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Insightful

"Daddy, I don't want you to go to hell..."

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Those were the words uttered by my precious ten year old in the car today.  It was just her and me.  She asked, "not to be offensive, but are you a STRONG Christian?"  I said, "I'm not offended that you would ask me that!"  "Well," she continued, "are you a strong Christian like Mommy?"  I said, "I don't think 'strong' or 'not strong' are the right words to describe us.  Mommy is what you would call a 'conservative' Christian and I am what you would call a 'liberal' Christian".  [I do, in some situations, identify as a "liberal Christian", though I use the term loosely.  I would also identify with "Secular humanist" and "agnostic"].  She got concerned and asked "but have you accepted God into your heart??"  I answered "I did when I was a child".  She asked, "but do you take it back?  I don't want you to go to hell, Daddy."

 

What a precious little girl.  I am so sad that she has to be all worried about such things.  10 year olds should be enjoying life, learning, growing up, etc, and not fearing eternal flames for their dads.  This is a major drawback to having her at a Christian school.  My wife is a believer and we agreed upon my deconversion to keep our girls at their Christian school since that is what we had decided when I believed.  Ultimately, for the sake of my marriage, I agreed that we chould continue as a "Christian family" because that has been our "default" - we married as Christians, we adopted as Christians etc.

 

Back to the conversation: I said to her, "I just don't think it works like that:  that you have to believe a certain thing to go to heaven."  I said, "I'm not so sure that God really keeps people alive forever so they can experience pain and suffering."  I said that "being a Christian, to me, means loving people, helping the hurting, working hard, and forgiving people who hurt me.  I'm pretty sure that if I live a life like that, I won't have anything to worry about."  And "I know that the Bible talks a lot about having to believe certain things, but I don't necessarily agree with everything in the Bible - just because something is in a book doesn't make it true."  I also got to talk with her about some of the difficult issues surrounding hell - what about people who never heard about Jesus but worked hard and loved their families and were kind?

 

I felt like I owed it to my wife to tell her about the conversation.  I think it's only fair for each parent to know what the other parent is talking to their kids about - especially about deep topics like faith, sex, etc.  All I got to was "our daughter is worried that I'm going to go to hell" and she pretty much shut down.  She just got really quiet.  (this was on the phone after I dropped the girls off at school).  Since the conversation had gone silent, I just wished her a nice day and said goodbye.

 

I followed up with an email - asking her to let me know her current beliefs about hell  (is it eternal?  conscious?  are souls ultimately annihilated?  what about children who die?  people who've never heard"?) - so that I did not misrepresent her beliefs to our daughter.

 

Now I'm worried that she's going to go back to her despairing place - where our faith difference feels so tragic and hopeless for her.  This is all so difficult for her because I am forcing her to face the ugliness of the doctrine of hell - which forces her to face the untenable nature / absurdity / immorality of her worldview - which forces her to face her own mortality and the possibility of having been wrong for so many years.  And who wants to face that?

 

I'm thinking it's not going to be a fun night at home for me...

 

 

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I'm so sorry you're in this situation, but what a wonderful teachable moment for you and your daughter.  That's one of the great things about kids.  Adults will simply avoid talking about or asking questions about difficult subjects, but kids are much more transparent.  They don't have all the guards up that adults do.  Good luck to you, and keep us posted!  ?

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It breaks my heart to read this. You did the right thing, for your daughter and for your wife. I hope that your daughter's transparency and curiosity will soften your wife's heart and open her mind. Looking for more updates. Let us know if there is anything extra we can do as you find your way through these difficult, awkward times. 

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I’m sorry you’re going through this, my friend.  Sorry also that your daughter has been taught to believe that Dads go to hell if they don’t believe the right things.  And not just Dads but Moms, grandparents, neighbors, teachers, friends, firefighter heroes of 9/11 – all go to Hell if they don’t fall in line…  This is what it means for kids to be “raised in the faith”.

 

I don’t have a lot of advice for you.  I do think you should not have to pretend to be any kind of Christian.  It’s not true, it’s not fair to you but it’s also not fair to your daughter in the long run.  She should be able to see you as you are:  a good man, a loving father, who is not a Christian.  That may cause her some anguish – and no parent wants that for their children – but it will also cut through the Christians-are-Good, Others-are-Bad lie.  Like most Christians do, she will likely find a conscious or subconscious workaround to the dilemma of good people going to Hell.

 

It may not be feasible – or even advisable - for you to make the case against Christianity to your daughter while she is so young, but you can (and must, really) help her develop critical-thinking skills, so that if she grows up with a belief in God, it will at least be her belief, not her mother’s or her Christian teachers’.  Are you familiar with the book “A Manual for Creating Atheists”?  Don’t be put off by the aggressive-sounding title, as I was originally.  The writer, Peter Boghossian, knows that you or I cannot  ‘deconvert’ a believer even if we wanted to, but we can, gently and respectfully, guide them to examine their beliefs, the idea being that beliefs that do not have a solid foundation can begin to crumble, in much the same way that most of us here started questioning our own beliefs. 

