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Old 03-03-2010, 09:55 AM   #21
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Odds are Er_Hopeful is in what I call a churched community, the message to the child is coming from more than one direction. Meeting with the parents won't stop the message if that is the case. Young children should not be expected to deal with this stuff and if you are in a churched community your family will be expected to be affiliated and attend religious services. It's not right, but it is what it is.

There are some Protestant denominations that recruit like crazy and teach that if you don't subscribe to their beliefs you will not be "saved".

I see your choices: Move to another community without this culture; meet with the school administrator and tell them you want this to stop (potentially making your child an issue - which she won't appreciate), find a religious group of YOUR choosing and take her to services (she shouldn't go alone as you need to help her put the experience in context).
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Old 03-03-2010, 10:39 AM   #22
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Hey, adults can do what they want. We live in a pretty free society when it comes to speech. We can tell jokes and do stuff that we want pretty much without getting permission of the government. We wish that the government would ask us more for our permission before doing stuff, but it is the way it is.

However, we do need to protect children from stuff that they cannot understand or cope with. This means that its the parent's responsibility to teach them whatever values are important to them. If we become their parents, then we can too. But having grown-ups or other children going after little kids with threats of fire and brimstone is not appropriate. Little kids don't know how to sort things through. Their brains aren't even big enough to do it(the synapses and cells are still growing.)

I agree that there is probably a lot of bashing of adults who are especially religious, sharing their faith with others. I seem to remember that the New Testament actually demanded this. In 60 + years of life I've experienced it many times. Often its caused me to become more aware of my own beliefs and adjust them accordingly, depending on the obvious life of the individual talking.

But little kids have none of the abilities that I do. Sharing this kind of stuff with them is really a kind of preying on them, much like TV does and other things. The don't know what to do with it, and what they actually think may be very different than what the grownup thinks is happening.

How do I know this? Almost 40 years of a career of talking to little kids under 12 for a living.

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Old 03-03-2010, 10:43 AM   #23
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I agree that there is probably a lot of bashing of adults who are especially religious, sharing their faith with others. I seem to remember that the New Testament actually demanded this.
Not according to Matthew 6:5-6, where Jesus encouraged people to pray inconspicuously and without raising attention to yourself:

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"And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
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Old 03-03-2010, 11:18 AM   #24
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There is that old saying about not discussing politics or religion if you want the conversation to stay polite.

I'm a Christian who is equally offended by other Christians who want to judge the legitimacy of my beliefs as much as I am by non-Christians who want to question my intelligence just for believing differently (after all, isn't atheism just the belief that God doesn't exist?).

It sound like OP has elected to not take a stance one way or another on matters of belief
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My wife and I are not religious but we're not exactly atheist either, sort of in the not-believe, let believe crowd.
We all have the right to believe one thing or another, or, like OP, we can choose to not choose. And if I follow OP's thinking correctly, I don't think I'm assuming too much by believing that there has been little to no family discussion about religion. Certainly no public school would dare broach the subject of educating students about religion because it's too dangerous politically.

So, we have a 2nd grader who has no knowledge of any of this who was invited into some situations where religion was the reason for the gathering - and about which she had zero information. Some weighty subjects were discussed that confused her, and when she asked someone (probably another 2nd grader) "what does it mean" the answers caused more confusion and fear.

Nords hit on a great idea - take the opportunity to explore the subject with your daughter. You can educate yourself, and your daughter, about the subject and still choose to not choose, and eventually she can make her own decision to believe one thing or another (or opt out of deciding just like her folks). It might be a good thing to learn how to make informed decisions, or how to have a polite debate, but at the very least she will be better prepared for the next time.

I'll even give you a freebie to start with. The "oil at the center of the earth" and nothing but "stars in the heavens", was more than a tad off-base as far as most Christian beliefs are concerned (it's complicated to compare them all). For the most part, Heaven is more of a state of being beyond the normal space - think transcendental.
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Old 03-03-2010, 12:37 PM   #25
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Odds are Er_Hopeful is in what I call a churched community, the message to the child is coming from more than one direction. Meeting with the parents won't stop the message if that is the case. Young children should not be expected to deal with this stuff and if you are in a churched community your family will be expected to be affiliated and attend religious services. It's not right, but it is what it is.

There are some Protestant denominations that recruit like crazy and teach that if you don't subscribe to their beliefs you will not be "saved".

I see your choices: Move to another community without this culture; meet with the school administrator and tell them you want this to stop (potentially making your child an issue - which she won't appreciate), find a religious group of YOUR choosing and take her to services (she shouldn't go alone as you need to help her put the experience in context).
This is how I see it too. Maybe because Brat and I have both lived with children in some smaller Washington communities. In some, the major religion is drinking. In others very proselytizing churches are more or less in control, often of local politics, business and schools.

