When the Neighbor Wants to Take Your Kid to Church

Imagine your neighbor having this conversation with you:

Neighbor: I wanted to ask you about [your son]… We’re going to this thing tomorrow and I wanted to know if he could come?… It’s a church thing, but the kids don’t really do a lot of the church stuff. They just play. I thought he might like it.

You: Well, what kind of church thing is it?

Neighbor: Well, it’s church. We go to a really nice church down the street and I have heard you and your boyfriend talking about being atheists, but I figure your son might still want to see what it’s all about.

You: My 6-year-old son?

Neighbor: Well, yeah.

You: You’re asking to take my 6-year-old kid to a church, knowing that I’m an atheist?

Neighbor: Well, I know you rejected god, but that doesn’t mean your boy has to grow up without knowing all his options, right? I’m not trying to offend you…

How would you respond?

You can see how Beth handled the situation here.

(via Allied Atheist Alliance)

  • http://logofveritas.blogspot.com Veritas

    You: I understand what you’re trying to say, but I’d really rather not.

    Neighbor: You are part of the Atheist Alliance and a traitor! Take her away!

    Later…

    You: Your sad adherence to that ancient religion hasn’t conjured up the stolen datatapes. You should have used the scientific method!

    Neighbor: *force choke*

  • http://reanhouse.blogspot.com Sarah

    I don’t think I would have handled that as well as Beth did. She gets a gold star for diplomacy and tact.

  • Jon R

    I would go with them. I would hope, if I ever have a child, that by age 6 I have taught them enough critical thinking skills to be able to have a good time.

    I would go along so that if they start the speaking in tongues, writhing on the floor thing we could both make a hasty exit.

  • pip

    I read how Beth handled it, which I agree with. If her son is mature for his age then an alternative response would have been to say, ‘yes, he can go, and I will go with him as well so that I can explain to him why I question the things that he is going to be told.”

    My mother is a Christian, and she took my brother and me to Sunday School and church when we were little, but she always made it clear to us that we were free to choose or reject religion. When I was 9 years old the 7 year old son of the Catholic family that lived next door to us was confirmed. I remember my mom commenting that that was far too young for a person to commit to a faith, because he couldn’t fully understand what he was doing.

    When I was in my teens and an agnostic my Christian friend (her parents were atheists!) and I spent a number of Sundays going to different churches in town to see what they were like. My mom even arranged through her Jewish friend for us to attend the synagogue. She always supported me to make up my own mind, even though that didn’t stop her from saying, when something extremely fortuitous happened ‘see, there is a God.’

    Both my parents encouraged me to always question. That is the key. A child learns by being exposed to various beliefs and ideas, so long as he is encouraged to question and look at all sides of the issue.

  • Steve

    That Christian neighbor sounds like a real hypocrite. She won’t let her own daughter “know all the options” and “make up her own mind,” but she wants to take someone else’s kid to church on that pretense. Pathetic.

  • http://skepticsplay.blogspot.com miller

    He’s six. Knowing your options is sort of worthless if you’re too young to even understand them.

    Also, I thought you said they were just going to play, and not do any church stuff?

  • http://www.anthonyrmiller.com/blog Tony

    She should have laid the smack down on her!

    j/k She did a great job handling that situation.

  • Peregrine

    “No, thank you.”

  • Naturalist

    No, thank you. We approach religion with reasoned skepticism and it would be pointless for my son to attend an institution that presupposes all its claims are true.

  • Saint Splattergut

    “he’s not the one who asked me if he could go to church, you are”

    to me, this is the most salient point…

    the neighbour is such a hypocrite. nice dealin’, Beth!

  • Sackbut

    It bothers me that the neighbor lady asked to take the child to church. It INFURIATES me that the neighbor lady did so under extremely false pretenses. How DARE she claim that it’s an event for children, where they play, and not come right out with the truth? Who could POSSIBLY want to affiliate themselves with such perverted morality?

  • http://aurorawalkingvacation.blogspot.com Paul

    I would have been perfectly polite up until she said, “well, of course not,” at which point I would have pointd out to her that the English language has a word to describe her position: hypocrite.

  • mkb

    “No thank you” for any child under 11 or 12. After that i would leave it up to my child.

  • Richard Wade

    Excellent response. Reading the whole interaction on Beth’s blog is well worth it.

