Welcome to Our World, Michael

(Update: The video is back up and able to be embedded!)

Well, my family isn’t this bad. They still get me Christmas presents. (Of course, I’ve gotten only socks from them for several years running now… maybe they’re trying to send a message.)

But I don’t think Michael’s mom’s reaction is out of the ordinary for a lot of atheists coming out to their families. Many of us have to deal with this. No wonder so many atheists remain in the closet.

(By the way, what person puts down the camera just as it starts to get good?!)

(via OneGoodMove)


[tags]atheist, atheism, coming out[/tags]

  • Richard Wade

    (Of course, I’ve gotten only socks from them for several years running now… maybe they’re trying to send a message.)

    Yes Hemant, they’re trying to tell you to wear socks. The bare feet in leather shoes look just isn’t professional.

  • Richard Wade

    This is not a happy family. The mom’s vulgar anger is likely from fear of failing her socially expected role, the chubby dad seems passive and perhaps overeats to stuff down his disallowed feelings, the boy is a little young to make this decision without the risk that it’s really more about just wanting to be independent from his mom, and who is the unseen operator of the camera? A younger sibling, perhaps? The filming was planned in advance. Lots of secret intrigue for a suburban middle class family of four. They need family counseling, concentrating on opening up communication.

  • http://friendlyatheist.com FriendlyAtheist

    Yes Hemant, they’re trying to tell you to wear socks. The bare feet in leather shoes look just isn’t professional.

    That only happened once. How dare you bring it up again! :)

    Actually, my socks get “holey” (no pun intended) waaay too often. So they do come to use!

  • http://aboutkitty.blogspot.com/ Cat’s Staff

    I seem to get a lot of socks for Christmas too… Cat got a better present from my parents then I did last Christmas. I hope that was not staged, it’s a good example of the fear theists have of their children loosing their salvation. Hector Avalos gave a great presentation at a recent Minnesota Atheists meeting about the cause of religious conflict from a scarce resources perspective. One of the scarce resources is salvation. This may also be why people in the Islamic world are hostile to American culture. They see their children watching Bay Watch, and Dallas, and trying to live western lifestyles and they fear this will risk their kids eternal souls.

  • James Orpin

    I love her reaction when he says ‘OK’ to no presents. That pause says it all. You can almost see her thinking ‘s**t the present bribe didn’t work’. Nice to see an xtian ditching the salvaion rubbish and recognising the xmas is about presents.

  • Siamang

    Video is gone now.

    Somebody wasn’t supposed to post that I guess!

  • stogoe

    It’s gone from YouTube, but it’s still up here. (link stolen from the dread pirate Squidbeard, I mean PZ)

  • http://aboutkitty.blogspot.com/ Cat’s Staff

    onegoodmove.org still has it but it’s only the audio… The video is here now.

  • http://friendlyatheist.com FriendlyAtheist

    It’s back up on YouTube through a different user. Enjoy!

  • Pingback: Black Sun Journal » Archives » Religious Family Values: Threats and Violence

  • http://aboutkitty.blogspot.com/ Cat’s Staff

    One thing…it’s referred to as a Catholic family. I don’t remember the original video specifying any denomination. It’s assumed that it Catholic because of the mention of the Bishop, but man denominations have Bishops. It could have been Bishop T.D. Jakes for all we know.

  • Julie Marie

    Given the rotten response some of my Christian friends have had to my liberal movement, and how quiet that has made me in sharing this stuff, I can imagine this young man did put some forethought into how and when he was going to “out” himself. I too wonder about who is doing the filming and why.

    It would certainly be a sobering thing for a parent to watch. :(

  • Pingback: Ugly Americans Invades A Middle Class Family During A Private Moment « Gimme Back My God!

  • Tina

    I think it just goes to show you what it’s like to say you don’t believe in god. I bet this kid was scared of what his mom would do to him so he taped it. Like some other people have said about this video, what’s up with the dad just sitting there? Calm your wife down man!

  • Richard Wade

    Is anybody considering the humiliation that this family is now going through? They were in pain when this was filmed and now it must be much worse. Their friends and neighbors must have seen this by now. What if your private domestic difficulties were filmed and publicized without your knowledge or permission, subject to the ridicule and disapproval of the world? It doesn’t matter whether you like or dislike their opinions or behavior. I’m getting disgusted with people laughing at and deriding this family all over the net, as if it’s a legitimate source of mirth or grist for a relevant debate. The comments here aren’t too bad, but on other sites some of the comments are appalling. It’s not legitimate discussion, it’s naked cruelty.

