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Vasaris, the Fuzzy Dragon
vasaris
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March 2014
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Vasaris, the Fuzzy Dragon [userpic]
My daughter is telling me I'm going to go to hell! How do I encourage her to have an open mind?

Dear God, man, you can't try and encourage that -- you need to take her to church, meet the pastor, and convert!

...there are no words.



I'm not completely unaccustomed to the response of "You're going to go to Hell if you're not Christian!" -- in fact, just last night complete strangers felt the need to pray for God to present himself in my dreams so that I would accept Jesus as my savior.

Since I dreamt about doing an unending pile of Boeing entries, either God was revealing himself in a glimpse of paperwork Hell, or he is the Father of all bureaucrats.

In any case, I feel for this man -- to be an Atheist (or agnostic, pagan, or otherwise non-Christian individual) whose child is being raised by an evangelical Christian has got to be difficult. Any person who sincerely values accepting other views, which it seems clear to me this man does, otherwise he'd be trying to convert her to atheism rather than trying to explain to her that other people have other views, would find it frustrating and frightening to have her suddenly be "You're going to hell" and meeting tears whenever he tries to explain his own views and beliefs.

I feel for the girl, too -- it must be terrible to believe that God is such an unforgiving asshole that he'd condmen perfectly good people to Hell because they find organized religion to be scary and detrimental. Frankly, most human organizations of any real size have the potential to be fucking scary, but that's a whole different rant. I personally can't see how a supposedly loving deity is supposed to be that cruel, or why anyone would want to follow a deity with those kind of characteristics, but I can accept that not everyone feels as i do.

But... The advice given to this man is just... what the hell? Aside from the completely bizzare football analogy (because, dude, it's not like I deny the existence of LaCrosse, despite the fact I've never even seen a game on TV... If we're going to deny things we've never seen, can I deny the existence of, say, Quebec?), where the hell does Carey Tennis get off saying "You can't possibly deny the existence of God. You need to go to church with your daughter and experience the wonder that she's experiencing -- your own experience to date means absolutely nothing and is worthless. Go to church, speak to her pastor, become one with her religion and all will be well.

Of course all will be well if he accepts Christ as his savior -- although there would be hell to pay if he became, oh, a Unitarian instead of whatever breed of scary hyper-evangelical she belongs to... because you know that she'd still be sure he was going to Hell since he wasn't a member of her specific sect. Everything is made better by paying lip-service to a creed that you do not believe in, right?

Wrong.

Tennis' advice is frightening: Your acceptance of your daughter is not enough, you must change yourself to fit her image. Asking your daughter to have even a small ration of tolerance is unreasonable -- you must instead appease her fears by doing and becoming something that you find unacceptable. You are in the wrong because you are the one without religion.

This girl is either a) extremely fragile -- how is she supposed to function in a world that has a multitude of belief structures or b) extremely manipulative. Personally, I wouldn't be at all surprised if she isn't involved in one of the Pentecostal (or related) groups that caused kuchenhexe to found woundedwarriors. I suspect she's been told that he's going to go to hell and it's her job to bring him into the fold by hook or crook. While her distress is undoubtedly real, I would be willing to lay odds that the tears are as much an effort to force him to shut up about any other belief structure and come with her to church, where others can then apply pressure to force him to join up.

It's a lovely setup, isn't it?

"You've got to give up your day with her so she can go to church."

Okay, she's old enough that if she wants to go, he should take her. She has the right to go. But she hasn't got the right to harangue him about his religious choices. He's an adult and the risk of Hell is his to take. His soul is not her responsibility.

He has the right to try and mould her -- she's still under-age and his child. He has every right to try and explain that others believe different things and have the right to make different choices, no matter what she might think of them. He doesn't need to go to church with her, he doesn't need to acquiesce to her emotional blackmail.

Sadly, in the end, he's going to lose her -- actually, he already has. She's been in her mother's control and the control of her mother's church and until she decides there has to be more to the world than what they tell her, she's only going to see him as a soul about to burn in Hell. She'll never see anything else about him -- he could be kind, generous, charitable, and honorable... and the only thing she'll ever understand is that he isn't Christian, because that is so much more important.

Comments

*quietly applauding whilst standing next to you on OUR soapbox*

Love, Hugs and Blessings,
Shadowe

A major flaw with Ms. Tennis' response is that she is quite clearly Christian herself. An athiest, agnostic, or Eastern Religious believer would *never* have suggested that this man should attempt to 'blend in' and pretend for his daughters sake. In the long run, blending in will only cause more problems, as the father will quickly grow tired and resentful as the Church Majority attempts to 'save' him and convert him week after week after week.

