The Christian Indoctrination Will Continue Forever

This is a poster going around promoting Pastor Mark Driscoll‘s awful new book Real Marriage:

Yeah… because that’s exactly how it works.

Vorjack at Unreasonable Faith puts it well:

Um … about that last one.

My grandfather was raised Southern Baptist.

My father was raised Southern Baptist.

… Hi.

I know Christians love to deny reality, but when you consider how many atheists come from religious homes, it’s absurd to think that if you indoctrinate your kids hard enough, they’re just going to go along with it forever. The harder you push, the more likely they’ll stray.

And if your kids believe in something as serious as the nature of god just because you do, you’re doing them a disservice. Let them ask questions, find the evidence for themselves, and make up their own minds when they’re ready to do it. Your job is to guide them, not to force your own beliefs down their throats.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • http://twitter.com/jstweedie Jacky Tweedie

    I’d like to hope that children do not come to atheism as a form of rebellion against family members, but because their own self-awareness and understanding of the universe meant it was the only reasonable option.  Atheism based on rebellion is a shaky foundation.

    As to that poster, besides the UGH factor, the correlate in my extended family has to do with education, not rebellion, fwiw.

    • http://twitter.com/0xabad1dea Melissa E

      It’s a form of rebellion against what they understand to be not true.

  • Christoph Burschka

    Mathy thoughts about the term “Real Marriage”:
    1) I can’t see any marriage being anything other than complex.
    2) I’m surprised to see a religious man argue for a marriage that has no imaginary component.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ed-Janison/694755060 Ed Janison

    Not true…

    My grandparents were strict Catholics…

    My parents were C&E Catholics (Christmas And Easter).  My parents made me go to CCD…first holy communion and confirmation…I basically quit the Church in my heart at the end of my junior year at a catholic high school.

    I publicly identified as an atheist/humanist in September of 2007.

    • Margy

      I’m with Ed. My entire extended family (grandparents, parents, Mom’s 13 brothers and sisters, and a gazillion cousins) is devoutly Catholic and I attended Catholic schools for 12 years. As soon as I graduated high school and went away to college, I stopped going to church. I had to get out of my family home first, but when I’d return for weekends, I successfully resisted the pressure to attend Sunday Mass. I was totally fed up with the hypocrisy, cruelty, and absurdity of the Catholic church and organized religion in general. Leaving Catholicism was one of the best decisions I ever made.

  • http://skepticsplay.blogspot.com/ miller

    Making vows on behalf of other people, people who aren’t even around to object… tsk tsk.

    • Nordog

      Exactly.  Besides being completely, ah, weird, the idea of one pledging what future generations will believe based on one’s willful intentions is very disturbing.

      A Christian cannot even guarantee what he’ll believe in coming years, how can he guarantee what people not even born believe?  The former is a function of “born again always saved” doctrine; the latter, I don’t know where that comes from.

  • Anonymous

    The incredible narcissism and egotism is what stands out more for me. Mars Hill is nothing but a sick personality cult

  • http://twitter.com/0xabad1dea Melissa E

    Good luck finding a twenty-something who has the exact same religious beliefs as their grandparents. Ahahahaha that only works in a closed ecosystem of ideas.

  • Free to think and be

    My father said (he) “let me down”, when I announce I did share his believes on God. I told him to be proud he raised a free thinker and doesn’t just follow the masses like sheep. I made my mind up based on what I had learned and felt just like he did. Bravo Pop!

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

    Let them ask questions, find the evidence for themselves, and make up their own minds when they’re ready to do it.

    “But, but then they’ll ask me questions that I can’t answer without pathetically dissatisfying platitudes, or parroting more scripture that doesn’t really fit. They’ll see right through that, and they’ll either confront me on it, or walk away with a disdainful “Yeah, whatever.” And then I won’t be able to keep the “My family will be led by me.” part of my vow. Authoritarianism is the only way I know how to run a family, because it’s the only way I was raised. And then their questions and my failure to answer will start to worm their way into my mind, and my own long-sleeping youthful curiosity will start to wake up, and I’ll start feeling doubt. Ugh. I hate that feeling. It’s like a hollow fear in my stomach. …NO! There’s no way I’ll ever let my kids do that to m… uh, themselves. They’ll learn to never question my, er, God’s word just like I did, even if I have to beat God’s love into them.”

