The Atheist’s Picnic

One or another of my kids comes home every month talking about hell. Their friends or classmates patiently explain to them that I am going to be going to hell, and that they will, too, if they don’t get it together and believe in x, y, z.

I tried to explain to my kids that this doesn’t work, that you cannot force belief. I asked them to imagine I was full of magic beans instead of blood and bones and etc. The older children got it but the baby couldn’t figure it out. Already the concept of hell is too familiar to her. She can believe that but not magic.

I asked her if it was fair to be in control of a person, their food, their destiny, their every material comfort, and to send them to some horrible place? Like would it be okay if I sent her to her room and told her she could only eat bread? She burst out crying. I have to undo this when she is older. Right now she can’t fathom how ridiculous it is to punish a person for a belief.

Belief is involuntary. Changeable, but involuntary.

I sat the older kids down and explained to them the origins and evolution of the concept of hell in Abrahamic traditions, how it was a valley outside of Jerusalem and etc. Gehennem to Jahannam. I left out the human sacrifice bits, not sure how sound those reports are, anyway. I did impress the smell and the sight of trash burning 24/7 on them, and they understood.

Next week in the city is the Monthly Atheist Picnic, with a playground and etc. I am going to take them just so I can point to the crowd and explain that none of these people believe mommy is going to hell. I hope it comforts them a bit.

I don’t care in what religion they end up, so long as the faith they choose is respectful and empathetic to others, and not just their own.


Filed under Child Abuse, Child Psychology, Trauma, Uncategorized

7 responses to “The Atheist’s Picnic

  1. me

    Very interesting … I had the same trouble with my kids when they were little … and that still lingers bit today, as they both go to a pentecostal church. However, they’re pretty good judges of character and I taught them to sift and ask questions … if it doesn’t feel right, then ask more questions. Don’t just believe something for the sake of believing something. That’s about all you can do really.

    • I can’t wait for all of them to hit that age of logic where they can filter it past their common sense. Right now they are far too concerned with fitting in or making their friends happy.

      • me

        Oh … thats a hard age … hard time! My oldest is only just letting that stuff go … and she’s 23! I know right … its a long road xo

  2. ❤ to you and your kids.

    Being raised Unitarian, my friends and I as kids were told quite often we were going to hell. My good friend's grandmother, used to tell her (with quivering lip and teary eyes) she was going to burn…and how very sad her gramma was for her. My own family gave up on most of us: I knew they still prayed for my father's salvation, but his wife and kids? We we're known to be damned, and beyond the power even of prayers to redeem.

    What a lot of horse-swaggle. Not to mention (and please pardon the pun!) one hell of a burden for littl'uns to have to navigate.

  3. Reclaiming

    I remember during my tween and teen years being told that I was going to hell for the music I listened to and the way I dressed.

    Unfortunately, I have also been that preachy person who thought I had the monopoly on truth. As a kid, my mother had the good sense to tell me to stop. When I was a young adult, I think that self-righteousness was almost contagious. I kept trying to be this religious person so that I would not be treated with contempt by my husband. It worked to a degree, but then when the only books I was allowed to read were religious books that condemned other faiths, and even those who didn’t practice religion the same way, it was very brainwashing. I don’t ever want to be that person again.

    The picnic seems like a great idea. I think it is important for kids to learn that there are good people out there of all different faiths, as well as people of no faith. How limited our world is if we only interact with people who think the same. We would never be able to learn, grow ideas, question things, and evolve our understandings and beliefs.

    • I don’t want to be that person again, either. I find it hard, all the time, to reconcile my past selves with my present. I am always telling my kids “Think!” when they present me with an issue. I don’t want them to be dependent on anyone else…

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