Some years ago, when my grandson was 5 and new to school, he asked me whether people could come back from the dead. My father, his great grandfather, had recently died and I wondered if this had prompted his question. I told him I didn’t think people could return from the dead and asked him what he thought.
‘I don’t think so,’ he said. ‘They told us at school that Jesus came back from being dead but I don’t believe it. Do you?’ I told him, as he’d asked, that I didn’t.
‘It would be weird if great granddad came back from the dead, wouldn’t it,’ he said.
‘It certainly would,’ I agreed.
Flash forward to this weekend. Dennis and I are looking after my granddaughters. The eldest, 5 herself, mentions Easter. ‘They said at school that Jesus died in the cross and came back to life. I don’t believe it. I don’t believe in God or Jesus. It’s all too silly.’
Apart from these two conversations, which they initiated, I’ve never discussed religion with my grandchildren. I’m opposed to the indoctrination of young people. As a teacher my aim was always to help them think for themselves. While I’m only their grandfather, I want my grandchildren to make up their own minds about the claims of the ideologies they encounter. The views both my grandchildren expressed about God, Jesus and the resurrection were entirely their own.
What do their responses reveal?
1. That the much vaunted Christian assertion that we are born with an instinctive awareness of and desire for God is nonsense. I’ve come across several blog posts recently, including one by those boneheads at Answers in Genesis, claiming just this. It’s a notion loosely based on Paul’s claim in Romans 1.19 & 20:
…what can be known about God is plain to (people), because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.
On the contrary, until children are actively indoctrinated with notions of God and the Christian fantasy, they do not have an innate sense of any of it.
2. That pushing ideas about God and Jesus on to the supposedly impressionable young minds is counter-productive. Even very young children have a level of discernment that can distinguish between fact and fiction. Not subject to peer pressure and free from the ridiculous notion that they are sinners, they are capable of seeing through ‘silly’ religious ideas.
3. That Jesus was way off the mark (as usual) when he said, ‘Suffer the little children to come unto me.’ They’re not interested, and the longer they’re able to keep away from him, the better.
Excellent points, Neil! I am happy (and encouraged) to hear your resistance to the brainwashing of children; I also believe it borders on abuse.
As an Italian Roman Catholic growing up in Brooklyn NY, I remember well the absolute nonsense we had to endure everyday at St Ritas on Atlantic Ave in East New York. It was relentless and sometimes frightening; we had a huge, like-size crucifix at the back of the church replete with a bleeding, dying Jesus, the titulus INRI (which we jokingly translated as “I’m Nailed Right In”) and various skulls and other items one might find at such a place. I remember as a 4 or 5 year old being frighteningly mesmerized by it; my Mother would have to constantly divert my attention to the priest or I would have nightmares that night. In Kindergarten (Kindergarten, for Pete’s sake!!) we had to make room on our 8” x 8” chair for our “Guardian Angel” while listening to an almost ecstatic nun ranting about how “beautiful god is” and how we wouldn’t even be able to look at him or we would die. Yeah. Thanks for that Sister Marie Julie, that ought sit well with a first-grader. Now I have to look out for god at night too!
Ultimately I think the Masters of the mindless minions are at least smart enough to know that if they fail to indoctrinate us early, then there is a significantly less chance of our ever being enrolled into the stultifying & mind-numbing ignorance that is religion.
Since my grandparents on my father’s side were STRONG Catholics — I was exposed to it at a very young age but FORTUNATELY, it never “took.” Partly, I think, because one of the nuns treated me badly and my (semi-atheist) mother say I didn’t have to go back. But for people like you, RaPaR, it’s like a poison in the blood that sometimes never quite goes away.
I didn’t do as well with my own children as I was a Christian then and thought it important they knew Jesus for themselves. As a result, they were dragged along to church and ‘encouraged’ to attend Sunday school. They hated it. They were right to. I learnt an important lesson too and adopted, over time, a liberal view.
I’m in France at the moment and today visited an old RC church – creepy statues, lighted candles and bloody crucifixes. I had a view of one of Christianity’s more bizarre manifestations. I’m glad you survived it, RaPaR; not only that, escaped it into the truth of life without a god.
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Apparently your children survived this ordeal, I hope? By the time we had children my wife (who was an atheist before I was, (thank you Catholic education & martial punishment!) and I decided to take them to a Unitarian Universalist Church which is to say, not to a church at all. Our “minister” was also an atheist and introduced me to the Jesus Seminar and the whole world of counter-Christian culture. They ended up learning about many religions and their basic tenants however nothing really stuck with either of them. We had many dinner table discussions about it but, today at 37 and 34, neither have any such beliefs.
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The religious cling mightily to the scripture in Proverbs: Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it. They KNOW, as you wrote, that “even very young children have a level of discernment” so they must get them while they’re young and repeat, repeat, repeat until the axioms are accepted as true in their developing brain.
Even though the children questioned the teaching, if it’s repeated often enough, they most likely will eventually accept it as truth.
Apparently the Chubby Trumpster knows that as well!!
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