  • Siamang

    I guess I shouldn’t have snuck into their house without their permission and filmed them then loaded it up on the internet.

    Wait. I didn’t do that. One of their kids did, presumably.

    To get exactly this kind of reaction, presumably.

    To say… look at my parents and how they treat me.

    Now in the days of yore, kids just grew up to write a tell-all book like “Mommie Dearest”.

    YouTube is the new version of that. People “laughing at” this family don’t know them. People who know them, if they really know them and know them to be better people than this clip shows, WON’T laugh, they’ll cry.

    I’m sure whoever was running that camera will get a tongue lashing as well, and no christmas presents either. If the mom has an open mind and a charitable and humble spirit, she’ll look on this as a learning moment. The reason that video was taken and uploaded was BECAUSE HER CHILDREN DON’T RESPECT HER.

    I wonder why.

  • http://danharlow.com Dan Harlow

    The whole idea of filming private family moments and posting them on the internet for everyone to see is just messed up. Sure, maybe the kid wanted to show the world what his mothers reaction would be but the mother HAS A RIGHT to be upset at her underage child. After all it’s HER CHILD wnd she can raise him ANYWAY SHE SEES FIT.

    It’s no secret I am left of center but I do not agree with the liberal thinking (and I use the word liberal in the same disparaging sense that FOX News uses it) that anything above raising your voice at a child is child abuse.

    Let families raise their kids they way they want to raise them. Yes, child abuse is a problem in some homes and those abusing parents should be dealt with but in the case of this video I see no abuse, I only see a mother who cares enough about her child’s decisions and wants to express her point of view. She could have handled herself better but parents are allowed to make mistakes too.

    At what point is enough enough? Why do we have to air out all our dirty laundry for the whole world to see? Is there really no privacy anymore? Will some people just not be happy until we live in a world where every action we take must first be analyzed on film for others to critique and either approve or disapprove of?

    I sure as hell do not want to live in a world where everything I do is policed. I should be allowed to raise my kids the way I want and I should have no say in how someone else raises their kids (unless something illegal is going on).

  • Siamang

    The whole idea of filming private family moments and posting them on the internet for everyone to see is just messed up.

    Well, you raise your kids in a messed up way and they do messed up things like this.

    Whatever. I notice you’re more incensed by the kid’s behavior than in the mom’s behavior. I’m the opposite.

  • Richard Wade

    Siamang,
    I respect you a lot but you’re insensitive here. I blow it too sometimes and people rightfully jump down my throat.

    It’s easy to rationalize when you’re watching rather than being the victim, and I doubt your rationalizations wouldn’t cut it with you if you were the one in such a video.

    You rationalize that you personally didn’t make the video, so it’s okay for you to participate in the judgmental condemnation and ridicule. No, it’s not. Regardless of how this came to public scrutiny, anyone participating in the abusive discussion is in the wrong.

    You rationalize that presumably the kid wanted to post this video so that’s okay. Kids do all sorts of vicious, destructive things to their families. That doesn’t make it okay or fair to the other family members. They have rights too.

    You rationalize that the people who know this family will be more forgiving and understanding. Bullshit. They’re gossiping and shunning right now.

    Finally the worst of all, you rationalize that the mother by her behavior deserves this public humiliation and that don’t worry she’ll probably grow from it. I’m in the business of helping people grow, and this is not the way it happens. This kind of abuse makes them go backward.

    Put yourself in her shoes and your rationalizations won’t work. I’ve seen you show great empathy, and it’s needed here. This family needs compassion and help not a lynch mob of derisive judgement.

  • Siamang

    Well, I’m not really thinking about these folks individually. I’m thinking of it sociologically.

    Individually, the genie’s out of the bottle. These people did something and made it public. Okay. Their own actions as a group, and they do something and take the consequences.

    Nothing I can do will put that genie back in the bottle. They have run though the town square nude by their own actions.

    Now, moving forward this becomes a part of history. An artifact of our shared culture. Given that this is now an artifact of our shared culture, CAN IT HELP OTHER FAMILIES?!

