Video: Screaming Eight-Year-Old Boy Is Terrified His Atheist Mom Is Going To Hell

My kids are 8 and 11 years old. You’d better believe that neither of them are allowed to scream at my wife or me like the boy in this video does when he confronts his atheist mom. (Interestingly enough, he’s called Christian, and he sure acts like he identifies with that name’s literal meaning.)

In the video, Christian is despondent because he’s certain his mother will go to hell. His terror is fresh, because she’s only just told him that she doesn’t believe in God. We don’t know who filled the boy’s head with tales of a Creator and heaven and hell. His dad? Grandparents? Schoolmates? I suppose it no longer matters. The idea has taken root deeply, or he wouldn’t react with this level of wailing and hair-tearing.

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Not to claim I have all the answers (far from it), but here are a couple of parenting suggestions.

It’s reasonable (make that crucial) to get a child to calm down before you can even begin to have a fruitful exchange. That goes double for conversations about creation/evolution, life and death, the afterlife, and other big metaphysical issues.

If you have kids, the query about who created the world is bound to come up, so it’s probably good to have an answer ready — a better answer than the one offered by Christian’s mom, YouTuber msalicatty: “You’ll learn about that in biology class.”

Her preliminary response could have been, “I think maybe the question is, what created the world. It’s a really fascinating topic — it’s smart of you to raise it. Let’s talk about it tomorrow, after we look at Wikipedia together for some possible answers, and check out a few online videos by this really cool astronomer named Carl Sagan.”

But I’m Monday-morning quarterbacking here — and besides, msalicatty knows she didn’t handle it well. That’s why she’s asking for advice.

Got some to offer? How would you have reacted?

About Terry Firma

Terry Firma, though born and Journalism-school-educated in Europe, has lived in the U.S. for the past 20-odd years. Stateside, his feature articles have been published in the New York Times, Reason, Rolling Stone, Playboy, and Wired. Terry is the founder and Main Mischief Maker of Moral Compass, a site that pokes fun at the delusional claim by people of faith that a belief in God equips them with superior moral standards.

  • Art_Vandelay

    I saw this already on Facebook and I have to tell you…the mother makes me cringe. I don’t know how her son got such bad ideas in the first place but it’s clear that she’s trying to get a rise out of him and even enjoying it and then of course to make it even worse, she puts it on YouTube.

    • atheismFTW

      It is cringe-worthy to see this kind of a reaction from a child. And on top of that it’s being videotaped by his mother. I didn’t like the mom laughing at times, but then maybe her laughter will give the boy a sense that hell isn’t something to be feared.

      I do hope the mom gets more interested in science so she can answer her son’s questions soon. This boy’s reaction is exactly why I’ve been playing critical thinking games with my kids since they were little.

      • http://www.last.fm/user/m6wg4bxw/ m6wg4bxw

        Sorry about this being unrelated. I wanted to ask about your username. “For the win” is what you mean, right?

        • atheismFTW

          Yup, for the win. :)

          • http://www.last.fm/user/m6wg4bxw/ m6wg4bxw

            The reason I asked is, sometimes it means “fuck the world.”

      • CB

        I think the young man will be fine. I don’t think the mum did anything wrong. I think everyone needs to chillax about preachin’ and judgin’ her. We can’t all be evolutionary biologists and astrophysicists.

        It sounds to me like Christian’s head was filled with a bunch of nonsense by some irresponsible adult, or maybe he just saw VFX on the Youtubes!

        Children repeat everything they hear. It’s not the end of the world if they get something wrong.

        I was laughing too. Kids are hilarious.

        • atheismFTW

          Nah, I wasn’t suggesting that the mom need to be on par with a professional scientist or anything. You don’t have to be the brightest bulb in the box to look in a kid’s science book or search on Google for answers. This kid in the video has been getting spoon fed some nasty religious soup and the mom’s dismissive response of “you’ll learn about that in science class” is making it easier for the kid to go on believing God is the answer for everything.

          • CB

            Sure, it’s easy to direct someone to give a speech on evolutionary theory and nuclear physics, but it’s a little bit more difficult to actually give one to a child who is having an existential temper tantrum.

            Christian might have even just seen something on youtube! It might not even be a case of indoctrination. Children pick up on all sorts of things. They will always surprise you. It’s hard to have a lecture ready for everything they come up with.

            She didn’t do a thing wrong. It’s Monday-morning quarterbacking, like the article says.

      • Brian K

        Her laughing definitely won’t make him less afraid of hell, all it’s doing is invalidating his reaction and making him feel worse.

        When I was that age I went into a near panic because my mom told me she would look different in Heaven. If she had said she didn’t believe in God it would have been incredibly traumatic to me. I feel bad for this kid. Whatever he ends up believing, he’s got a tough road ahead of him. What he needs is support, not ridicule.

        • atheismFTW

          The laughter probably didn’t help the matter, just hoping for the best. I’d like to know how this boy turns out in a few years.

        • Good,Bad and Ugly

          To understand that belief without verifiable facts must incur ridicule is quite important. Teach that claims must have verification.
          As in business, if one makes false claims about their product then it is legally fraud.
          It is time to prosecute.

  • Joss Field

    SHE CALLED HER SON CHRISTIAN OMFG I’M SO DONE. It’s impossible for him not to be a Christian because he’s.. Christian. This has to be a troll video.

    • Itarion

      Because that’s how names work. They, like the planets and stars, have a very strong influence over the precise direction your life takes.

      • Gus

        I think what Joss is trying to say is that it seems unlikely for a non-Christian to name their child Christian.

        On the other hand, there’s some research that shows that names actually do have strong influences over the direction our lives take, if not particularly precise ones. I’m not entirely sure of the quality of that research though, as I haven’t read the original papers and I’m probably way out of my depth reviewing psychology literature anyway.

