents. And imagine if Jessica should get scared or grow really uncomfortable during the service, the parents should be present, especially if the grand parents pull some public “this is my grandchild’s first service; let’s welcome her into the arms of god” bullshit. Unfortunately for Jessica, her grandparents may do / say something traumatizing in attempts to save her 😦

    • @gina: I really cannot comprehend your POV. Honestly I cannot.
      Why on earth should the parents take Jessica to a church anymore than to a mosque or a sikh temple? What the grandparents portray is hideous blackmailing – trying to drive a wedge between a child who loves both her parents and grandparents.
      I just loath the grandparents – though they might be sincere in their delusion…faith…what they are doing is just despicable.
      I am so glad that my kids have never had to get in a situation such as that.

      • Sorry Gina, that was posted as a reply to Nicole.
        @Deb: Yes, we do have to get along with most people but why is it ALWAYS on the terms of the pious?

        • Konsta, You’re really fortunate to live in a country were people are open-minded. Here, lack of religion is often equated with lack of morals. Sad, but true. The biggest problem I see is the hostility from some believers who feel atheists are a threat. And they are a political force.

          I think we’ll catch more flies with honey. We have to live with and among the religious, and because belief is not rational or logical, we have to allay their fears while keeping our reasoned stance. If we are always fighting and bickering and alienating our family and friends, I don’t think we’ll get anywhere….We have to show what logic and reason look like. That’s just my view, of course. I know others have different approaches.

          • I never meant that one should bicker or pick fight.
            Never standing up is a slippery slope as well – why is it that the delusional get to set the standard? Is it just because of popularity?

            • @Konsta I understand. I guess because, right now, they have political and social power. There is strength in numbers, but I really think all that is changing, albeit slowly.


              • As you very well know I agree and understand you totally. Our realities are so worlds apart.
                What I still don’t and won’t understand how one would propose basically lyind and not standing up for what you are as a viable way forward. The grandparents in question should be confronted in private and be told that respect works both ways. No child should ever HAVE to go to any church for any reason.

                • @Konsta, I agree–no child should be forced to go. But there are many children who want to go, either because they are curious or they want to please mom and dad. And then there are people like me, where mom is an atheist and dad is a devout Christian. It is dad’s “right” to take the kids to church, so my best defense was always talking to my kids and making them reason for themselves. Threats of the devil and hell no longer affect them. As they’ve grown older, peers add to the pressure, and I think they’ve been in a better position to say no thanks.


    • @Nicole Great suggestion–to go first without the grandparents. I forget that not all churches are as sedate as the Catholic masses. Some church services can get very loud and scary….

  6. Great advice Deb! I’m in the same boat. Grandparents, elderly Aunt etc that want my boy to go to church, get confirmed. I already let him get Baptised and Communion but that isn’t enough. He’s 11 now and is open minded about all of it. I want him to experience other faiths too and then judge. Visit a synagogue service for example. So he sees the variety and not just the one his Grandma is in. And he can make up his own mind. I tell him it doesn’t make you a good person to go to church.

  7. I used to be okay with my children experiencing church with others until my son was taken advantage of. My son was invited to go to VBS at a southern baptist church with his best friend. I asked him if he wanted to go, and he said yes. I told him to be polite, have fun, and that he didn’t have to do anything he didn’t want to do. He was probably 9 at the time. Well, when he got home he was crying his eyes out. It took me forever to get it out of him, but several of the church members that were in charge of the event kept asking him if he was saved and telling him that he NEEDED to get saved, right then and there. He was scared and said okay. He was so upset about them forcing their Jesus mumbo jumbo on them that he cried all afternoon. Talk about emotional abuse. He refuses to go into a church now and that was years ago. It took me days to convince him that 1) he did nothing wrong and, 2) the adults at that church were terrible people. I expected him to go and hear Bible stories and be offered the chance to be “saved”….I never expected him to be bullied by adults.

    • @Amanda –

      It’s just as bad when xians bully adults. I had one guy in my vanpool (all professed xians) who had recently been ordained a lay pastor. They knew I was an atheist because I mentioned I was the one time advisor to the student atheist group. He’d say things like. “You REALLY need to attend church with me.”

      It was creepy (as was he). Thankfully, I’m secure enough in my own godview not to be swayed by such ham-handed tactics but would really be concerned about a child being subjected to such pressure.

