Recently while listening to Richard Dawkins’, “The God Delusion,” I had to pause and let some of his words wash over me—they were cleansing, if you will.
I won’t quote him directly, but here’s the jist:
**There can be indoctrinated children, and there can be children of Christian parents, but there are zero Christian children.**
Obviously, a few years ago I would have wanted to battle back and proclaim that MY children were believers and students of the Holy book. I would’ve scrambled to find the flaw in his statement—- but deep in my noggin, I would’ve been arguing, not with Dawkins, but with my own indoctrination.
As much as I would’ve wanted to believe my kids WERE Christian kids, the truth was—every belief they possessed came directly from me or the Bible stories I’d allowed them to learn. Sure they knew scripture, but how did they learn it? –Me, a curriculum I’d chosen, a class I’d taken them to… Sure they knew the prayers, but how did they know who to pray to and the format of recitation? Me! These weren’t things they would’ve ever approached on their own. They were simply babies who wanted to PLAY! But my kids were my echo chambers, they were simply regurgitating by beliefs right back out at me. It’s scary to think how deeply I had sculpted their entire world view and reality. Shits terrifying, man. Wheeeew. Breathe. Even scarier is the way some folks never realize what they are doing….
Fortunately for me now, as a deconstructed exvangelical, when I read Dawkins’ words, I was in complete and total agreement. It was actually freeing to hear someone else saying what I knew from my own childhood and in raising my kids.
Every single attempt at raising Godly kids is a form of indoctrination. From reciting scripture, creeds, and prayers at young ages, to attending weekly services, to routines of the home. Every time a parent intentionally places their belief system into the mind of their child, they are indoctrinating that child. Every time a child declares they are saved or that they’ve had a God experience, it is simply a replication of what they’ve witnessed from adults around them or is a fictitious response to hormones released in emotional situations. Again, a fabrication of that child’s reality set up by someone else.
Children are born religion free. Again, when a baby is born, their brain has zero knowledge of any religion. Yet, they are divine. They come to us with an awe-struck curiosity for the mystical experiences of nature. They are bright eyed and eager to explore, they worship in the form of wonder. Wouldn’t it be grand to approach guiding them, with that same joy of learning that they implore. When THEY ask about God, faith, sins, the devil, as parents we show excitement and present them with timelines of all the major world religions, allowing them to see for themselves the bigger picture. There is NO indoctrination in that method. And, there is no right answer, therefore no pressure to conform out of fear.
I remember the fear that being a Christian places within parents. The “their blood is on your hands,” approach to training up children. Hell, I pulled my kids from school so I COULD INDOCTRINATE them to think like me.
I remember feeling afraid when they “sinned.” I remember crying out to God that he would guard their hearts. I spent literal nights awake trying to envision a way to best teach them so they’d know God’s Love….
But now I see, if you look at your child as a fallen being to be saved, you’ve lost the chance at letting the magic of life teach them. Their own Life is their best teacher. You are cutting them off from their own flow when you’ve set the default state of being as a religious one. They have very little chance at growing beyond that default setting, and for many Christians that is their hope.
How sad. But that’s what you get when generation after generation sits in the church pew and never does the work of thinking. You get uneducated worldviews, partnered with indoctrinated beliefs, sculpted into little robotic beings, passing off their ideals as the ONLY right way, all the way into their adulthood, and this then repeats itself with their children. And it’s ALL misinformation, but they live from default because it’s safe and requires no conscious effort to learn new ways and new information. It’s frankly, an irresponsible way to live.
For me and for my children, I did the work of reprogramming my default settings. They will not have to deconstruct, they will not have to “go astray” or “leave the fold.” Together, we are free to let Wonder, Curiosity, and Life be our teachers. Please join me in ending the brain-washing of our youth-they deserve better. They deserve to be the joyful explorers that they were literally born being. Let us, as adults, give our children the space they need to be here, free from your default settings.
I recall it like it was yesterday… not six years ago. It was a beautiful time. I was a bible believing, god seeking, holy-spirit led, Child of God. I had quit my job as a public school teacher so I could pursue a career as a full time homeschool momma. My faith was the driving force in EVERYTHING I SET MY HANDS TO. Making breakfast-sing some praise, folding laundry- gratitude prayer, exercise- self-sacrifice is honorable, someone is sick- the devil is attacking, teaching my daughters- God is SO Good. Every situation had a scripture to call on and I did!