  • http://aardvarkcheeselog.blogspot.com/ Aardvark Cheeselog

    Also, given the way religion transmutes itself, the claim that anybody in the modern world believes in the “same god” that his great-grandparents did is pretty silly. I know the OP doesn’t go past “grandchildren,” but it’s clearly trying to say that there could be an unbroken transmission of unmodified superstition.

  • Gus Snarp

    Yeah, good luck with that. My family have been Methodists going back generations, at least as far as the late 1800s. I’m an atheist. I have no idea what my sister is.

    • Geocatherder

      Well, you could always ask her… couldn’t you?

  • T-Rex

    You will be assimilated. You will serve the Borg and your knowledge will become part of the hive collective. Resistance is futile.

  • Brittni Delmaine

    Well, if the excessive use of passive voice is any indication…

  • Ubi Dubium

    My Grandfather was an ordained Southern Baptist Minister.  He circuit rode among his four country churches.  My Dad had to attend church every Sunday, and four sets of Bible School and four sets of Revival meetings every year.  

    I’m now an ordained Pastafarian minister and devoutly atheist.  I’m sure my Grandfather would not have been pleased.  So much for indoctrination.

  • Anonymous

    Obviously a stupid statement in it’s finality. But not a stupid goal. The fact is that statistically speaking people do end up with the religion of their upbringing. Just because this site has a lot of statistical outliers (such as me) doesn’t change the overall statistics which is why you are over 97% likely to be Muslim if you were raised in Saudi Arabia.

    • http://annainca.blogspot.com/ Anna

      True, although it depends on the religious group. Some have higher retention rates than others:

      Hindus 84%
      Baptists 83%
      Methodists 79%
      Lutherans 78%
      Presbyterians 76%
      Jews 76%
      Congregationalists 72%
      Mormons 70%
      Episcopalians 68%
      Catholics 68%
      Unaffiliated 58%
      Buddhists 50%
      Jehovah’s Witnesses 37%

      (Pew Forum’s U.S. Religious Landscape Survey, 2007)

      • http://twitter.com/enuma enuma

        The thing about those retention rates is that they divide Christianity into its various subcategories.  People who do convert from their childhood religion usually aren’t joining a completely different religion; they’re just switching flavors.  (IE: Episcopalians might convert and become Catholics or Methodists, but they generally remain some sort Christian.)

        • http://annainca.blogspot.com/ Anna

          That’s true, but it’s interesting to compare and contrast. I’m sure many of the people who leave specific Christian denominations simply switch to another one, but some of them probably do give up religion or adopt an entirely new set of beliefs.

          It would be fascinating to find out what happens to those who do leave. Those 50% of former Buddhists, for example. Are they becoming Christians? Atheists? What becomes of those 63% of Jehovah’s Witnesses? Or those 24% of Jews?

      • cipher

        I seriously question the Jewish figure.

        • http://annainca.blogspot.com/ Anna

          I would be interested to know how they’re classifying Jewish retention. If it’s people raised in religious families who continue to practice Judaism in adulthood, 76% doesn’t seem strange. But I’m assuming that most of the 24% who “leave” don’t stop identifying as Jewish.

          • cipher

            I’d also be curious about the denominational breakdown – and what they mean by “retention”. How many are observant; how many identify as cultural Jews?

            Jews don’t define themselves by the same sort of criteria as do Christians.

  • Hc Conn

    My husband and I are the only atheists we know. All of our family and friends are southern babtist, pentecostals, and mormons. My whole family, including my great grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, parents, sister, etc are southern babtist and yet here I am an atheist. You cannot predict what your children will grow to be, let alone your grandchildren

  • http://religiouscomics.net/ Jeff P

    I predict that those that are passionate about their religion will continue to have political leverage for some time to come within the United Sates.  Laws will be passed to sort-of establish religion over the objection of many of the secularists.  But the secularists will still be out there in blogs and YouTube and the like educating the newer generations.  Before long, those political victories by the religiously passionate will be hollow.  The United States will wake up and be pretty much like England … with all sorts of laws favoring religious institutions but the populace not really caring about religion anymore.  In this, England is just a generation (or two) ahead of the United States.  And the United States is two or three generations ahead of the Muslim world.  But everybody will get there… eventually.