        • Itarion

          Yeah… I’m just thinking that “troll video!” is not the best first response.

          And strong influence, I would agree, but based on the construction and stereotypes of the name, rather than the literal meaning, eg. follower of Christ.

        • Mario Strada

          If I had a son (which I didn’t) I would have called him “Giovanni”, which is a biblical name (at least in Italian). However, it also happens to be the name of one of his great Grandfather. I see no religious meaning in the choice of calling the kid “Christian”.

    • Latraviata

      My younger son’s name is Chris and he is as atheist as atheist can be, like we (parents and siblings) all are.
      His name is Chris because he was conceived after Xmas dinner 33 years ago.
      After his grandmama told him how god created heaven and earth blablabla, he (4 years old) asked her, and what did he do before that.

      • FTP_LTR

        I think he was watching youtube. Everyone knows how much of a time-suck youtube is.

    • DJD11

      That is just plain dumb.
      My name means “from the Black River”. It doesn’t mean that I am from the Black River.

    • MineApostasy

      Christian is a family name that I carry, and, well, I’m an atheist. It’s no big deal; I really just thought it was funny. It’s like how the names Hope, Charity, and Chastity aren’t necessarily good indicators of one’s adherence to those qualities, either.

      • Ewan

        Well, yes – you’re an atheist. Are the parents that gave you the name also atheists?

        Because the point being made here is not that an athiest can’t be called Christian, but that an atheist is less likely to name their child Christian.

        • MineApostasy

          My point was that it could be a family name. My parents at the time were Catholic, yes, but Christian is still a name with resonance though we may not be of that faith.

    • Stephanie

      My sister’s name is Faith Kristen (my mom wanted a feminine version of Christian).
      She’s an atheist.
      Your name doesn’t dictate who you are. My daughter is named for a German story about a womans ghost calling sailors to their deaths. Really don’t she’s going to do anything like that.

  • Mario Strada

    I see a mother that tries to establish her authority but fails utterly.
    “come here”, “sit down”, “don’t yell”.

    This kid did not give a shit for a moment. That tells me this happens on less dramatic topics and that his disobedience usually has no consequences.

    So starting to make these parental guidelines obeyed would be a good first step.

    Another good step would be to give the kid age appropriate material, such as Dawkins’s book for kids just to manipulate the situation not in favor of “atheism” but in favor of having different points of view.

    Clearly someone has been telling this kid a lot of things unbeknownst to his mother. Could be the dad (where is the dad?) grandparent (they would be my guess) even the school.

    But the first suggestion I have here is to make the kid respond to parental discipline and having him learn to respect his elders. Once that’s in place it would be a lot easier to have a conversation about any topic, since he won’t be spouting nonsense (because it was nonsense, the kid did not know what to say). If the mother wants to have a real conversation with her child, she has to make sure to put those things in place and next time to have it in a place where she is more in control of the environment. A parking lot, second to a church, is the worst place I could imagine.

    • Gus

      Yeah, everybody thinks it’s about discipline and consequences for actions and all that crap. Kids brains aren’t wired like ours. Some kids are wired very differently. And once a kid gets upset and emotionally distraught, it doesn’t matter a bit how much discipline you think you’ve instilled. Fact is, it just isn’t that simple.

      I recall distinctly not wanting to take the trash out one night because I was scared. I had a friend staying over. My dad, I guess, thought I didn’t want to do it because I wanted to keep playing with my friend. I outright refused to do it. He told me I would get a spanking. I knew I would. I still refused. He put me over his knee and spanked me with his belt while the tears streamed down my face in front of my friend. But I was more scared of going outside in the dark to take the trash out than I was concerned about any kind of discipline that any vaguely humane parent would ever consider administering. Kids’s emotions, especially when fear is involved, will easily outweigh any kind of discipline you think you’ve laid down.

      • Beet LeRace

        Add that to an under-developed frontal lobe — they just can’t do the manual overrides of their emotions that adults can. To quote Steven Novella, “[their] frontal lobes just aren’t up to the task!”.

        • Gus

          It is entirely possible that I hold Steven Novella in far too high a regard. ;-)

          • Beet LeRace

            Ugh, I know – what a guy!

        • Pitabred

          No, not a manual one. But the question “why” is wonderful for that. Getting the kid to explain to you what they’re thinking can help them clarify their own thoughts

          • Beet LeRace

            Agreed!

        • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

          That’s no excuse for screaming like that.

      • Mario Strada

        My daughter was at times just as obstinate as this kid. BUt at the very least she would have sat down and listened to what I had to say.
        If she had been indoctrinated by someone else and she was still afraid of me going to hell, I presume she would have been distressed just as much, but I would have been able to clearly and calmly express my position and listen to her replay.

        That’s what I mean by disciplined. I do not mean for my kid to be so disciplined that in a case like this she would have had to agree with me.

        So yes, for parts of this video the lack of discipline and respect comes true and some discipline applied a priori would have made the situation more manageable.

        I am actually wondering why in your case your father did not take you to the garbage can to show you there was nothing to fear.

        Either you didn’t tell him, or you told him and he ignored you and spanked you anyway. Either way, something was wrong.

        By the way, when I say “Discipline” I do not mean spanking. Spanking is the last resort of the lazy or ignorant parent. My daughter was never even threatened with violence, let alone spanked.

        In any event, I am less than impressed with your example. True that kids are not to be treated (or expected to behave) as adults, but our job is to give them structure, love and protection. Part of this is to instill in them respect and trust for their parents. That’s the only way you are going to accomplish anything and at least try to grow them to be compassionate, intelligent, respectful human beings.

    • Karen Milton

      Ugh. The ever-present “where is the dad?” question. He’s not in the car. That’s all.