The Bible was the LITERAL Word of God, every word written was inspired by God…
I’d been raised Church of Christ, the fundamentalist Bible Belt version, not the progressive version. I was a literalist, inerrantist, the “Bible says it so I believe it” kind of girl.
The C of C believed that the gifts of the spirit had ceased, that women should never teach men, that one must be baptized by submission into water, that the Lord’s Supper was a weekly part of service, absolutely NO instruments, salvation can be lost with any sin not repented from, and that everyone who was not a part of their belief system was headed for hell. Talk about a scary childhood….I might go to hell for a sin I hadn’t been forgiven of, all of my peers who attended other churches were going to Hell…. even my grandparents. And what about all of humanity before the C of C was started? I mean, the “denomination” was only a couple hundred years old???
For a long time, I wrestled with C of C beliefs and could not reconcile many of them with Scripture. If other believers were receiving healing by the laying on of hands—- why not me? If others could speak in a tongue between them and God, why not me? If others’ children only needed to confess that Jesus is Lord and would then be forever saved, why not mine?
In my adulthood, I became a Christian Church Gypsy. I needed all the experiences that came with the varieties of denominations, so I set out. Over the course of 10 years, I met with the Methodists, I praised with the Pentecostals, I danced with the non-denominationals, I sat in the Silence with the Quakers, I tithed with the Word of Faithers, I observed the Eucharist with the Catholics, I visited vespers with the Eastern Orthodox, I blessed my pew neighbor with the Christian Alliance, I mingled with the Mormons, I broke bread with the Baptists…. you catch my drift.
I made SO MANY friends.
Meanwhile at home, I was carrying on in my God ordained calling as a homeschool momma and we were reaching the point in our studies where my girls were moving from bible stories, to the history of the Church, including its councils, how the Bible came to be, and Jewish history.
My precious little girls were resting in a peaceful life, I was rising with the sun, Bible in one hand, filled coffee cup in the other, and a front porch rocker overlooking a Pennsylvania country-side. I recall praying daily for God to bless our studies and tear down the walls of indoctrination I’d received in my upbringing. I wanted nothing more than to serve God with my life.
God. Making mercies new every morning…
God. Granting me sweet sleep every night….
They say, “the road to atheism is littered with Bibles that’ve been read cover-to-cover.”
I am a testament to that. For me, it was my INTENSE pursuit and study into Biblical origins and the Christian Church that forced me to HAVE TO LEAVE that faith.
One of my friends tried to banter me back to belief by stating that all deconstruction journeys start with doubt. Effff that noise! I’m calling bullshit.
I’d never been at a more faithful place in my walk with Christ when, “the walls came tumbling down.”
For me, it was sincere curiosity for understanding how modern Christianity relates to Jesus and his roots and praying it through.
It was me trying to understand the parables from the perspective of a Jewish believer and praying it through.
It was me, digging deep into how those ancient beings would’ve interpreted the Torah, then the epistles and gospels and prophets and praying it through.
It was me reading the Church Councils and their decisions and praying them through.
It was me realizing the very questions I’d been told not to ask, had entire councils dedicated to trying to solve them and that sometimes, they didn’t have answers, but politics would win—-even back then. And praying that through.
It was me, coming to grasp the magnitude of the Protestant Reformation and praying it through.
It was the harsh reality that the Church Fathers and earliest believers were pacifists—-even when they were in the military…. and allowing myself to sit with that in the midst of the American Military War Machine era, headed by none other than modern day Bible-Believing Christians…and praying that through.
It was me, pursuing the roots of our modern ideas of Hell versus that of believers long before us and praying it through.
It was realizing that Jesus never believed he was dying for the sins of others and that his goal wasn’t to get others to heaven, but to bring heaven to earth and praying that through.
It was taking scripture and putting it back in the context of the people who wrote it and praying that through.
It was me realizing the ways the church has made room for change- from slavery, to integrating, to interracial relationships, to women leaders, to birth control, to music in worship, to partaking in the Lord’s Supper occasionally—-but its refusal to lean towards change for our LGBTQ brothers and sisters and praying that through.
