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Should I attempt to discuss atheism with younger siblings?
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Posted 3/7/14
Hi, just a question that's burning in my mind. Should I talk to my younger sister about her faith in Christianity and attempt to move her towards atheism?

A bit of background. We're Irish, and Ireland is predominantly Catholic, but (at least in my local area) I wouldn't exactly label us as devout. The locals here will go to church on special occasions (Communion, Confirmation, wedding, funeral etc), with only the older generations typically going to the weekly mass. If anything, I would label the locals as being cultural Christians, rather than devout believers like I've heard evangelicals in the US to be.
I grew up a believer, but it was in my teenage years that I began to question Christianity. I eventually made a complete break with the religion when I was about 16 or 17, after completing a read-through of the bible and deciding to myself that the morals it preaches are not morals I agree with.
I bring up the question because I was just in a conversation with my 14 year old kid sister, who mentioned giving up chocolate and sweets for Lent (for those who might not know, Lent at least here in Ireland is a practice where in the run up to Easter, you typically give up something you treasure. For kids, it's typical to give up sweets). I was wondering whether I should talk to her about (what I admit is my opinion but one which I hold to be true) the falsity of the bible and thus not having to partake in these practices that ultimately don't accomplish anything.
As far as I know, the kid sister has never really questioned the truth or falsehood of Christianity, she just seems to accept it to be true and has never put much if any thought into whether it actually is. She doesn't worry about the moral teachings of the religion, whether what she does in her day to day life matches the teachings. Basically, she's your average teeny-bopper.

What's your opinion guys?
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23 / M / San Diego, CA
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Posted 3/7/14
Just let her make her own choices in life. When she's a little older she will be wise enough to decide if she places value on religion or not.
Posted 3/7/14
So she wants to give up chocolate and sweets... there is no accomplishment in that. Okay, I give the go ahead.
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Posted 3/7/14
Honestly, no one can answer this question because we don't know your sister and she's old enough to make her own beliefs.
Posted 3/7/14
Yes, you should manipulate as many people as possible to think and do what you deem best.
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29 / M / Illinois
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Posted 3/7/14
I wouldn't. It's really none of your business.
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26 / M / Pandemonium
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Posted 3/7/14 , edited 3/7/14
As a former christian now atheist -- no. In my opinion, you shouldn't. Not directly anyway.

What you should be doing instead is teach her to be sceptical. To teach her the value of critical thinking and to not take things at face value. Try striking up conversations regarding certain key aspects and hear what she has to say about it.
For example about the flood of Noah, if she believes in that. If she does, then introduce her to the logical fallacies and impossibilities with that story, and see how she reacts to them.
(if you are not aware of many of the implications behind the story of Noah, here's a video that addresses some of them: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8IPGwAf0Ivw )

Or you could take up other issues such as evolution, if she doesn't believe in that either (here's a great video for that: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PtrZYecJ8QA ) or any other subject where the bible contradicts modern scientific knowledge.

What's important here is that you DO NOT draw ANY conclutions FOR her. All conclutions must be drawn by HER and HER alone.
The point here is to introduce her to the idea that maybe not all that she has been told throughout her life has been correct, and to teach her to question her own beliefs for herself. That is not done if you draw conclutions for her.

Also, you mustn't do this with the attitude of "hey, I'll tell you why your religion is wrong". Your attitude must be "hey, did you know that this here is actually like this? Pretty amazing, huh?".
Because you cannot convince someone who is religious to abandon religion. Your entire job is to enlighten her scientificly, and to teach her the value of scepticism. That is ALL. The rest must be done by her.
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Posted 3/7/14 , edited 3/22/14
.
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Posted 3/7/14 , edited 3/7/14
Personally, I don't necessarily believe in peddling Atheism so much as I believe in promoting free-range analytical thought. IMO True Atheism (believing nothing about whether or not there is a god, but ofc acting as if s/he doesn't exist given our lack of assumptions, and also not ascribing to religious tenants. This is opposed to nontheism, the belief that god absolutely doesn't exist and what people confuse with Atheism alot of the time.) is probably the right way to go given the idea of free thinking, but there's a catch to atheism.

Alot of people can't stand the idea of not knowing the answer to life's big mysteries and its meaning. As we both know, Atheism doesn't provide anything to soothe the needs of these people. Religion, despite being in a sense, illogical, can provide that meaning and satisfaction for alot of people. There's a reason they call it an opium for the masses.