  • joey_in_NC

    Terry, you volunteered in the comments section of a previous post that your wife is Christian. I’m still curious, but exactly how “Christian” is she? Is she Christian only in the traditional/cultural sense, or does she actually believe that Jesus is God?

    Because if it’s the latter, then I would have a hard time believing that she is not attempting to raise your children Christian.

    EDIT: Here is my post responding to your post .

    • Itarion

      What did the deleted comment say? I must know!

    • baal

      There is christian and then there is “your mother is satan-spawn and will burn in hell for ever shun her now”. Being christian doesn’t have to mean hating or fearing (or fearing for) your atheist family members.

      • invivoMark

        No, but one would think that being Christian would mean doing one’s closest family and friends the minor courtesy of trying to prevent them from suffering an eternity of torture.

        • Artor

          Some Xians don’t even go in for that. It sounds like Terry’s wife doesn’t. I had an Xian girlfriend once who did. That didn’t last long.

      • joey_in_NC

        Being christian doesn’t have to mean hating or fearing (or fearing for) your atheist family members.

        Obviously. But Christian parents who truly value their religion usually raise their children Christian. Terry has not mentioned whether his children are being raised Christian, which is why I question the extent his wife is a religious Christian. It appears all cultural, which makes Terry just about as “Christian” as his wife.

    • Terry Firma

      She doesn’t think people go to hell for not believing in God.

      She doesn’t believe that the Bible is the inerrant word of the Almighty.

      She acknowledges that the Old Testament, especially, is full of indefensible tripe.

      She is somewhere between puzzled and revulsed by doctrinarian hardcore Christians and their terrible politics.

      She believes that Jesus, in terms of kindness and non-judgmental behavior, is worthy of emulation, and teaches our kids accordingly without explicitly mentioning God, Jesus, or the Bible (at least within my earshot). In that regard, she’s a picker-and-chooser Christian, like virtually all of them, which doesn’t elate me … but ethically and morally, she’s a solid, grounded, lovely, sincere, dependable person, so I don’t feel the need to push it.

      She takes the kids to church about twice a year, which is fine by me.

      At family get-togethers, we let the grandparents (my in-laws, who are hardcore evangelicals) read them after-dinner Bible stories, and we make the kids be quiet during the prayer that precedes the meal, even if it’s at our own house. (I don’t love it, but neither is it worth raising a stink over.)

      In the morality department, there’s very little that my wife and I disagree on. We’re centrists who dislike authoritarians, especially the ones who talk out of both sides of their mouths — in religion, politics, police brutality, judicial overreach, the drug war, etc.

      Temperamentally, though, she’s way kinder than I am, always inclined to see the good in people (she gets that from her also-quite wonderful mom) — a character trait that a cynical SOB like myself I will struggle to attain till the end of his days.

      So, I don’t know exactly “how Christian” she is … compared to what or whom? We’ve made it work for 22 years, I love her, and we’re not about to stop now. ;-)

      • joey_in_NC

        I appreciate that you volunteered that information.

        However, from your description I would label your wife as a cultural Christian, as opposed to a religious Christian who actually believes that Jesus is God. Is this a fair interpretation?

        • Terry Firma

          You can call her whatever you like. Within reason.

  • imjustasteph

    I heard about thirty seconds before my kid started vacuuming, but, based solely on those seconds and mt own experience, I’d bet that the parents are separated and dad is the religious influence. Mom has kept quiet, but seeing his current level of indoctrination she decided it was time to speak up. Again, purely a guess, but that’s where my money is.

    • Itarion

      How did you get your kid to vacuum?! [note: don't have kids, just remembering not wanting to vacuum ever.]

      • Pitabred

        Copious, regular beatings work for me.

        Kidding aside, different kids are different. Some like that stuff, some hate it. My girlfriend loves vacuuming, and I hate it. It’s just how it is sometimes ;)

      • imjustasteph

        By telling him I was going to let his little sister do it.

        • onamission5

          Hah!
          My kids used to argue over who was going to get to do what chore. Not so much now that they’re older.

  • Ogre Magi

    This is all the more reason to hate christians

    • WallofSleep

      Do I have to hate christians? It can be such a tiresome waste of energy. Can’t I just “Love the Christian, hate the silly superstition”?

      • Itarion

        Can’t we all just get along?

        • WallofSleep

          Nah. I’m not saying that. I’m just saying that hating has a way of wearing on a person, and I’m already worn out as it is.

        • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

          can’t we all just hit this bong? (It’ll have the same effect…)

          • WallofSleep

            I’ll be over here kickin’ it WMDKitty if anyone needs me. Try not to need me for at least an hour, though. Ya know, give me some time to sober up and all.

  • houndies

    I gave up about half way because I was tired of him screaming like a brat and her just letting him.

  • ahermit

    My advice would be don’t put potentially embarrassing videos of your children on youtube…if you want respect from your kids shouldn’t you have some for them?

    The kid is eight for fuck’s sake; eight year olds tend to not be the most rational actors.

    edited to add:

    Best comment so far is from commenter “lmc”here: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2013/11/21/video-screaming-eight-year-old-boy-is-terrified-his-atheist-mom-is-going-to-hell/#comment-1134501002

    • Madison Blane

      I do not believe she put it there to embarrass him. This woman is asking for help (not just having a good laugh) and she obviously needs help (and a lot of support). Un-brainwashing a kid isn’t something you expect to have to do as a parent, it isn’t something your average counselor deals with, you don’t find very much atheist guidance in America. Give her the benefit of your humanity instead of your judgment.
      Could you REALLY understand how irrational and temperamental and disrespectful and insane his behavior was if you hadn’t seen it?

      • ahermit

        Could you REALLY understand how irrational and temperamental and
        disrespectful and insane his behavior was if you hadn’t seen it?