    Yes, I think it can. If we are able to discuss it. Yes SHUN it. Yes describe it as negative behavior. Yes call it ugly. Yes point it out to people. Yes PLAY IT IN CHURCH. Yes understand that this illustrates a way not to behave toward your children.

    Too late for this family perhaps. Not too late for others.

    For this family, take stock. Understand that yes, someone broke the good china. Sweep it up and move on.

    Or more likely don’t, because most often people will not change ever, ever, ever, even when the worst of them has been shown to the world, they do not change.

  • Siamang

    Dan, let me also hit this point:

    Sure, maybe the kid wanted to show the world what his mothers reaction would be but the mother HAS A RIGHT to be upset at her underage child. After all it’s HER CHILD wnd she can raise him ANYWAY SHE SEES FIT.

    Yes, but actions have consequences. And yes, you can raise your kids any way you see fit, but fuck that up and your kid pulls shit like this.

    It’s a natural consequence.

    For example… today’s my 40th Birthday. I have not heard from my father, nor do I expect to. He removed himself from my life in many small steps over decades. He has another son that he raised with my stepmother, and surprise surprise he left home when he turned 18 and hasn’t spoken to them since.

    Natural consequences occur from fucked up parenting. Yes, you “have every right to raise a child as you see fit”, but you must always remember: a child is not a piece of property. I can treat my AUTOMOBILE the way I see fit. I can treat my bike the way I see fit. I can treat my computer the way I see fit, and none of them will ever do anything autonomously to embarrass me.

    But do that to a child, and they WILL do shit like this. When it comes time to put you in a nursing home, your children decide if you live at the Golden Acres Estates next to the golf course, or if you live at that place where they found the dead rat in the guy’s mouth.

    Today a kid can put their parents on YouTube. Okay, new century, new paradigm, new reality. Adapt, get used to it, move on. Ten years ago, that kid would have run away from home or shot himself in the head. He still might.

    So really, how bad is YouTube when you look at what a poor isolated sensitive thoughtful soul might be looking to do?

  • Richard Wade

    Siamang,
    They did not run around nude through the town square by their own actions. They were exposed by one member of their household. The rest of the town (us) points and laughs, and no one thinks it’s important to help them to regain their dignity.

    It’s pretty cold blooded to say so what if this family is devastated as long as the rest of society can grow from it. You may not be, but I’m thinking of these folks individually, and I think we all need to learn to do that more. Screw sociology if this is what it takes to enrich it.

    They will probably eventually recover, more or less. But I doubt that they’ll ever have much of a chance to heal the problems that were there before the video was made. There apparently was a lack of trust. Now there is no chance of trust.

  • Richard Wade

    Siamang,
    Happy birthday. It takes courage to get intimate here. I have a suggestion for a wonderful birthday present, and I’m not being smart-assed. As a celebration of your landmark year, give yourself the gift of deep maturity and you call your father. You show the confidence and open-heartedness to reach out to him, to not passively accept the crummy relationship you have, leaving it all up to him. At 40 you can really take advantage of being grown up before the physical deterioration sets in. You talk about learning experiences and other families being helped by other’s examples, try being an example. A positive one.

  • Siamang

    The rest of the town (us) points and laughs, and no one thinks it’s important to help them to regain their dignity.

    My point is, HOW could it be possible for anyone’s actions to help this family regain their dignity? The genie’s out of the bottle, it’s impossible to unshit the bed… I could employ a hundred other aphorisms… But number one is, I can’t fix their family. Would it really help them if I… what, didn’t keep commenting on a web-site about them? Would they get the psychic vibe somehow that some people weren’t as viscious as the (over 400 at last count) comments on DIGG.com? “Oh, WHEW, at least SIAMANG restrained himself!”

    It’s pretty cold blooded to say so what if this family is devastated as long as the rest of society can grow from it.

    No, what I’m saying is that the family is devastated, if they are at all, BECAUSE of their own actions, and not just the actions of ONE person in the household. I count four people in that video. Every single one of them had a role to play in this fiasco. The kid (presumably) behind the camera had a role to play. The atheist Michael who tipped the videographer to start rolling. The mom for sure, for being just a horrible example, and the silent dad. This family’s problem didn’t start when the camera started rolling. Every action that led to this video being posted started LONG before that.

