What if your children left the flock (gave up religion)?

An earlier thread asked how Atheist would feel if their children embrace religion. I am curious as to how dopers with strong religious convictions would react if their children rejected the notion of God and religion. Does it matter how old your children are? What if your spouse or other close family members played a big role in influencing your child away from church?

As a child, I felt that I had little choice on whether I went to church or not. I resented that fact that I had to attend church services starting at the age of ten. While I continued to believe the church’s teaching in to my early teens, I began to question my faith. I eventually decided that I do not believe in a higher being.

My mother strongly believed in God and followed her faith. Eventually I told my mom how I felt. She accepted my stance without judgment. I am grateful for that. :slight_smile:

At what point do we allow our children to make their own decisions about faith and attending church?

I meant to post this in Great Debates instead of General Questions. Does anyone have an suggestions on how I can either move it there or delete it from this forum?

Where is this “earlier thread”? Is it relatively recent? If not, or if no one tells me, I’ll post my feelings (as an atheist) here.

Here’s the earlier thread. TopherX, you should e-mail one of the moderators and ask them to move the thread for you.

The earlier thread can be found in Great Debates. Yes, it’s a current thread (within the last day or two). It’s titles something like: Attention Atheist Dopers - would you be mad if your kids believed in God."

Off to Great Debates.

As I mentioned in the other thread, I would be disappointed. Sad, even. But I would never, NEVER nag or pester them about it. I would be very careful about what I said to them. I know first-hand that nagging or freaking out is exactly the WRONG thing to do and gets you exactly nowhere.

And as others have commented on in the other thread, it would matter to me how the kid came to that conclusion. If it were a gradual process and was the product of a lot of careful thought, I would be more at peace with it. If it were a spur-of-the-moment thing that looked to be strongly influenced by others (peer pressure), I’d be less happy about it. But either way, I’d avoid nagging.

As I also mentioned on that thread, I’d want the kid to be a good-natured, laid-back person, whether they be religious or not. I’d want them to be a good person, because I know that God looks kindly upon good people. (I know that’s an obvious statement but . . . )

I’d be fine with it. I would be a bit disappointed if they converted to fundamental atheism, but nothing is as fulfilling if it is forced upon someone, so if they don’t “jive” with religion, that’s their thing. I would be more distressed if they disliked classic rock.

No son who disses Jethro Tull is a son of mine! You’ll listen to Aqualung, and you’ll like it, damnit!

Well, my wife’s brother and sister-in-law are going thru this right now with their two kids, both now in their 20’s. They grew up in a born-again fundamentalist household, where Christ was invoked frequently.

(I remember one episode where my s-i-l joyously proclaimed to my nephew and all others within earshot after his medically necessary circumcision at age 5 that “Jesus is healing your pee-pee!”)

Both young men have announced their atheism.

The folks are rather upset, and some strong words have been spoken by all concerned, but the parents seem to be handling it fairly well. No bridges burned, no disowning, and a sort of acceptance that it’s “all in the Lord’s hands”.

As a side note, I must file token disagreement with the title of the thread. While it is true that some Christian sects refer to themselves as “the flock” with some pride for some known and some unknown reasons, it is an unfair charicature of all religion.

Wow, that’s a lot nutty to me, and I’m pretty nutty. O_o

Yes, I painted a rather broad stroke when I referred to “the flock”. I was trying to be clever. I’m most familiar with the Christian religion so that’s the terminology I went with. Do other religions use analogies such as this for their followers and leaders?

I still don’t fully understand why Christians embrace the flock and sheep references. I would imagine this means than man should be humble and follow the word of God. Also that the man will be protected by the shepherd. Personally, I would choose a different animal to follow such a a wolf and it pack.

I imagine because Jesus Christ used it; he called his disciples his sheep, and said that he was the good shepherd. I can write you a little (OK, fairly long) paper explaining sheep symbolism if you like.
As for the OP, pretty much what yosemite said. I wouldn’t be thrilled, but my kids have to make their own decisions eventually, and I strongly believe that people should be left in peace about their choices (at least, when they’re made after some thought). Two of my own brothers have left our faith–one has become Russian Orthodox, of all things, and the other just doesn’t care one way or the other–but they’re still my brothers. …Come to think of it, my extended family couldn’t get much more diverse, religion-wise, but we all get along pretty well.