        Having raised two boys and being married to a woman who teaches eight year olds professionally yes, a simple description would have been quite sufficient…

        I’ve seen similar tantrums over toys, friends, favourite teams losing sporting events…

        This is an example of an immature reaction, something we should expect from an immature human being; not an example of the pernicious effects of religion. The expression here is religious, the behaviour is normal for an anxious eight year old.

        I’d like to know what else is going on in their lives; are the parents divorced, separated; if so for how long? Has a relative recently died? A friend moved away? Something else is causing anxiety for this boy and he’s expressing that anxiety in religious terms, but I doubt that religion is the sole cause of it.

        • Madison Blane

          I really believe this is a fear/separation anxiety reaction. It seems that someone has told this child that hell is a very real place that his mother will go when she die and he will not. He is expressing a very real fear and the associated panic of being eternally separated from her. He is terrified and any kid would be.

          • ahermit

            Yes, I agree the reaction is real, whether it’s entirely the result of a belief in hell I don’t know; I suspect there is more going on in that family.

            And yes, that needs to be dealt with carefully, which would include, in my opinion, not publishing your kid’s tantrum on Youtube for the whole world to see. I fully support this mother asking for advice; she should do that. I’m just not sure this was the best way to do it.

        • PSG

          (I hadn’t seen anyone address this the other day, and haven’t made it down the additional comments yet.)

          I would agree that there is more going on here than just a freak-out over religious differences. And why I feel that way: who puts that on a young child while driving down the street or dropping him off, instead of sitting down and having a real discussion about it? The question I would have for her is, did she really think is was going to be easy, given that she knew he had been raised to believe the worst about non-believers? She wrote on her YouTube page that she was completely aware of his indoctrination, even compared it to a cult. Soooo…
          OK.
          Other thing: if she is estranged, separated, divorced – whatever her situation is – did it not occur to her that this particular (off-the-cuff) way of handling her differences from the father, and videotaping the conversation to post on YouTube, might have a negative effect on the custody/familial arrangement they have? Seems to me that if there is a grievance between them, it just became greater.

          What’s done is done, but I don’t see this as a recommended method, and it might be advisable for her to remove that video, rather than create a ‘series’ of interviews with her son, like someone else has requested she do. That’s problematic with his being (so very) minor.

    • B Dallmann

      I agree with you. She shouldn’t have been filming it, and if she needed advice, she should have gone somewhere more appropriate than YouTube.

  • indorri

    Just watching the first 14 seconds of this video… it’s not merely the ferocity of this kid that disturbs me, it’s the entire timbre of his reaction. I have never, ever heard a kid of that age react like that. Maybe someone could give me another example, but it almost seems as if he’s aping the manner of speaking of the crazier fundies. This doesn’t seem to be amere case of picking up of behaviour: someone has meticulously poisoned this kid’s mind.

    • ahermit

      It isn’t really that surprising. My wife teaches grade three (8 and 9 year olds.) Kids that age haven’t always outgrown the temper tantrum stage.

      • Ashley Nasello

        I teach Middle School. They haven’t always outgrown it by then, either.

        • Sasori Nagashi

          I hang out with 20 – 30 year olds. Still haven’t outgrown it sometimes

          • sane37

            My in-laws are republicans and still throw tantrums.

            • matt

              The progression of these posts was wonderful

  • LesterBallard

    It is abuse. It is the fucking psychological abuse of a child.

    • Miss_Beara

      Lying for Jesus, Psychological abuse for Jesus…

      makes me sad. :(

  • lilyannerose

    My first thought is to wonder how he was told and when he was told that Santa was not real. Christian children have two invisible entities they believe in, when some receive the bad news about Santa, I’m sure that at some level they begin to wonder about “god” and I can understand if some children become over invested in “god.” I can still remember when my granddaughter was given the bad news about Santa she just looked at me and her mom and her first response was that since there was no Santa is made sense that there was no god (I do paraphrase a bit but the message is intact).

  • Cloe

    Wow…proof how this religion is abusive to children. He even questions why this god doesn’t just leave us alone in our graves sleeping. He’s obviously a smart kid that is confused and probably (guessing) very frightened that he and his mother arn’t “saved” (he mentions this on the video) from the wrath of this god. These myths are horrble mind games, and parents intentionally teach them to their children as a reality.

  • http://www.last.fm/user/m6wg4bxw/ m6wg4bxw

    I get the impression that the kid’s name might have led to discussion of Christianity. it’s not like he wouldn’t have heard about it anyway, but I wonder if the impact might have been different.

  • KMR

    Poor kid. He loves his mom and doesn’t want her to go be tortured for eternity after she dies. He’s scared.

    Anyway, the damage is done because he’s obviously been indoctrinated by somebody. Personally I would simply let the child know that not all Christians believe in hell and that in fact many don’t. Also, even the Christians that do believe in some kind of hell disagree with what that hell is. Let him know though that what all Christians agree on is that God is love and that means that God loves his mommy very much. So if God is real like he’s been told, Mommy has no doubt that God will reach her in the way that only he knows she can be reached by. Don’t worry about it. This God he’s been told about is the creator of the universe. God will take of Mommy and make sure she’s okay.

    If I were her, all I would be trying to do now is take the fear away. Serious theological discussions can wait until the child is older and cognitively can be more rational.

  • Dave Littler

    Personally I’m impressed. Only eight years old and already this kid is arguing at the same intellectual level as Ray Comfort, Ken Ham, Kent Hovind and their peers. Quite the prodigy!

  • Jessica

    Next member of Westborough Babtist. What an obstinate little shit. She instigates him, he has zero discipline guidelines. This is embarrassing for her, she then tapes his ridiculous public breakdown screaming in the streets at night, and posts it online for the world to see. Mother of the year! I would have called the cops on an out of control kid in the street because that behavior is out of control and obnoxious.

