The Battle for Zachary’s Brain III: Religion Rears its Ugly and Divisive Head (rev.)

“If God wants us to do a thing he should make his wishes sufficiently clear.  Sensible people will wait till he has done this before paying much attention to him.”

Samuel  Butler

“I cannot believe in a God who has neither humor nor common sense.”

W. Somerset Maugham

Followers of the riveting “Zachary’s Brain” series will remember that Zach is my 6-year-old stepson (7 this month) whose task of configuring the world – his knowledge is truly minuscule! – is unfortunately complicated by spending 2/3 of his time with his stepmother (a vanilla pan-Christian, some Protestant sect or other) and father (lapsed Catholic who once refused communion because he had problems with the Church, once joined his then-wife in mocking the Pope but now wears a crucifix and goes to church with wifey)…and the other third with me and his Mom, staunch atheists. 

He has a 19-year-old brother whose atheist/skeptic credentials exceed mine: at age nine, he was telling other little Jewish kids that they wouldn't always have to wear their yarmulkes (skull caps).

Zach has to manage two radically conflicting views of the world, just when he’s trying to settle on one.  My wife tearfully told me she’s sorry he has to go through this, but it’s the religious people who bring it on by trying to impose their view of truth on Zach, instead of just letting him use his mind to discover truth, as we urge him to do.

Tooth Fairy, Santa Claus

We’ve already been through the Tooth Fairy and Santa Claus.  We urged him to ponder the crowds of Christmas shoppers.  For whom are they buying gifts if Santa does it all?  We also talked about the physical impossibility of visiting millions of households in one night.

It’s all warmup for God, as I’ve indicated in other posts.  They get the kids used to believing something adults believe.  They see the consensus and mutual bonding over religious fantasies and rituals.  There’s nothing and nobody there, but the adults act as if there is.  Very puzzling.

Pre-emptive counter-programming

Part of  our stragtegy for making a freethinker out of Zach is to get there first.  Right nowthe religion they'rte feeding him is all warm, cuddly baby Jesus and going to heaven.  WE will tell him about hell and who is supposed to go there.  WE will teach him to question the tide of BS that will soon come at him.  WE will tell him that Catholics and others pretend they are EATING their god and drinking his blood.

No filter

Zack’s original (and sometimes inappropriate) thoughts come out without any filter, as do the statements that he hears in one household, freely uttered in the other. 

Thus we learned that he’d had the balls to blurt out that there were many other religions, gods, and holy books in the world.  He was firmly informed that only one holy book and one deity count.  But Zack would remember about all those others and how many people believe in them.  Besides -- more premptive counter-programming -- we showed him lists of world religions and videos of Muslims and Jews praying.

And we learned, on my birthday, that you’re not supposed to celebrate the birthday of somebody who doesn’t believe in God.  WTF??  This from his father, who says it’s in the Bible.

In the Bible, huh?  Give me chapter and verse. Where does it say anything about birthdays?  Zach, we found, was confabulating again, just to see how adults would react.  Soon he will learn that you can't just make stuff up.

Where'd he get it?  

Maybe it does say, somewhere in the Bible, in prescribing harsh and discriminatory treatment for unbelievers, that you should not honor them or remember them, or some Biblical BS.  It probably didn’t say anything about birthdays because they are a more modern concept.

God did not create you.

His Mom told him, in no uncertain terms, that SHE created him with the help of his father, she carried him for nine months, gave birth to him, and God had nothing to do with it.  Hence, all birthdays are worth celebrating by all concerned.

My wife also took advantage of the opportunity to point out how religion introduces artificial differences and divides people and teaches them to hate each other and regard themselves as SO special.  Without religion, we’d just be…people (there would still be racists, no doubt).  She made it a teachable moment.

Poor Zach

Poor Zach, trying to make sense of things.  Our message to him has been consistent: don’t always believe what someone tells you, look for the evidence, use your mind to find the truth.

This is what believers fear: that kids will use their mind.  Think of how Zach’s Dad and step-mom will feel when he becomes a full fledged free-thinker – because he will.  If I as a religious person had invested myself in what I now found to be fantasies, I would be very embarrassed, especially in front of the kid who now articulately refutes it (Zach in five years), if it turned out that I’d been wrong about it all. 

Think of the “sunk costs,” as economists say.  How much of the maintenance of religion is irretrievable investment, sunk costs?

Battle continues.

The Battle for Zachary’s Brain continues.  We recently discussed grace before meals, which they say at the other house.  We assured Zach that his Dad should be thanked for earning the money to buy the food, step-mom for preparing it.  That’s it.  What sense does it make to thank God?  Zach had no answer.

Views: 101

Tags: God, atheism, belief, children, religion, truth

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Comment by Alan Perlman on August 13, 2012 at 4:11pm

When and why do people pray over food?  Somebody should (or has done) a doctoral thesis on this.

From a former English prof:  Don't read too much into what the Bible says. There have been many editors and copyists..  Multiple docuimets have been interwoven.   As writers, the compositors range from competent to inarticulate (the story of the talking donkey in Numbers 22 -- WTF?) 

Hey, why not pray before DURING, and after?  God is impressed by time spent in prayer.  He loves ass-kissing.

Comment by James Yount on August 12, 2012 at 12:27pm

When you have eaten and are satisfied, you shall bless the Lord your God for the good land which He has given you.  Deuteronomy 8:10

I find it interesting that you're supposed to thank god for the land that he had given you and not actually the meal itself.  Usually when the text refers to "the land" (haaretz) after Moses, it's referring to Israel.  So if you're not in Israel, do you still have to thank god for the food?


There are some vague references to Jesus blessing the food in the NT, which is why a lot of Christians "bless their food."  I guess they interpret blessing the meal to mean that they should pray. 

It wouldn't be too outlandish then for a Christian to interpret the bible to mean that they should pray before AND after.  How ridiculous would that be?......

I'm considering flipping off the heavens after I eat. 

Comment by Alan Perlman on August 11, 2012 at 10:03pm

@Lillie Fleur ...Thanks for reading and for the encouragement.  I wasn't aware of younger people at A/N - certainly there's a lot more questioning of authority today than 50 years ago.  I remember when they put "under God" in the pledge.  I said, "I'm not saying that" - and never did.  But I didn't tell anyone.  My father, the first skeptic I ever met, still went dutifully to synagogue on the High Holiidays (but kept his drug store open on the Sabbath).

@James Yount: I didn't know the grace could go on that long!  What happened to "Good food, good meat, Good God, let's eat"?   Thanking God afterward makes more sense, because if he didn't want us to enjoy the whole meal, he might have made the food disappear halfway through.

Comment by Lillie on August 11, 2012 at 7:15pm

@JamesYount, lol, my mother-in-law actually preached a sermon.

Comment by James Yount on August 10, 2012 at 10:01pm

Doesn't the bible say to thank god after you've eaten and been satisfied?  The pray before thing always seemed like a mini-torture when I was hungry and the adults acted like dinner prayer was an Emmy acceptance speech.

Comment by Lillie on August 10, 2012 at 9:01pm

If Zack is learning to use his mind, he will have no trouble in figuring it all out.  It is just sad that he has to deal with all of this conflict.  It is amazing to me how many young teens we have joining A/N.  I think it is because they are questioning everything.  Wish that had been true in my day.  It took me a long time to get here even though I had doubts early on.

 

Stay strong.

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