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With Children, When Does Religion Go Too Far?


Black Aliss

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(Mods, if you think this fits better within another thread, please merge. )

There's a fascinating conversation going on right now at http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/20 ... go-too-far. One of the debaters, the editor of Christianity Today, has a piece "Focus on Grace, Not Control" that could be aimed squarely at Steve Maxwell.

the New Testament message is about freedom from law, and being grounded in grace. "For freedom Christ has set us free," proclaimed Paul in his most profound exposition of grace. The fact that even some Christians fail to grasp the radical nature of God's unconditional love suggests just how deeply we humans are embedded in a world ruled by law, expectations, duty, control and obedience. We naturally imagine that Christianity is just a nicer form of this basic reality. The message of grace is so radical that it is simply hard to hear it for what it is.
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I totally agree with that, some families get way to controlling in the name of God. Youd think if their beliefs were really that secure, theyd be confident that their child wouldnt abandon their beliefs just because someone told them about evolution, but I think fundies really secretly know that some of their rules and beliefs are utter bullshit and arent even Biblical.

For me, the line when it comes to children in religion is:

Its okay to take your children to church with you, but if they ever decide that they do not want to go, they shouldnt be forced to.

It is wrong to hide information that goes against your world views from your child. If you are homeschooling your child, you should use a proper curriculum that teaches them everything they would learn in public school. Children should also be allowed to socialise with people who dont follow their religion, and also kids who go to school.

No beating your kid cause God wants you to (or at all).

Children should not be taught to hate, and should not be used as political tools for their religion-it would be wrong to make a kid hold a sign saying "God hates fags" or a picture of an aborted fetus which is actually a late term miscarriage because a ball of cells isnt that interesting or dramatic.

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I think that not forcing them to go should only come into play after a certain age, preferably one where they can stay home alone.

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Its okay to take your children to church with you, but if they ever decide that they do not want to go, they shouldnt be forced to.

Excepting, in fairness, those two young or legitimately too untrustworthy to be left unsupervised at home. But then you should do your part and do the short service, not the super duper long one. Compromise, right?

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Yeah, obviously if your five year old doesnt want to, then they cant really stay at home, but I was referring more to older kids, who are working out their own beliefs.

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It always goes too far, religion is as much a fairytale as Little Red Riding Hood is. Delusion, lies and unnecessary fear.

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I think that along with not hiding information from them, it's necessary to contextualize what you are telling them, so that they know the difference between a religious belief and a cold hard fact from the start. That doesn't mean telling your kid that what you're teaching them isn't true, but pointing out that you believe it's true and that sometimes others will disagree.

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I agree with Richard Dawkins, in the God Delusion. I started to read it, went straight to the chapter on child abuse where he states 'there is no such thing as a Christian child or a Moslem child - only children from Christian or Moslem families'.

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I agree with Richard Dawkins, in the God Delusion. I started to read it, went straight to the chapter on child abuse where he states 'there is no such thing as a Christian child or a Moslem child - only children from Christian or Moslem families'.

I totally agree with this, children are too young to make their own decisions and truly understand what being part of a religion means. I always phrase it like that as well.

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I totally agree with that, some families get way to controlling in the name of God. Youd think if their beliefs were really that secure, theyd be confident that their child wouldnt abandon their beliefs just because someone told them about evolution, but I think fundies really secretly know that some of their rules and beliefs are utter bullshit and arent even Biblical.

For me, the line when it comes to children in religion is:

Its okay to take your children to church with you, but if they ever decide that they do not want to go, they shouldnt be forced to.

It is wrong to hide information that goes against your world views from your child. If you are homeschooling your child, you should use a proper curriculum that teaches them everything they would learn in public school. Children should also be allowed to socialise with people who dont follow their religion, and also kids who go to school.

No beating your kid cause God wants you to (or at all).

Children should not be taught to hate, and should not be used as political tools for their religion-it would be wrong to make a kid hold a sign saying "God hates fags" or a picture of an aborted fetus which is actually a late term miscarriage because a ball of cells isnt that interesting or dramatic.

