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religious peer pressure on kids
Old 03-02-2010, 08:20 PM   #1
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religious peer pressure on kids

haven't logged in for a while but believe it or not, I scan this site for interesting reads almost everyday.

Anyway, I'm running into a parenting issue that's somewhat difficult for me to handle. I've had a feeling that I'm going to get this sooner or later, but sooner than I expected. So here it's. My wife and I are not religious but we're not exactly atheist either, sort of in the not-believe, let believe crowd. I joined some of my friends and went to their church maybe a dozen times in my teenage years but that's about it, so needless to say, we don't have any religious practice at home or go to church. Well, not long after my eldest daughter started 2nd grade last year, she started hearing from her classmates that she should go to church and believe in God. At first I just casually told her to tell her friends that we're Buddists so she can fend them off, but things got a little more 'intense' lately.

She went to her cousin's place a couple weeks ago and started wanting to go to church with them last Sunday. Last night at dinner, she said she wanted go to church with her classmate this Sunday because her friend wants to bring an unsaved soul. I asked her why the sudden change(because she refused to go to church with them before), she became very emotional, quiet and trying to hold back tears in her eyes. After certain amount of patience and prying, she admits being told about the 'going to hell, being held by Satan and never see us again if you don't believe in God' ordeal. So I told her that no, there's no Hell but there's a lot of oil in the center of the earth and I'm not sure there's a Heaven up there either(and I showed her the pictures of earth/glaxy/space on google image) and I told her about some of the religious wars in the past(in a 9-year old context), how people believing in different gods fight each other but I held back on the Catholic Priests that seem to make the news every once in a while.

I actually don't mind her going to church, I think it's a good thing for her to have the exposure to different believes/cultures but I simply can't stand the brainwashing that comes with it. I know there're a lot of folks who are parents themselves so I'd like to know how you guys handle situations like this.
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Old 03-02-2010, 09:41 PM   #2
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Same thing happened to me as a child, (in my case, growing up with a different religious tradition than the norm) and it left me with very unpleasant memories of school in a small town. But it truly was a comfort when my dad told me that there was no hell and no devil. I was little. He was dad. I believed him. It was years before we got into the details.

I did go to church in town with some friends a couple of times. My father did not approve and stopped the practice. It probably was a good thing as the church had all sorts of beliefs that were inconsistent with family values. He suggested telling my friends that I couldn't go as we spent time with grandpa on the weekend. Simple, true (though grandpa lived with us), and an effective excuse.

Teach her your values. Teach her how to think critically. When she is older if she wants to experiment it is her choice. Now when she is little it is yours.

Hope she can find some friends from families that share your values and do not proselytize. I found that difficult in a very small town and it colored negatively my school years.
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Old 03-02-2010, 10:49 PM   #3
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I'm more agnostic than athiest, but even kind of waffle about that. I attend church as a social rather than religious thing occasionally and don't hew to any particular denomination so have been to several different churches. As a kid I rarely attended any church after 4th grade (about the time the Catholic church changed their position on requiring "mixed" families to commit to Catholic religious education in order to perform the marriage) and thought no more about it until high school. In high school there was an organized push to invite nerdy, socially awkward kids to evening events that were "social" but over a period of several months gradually became more overtly religious. Brief prayer the first time. A couple religious songs another time. Bit of a lecture and "sermon" followed by religious songs the next and so on. Didn't do much for me, but a few friends decided to join that church.