    Pointing out the neighbor’s double standard is the most devastating argument against a hypocrite. She wants to let Beth’s son “know all the options,” but she deprives her own daughter of the same thing, and wouldn’t even consider letting her daughter attend some fun event with all atheists.

    Also, watch out for cagey statements like

    NL: It’s a church thing, but the kids don’t really do a lot of the church stuff they just play. I thought he might like it.

    “The kids don’t really do a lot of the church stuff” leaves plenty of room for the kids doing some of the church stuff. Hypocrites talk like lawyers sometimes do, equivocating with little details in their statements. Their words are technically not lies, but their intention is to deceive.

    Lying for Jesus is in the long run a self-defeating strategy.

  • http://alliedatheistalliance.blogspot.com advertisinglies

    Thanks for the mention, Hemant. I think if I had time to think about the situation more I might have reacted a bit differently but off the cuff, I think I did OK. Like I said, the woman seemed nice enough – but I still disliked how she wasn’t honest from the beginning and it caused me to reject the idea of Tristan going to church with them pretty quickly.

  • Todd

    Beth was too nice and way too trusting. The diplomacy she used may have diverted the neighbor’s plan for the next day, but she left an opening when she said that it wasn’t her son asking to go to church. What happens next is the neighbor’s daughter is about to be used to brainwash her son.

    This is going to make me sound like the big mean ol’ atheist, but proselytizing religious people should not be allowed near children without proper supervision. They are not to be trusted.

  • littlejohn

    “Sure, if I can take your kid to my next Satanic church meeting. We’ll be sacrificing a goat. I think she should really know all her options, don’t you?”

  • http://wearesoulless.blog.com/ Soulless

    “My son can go to church when he is less vulnerable to just believing things that are told to him by adults. When he can actively question what he’s being told and understand the implications of believing things with no evidence. After I’ve seen to it his critical thinking skills are able to see through all the B.S. that life will inevitably throw at him. Which should take another 15 years, come back then.”

  • justanotherjones

    Beth, I think you did a great job pointing out the hypocrisy. Hopefully she will look into her own thinking and motivation for how she approached you.

  • KeithLM

    I would have handled it pretty much how Beth did. However I would have made sure and pointed out her absolute hypocrisy and I would have told her if she tried preaching to my child, or using her child to lure my child to church then I would restrict my child from seeing hers and explain to him just how bad some people are.

  • http://thecrashiscoming.blogspot.com XauriEL

    Well, I know you rejected god, but that doesn’t mean your boy has to grow up without knowing all his options, right? I’m not trying to offend you…

    Amazing how you can do such a great job without even trying.

  • Ada

    I like the way Beth handled it, but to be honest, I’d probably have said, “why do you assume he’s going to grow up without ‘knowing his options?’” Beth’s answer is probably a lot better, but I doubt I would have thought of it.

  • Richard Wade

    Hopefully she will look into her own thinking and motivation for how she approached you.

    Don’t hold your breath waiting for that. Honest introspection is not likely in this woman. She’ll walk away thinking that Beth’s refusal is more proof of her being on the right course. You know, that business of how they will be more persecuted the closer they get to “God’s Truth.” That translates to: The more people who tell you that you’re acting like an asshole, the less likely it is that you are acting like an asshole.

  • Staceyjw

    I think that 6 is too young to choose your religious/philosophical outlook- but it is not too young to be brainwashed, terrified, or confused! Knowing that xtians purposely preach to children, with the singular intent to make them xtian, is reason enough to refuse to allow a young child to attend church.

    No matter how rational one becomes, there are things you hear that can’t be unheard.I know many atheist adults that still have a tough time removing the influence of childhood religious indocttrination.

    We protect children from exposure to ideas/things that we believe are harmful, or inappropriate for their age. Religion is no exception, and should be treated as such.

    The atheist parent may differ in how they teach their kids to understand and interact with the world around them, and in the “tools” they use for doing so (generally secular ethics, rational/logical thinking and scientific methods). But they are no different from any other parent when it comes to controlling the things their young children are exposed to.

    I would have politely let that woman know that it is appropriate to take my child to church, and that I would appreciate if they did not share their beliefs with my child- EVER.

    I don’t feel that this needs explained or justified- but I would make her an offer: if I could take both her and her kid to an all atheist philosophy event, we would go to her church.

    Only if my kid was over 12, and asked me themself, would I say ok. (depending on maturity level).
    I think it was rude and sneaky of her.