    There apparently was a lack of trust. Now there is no chance of trust.

    Well, that happens too. Kids fuck up. Parents fuck up. That’s part of parenting too. I set fire to my bedroom. But if you’ve got it in you to fix things when you fuck up, then that’s great.

    This family might have it in themselves to fix this. They probably don’t, but that’s because I think they’re kind of messed up. But come on, nothing I do on http://www.friendlyatheist.com is going to give them the tools or take away the tools they need to do that.

    I’m not a totemistic believer such that I think that by sending them good or charitable thoughts that they would recieve that and it would help them.

  • http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com/ Mike C

    Happy Birthday Siamang!
    :)

  • Siamang

    Happy birthday. It takes courage to get intimate here. I have a suggestion for a wonderful birthday present, and I’m not being smart-assed. As a celebration of your landmark year, give yourself the gift of deep maturity and you call your father.

    Sincere thanks. But I’ve done that and more. I take that step every three or four years and reach out. I’ve done it time and again over my life… always breaking the silence, initiating the communication, attempting to reach out and include them.

    But on some levels I do need to protect my family. I have a daughter now and I really can’t say that they would be a good addition to her emotional upbringing. I’m actually thankful they live a few states away… Let’s just say that I’ve been in situations with them that make Michael’s mom look like Mary Poppins.

  • Siamang

    Thanks Mike C!

  • Richard Wade

    Would it really help them if I… what, didn’t keep commenting on a web-site about them? Would they get the psychic vibe somehow that some people weren’t as viscious as the (over 400 at last count) comments on DIGG.com? “Oh, WHEW, at least SIAMANG restrained himself!”

    The restraint probably wouldn’t help them, but it might help Siamang.

    I’m only saying that there are far too few people who stop to think about the suffering of people being dragged through the mud like this, even if there’s not much they can do to stop it. The benefit we get from clucking at their negative example is nothing compared to the benefit we would get if we stopped to have some empathy. It’s a valuable quality that gets stronger with practice. If more people did it, these videos wouldn’t spread like wildfire, and gossipy scandals on TV would not grip the attention of the public as they do.

    I’m not placing any judgements on you. That would be doing the very thing I’m objecting to. As for your own story and family, I commend you for your attempts to improve the relationships. Regardless of the response from the other side, you have grown just by making the offers. It’s a difficult balance to keep when you have negative influences that you can’t control in a family, and you have others to protect from those with whom you wish you could be closer.

    Again, happy birthday, with no suggestions added. I’ll shut up about all this now.

  • Darryl

    Michael, you poor fella. I sympathize. Your mother’s a bitch, and your dad’s a coward, and we’ve all seen the proof.

    I’ve haven’t read so much crap in years as I have from Wade and Harlow on this matter. Come on Wade, don’t be a wimp about this. That vicious mother ought to be ashamed of her actions. What if she were beating her kid, would you want that kept private too? She was abusing him by any definition of the word. She was out of control and needs to be shamed.

    And Harlow, what the hell?

    the mother HAS A RIGHT to be upset at her underage child. After all it’s HER CHILD and she can raise him ANYWAY SHE SEES FIT.

    Have you lost your mind? No parent OWNS their children; and no parent has a right to deny a teen his freedom of conscience and threaten him like this. I’m concerned as much as you about the loss of privacy, but don’t get stupid on me. Have you raised any children? It’s a privilege and a solemn responsibility; it’s not like owning a pet!

    You guys sound like fundamentalists! Jeez!

  • Siamang

    The benefit we get from clucking at their negative example is nothing compared to the benefit we would get if we stopped to have some empathy. It’s a valuable quality that gets stronger with practice. If more people did it, these videos wouldn’t spread like wildfire, and gossipy scandals on TV would not grip the attention of the public as they do.

    I think you’re fighting human nature there.

    We police our own actions with social norms, and when Imus or Michael’s mother show up and do something stupid, they make an example out of themselves.

    Yeah, I have much more sympathy for Michael’s family than for Imus, because Imus is in the public eye more by his own choice than by the random action of a teenager.

    But this is moral instruction. This is how we as a society police our norms. Not pretty, not fun, it can run into a mob mentality and it can get ugly. But we can’t escape it…. it’s us at a very core level of our being.

