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Mahogany's avatar

How do we work out this forced "religious exposure"?

Asked by Mahogany (57 points ) August 28th, 2012

Let me just say how this got started.

My Mother has points in her life where she becomes much more religious. She starts going to church, listening to lots of gospel music, etc. She wants my brother and I to join her in going to church, but doesn’t ask me as often since she knows I’m an atheist, and has known for years. A few weeks ago, she told my brother he had to start going to church on Sundays, and bible studies on Wednesday nights. He tried to talk her out of this, and when it didn’t work, he came out about his lack of faith as well.

It did not go over as smoothly as it did for me. She says he still has to go, even if it is against his will. She says he needs exposure. My brother has been going to catholic school since first grade (His Father’s idea). He’s going into tenth grade now. She says Catholicism has painted the wrong picture of Christianity for him.

He has been going to these gatherings for a few weeks now, and he is of course, miserable at them. They always ask whoever doesn’t believe to raise their hand, and so, he raises his hand consistently. At one gathering, the speaker said, “If you do not believe by this point, you probably never will.” And then our Mother shot him a cold stare. My brother is greatly saddened that his Father, and our Mother can not accept him the way he is.

He has had plenty of exposure. He came to this point through his owns thoughts on the matter, and he is old enough to know the difference between getting his morals from a god, or being a sensible, kind human being without reward or punishment.

How can we get the point across that he isn’t going to be swayed by people gathering for worship? That if he were to ever become religious, it would be through his own devices, not it being insisted upon constantly?

Sorry for the wall of text, any views on this matter are greatly appreciated.

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20 Answers

Linda_Owl's avatar

Your Mother is trying to force her beliefs onto your brother & all she is succeeding in doing is building a wall of resentment between them. It is a sad situation, but as your brother is still living at home, I am not sure what other recourse that he has open to him.

Nullo's avatar

Tell her that at this point praying for him would work better than dragging him to places where he doesn’t want to go. I think she’s right about the Catholicism.

woodcutter's avatar

He may have to do what I did the two miserable times I went as a favor to someone. Just stare at the wall and think about happy things and get through it. It still will suck balls but as long as he’s living with them it going to be a tough situation.

gailcalled's avatar

Do you have different parents? How old are you?

Isn’t your brother getting daily religious indoctrination instruction at Catholic school?

It is a mess. Only steady reasoning with your mother may work.

How can she reconcile the schools’ teaching with that of her church? Perhaps your brother can suggest that he also check out Hebrew School and the local mosque in order to keep an open mind.

Then again, I suspect that your mother does not have a sense of humor.

ninja_man's avatar

I think that what your mother is doing is wrong, but you should remember when dealing with her that she is most likely doing it for the right reasons. That is to say, I doubt she is trying to adversely affect your brother.

I think that the company you keep can influence you greatly. For a rational, thinking person (like your brother sounds to be) how that influence plays out is up to him. He is likely to come away from the experience effected by it, though.

I would encourage your brother to keep an open mind, be thoughtful, and play nice. There is a time and place to challenge religious assumptions, and a church service really isn’t an appropriate one. If I could fake my way through two years of bible college and church while my faith was being dismantled by my reason, I am sure your brother (and most anyone) can fake church service once a week until your mom snaps out of it. Keeping the peace is worth it.

Mahogany's avatar

@gailcalled We have different fathers, and the same mother. I’m 22, he’s 15. He’s only tolerating the high school because it helps with college, and I don’t what she’s thinking as far as having two different flavors of Christianity going at once.

I like your suggestion of asking if he can check out other local religious establishments, and he finds it interesting as well.

gailcalled's avatar

@Mahogany: Make sure that being facetious will not make your mother even angrier at your brother. And be very careful that your brother does not actually end up using yet another evening for Hebrew school.

Perhaps a discussion about the “different flavors” of religious instruction might be useful. Is he learning (or hearing about) conflicting POV’s at school and at Bible study?

Is the quality of the secular education he is getting that much better than in a public school?

YARNLADY's avatar

I believe this sort of issue requires an attitude adjustment. Instead of being resentful and confrontational, the person being forced can use this as a learning experience on how to be tolerant and find the best out of an otherwise bad situation.

gailcalled's avatar

@YARNLADY: A good attitude but Bible study for a tenth grader is very different from a college course of the Bible as a great book.

Mahogany's avatar

@gailcalled It’s not that the education is better there, he would in fact probably get a better one at the local public school, which also gets lots of funding. This catholic school just tends to look good on applications, and has a good history of students getting into their preferred colleges.

