Half Pit, Half Praise: Teen relative punished for honest agnosticism

The relative in question is my first cousin once removed–i.e., the child of one of my first cousins, “Lynn,” and her husband, “Steve.” I’ll call the child in question “Jess.” Jess is 14 or 15 years old, and the oldest of four.

My wife & I went over to Lynn & Steve’s last night for dinner. As we sat down to eat, I noticed that Jess was not with us and asked where she might be.

“Oh, she’s on punishment,” Steve said. “Can’t leave her room except for emergencies, bathroom, and school.”

“I took her a plate right before y’all got here,” Lynn asked.

“What’d she do?” Mrs. Rhymer asked.

“She was really bad,” one of Jess’s younger siblings said. “And at **church **too.”

“It was humiliating,” Lynn said. “I’ve never been so embarrassed as when–”

Visions of smoking in the parking lot during the sermon, or making out in the back of the choir stand, ran through my head. Imagine my surprise when Lynn fiished the sentence thus:

“–Jess refused to say she believed Jesus died for our sins. She’s lucky she’s not my mama’s child. Mama woulda beat the black out of her.”


So here’s the thing. Lynn, Steve, & their children attend a Pentecostal church. Like many such congregations, theirs makes a big deal out of Sunday school, including setting time aside for each class to review, publicly, that week’s [del]indoctrination[/del] learning. This week, Jess’s class were all asked to stand in front of the congregation and affirm that Jesus was their personal savior.

Jess refused. She said–quite politely, by her parents’ account–that she couldn’t say that because she hadn’t taken Jesus as her personal savior. An impromptu altar call ensued, but Jess wouldn’t budge. She’s been reading the Bible, you see, and she’s noticed things she can’t say she accepts; she’s not sure whether God exists or not, and she feels it’s a lie to say otherwise. She doesn’t see the point in such a lie. If she’s right, then she has the right to say it; and even if she’s wrong, an omniscient God would know she as lying and she’d just add to her sin tally.

For this she got two weeks’ grounding.

Now, to fulfill the terms of the thread title:

Jess rocks. I wish that, when I was her age, I’d had balls as big and brass as she does now.

Lynn & Steve suck. The only good thing about this story is that they declined to spank her for her apostasy. Now, that’s not true. In a way the grounding is good; I predict it will cause the exact opposite effect as they intend.

ETA: I forgot to mention that they removed all the books in her room, with one obvious exception, and plan to give them back only after deciding which must be trashed as “dangerous.”

No offense, dude, but you’ve got some seriously wacky relatives.

Part of me wants to say I KNOW.

A bigger part of me wants to say I’m not a bit surprised. I had a similar experience at that age, but I wasn’t as ballsy.

That really sucks. People like that have no business around children. My family is strongly right-wing, but at least I can say I don’t recall that I was ever forced to say I believed something that I didn’t or wasn’t sure of.

… she got in trouble because she read the Bible and understood what it says, and that’s the only book they leave her with?

So, what did you say in defense of Jess?

Did you ask to speak to Jess? (to help her)


Did you stand up for her in any way?

Poor girl.

All other books are evil, don’t you know. Encyclopedias, Heinlein, Hawking, & the like encourage thinking, and God wants us to use our heads only as hatracks. The Bible is magic, and given time it can heal ay spiritual wound.

I noted that they were going to accomplish the exact opposite of their intent with their current course of action. Beyond that, I allowed Mrs. Rhymer to explode in rage, as that is always entertaining, and, besides, I wanted to leave the door open to them allowing Jess to contact me if she wishes; I stuck my head in her room and told her that she rocked and to call if she needed to.

God, a lot of memories just came back. I’ve been grounded for expressing doubt in God’s existence, and humiliated, too - in front of my peers and my mother’s peers.
That girl is a strong one. I didn’t have that much balls until well into adulthood.

You go, Jess!

Opinions of religion aside, you’d think parents would know that these kind of methods don’t work.

Rock on, Skald. You done good.

Does she have a computer? Can she be directed to this page so she can read


(or whatever your “real” name is)

Sorry about your parents. Glad about your uncle. And your hundreds of doper aunts and uncles who are right behind you.

If you ever do decide that Jesus is your savior, say so. If you decide he’s not, say so. You believe what you believe. You’re off to a great start.

I was asked to leave the Baptist church as a child for asking, not for asserting, but for asking if evolution could have been the way in which God created living things.

The minister was only asking me to leave the buiilding. Needless to say, we, as a family, left the entire denomination.

Poor kid, being punished for thinking…I can’t imagine parents taking books away. Heck, my parents barely complained when I would insist on reading a home reference medical encyclopedia during dinner.

You’re awesome, Jess!

Holy shit.

It never ceases to amaze me that people can dress themselves, brush their teeth, drive to work, hold down a job, and be completely fucking retarded.

I don’t suppose you could adopt her, could you? She’s clearly being raised in the wrong home.


See, that’s pretty awesome of you. I don’t think anyone here could have reasonably asked for more. The whole premise of it makes me angry. It’s also the reason why people of faith should be against mixing religion and politics. Religion should be from faith alone. You can’t force someone to be faithful.

I feel for Jess. I grew up Roman Catholic. I refused to be confirmed at age 14 along with my peers.

I told my mother I wouldn’t stand in front of a Cardinal and lie to him, she encouraged me to do it anyway and then I would never have to go to church again.

I tried to explain, rationally, that the point of Catholic Confirmation is that it is recognized that at age 14, one is old enough to confirm whether they want to continue in the church. My mother thought I was too young to decide. It didn’t make any sense to me.

There was a lot of screaming and yelling and slamming of doors. She tried everything from guilt (Great-grandma left Ireland so that her kids could be Roman Catholic in freedom!) to shame (Your grandmother will be so disappointed!) to bribery (We can’t have a confirmation party with all the money and gifts!). I kept my stance and eventually she had to concede that she couldn’t force me into a sacrament.

Now it’s “Too bad my daughter’s going to Hell!”

I still don’t get how she thought it would be perfectly ok for me to lie and just never go to church again. Oddly enough, 90% of my friends did exactly that. Not one of them considers themselves Catholic, yet they all were confirmed. It just seemed WRONG to me.

You can tell Jess that her parents will probably never accept her rejection of their church, but hopefully like me she can continue to have a good relationship with them anyway.

Wow, good for her. I went through a Catholic confirmation when I was 13. I did it because my mother made me. I never understood why I had to “confirm” my faith when I was 13, I very weakly voiced a “what if I don’t?” question and my mom got so crazy that I dropped the subject and went through with it.

Years later, it only made sense to me that, of course, the church would have us confirm so young, because our parents could still make us and the “membership” would suffer severe losses if they had us confirm at an age of consent.

It was quite a conversation I had with my mother in my late 20’s when I told her I wasn’t a Christian, and hadn’t been for a very long time. It took some doing to explain that just because someone isn’t a Christian doesn’t mean they’re godless heathens, that they can still believe in God, but just not the divine Jesus part.

Jess has done something that I sure wish I had been able to do so young. Kudos to her, and I’m glad she’s got family to support her. She’s going to need it!