So my younger sister happens to be Catholic, she is 8 years old and goes to a catholic school. I really don't know what to tell her I mean she is a sweetheart and is always looking out for me and my other sister but she keep asking me questions about Jesus and where he is and about the Eucharist and she gets really happy when Jesus is brought up at the dinner table.

It's almost as she is obsessed with Jesus. The other day she asked me why I don't go to church, I told her "Well I mean I don't really believe in God or Jesus", she said "Why not? You're going to hell if you don't believe" this made my mouth drop. I couldn't believe my sister would say that, I'm not sure if this is the kind of stuff they teach her at her school, if so this is child abuse. Fear mongering and threatening children with hell if they don't believe.

After I told her this she has brought up God more often and is really starting to get annoying and I as a 16 year old can't tell her God doesn't exist because I want her to think for herself but I don't know what to tell her. My other sister whom is 12 is agnostic, she was a moderate Catholic but became agnostic 3 months ago when she asked me about my opinion of God and religion. I explained the whole thing to her and looked into her faith and eventually became agnostic after realizing for herself (with my help) that the belief in a god(Judeo-Christian sense) isn't rational. Keep in mind I'm not the type of atheist to tell people that God isn't real but to have them think for themselves and evaluate the evidence and decide for themselves, but if they still come to believe to not go out and tell people to believe in their god.

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The idea you dont want to influence her, that you want her to think for herself is misguided. She has been indoctrinated and made to adopt a cult. Against that backdrop you come on the scene late and very likely may be the only potential viewpoint that is in conflict with the cult's. If anything you have an obligation to expose her to a little bit of atheist thinking. Let her know how you reason about God and Jesus. If she expresses an interest give her the books, videos and articles by famous atheists. If she is on the fence tell her that the only way to get to the truth is to hear both sides.

Hey if she rejects it at least you can have a clean conscience.

Ask her lots and lots of clear and direct questions...and ask her to define exactly what she means by neulous terms and fantastical concepts. Try to keep most of the questions "open questions" as opposed to "closed questions". Closed questions have very limited answers...usually a yes or no question. With open questions...often one is left to improvise answers to difficult questions...or amongst honest people...say I don't know. "How does a prayer work"? Is a good open question. 

If you use closed questions (ex. Is heaven and hell real?) use them very strategically. Sort of like in a Plato Dialogue.

The best my experience...are trying to get specifics out of people. "Why does God never show up"? "How do you know if God listened to you and granted you your request"? Normally adults can be utter geniuses at avoiding answering questions. I imagine as a child not accustom to lying to herself or internal mental trickery...I'd be surprised if she avoided answering questions. Best time of her life to ask

My thought is that to help reduce the child abuse...think of it as the big brother giving his little sister the same info/lines of questioning about the world he normally would, such as:

1) Were you told that the tooth fairy was real?  Did they tell you you had to believe to get money under your pillow?  Why did they tell you that? Was the tooth fairy real?  How did you figure it out? 

2) Did they tell you Tinkerbell was real?  Did they tell you that you had to believe or Tinkerbell would die? Why did they say you had to believe or Tinkerbell would die? Is Tinkerbell real?  How did you figure it out?

3) Were you told the Easter Bunny was real?  Did they tell you if you didn't believe, you'd get no basket? Why did they tell you that?  Was the Easter Bunny real?  How did you figure it out?

4) Were you told that Santa Claus was real, and checked to see if you were naughty or nice?  Did they tell you if you didn't believe you get no presents, or get coal?  Why did they tell you that?  Was he real?  How did you figure it out?

5) Were you told that Jesus was real?  Did they tell you that if you didn't believe, you would go to hell? Why did they tell you that? Was he real?  How did you figure it out?

And so forth...patterns that repeat are typically easier for a child to recognize.

It plants a seed that grows into a more critical view of what one is told, and establishes a pattern to apply to new information, to evaluate it for value/propaganda elements.

If, at the tender young age of 8, she stubbornly clings to her Jesus myth, as MANY MANY little girls do...they fall in love with Jesus as "the perfect man", as the Church presents him, on purpose, GET that effect....don't be discouraged.

She may need to grow up enough for the logical parts of her brain to develop...and not fall for the 'ol if you don't believe this you'll burn in hell" rouse.  

In the meantime, plant the seeds of logic and pattern recognition for BS.