    • PSG

      Calling the police would have been over the top, but this is definitely worth a neighborly squint-eye. Not the appropriate location for such a heady discussion.

      • Artor

        Likely as not, the police would just taze or shoot the kid. Definitely don’t call the police.

  • Stephen DuMont

    you know the theist arguments don’t get more sophisticated as they get older. My parents say the same stuff to me.

  • Chris Rogers

    My advice, in addition to not putting stuff like this up and broadcasting it to the world, is be happy and excited to say, “I don’t know” and “Why don’t we find out”.

    And also, find out who has been feeding this to him and why he has so much hate at so young an age. My daughter tried this with us once… and only once. We told her flat out that we would not tolerate her or anyone else yelling, preaching, or forcing their opinions on us as “truth”. We do not tolerate hate in our home.

    • PSG

      I agree with most everything you wrote, especially about broadcasting such an embarrassment, but am wondering – how old was your daughter at the time?

      • Chris Rogers

        She was approximately 7 years old

  • Noelle

    I once threw a huge fit when visiting my dad one summer because they didn’t go to church, and most of the year I lived with mom and went to a church that had me convinced I’d go to Hell if I didn’t go. I didn’t care so much about his soul though, just covering my own. I might’ve been around 7 at the time. He totally did not understand, but found a church within walking distance with Sunday School and a summer VBS.

  • karla

    First of all, put down that phone. It’s not fair to videotape your kids when you know they will get emotional. Find a quiet moment when you have plenty of time and no distractions and encourage him to ask questions.

  • WallofSleep

    What’s truly sad is seeing a young child (not this particular child, but others I have seen) in this state because the religion they’ve been raised to believe in has them thinking they’re going to burn in hell for all eternity because an older person of the same sex coerced them into doing something sexual. Fucking nearly makes me want to put my humanity on hold for just five minutes…

    • DJD11

      You’re saying this kid was sexually abused?
      I think you’d better edit your post.

      • WallofSleep

        “You’re saying this kid was sexually abused?”

        ¡Ay, caramba! That is not what I meant at all. I meant I’ve seen other kids in a similar state for the reasons I detailed above.

        “I think you’d better edit your post.”

        I’ll work on that. Any suggestions?

        EDIT: I clarified it a bit, but if you think it might still be dangerously misconstrued, go ahead and flag it. I wasn’t trying to start any shit.

  • DougI

    Looks like he’s responding like your typical adult fundamentalist.

  • tracy two crows

    This happened to me when my son was five.I had let them come up to NC to spend some time with my family(BAD mistake,they’re Uber fundies).The Preacher in church did a sermon on piercings,and said anyone who Had them was going to burn miserably in Hell and the devil would torture them.My son,while vaguely familiar with the ideas of Heaven and hell(thanks mom,NOT),completely freaked the hell out when he blurted out in church”But my mommy has one!” and the preacher jumped in his face and said(no kidding here)”Then your Momma is a harlot that’s gonna BURN!”.

    My son preceded to go ballistic and could not be consoled.His sister,who is five years older was right next to him.She is Little Mary from The ,Little Rascals if ever there was one.Her temper is well known.Seeing her brother in such a state enraged her and she promptly got up right in the church ,jumped back in the preachers face and said”,If anyone’s gonna burn it’s you mister,for being such an asshole liar.!”Only assholes make little kids cry like that!”(cue massive pearl clutching here)Then she proceeded to grab my sons hand,stormed over to my cousins who had brought them and announced they were leaving and please hand over the phone because they were calling me and GTFO now.Of course,the cousins were HIGHLY miffed and told them they should respect their elders.NOT a good thing to say.That was met with” Respect is earned not given,and we DAMN sure don’t respect evil whackos like that!”.

    I got that phone call,heard the sheer terror in his voice and cried and then,did my best not to laugh out loud at my daughters outburst(I wuz proud lol),and immediately jumped in my car for the 1000 mile trip to go get them.They were never allowed near them alone again,nor did my kids have any desire to.Not even for trips to Disney.Jesus Bribery doesn’t always work.That left a hell of an impression though,and,You guessed it,today my son is an atheist,My daughter an agnostic and my grandaughter already well on her way to being one.That shat is child abuse,and should be outlawed.sick people indoctrinate children in such terrible lies.Glad mine saw through it all early.

  • onamission5

    I’m not sure I want to watch the clip. From the comments I get the distinct impression that the mom drops something she knows is going to be a psychological bombshell onto her 8 year old, records it on her camera (sounds like a set up to me), laughs at him when he freaks out, then posts it to youtube. That all sounds… lacking in any understanding of the emotional needs of children whatsoever.

    • Psychotic Atheist

      If it helps, you haven’t managed to get a completely accurate impression of the video.
      No bombshell is dropped.
      No prior knowledge of the impact of whatever might have been said is evidenced.
      Laughing is quite minimal, and I read it as an attempt to diffuse tension and anguish.
      No evidence of a set up, but anything is possible.
      It was posted to youtube, but its not clear it was intended to reach as wide an audience as it has.

      • PSG

        Laughing.

        Telling a child raised in an evangelical environment (based on her description, YouTube) that mom is now a non-believer IS a bombshell. But the beginning of this conversation would really help explain why this happened the strange way it did…
        and, “It was posted to youtube, but its not clear it was intended to reach as wide an audience as it has.”
        YouTube is -funny- like that. ; )

  • Wazzy

    My kids handled it much better – Me: “I don’t believe in god” Them: “Really? Can I tell dad I don’t want to go to church anymore?” Me: “No – I agreed to have you go til you get confirmed” Them: “Shit – ok then – but after that I’m not going” — I’m the mother of 1 atheist and 1 agnostic now . . . :-D

    • PSG

      It reads as ridiculous, but that’s exactly how I had to work it with my parents – required to reach confirmation (to keep face, I guess) and then I was allowed to stop going to church. So, I would have been around 14. However, they would not accept my non-belief until…think I was in my thirties before they finally let that rest.

