Exposing my mother’s religion… To my children?

I know I’ve been quiet lately, many things are weighing on my mind, between finding work/a job *shudder* and the other things that can easily fill a life, I have some deep questions that I’ve been mulling over.

*For clarity, I don’t have any kids of my own yet.

One of these questions was posed to me by my mom – “Would you allow me to take your children to church with me?”

This question comes in the midst of a ‘controversial’ case happening in my country on removing religion in schools. I’m involved in developing an organisation that promotes secularism in society, so I’m tuned into the case intimately. So when my mother asked this question, I recalled the stories of atheist (as well as non-christian) parents sending their children to school, and the torment it caused them. My mother is a kind person at heart, sometimes a bit too sharp and thoughtless with her tongue, but I felt a genuine request for me to show that I would allow her to share this important part of her life.

So my quick answer was, “Yes, but only with my permission.”

But the thought lingered and grew into a much more serious question – Do I find anything appropriate in the christian faith? And would I honestly allow my children to be exposed to it at a young age?

Children under the age of eight are very impressionable. They see fun in the smallest and sometimes most arbitrary events and activities. A child in a christian family would go to Sunday school, there they would colour in depictions of bible stories, sing songs (my niece sang ‘Jesus loves me’ in the car this evening… I shuddered), while the less “violent” stories are told as entertainment. {When I say less violent, I mean stuff like the “Creation”, “Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden”, “Jesus feeding the many with two fish”… the mild stuff…even “Jonah in the belly of the whale” without the end bit where he reviles against the people.} The ‘fun’ of Sunday school is enticing to a young child… it’s only a form of play after all.

But indoctrination starts as a pleasant and quiet thing…

Sunday school slowly and gentle nudges the bible as truth over reason. Eventually you find yourself sitting in the pew of the choir, as a youth leader, as the brother who cleans the ‘House of God’ and testifies the gospel – without even realising that something is not quite right in the story you are being told. That listening to how Jesus was murdered, nailed to a cross, left to bleed for hours and suffer, only to be spared from more pain by a poisoned spear… And not be troubled when you hear that this is for my ‘salvation’. The reinforcing, that this is good, this was necessary for your ‘salvation’… and you have only to maintain doubtless faith and acceptance to receive the reward of eternity with “God, the father, the Son and the Holy Spirit in Heaven”… Something should have felt amiss for me years before I started questioning…

Faced with my own experience, my own internal evaluation of my life since childhood… My answer was becoming contorted into a “No….maybe when they’re old enough to understand…but I’ll have to think carefully about it” or “No! Not without me being present. Not without them being able to truly comprehend.” The NOs where stacking up and I was struggling to find something positive to keep an open mind about having my children exposed to, what I am more inclined to know as a religion based on a book of horrendous acts of violence and hate by human against human, each professing that this is “God’s will” and delivered by “God’s love”… and then to the brutal torture of an innocent man for someone elses “sins”.

I was becoming inclined to “Not before they’re ten years old!”.

I’ve read the bible many times, I stopped after I found no answers in it for me, and though the reading was critical, it wasn’t even part of the reason I doubted my belief in christianity. My recent reading of commentary on the bible (some from as far back as the 4th century) and the contradictions found in the bible, have reinforced my thoughts that christianity and the bible itself are fabrications and have little truth that would improve me or humanity… or be anything more than have a dreadful impact on my children.

I was still not satisfied to just forbid my christian relatives from sharing their beliefs, I needed something to sway me in either direction. I set out to find something positive about the “God” in the bible, so I posted in an Atheist and Christian (Atheist VS Christian ~ as if it’s a battle) debate group, I had a simple request:

“I’d like a Christian to quote some Bible passages that show how their god is loving.”

The first, and a verse repeated more than anything else :

John 3:16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.

The only verse quoted as a demonstration of the ‘infinite’ love “God” has for human beings, his creation… Is one of murdering his own “Son”. A blood sacrifice of an innocent as a symbol and act of love, simply so that “God” could forgive humankind of straying from “His” will. The debate, if I can even call it that, became a torrent of christians pushing their gospel and trying to convince us about the morality and “wonderfulness” of such an act. Demanding that I explain constantly why this verse is not an act of love – I even used an anecdote of a man, whose wife cheats on him, and to forgive her and rectify their relationship… He kills a stranger walking by… The man then tells his wife that the stranger’s death allows her forgiveness, and is rewarded with his love (Needless to says, no christian responded to whether that was an act of love, or condemned it as immoral).

