11 users responded " “We never forced religion on kids.” "

"“We never forced religion on kids.”" was posted by and 11 users commented
jen said,         
January 20 2011

I’ve known some atheists who force atheism on their kids too, FWIW. For me, going to church may have been forced on me to some degree, but beliefs were not forced on me, just attendance at Sunday school. I went to some pretty progressive churches.

My husband’s niece says she likes to go to church. But I think that’s because they get candy for showing up…and extra candy if they bring a friend.

Chris said,         
January 20 2011

I never had a special attachment to religion because my parents jumped from church to church, never themselves satisfied.

Now, I do have one experience in church that stands out: the time when everyone in Sunday school was asked to sit down for a lesson on Biblical figures, and I discovered that someone had placed a tack on my chair.

That NEVER happened in an ordinary public school. The bottom line is, you can’t force children to take such lessons seriously.

uzza said,         
January 20 2011

No I was never forced to attend the school where teachers hit and humiliated us. At any given moment I was always free to use my juvenile powers to force the adults to transfer me to those other schools, that I didn’t know existed.

Dustin Williams said,         
January 20 2011

I was born and raised in the Seventh-day Adventist Church and was a student in the Adventist educational system from third grade through a year in the M.Div. program in Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary. I was a victim of bullying and social isolation from the time I arrived at that school until the eighth grade.

In spite of my experience, I was a very religious child who enjoyed going to church and studying the Bible even more than my parents. I was a junior deacon once I got baptized and since my local Adventist school stopped at 10th grade I convinced my parents to send me to an Adventist boarding academy. I then turned down an AFROTC scholarship to study theology at an Adventist college and even thought the church didn’t hire me I went ahead and put myself through a year of seminary.

I had some severe struggles with my faith due to the logical inconsistencies of various doctrines and by the time I finished my first year in the seminary I knew that my faith wasn’t going to come back so I acknowledged that I wasn’t a Christian and quit the seminary.

I didn’t have a choice about my Adventist education through tenth grade and I didn’t have a choice about going to church until I was 16. That being said, I was a very willing participant in all of it and pushed my parents to be more religious than they already were. As the atheist I am today, I wish I could say differently, but I was a die hard Christian until I was 21 and a closet deist until I was 23 who continued to be very active in the church.

Postman said,         
January 21 2011

Saying that a parent isn’t forcing a child to go to church is disengenuous. Perhaps, technically, it’s not “forcing”, but when the parental expectation is obvious and the relationship is adult:child, then come on. The child doesn’t really have a choice.
I know I never wanted to go to church as a child, but I was sure as hell, (heh, heh), planted on that uncomfortable pew every week.

Sarah said,         
January 21 2011

@Jen: good point. On the other hand, is it possible to force “nothing” on your kids, if you see what I mean? As in, “We’re not going to church.” I admit that if my kid said, “But I want to go to Church/synagogue/whatever,” I would probably “force” the kid not to go, but not entirely.
BTW, where was my candy?!
@Chris: Sorry about the tack. I can say that we (as in I) acted out more in Hebrew school more than actual school, bc a) we got away with it and b) we didn’t want to be there.
@Uzza: well put!
@Dustin: This is exactly what I’m talkin’ ’bout. Sure, you were a willing participant, but what if you weren’t? If you’d said “Thanks, but no thanks,” what would your parents have done? Of course, I’m glad it wasn’t “forced” on you, making you miserable.
Children are more or less powerless. There is very little a kid can do to control her situations.

Ahmed said,         
January 22 2011

It is hard to attempt to quantify my experiences in an orthodox Sunni (Wahaabi) educational environment from the ages of 6 until 17. There was absolutely no reprieve, but since this was in Saudi Arabia, political repression was more serious than religion for me. Islam *in principle* can be reasonable and open-minded, but combined with fascist strategies for enforcing rule in an unstable modernizing rich but still 3rd-world country, it can be a nightmare. Since this was not an occasional thing for me, it was not Sunday school, it was an hour of Qur’an a day and an hour of religious education 3 times a week, and communal prayers daily (when we would stick dirty pictures in the teacher’s grade book for them to discover after they had prayed– the freaky T&A of Satan, in 3rd grade), since it wasn’t something really forced on me by anything other than the all-powerful circumstances, well, I became a wholesale rebel (without a cause). You will get a lot of satanists and anarchists and generally negative people (punks, love them to death) as a similar result in some of the semi-liberal Muslim countries. But for me, well, before I felt atheist-anarchist stirrings, I actually took on my training. Read all the books from the tradition (about 50,000 pages of commentary and legal writing), I would walk to the mosque every morning at 5 am, I would be the guy everyone would turn to on the ruling on masturbation (would it be punished by god)–as a side note, sex is pretty freely discussed in Islam, half of our religious education classes were taken up by questions like “Are blowjobs permissible?” “Can we give cunnilingus?” “Unlike those silly Christians, we can have anal sex, right?” As religions go, well, it had its golden age and was, at a point of time, quite enlightened, sad that that is not what we have today at all– so, my education intensified my religiosity (I actually read St. Augustine early on, and explored Western theology) and that only made my loss of faith at 15 all the more dramatic. Not only did I have a Dead God, but I accused Islam itself of being thoroughly fascistic (I had read Mussolini, the notions of community both entertain and enforce are similar). When I declared my disbelief to friends and teachers, I was told that if I didn’t start praying and recant, I would be sent to the chopping block (the standard punishment for Muslims who LEAVE Islam). People actually do get killed every year for the same ‘offense.’

