My son is in prison for the usual reason - drugs, gangs, instant gratification, etc. This time (his third) he has joined a Christian group that has given him hope and stability within prison. I sent a Bible at his request and his talk has grown progressively more religious, i.e. "I'm not sure what God wants me to do"

At this point, I would almost become a missionary if he would she his ways and straighten up. So, I'm in a quandry. I feel I have no other choice than to back his efforts toward recovery. We took him as a child but after I deconverted we stopped going although he returned occasionally. Any suggestions?

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Thanks. I've tried this with many variations: YOU have to make the final decision. YOU have to be the one to keep straight, YOU have to decide not to take drugs because you cannot control the outcome, etc. I am not a proselytizer for atheism since I consider that as bad as those who constantly try to "save" you. I think only very few people are able to step away from religion for a number of reasons (cultural, life experience, guilt). Atheism demands intellectual curiosity - not simply refusing to attend church. Again, thanks for the kind words
I just got my grandma who I'm very close to me a book on CD because she can no longer read comfortably. She gets depressed spending the majority of her days alone and loves Joyce Myers, a Christian preacher and comedian who focuses on the subject of joy. I think everything that woman says is bull shit. She attributes everything negative to the devil and urges people to sit back and wait for god to fix their problems. BUT my grandma got really excited when I gave it to her and is very uplifted by this woman's message. I am torn of course but I guess I have chosen to let her have whatever helps. At her age there really ISn't anything she can do to fix her problems and I would rather have her letting it go to an imaginary god than trying to fix things. But your son is not old or to be indulged as if he is. I think The Nerd's suggestion is an excellent one. Don't fail to give him encouragement or express pride in the changes he has made but make a point of giving the credit to your son and not the deity. I wish you well!
Religion 'helps' by removing self-responsibility. Now he serves God instead of having to face himself in the mirror.

I wonder if he'd be interested in studying Eastern religions. Keeping an open mind will help him recover...most people with drug/gang trouble never stop to evaluate their decisions, he needs to learn how to think critically about his life instead of letting his emotions constantly lead him. So send him the Tao Te Ching, and whatever other books that can at least give him a variety of viewpoints. That may help him from devolving into fundamentalism and might develop a love for reading and philosophy, and introspection, which is my opinion is a better framework that the Bible, though it is not as easy to teach.
Thanks for your response. As I have said earlier, I think very few people think critically - whether it's economics (piling up trillions in debt, sucking money from the private sector), health (smoking, obesity, etc) or religion (belief without thought as to truth, logic or rationality).

Easter religions sound interesting but I've always had a deep aversion to the idea that we get repeated chances at a good life through reincarnation so why bother trying to improve your lot? Your idea about a wide range of ideas is good, though, and I've tried to encourage that. One of the counselors said that only half the prisoners could read on a third grade level. I volunteered in a reading program but met people who were utterly uneducable. What a pity.
I've been incarcerated before, and the Bible study was in some ways just a way of forming a group, a way of getting out of my pod for an hour, etc. It's likely that the prison ministry church people who come in are the only nice people he interacts with. Guards aren't likely to be very friendly with an inmate. Just continue to offer love and support, and when he says "I don't know what God wants me to do" start to ask him questions to help lead him to his own sense of morality. "Well, what are the options? How might those turn out? Who might benefit if that action is taken? Who might be hurt by it? Which choice seems more moral to you?" If he can gain a sense of knowing what's right and wrong on his own, it will help him stay straight once he's released, and decrease his reliance on god and religion. Best wishes for you and your family as long as you're going through these things.
Thanks for the reply. Glad you are out and doing well. This is his third time and the hardest aspect is that we were once so very close until he went over to the dark side. Much of it had to do with intellectual expectations by us and what he was capable of. I too have looked upon the Bible group as "something" to do in prison to occupy his time. I can think of a lot of other things that could be worse. Believe me, we've asked all the questions - counselors, wilderness camps, psychologists, psychiatrists, preachers, judges, cops, detectives, drug rehab, midnight calls - It's all a fog at this point.

He knows what's right and wrong - we all do. He chooses (or is biologically driven) to disobey the rules of society. I even stooped to telling him that God most likely wanted him to stop with the drugs and lead a decent life. Lately I've been telling him that no one can do it but him - not his pals, his gal or even God. He seems to agree but who knows? Thanks again and good luck.
My foray was brief but memorable. I hope he finds a way out, whatever that is, and stays clean. I think I'd rather have a sober Bible-believer who leads a good life and is kind to his family than a destitute addicted atheist. Whatever brings joy and peace to your family.
One of the reasons I see among those who commit crimes is the belief that the fault lies outside of themselves. A common response to conviction is what they did wrong was get caught. Even when they know what they do is wrong there is always an external reason to justify the act.

I would argue that this external control perspective makes one more apt to seek a solution in religion. It is the ultimate external control concept. If it is leading to better behavior then I am inclined to at least condone if not embrace religion. Once he is on a straighter path he then may be better able to see that the good behavior came from within rather than an invisible sky cop. That insight may help him see that moral behavior does not require the threat of external punishment.

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