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Advice Needed


Guest RodBrown
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Guest RodBrown

Here's the situation:

 

I grew up and live in the deep south, in the buckle of the bible belt. I am the only "non-christian" in my family. To say I come from a family of "believers" is truly an understatement... they are religious fanatics.

 

I won't go into my reasons, but I have spent the past few years attempting to subtly de-program my nephews. I talk to them about freethinking when the opportunity arises, but I'm very careful how I present it.

 

This week, I heard my sister in-law telling my mother that my 10 year-old nephew told her that he doesn't believe in god (I was really hoping that he would keep that to himself). Knowing my mother, I'm sure she is on a crusade to put the fear back into him. I'm afraid she and my brother will interrogate him and discover that I have influenced him. That could be real trouble for me (and my nephew).

 

I was just wondering if anyone could offer any advice as to what I should do. Respond to rodbrown@godisdead.com

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First of all, take a deep breath. What you described is hopefully a worst case scenario. I am not downplaying the very real possibility that it might come to pass just as you described it. It might well come to pass this way and things could get seriously ugly. But so far they haven't. Use this time to think seriously about how you will handle the situation when and if it does come to such a head.

 

I realize that is why you posted this. Okay, I'm trying to think rationally. I think the kid is more vulnerable than you--I take it you are an adult. He is going to have to live inside his family for another lifetime before he comes of age and can leave. You can probably leave the family any time you decide to plan for it.

 

I may be wrong but I think you need to take some responsibility for the conflict he faces. Is he at the age of ten capable of thinking critically and independently? Has he developed the psychological tools for this? Children go through stages of psychological development. Exactly where is a ten year old boy at? I personally don't know but would guess not all are the same.

 

Or is he simply ingesting what you tell him and also what his parents tell him? This could cause internal conflict that amounts to abuse if he has not yet developed sufficient psychological means to deal with it. My suggestion is to find a middle ground for yourself and for him in case interrogations come out of this.

 

You can apologize for taking things this far. You don't have to change your religious position. All you are apologizing for is pushing your nephew into a situation that is too advanced for his capacity to deal with (if this is the case). You can suggest he goes to church and learns all he can about god and creation, etc., and when he is older he can decide what he wants to believe.

 

Hopefully that will give everyone the necessary breathing space. His parents (and your parents) will trust that the faith will win out. That should relieve pressure on you, though you may need to back off for the time being. If he asks questions, help him think things through and come to his own conclusions. If his first conclusion is immature (but not dangerous), let him live with it until he grows further. This will help him come to his personal convictions over time, and he will eventually be strong enough to stand up for his beliefs on his own.

 

That's the best I can advise for now. It is based in part on what I read in two freethinker books for children:

 

What about gods? by Chris Brockman

Just Pretend: A Freethought Book for Children, by Dan Barker

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