I agree with everything you just said, however I think to an extent you've misinterpreted the perspective of the religious nutjobs. In actual fact, they don't aggressively force their beliefs on their children because they doubt their beliefs, they mostly do so because they fear that Satan preys on the young, vulnerable, and impressionable, and therefore it is their job as parents to "protect" them from succumbing to Satan's whims (and becoming an ebil liberal). It's this extremely twisted logic that any doubts they have about their religion, any penchant towards liberalism or belief that maybe the liberals are right are all planted into their heads by Satan and Satan's way of pulling them away from God. Their reaction? Must be faithful, must resist, must keep pushing crazy fundie conservative propaganda to show God I'm still on his side and to resist Satan's will.

They feel that Satanic forces are pushing us in the direction of liberalism and turning our back on God's Word. Some of them actually are insecure in their beliefs - my guess is that about 50% of the "religious" don't actually believe any of it but just stay for the community - when religion is the epicenter of your entire social life, it's hard to just quit because often this means leaving behind those nearest and dearest to you. Most people would rather live a lie in order to stay close to their family/loved ones than come out of the "closet" and be shunned by everyone, seen as having succumbed to Satan, and having to start fresh and make new friends which is especially daunting for a sheltered fundie.

However, others actually believe that feelings of doubt about the existence/nature of God and religion are planted into their heads by Satan and they must do whatever possible to prevent themselves and their loved ones from getting pulled into Satan's vortex of evil.

I kid you not, people actually believe this.

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I agree with everything you just said, however I think to an extent you've misinterpreted the perspective of the religious nutjobs. In actual fact, they don't aggressively force their beliefs on their children because they doubt their beliefs, they mostly do so because they fear that Satan preys on the young, vulnerable, and impressionable, and therefore it is their job as parents to "protect" them from succumbing to Satan's whims (and becoming an ebil liberal). It's this extremely twisted logic that any doubts they have about their religion, any penchant towards liberalism or belief that maybe the liberals are right are all planted into their heads by Satan and Satan's way of pulling them away from God. Their reaction? Must be faithful, must resist, must keep pushing crazy fundie conservative propaganda to show God I'm still on his side and to resist Satan's will.

They feel that Satanic forces are pushing us in the direction of liberalism and turning our back on God's Word. Some of them actually are insecure in their beliefs - my guess is that about 50% of the "religious" don't actually believe any of it but just stay for the community - when religion is the epicenter of your entire social life, it's hard to just quit because often this means leaving behind those nearest and dearest to you. Most people would rather live a lie in order to stay close to their family/loved ones than come out of the "closet" and be shunned by everyone, seen as having succumbed to Satan, and having to start fresh and make new friends which is especially daunting for a sheltered fundie.

However, others actually believe that feelings of doubt about the existence/nature of God and religion are planted into their heads by Satan and they must do whatever possible to prevent themselves and their loved ones from getting pulled into Satan's vortex of evil.

I kid you not, people actually believe this.

Yeah, I get why with all of the "YOURE GOING TO HELL UNLESS YOU DO EXACTLY WHAT WE DO", that they feel they need to force their kids into following their religion as theyre worried about their souls. It must be hard to be a fundie and be so worried about everything in the world, and that their brain is fought over by Satan and God-that all of their negative thoughts are from Satan, and all of their helpful thoughts are from God. It must really take away any control they have in their life.....

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People are obviously free to do as they like, but I think it's too far when you've told them anything definitively. And this is difficult for me as an atheist, so I'm not just speaking of religious parents. I think everyone child should be able to have whatever information they want or need, and everyone should be able to come to their own conclusions.

I want to say that they should never be forced to attend church because of my own bias, but my 7 year-old has to do lots of things she doesn't want to do because she's a young kid, so that doesn't work. So I will say they should never be forced to participate in the services in any way if they don't want to.

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When it alters their bodies and/or shelters them from knowing that other beliefs could be valid or sometimes that they even exist.

Also when it only teaches them incorrect "theories" like Creationism. Also, teaching them only Christian Revisionist History instead of that the victors write the history books and that history is biased and to search out many different source materials to try and remove bias as much as possible.

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Excepting, in fairness, those two young or legitimately too untrustworthy to be left unsupervised at home. But then you should do your part and do the short service, not the super duper long one. Compromise, right?

I sometimes have to take my son to church with me. He doesn't believe in god but he's only 8YO, too young to leave home alone. Sometimes he'll go to the Sunday School (if they're playing outside) or sometimes he'll sit in the crying room with me (a room the back of the sanctuary, wired for sound, behind a soundproof window) and play his 3DS (with earphones or no volume). I'll listen to the service over the speakers and watch through the glass. And sometimes I have to bribe him with a trip to Starbucks after, lol. But I would NEVER tell him he HAD to go to Sunday School or believe what I believe. When he's old enough to stay home, he can stay home. Until then, I'm willing to compromise.