    Anyway, I think you’re kind of fighting the social stucture itself if we don’t shun the naughty. It’s kind of how we got here. Live and let live is great and all, but we’re social creatures, and the bad of that comes with the good of it.

  • Siamang

    And yes, the power of the internet magnifies that shunning beyond all reason. And that’s not good. But conversely it magnifies its socially instructive potential to others.

  • Richard Wade

    Darryl,
    I would adopt the slightly hostile tone of using only your last name too, but you don’t post it. If you think my appealing to people for empathy is wimpy, well that says something about you, not me.

    She was not beating her kid, she was shouting at him. While I don’t condone that and it is generally inappropriate, it was happening within a huge context that we’re not privy to. What was happening in the moments, weeks and years before the camera started rolling we don’t know. I don’t think that parents “own” their children either. But children don’t own their parents as well. Parents do not become indentured servants the moment their kids are born. Parents have a right to their privacy and their objectionable behavior should be corrected in ways that don’t go way past the level of their offense.

    I raised the most difficult, challenging daughter of any family I ever met. I came close to exploding several times, but I respected her rights as she grew to merit them by accepting the concurrent responsibilities. I also expected her to respect my rights in return. She has grown into a difficult, challenging adult whom I very much enjoy knowing. As big a pain-in-the-neck as she can be, she would never do to anyone what was done by this video, because she has that wimpy quality called empathy.

  • Richard Wade

    I think you’re fighting human nature there.

    It’s not nature, it’s just what you said right after that; it’s social norms. Social norms can be adjusted. Individual qualities can be encouraged or discouraged by the general direction of the group. There’s a constantly shifting balance between “live and let live” at one end and a puritanical “shame them for any transgression” on the other end. When a society goes to either extreme things start falling apart.

    People can be encouraged to be both diligent in protecting their own rights and the rights of others, while at the same time giving an appropriate level of compassion for those who violate the social norm. You will never have everyone agree on where that balance is for any given incident, but what’s important is the fact that the society is constantly trying to find that balance. If that search is abandoned the society will become debased and go extinct.

  • Karen

    Siamang-

    Happy birthday to you,
    happy birthday to you,
    you’re named for a monkey,
    and you evolved from one, too!

    (apologies to C. Darwin)

    Hope you have a great day! :-)

  • Siamang

    Snort.

    Thanks!

  • http://danharlow.com Dan Harlow

    Michael, you poor fella. I sympathize. Your mother’s a bitch, and your dad’s a coward, and we’ve all seen the proof.

    This video is being used to (falsely) “show” atheists that theists act like “crazy zealots” yet you resort to the same tactics. How are you any better than the mother in the video? What do you have to offer that is so much more rational?

    You guys sound like fundamentalists! Jeez!

    No, you do because you like to yell and scream and hurl insults.

  • Darryl

    Richard Wade,

    I meant no disrespect by using your last name. The dysfunction in this family is endemic to our country. We are a violent Nation, by any standard. There was once a time in this country when men could beat their wives and the family kept silent about it, and the police would do nothing. We have a greater sensitivity now than then. What level of sensitivity will we have tomorrow? The cycles of violence must be broken. Our country is changing, no doubt about it, and perhaps we are entering a new period when new tools will become available to limit this kind of thing. Loss of privacy may be a casualty. On this issue we will have to disagree.

  • Darryl

    Dan Harlow,

    No screaming and yelling here, that’s on the video. I remind you of what you said:

    the mother HAS A RIGHT to be upset at her underage child. After all it’s HER CHILD and she can raise him ANYWAY SHE SEES FIT.

    Notice the capitals–who’s yelling?

    The mother has a right to be upset? Really? Expand on that idea if you would. And what’s “underage” got to do with it? He has no right to his beliefs? He’s got a brain, but he shouldn’t use it because of his mother’s screwy ideas?

    It’s her child therefore she can raise him anyway she sees fit? He’s a slave to her religion until he’s 18 because she bore him, is that it? He ought to be forced to be a hypocrite by going through the motions when he’s at church? Taking the communion when he doesn’t believe; reciting creeds that he thinks are bogus?

    Sounds barbaric to me. This kid may have more on the ball than both his parents. It’s tough being a teenager when your parents push you around, should he have to suffer with threats for thinking for himself?

