Dexter

What to do about the young minds?

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Part of why I do not come out as an atheist is that I do not want to lose contact with my nephews who are still teenagers none have left home yet. They largely look up to me as the "cool uncle" and respect my opinions. I take this with serious gravity. If I came out as a gay atheist, I know I wouldn't be excommunicated per se, but the dynamic would change and I know my sisters would be less eager to let their kids hang out with their lost and sinful brother, lest their children become corrupted by my sinful ways. But at the same time, it is not my intention or desire to directly influence my nieces and nephews paths either. That is a weight of responsibility that I prepared to take on. So for a time I promised myself that I'd in no way influence them one way or the other. That lasted all of about two weeks before I realized this was an un-keepable promise. 

 

One of my older nephews sent my video through facebook that told a story about an evil atheist philosophy professor that was showed up by a devote Christian student. I asked my nephew if he realized that was just the plot to God's not Dead. He said he did and I jokingly replied that no straw man would be able to stand before him now. He didn't understand and asked what I meant. It was a couple days later I was reading through some AiG articles (unhealthy obsession) and ran across one that opened with how society is in decline. It gave some bullet point example citing the lack of bible teaching in public schools, the war on christmas and not being able to discriminate against gays as evidence for this decline. So I texted my nephew and asked him if he was ready for a pop quiz. He acknowledged and I sent him that article asking him to go bullet point by bullet point and tell me a counter-argument. How would an atheist reply to these bullet points? 

 

The purpose of this was to see if he could conceptualize a counter-argument. Not to tell him what's right or wrong, but rather to see how expansive his theory of mind is. And his answer actually really surprised me in a good and bad way. He said that he didn't know. He couldn't conceive of a counter-argument to any of it. This saddens me for how limited his worldview is but also pleasantly surprised me that he was able to admit to himself and to me that he has a gap. He does not know. A younger me would've tried to make something up. He then asked me what could be a counter-argument. 

 

Again, I do not want to influence him by giving my family-unapproved opinions so I told him that I was crafting a persona of a typical social-liberal and set about counter-arguing each bullet point. I didn't go particularly deep but I did give very serious arguments (rather close to mine, in fact) against each point. And my nephews mind was blown. He had never even conceived that counter-arguments to the worldview he was taught even exists. 

 

So I wonder, am I being disingenuous by testing my younger relatives in these thought experiments when, in fact, I do not hold the position they believe I do? I am not trying to tell them not to believe to even abandon their positions. But I do want them to think broader than my sisters have taught them to do. 

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15 hours ago, Dexter said:

So I wonder, am I being disingenuous by testing my younger relatives in these thought experiments when, in fact, I do not hold the position they believe I do? I am not trying to tell them not to believe to even abandon their positions. But I do want them to think broader than my sisters have taught them to do. 

 

If whatever you want to accomplish is worthy of the subterfuge, then go for it. :)

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I'd say largely the same as the above. If you know you would lose contact, and you want to stay in contact with them, you have have no choice but the subterfuge. So you do what you need to do. Personally, I don't need approval so I can stay in contact with my nieces and nephews. The cat is out of the bag in regards to who I am, and I suppose if their parents discourage them from having contact with me, they can choose to have a relationship when they are grown adults themselves.

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On 12/2/2018 at 9:06 PM, Dexter said:

So I wonder, am I being disingenuous by testing my younger relatives in these thought experiments when, in fact, I do not hold the position they believe I do? I am not trying to tell them not to believe to even abandon their positions. But I do want them to think broader than my sisters have taught them to do. 

It doesn't seem like such a bad thing to influence people to think from a broader perspective. You should keep in mind, though, that the conversations like these will be brought up in the future, if you do come out as a non-believer, as proof that you're trying to corrupt the youth. On the other hand people will find fault with whatever you do it they want to badly enough - so why not go ahead and help kids develop critical thinking skills? That's just my opinion.

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22 minutes ago, DestinyTurtle said:

It doesn't seem like such a bad thing to influence people to think from a broader perspective. You should keep in mind, though, that the conversations like these will be brought up in the future, if you do come out as a non-believer, as proof that you're trying to corrupt the youth. On the other hand people will find fault with whatever you do it they want to badly enough - so why not go ahead and help kids develop critical thinking skills? That's just my opinion.

Exactly. And if someone blamed me for trying to "corrupt young minds" I'd shoot right back that there is nothing wrong with encouraging critical thinking skills. And I'd point out that they're calling thinking skills "corruption", which just reveals their bias.

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If your subterfuge is transparent enough but never directly admitting to anything, the good thing is it'll hint to the kids that religion is something they should be critical of but probably remain careful about what they question aloud. Of course if they're too dense to notice that even you have to pay lip service to the crazy believers, they might rebel directly and get burned. Or get you burned thanks to their loose lips.

 

It also gives them the out of it all being just a game (or preparation for handling those pesky atheists) if they're not ready to let go of the fairytale mindset yet.

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19 hours ago, ToHellWithMe said:

or preparation for handling those pesky atheists

 

This is often how I handle it. I'll post and AiG article or religious publication and just ask, 'who DO those pesky atheists think and why?' Either they will become better apologists or better anti-apologists. Either way I'd call it a success. 

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The ability to shape and understand a counter argument is a useful tool in anyone's brainbox.  You are not telling them what to believe, and what you believe is irrelevant to this process.  Therefore, no problem

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