Hi all -
I am an atheist and my husband is an agnostic - we have 2 boys, 6 and 3. His parents live in the same town and are extremely active in their church, which is a pretty mild Presbyterian church that I would not be so disturbed about if they were not involving our son (and now they want the younger too) in Sunday school and other church activities. They are very pleased that the church has just started offering a Sunday school class for 3-yr-olds! Argh!
The class runs with the school year so we are getting close now. Last year, after my 6-yr old had said some concerning things to me (like, "Only God knows.), I worked up my nerve to talk with my husband about this. I had hoped to achieve a compromise at attendance every other week, and adding different fun non-church-related activities with the grandparents. But when he discusses/fights, he goes quickly from discussion to attack and he would absolutely not budge. There was no compromise at all.
He insisted that this is good for our 6-yr-old, that everything he had researched showed that Sunday school was good for children, made them more moral, etc. That the extra socialization was good, and the in-laws point out that it is a "safe" place where there is no bullying, etc. I haven't even talked with him about the younger yet, I am sure that he will be just as unyielding.
UNLESS, my only chance at making some headway in this is if I can come up with research showing that sending children to Sunday school is problematic, that the brainwashing is something to be concerned about. Has anyone come across anything? My searches haven't really found anything, perhaps I'm using the wrong keywords. Any suggestions would be appreciated!
Your husband's intransigence suggests there is more afoot here.
Oh of course there's always more history! None that is that relevant here, tho I was really surprised when I realized that he thought as strongly about this issue in the opposite direction that I do!
I don't understand why your husband wants your child to learn about killing, violence and hate. this is what it stands for in the religion. There's plenty of biblical examples and historical examples. I'm not too sure why these church goers love to deny it. There's something definitely "afoot" here.
I agree, and to me, trading "free" baby-sitting Saturday night (they stay over at the in-laws) and Sunday morning for consistent exposure to the church is not being a responsible parent. I have decided that if their attendance just has to happen, then I need to go. I need to be hearing what they are being told in Sunday school and I need to be there at the church service so we can discuss later.
Is this church accepting of gays, marriage equality, women's reproductive rights and science? If so, I might not be too worried. If not, I'm not sure what can be done. Instilling god-delusion into a child is dangerous, in my opinion, and I wouldn't be able to stand by and watch it happen.
I suppose I would ask questions like, "How are we going to explain to little Jack that some kids have two moms or two dads and that is ok, no matter what the church say?" Or perhaps, "How can our sons get a decent education when they are taught to mistrust science?"
This is all based on the church having those problematic views. In particular, I would flip right the fuck out the day I heard my child talking about the fires of hell for non-believers. How can your child possibly keep his mind open to different perspectives when he's told he'll be burned alive if he doubts what the inlaws are telling him?
Thankfully that is not a concern here - while it is a Presbyterian church which does not recognize gay marriage, the pastor has actually performed one gay marriage in the church (made some people made but I guess it blew over!) One of our 6-yr-old's closest friends has 2 daddies - well, this is a college town so it's a pretty progressive community, and gay marriage is legal in IA. :)
So it could be a WHOLE lot worse - but you know, I am still not comfortable. I think one aspect is having them see this entire institution, all these people, not to mention the connotations that go with "school" in a child's mind - just having that entire structure presenting the whole farce as something real.
I attended Sunday School and Bible School regularly all through my childhood - by 12, I was an agnostic, by 20, a full-blown atheist, while having religious parents. With and atheist mom and a supposedly agnostic dad, I can't see that much harm could be done.
I agree that the socialization is a good thing - one of my first girlfriends was the preacher's daughter. But you might talk with them, just as you would if they returned from public school, and ask, "What did you learn today?" If they tell you hinky stories like Noah's Ark, you could mention that not all of the stories in the Bible are true, and in Noah's case, explain that there not only wouldn't have been enough room in the boat for two of all of the animals in the world, animals could never gotten to the ark from America, Australia, etc., and there's not enough water to cover the earth. Over time, they should learn to take what they learn with a grain of salt, or at the very least, come to you after church for verification of what they've been told was truth.
Thanks for your note, that is definitely reassuring. I am thinking that I need to go to Sunday school with them, which I guess will involve slipping in and out so I can check in on both. I just don't want them to be absorbing stuff as true that they don't even think to bring up. Also I really feel I need to know what is going on in that 3-yr-old room because he's at the point where almost anything is taken as fact, there is no critical or contextual thinking for him yet.
One issue my husband posed in the last argument about this, last spring when I requested a compromise of every other week, was the ethics/morality they teach in Sunday school. I still have not come across research or stats on Sunday school but I am reading the Raising Freethinkers book and there is a quote by Larry Nucci, the director of the Office for Studies in Moral Development at Univ of Illinois:
"Children's understanding of morality is the same whether they're of one religion, another religion or no religion."
Which tells me that as far as the issue of learning morality, going to Sunday school is not a factor. (I already felt that, but I just need the back-up!)
I also understand that at age 3 children have no contextual thinking and that skill increases greatly between the ages of 3 and 5. Which may help me in presenting a case that the 3-yr-old should not go until he's 6.
I'll keep looking, thanks for your comments and pls keep them coming if you have something to add!
Well - there's one way that might convince him... but it's kind of a dirty trick. Get him to admit that Einstein was a great thinker. Then show him this link. Read it first so you know what it says: http://bit.ly/EhhVa
@CA - I really don't think that highly of Austin Cline - I find him a bit sanctimonious and self serving, and I'm on the verge of canceling my subscription to his newsletter, but those Einsteinian quotations were great, and I WILL steal them!