Karma evens out though. My daughter is a confirmed and determined athiest and has been her whole life. I try to share various religious ideas and traditions, which she is interested in knowing about, but is an avid believer of none of it. She's been vocal about her beliefs since grade school and has "converted" quite a few of her friends away from their religious beliefs to hers. One family took it pretty poorly and withdrew all contact. Others have been more accepting, but I still think she personally un-converted more people than that years ago youth program ever converted. Kind of evens out.
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Old 03-02-2010, 11:08 PM   #4
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Well, not long after my eldest daughter started 2nd grade last year, she started hearing from her classmates that she should go to church and believe in God. At first I just casually told her to tell her friends that we're Buddists so she can fend them off, but things got a little more 'intense' lately.
I asked her why the sudden change(because she refused to go to church with them before), she became very emotional, quiet and trying to hold back tears in her eyes. After certain amount of patience and prying, she admits being told about the 'going to hell, being held by Satan and never see us again if you don't believe in God' ordeal.
So I told her that no, there's no Hell but there's a lot of oil in the center of the earth and I'm not sure there's a Heaven up there either(and I showed her the pictures of earth/glaxy/space on google image) and I told her about some of the religious wars in the past(in a 9-year old context), how people believing in different gods fight each other but I held back on the Catholic Priests that seem to make the news every once in a while.
I actually don't mind her going to church, I think it's a good thing for her to have the exposure to different believes/cultures but I simply can't stand the brainwashing that comes with it. I know there're a lot of folks who are parents themselves so I'd like to know how you guys handle situations like this.
Spouse's family is Jewish and I'm a recovering Lutheran. Our kid figures this is double the holiday gifts, but I've learned to navigate the cultural crevasses. She's equally comfortable lighting a menorah and decorating for Christmas, as well as attending local bon dances with her friends. No one's been interested in bat mitzvahs or confirmations or other rites of passage.

So your daughter wants to learn more about church? Take her to church! At that age she'll explore her interests, spend time with her "cool" friends who know all about this stuff, and eventually decide it's boring. Or she'll discover a lifelong interest in religion that will give her an inner faith beyond the simplistic picture her friends are giving her now. I'm suspecting the former is much more likely than the latter. Having you along will show her that you're taking her questions seriously, and you'll be able to explain the stuff she has questions about that's way over a kid's head.

There's probably not much more to be gained from the current approach of drawing up battle lines and risking her being cast out of her peer society. After all, her "friends" have already told her that she's going to Hell. Pretty hard to find a good set of friends once that reputation gets around. I think that at this age they're also too young to risk being singled out from the herd, and peer pressure can actually be a force for good as well as for evil.

When I was growing up, many Sunday-morning battles were waged over attending church and Sunday school. (I sensed that Dad was ambivalent in the parental authoritarian stance.) But one of the most interesting parts of my teen years was the Sunday-School teacher who had the guts to teach us about and then shop us around through all the local Protestant branches, a Catholic mass, and even a Friend's meeting. We ran into a lot of school acquaintances who we'd never really socialized with before, and it gave us a much wider social circle while surreptitiously teaching us an awful lot about the various tenets of the faith. (However at that age I was mostly keenly aware how churches attracted a lot of hot chicks.) As a "Comparative Religions 101" student I eventually began to realize that I had a broader perspective than my parents, and pretty soon after that I was finished with corporate religion.

Frankly my spouse and I had a lot more angst, drama, & trauma when the Santa Claus myth was debunked. Our kid's "friend" in that scheme implied that Mom & Dad had been lying to her for seven years...
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Old 03-02-2010, 11:11 PM   #5
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We raised our kids "religion free". I tried exposing them to various religious experiences with both our families (Jewish and Episcopalian) and some of their friends and it made all of us uncomfortable. I felt like a hypocrite and my kids felt like they were getting a mixed message. In elementary school one of our sons got harassed for not being in a church and I went directly to the parent of the other kid and addressed it like an adult. He was only 6 or 7 and I felt like this was a decision that we had made, just like the other boy's parents had made a decision to take him to church. I told her if she had an issue with that she should ask me. She was very embarrassed that her kid was doing that.

How very sad that your daughter has been told that she's an unsaved soul who needs to be saved from going to hell. I told my boys that even though we are different, it's important to respect other people's beliefs and they should also respect ours.

I know religion is very important to most folks, their church is a big part of their lives. But so is our "freedom from religion" and our rights to raise our family the way we feel is true for us.