    • http://twitter.com/butterflyfish_ Heidi McClure

      I hope you’re right.

  • Bob Becker

    H:   you don’t understand the seriousness of the moral breakdown in America.  Right now, in homes all across the land, wives — women! — are opening the Bible rather than letting their husbands do it!    No wonder the land is sinking into depravity!

  • http://thestir.squarespace.com/ Servaas

    Reading this posts one wants to ask the question: why in the world do (some) atheists go through all the trouble to oppose religion (Christianity) then? It’s not like the people can’t walk free from it? It’s not like the majority of people don’t choose to follow it?

    • Anonymous

      Children don’t have a choice. They are force fed religion under severe penalties.

      And some Christian denominations are so cult-like that it can be hard even for adults to walk away. In some cases like Mormonism or some fundamentalist Protestant sects it means they’ll lose all their social support, all friends and all family.

    • Ubi Dubium

      Servaas, you’re new here, right?  Spend awhile reading the other posts on this blog and you won’t be wondering any more. (Try some of the posts about how Jessica Alquist is being treated for suggesting that her school should obey the Constitution.)  We’d love to “walk free from it” but we are up against mobs of people who are determined not to let us do that.  We encounter people at every turn determind to shove religion into every aspect of our lives.

  • Slow Learner

    Haha, the only religion in the UK that has a really high retention rate is None. 94% baby!
    The Church of England has about 50% retention, Catholicism about 65%, and non-Christian religions (combined for statistical significance) about 80%.

    Source is the British Social Attitudes Survey 2011.

  • Rt

    I vow that:

    Science will be served by me

    My loved ones will be served by science

    My friends will be served by science

    In my home anyone will be welcome to open any book
    (Also bring some new ones now and again)

    And most importantly: I vow that my grandchildren will know more about the universe then I do because I encourage my children to find out where their old man went wrong.

    REAL
    Respect                                                  mound Venus observatory

    • usclat

      Love you man! Hear hear!

    • http://www.facebook.com/sdorst Stan Dorst

      My only revision would be to bring in new books frequently, not now and again. That way we can all be exposed to new ideas.

  • Chris_B

    “The harder you push, the more likely they’ll stray.”

    The tighter you close you fist, General Tarketon, the more systems will slip through your fingers!  Ahahahah  Ahahahahah – Wait, what’s that humming sound?

  • http://www.facebook.com/AnonymousBoy Larry Meredith

    based on the number of religious people in the country throughout history, I’d say indoctrination has actually worked pretty well.

  • http://www.facebook.com/billyup Jesse Jones

    I agree with this poster being used. It might scare the hell out of some younger folks. So much so that they leave the church and run for the hills.

  • Stella

    Ooh! My grandfather was raised Quaker. My father was raised kinda-Quaker-sorta-Baptist-ish. I was raised Catholic (matrilinial, not really fair, but still). My son will be raised atheist, well-educated in world religions.

    However, I don’t have a wife, so I guess that poster isn’t meant for me. Even if I did have a wife, it still wouldn’t be meant for me.

  • Lana

    My parents were mormon, as were my grandparents and great-grandparents and great-great grandparents (who I believe were the ones that crossed the plains). I don’t know which religion my great-great-greats followed, but it obviously wasn’t mormonism. It’s also pretty clear we have a familial history of questioning established religion, or else my ancestors wouldn’t have joined the mormon church in the first place.

    Of my parent’s five children, three are inactive, one is a declared atheist, and I’m 99% sure my  other brother is also an atheist, or at least identifies as agnostic.

    Oh, and on my husband’s side — his parents were spiritual but not religious, and they raised one child who identifies as Christian (evangelical) and one who identifies as atheist and anti-theist. My husband has mormon grandparents (converts) on one side, and I think Baptist on the the other.Multi-generational religious belief does not automatically equate to descendants following the same tradition, let alone being religious, and anyone who thinks so is in for some devastating life lessons. 