My wife and I were both raised in traditional liturgical churches, which in my case at least was mainly social and extended family based, not based on religious fervor at all. Religious fervor in these churches had been given to the older females to preserve.

We both felt that the best approach was to find a church that would make minimal demands on our personal beliefs, and make minimal demands on our sons' credulity.

So we joined a fairly large old-line protestant church and felt that for us this was the best solution. Our kids did not keep up with the church once they left home, but they both married women with traditional if non-fervent religious backgrounds. And most importantly they were protected from what to me appears to be a very difficult social and existential bind- do like the community says or burn in hell. Kids are too young to face this crap, and for the most part it is too powerful to be dealt with by parents alone.

Even today I am religious in a non-dogmatic way. Religion, right or wrong, can be a very helpful anchor in one's life. And, I am modest enough to realize that I can't figure out whether it is correct or incorrect in any transcendental way. But it is definitely helpful at tight times.

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Old 03-03-2010, 12:41 PM   #26
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re: religious peer pressure

The only thing wrong with Christianity is that nobody's tried it yet.

Seriously, the best option for spiritual exposure in a non-creedal, nonthreatening way might be the Unitarian Universalist church, as noted by several others.

The website is www.uua.org

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Old 03-03-2010, 12:43 PM   #27
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To ER_Hopeful,

DW and I are nominally Buddhist and atheist, respectively. I'm devoutly atheist, DW is just nominally buddhist. Our kids (age 3 and 5) have been raised fairly religion free so far. They get a little buddhist mish mash from the in laws I think, mixed in with spiritual animism and non-buddhist superstition (and american branded belief in ghosts, monsters, etc).

I'd say make them informed. Put your spin on it if you like, but present other religions in an age appropriate, understandable and objective manner. You can explain to your children your beliefs, and tell them why you feel that way. Explain to them the thought processes that lead to your particular conclusions.

One book that I found helpful as a parent facing these issues is "Parenting beyond Belief" by Dale McGowan. It provides suggestions on ways to cope with the influences of religion, and how to deal with issues that religion has traditionally dealt with (holidays, death, birth, rituals, etc). Pretty quick and easy read. For a while I was a member of a parenting group by the same name (Parenting beyond belief). It was a very welcoming group. Maybe find something local?

Some acquiesce to a religion to "fit in". Probably more folks like that than care to admit if they were honest with themselves. It's the easy way.

Let's face it - religion is comforting, it's sexy, it is appealing. I think even atheists would agree the idea of an eternal after life is beautiful. The idea that I can see my long departed friends and family sounds pretty sweet. Unfortunately to my rational mind and my evaluation of what I can see and understand, I just don't think this eternal after life is out there. Now clearly, I am human and I can be wrong. But my thoughts on the "what if you are wrong" question is that if God exists, and he knowingly created me with this brain of mine which I use to think, and these rational skills to analyze and observe, and I just don't see Heaven, God, etc as something that is even remotely likely to exist, surely he's benevolent enough to welcome me into the fold upon my passing. That's my gamble with respect to Pascal's Wager.

Take a look at the ten commandments. A little over half are pretty solid rules to follow in life. Honor your family (I'll add "if they deserve it"). Don't murder, commit adultery, or steal. Regarding others (ie "your neighbor") - don't bear false witness against him, and don't covet his wife or his $hit. Aaaand done. I think most of us can all agree these are some decent rules of thumb.

All that crap about only 1 god, don't use the name of god in vane, respect the sabbath, no idols, etc - hey, if it helps you live the good life, go for it! To me it just sounds like a cult. Maybe that's going to send me downstairs instead of upstairs when I die, but that is a risk I am willing to take.
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Old 03-03-2010, 12:47 PM   #28
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Sounds like a great opportunity to take her to several local area churches and try them out. Then you could do a daddy/daughter lunch afterwards and discuss stuff. Good bonding. Nothing wrong with trying new things and saying "I don't believe in it, but some do. What do you think?"
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Old 03-03-2010, 01:00 PM   #29
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Oh brother. This is so serious. We must all protect our children from those crazy whacko spiritual people who believe in God. It could be the greatest threat to your children IN OUR LIFETIME.

Spare me. You're the parent. If you don't want her to attend church then prevent it. When she is an adult then she may choose her own path whatever that may be.
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Old 03-03-2010, 02:15 PM   #30
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MuirWannabe, that is not at all what Er_hopeful said or implied. He has no issue with church attendance but he is concerned that others would imply that his 7-year old child would be threatened with damnation in school. That is not spiritual behavior nor what I think Christ would want to be done in his name.

I do think it is important that parents teach children about spiritual beliefs at an age appropriate level.