  • Ash

    Someone you hardly know approaches you out of the blue and wants to take your six year old child away from you for a couple of hours?

    Fuck the religious aspect; immensely well handled, I’d’ve completely lost my rag with her.

  • Ryan

    Veritas Says:

    August 16th, 2009 at 11:22 am
    You: I understand what you’re trying to say, but I’d really rather not.

    Neighbor: You are part of the Atheist Alliance and a traitor! Take her away!

    Later…

    You: Your sad adherence to that ancient religion hasn’t conjured up the stolen datatapes. You should have used the scientific method!

    Neighbor: *force choke*

    That cracked me up. lol

  • Carlie

    I think the biggest bit of chutzpah on the part of the mother is found later in the comments, when Beth said that she and the woman don’t even know each other. “Hi, I don’t know you, but can I take your child away for a few hours to a church that you know nothing about since we don’t even know each other enough for you to know what church that is?” Yeesh. Any decent proselytizing church teaches that you at least have to pretend to like people in order to coerce them to coming to church with you. I think she handled it great, and probably wouldn’t have come up with something nearly as good.

  • Gordon

    It was creepy, clearly the neighbour felt like she had a truth to share and all talk of “knowing all his options” is just a cover for that.

    I doubt she’ll ever seriously consider the analogy between her feelings if her daughter were invited to an atheist meeting and what she was proposing. After all she was offering “truth”

    Good job Beth

  • Sandra

    I’ve had neighbors ask about taking my son to their church. My reaction is always, when he is older and interested in learning about different religions then we will attend different types of religious services so he can make an informed decision.

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com hoverFrog

    I’d drive them from my property and call the police. This is a clear attempt to abduct a child and brainwash him into some sort of mad cult. At the very least the police should pay her a visit. It’ll stop her trying again.

  • Chester

    Ha!
    I agree with hoverfrog.

    Honestly, I was taught as a child that I was worthless and God would send me to hell – that led to some serious problems, obviously, and looking back I realize it was a form of child abuse. I would NEVER let someone put my child through that.

    Calling the police wouldn’t be entirely wrong in this situation. “Hi, someone just asked me very politely if they could abuse my child and involve him in cultic rituals. Do we have a law against that, or what?”

  • jemand

    A THING. She asked to take the kid to a THING… than under questioning… admits… well… it’s a church thing……

    and then under more questioning…

    well, it’s church.

    That’s when I’d be really mad, about how they weren’t being honest at the beginning about their intentions, trying to slide it over by hoping no questions are asked…

  • Country Crock

    When her neighbor lady immediately blurted out, “Well of course not!”, I would have responded, “Well, there’s you answer.”

    If the neighbor lady asked why, I would have said for the same reasons she would not let her child go to an atheist meeting. Same reasons!

  • vivian

    She definately handled it much better than I would have. I have two daughters and would’ve probably blurted something out like,”No way, I don’t know the people that go there and they could be perverts!”. And that wouldn’t have gone over too well, I’m sure.

  • anonymouse

    Way to keep it classy, Beth! I would not have been as patient!

  • http://gaytheist.wordpress.com John Reed Braden

    I’d probably respond with a restraining order. Don’t mess with my kids’ heads when they’re at their most vulnerable!

  • http://superstitionfree.blogspot.com Robert Madewell

    I think I would have said, “I’ll tell you what. I’ll go to church with you and take my son, if you’ll go to a freethought meeting with me. You don’t even have to take your daughter.”

    Being an ex-fundie, it bothers me that she didn’t invite the mother to church. I actually have a custom that if I’m invited to church, I’ll go. If of course, I’m allowed to take pictures, notes, and write about it and quote the sermon on my blog.

    That thing that she invited the kid to was probably just a regular church service.

  • http://40yearoldatheist.com 40 Year Old Atheist

    This very thing has happened to my family. A boy my son plays with has a *very* religious family (Baptists). The boy and his father have asked numerous times. Each time I have said no and said that their beliefs do not mesh with our own. They try every few months and I am almost to the point of telling them to completely eff themselves.

    The sad part is that the boy is the only one on our block that my son can play with. It will be upsetting for us all if that friendship ends because his parents can’t mind their own bloody business.

  • Aj

    Another reference: It’s a trap!