  • Skjaere

     The joke is that, wile Mars Hill is apparently great at attracting young people to their church, they are *terrible* at retaining the generation raised there. And trust MHC to come up with a pledge that only applies to men. They continue to be super-awesome. Anyone looking for fun MHC/Driscoll links should visit here.

  • Liz Heywood

    I was raised in a religious family & couldn have checked off all the above critieria for 30 years…except religion almost literally killed me. (Not figuratively. Literally.) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uOY1ME19dLk 

    And in the last dozen years I’ve watched two ultra-”Christian” families close to me alienate their daughters until the girls cut loose & started partying, which led their parents to kick them out of the house at 17, which led to marriage at 18, divorce for one, three kids for the other… It’s all a house of cards. Inside, they are scared to death.

  • Anonymous

    The comments here defy the notion that atheists are as open minded and tolerant as you put on.    Just like all other parents atheists express their beliefs to their children and influence their beliefs.  It is a religious family that you call it indoctrination. I would like to see a study of how many children raised in an atheist household stay atheists as adults.

    • Slow Learner

      Well, evidence is in;  as I noted earlier in the thread, the British Social Attitudes Survey (BSAS 2011), link: 
      http://data.gov.uk/dataset/british-social-attitudes-survey
      And we find that in a society no longer dominated by religion, if you don’t force the concept of gods and demons into childrens’ minds, the vast majority of them feel no need to search them out.
      In fact, only 6% do so…
      Now, either atheists in the UK have found a more effective form of indoctrination than any other grouping, and shared it in secret with each other, or it doesn’t take indoctrination for a child to grow up into an atheist.

      • Anonymous

        Actually this proves my point.  I read the study and it showed that children raised in an atheist household do grow up atheists ( 94% as your statistic showed). This does show that atheists are successful in passing on their beliefs to their children. I guess we could call it indoctrination.

        • Salty

          How much do you actually know about atheism?   It’s not a belief system, it’s a lack of belief.  No indoctrination required, just a healthy curiosity and some critical thinking skills.   It sound like you are making the ‘atheism is a religion, too’ argument.

          • Anonymous

            Actually I know quite a bit about Atheism. Regardless of how you word it, it is a belief that there is no God. Those who don’t have a belief regarding God are agnostic.   To say that there is  not an atheist movement to change the beliefs of others and to have as many as possible belief as they do, that there is no God, is contrary to the truth. This blog is evidence of that. Prominent atheists write books and spread their beliefs just as religious leaders do. Of course it may not be as organized in some respects as established religions, but there are organizations such as Freedom from Religion who are expressing their views, seeking donations, seeking converts and trying to influence others. Pretty darn close to a religion.

            • Alex

              Not everything that is organized and/or has a defined cause is a religion; otherwise, you’ll end up defining ACLU, HRC, EFF, NRA, etc. as religions, too. After all, they are also outspoken on their causes, they accept donations, and try to influence others.

              Religion usually includes an element of worship. Whom do atheists worship?

              As a general rule, there is also some teaching or a book that is held sacred. Care to mention which book that would be?

              I don’t know how much you know about atheism, but you do seem to be confused on the topic of religion.

              • Rwlawoffice

                I believe that your definition of religion is too narrow.  Any strong set of beliefs can be considered a “religion”.  I was specifically responding to the common atheist mantra that it isn’t a religion and therefore cannot be compared to one.  Whether you call it a religion or not, it is a misconception to say that there is no belief in atheism and that there is not a concerted effort to convert as many people as they can to share those beliefs.

                • Alex

                  On the matter of religion vs. atheism, I shall refer you to NonStampCollector, who explains the point rather clearly.

                  As far as converting people to share beliefs… Well, I guess, everything is a religion, then? Just as long as you are passionate enough about it.

        • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

          I encouraged my daughter to be curious about everything, to think for herself, to reason things out, and to not be afraid to question everything people told her, including what I told her. I didn’t grill it into her, I just let her natural curiosity and rationality blossom without interference. Is that indoctrination, or is that the absence of indoctrination?