IMHO,the classmate, or their spitural advisor, who spoke that way is a bully cloaked in religiosity.
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Old 03-03-2010, 03:20 PM   #31
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Things are said all the time in school and everywhere. If she was hearing in school that there is no such thing as heaven and all we are is worm food would the grave concern also be there? Pun intended BTW.
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Old 03-03-2010, 03:23 PM   #32
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Things are said all the time in school and everywhere. If she was hearing in school that there is no such thing as heaven and all we are is worm food would the grave concern also be there? Pun intended BTW.
That's a deep question - is the fear of absence of eternal bliss in heaven worse than the fear of burning in eternal hell fire ? Which is more damaging to the psyche of a child? I know which one would scare my children more.
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Old 03-03-2010, 03:23 PM   #33
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Odds are Er_Hopeful is in what I call a churched community, the message to the child is coming from more than one direction. Meeting with the parents won't stop the message if that is the case. Young children should not be expected to deal with this stuff and if you are in a churched community your family will be expected to be affiliated and attend religious services. It's not right, but it is what it is.

There are some Protestant denominations that recruit like crazy and teach that if you don't subscribe to their beliefs you will not be "saved".

I see your choices: Move to another community without this culture; meet with the school administrator and tell them you want this to stop (potentially making your child an issue - which she won't appreciate), find a religious group of YOUR choosing and take her to services (she shouldn't go alone as you need to help her put the experience in context).
That was my family issue. There is a big difference between schools with a wide variety of beliefs among the students and a school and town where everyone professes the same beliefs and if you don't fit you can be treated very poorly. I would have been much happier as a child if we had moved or at least home schooled.

I hope this is not the situation in the OP's case. If it is I would move.

(Leo, atheism is not a "belief," see Where is the Bible Belt exactly?, as I do not want to derail this thread).
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Old 03-03-2010, 03:35 PM   #34
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(after all, isn't atheism just the belief that God doesn't exist?).
It would seem that way to me, but that's a time-tested way to get into a flame war with an atheist. It seems to me that without this distinction -- active belief in nonexistence -- there's no difference between atheism and agnosticism. I've never really had an explanation of "atheism is not a belief" that convinced me, unless someone wants to claim atheism and agnosticism are one and the same.
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Old 03-03-2010, 03:41 PM   #35
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That's a deep question - is the fear of absence of eternal bliss in heaven worse than the fear of burning in eternal hell fire ? Which is more damaging to the psyche of a child? I know which one would scare my children more.

I would say both concerns have my proper respect.
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Old 03-03-2010, 03:52 PM   #36
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That's a deep question - is the fear of absence of eternal bliss in heaven worse than the fear of burning in eternal hell fire ? Which is more damaging to the psyche of a child? I know which one would scare my children more.
I think most mainline, non-fundamentalist churches and preachers emphasize heaven MUCH more than hell. Yes, there are references to hell but by and large the message is carrots, not sticks, with many mainline and moderate congregations.
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Old 03-03-2010, 04:04 PM   #37
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It would seem that way to me, but that's a time-tested way to get into a flame war with an atheist. It seems to me that without this distinction -- active belief in nonexistence -- there's no difference between atheism and agnosticism. I've never really had an explanation of "atheism is not a belief" that convinced me, unless someone wants to claim atheism and agnosticism are one and the same.
No need for us to flame each other at all--it is good for people to understand each other's point of view. I linked above to a post I made before on this issue and what I view as the differences between atheists and agnostics. I'll reproduce it here:

An atheist doesn't take on faith that there is no life after death. The absence of a belief isn't a belief. It is nothing. Instead, the approach is that there is no evidence of life after death. If there was evidence the atheist would change his mind. The problem is partly with the word atheist. It implies an affirmative position when none is needed. That said, the atheist may chose to draw some conclusions as to likelihood of certain specific religious beliefs. The atheist may examine biblical or other religious texts that discuss God and how the world was made and conclude that these stories are inconsistent with the evidence on how the world works and maybe even inconsistent with their own morality. (Why are religions so exclusionary and what may happen to you after death be an accident of your birth?). After examining the evidence, the atheist may go so far as to say that it is unlikely you have a separate self or consciousness apart from your physical self. The atheist would say that it is unlikely there is a god, at least as god is described in religious literature, as we would have to stretch science way out of proportion to make science consistent with religious writings. Based on analysis of evidence and his own ethics, the atheist decides there is no need to spend any more time on the matter.

In contrast, I think that an agnostic is one that either says it is impossible to know (which is an affirmative belief) or that the subject does not interest him enough to think it through thoroughly and draw a conclusion based on the current evidence, or deep down inside he wishes he had faith that some people just seem to have.