    I find the Christian’s lack of self reflection amusing. It’s not that we atheists have no reason to believe in a god, including their god (God), it’s that we are rejecting their god as if it’s a sensible question. It’s like they have no access to their own thought process or memory in regards to why they believe what they do. Somehow they believe their god to be self-evident, unaware that other people have gods too. Furthering my impression is the phrase “all his options”, failing to realize: a 6-year-old can’t even contemplate many religious concepts, that the only limit to the amount of different religions is the human imagination, and they’re all unjustified by evidence. No, it’s apparantly their God, or rejection of their God.

    Life’s too short to waste on nonsense. Do religious people try to maximize their “options” by learning about as many gods as they can? No, and it’s funny that those that do learn about religions on stick to a view popular ones as if that in anyway supports the truth of their claims. I think it’s a good idea to teach children about all the dead gods, and when some dumb Christian tries to castigate an atheist for not telling their children about all the options then they can turn around and say “I’ve told them about more gods than you even know”. I know I’ll be reading any children I have Pratchett and Gaiman, that’s quite a few gods right there.

  • teammarty

    I would have started off by telling her that she’s fucking nuts and would have gotten harsher if need be. Since most of my neighbors are Catholic, there would have been at least one reference to “VAMBLA”. But since I don’t have any kids, the point is moot.

  • Joseph R.

    I would politely decline.

  • WCLPeter

    Something similar happened to me when I was eight or nine. The local religious busy bodies knew my parents weren’t all that religious and so they pulled something similar.

    One day they came knocking on our door and started lambasting my parents about how they’re raising “delinquent heathen children” because they never took us to church, nor instructed us in the “truth” that was “God’s word.” What can I say, my parents were big on teaching us to think for ourselves. ;-)

    My old man wanted to punch that sanctimonious bugger in the face, but they were somewhat wealthy and connected, my father had just been laid off, and Dad didn’t really want to get into a long protracted legal battle that punching the Fundy in the face would have caused.

    So, with a smile on his face and a warning to them that “You can try, but I don’t think you’ll be able to convert them,” my father agreed to let us go. So, every Sunday for two years, my sister and I went to church.

    It was the worst, and best, two years of our lives.

    The best parts? We got to play with other kids. Dodge-ball, arts and crafts, tag, gymnastics, etc… There were a lot of “non-religious” activities for the kids to do at Sunday School, and many of them were loads of fun.

    We learned stuff too. They used to do these puppet shows, some puppets were of different races, others were physically challenged in some way, and they would teach us to respect those who were different than us. They always related it in some way to “God’s Will” or other religious nonsense but, to an 8 year old kid, learning to respect people’s differences is pretty powerful stuff and we’ve both carried those lessons with us throughout our lives.

    Truly one of the best things I’ve ever learned.

    The worst parts? The other kids. When it became apparent, as time wore on, that my sister and I weren’t converting, some of the other kids started getting really nasty. We were rejecting their beliefs and they didn’t like it. So there was lots of bullying, lots of little fights and, because we were the “heathen kids”, the “teachers” would always side with the kids who started it.

    The kids were nothing compared to the adults. After play time was over, the “school” part would come and the indoctrination attempts were rough. Endless attempts to get us to believe, but everything they were saying simply didn’t make sense to either one of us. I mean the stories were cool, a guy got eaten by a whale! :-D But the whole God thing just didn’t click with either one of us, and the longer it went on the harder they pushed.

    We couldn’t understand it either, they had just taught us to be nice to, and respect, people who were different than us; we were different because we didn’t believe in God, why weren’t they being nice to us?

    Then there were the sermons, everyone had to go. Some old guy at the front of a large room droning on for hours, or what seemed like hours, about some evil people and how we’re all going to hell. At least I think that’s what he was talking about, I somehow managed to tune most of it of out. ;-)

    Anyhow, fast forward two years, my sister and I are cranky, we’ve had enough of the same repeated stories, the bullying, the endless attempts to get us to accept as truth something that even a ten year old can see isn’t true; we increasingly do not want to go anymore. We started telling our “hosts” as much and eventually they realize we’re not going to be converted, so they stopped taking us.

    During the whole escapade our parents never once tried to poison the experience, they didn’t need to, the “faithful” were doing a bang up job of it on their own. :-D

    Of course, this story wouldn’t be complete without a schadenfreude moment. ;-) My non religious sister married her non religious boyfriend and had two beautiful, inquisitive, little girls; I love spoiling them rotten and teaching them about the world. :-) As for myself, I’m fairly successful in my life and job and I’m more or less happy with how my life turned out.