The girl is 8 years old.  She has an 8-year-old's understanding.  Let her be.

If she wants to believe that the world is a good place, if she wants to hold on to Santa Claus, whatever.  

It's not about you.  Children need safety and stability to grow and thrive.   Putting an 8-year-old in the middle of conflict between her beloved brother and her parents and her school friends and her teacher is just selfish on your part.  It's not healthy for her.  It's like the worst of divorced parents trying to get the kids to take their side, as though the opinion of a child is necessary for their own validation.

Avoid the conflict, just love your sister.

That's what the cult members say at least when a youngster's faith is threatened.


LOL.  No, I'm pretty sure it's what any good psychologist would tell divorced parents.

@Marino should fight his own fights, not try to use an 8-year-old as a proxy for his argument with his parents and his school.  It's not fair to his sister.  She'll make her own decisions in time, comparing his behavior and happiness and story with that of the rest of her family and friends.  After all, he seems to have found his way to atheism, so why would we expect that she won't?

Try flipping it around in a "do unto others" sort of way.  If you had paid a bunch of money for your 8-year-old to go to a high-quality school that taught science and secular values well, and I as Uncle Bob decided to start teaching your daughter about God and how her teachers were telling lies and her parents weren't all that smart, what would your reaction be?  Would that be fair to her?  

Of course not.  I might argue with you over beers, I might disagree with your daughter's teachers, but it would be an act of cowardice to use your daughter as a proxy for my own arguments with you, even if I thought salvation depended on it.

The girl is 8 years old.  She has an 8-year-old's understanding.  Let her be.

I don't know how you can stoop so low as to tell someone on an atheist website...concerned for their not do anything when she herself pesters him about religion and threatens him with hell. 

If she wants to believe that the world is a good place,

Yes...a world where you have to threaten your child with eternal punishment if they don't swallow the rediculous fables about God is a wonderfully great place.

if she wants to hold on to Santa Claus, whatever.  

I'm glad you can admit that God is no different than the fictional Santa Claus.

It's not about you

Yes Dr. Bob, this thread is not about you and your religious sensibilities....especially on how athiests should deal with the abusive brainwashing of children by christians. 

Putting an 8-year-old in the middle of conflict between her beloved brother and her parents and her school friends and her teacher is just selfish on your part.

Do you have no shame Dr. Bob? I thought you rage quit a year ago and then quit again some months ago. Did you come back so you could insinuate that concerned brothers are being selfish and that his fear of her growing poisoned due to his self-centeredness. Seems the only person who is thinking about the guy who will say anything to protect his preposterous fictional God...including shaming atheists for their concern.

It's not healthy for her.'s not healthy to go around telling non-christians that they will burn for eternity. That is most certainly not healthy behaviour or a healthy outlook. Good that at least one person in the family is concerned about it. I would never sit by and watch a younger family member start harassing people because they have a different world view and I would never sit back and do nothing if they were being force-fed a particularly manipulative world view.

Avoid the conflict, just love your sister.

This coming from the guy who says that people educate their children about supernatural woo via their world view because they love them. So what is it Dr. Bob? Should he educate his younger sister about her poisonous world view because he loves her...or not? Should he put that aside and let others educate her about whatever woo they feel like because he is the only one who sees a serious problem with that? I thought you were here to give friendly commentary...not to tell atheists how to be atheists or defend manipulative abusive brain washing by people of your own religion.

I'm pretty sure you don't need the threat of hell.

Honor thy father and mother is in there somewhere, and shortly after something to the effect of. If your child is not respectful you are to take them to the elders and say my son is a drunkard and stone them to death (anyone notice that verse directly contradicts one of the ten commandments? I mean not all disrespectful children are drunks).

So kids obey your mommy and daddy cause god says they get to kill you if you don't.

LOL.  Or maybe they should just decide to stop paying money to send you to expensive private school.  Killing is so messy!

If an 8 year old came up to me and told me about her invisible friend Harvey the Rabbit, I would say "Hello" to Harvey and sit down to have tea with her friend.

Telling an 8-year-old to stop bothering me and that her invisible friend doesn't exist isn't being a rationalist.  It's being an asshole.

....and if your older brother does not believe in Harvey he will burn in Hell.

And if your older brother doesn't duck when Caspar the Ghost comes by, he'll be slimed!  Whatever!

You don't actually believe in Hell, do you?  


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