But still, they demand that I, and other atheists in the thread, accept that this is an act of love… Because isn’t it an act of love when one person sacrifices themselves so another may live? It’s not the same thing though. To accept that I might ‘Take the bullet’ and die to save someone I love and care about, is one thing… But to have someone be executed for your wrong doings… How can I accept that as an act of love? How can any moral being!

I am deeply saddened that no one could give me a single verse that displayed an act of “God’s” love, because perhaps with that single verse I could honestly have built a case for the good in christianity. The responses to my argument against this idea of killing a person and then saying how wonderful it is that “He died for our sins”, are revolting. I can not imagine a parent who would want for their child to condone murder and torture – to celebrate it and revel in it – unless they would do such deeds to others themselves.

My answer, is an emphatic “NO! You will not expose my children to your beliefs. Not unless I am present! Not until they are over 8, and can comprehend that not everything said or written is true.”

**I’ll be posting my conclusion in that debate… I may edit it a bit 🙂

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6 thoughts on “Exposing my mother’s religion… To my children?

  1. Pingback: I don’t want to understand! | The Atheist Me

  2. Pingback: Exposing my mother's religion... To my children? | Christians Anonymous

  3. I’m not sure why you didn’t get a response to your example of the husband and wife scenario, but here is my explanation:

    God didn’t murder Jesus, people put him to death, and since God and Jesus are one in the same, it was more compare able of self sacrifice than murdering a random passerby.

    I think a better example of God love for us is the creation story. God spoke everything into existance in the Genises story, but when he created man, he molded and sculpted him out of the dirt. He took his time and put more effort and detail into our creation, then he got face to face with this creation and breathed life into us.

    I also find it extremely loving that when Adam and Eve sinned and were cast out of the garden of Eden, before God handed down judgement, he made a promise of redemption. If you read the text, he foretold and promised the coming of Jesus before he told them what their punishment would be for their sin. As a mother to 3 little ones, I see so much love in this!

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    • Britta, thanks for you reply.

      Firstly, thank you for the creation story perspective, I had never thought of it that way. Love being expressed in the care and devotion in the process of creating. I’ll accept this as a show of love. I have some issues with it, but they’re in context of the bigger Christian story.

      Now the other two are big issues for me. I mean this without judgement:

      What is the purpose of an immortal being pretending to die for something? It seems like an egotistical and a rather self interested way of demonstrated its power. The sacrifice then becomes simply a show for spectators, rather than of genuine expression of love.

      I’m hesitant to accept that Adam and Eve received a just punishment. To me, they were naive and could not remotely understand deception, yet they are punished for the act of another being’s trickery. God does not give an equal punishment to the serpent, but even though at that moment he has the ability to forgive or even guide Adam and Eve’s new ‘knowledge’, like a good parent would. The other thing about this ‘sin’, is that god set them up to fail, HE put the temptation in the garden and told them not to eat of it. God fails to protect them from the potential damage such a thing might do, and takes no responsibly for it.

      The minor care he offers them, is that sometime in the future, he will send someone to redeem them, while casting them out in the wilderness with nothing. This would be the same as throwing your own children out into the street, and then promising them that their children will be welcome to visit.

      My big issue with the ideas that have embedded themselves in people through the Christian religion are indefensible. The injustice that god shows throughout the Bible culminates in the brutal, public torture to death of a being, and is then celebrated as if it has meaning. I cannot honestly accept that this ‘god’ has compassion or a remote interest in the wellbeing of humankind.

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  4. I share your struggle and frustration with this. When my daughter went to church ( she’s grown now and chooses, like me, not to go), I was always open to her questions, and admitted I had many too. As for verses on divine love, I find it curious people have not pointed to Jesus’ acts of kindness such as touching lepers and other outcasts. Perhaps this is because anyone can do that, and because theology is such a “fun” distraction from living as a good person. Just some ideas.

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