  • crden

    (a) How the hell did she wait this long to talk to him about it? My kids both knew my beliefs well before this age. Maybe it’s because I grew up atheist, so I had Christians trying to get under my skin. This does not mean that I require them to share my lack of belief or down-talk the religious around them, but it shouldn’t be a surprise unless Mom’s newly deconverted.
    (b) Don’t put embarrassing videos of your kid on the internet. Really. That’s just mean.

    • Anna

      I can see it happening. My parents are not atheists, but they never talked about religion with us one way or the other. I had no idea what they believed until I was in college.

      That said, this child has certainly been exposed to some extreme form of religion. Surely, the mother must have some idea where it’s coming from? It’s not normal for a young child to fear hell without serious and repeated exposure to the idea that hell is a real place where nonbelievers go.

  • foo

    Whether its a troll video, or its real, it seems fairly representative of a typical exchange between a “believer” and a sensible person – the believer is angry and scared, can only repeat their absolute insistence that they are right, and is unable to explain why or consider any possibility that what they believe is not correct.

    • observer

      Believers also seem to like children most of the time.

  • John Williams

    Pretty sure this parallels a whole lot of Christian/atheist talks.

  • julie kowalski

    This boy is FAR too young to be inflicted with such thoughts. How did he get so indoctrinated in the first place? THIS is a prime example of why/how indoctrination is child abuse. He needs to be slowly and gently unbrainwashed. He needs to be taught that there are many people with differing beliefs in differing gods and also many who don’t believe in any at all and that tolerance is by far the only way to have peace in this world. Whatever he decides to believe when he gets older and is more equipped to research such topics should be decided only based off evidence he discovers on his own.

  • Nathaniel Harari

    I’m actually a bit peeved at the people who are posting that she’s a bad parent, or that it’s some sort of setup.

    You don’t know that. You have absolutely no idea.

    As to “dropping a bombshell” on the kid: how do you know she did it intentionally? How do you know she even realized how crazy his belief was in god? She may be a divorced parent who had no idea that her kid was being brainwashed this way.

    The video clearly shows that it’s night time. She may have been very tired from a long day of work and made some off the cuff remark which she thought was completely innocuous, only to have the kid respond this way. The video doesn’t show her original comment and only starts into the hysterical episode of the child. Perhaps she thought she should record it when he flipped out so that she could show somebody what her child has been taught by somebody else – not something which is hard to understand at all.

    Most parents work hard all day and have to manage their kids at night, and she seems to be no exception. People get tired and they don’t always completely think every single thing through which they say which may activate some sort of hidden response in a child. Accusing somebody of being a bad parent simply for this is, frankly, beyond the pale. As many of you are humanists, I would expect most here to know better.

    And as to her laughing: well it sounded more like a nervous laugh to me. She was concerned that the neighbors would have seen the kid freaking out over nothing – not an uncommon thing to worry about as a parent. Perhaps she was trying to calm him down by showing him how silly it all was. Frankly, when you’re tired and it’s late, you don’t always make the best choices in terms of reactions with people.

    She apparently posted the video to get people to help her, and if you check her stream, it’s the only video she’s ever posted. I doubt she’s trying to get attention for herself at all. She may honestly be looking for advice and help.

    And I sure hope she doesn’t get turned off by the community if all she sees are people on their high horses saying what a horrible parent she is. She’s done nothing wrong, and she sounds like she needs the help she’s looking for.

    So instead of bashing on her here, and on YouTube, I suggest we give her the advice which she needs. Be helpful. Don’t be dicks.

  • Sids

    To be fair, the kids arguments were slightly less falacious then those of some adults that I could mention.

  • Nik Pfirsig

    As the father of two sons (currently 16 and 20), the older on being severely autistic, I have to say that I’ve seen similar tantrums.and that the mother is handling the situation quite well.
    She is remaining calm. She is not letting an irrational child control the situation.

    On the other hand I suspect the son has an ASD as the nature of his rant appears to be motivated by fear of abandonment.

    • Madison Blane

      I think you are very right that this tantrum is motivated by fear. Fear of hell is a very real thing. Someone has told this child that hell is a real place, his mother is going there, he is not, and yes, he believes they will be separated for all eternity. That is terrifying for any child and it is absolutely abusive.

      I had nightmares about hell until I became an Atheist. As a child, I had dreams hat I was hanging over the edge of an endless, fiery pit, with my mother clutching one hand and my grandmother grabbing the other, as they both slipped away. I had been told they were going to hell for not attending the ‘right’ church.

      I finally realized that, even if I could believe that spirits existed, they certainly weren’t of this physical world and therefore they couldn’t burn eternally. And what would keep them trapped in hell anyway? A magical force-field? If they could float out of our bodies as a form of energy, certainly they could float out of hell! Eventually I quit believing in spirits altogether but it was a relief to let go of the fear that came with the belief in hell.

      These stories are simple and fear-based specifically BECAUSE they appeal to children and require a bit of advanced logic to get rid of, making them incredibly resilient (hence the ‘train up your child’ instructions). But I, personally, would find out who is feeding lies to my child and get an order of protection allowing me to keep my child as far as possible away from the abuse!

  • Madison Blane

    I think the FIRST thing she needs to teach her kid has nothing to do with Atheism/religion – and it should have been taught years before now!
    She needs to tell him: It is fine to be upset, it is normal to have emotions like anger, but it is NEVER ok to scream at people and treat them badly because you are angry! When you feel that your anger is out-of-control and you think you might act in a way that could be considered disrespectful, you need to take some time to calm down and I will give you that time alone. I will not scream at you and you will not scream at me. It is always ok to have feelings; it is never ok to act ugly because of your feelings. That is the second golden rule.