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Religion goes too far when it stops being religion and starts to be about control.

A good marker of this would be the kids being very tightly sheltered from anyone outside the family, doing only the things parents like, receiving substandard education and of course the traditionally accepted markers of abuse, being beaten, starved, and degraded and belittled on a regular basis... Regardless of what the scriptures actually say.

Because nobody will ever accept that the way the Duggars live us abusive, they're simply conservative Christians. I'd live to see a Muslim, Jewish, pagan, or even non-religious family pull that shit off on TV.

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I tell my kids that I personally don't believe in a god and see no evidence to support there being a higher power. I also explain to them that many people do believe in a higher power, and that belief is very important to those people, so we must always respect it. One of my sons has decided that he believes in God, and I ensure that his siblings don't mock him for it, but tell him that committing to any religion is an adult choice that must wait til he is grown. I gave then all a choice about wether to attend scripture classes at school, and they have all chosen to attend Anglican scripture, even the non believers. I actually like that, because I think it's difficult to understand western art, literature and history without some basic understanding of Christianity.

I think parents go too far when they don't explain to their children that there are many different religions and that those religions are important to their believers and should be respected. Hiding knowledge of others beliefs from their children (like Steve Maxwell and his mountain climbing video) is wrong and denies them the chance to find their own spiritual fit. Children also need to be taught about atheism and agnosticism and taught that they are valid positions that should be respected just as much as someone's religion.

I understand that religious parents think it is important for their children to share their beliefs, but denying children information about other spiritual choices and not affording respect to those whose choices are different is wrong.

Everyone deserves to take their own spiritual journey and come to the position that is right for them, and it is wrong to deny a child the ability to do that.

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Everyone deserves to take their own spiritual journey and come to the position that is right for them, and it is wrong to deny a child the ability to do that.

This is basically how I feel.

I have been through a lot of questioning but the "religion" of my household has been pretty stable. DH is Catholic, I am Jewish, the household is both. When we go to a religious service, we go as a family, together, except for children who are old enough to stay home. If I were dragging them to church every night, I could see an objection. But a few holiday services will not kill anyone, and both of our religions are "culture" as much as religion so I want them to have that perspective on their family.

However, I would never make them participate. I would not force them to go through a first communion or bar mitzvah. And they should be encouraged to look at other beliefs, to think about what makes sense to them. I am one of those people whose beliefs change almost by the day. And I don't think it is a bad thing, as long as you do not take it too seriously. There is the afterlife and then there is this life. And I only know that one of those exists, so I will focus on that one.

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I agree with the overriding sentiment here that you should leave your children free to make their own informed decisions, but I think most of us on this board would actively discourage our children from choosing a fundie lifestyle so I wonder how truly open our children's choices are. It's a nice sentiment but in reality, I personally, don't want all options open to my kids. I don't want them to become fundamentalist Christians, Muslims or Jews or members of any other controlling groups. We go to an Episocopal church- very open and liberal. I don't believe but I like the folks there and I like the message they give to my children about helping and accepting others. However, when my 7 yo came home from Sunday School talking about the creation story I did tell her that it wasn't literally true.

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Yeah, I think most people are open to their children deciding to be part of a religion, but not going fundie or becoming members of a cult.

Religion is fine as long as its not the harmful sort.

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I agree with the overriding sentiment here that you should leave your children free to make their own informed decisions, but I think most of us on this board would actively discourage our children from choosing a fundie lifestyle so I wonder how truly open our children's choices are. It's a nice sentiment but in reality, I personally, don't want all options open to my kids. I don't want them to become fundamentalist Christians, Muslims or Jews or members of any other controlling groups. We go to an Episocopal church- very open and liberal. I don't believe but I like the folks there and I like the message they give to my children about helping and accepting others. However, when my 7 yo came home from Sunday School talking about the creation story I did tell her that it wasn't literally true.