    Their son? He ended up hanging with the wrong crowd in school, got hooked on drugs, and bounced in and out of jail a few times. I ran into him a few years ago, he was out on parole living on welfare. Oh well, so much for my sister and I being the “delinquent heathen children” that his parents were so worried about.

    Now I know its wrong, but I always chuckle every time I think of this story because if those parents would have worried more about their own kid, instead of worrying about my sister and I, perhaps he wouldn’t have turned out to be the “delinquent” they were worried we’d become.

  • Courtney

    Frankly, I don’t think anyone should be butting into another family’s private life like that, period, and Beth showed a lot of grace under pressure.

    Just wanted to throw in my own memory of early church exposure.

    I was raised in a non-religious household (I guess my parents are nominally Christian or perhaps agnostic, but it really never came up growing up.) I can’t remember ever going to a church service with either of my parents, but from the time I was six until about the age of thirteen, I attended church semi-regularly with various friends and neighbors. I was even in the church choir for a couple of years there.

    I remember liking the social aspect of being in youth group and liking to sing, but I don’t think I would have ever called myself a Christian in any real sense of the word, regardless of having attended many church services. I stopped going after an Easter service in which all the kids (even at this point ones who were much younger than me) were asked to pounds nails into a board, and were told that by doing that we were crucifying Christ. That made no sense to me and just seemed like they were trying to scare people.

    I haven’t attended another church service since.

    Anyway, I am longwindedly trying to say that I don’t think a church service in a vacuum is going to do much to convince/cajole/scare a kid… without the context of a parent backing up the officiant’s message, I think a lot of religious stuff just isn’t going to resonate with a child.

    Still though, it’s not appropriate to even ask another parent about this sort of thing.

  • The Other Tom

    After the neighbor made plain to me that her intent was to take my (hypothetical) child to her church to knowingly attempt to indoctrinate my child into a religion that she knows goes against my beliefs, and that she was trying to get me to approve of it under essentially false pretenses, I think my response would be quite plain: “Get off my land. If I ever see you on my property again or if I ever see you speak to my child for any reason, I will call the police immediately.” Clearly that neighbor is someone who simply can not be trusted.

  • http://no2religion.blogspot.com no2religion

    Prior to reading Beth’s full conversation I was actually thinking along the same lines. However, knowing my temper I would have likely gone off on the fundie.

    Good job Beth. Thanks for making us look good.

  • http://no2religion.blogspot.com no2religion

    @Todd

    What happens next is the neighbor’s daughter is about to be used to brainwash her son.

    I think this is a given.

  • Richard P

    I’d say, “Really, you will take my son and look after him for a couple hours…leave me alone by meself for a while…COOL… Sure go ahead, do you want me to pack him a lunch or anything.”

    I read through the responses and I get the feeling, that it would be the same as an atheist asking some christian family if their kid could join.
    This is sad.
    Do you not believe that your beliefs will stand up to scrutiny either????

    I would let my kids go and then talk to them about what they heard and laugh about thew stupidity of it all.

  • Jude

    My son wanted to attend church with his best friend. He did that for about 6 months, and he’d tell me that he liked it because they played games and had good snacks. I was *quite* upset, however, when one day he brought home a permission slip to be baptized. It said something like, “Your son has accepted Jesus Christ as his savior and wants to be baptized.” No one in his/her right mind would *choose* to be baptized, let alone an 8 year old (this was immersion). While I sort of appreciated the notice (they didn’t baptize him without letting me know), I talked to him about it and told him that I would prefer he not go through the ceremony. I explained what it meant and what it involved, and he decided against it. Hey, I’m a vegetarian and 2/3rds of my kids eat meat (although I don’t let them cook it in my house). I let my kids be who they are. But this competitive desire to baptize kids who really don’t know what it means–that’s a perversion of what Christians pretend to believe in.

  • Dan W

    I liked Beth’s way of handling that situation. I’d have probably turned the neighbor woman down with a lot less tact.

  • Siamang

    I might have started reaching for the garden hose.

  • ChameleonDave

    That’s just amazing.

    When Beth started to make an analogy, I was expecting it to be about sex or drug-taking or something like that.

    I really wasn’t expecting it to be a simple reversal (Beth taking the other kid to an atheist meeting). I mean, that’s a stupid line of argument, because the other person is simply going to say ‘of course that would be OK!’. Right?