 

By the time your daughter becomes a young woman, she will have her own beliefs, whether you or your wife like them or not.  By then at least, I hope you will be able to be open about your unbelief. 

 

You have friends here who wish you the best.  We may not always have ready answers, but you’ll never be alone.

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Many consider teaching such things to innocent and impressionable children to be abuse. It is one of the most harmful things Christianity does. I would do anything necessary to stop it from happening. The child must be everyone's priority, so confusing and frightening her with sinister superstition should be of primary concern to any responsible adult. Imagine what you might be willing to do if the child's mother were indoctrinating her in Nazi or White Power doctrine.

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You are witnessing the religious indoctrination of your daughter.  I suggest you do something about it...something sufficient to mitigate, cancel and/or overcome that indoctrination.

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20 hours ago, florduh said:

Many consider teaching such things to innocent and impressionable children to be abuse. It is one of the most harmful things Christianity does. I would do anything necessary to stop it from happening. The child must be everyone's priority, so confusing and frightening her with sinister superstition should be of primary concern to any responsible adult. Imagine what you might be willing to do if the child's mother were indoctrinating her in Nazi or White Power doctrine.

My only concern with this is that his actions to stop this indoctrination could lead to his wife divorcing him, thereby possibly limiting his access to his daughter if she gets custody.  That would then limit his ability to expose her to logic and reason.  In my mind it is better for him to have the most access as possible so he can continually plant seeds of doubt in her mind. 

 

Personally, and of course I'm not in his shoes and this is entirely my own opinion, I think this little girl has the potential to be even stronger in her reason and logic by being exposed to both sides.  No one could convince me now that anything in the Bible is true because I studied it and know it well.  If I had not, I can imagine I might be swayed if the circumstances were right, as I was in college.  My husband and I actually discussed this when we stopped going to church.  He wanted them to continue to go to church so the kids could have a solid moral framework from which to progress through life.  I absolutely disagreed, pointing out that the golden rule covers just about every contingency.  He relented and we haven't been back for over a year now.  Whenever stuff comes up, usually from friends or cousins who are still under indoctrination, we discuss it as thoroughly as the kids will tolerate, usually by asking them lots of questions.  This is the best we can do to inoculate them against that crap.  Insightful is in a different situation, of course, and has to make the best of it.

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Indoctrinating children insures the survival of any religion & this technique has proven to be enormously successful. I assume a large percentage of Xians were born into their faith. Creating converts is hard but indoctrinating children is easy. Which one makes the most sense? 

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It's disgusting that your daughter was taught that people go to hell for having the wrong thoughts, and now thinks you are going there as well. I don't want to hear from damnation-believers that their religion does no harm, that it's merely a way to find peace and joy.

 

No matter what Christians think about their "peace and joy," that is not the issue. The issue is that thinking people do and should be tortured for their personal beliefs is detestable. I'm not letting myself off the hook either. When I was a Christian kid around 12 to 14, I was aware that "hell" is immoral. I know this because I recall that it bothered me. Still, I would not leave Christianity because I didn't want to admit that the feeling of security I had was false. I rationalized it by telling myself what I had heard from Christians - that they deserved it for not following Jesus, that the holy spirit had tried to tell them and they wouldn't listen, whatever made me feel better so I could hang on to that security blanket. Never accept that Christians aren't responsible for their condoning "hell" because they don't want to face death, or someone they loved died and they want to think that person is in heaven, or they want to feel that god loves them, or that’s how they were raised. If they espouse the doctrine of hell and try to draw new converts into their controlling lifestyle, none of those reasons above excuse the damage they cause or how little value they place on other people.

 

(In case anyone is curious, I quit because I couldn’t rationalize biblegod’s murderous habits, or that women are assigned a low status in the bible. Because I understood Christianity ultimately to be about the sacrifice Jesus made, I’d had enough when I read that Jesus had “sacrificed” himself more because he wanted to be glorified for it than to rescue humanity. Essentially, I quit when the immorality applied to me rather than only to others.)

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7 hours ago, Geezer said:

Indoctrinating children insures the survival of any religion & this technique has proven to be enormously successful. I assume a large percentage of Xians were born into their faith. Creating converts is hard but indoctrinating children is easy. Which one makes the most sense? 

Absolutely right, which is why they are encouraging young marriages as well as encouraging young marrieds to "let the lord decide" how many children they have, rather than use birth control.  I have also read that SBC is allowing younger and younger baptisms in order to hide their dwindling numbers.  They know it is their only hope.  The ray of light for us, however, is the consistently dropping numbers of young people who are claiming to be believers.  Apparently all this intense indoctrination is failing in this age of Internet and global communication!  

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