Family is a fickle thing sometimes. Being an out atheist, in what I assume to be my entire family, makes things a little difficult some days. My immediate family and I have the occasional argument or discussion but for the most part we all agree to try and be respectful. Tonight that all seems to have fallen apart and I'm a little torn on how to proceed. I just finished reading Dawkins newest book, "The Magic of Reality" and I decided that I wanted to share it with my younger brother since he is who the book is aimed at. He's in high school and home-schooled with a fundamental christian curriculum so his "science" books teach a literal view of Genesis and well, they generally teach anything but actual science. I know that my little brother is interested in possibly going to medical school one day and that he has a general interest in the scientific field, even if he isn't exactly vocal about it. I know he has questions but unfortunately whenever he asks me to explain things to him, I have the bad habit of explaining things in terms he can't completely understand because he never learned them. I normally either end up off topic trying to explain too many things or butchering the discussion because I can't put it in layman terms. So needless to say, I was pretty ecstatic to share with him the knowledge in Dawkins book because I thought this would finally provide him with some firm answers to the questions I know he struggles with.

However, my mother found the book and took it away from him before he could even get started. She returned it to me without a word but instead with a note telling me "Not now. Maybe when he's 18 but certainly not now." I honestly can't describe how I felt reading and rereading that note: angry, surprised, disappointed, in denial...My mother knows that I left religion behind because science explained the world in much more complex but beautiful way; I still find myself in awe of the universe and all that science has to offer to me. I think that my mother is afraid that if my brother starts to read and understand things in the same way I did, that he'll eventually leave religion behind too. She believes that he's been called to ministry since he was a child but I know my little brother and he has no interest in being a missionary or pastor. Unfortunately, I let my emotions take control and my mother and I had a fight about her taking the book away but we eventually reached a compromise I'm not happy about: she'll read the book and then decide if he can handle it. I get the sinking feeling that she'll decide he can't no matter what and that breaks my heart for a multitude of reasons.

As an undergraduate science major, I want nothing more than to show my brother that the world is a grand and wonderful place, that the knowledge of how it all works is out there and even though it might be hard to comprehend at times, it makes the world an even more amazing place. Like the old adage says, "knowledge is power" and I want to encourage him not to abandon his beliefs, but to look at the world with a skeptical eye and to learn as much as he can. I want to do all I can to keep encouraging him because I can see the beginnings of that mindset taking root but how can I do so if he lives in a house where our parents actively work to discourage him from learning? I have my own apartment while I'm away at college so I can't always be around to talk to him. And I love my family but how do I even begin to try and help my brother to think rationally when he lives with parents who seem to believe they can dictate what he reads, learns, and believes? And how do I help my parents understand that the words in a book shouldn't be a frightening thing, that they shouldn't take away the opportunity for him to learn and make decisions for himself?

Thanks for anything you might have to say!

Tags: books, family, knowledge, reading, relationships, skepticism

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So sad!  You don't say how old your little brother is, so it's difficult to know what stage he's at.  I see this as just another case of child indoctrination, brain washing and a form of child abuse which should be banned.  All I can suggest is that when you get the chance just keep talking to your brother and keep sowing the seeds of doubt and skepticism and hopefully one day when he's old enough to leave home he'll figure it all out and will be OK.  

He's just about to turn 16 and he's definitely pretty firm in his beliefs but there's certainly that niggling doubt in the back of his head based on the things he's said in passing. But I definitely have to agree, it's a horrible form of indoctrination and abuse; I can't ever imagine doing something like that on any scale if I ever have children.

I certainly wish I had more time to talk with the kid but unfortunately school things get in the way. But I shouldn't make excuses really.

I like your mother's arbitrary age limit of 18.  Looks like your brother's gonna have a pretty awesome 18th birthday:  porn, cigarettes, Richard Dawkins books... it'll be a blast!

Don't forget beer!

I don't think you arguing with your parents will do anything here. It's your brother who needs to speak up.

If he wants to become a doctor & wants to learn more about science then it's him who needs to convince your parents to let him.

Considering that he's 16 & hasn't got much knowledge about science then he needs to get reading soon, or might not get into a science program in a college. I think it's him you need to talk to. He is 16, you should tell him that if he wants to become a doctor or explore his options then he will have to talk to your parents. I don't think the focus should be on working on any doubts he might have about religion, but on making sure he learns enough to get into a science program.

Just give him the book and tell him your parents wouldn't understand and it would be best not to tell them about it.

When I was 15 I was eager to do anything my parents didn't want me to do. Then again he could be like my sister who did everything my mother told her to do. She had no balls and wouldn't go against my mother if she was told to punish herself. Now that she's older and is more independent she stands up to my mother but it took her a few years after high school to get that way.  So either your brother is like myself and wants to be his own man or you might have to wait a few years for him to grow a pair. So just give him the book and find out what he's made of.

I was raised by parents who actually kept me out of science class all thru elementary school. I am just now learning all the stuff I should have learned as a child. I think this is sad.

Just keep talking to him and educating him.

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