I always told my kids that if they ever felt the need for a religion and found one they liked I'd respect them for it. So far, at 23 and 25 they are still religion free.
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Old 03-02-2010, 11:17 PM   #6
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My parents were not religious either. Not that they had anything against religion, it just wasn't for them. As a kid, I faced pressure from my dad's family to attend church and Sunday school. Aside from that, I grew up in a fairly secular country so I faced very little religious pressure from peers, institutions or strangers.

Nonetheless, my parents decided that I should learn about religion so that I would have the knowledge necessary to make up my own mind. I followed the Catholic cursus all the way to confirmation. But by the time I reached my mid-teens, I started to have doubts about the whole thing and drifted away from the Church to become agnostic. But I am glad I was able to make my own decision.
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Old 03-02-2010, 11:50 PM   #7
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Just remember that a seven-year-old is going to believe whatever someone tells her--if she is going to church with other families (likely Sunday school, not sitting through a service, and which is fun and games for that age group with crafts, music, singing, etc.) she is learning something from it. Maybe you want to be there with her so you can see what that is and counter it when you feel it is necessary from your own family's perspective.
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Old 03-03-2010, 12:16 AM   #8
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My ex and I are agnostic. We never took our daughter to church. We respect other people and their religious beliefs. Even though we do not attend church, we regard knowledge of the Bible and Judeo-Christian beliefs as an important part of our heritage and culture and we have Christian values.

Growing up in College Station, Texas, my daughter faced a lot of the same attitudes and problems you discuss. We were honest with her and told her that although we don't happen to believe in some things, we felt it was her choice whether or not she wanted to believe in them.

One of her friends decided to take her to Sunday School, so I would dress her up in a pretty Sunday School dress and shoes, and I bought her a nice bible to take with her. (I think she was a few years older than your daughter at the time, though - - about 10). Then we would discuss it after she came home. That lasted about six months or a year, and then suddenly she didn't want to go any more. Turns out she changed her mind and thought they were hypocrites. They weren't as full of goodness and light as she had thought, and they were saying mean things about a friend of hers who did not attend that church. She didn't think that was very Christian so she quit going.

I think the point is that we let her make up her own mind. We didn't try to influence her except in the general values that we had taught her (which were pretty much the usual Christian values but without the context of an organized religion). I think it was a good experience for her and it helped her to make up her own mind as to what she thought. She also got some education about the Bible. However, BestWifeEver makes a good point that your daughter is only seven and that is awfully young to understand much.

A lot depends on your individual child - - each child is so different and you know her best. I probably would have let my daughter go at that age and would have waited patiently until she was old enough to make up her own mind. I would have spent a lot of time discussing it with her after church, though, to make sure that the experience was a good one.
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Old 03-03-2010, 12:28 AM   #9
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Removed my own post in the interest of avoiding a religious flame war. I'm not happy when people instill fear in impressionable children.
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Old 03-03-2010, 07:55 AM   #10
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My parents were atheists, but took us to a Unitarian Universalist church as cover.
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Old 03-03-2010, 08:13 AM   #11
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You could join a Unitarian Church or an Unprogrammed Quaker Meeting. This would allow you to have whatever beliefs you want but at the same time provide support to your kids on the concepts of religion to fend off those who believe through their beliefs that they need to convert everyone who is not part of their belief structure.

This can be very difficult to deal with, and your best bet is to find something to substitute, since the absence of a belief here could produce a need to fill it.

If this is happening in the school, its harassment. You should contact the building principal or school counselor. You children should not be subject to this kind of thing in school. If the school won't do anything to stop it, you could contact an attorney. We do have freedom of Religion or non-religion, nominally, in the USA.

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Old 03-03-2010, 08:15 AM   #12
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Then again, there is the flip side as well: Folks who are religious and grow sick and tired of the stereotypes about them as being constantly preachy at people, trying to convert everyone they meet and advocating religion in government.

