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We are a worldwide social network of freethinkers, atheists, agnostics and secular humanists.

I have a big problem and I would like some suggestions from people with more experience.

 

I have a niece. She turns 4 next month. I would like to know how to deal with her and how to let her know that all she is taught about god and religion is not true, but in a more subtle way, because I don't want to seem like I'm imposing anything. This wouldn't be a problem if I wouldn't be the only atheist in her life, but I am, and everybody else either doesn't really care about her and/or is not that pious but not actually an atheist, or is a religious nut. I kept quiet until now because I don't want to do anything that would affect my relationship with her, and some of you have already found out the hard way what religious people are capable of, but she already sings out of the blue "hallelujah" (and I'm not talking about that great song), "god have mercy" and stuff like that, and she already believes that if she won't be good, if she won't kiss icons, if she doesn't cross herself (is this the correct saying?), etc. she will go to hell. I don't know if she knows what hell really is supposed to be, but that stuff is obviously already stuck in her mind. She is really chatty and what I tell her might slip out someday and that might not turn out good for either one of us - I don't really care about myself in this situation, but it would be even harder for me to guide her at least as best as I can which is far better than what the rest of the people that should do it actually does... or doesn't. So, I would like to be able to do something about it because I really care about her, but, again, I don't want to be obvious.

 

Oh yeah, I have not told anyone that might be in contact with my niece as well that I don't believe that a god exists, even though some might have deduced that when I threw away all the religious stuff I had like 6 months ago, but, from that, they might as well think that I'm just mad with religion.

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Replies to This Discussion

At 4 years old I don't think she can grasp what religion is or how much of a monster it can be... however you could teach her songs/give her CDs with songs on the subject in a covert attempt to show her there is more than 1 choice. "Freewill" by Rush is mellow and direct.

"You can choose a ready guide in some celestial voice. If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice. You can choose from phantom fears and kindness that can kill. I will choose a path thats clear - I will choose freewill."

As a parent, I would be seriously riled up if someone tried to parent my child for me.  I realize that religion is destructive and that indoctrinating a child is not necessarily the coolest thing to do, but I had my sister tell my kids that god made the Easter Bunny, and boy was that a fun one to untangle.  I would have preferred she keep her mouth shut and let me do my own parenting in such areas.  You have to look at from the other side, too, is all I'm saying.
It is different, M. You're children were told bullshit, not the truth. That's why it was difficult to untangle. Let's see your sister trying to untangle something you say to her children, if she has any. That would be fun.

But I wouldn't.  My sister has beliefs, whereas I do not, but I would never, ever cross those boundaries.  Those are her children.  Not mine.  If she was beating them or neglecting them or prostituting them out, I would step in without hesitation.  However, she has seriously great kids.  They are delights to have around, conscientious, funny, energetic, and kind.  Love them with all my heart.  I think she is doing a fantastic job with them.  She's literally one of the best moms I know.  And yet she's a Christian. 

 

Do you worry that your niece is not being parented in a way that is healthful for her growth and development in general? 

 

Early indoctrination is common, certainly, but not necessarily a permanent damage.  I figure I will continue to be a prominent figure in my nieces' and nephew's lives.  I don't hide my atheism.  If they have questions, I will answer.  I don't want to indoctrinate any more than a Christian would.  Provoke independent thought, yes; push belief systems, no.  I empathize with where your heart is.  I feel it, too.  However, ethically it's a touchy case.  I'm glad you feel so strongly.  I hope it works out for you. 

I think she is doing a fantastic job with them. She's literally one of the best moms I know.

 

That's the difference between my sister and yours.

 

And I see religious indoctrination as a form of child abuse as well. If not more, at least as harmul as the others. That, and the fact that my sister is not even a decent mom overall, makes me want to do something about it. What we would do is not indoctrination. For example, I try everytime I can to make my niece see that smoking is gross and bad, but I never say that she should not smoke. I always ask her if she wants a cigarette if there's my sister's pack on the table, and she says no. Then I don't say anything else, and very often she asks me if I smoke and I say that I don't because smoking is gross and bad for you and once again I ask her if she smokes; she says no again and I push for some reasons why, and she tells me that smoking is bad for you. I think it is an effective method and I am not pushing anything on her, I let her decide. This way I make a strong case and I let her know that her opinion matters to me. Of course, I wouldn't give her a cigarette if she would say yes, but that has never happened. But it's hard to do this when she goes home and sees her mother smoking a pack a day or even more, I don't even know anymore, because I remember that's how my sister started smoking as well, and I remember my mother then trying to persuade her not to smoke and I kept telling her that if she's not going to stop, my sister won't either. Ten years later, they both still smoke and I don't. At least her father doesn't smoke. I try to do the same with alcohol, and we laugh about people that drink and she never wants to even taste it. That's my way of teaching her. I am not looking for methods of indoctrination. I wouldn't be better than the rest.

 

 

Do you worry that your niece is not being parented in a way that is healthful for her growth and development in general?

 

Yes.

I would suggest to feed her with all sorts of other fantasies (fairies, unicorns, santa, talking animals, etc.) and equate them all as fun, endearing, intriguing and since its all imaginary, under her control. A 4-years-old can grasp that.

Immunisation.

Unless of course her parents are so strict as to disallow any fairy tale (other than religion) in their daughter's life.

I wouldn't call them strict, just pinheads. Sheeps. That's what's stopping them from seeing the truth about religion (not to mention god) themselves.

Then Fairy Tales is the way to go.

Perhaps a children's version of Aesop's (or Lafontaine's) fables... Lots of talking animals which she will realize are fantasy, and lots of little life lessons against bigotry and stupidity which will eventually infect her for the better.

Just to let you know how bad it actually is, she already calls a black person that she sees on the street or whatever the boogeyman, and she "knows" that if she's not nice that black person will take her away. That's the level of parenting she's being given. Her parents are those kinds of people that hate everyone that is different; and that will actually affect her, that's why I'm concerned. I try to explain to her what I can and when I can, but it's hard to do that when she hears the opposite at home, and it doesn't have to be said directly to her because kids listen.
I see...  So you are worried about her parenting in general.  Yikes.  That's very sad.  Hate is an ugly thing to teach, no matter where it happens to stem from.  Spend time with her.  Offer to take her places and be a good role model.  Discuss things with her.  Don't necessarily tell her that her parents are wrong or that she shouldn't listen to them, because that will cause conflict for her that she doesn't need nor deserve.  Just being able to witness and learn a different point of view can really influence a child for the better, especially if done consistently and with love.

Don't necessarily tell her that her parents are wrong or that she shouldn't listen to them

 

I have never done that, and I am not thinking about it.

 

It's hard for me to offer her too much because my life is not that great either. I am struggling myself with the same types of people, especially after I stopped believing there is a god. It's hard when you're different, and it's harder when you're different and alone.

 

Thank you for your advices.

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