As you might guess, this really only intensified my opposition, and made me even more radical politically, but I think I also learnt the lesson of keeping my ideas to myself when the circumstances demand. A polish writer actually borrows the standard Islamic expression of this sort of “double-tongued” treatment of political demands (kutmaan), our equivalent of the separation of the Church and State [!!!!], to his experience of Stalinist Poland. It was like that.

My case is a little different than all the rest of the posters. Religion was forced on EVERYONE, irrespective of minority (the adults had it worse), even though Islam is very clear *in principle* on the fact that religion can’t be forced. Ipso facto, Religion became Politics, pure and simple. What do you people, sometimes Americans by birth, sometimes not, but often taking the possibility of Liberal, Secular politics for granted, think about my experience? Please respond, because I am very curious…

Andreen Nelson said,         
September 11 2011

Honestly, I’m a 13 year old girl. The way I grew up was to believe in “God”. And I guess I still do. But I do not want to believe in anything because to me – Religion is religion! Here’s my story and PLEASE read it!

: So I came from Canada’s Wonderland thinking about Canada’s Wonderlands new ride in 2012 – “The Leviathan” . And from what I remember I was watching a Pirates of the Carabbien video of a “Kraken” eating Jhonny Depp part. And so I looked up “Kranken” and “Leviathan” and from what I remeber about “Leviathan” (I read on Wikipedia long long ago) Aparently it’s from Hell’s gatekeeper’s name was “Leviathan” aka some bigass monster some say. Sooo I looked at a POV ( Point of View ) in 3D to see the ride for next year and I saw a Halloween hunt at Canada’s Wonderland (I’ma call it C.W for short), and so there was men with chainsaws (but w/out the chain) and I saw a comment on YouTube saying “It’s from the Texas Chainsaw Massacre” so I ended up looking up a movie “Leatherface” and poiint blank it’s about a bunch of kids going into a “haunted” house and a man named “Leatherface” who brings chainsaws around and wears a mask – kills people. A few kids got killed and the rest escaped and “Leatherface” in the end got fusturated and swung his chainsaw around in anger and shiz, and they call him “Leatherface” because he kills people and skims off their face, so he wears them. So the movie is actually a remake or about a man named Ed Gein. First a young boy who had a very religious mother and she died and pretty much Ed got depressed and insane. When turned into a man, he killed 2 women. 1 he beheaded and another I don’t remember. Just killed and charged with. So while watching all 5 parts about him on Youtube, I got facts like he killed or must’ve killed people and went to graveyards and cut off womens tits to make belts out of and va-jayjay’s (Vaginas) and lips and a bunch of crap – made his house furniture out of body parts and made a LAMP out of his mother. (Gross right?) Sooo yeah one of the comments on the comments box was somehow ended up in religion and one about religion said “If you believe there is a little man in the sky named “God” you are CLEARLY insane!” So I thought about it and thought he/she was right. But it’s like air – can’t see it and I guess seeing isn’t ALWAYS believing, but it really put me in thought. And being forced into religion, my mom dad and I were watching this thing, and my question to them (since they “know”) was “How do you know things about people who met God in Jerusalem and w/e, NO ONE can prove it without being there! Absolutely NO ONE. No one can prove humans used to be monkeys! Honestly I think that’s ridiculous! Everyone has opinions. I respect that. But my dad got all mad saying “you need to go to bible class more, are you a atheist?” bla bla bla, and I said “No one in church can prove it either! No one can!” and so he got angry and just stopped talking while my mom let me explain my side, and it ended with me saying “Billions of years ago when “God” met face to face with people, NO ONE or OTHER religions think differently and think they’re right, and they’re not, but we as Christians think we’re right too so we might not be right as well!” and my dad got a bit more mad. I mean, I’m just 13 I just want to live life! I don’t want to be pressured saying “If you sin, you’ll be punished” and stuff because when I even think about wearing a tank top, shorts (not shortshorts) and a cardigan to school, I feel inappropriate and dirty as if I sinned. But I don’t show a lot of skin I think some people who do are whores. 🙂 . But when I do certian things like…
one time my friends and I took-and-run lollipops and I honestly felt like I was going to be punished or die from “God” punishing me. It still scares me now a little bit and I was a little girl when that happened! I just think as long as you do the right things, you’ll live life the way it is, you live you have ups and downs and you die. Simple. And I think life is too short to be worrying about things like this! Obviously with the hatred on Earth no one can get a long, there’s always a war! (Right when I was about to say “there’s always a war” I wanted to say “there’s always a goddanm war!”) And that happens a lot. Parents don’t force kids in religions I guess if you grow up thinking what’s in the “bible” is right, you grow to think it.
Can someone PLEASE help? btw I’m 7th day adventist. I honestly don’t know if I’m an atheist or christian.