  8. I like the suggestion above that Jessica’s parents go to church with her and the grandparents to fend off any pressure put on her and to support her in the unfamiliar environment, lest the grandparents be “supportive” in other ways. Sad to have the supposed adults waging a quiet war over the heart and mind of the child …

  9. Frankly, I’d be utterly pissed at the grandparents and deny them time with Jessica. After all, think how insanely undone those good Christians would become if say, for example, a pantheistic pagan like ME took THEIR grandkids to a public ritual to dance naked (or not) beneath the full moon? The fact that the USA gives Christian sorts a preemptive “go” on religion doesn’t make it any less intrusive (I do not, btw, go to public rituals of any sort.)

    • @syrbal-labrys I thought your public ritual sounded pretty interesting….Seriously, I agree that it is unfair. And yet, the grandparents give love, they help out, and they are just terribly brainwashed themselves…

      • Being brainwashed does not give a free pass to brainwashing others. Especially when it counters the chosen child-rearing methods of the actual parents. Besides, how loving can it be to teach grandkids that if they screw up they go to a pit of fire for eternity?

        • True, syrbal-labrys. It’s no excuse. But in my experience here, kids are going to get mega-doses of religion anyway. The best defense is a good offense. Tell them, yeah, this is what church is about. And it doesn’t make sense, does it? At least, that worked for me….

          • You must have had more rational grandparents. I’ve seen that situation devolve into decades of rancorous argument, plenty of “damning” and occasional legal action.

            I admit, I’d hate to explain to my children that their grandparents were delusional and brainwashed. Oh, wait…had to tell mine their grandparents were abusive drunks and racists, so hey, six of one – half dozen of the other.

  10. Have you ever seen “Jesus Camp”, Debbie? I know that there are Christians out there who will say that’s evangelism at its most extreme. I don’t think so, evangelism is a very sneaky tool, especially when it’s geared towards children.

    From Church and Bible school I have learned the following about child evangelism. I think this will give this child’s parents a deeper look into what Church is really about, particularly a traditional one apart of the Baptist denomination.

    1) Get kids saved early for once they’re 18 there’s a strong chance that they will never be.
    2) Sunday School is an evangelistic tool.
    3) Make Children’s Church fun so that lots of kids will want to come and learn about Jesus.
    4) VBS (Vacation Bible School) has a bottom line every single day…JESUS, JESUS and in case you missed it, JESUS.
    5) Continually tell little children about the bloody death of Jesus, including the ripping of his skin and the sword shoved into his side and his execution of being nailed to a cross. This will bring kids to tears, this will make them want to get saved.
    6) Obedience is good and always do what an adult tells you to do, particularly if it’s an adult who says they’re a Christian and/or are in church.
    7) Make all Church/ministry outreaches to the community child and family friendly so that they might start going to our church.
    8) Have a trend or gimmick that the kids can wear to evangelize to their parents, siblings and other kids, such as: any kind of costume type jewelry with a cross or a fish on it; a WWJD bracelet (What Would Jesus Do) or a salvation bracelet. A salvation bracelet is one that is made up of beads, black for darkness (sin), yellow/gold for God, blue for Holy Spirit, green for spiritual growth and red for the blood of Jesus. This way the child wearing any of the said accessories will be a witness for Jesus and have a readily available evangelistic tool.
    9) Tell kids about hell because if you’re a caring adult, you wouldn’t want a little innocent child to go to hell. Hell is hot, scary, dark and loud and it lasts forever! Wouldn’t you’d rather them go to heaven? Then tell them about Jesus.
    10) As precious as children are, the will of God matters more. As a result, children are often “sacrificed” for the greater good, for God. We see this in Genesis with Abraham and his son Isaac. We see this again with God and his son Jesus in the Gospels. We also see an evangelistic Billy Graham who had often left his wife alone at home with their four children to share Jesus with the entire world while his family went through some really hard times. We continue to see this in parents who say stupid shit like “I know because of Bobby’s sickness (“death” too) the Lord has used me to spread his Gospel and lead others to Jesus.”

    I would also add that this child that we’re talking about is a little girl and the Church that we are speaking about is Baptist. Do the parents know that according to that church’s doctrine, this little girl is a second class citizen? In that denomination men lead men, women and children. Women lead women and children, but NEVER men or the mixed company of men and women. I know this to be true of Southern Baptists and most certainly, Independent Fundamental Baptists.

    • @Charity Yes, I saw Jesus Camp years ago when it came to a local arts theater. I think it represents the extreme side, and most religious folks are not that extreme. However, that small minority is pretty scary.

      Evangelism is clearly on the decline in the US, and I think we can, in part, thank them for the growth of the Nones.


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