It was me being made fully aware that the Bible was written by men- with a patriarchal lens, and that every story has that spin, even though it was done inherently, from women needing to be virgins-to victims of rape needing to marry their rapists so they could be honorable, to concubines, to Abraham being a complete ass to Hagar and his child-almost killing his kid, deciding that cutting tips of penises off was a good thing, and then being the “father” of this religion I’ve believed in wholeheartedly for my entire existence and praying it through.
It was learning that Jewish rabbis today believe much of Scripture to be metaphorical and not the end all, but instead the starting point for discussion and praying that through.
It was the deep study of which verses were added later and that Mark was the first gospel and the others are based on it. AND, that the resurrection and virgin birth stories were not originally in Mark. That’s kinda a big deal.
All of these studies, flowing forth from the beginning, out of a sincere desire to best know my Savior.
And eventually crying and peeking over my shoulder as I googled, “Today, I lost my faith.” Because I had deconstructed my whole belief system in quiet so as to not lose my community.
I started researching what religion does to a brain, and how humans are conditioned to expect rewards.
I then began to allow my eyes to see the similarities between Christianity and older religions, particularly Zoastrianism.
I was waking up to the fact that people I’d trusted to teach Truth, had only ever studied Christian apologists, and called that a well-rounded education.
And what happened when I began to share what I’d discovered? The same ol fear campaign. The same ol doubt story-where are these questions coming from spill. The same ol, “just gotta have faith.”
And then, when I spoke—“NOOOOO! I will not pretend to believe this ANY LONGER, friends, it does not hold up under the light of sincere open-heart studying. This is not something I wanted-this is not what I set out to discover. This was not a choice, it was simply the facts. The Facts. I’d spent 6 quiet years reading and reading and researching and listening to, and praying over. It wasn’t an overnight choice taken lightly. It was years in the Dark Night of the Soul, with painful discoveries and literal life-altering outcomes.” I begged them to please understand. I guess they could not. It’s scary, I know. Trust me. I know.
It all became so obvious. I let myself recall the fear tactics used by the Church, not only throughout history, but right there in my own history. How can a child ever use logic or think critically when they are told their questions are doubt and doubt isn’t from God. And what about the manipulation of emotions by guilt/shame, and the repeated three chords on the keyboard, causing our brains to rapid fire release dopamine, then calling that a God experience.
From the beginning of its time, this story I built my life upon had been some human somewhere’s best attempt at persuading others to go along with them and calling it God. The same way we do today. This wasn’t the story of God using humans but very much the opposite. Humans using God.
So….. where do I go from here…. how and what do I instill in my children?
Below, my manifesto:
In our home we believe:
*it is OKAY to say, “If God is real________, “ or, “If there is a God, ___________.”
*we do NOT know for sure that there is an after-life, no one on Earth knows for sure.
*it is OKAY, perhaps even WONDERFUL to say, “I don’t know.”
*If God is real, and he/she/it created us, then God is like the ultimate parent—- there is nothing we can do to ever stop It from loving us. The Love is Unconditional and just like a good parent does, that love will never cease— we did not ask to be here.
*the Bible was written by humans to humans of a SPECIFIC TIME. To not use the context of the culture it was written is a blatant misrepresentation of the text. This takes lotsa planning to implement a single Bible-lesson, but better than a skewed surface reading.
*Humans HAVE ALWAYS used their version of God to justify going after what they wanted by saying in no uncertain terms, “We are God’s chosen and he told us to do this.” That doesn’t mean the humans are/were right.
*our descriptions are only as good as our vocabulary, therefore EDUCATION MATTERS. The Bible CANNOT teach on topics the people who wrote it were unfamiliar with.
*people are people, not sinners. There is nothing to save them from. If there is a heaven, it is universal. This includes the LGBTQ Community, heaven is for EVERYONE
*Hell, as most view it today, does not exist. Jews of ancient days weren’t of the belief and Jesus teaches about a literal place called Gehenna, not an eternal torment. The OT doesn’t even mention it.