    Beth lives in a very scary place if she can be certain that anyone suggesting making the suggestion would flatly reject, even in theoretical terms, the opposite suggestion.

    Her neighbour really seems to have been asking for a smack in the mouth.

  • Siamang

    I’d like to think I would be as nice as Beth was, but I probably would fail at it.

    I’d probably say something like “you raise your child, I’ll raise mine, thank you.”

    I’d like to think I’d have the wherewithal to ask “and how, exactly is a six-year-old supposed to be equipped to evaluate all of the various options offered by all the differing religions of the world? I’m sorry, but when my child is eighteen, she can make up her own mind about your religion. The only reason a church would want her at six is indoctrination, and we’ll be having none of that. If you want to argue theology, argue it with an adult who is equipped to argue back. But don’t come in here after my child.”

  • http://gaytheistagenda.lavenderliberal.com/ Buffy

    Ask the woman if you can take her child to a mosque, atheist get-together, or Wiccan meet up. See if she’s actually interested in kids “knowing all their options” or if (as I suspect) just trying to push Christianity on one child.

  • Nicole

    I wouldn’t have been anywhere near as nice once the neighbor had popped out with “Oh! Of course not!” at the prospect of reversing the situation. A much fouler version of “bugger off, and don’t come back” probably would have come out of my mouth.

    Self control when angry, I have none.

  • Staceyjw

    A word on options…

    Why are atheists expected to expose their children to multiple “religious options”?
    Ever heard this one?
    “You should make sure your kids know all about all the different beliefs, god, and faith. You don’t want to LIMIT them.”

    People that follow a religion aren’t expected to do this- and this is seen as both normal and proper. (Limiting their kids is fine, since they have the truth……)

    I think its important to teach world religions for historical, literary, and cultural reasons- but not because kids need superstition to function.

  • Richard Wade

    Richard P, you are missing the point, and I wonder if you don’t yet have kids, which would help to explain your viewpoint.

    There is no way in hell that I would let a neighbor whom I had not met at all up until that moment, take my six year-old anywhere without me along. You gotta be kidding. The church issue doesn’t even come in to it. I don’t know her from Squeaky Fromme. She could have said it’s a kiddie circus and I’d still not trust my kid to a stranger.

    The whole thing becomes even more untrustworthy when the neighbor is deceitful and evasive about the exact nature of the activity, and then demonstrates her arrogant ignorance with the remark “Well, I know you rejected god, but that doesn’t mean your boy has to grow up without knowing all his options, right?”

    Finally, the cherry on the Absolutely No Way Sundae For Sunday is her hypocrisy about not even considering doing the same thing in reverse with her child.

    It has nothing to do with our “beliefs not standing up to scrutiny.” It’s about exercising sound judgment in not trusting my child to a person who has revealed nothing but highly questionable principles.

  • Richard Wade

    Staceyjw,

    Why are atheists expected to expose their children to multiple “religious options”?
    Ever heard this one?
    “You should make sure your kids know all about all the different beliefs, god, and faith. You don’t want to LIMIT them.”

    People that follow a religion aren’t expected to do this- and this is seen as both normal and proper. (Limiting their kids is fine, since they have the truth……)

    That is an excellent point. I’ll remember that. Thank you.

  • http://www.CoreyMondello.com Corey Mondello

    You/Me: “Fuck Off!”

    Hence the reason why I could never be the “Friendly Atheist”…. lol

    Chances are, I would have stopped talking to this neighbor LONG ago and would never have this conversation.

  • keddaw

    Should have let him go, he’d come back full of questions and you could laugh at the ridiculous ideas and he’d be off religion for life.

  • cat

    I think how old a kid is when you discuss these things varies from kid to kid. If my kid was as snarky and inquisitive as I was at that age, I would probably let them. Maybe they’d even let me watch. Ah, the look on a priest’s face when a seven year old gives them a biology lecture ‘Don’t you know how babies are made?’ (I grew up on a farm and had a pretty good understanding of breeding, pregnancy and birth). I remember once trying to explain it in terms of cats. ‘Sometimes, your cat wanders off and comes back and has kittens. It may look like it made kittens all by itself, but really it just did the rest of the stuff while you weren’t watching.’ And that was when I was still naive enough to think that the only reason Chrisians believed in virgin birth was that they didn’t know the basic facts about reproduction. When I got older, I became pretty sarcastic.

