If a religious parent gets their child involved in trying to convert others?

This is in response to a question posted on another blog:

The OP mentioned a Jehovah's Witness coming to their door and trying to convert them. It sounds like the OP did a good job respectfully debating the solicitor. One of the comments to the blog mentioned religious solicitors bringing their children with them as they go door-to-door. The author stated that they won't get involved in conversation [regarding religion] with the person's child there. I understand this completely. It would seem kind of wrong to have a child witness you telling their parents that you utterly disagree with them. But is there a moral case here for arguing for reason even when the child is there? Or, even more so, because the child is there? Here's the two comments from the original blog on the religious solicitor...

Comment by Jason Wagner

Explaining the logical fallacies theists make when arguing for their faith becomes tiresome after a while. Unfortunately, they've started bringing their children with them to my door and I wont engage them in conversation with children around... I feel like it's telling them Santa doesn't exist and it's not for me to do. haha.

Comment by Graham E. Lau

Delete CommentI don't know, Jason. That's one heck of a thought provoker. Is it not your place to guide someone else's children in relation to what is real and what's not in this world? The answer seems obvious, but what if the parent has decided to get their child involved?

Is there a certain moral duty to educating children, regardless of who's children they are? And, obviously, is that overstepping a boundary that we've built up in society? If so, does that boundary exist just so that people with religious viewpoints can avoid hearing something opposing what the preacher's had to say? In America, we count a child as being under their parents' rule until they are 18 years of age or have been otherwise emancipated from their parents via court of law. Is it not appropriate to discuss your views with or in proximity of someone else's child? What if the child is truly interested and wants to know what you think? I think most of us would say that if we knew that a child's parents expressly did not want their child to know our viewpoints that we would keep those viewpoints to ourselves out of respect for the parents and for the role they take in their children's lives.

But what if the parents are religious and are taking their children door-to-door to attempt to convert others to their religion? I think I would feel almost obligated to maintain my character and my willingness to argue against religion in the presence of the child, especially since their parents have already chosen to get the child involved. I think if the parents want their children to witness how they feel about their beliefs, then they have to understand that there are people who disagree with their beliefs and they should be willing to argue their case.

I mean, I wouldn't walk up to a kid I don't know and yell, "santa's not real!". It's nice to see children using their imagination and asking themselves what's possible and what's just imaginary, that's how we grow to become rational thinkers in the first place. At the same time though, the fact that these parents are dragging their children into their religious conversion practices almost begs for the children to hear how there are many of us who aren't interested. The parents chose in the first place to get their child involved. Seems like a thin line there, but honestly, I don't think the parents should use their children as a means to safely hide within their religious beliefs.

Views: 13

Comment by Jānis Ķimsis on February 25, 2010 at 2:08am
Hey, if the parents take their kid along to annoy people, it's their fault if the kid hears something they don't want him to hear. I mean, if you take your kid to see a porn movie, you can't hold the cinema responsible if the kids sees some boobs. Unless it's gay porn, then you can expect the kid not to see boobs.
Comment by Jason Wagner on February 25, 2010 at 2:32am
I think an appropriate way to address the situation would be to ask the solicitors were interested in having their belief system put into question in front of their children prior to engaging in philosophical debate. If they answer in the negative perhaps informing them that they should reconsider their choice in children engaging in adult discussion. This grants the added satisfaction of including them in the category of children while 'respecting' their role as parents.

Once a man and some children knocked on my door asking if there were any children interested in coming to a party at the park down the street. He informed me there would be refreshments and a DJ and all kinds of fun games. He handed my a flyer which I promptly scanned and noticed a YoungLife affiliation (a christian youth group) and I responded in no uncertain terms that he should be 'fucking ashamed of himself for attempting to indoctrinate children surreptitiously and without their parents present. The fact that he did not immediately relay the information he was part of a religious based group was a lie of omission and it elicited in me a furious anger. He attempted to apologize to me at which point I informed him he shouldn't darken my door step and should remove the children from my presence before I gave him an earful of my other thoughts on the matter.

I think one of my biggest pet peeves is that religion has decidedly become more and more subversive in recent years.
Comment by Graham E. Lau on February 25, 2010 at 4:33am
Indeed, I like your idea of asking the solicitor before getting into it with them if they're willing to have their children hear their beliefs being tested. Touche.

When you first mentioned that a religious solicitor would bring their child with them to a door-to-door conversion spree, I didn't know how to respond. It seems so inappropriate for them to take their children along. Questioning your parents is hard to do for many people, but every kid has to come to the realization at some point that their parents are people and will have certain flaws and will make mistakes sometimes.
Comment by Jason Wagner on February 25, 2010 at 5:23pm
I too didn't know how to react the first time it happened, hence snapping at the man with several children inviting my kid to the park. So I know exactly how you feel.
Comment by Shine on February 25, 2010 at 6:20pm
I like Jason's idea about asking the person before engaging in serious debate. However, at the same time I also say that it is free game as the person has chosen to involve their child. If the person seriously has a problem with their child listening to atheistic statements, then the parent should not bring the child along when engaging strangers in religious debate. I would not directly address the child, but I do not see any harm in engaging the parents if they say something irrational or false. (Huge disclaimer: I'm a total wuss and would probably never follow through with this. But at least I would think it really hard!)
Comment by Graham E. Lau on February 26, 2010 at 12:22am
My right to speak my mind on my property trumps their right to shelter their children.

Comment by Kelly Pratt on February 26, 2010 at 11:24am
I agree w/ Brandon. "My right to speak my mind on my property trumps their right to shelter their children." And if someone starts talking to my kids about religion I let them know that what they believe is a dangerous fairy tale and if the behavior continues they won't be allowed around my child.
This causes some strife since one Great grandpa is a baptist preacher, and one set of Grand-parents are Baptists. I tell them Christianity is complete BS and they get pretty pissed.
Comment by Kenneth Weaver on February 27, 2010 at 8:07am
Parents, of course, have the right to bring their children along on religious excursions, as they do every day. If they are bringing them door to door, they are presumably trying to teach them how to "witness" for whatever group they belong to. This would necessarily include exposing them to the kinds of reactions they will run into and how to deal with them. With that in mind, I would respond the same way whether or not children were there.

The parents involved the children, not me. My hope would be that, through this, the child will learn to think critically and either come to my view, or be strengthened in his own. Either way is fine with me.
Comment by Danair Joa Estrare on April 26, 2010 at 11:15pm

think again......


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