Sarah said,         
September 15 2011

@Andreen: All I can say is that you are a smart kid and, as the gays tell kids, “it gets better.” Meanwhile, stand by for comments from other people more helpful than I.

Benjamin Lash said,         
September 15 2011

Hi Andreen,

There are a lot of different resources that vary a little bit with what exactly you want help with. If you want help dealing with your family, http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ by Hemant has answered many letters from young people who have questions, and aren’t sure how to talk to their parents about it. I would look at the “Ask Richard,” tab.

If you are not sure if you are an atheist at all and are looking for some help on that, there are a number of blogs which also address these issues quite well. One of my favorites is Blag Hag, which conveniently also has a list of other blogs on the left, though many of them are general science. http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/ I might also recommend, as it specifically focuses on, big surprise, debunking christianity. There are of course, books, which tend to be more focused and scholarly. What convinced me primarily was reading about the authorship of the bible. Specifically, “Jesus Interrupted:…etc.” It’s about $10 on amazon.

If you start reading, you will find a lot of information. Don’t feel rushed to make a decision, there is a lot there. Feel free to post comments on those blogs, here, wherever, and someone will certainly be along to help. Best of luck,


Rosemary said,         
September 17 2011

Hi Sarah.
It sounds like you are starting to apply the same logical rules to your indoctrinated religion as you are learning to apply to other parts of your life. Congratulations on growing up intellectually! The parts of your brain that allow you to think rationally are maturing. There is a spurt about the age of 12 and another one at the age of 16 – so be prepared to find yourself recognizing more irrationalities at around that age. It is so nice to see that you are allowing yourself to use these new abilities rather than trying to suppress them in areas that have great emotional content for many people.

What you have struck in the adults is the fear response of having an emotionally held belief challenged – one in which they have invested a lot of their time, energy and sense of self. It has become so much part of who they think they are that challenging it feels as if the ground of their being has been pulled out from under them.

It generally takes a lot of courage to investigate the claims of religions and ideologies that have become part of one’s self image. It also takes a lot of work. It is so much easier to accept without question what you are told by your parents or by others that you believe to be your “superiors”.

Part of the growing up process that begins in the teenage years is learning to separate yourself from your parents. That includes realizing that they do not always know what is right and correct. It is healthy to challenge many of their ideas and values so that you can determine what is going to be the individual “you” that matures into an independent adult who is able to make their own choices and decisions. It is all a bit tumultuous and, of course, you don’t yet have mature social skills so you are going to bruise a few people along the way. Nevertheless, you are on track and doing well.

In order to ease the interpersonal relationships that you still need for emotional and financial support you may consider limited the degree of confrontation that you have with people who are emotionally tangled up in the beliefs or opinions you are beginning to question. Look for other avenues to try out your rational wings. Right here is a good place. Congratulations on thinking of it and acting appropriately!

You will probably find that some of your peers are also beginning to question their childhood indoctrinated belief set. Put out some gentle feelers (so that you don’t get your head lopped off) by asking them if they are starting to doubt the truth of the things they had taken for granted until now. Give them some non-religious examples to start with (like whether America is the greatest country in the world on every issue possible), and then move the conversation gently onto religion.

BTW, you might like to take a look at the http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/ website. It contains articles and postings written by real scientists (not those pseudo creation- scientists) about the extremely well supported scientific explanation (aka a _scientific_ theory) of how the process of evolution worked to create all life from a single proto-life form, how humans, monkeys and apes developed from a common pre-ape, pre-monkey, pre-human ancestor, and how the process of evolution can be seen working every day to create new and drug resistant forms of bacteria and viruses (which many scientists do not class as “life”) as well new species and modifications of old existing ones. You are correct. We did not come from monkeys. They are simply close relatives that came from a different evolutionary branch. Our closest relatives are chimpanzees with which we share most of our genetic material. We cannot breed with them (which is the definition of a different species) because we have one less chromosome than they do. One of ours is actually two of theirs stuck together! Under the microscope you can see the “end markers” that are now in the middle of this long string. Isn’t that fascinating?

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