  • Cory Andser

    Me: “Rejected God?” That is offensive to be that presumptive. You can’t prove anything and neither can I.

    *proceeds down street to go about my business, noticing said Christian following me*

    Guy, this is my cellphone. I will have you arrested if you make further attempts at following me.

    This is how I’d start off, but frankly there is no shutting up certain Christians. Even if you make them squirm, there is no stopping them.

  • Richard P

    Richard w.said
    “Richard P, you are missing the point, and I wonder if you don’t yet have kids, which would help to explain your viewpoint.” & “There is no way in hell that I would let a neighbor whom I had not met at all up until that moment, take my six year-old anywhere without me along.”

    Well Richard let me clarify.
    I have two kids one is (boy)19 and one is (girl)16.
    First it was mentioned it was a neighbor. Second I never read it mentioned that the neighbor was “a neighbor whom I had not met at all up until that moment”.

    I was assuming that it was a neighbor that I new, as I usually make a point of knowing my neighbors. So if the neighbor was coming over to ask me, I would assume we are on talking terms, which meant to me they weren’t that nutty.

    Secondly they mentioned that were going to a church function. Now just telling me that gives me the info I need. What are churches for but to convert. No sneaky underhandedness there, We all know what churches are.

    The arrogance you speak of , well what else would you expect from a christian? If your shocked or offended by that statement it really surprises me.I personally would expect no less from them, and I know there delusional so it is not worth the energy to get offended about it.

    So with that cleared up, and me being satisfied that although my child may be exposed to some different perspectives I see no significant danger with my child being taken along for an outing.

    First I would ask my kid if they would like to go check it out. Secondly I Have spent a lot of time teaching my children to think for themselves. I have tried to equip my child with the tools to be able to make good judgments, this seems like a perfect opportunity to test those skills in a real world situation and see how my child fairs. Minimal chance of any long term damage. What a great opportunity to expose my child to “the dangers that are out there.” and to exercise the those analytical thought processes.

    Personally I am not afraid to expose my child to things they “are not old enough understand”. In fact I encouraged, it was these moments that helped my children to prepare for the real world.

    Also, If I allow my child to go I show an attitude of openness and this opens the portal for further discussion, what a great opportunity to share my beliefs with them.

    My beliefs are that if you teach your child to think, you don’t need to be afraid of what their thinking.
    You may think by protecting you child you are helping them, but if you Sheltering them your only making them ignorant and therefore less able to handle the unexpected.

    By the way I have two great kids fully functional, never been to jail, Intelligent smart and witty.

  • Demetrius Of Pharos

    @ Richard Wade and off topic: “Lying For Jesus” sounds like a great name for a rock band.

  • dave

    “I know you rejected god, but that doesn’t mean your boy has to grow up without knowing all his options, right?”

    Translation: “You’re a thinking person who has made up her mind, so I obviously can’t reach you. But maybe I could attempt to convert your more impressionable six year old son.”

    But seriously, Beth handled things admirably.

  • John L

    I’d allow it and in exchange I’d offer to take his kids to a baby eating contest. Atheists really need more group activities. Any in San Diego want to start a “church”?

  • Richard Wade

    Richard P,
    Ah, I see where the misunderstanding happened. The fact that Beth had not up to that moment met the neighbor is not mentioned in the original story on her blog post. It is buried in Beth’s first reply to a comment by Jake Kerr, where he asks her what kind of different factors would have made her consider allowing her son to go. She said one factor would be if she had known the neighbor, but that was the first time the neighbor had said anything to her.

    I apologize for conflating the story with that later comment, which you would be much more likely to miss. It was my error to think that your decision was made with that information at hand.

    I still maintain that the neighbor was being deceitful and evasive in how she called it a “church thing” and only when pressed, admitted it was “church.” That means the children would definitely be participating in religious activities, rather than only playing with other kids, as the neighbor first tried to portray it.

    I disagree with your reasons for thinking it should have been obvious from the get-go that the neighbor had dubious motives and character flaws.

    Just because a person I meet is a Christian, I do not automatically assume that they are underhanded, deceitful, or disingenuous. They would have to demonstrate those traits as individuals by their behavior, and in this case, the neighbor’s cagey equivocating and dissembling would be enough to spark my strong suspicions. If she had been more straight forward about the exact nature of what she knew the child would experience, then I would not have come to suspect those negative qualities in her character.