@YARNLADY I’m sorry, but I don’t think he’s getting, or can get anything out of these church gatherings and bible studies. And he is being forced, despite your (No offense) remarking it as over exaggeration by italicizing the word. It is forced upon him, with no option. And this isn’t being forced to do dishes, or go rake leaves kind of force, that parents have to do as part of raising their kids, making them learn that things they dislike have to be done sometimes. This is forcing your beliefs on someone else, just because you don’t agree with their viewpoint.
If I made you sit in a room with an external hard drive every Sunday and Wednesday until you thought it was a deity, you’d probably resent me too. I don’t think it would be you needing to learn some tolerance, it’d be me, no matter how popular it is to worship external hard drives.

KNOWITALL's avatar

Personally I was under pretty much forced exposure until I moved out at age 17 and changed my religion. I say you two should get your own place so it’s no longer anyone’s choice. Good luck!!

YARNLADY's avatar

I went to church and church activities nearly every day as I was growing up, my family was deeply religious including a grandpa and three uncles who were ministers in the church. I didn’t understand or feel the kind of devotion and faith they did, and I eventually turned away from that type of religion, but still remained on the best of terms.

My use of the word forced refers to his own attitude toward what is going on. If he chooses to feel forced, and resent it, that is his choice. He can, instead, choose to look upon it as a time he can learn how to face an unfortunate situation on his own terms.

We will not always like what happens to us, but we must learn to make the best of it. That’s what I mean by tolerance. I lost my first two husbands, and I had to learn that life goes on, no matter what. I made a pledge to myself to be happy every single day of my life, and so far, I have lived up to it.

We make our own choices in life.

gailcalled's avatar

@YARNLADY: The young man in question will be better able to exercise free choice when he is an emancipated adult, don’t you think?

Attitude is helpful, of course, but does not always solve the problem

YARNLADY's avatar

Yes, I helped many older teens with their emancipation while I was working with the foster family program. The thing many people forget is that you take your own problems with you everywhere you go. If they face the world with resentment they are not doing themselves any favors. Emancipation is a very big step, and should only be used as a last resort by someone who is fully capable of taking care of himself.

The children I helped were mostly in very dire circumstances, such as severe abuse or drug and crime ridden homes.

We can’t change other people, no matter how much we want to. I remember very well what it feels like to believe that all my problems were caused by someone else, but once I realized that I am in charge of myself and only myself, my life took a huge change for the better.

gondwanalon's avatar

You and your bother obviously have issues (questions and problems) with the religion being resented.

Meet this head-on. If you are not interested in the religion being offered to you and your brother then you have a right and obligation to say so.

As part of your religious rebuttal, you might say that there are so many religions in the world. All of which claim to be the one an only true religion. So how is an opened minded believer in God supposed to know which religion to follow? Therefore you will NOT be attending your Mom’s church meetings. If that sadden’s your Mother then that’s her problem, not yours.

Tell your Mother that you will continue to read the bible on your own and seek God on your own terms. Then get on with your life. Amen.

kess's avatar

It is making a mountain out of a mole hill.
Many a atheist went to church and a lot of it for that matter.

You need to chill out on the issue, it better for you, Him and Mom to have a good attitude with what he must do.
Remember it not bad intentions that motivates your Mom and no amount of church is gonna change him (or anyone for that matter) from who he is.

These are the things in life that makes us who we are… so having the best attitude while in it is always the best approach for you and everyone else involved.

augustlan's avatar

What will happen to him if he refuses to go? He’s too big to spank, but will there be serious consequences for him? If not, he should give it a try. 15 is a pretty normal age to start asserting your independence from your parents, as long as it is safe to do so.

whiteliondreams's avatar

@augustlan Remember, she is Catholic and Catholics can be quite dangerous when defending and imposing a belief on someone. My mother is convinced I am still Catholic no matter how many times I confirm my Buddhist following. sigh Seriously, by us giving “guidance” we may kindle an idea that can have serious repercussions. I wouldn’t meddle in these affairs on behalf of an adolescent who may run away, hurt someone else, or perhaps join the debate team to avoid going home and competing against other scholars.

Shippy's avatar

Maybe offer to join fun things like the organized picnics and leave the heavy church stuff out. Ask your mom if she wants God to be a happy figure in your life, or a miserable one.

Foster12's avatar

I realize this question is a bit old, but I have another point to add to the many great responses you’ve already received. There has been no mention of whether or not your mother realizes she is doing potential injury her relationship with her son. She may not realize that her actions can drive a huge wedge between her and her son at a key time in his development. While practicing religious tolerance—or a tolerance of atheism—may be difficult for her, she would be communicating that she respects the fact that he’s at the age of developing more independence and identity. If she insists on treating him as more of a child than a 15-year-old, she might find that he starts to rebel in other unforeseen ways. As the older sister, you might do better to talk to her about the importance of maintaining a respectful, peaceful, loving relationship with her son, rather than focusing on the issue of spiritual belief itself.

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