I honestly have a fervent hope that my child sees that religions are nothing but fairy tales and chooses the secular route, for sure, and I agree that I don't want all options to be open, but once they're adults there's not a heck of a lot you can do. I figure my best defense in keeping her from turning religious is to keep the communication open and really focus on science, being good for the sake of being good, etc, etc. Not to mention learning the history of various religions themselves. Bibles are great for turning people into non-believers. ;) If she were to turn fundie, what could I really do? Nothing else that I could say or do in raising her could possibly prevent it because she is already being raised in a polar opposite environment, and I will definitely talk to her about the dangers of fundamentalists and cults as she gets old enough to really get it. But it will still be her choice at the end.

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I agree with the overriding sentiment here that you should leave your children free to make their own informed decisions, but I think most of us on this board would actively discourage our children from choosing a fundie lifestyle so I wonder how truly open our children's choices are. It's a nice sentiment but in reality, I personally, don't want all options open to my kids. I don't want them to become fundamentalist Christians, Muslims or Jews or members of any other controlling groups. We go to an Episocopal church- very open and liberal. I don't believe but I like the folks there and I like the message they give to my children about helping and accepting others. However, when my 7 yo came home from Sunday School talking about the creation story I did tell her that it wasn't literally true.

I like the honesty of your response.

I don't truly believe in the concept of a religious (or any other sort of knowledge or values) vacuum when it comes to children. I don't think that children are complete blank slates - we are all born with various traits and drives, and we all have "roots" of some sort (family, community, ethnicity, etc.). We also don't allow children to be totally feral, so any parenting involves teaching children SOMETHING in terms of knowledge and values. That's not a bad thing - I just think it's important to own it and not pretend that it doesn't happen.

Non-violence is a learned behavior. Sharing is a learned behavior. Tolerance is a learned behavior. Knowledge of and attitudes toward religious faiths are learned. There really isn't such a thing as teaching your child "nothing".

As for the original question - is it about what I would personally do with my kids as a parent, or what limits I would place on other parents? Those are 2 very different questions.

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Just went back to read the original article.

I'd stress that it was written from a very definite and very particular religious POV. It comes from a very specific stream of Christianity, and it is a message aimed at other Christians.

Now, if Christians want to talk amongst themselves, I have no issue with that. It's not my discussion.

If we're using that article, though, as a springboard for further general discussion about religion and parenting, I'll go back to my point about how we ALL bring our beliefs and values and knowledge and history to the table when parenting our children.

The author of the article is Christian. More specifically, he is focusing on a very specific doctrine from Paul that the crucifixion and death of Jesus was a permanent atonement for the sins of humankind, so that the previous law no longer existed and everyone is now in a state of Grace through Jesus. [Not mentioned in the article is the corollary that those who do not share this belief are doomed, regardless of any good that they may do, which is part of evangelical doctrine.]

If this article persuades some Christian parents to treat their children better, great.

If the author wants to teach his own children this way, based upon his particular beliefs and understanding of the world, great.

I would NOT be approaching my parenting this way, because it is based on a religious value system which is absolutely not my own. I don't use terms like "grace", because I don't believe that everyone is condemned to hell without it. I believe that right and wrong exist, and that while ritual matters are just between a person and the divine, matters between one person and another are both a civil and moral concern. I teach my kids that if they wrong someone, they need to apologize and make it right. To me, this feels like common sense - but it is very much a product of my particular upbringing and background, which includes being part of a faith which teaches exactly that. Terms like "legalistic" do not get used in my house. It is a term which gets thrown around by some Christians as an insult toward other Christians, but is actually grounded in the idea that Jesus, and Paul's whole concept of faith-based grace, represented a huge improvement over pre-Jesus Jewish belief and practice. Not only do I not agree with this, but I think it's part of a widespread and dangerous distortion of Judaism that contributed to centuries of oppression. Adherence to law and engaging in intellectual legal analysis aren't things that I consider bad.

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I don't think that it is right for parents to crame religion down their kids throats. I am Jewish and go to Temple 2 times a year. Many of ther religious families that are talked about on here, feel that if their kids don't go to church every week and they are going to hell. I really wish some of them perticually the Maxwell's would allow their children to come to their own conclusions when it comes to religion and G-d.

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While I fervently hope that my children don't choose to be religious fundamentalists, or choose any extreme and isolating lifestyle, if that's where their heart and beliefs take them as adults then so be it.

While I don't have faith myself I can see its importance in others lives, and if that's where one of my children's convictions lead them I would do my best to respect that and to hope that the values they have grown up with remain with them and mitigate the extremism to some extent.

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