  • evodevo

    Whoa! That kid must have been to Jesus Camp or something. There is no way he would be that brainwashed at 8 without interference from Grandma or something.

    • Gus

      Someone has clearly spent a lot of time putting really bad ideas in his head. Jesus camp actually makes perfect sense, but surely the mother would know if he’d spent a whole week at Jesus camp? But maybe not. Grandparents, a father with joint custody or visitation rights, aunt or uncle, but somebody has been taking this kid to a very bad church, or giving them a very bad religious education in person. It’s horrifying. Even if I consider the fact that evangelicals believe that saving someone from hell is the most important thing they can ever do, and even if I consider that getting them young is the best way to get them roped in, I still don’t get the level of shockingly age-inappropriate religious concepts they want to shove down kids’ throats.

  • Gus

    Mom: “We’re going to stop talking about this now.” *Continues talking about it.*

    This whole video makes me so angry I don’t even want to think about it. Someone is filling this kids head with hateful lies and instilling fear in him of things he shouldn’t even know about. And the mother, so profoundly incurious about the world that she’s gotten to this point in raising a child, doesn’t believe in god, and not only has no idea where stars come from or how humans got here, but doesn’t even offer to find out for her son? Don’t ask in a YouTube video, go google it and find some useful websites, maybe some age appropriate books, and explore them with your son. Don’t just say “I don’t know”, say, “I don’t know, but it’s OK to not know everything, let’s see what we can find out together!”

    Also, you could do worse than to start with this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9D05ej8u-gU

  • lmc

    Wow I’m really surprised by the terrible quality of comments here. For a group of atheists, you all sounds like really authoritarian parents. Maybe Ask Richard can weigh in with some actual good advice for the mom.

    My uninformed two cents: The child is clearly very scared that something terrible is going to happen to his mother, and is channeling this fear into anger. Treat the emotion, not the words.

    1. Start by gaining closeness – if we won’t come to you, go to him and give a hug
    2. Acknowledge his feelings. Like “Gosh it must be really scary to think that I’m not going to be with you in heaven and I might suffer in hell.” Listen to him.
    3. Comfort. like “well I’m here now safe and sound, and so are you. I love you, etc.”

    4. Let him know that you’ll be happy to discuss interesting questions about god, creation, life after death with him later once everyone’s feeling calm and happy, and emphasize that there’s no emergency right now, they have plenty of time to get into it later. The intellectual discussion can’t start until the fear and anger have dissipated.

    LATER, figure out how these ideas got into his head, and go from there. That’s when the real challenge begins, and I don’t know the best way to go about that, but his fear needs to be addressed before this intellectual discussion can make a difference I think.

    • ahermit

      This ^ is the best comment so far…excellent advice lmc!

      • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

        I’d still get the kid a psych workup.

    • Illusio

      While that advice is probably good if you want to defuse the situation and nothing else, I’m not sure it’s necessarily the best for removing the cancer from his head. The mother took a light ridicule route and that might well be more effective in the long run. Keep in mind it’s often how kids lose their belief in Santa – it usually doesn’t take more than one session of being bullied by their peers for them to realize how stupid they were. Also, if you looked at the entire video, he had calmed down a lot in the end and probably realized he had overreacted. I think the mother knew her son very well.

      I also think you might be overestimating the “intellectual” capacity of an 8 year old. She might well be able to convince him of things, but it won’t really be an intellectual conversation. He’d probably accept what she was saying for the same reason he accepted that Hell was real – argument from authority. Kids simply don’t have the cognitive tools to understand how to deal with baseless threats like Hell properly, they don’t develop until the early teens. This is another reason why one might not want to go the “intellectual” route, as it will be a fallacious route even if it works, and instead rely on emotional mechanisms like shame and resentment to wipe the belief from his mind and insulate him against more of the same type of bullshit.

      In any case, there are more than one way to Rome, I’d be all for your approach if the whole thing was caused by fear of something real, but here there are important lessons to be learned about people lying to you that might have real benefit from an emotional kick.

  • Oranje

    Hey, if nothing else, that kid could grow up to be a forestry major. He loved him that tree.

  • Diabolica

    Ok .iIteresting video, but that can be a really traumatic thing to talk about for some children. Especially if they’ve had religion drilled into them by someone. She should have put the camera down, consoled him, and tried her best to calmly answer his questions like a mother should. The parenting world is so warped now.

  • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

    This kid needs a visit to the psych ward and a full mental and physical work-up. That is not normal for a 7-8 y/o child, even if he is terrified.

    • ahermit

      Nope, that’s an over-reaction. This isn’t typical 8 year old behaviour, but I wouldn’t say it’s abnormal either. Children don’t all mature at the same rate; this kind of over the top tantrum is a sign of immaturity, not mental illness.

      • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

        Ehmm… nope. Kids can (and do) have mental illnesses, and I think it’s worth it to try to get to the bottom of this kid’s issues, and help him out.

        It looks to me like this kid has some serious anxiety issues. The sooner these issues are treated (whether through therapy or meds), the better the kid will feel.

        At worst, the eval happens, and the kid is perfectly fine. Better safe than having a kid who resents you for not taking his mental and emotional state seriously and brushing it off as “he’s 8, you can’t expect much better”.

        • ahermit

          Anxiety? Sure, Poor impulse control? Possibly. A mental illness requiring a “full mental and physical work up” on a psych ward? Not so much.

          I helped raise two boys; I’ve seen these kinds of tantrums (my kids were a little younger when they stopped, but not much.) Both are fine, polite, thoughtful well balanced young men today.

          I’m not saying there’s no issue here of that the parents don’t need to take some action (and lmc has what I think is an excellent prescription here…http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2013/11/21/video-screaming-eight-year-old-boy-is-terrified-his-atheist-mom-is-going-to-hell/#comment-1134501002)

          Some professional parenting advice might be a good idea, But a visit to a psych ward?! Sorry, but on the basis of this one incident, no…that’s over-reacting.

          • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

            I’m saying that it’s in his best interest to be evaluated. If it’s nothing, fine. But chances are, based on this video, this kid needs professional help.

            • ahermit

              Just curious, do you have children?

              • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

                Irrelevant, though I’m one square closer to a Bingo now.

                I don’t have to have kids to know when a reaction is abnormal, and this kid clearly needs some form of mental health intervention.

                • ahermit

                  I’ll take that as a no…

                  And yes, it is relevant. If you had experience raising children you would recognize a temper tantrum as a perfectly normal (if distressing) childhood behaviour, not a sign of mental illness. I’ve seen this behaviour firsthand; are you telling me my kids were mentally ill and that I’m a bad parent for not packing them off to a psych ward?

                  Some professional parenting advice for Mom to help her deal with what can be a difficult behaviour is certainly a good idea, but a “visit to the psych ward” is, pardon the expression, a crazy idea…especially on the grounds of just one event. If this is happening every day over all kinds of situations then yes it could be a sign of a problem but rushing to a diagnosis of mental illness on the basis of a single tantrum is irresponsible to say the least.

                • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

                  That level of anxiety is not normal.

                  At all.

                  A developmentally normal child of 7 or 8 is too old to throw tantrums like that one, and more than old enough to understand basic logic. He is old enough to know the difference between fantasy and reality. He is, in short, old enough to have some level of self-control.

                  At the very least, this is the result of an abusive, manipulative cult-like environment, and the child does need outside intervention.

                  What’s the worst that could happen?

                • ahermit

                  By the time a kid is that age, yes you’d hope they’d be past that stage, but not all kids mature at the same rate. Brain development at 7 or 8 is not as far along as it is at 10 or 12. So it’s unusual, but not so abnormal as to constitute a mental illness.

                  Especially since we don’t know if this is a common behaviour with this kid or not. Mom could use some advice on how to deal with it, if it’s happening frequently some counselling might be in order, but treating the child like he’s mentally ill by shipping him off to a psych ward is a ridiculous suggestion. Maybe that was hyperbole on your part?

                  The worst that could happen? Is that this video is seen by the child’s friends and makes him a target for bullying.

                  Apart from that over-reacting and treating him like he’s ill, rushing him off to be poked and prodded and interrogated by strangers (and I know that’s not the intent, but it might well be his perception) isn’t going to ease his anxiety.

                  He needs his mother to recognize his anxiety as real to him, to treat him respectfully, to take him seriously, reassure him and help him feel safe. I don’t think laughing at him and putting him on youtube is a helpful approach, and neither is over-reacting and treating him like he’s mentally ill.

    • http://rolltodisbelieve.wordpress.com/ Captain Cassidy

      Well.. maybe not a full-on hospitalization type thing, but I don’t think it’d be a bad idea to get someone with letters after his/her name to talk to him just to make sure everything is tickety-boo and all that. That is a *lot* of terror for one child to suffer from. And yeah, kids vary a lot in emotional maturity, but if the mother isn’t sure how to help the boy through this fit of his, then a professional third party could help her navigate the ship through rocky waters in a way that honors the boy’s fear and helps resolve it, while also treating both parties with respect and love. It’s okay to say someone doesn’t have all the answers. It’s very brave of this mother to ask for help like she has. I don’t have kids, so can’t offer anything more solid than that.

      • Derrik Pates

        At the very least, the kid needs some serious counseling. I don’t have kids either, but I do have a niece and a nephew, and I’ve been around them both enough to know that they’ve never reacted like this to… anything, ever. I suspect there’s more going on here.

    • Madison Blane

      I agree. This is well into the range of abnormal. I do have children, three of them are boys. I also worked in pediatrics – ages newborn to 19 – and did so for 5 years. I’ve seen kids who were terrified of shots and stitches that didn’t act like this. I’ve seen severely autistic kids cope better with stress! My mom worked pediatrics for 10 years. She worked with kids who were burned, had cancer, went through multiple surgeries, were in constant pain, and had legitimate, physical, reasons to be TERRIFIED, and still never saw a reaction like this.

      This is fear, fear of torture, fear of separation, and it is probably based on a very raw pain that he is experiencing right now (like a recent divorce and custody battle) if I had to put on my psychology 101 hat. Nonetheless, it is well beyond the limits of normal and into the depths of extreme. He has zilch for coping mechanisms. I’m not suggesting that he needs medication but he certainly needs evaluation!

      I feel bad for this mother. Finding counselor who will not further her son’s belief in hell or condemn his mother’s atheism is extremely difficult to fairly impossible depending what part of the country she lives in; it may require driving several hours one way, which may not be feasible for a single mom.

      • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

        Thank you!

        I don’t have to have kids to know when something is hinky.

  • sandy

    this boy has an anger management problem

  • guest

    Well, I wouldn’t have recorded it and put it on the internet for strangers to gawp at…

    If he’s genuinely scared of her going to hell, seems like the decent thing to do would be to put the damn camera down and give him a hug. Reassure him that she’s not dead yet and that they’ll have many years together (probably).

    She didn’t really seem to be answering any of his questions. How did the sun and moon form? That’s not biology, that’s physics. Get him some books about science or else check on the internet, that kind of information is freely available.

    It is a difficult topic to explain to an eight year old, I admit. It’s easier to say ‘Godddit’.

    Why would god just leave us? Well, if there is no god, then human beings have always been alone on this planet. We die because our ability to replicate our cells is not perfect, and errors creep in. Also because the world is full of things that can damage us.

  • Good,Bad and Ugly

    Shows how little faith the child has in the family, and how religion brainwashes children to believe fraudulent stories.


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