  • http://danharlow.com Dan Harlow

    Darryl:

    I am talking about what goes on in the privacy of someone else’s home.

    Also, you seem to want to just take the side of the kid. Based on your reasoning we should then assume that the parent has no right to express her opinion? Is that because you don’t agree with her?

    What if the parents were atheists and the kid said “I believe in God”? Whose side would you be on then?

  • Darryl

    Dan Harlow,

    The definition of privacy is changing, amigo. Putting that aside, do you think that this woman would berate her son this way in public? Of course not. Why do you think that hiding this abuse is her right of privacy? A lot of bad things go on in private. Many of them we the people stick our noses into as a matter of law. Can you imagine a law that forbids a parent from doing what this parent did? I can.

    So, you think that this mother was “expressing her opinion?” What a gift you have for understatement. She was verbally abusing, threatening, and blackmailing this poor fella. I don’t know how you were raised, but in my home that was not what we’d call “expressing an opinion.”

    And for your edification, in my home my kids are free to believe whatever they choose. They know my views, but I respect them enough to afford them the dignity that was afforded me.

  • http://danharlow.com Dan Harlow

    Darryl:

    What, exactly, is your definition of abuse? Do you think spanking a child is abuse? Do you think having an argument is abuse? Do you think acting the way parents have acted since there have been parents is all abuse?

    I bet you have your hands full letting your kids run around totally undisciplined because you let them do whatever they want because you think everything above a quite whisper is abuse.

    Also, we are not in “your home” (your words) we are in their home. How it works in your home should not be the de facto standard of how things should be in my home. What makes your method of child rearing so much better than anyone else’s? Who are you to tell me or anyone how to raise their kids?

  • Richard Wade

    Daryl,
    Thanks for your clarification. Call me Richard or Richard Wade if there’s another Richard being discussed, such as Dawkins.

    I’m in complete agreement with you that the dysfunction we witnessed here is widespread in America, and that we are far too violent in both our physical and verbal ways of expression. I also hope you are right that our general sensitivity about such things as domestic violence will continue to increase. There’s still a lot of it. As a counselor I often would have to report it.

    What I will harp on one last time is that the violence done to one person in the video is nothing compared to the violence done to the whole family by the video.

    It seems like I came in here and spoiled everybody’s fun by being the first on this thread to say that it’s cruel to gain fun and/or a sense of self righteousness from the pain and humiliation of this family. Now people are annoyed with me and are justifying their behavior with side issues. Okay, never mind. I said my piece. I think you’re all still good people, and I mean it. I’m no one to condemn anybody else.

  • http://danharlow.com Dan Harlow

    Richard:

    I also agree that domestic violence is something we all need increased sensitivity about. But in this case, is there actual domestic violence going on here or is it just a hot headed mom yelling at her kids?

    I’m from Boston and back east we all like to yell and scream. It’s nothing personal, it’s just how we are. But if you were to take a video of my crazy family would you say I grew up in a violent family? What frame of reference do we need to make that judgment?

    If the police came to my house as a kid to drag away my family because someone thought it was abuse I would be pissed because I knew it was not abuse, it was just a bunch of hot heads who like to yell.

    So where do we draw the line? If someone is punched? If someone gets whipped? I can agree that physically harming someone is violence. What about yelling and screaming? That’s allot harder to tell, isn’t it?

    Now I understand that abuse does not necessarily have to be physical, it can also be mental, but how do we determine that? Do we put a camera hooked up to YouTube in every home in America to watch for abuse?

  • Darryl

    Dan Harlow,

    You asked these questions:

    How are you any better than the mother in the video? What do you have to offer that is so much more rational?

    I gave these answers:

    in my home my kids are free to believe whatever they choose. They know my views, but I respect them enough to afford them the dignity that was afforded me.

    If you didn’t want my views, why did you ask. Oh, I get it–that was rhetoric! My, but you are clever!

    The rest of your diatribe does not merit a response. You’re getting overheated. Perhaps we should quit on this subject.

  • Darryl

    Richard,

    Please forgive my overreaction. I can put myself in this families shoes. I wonder what this video will mean for this family and for Michael?

  • http://danharlow.com Dan Harlow

    The rest of your diatribe does not merit a response. You’re getting overheated. Perhaps we should quit on this subject.