Just sayin'.
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Old 03-03-2010, 08:53 AM   #13
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I grew up in a boring small town Presbyterian church where we just sat back, sang some hymns, listened to a long sermon I could never remember when my mom quizzed me about it afterwards, and then sometimes we ate some fried chicken when we were done. My mom made us go (Dad usually stayed home and did "projects") and I never got much out of it, but I do like the idea of a God up there when things go to sh*t. My wife grew up Lutheran and had a similar experience I think.

We don't really go to church consistently these days, but we do try to take our kids to one of the local "mega churches" during the week for their Wednesday kid group things. We really do it more for the social interaction for them since we are kind of new to town and want them to meet more kids, plus we know the pastor and he seems pretty cool. It is a Baptist church however and I don't really like all the "conversion" attempts, but I guess that just goes with the territory. I do like the good rock-type band that plays during the church service-- it seems weird comparing it to my old boring Presbyertian days, but it's interesting and I guess that's what get's people through the doors these days.

The older I get the more I try to talk to God it seems. I don't do it much, but every once and awhile it seems to help if I'm feeling cruddy or things aren't going well for whatever reason or if I just need a pick-me-up. When I was young the only time I remember praying was when something bad happened (car wrecks, bad hangovers, etc.) and I promised I would never do "it" again if he would just get me out of my particular bind.

Hope my old pastor isn't reading this. He would probably be disappointed in how I've turned out.
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Old 03-03-2010, 08:57 AM   #14
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Then again, there is the flip side as well: Folks who are religious and grow sick and tired of the stereotypes about them as being constantly preachy at people, trying to convert everyone they meet and advocating religion in government.

Just sayin'.
Stereotype?
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Old 03-03-2010, 09:00 AM   #15
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Stereotype?
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Old 03-03-2010, 09:01 AM   #16
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Stereotype?
Yes, stereotype. There are a lot more of us willing to live and let live and merely practice in our own lives than many religion-bashers are willing to admit.

This thread is a pretty good example of why religion, like politics, is often a third-rail issue on message boards.
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Old 03-03-2010, 09:06 AM   #17
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Then again, there is the flip side as well: Folks who are religious and grow sick and tired of the stereotypes about them as being constantly preachy at people, trying to convert everyone they meet and advocating religion in government.

Just sayin'.

OMG, we did have one just like that in the pool. Finally, when she pressed me about my beliefs over and over until I just blew up which is something I never do in public unless extremely provoked. Eventually, enough people didn't want to hear it and she's cooled her jets on that subject. Even the church-goers get tired of her constantly going on and on and on and quizzing people.

As far as what I did, I'm one of the 15% of non-believers which do seem to be pretty abundant on this board. I did christen my child more for family tradition and getting together than anything, but there was no religious anything from me after that.
When he got older and in his teens, he did attend some Catholic services with his Mexican pals in Houston with their grandma just to see what church was all about and he has gone to some Christian services on his own or with a girlfriend(s). And Saturday nights during the teen years he and his gang used to play basketball at a nearby Christian church, but I have no idea if there was anything other than ball to it.
What can I say? This kid tests out with high abstract thinking and religion he gets. I don't.
My attitude is: Whatever makes him happy....as long as I'm not drug into it. He says if he ever has kids he will take them to church. Yes, folks, you are damned if you do and damned if you don't often in raising children.
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Old 03-03-2010, 09:27 AM   #18
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He would probably be disappointed in how I've turned out.
I'm just hoping that my old pastor is still celebrating sobriety...
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Old 03-03-2010, 09:30 AM   #19
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I'm just hoping that my old pastor is still celebrating sobriety...
I hate it when the clergy uses alcohol as a crutch.
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Old 03-03-2010, 09:45 AM   #20
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I hate it when the clergy uses alcohol as a crutch.
Too bad this isn't Funny Joke Thursday! because I got a great one. A priest and a rabbi collide at an intersection....
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