I think it has a lot to do with an outdated tribal, communal sense of self, compared to the modern independent self. I can see where it has its meaning, but it has the unfortunate side effect of meaning something more degrading.

Though I don’t think many Christians even realize that second meaning. They view being one of the flock as being a part of something greater, as being protected, as being loved and cared for.

Not that I’m aware of. (I’m most familiar with a variety of the pagan religions, none of which use such.)

As to the OP – honestly, I don’t have any particular expectation that my children, when I have them, will follow in my footsteps religiously. What I need in religious practice is what I need; it may be that they need something different, or don’t have any need to spend their time there, or whatever. It’s my responsibility to be sure they’re aware that they have choices and are able to judge responsibly what they actually need, not to stick them with a particular set of ritual practices.

I don’t have kids, but I’ve had friends who left the faith & hell yeah, I was disappointed, but I still love & care for them & while they know I hope & pray for their return to trusting Christ, I seldom discuss religion around them unless it naturally comes up.

Fortunately, I don’t have the fear of them being tossed into a Dante’esque theme park of agony, or the burden of “having to get them saved” as I’ve adopted a kinda Eastern Orthodox view of Final Judgement (at least as I understand the EO view).

The ancient Israelites, naturally, had a lot of sheep. Comparisons of the house of Israel to sheep, with the Lord as shepherd, are scattered throughout the Old Testament. David started life as a shepherd, and compared the Israelites to sheep. The Psalms are filled with the same comparisons, most famously Psalm 23. Isaiah, Ezekiel, Jeremiah, and other major OT prophets use it as well. In short, the house of Israel as a flock of sheep, and the Lord as their shepherd, is a major metaphor in the Old Testament.

Jesus, of course, was very familiar with the Torah and the prophets, and quoted scripture liberally. He called his disciples his sheep, told parables of lost sheep, and called himself the Good Shepherd. He commanded Peter to feed his sheep.

Also, Jesus himself was referred to as the Lamb. During Passover, the Israelites were commanded to sacrifice a lamb, which must be a male of the first year, without any blemish or injury. Christians see Passover as a foreshadowing of the sacrifice of Christ himself, which is why he is called the Paschal Lamb.

So, why sheep? Several reasons. In Israelite times, a shepherd would really lead his flock, and they knew his voice. Each shepherd would have a distinctive call, and when he gave it, the sheep would follow him wherever he went, so that he could lead them to a fresh pasture. It was not, however, a prestigious job; shepherds were near the bottom of the social ladder.

Now, sheep are not any too bright–in the words of my bishop’s wife, whose family raises lambs, they “are born trying to die.” They need someone to lead them around and show them what to do, and they’re very good at getting into trouble, but not at getting out of it without help. They are greedy, too. And they are heavy and clumsy to carry (that romantic image of Jesus carrying a sheep across his shoulders is an actual way to carry a sheep, but it isn’t easy!). However, sheep do have personalities; they’re individuals, and a good shepherd knows each one well.

It strikes me as an excellent description of people. None of us are any too bright, either.

It is absolutely none of my business what my son believes as long as it does not affect his behavior in such a manner as to make him a danger to society.

As it stands, with me being a Catholic and Robin being Jewish, we already have a variation of that conflict in the house, to which I have stated that I really don’t want to force anything on Aaron, so we’re going to teach him a little bit about both, wait until he expresses interest in the subject, and then let him make his own decision.

It really doesn’t matter as long as he’s a good person.

That’s an impressive overview of sheep references from the bible.

I don’t like the sheep reference specifically because it think of a not, too smart animal that simply follows the flock. What ever happened to rugged individualism?

As an Atheist, I spent considerable time researching aspects of Christianity. Religion is a big part of my wife’s life. I try to understand her better. My wife plays Christian music for herself and the kids. We have a variety of Jesus books in our home. Part of our income is tithed on my wife’s insistence. This is going a bit overboard for me.

:cool: :cool:

After being dragged by their mother to the Catholic Church for the first 18 years of life, all four of my kids bolted at the first opportunity. I was both pleased and vindicated. They’re much happier people now for seeking their own comfort level with the whole “god thing”.

I have more respect for someone who can think for themselves and make their own life decisions than for someone who takes the path of least resistance.