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Forum: Atheist and Agnostic Parenting

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  #1  
January 25th, 2007, 12:00 PM
ManInTheMoon's Avatar Platinum Supermommy
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Posts: 12,171
Hello, everyone! I feel bad about only coming to this board with my problem. I would love to be a regular here, but I just don't get as much time online as I would like. I hope you'll still be willing to give me some input on my situation.

My 7 year old dd, Aurora, has a best friend at school. She and her friend have had theological discussions. Aurora has told her friend that she doesn't believe in God and her friend told her that she's going to hell. Nice, huh? Well, that's not even the porblem.

Her friend has invited her to go to church. I know it's not unusual to invite someone to church, but I can't help being suspicious. I am pretty darned sure that Aurora's friend told her parents that our family doesn't believe in God. So why, oh why would she invite her to church? I'm afraid they're going to try to "save" her. And that really upsets. me. It is up to me to teach my dd about religion and they should butt out!

Anyway, I've always planned to let Aurora go to church if she ever became interested. I want her to think for herself and make up her own mind about God and religion. I want it to be an informed decision, so I think it's wise to let her see what church is all about. However, I wanted to be the one to take her to church. I just don't think that a 7 year old is equipped to handle the pressure religous people can place on you. KWIM?

My Dh agrees that these people are probably trying to convert my dd, but he thinks I'm blowing things out of porportion and making this family sound like part of a fanatical religous cult. But I've had people like that corner me before and it's very uncomfortable. When I was little, my mom used to send me to church on a bus while she stayed home and watched football. I always had some adult in my face asking me why my mother wasn't there and implying that she was a bad person for not coming to church. And I was pressured into joining Awana and when I hated it and tried to quit, they made it so hard to go. I don't want Aurora to have to answer for me or my beliefs and I don't want her to feel pressured into coming to church every Sunday.

Also, I don't know anything about this church. I don't even know what religion they are. Are they going to tell her that women should serve men? I've been to a church like that. Are they going to teach intolerance for gays and unwed mothers? I mean, chances are she's just going to hear the story of Noah's Ark, color a picture and eat some cookies, but I'm uncomfortable not knowing.

Aurora wants to go, though. And I want to let her. I've been wondering if I should go with her. It'd probably be weird to ask if I could sit in on the Sunday school service, but I'd kind of like to do that. Or at least I'd like to drive her there myself so she doesn't get pounded with questions on the drive over. What would you do?

Thanks for any input!
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  #2  
January 25th, 2007, 03:43 PM
Acadia's Avatar Platinum Supermommy
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My younger sister used to get invited to church all the time. The people who were inviting her were, in a way, trying to convert her ... you're right about that. They weren't bad people, they were just worried about her in a way that their religion taught them to be.

First of all, I'd call them. Get a dialog going and mention that their daughter told Aurora she's "going to hell". Ask whether they think that's appropriate.

If they say "oh that is not acceptable!" and tell you they'll talk with her about it, they are probably nice people who are truly trying to be 'good Christians' and spread 'the word of the Lord'. If that's the kind of people they are, I doubt their church is hateful, and they probably won't pressure her. They would probably like it if you came too. If that's the case I think you could make it a Sunday trip with them ... go to their church then have them come to your house for brunch so the girls can play and you can learn a little about one another. The brunch talk probably wouldn't be about religion anyway. They have other interests and then they'll be assured that atheists are nice enough people who just happen to not believe the same thing.

If they say "well it's true" or anything like that, they are probably evangelicals. And if they are evangelicals, their church group is probably what my dad calls "holy rollers". The type to preach about how we should fear God, eternal ######ation for being gay or having sex before you get married, etc. If that's the case they probably won't want you to go ... and there will be a lot of pressure on Aurora to attend with them and possibly convert (as if a 7 year old is capable of converting anyway!). If that's the case I (just since I'm me ...) would mention the "going to hell" comment to the teacher or principal, and make sure those people don't contact you again.

Nice Christians don't go around telling everyone they're going to hell. So if this was just a misguided statement from their daughter, maybe they're good people. But if this is what they're telling her, no way.

I don't know that I would have her go to "Sunday School" though. Most times we went to church, we sat in on the real sermon. That is part of what convinced my sister and I that it was all a fairy tale ... God is loving but He flooded the whole world and killed everyone in it? Yep, that's Noah's story, but in the kids' classes they don't mention the millions of people who would have died. They just talk about how good Noah was and how he saved the cuddly animals (well didn't millions of OTHER animals die!?). They don't talk about the hard stuff. I went to a Methodist pre-school because it was the best one in the area, and we sat in on real sermons PLUS did the "Sunday School" stuff. Let me tell you, the kiddie crap was FUN! We colored, played games, sung songs, and got treats. If I'd thought that was all church was, heck yeah I'd have wanted to go over and over again. But we did "regular" church and boy did I hate that! Sitting still for an hour, listening to crazy stories, and a preacher trying to make a point that was usually totally unrelated to the Bible verse. I hated church. If she loves Sunday School and wants to keep going eventually they will start with more of an "indoctrinating" thing. At a certain age the lessons on "who goes to heaven" and such start, and there is no room for debate, like the conversations she has with her friend. This is an adult telling them that if they aren't good they'll be punished worse than they can ever imagine. And the peer pressure! Seven is pretty close to when they started it at "our church" too.
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  #3  
January 26th, 2007, 01:59 PM
Athey's Avatar Mega Super Mommy
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to everything Acadia said.

I'd definitely try to talk with the parents and mention the 'going to hell' comment. Judge from their reaction.


Personally, I'd go with. Gives you a better ability to put things into perspective and let her know she's not alone. When you're seven and surrounded by people who all believe something, it's difficult and uncomfortable to question any of it. As long as she knows she's not alone in it, it could help out.

I also think it'd be important to experience both the standard sermon as well as the sunday school.


In any case, I wouldn't worry too terribly much.

My mom and I never EVER went to church. My mom was agnostic and religion wasn't brought up in our house that much. When I was 7 I made friends with a girl down the street who's father was a pastor a some local church... I don't even remember what kind of church it was - lol. But I went to sunday school with her a number of times for the fun, but it didn't last very long.
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  #4  
January 26th, 2007, 02:24 PM
Number_3's Avatar Mega Super Mommy
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I like the idea of striking up conversation with the parents to sort of feel them out on the issue. If they sound fanatical in any way, I'd definitely pass on the sunday school offer...from them. Maybe there's another church in the area whose ideals are not as fanatical and they would allow you and your daughter to go there for a visit.

On the hother hand, if they sound relatively harmless, letting your daughter go for one Sunday probably wouldn't be a negative. I guess the first thing I'd want to know as a mom is what church this is she'd be going to.....that will probably be enough to make an educated guess as to what will take place at the church.


Good luck!
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