          • Anonymous

            Richard, I would say that you teaching your daughter to question everything that she is told is still teaching her your beliefs.  It is admirable but teaching her how you view the world nonetheless. Not unlike Christian families who teach their their children their beliefs and just as I have done with mine, encourage them to think for themselves. 

            • Parse

              According to general usage, ‘Indoctrination’ means teaching someone to accept something uncritically, without critical examination or questioning it.  
              If you call what Richard has done ‘indoctrination’, you’re using that word incorrectly.  

          • Anonymous

            Richard, I would say that you teaching your daughter to question everything that she is told is still teaching her your beliefs.  It is admirable but teaching her how you view the world nonetheless. Not unlike Christian families who teach their their children their beliefs and just as I have done with mine, encourage them to think for themselves. 

    • http://annainca.blogspot.com/ Anna

      Children aren’t born believing in deities. In order to start believing that gods are real, children must be told that they exist. You don’t need to have atheist parents in order to remain an atheist. It can be as simple as not being told things like “God loves you” and “Jesus lives in heaven.” My parents aren’t atheists. They never said a word about religion one way or the other. I was not told that gods and goddesses actually existed. Without indoctrination, I was able to look at the evidence (such as it is) and come to my own conclusion.

      Parents who want their children to believe in gods, on the other hand, must spend a great amount of time and energy promoting and reinforcing the belief system as their children are growing up. They teach their children to pray to a god, read them books about their god, teach them songs about their god, send them to a special class every week to teach them about the god, bring them to a weekly gathering of people who worship the god, send them to special schools and summer camps that reinforce belief in the god, etc.

      • Rwlawoffice

        Anna, children are born without any teachings beyond their natural impluses. They learn everything from society, the most of which at least in their early years comes from their parents. Parents who are Christians do indeed teach their children these beliefs just like every other parent teaches their children their beliefs, including as in your case, the lack of importance  of religion. (some of that teaching is by omission). It is only when it comes to Christianity or other religious beliefs that you call it indoctrination to make that teaching in a negative light. For example, I assume your parents believed that education was important. If so they encouraged you to go to school, they drove your there, enrolled you in school (or taught you from home), helped you with your homework, expressed to you the value of a good education.  Would you call that indoctrination?  

        • http://annainca.blogspot.com/ Anna

          The reason that we label religious teaching “indoctrination” is because that is what it is. Children aren’t born believing in deities. Their parents tell them that gods are real, and it’s not presented to them as an opinion. It’s presented to them as fact. They are told that their parents’ god is real as surely as they are told that the sky is blue or 2+2=4. 

          Now your comparison falls apart because no indoctrination is needed for children to remain the default atheists they are at birth. It takes no time, energy or effort to prevent children from believing in a god. On the contrary, it is only religious parents who must indoctrinate. Left alone, children don’t spontaneously start believing in gods or goddesses.

          By the way, what is wrong with “indoctrination?” If I wanted to be negative, I could use “brainwashing,” but that would indeed be too strong of a word (in most cases) and deliberately insulting. I use “indoctrination” for any parent who is trying to ensure that their children share their religious or political opinions and who present their beliefs to their children as the only right or possible option.

    • Anon

      Frankly by that standard if I teach my hypothetical children not to go out and murder people because I happen to think that’s a bad thing then that would count as indoctrination.

  • Alex

    Note to self: never play with letter angles in what needs to appear stable and immovable. In the bottom left corner the word REAL tells you everything you need to know about that marriage.

  • cipher

    Let them ask questions, find the evidence for themselves, and make up
    their own minds when they’re ready to do it. Your job is to guide them,
    not to force your own beliefs down their throats.

    Hemant, this stands in direct opposition to everything they believe about the purpose of procreation and parenthood.

  • Gabri Jacot

    I’m fascinated by this Mark Driscoll dude lately (due to personal connection via friend whose daughter got sucked up into his dirtbag). I can’t help but notice in those Vows that he sure likes the word ME! Sounds like a guy with arrested development. And what does “Pray over my wife” mean exactly? Pray that she gives me blow-jobs to keep me from turning to porn (yes I read his crap)? Or maybe pray that she continues to believe there’s value in submitting to me? Pray that she doesn’t wake up and leave me w/the car and 1/2 the house? Honestly, this guy is so retro.


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