Wednesday, September 1, 2010

How Do You Wash It Off?!

Usually when someone says something I disagree with, I do not hesitate to berate them. Maybe this will be a good exercise in restraint, though I hope there’s no mistaking the fact that I think this idea is wrong.

Over at feeno’s blog, If I became an atheist, tinkbell13 (an atheist) voiced her opinion that she would not allow her child to go to someone’s “Sunday School” unless the child was 18 or if she went along. Tristan Vick, another atheist blogger, voiced his agreement.

I’ll start with my weaker, more snarky responses first, because I have so many problems with this mindset.

First of all, I have no interest in going to any church service, Sunday School, or any other sort of religious thing of any kind. For me to hold this stance would essentially mean I was barring my child from any religious exposure. I doubt this was the intention, but for all practical purposes, even in a best case scenario, it does limit your child’s religiosity to your own personal schedule and level of tolerance.

Second, what is the big deal with turning 18? Are you worried an orgy is going to break out? Seriously, why enforce age-biased stereotypes imposed by Christian society for the purpose of limiting exposure to things? I said it in the comments of the thread and I’ll say it again: there comes a point (around 15 or 16) that you just cannot control what a child does, and if you try, you’re a jackass and a horrible parent.

Those last few years are wasted if you force them to hold your apron strings the whole time. They should be out doing stupid things, making mistakes, testing their limits, and not under your guidance. It isn’t easy, but being the parent of a “child” who is essentially an adult means stepping back and letting them fall down so they learn to stand on their own. Yes, you can help them get back up, but you’re doing a great disservice if you force (or even let) them lean on you.

Third, and perhaps most important: how dumb do you think your kid will be, and how horrible of a parent do you anticipate becoming that everything can be overturned in one day of religion? You shouldn’t raise your child to be atheist, you should raise your child to be an adult, because that cannot be undone.

Even if having a child who is an atheist is important to you, even if you think religion is the ultimate evil in the world, do you really give yourself and your children so little credit that you believe drinking some Juicy Juice while having a Bible story read aloud will screw up your kids?

“But Ginx, Juicy Juice isn’t organic and the Bible is evil!” Chill out, my uptight atheist friends.

If that weren’t enough, tink blew my mind when she suggested infant baptism should be illegal. I think she has been taking the ramblings of “New Atheists” and their claims that religion is child abuse a little too far.

I don’t get it. I’m pretty confident that tink realizes baptism does nothing to the baby. It doesn’t make the baby Christian or even more likely to be Christian. In fact, some of the best atheists were baptized (the Catholic Church alone is responsible for some of the most outspoken atheists, like Bill Maher and George Carlin). Baptism is not a danger to atheism, and to be honest… an infant baptism is like a funeral. It’s not really a ritual for the benefit of the central personage, it’s more for those who are close to the person involved.

Beyond silly opposition to an equally silly cranial bathing, this kind of mindset is actually quite a dangerous precedent. Telling people how they can or cannot raise their children is nothing to be taken lightly.

I’m assuming tink agrees that it’s harmless for same-sex couples to kiss in front of a baby without any worry of the baby catching the gay, but try telling that to some of the people who baptize their babies. Would you like to see same-sex kissing outlawed? You do realize we are grossly outnumbered, so opening this door cannot lead to anything good for us...

What about teaching evolution? Or discussion on abortion or sex? Do you want other people telling you that you cannot expose your child to your own thoughts and opinions?

One final note: it’s a known fact that teenagers rebel against their parents. If you really want your kids to grow up atheist, maybe you ought to force them to get baptized at 15. Nothing galvanized my atheism like my mother’s demand that I go through Catholic Confirmation.

I decided to reject all parts of religion, including the part about being intolerant of other beliefs. Anything less would be rejecting Peter to pay attention to Paul. Besides, having a kid who becomes a Christian instead of an atheist might be a great thing. At least then they can become President.


  1. Ginx, I'm totally with you. I think of friends who have been raised with absolutely no exposure to religion whatsoever and I have to say that it's been socially a bit awkward for them to relate to it. And really, I'd be disappointed to have a religious child, but I really think if you believe in the spirit of intellectual freedom that ultimately, that's going to be your child's decision to make, with full disclosure/exposure to various philosophical options being no threat. That said, I've been about ready to bean my youngest a number of times for making fun of things like communion both at his best friend's church, and at his Episcopal school. He's was onto the whole improbability of it all long ago. But he's so vocal about it. LOL

  2. In my experience so far, my son has declared being non-religious already. I didn't try to teach him to be an atheist. I just tried to teach him critical thinking. His grandma encouraged him to read the bible all the time. I let him.

    He came to me on his own and said, "My comic books make more sense than the Bible".

    I hadn't told him at that point that I was an atheist.