What bothers me is when the religious triy to modify science to fit their religious faith. At least the Dalai Lama says that if a religious belief conflicts with science, the belief must give way.

Most atheists do not define themselves by the absence of belief, but on how they approach the world. Maybe they are scientists who see the utility of the scientific method for figuring out how the world and people work. Maybe they are also secular humanists for whom rationality and doing good are of prime importance. And yes, some atheists are angry atheists like some deists are angry as well. It is hard to be part of a small minority, to know that many people think that there is something wrong with you, that you could fix that wrong by just believing. But you cannot just manufacture faith.

Now sometimes religious people say that the atheists' religion is the scientific method, but I think is a non-sequitur. The only reason that I rely on science is that it works. It is replicable. It is a process that gives helpful answers and through time it has built on itself. It isn't a matter of faith that the atheist relies on science, it is a matter of what works best to make the world understandable. Does it work best to carbon date a bone as being millions of years old or to rely on a biblical analysis that the world is 6000 years old? Does it work best to say that life developed through evolution, based upon what we know about genetics and what we find in fossil records, or does it work best to rely on one of many creation stories as literally true?

I hope this does not come across as confrontational, but given how few admitted atheists there are in the US it is good to share where they might be coming from.
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Old 03-03-2010, 04:12 PM   #38
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I hope this does not come across as confrontational, but given how few admitted atheists there are in the US it is good to share where they might be coming from.
Thanks, very eloquently stated. Flame away now folks!
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Old 03-03-2010, 04:14 PM   #39
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I think most mainline, non-fundamentalist churches and preachers emphasize heaven MUCH more than hell. Yes, there are references to hell but by and large the message is carrots, not sticks, with many mainline and moderate congregations.
It's kind of hard to sugar coat hell. Probably doesn't fill many pews either if you're always dwelling on it. Unfortunately reducing emphasis on hell doesn't remove it from the "good" book. Just my cynical $0.02. Hell seems to be a very scary place, and if it existed, I would hate for tales of hell to fill my impressionable children's heads. There's enough to be scared of in this world (earthquakes, terrorists, car crashes, and war to name a few vivid examples we have seen in the news recently).
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Old 03-03-2010, 04:24 PM   #40
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What bothers me is when the religious triy to modify science to fit their religious faith. At least the Dalai Lama says that if a religious belief conflicts with science, the belief must give way.
I think some of this depends on the degree to which one takes every word of Scripture as absolutely literally true. Yet some scholars have opined that maybe some of the works are written more like an allegory or a parable (or a "fable") to illustrate how folks should strive to live.

For example, take the book of Jonah. Some pretty heavy-hitting scholars think this may not have been an actual historical event, but rather an instructive tale about obeying God. (For those who aren't familiar with the story, Jonah doesn't obey God's command, God puts wrath on Jonah which includes winding up in the belly of a big fish, and then God's grace allows the fish to expel Jonah and give Jonah a second chance to comply after seeing what God could do.) In reality, the message is more important than the specifics.

The story of Noah and the flood, also some believe, a parable about God's wrath on wickedness. (But why did Noah have to take mosquitoes?)

And then there are the absolute literalists who think the world is 6,000 years old. Is it really clear in Genesis 1 that the reference to a "day" really means the current equivalent of 24 Earth hours? Are we to believe that God had no "poetic license" in providing the inspiration for the scribes to write these accounts? If so, science renders that absurd unless you believe God set up science to contradict Scripture as a test of belief (personally I don't believe that). And starting with "let there be light" (the Big Bang?), the general evolution (yes, I intentionally chose that word) and sequence of developments in subsequent "days" -- cooling of the earth, development of plants and then animals and then humanity -- is fairly similar to what we've discovered about the earth's first few billion years. That was pretty impressive for a people some 3,000 years ago who recorded this stuff before science really had any of those answers. These aren't problematic contradictions unless -- again -- you take every single word of text literally and assume no errors in translation along the way from the original Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic.

I don't intend to persuade anyone here (or recruit or whatever), but in reality I think belief in the Bible only breaks down into a series of serious, intractable contradictions with science if you think every single literary reference is intended to read as historical fact. Just as Shakespeare wrote tragedies and comedies as well as histories, who's to say that every book in the Bible (or every chapter of a book) is history? There are other ways to get the Word of God out than simply citing historical events.

Some literalists and fundamentalists would have me stoned as a heretic, but that's how I see it. Maybe it's an excuse, but it's much easier to reconcile science and religion by allowing that possibility -- that some of the divinely inspired works were intended to send a story with a message rather than simply record history.

(Anyway, I have to be off to prepare for tonight's Lenten services, especially since we have choir practice in less than an hour. )
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ER religious preference azanon Other topics 156 03-10-2005 08:32 AM

 

 
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