*Jesus did NOT KNOW he was dying for others’ sins. Once you look at the original language used and cultural implications, there is no proof that Jesus believed he was sacrificing himself for others. Ultimately, penal substitutionary atonement is unnecessary. No One comes to the Father except through me, does not mean what modern ppl think it means.
*Paul’s teachings are not authoritative automatically. Paul was a Pharisee coming out of a fundamentalist approach to Judaism, he teaches from that lens therefore the language and admonitions from his letters must only be used in context of his culture.
*scholars agree Mark is the original gospel and that Matthew and John were copies that had been embellished. There is no virgin birth or resurrection story in the earlier copies of Mark.
*humans chose which books of the Bible should be in the Canon, verses were added at way later dates to the Bible, to this day Catholic and Orthodox churches include far more books than those of Protestant traditions
*all scripture is God-breathed…… the word is actually a Latin-derivative meaning inspired—- just because something is inspired doesn’t mean it’s the only tool by which we can navigate life.
*There are believers who’ve allowed the Bible to become an idol and this can hinder any actual leadings from God to undo indoctrination.
*to create a situation where you play on the emotions of youth and adults alike, is to “fake” a saving experience and is a manipulation of their reality.
*it is emotionally abusive and manipulative to raise children with a constant fear that hell awaits them, should they turn out to be anything but what you deem acceptable.
*indoctrinating children from birth to believe that Your ideas about God are *the only correct ideas is not only arrogant, but also irresponsible. This gives kids a false superiority complex. Ultimately you’re teaching your kids to give ultimatums— befriend and conform -succumb to our attempt to save, or disassociate and be shunned.
*teaching children to “save” other children is a blatant misrepresentation of Christianity. “They will know you are Christian by your LOVE.”
*Believers ultimately see what they want to see. All questions are very googleable, to continue to teach ideas that were passed to you via someone else’s indoctrination is a shame. It is scary to do this work, but important.
*to say, “I love you,” means you fully accept and affirm that person. You cannot love someone but not “accept” their “way of life.” That is conditional and we don’t do that here.
*when kids at school call themselves Christians, but they are exclusive instead of inclusive, when they are homophobic- or racist-or misogynistic: call that chit out!
*making a hateful statement or judgmental statement that assumes everyone has the same indoctrination you do-or should adhere to the same view as you is still HATE speech. Wrapping it in “Christian Love” is condescending and simply a justification of that hate-speech. Call it out.
*the Bible is not a weapon. Battling someone with quotes of Scripture is demeaning- they’ve read it before and don’t need it thrown in their face, nor was it intended to be used in such a way.
*Christianity is appealing to many men because it has mistakenly placed them in authority throughout time, Jesus does not model this and is completely egalitarian.
*Research shows meditation and practicing concentrated gratitude is equally as good for you as time spent praying. Studies show we use the same parts of the brain during these things and that prayer actually helps the person praying more than those whom they are praying for.
*cool fact: Research reveals speaking in tongues and mediums channeling the dead-use the same parts of the brain to do those things. Cool. Cool.
*cognitive dissonance is real, it is the first line of defense any person hoping to stay in the comfort of their social constructs uses.
*you are free to pursue ANY belief system you so desire, so long as it is not a cult
*you are free to NOT practice ANY form of religion
*you are free to disagree with me
*ask questions, forsaking NONE, silencing NONE
*continue studying logic, arguments, philosophy, and anthropology
But anyhow, to sum it all up—————
Ultimately, in our home we believe:
*if there is a God, it/He/She/Source is LOVE. It starts with Love, it ends with Love, and to add ANYTHING at all as a stipulation of receiving that Love would make it conditional and that is not Love.
*in the end NO OTHER DOCTRINE matters, but to LOVE LOVE LOVE UNTIL you are dead and literally cannot LOVE anymore.
*its okay to say, we hope there is an afterlife, but we do not know for sure, so we will not pretend we do.
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> I had a super proud secular homeschool mom moment—— far far removed from the mom who once touted how many scripture her children had memorized… I was studying different BAD arguments with my 11 year old. We moved to “argument based on irrelevant authority” and I had her create her own image to help her remember what this means. When I browsed her page my heart skipped a beat—- it’s that easy to help your child become a critical thinker!