The father is trying his best to prepare his daughter for a world where she will encounter Muslims, Buddhists, Wiccans et al, and allowing his daughter to stay within her own tiny group and become close minded and frankly bigoted is clearly not what he would chose to do.

Unfortunately, you are correct. The girl has already been merged into the hive mentality and the only thing he can do it just hang back and hope she realizes what the real world is like as she matures. He could try and explain until he's blue in the face about diversity and understanding, but her ears have already been closed.

(Grr, open tag. Sorry for the repost)

I dunno, I thought the advice was pretty canny. The responder's not telling the guy to convert. (She's?) advising him to play the game. Debating the thorniest questions of metaphysics with a teenager who's been scared by her mother's dumbfuck church isn't really the kindest thing for the kid.

Tennis' advice is frightening: Your acceptance of your daughter is not enough, you must change yourself to fit her image.

I wasn't getting that at all. Dad's not going to change his beliefs, and visiting a crazy church isn't going to force his mind.

I hate evangelical fundamentalism. I fucking hate it. I was terrorized by it too as a kid, when we all had to watch those horrifying movies about the Rapture, and listen to the poison and fearmonegring and bigotry. As an added bonus, I got the shit beaten out of me by my mother fives days a week, and she was sure to tell me she was was "doing it for Jesus."

And I threw it all in the crapper as soon as I was old enough to physically resist getting dragged to those insane asylums. I told my bitch mother that she could hit me all she wanted, but I was NOT GOING. It was a great day.

So I think this guy's daughter will probably come around, if she has any brains. In the meantime, strengthening the bond by accomanying her will hopefully enable her to talk about her fears, demystify them, and start to wake the hell up.

And if I were that guy, I'd really want to know first hand what they were pumping into my kid's brain.

I do agree with the commenter below that the responder's advice suffers from clear Christian bias. I also agree that the football analogy sucks because IMO, evangelical fundamentalism isn't spirituality at all:</i> in my experience it's a tissue of anxieties, powerlessness and base tribal instinct tarted up as religion, and it stinks. It couldn't have anything less to do with God if someone had consiously designed it so.

However I don't think dad will crumble up and die if he steps foot in the stupid church, and I think the daughter could only benefit. God knows she's going to need someone with a real frame of reference to talk to when she starts to ponder things for herself.

I can agree that some of it isn't bad -- one of my problems with the "go to her church" thing is that it presumes that he's had no experience with it: He was married to this woman and there's no indication that she's changed churches since they broke up. I wouldn't be at all surprised if he's already familiar with it.

I do think he needs to be more sensitive and respectful to the girl's beliefs, but from the perspective of a former aetheist/agnostic and current Pagan, Carey's bizarre football analogy absolutely reeks of "You're denying the existence of God because you don't go to church, you're disrespecting her experience by trying to explain your point of view, so you should just go and learn what she's experiencing and take religion out for a test drive." I can't help but wonder if he had written as a concerned Christian of a non-Evangelical flavor if Carey would even have gone there, and frankly the talk of treating religion and faith like some kind of consumer product... if anything, I find that more disrespectful of both the atheist and the believer alike.

I hate evangelical fundamentalism. I fucking hate it. I was terrorized by it too as a kid, when we all had to watch those horrifying movies about the Rapture, and listen to the poison and fearmonegring and bigotry. As an added bonus, I got the shit beaten out of me by my mother fives days a week, and she was sure to tell me she was was "doing it for Jesus."

*is appalled* I know this kind of thing happens but every time I hear about it, it makes my brain explode. How can people do this and claim a loving God? How can they think that He would approve? Yes, it's twisted all out of proportion to what I understand Christian theology to actually be, but... *shudders*

And I threw it all in the crapper as soon as I was old enough to physically resist getting dragged to those insane asylums. I told my bitch mother that she could hit me all she wanted, but I was NOT GOING. It was a great day.

Good for you. Seriously. It takes a lot of strength to do that.

However I don't think dad will crumble up and die if he steps foot in the stupid church, and I think the daughter could only benefit. God knows she's going to need someone with a real frame of reference to talk to when she starts to ponder things for herself.

There's a yes and no to that, though, depending on just how bad the church is. Would he cruble up and die? No, but as you know from your own experience some Evangelical Fundementalist churches, in particular the dominionist only, would only up the pressure on the daughter to get him to convert and target him for harassment.

If we were talking, say, her being a Lutheran -- and certainly if she were Unitarian -- I wouldn't worry too much about the repercussions. I'd expect him to be able to go to the pastor and say "I'm not really a believer, I'm just here for my daughter's peace of mind."