    I try hard to respond to everyone as individuals, and to make judgmental decisions about them based only on their behavior. I must not practice the same kind of prejudice that I disapprove of in others.

    The same holds true for the neighbor’s apparent arrogance and ignorance. I don’t automatically assume that being a Christian means she is so. Once again, there has to be some demonstrated behavioral evidence. Her remark about Beth’s rejecting god and giving the boy “options” suggests that she’s working with a negative stereotype of atheists, and the tone sounds subtly resentful and snide. That by itself would probably not be enough for me to fully decide that she was arrogant and ignorant, but combined with the later revelation of her hypocrisy, when she wouldn’t even consider a reciprocal situation with her child, then she has sufficiently demonstrated that her character is questionable.

    I’m glad that your two children turned out well, as has my 23 year-old daughter. Rather than sheltering her from things, I allowed her to interact with the world in age-appropriate stages. I took my cues from her, by the kinds of questions she would ask. She made it clear when she had the cognitive skills and the emotional maturity for every new experience. At six years old, she was not yet equipped for understanding and analyzing what would be presented to her at that so-called “church thing,” and most six year-olds would also only be susceptible to the manipulative aspects of indoctrination. Maybe there are a few six year-old philosophical proteges, but I haven’t met any.

    If she went to such a “church thing” and she and I later talked about it, she would be watching and listening for my approval or disapproval of every single issue and idea. That’s what most six year-olds do. They are very perceptive of their parent’s reactions to things, taking in every subtle non-verbal clue, and they are master imitators. I would only be inadvertently “indoctrinating” my own views upon her at that stage, rather than fostering free thinking.

    Today, my daughter’s critical thinking is as sharp as a razor, she’s skeptical without being cynical, and I’m proud to add that she does not prejudicially assume things about people just because of their association with a religion. She waits for them to demonstrate the content of their character by their actions.

  • JimboB

    True (semi-related) story:

    When I was young, my mom always forced me to go to church. If I spent the night at a friend’s house on a Saturday night, she would coax my friend’s parents into taking me to church, even if they didn’t regularly attend!

    Ah, if only I had friends with atheist parents growing up… I wonder if they would have handled the situation as Beth did.

  • seathanaich

    I probably would have killed the conversation by saying;

    “wow, for someone whose not trying to offend people, you’re awfully good at it.”

    But then, I live in an area where religionists know better than to be so brazen about their stupid belief, because they’re down to 60% of the population. Religitards aren’t so brave with their herd having shrunk so much in their own lifetimes.

  • pansies4me

    Long story kind of short. Three years ago when my son was 5 years old, my father-in-law was offended by the following grace that we said before a family dinner:

    Earth who gives to us this food,
    Sun who makes it ripe and good,
    Dearest Earth and Dearest Sun
    We’ll not forget what you have done.
    Blessings on our meal and each other.

    We don’t normally say grace before a meal as I’m an atheist and my husband is very private about his religious feelings. However, his family says grace “in Jesus’ name” at every dinner.

    Next thing we know, he’s telling my husband that it made him uncomfortable, and “Does ( ) know he has a Heavenly Father?” My husband starts explaining that while he believes in God, I don’t, yadda, yadda, yadda, we want our son to decide for himself… you get the picture. And yes, my atheism was a new revelation to him. I kinda forgot to mention that before his son married me. Oops!

    He had the audacity to say that we weren’t being fair to our son because we weren’t teaching him about God. We were both totally pissed off at him. My husband does not want to push any religious beliefs on our son. He feels that it is a very personal thing, and each person, when they are old enough to reason it out for themselves, can explore that question. We’ll teach him about religion with the understanding that it is one way among many that people use to make sense of life.

    I can’t stand the arrogance of people who say it isn’t fair when you aren’t indoctrinating your child with their religious beliefs. My husband only recently told me (because he knew I’d really go crazy) that his father told him that he needed to “take a leadership role in the family”. Aside from the fact that that is male chauvinist piggery, my husband doesn’t want to indoctrinate our son! He doesn’t even want to go to church! What he really meant is that he has a sick need to take a leadership role in our family.

    Whew, I feel better now. Thanks.

    Beth did an excellent job of handling that arrogant neighbor lady. Kudos to her.

  • -Noni-

    My Response
    “So, I shouldn’t teach my opinions to my son, but you should? Even though I might not be trying to convince him whether or not a god exists. You need to work on that “I’m not trying to offend you..” just  a little bit.”
    And scene.


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