    Okay.

  • Richard Wade

    Dan,
    As I mentioned as a family counselor I had to make many, many assessments about possible child, spousal and elder abuse. There are specific legal guidelines in my state, but it still requires judgment.

    Going only by the few seconds of what we saw in the tape, I would not determine that it constituted reportable child abuse. Yelling can rise to the illegal level of abuse, but as I also mentioned before, this tiny snippet exists in a much larger context of the family’s history of behavior. We know nothing of what transpired before or after. A single in-your-face yell could be the culmination of an afternoon filled with tension about a completely different matter. If the yelling went on and on, if there was no relief or escape, if it became more threatening or deeply hurtful, then it could in my opinion move into the realm of reportable emotional verbal abuse. But we will never know. For all we know right after the camera was shut off the mother could have switched from anger to sadness or regret about the shouting or about her disappointment in her son’s decision. In either of those cases there would be more room for softening their antagonism.

    Our society is in transition on the issue of what is unacceptable in the home. As Daryl noted, not long ago severe beatings of spouses and children were ignored. Now there are serious debates in states across the nation about whether a single swat on a child’s bottom is physical abuse. A similar controversy is continuing about verbal expressions of emotion. Opinions span the full spectrum.

    This lack of context is the problem of passing judgments of any kind on this family based solely on this brief moment. Whether we’re talking about the issue of Michael announcing that he’s an atheist, or the issue of what is child abuse, it is absurd to jump to hard conclusions and make harsh value statements about the people involved. It’s like taking a single photo out the side window on a long train trip and trying to use that to characterize the entire journey.

  • Richard Wade

    Daryl,

    Please forgive my overreaction. I can put myself in this families shoes. I wonder what this video will mean for this family and for Michael?

    Not a problem. Scenes like these upset us. They push our buttons. The atheism issue can be beside the point. We jump on our personal pain soap boxes and start arguing past each other, maybe because we’re actually arguing with somebody from our past. For folks like myself who grew up in alcoholic families, the buttons are huge and the pain is severe. Some of that scene was dreadfully familiar. It’s one of the reasons I became a family counselor. It’s also one of the reasons years later I finally quit.

    Speculating on what the aftermath of the video will mean for them is risky because we just don’t know them well enough, but what would not surprise me would be large doses of a sense of betrayal for everyone. The mother might feel betrayed by her son’s decision and doubly betrayed by being candidly filmed and exposed. The son might feel betrayed by her angry reaction, her forbidding of Christmas presents, and later by the negative reaction from his religious schoolmates. The father faces possible accusations of betrayal for not coming to the side of either of them, and he in turn might feel betrayed for being punished for just trying to survive in an angry family. If the camera was operated by a younger sibling he or she is gonna get it, and could feel betrayed by the older brother for starting it all, as well as by the family system that is so full of anger. The possibilities are endless and not very pretty. Betrayal is one of he most destructive things in a family. In the unlikely event that the video starts them on a path that eventually leads them to a better set of relationships, it will be only after a long and very bad setback first. I wouldn’t bet money on a racehorse that starts by running the wrong way.

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  • George Kopeliadis

    When I said so to my religious mother, (ages ago ;) ) she just said:
    “Ok it’s your perogative, although I wanted you to follow my steps”
    I give the same freedom to choose to my child!

  • Gary

    …and no more Easter baskets either, Michael.

    Think about it man.

  • http://www.Gnostic-Unrest.blogspot.com GnosticUnrest

    “This video is being used to (falsely) “show” atheists that theists act like “crazy zealots”

    I must have gone through ten religious phases as a teenager, trying to figure out what I believe and as an adult my beliefs are still evolving. What irks the hell out of me about this whole issue is just where is the patience from the parents? All kids go through stuff like this.

    Getting back to the quote I listed. please tell me that everyone here understands just how harsh literalist/fundamentalist Christianity is on the unbeliever? Please tell me that you understand that “thou shalt not suffer a witch” is every bit as damning as announcing you are an atheist?

    I grew up in a literalist household and yes, it could be every bit as angry sounding as this video.

  • Richard Wade

    Yes, GnosticUnrest, several people here understand very well what you are describing. While you may have taken a different escape route, many are refugees from families like this, or worse.


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