    He may become religious later in life. But, so long as he remembers how to think for himself, I trust that he'll be fine. I hope the same for my daughter.

    A book was recommended to me called Raising Freethinkers. I haven't finished it, but I find it to be a good book so far. Exposing your children to religion will be important to do, I think. Too many people are immersed in religion. Our children cannot afford to be total "religious illiterates". Perhaps you touched on this, Ginx, when you mentioned that our kids may suffer some social issues if they never experience church (or some form of organized religion) at all.

    But, I also admit that I hate to go to church now. My son does, too. And we both avoid it for as much as we can get away with it.

  3. I mentioned this over on The Atheist Missionary, but I'll repeat it here: expecting Christian parents not to raise their children as Christians is, well, silly.

    Hell, my Firstborn (age 4) goes to church with my parents. He just finished Vacation Bible School at my in-laws' church. Neither denomination is especially extreme or harmful, but given his age and some of the connections he's making I've considered pulling him out.

    Honestly, I think the exposure is good for him. I hate to say that I think it will help him develop antibodies, but on one level that actually is what I think. On another level, I actually want him to be exposed to a sane, calm, version of Christianity - neither denomination is particularly extreme or harmful, and he should see that, too. And Christianity is so ubiquitous that understanding it is nearly a requirement for normal social interactions - and if my son follows my own pattern, those are going to be difficult enough as it is.

    He hasn't asked me about it (yet). If/when he does, I'll explain that neither his mother nor I believe it, but that a lot of people do and it's something he should know about.

  4. Okay, Ginx- I have alot to reply to you here, so be patient, I am gonna go one at a time. I am sorry that it has taken me so long.

    1. I used 18, kinda as a metaphor. Signifying that said child was considered to be a "legal" adult. I just feel that if you can vote, you can also start exploring avenues of religion and spirituality as a consenting adult. I grew up in a home that had an example of an atheist, and a Christian. I was confused by it. When I became an adult, I wished that my folks would have just let me be about it. That is what I want to do.

    2. I kinda view the way that religious doctrine is taught to children as harmful. Meaning that, to my knowledge, it is presented as being factual. It is also presented as being the only perspective, with the exclusion of opposing groups, histories, and perspectives. As you know, this is not the truth. If a church arose that taught dogma contextualized- meaning within its historical, political and sociocultural context, I would sign my kid up. I would be the first on the list. I do not think that my issues lies within what it is, and keeping the child isolated from it, I think that my issue lies within the limited perspective that religious institutions utilize to indoctrinate a child. The means that they use to scare a kid into belief.

    3. I just believe in being honest. I have recently had to think about this stuff, and I have decided that telling the truth is the best way. I do not believe in God for my own reasons. When you are older, we can explore, or you can explore on your own will, but that is your decision. At the end of the day, all you can do is give them education tools.

    I agree with you about having a kid who is a Christian being a good thing. At least they would have some means of feeling their way. I have more, but it will have to come later. Still thinking.

  5. I would urge people to think of religion like sex. It's something you can talk to your kids about, but would you really tell your children, "Your father and I, we prefer doggy style so he can really get up in there and do some serious deep-dicking."

    I think things can be discussed without the parent's bias factoring into it, because children have a perverse habit of emulating their parents as children and doing the exact opposite of what they think their parents want later as adolescents. I think the less a child knows about their parent's religion, the better off they'll be.

    In addition, you don't want your kids being unaware of religion the way abstinence-only educated children know nothing about sex, otherwise they're going to fall in love with the first god that tells them, "I love you." Next thing you know, your kid's a Christian Scientist and they don't want to be vaccinated.

    And I was kidding... there's nothing good about having a Christian kid. I imagine it would just be something you have to live with, like having a kid who joins the Aryan Nations or that works on Wall Street.

    I give this advice because I know it will lead to irreligious children more often than not, while at the same time allowing them to be well-adjusted enough to not insult others for their religion and end up as bad as me. I'll probably never be able to fully eradicate the pompous Catholicism from me, so I will always carry that personality defect simply because I was taught I am smart and everyone else is stupid. The best I can hope for is to not pass it on to my children.

    I was always told Catholics have it right and all those Protestants are pretenders to Peter's papacy. I think convincing kids that religion is evil and that atheism has it right will have similar effects on their developing ego.

  6. And, I agree with you there. I do think that substituting one for the other is equally self defeating. I just want to emphasize that its an education thing...
    To bring it back home, in relation to the sex thing.... Abstinence teaching just makes the kids more deviant and engage in acts that are more risky.... Teaching them about all aspects of sex and encouraging them to sexually prepare for all regards of that types of actions is responsible. And, that is how I look at it.


If your comment is too long, break it into multiple comments and post them all.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...