Despite its flaws, religion of course has its other benefits. You say your sister gave up sweets for lent. Ok, we both know the religious reason is basically hogwash, but if you take off the religious reasoning, I'd think she's learning discipline from this experience so she can succeed better later in life.

There are the flaws though, the countless flaws. As I was raised a Jew, for example I can personally point out tons of ridiculous teachings in Torah, including Deuteronomy 22:28-29 for instance.


If a man happens to meet a virgin who is not pledged to be married and rapes her and they are discovered, 29 he shall pay her father fifty shekels[a] of silver. He must marry the young woman, for he has violated her. He can never divorce her as long as he lives.


Now people say this might be allegorical or something, but honestly it's too specific it to reasonably not be (and btw, I can personally read the original hebrew, I'll tell you nothing was really lost in translation). What kind of messed up god or prophet recommends a woman marry her rapist? Errr....seriously. There's countless other questionable verses in Deuteronomy in particular too, including the famous ones about gays and transvestites being abominations and the outrageous punishments such as cutting off limbs for various crimes, amongst other things. With that in mind, all the teachings and books need to be put into question. Can you really believe their divine origin?

So, instead of preaching Atheism I recommend you try to get your sister to put her thinking cap on, but don't force it. She may yet remain catholic, yet you'd still be teaching her to think for herself and therefore live a better life in general, potentially less tied down to the more senseless parts of her religion.
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Posted 3/8/14

crypticcrunch wrote:

I guess I'm confused by your story.

So, then you are not attending mass or doing the days of obligation? I mean, you talk about the "area" but not about your immediate family. Never-mind the county or the "locals" or the circling around...

Does your family go just on Xmas and so on? Do you hide your atheism, and go with them? Are you moved out, or at home?

If you are at home, and everyone goes to mass but you, that has to be controversial... unless no one goes, I imagine you are going when they go? I don't see how your sister doesn't already suspect in that case. So you are moved out? If not, and you are hiding it, work on that first, frankly, and not with your sister.

I'm from a Catholic background, and I'm an atheist, so I understand somewhat, but I'm a little puzzled as to what you situation is.

In short, if you really want help with this question, you've left out your parents or guardians. That's a huge piece of the puzzle. How do they feel about it? Or is the situation that you are in charge of your sister?

Still, no matter what, my answer to you is feel free to be honest. It's your sister. I wouldn't nag if I were you. It's your little sister, so of course it's your business, I imagine she probably pulls your hair when she thinks she can get away with it ( isn't that what siblings are for ? ). Just don't expect her to come over to your way of thinking.

You are her older ( sister? brother? either way... ) and so your opinion on things will probably be greeted with much indifference. Be prepared to be shrugged off. Laughed off. Hit in the head with things. I wouldn't go on and on about it if she isn't interested.

And, you know, if she stays a modestly committed catholic for the rest of her life, so what? It doesn't sound like it's a problem for her.

Atheism isn't a virus or an infection. Neither is theism. Both sides try to pathologize the other, sadly, lately. She's not going to catch it from you. I think possibly there is misdirection in your concern on several levels... but I'm guessing because you haven't told me enough to say.

I'm old, so I'm fond of guessing. I may be fond in general, at this stage. But I can say you need to be more forthcoming here to get usable advice. Not sure this is the place, either.

Why not go to one of the skeptics/atheists forums and pose your questions? Or a family ... counsel... thing... An anime forum... well... I like anime but you are probably not consulting the actual experts on this sort of topic.


My situation is that I'm in my mid 20's, moved out, she's with the mother, there is no father to speak of (less said about him the better, scumbag is too nice a word for him). As for whether or not they know about my atheism, I doubt it. I kept to myself when younger. I only ever discussed religion with a few friends and teachers, never with family.
I am a little worried because I've got another younger sister who in the autumn period is starting at the same primary school I went to, which is staunchly Catholic. I remember at that age being taught the story of Abraham and Isaac, and being told that God commanding Abe to take a knife to his son's throat is a good thing, so there is the worry in the back of my mind about how to head this off.
Posted 3/8/14
If your sister is the middle child, pretty sure she is bound to become a sociopath
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Posted 3/8/14

Artarivan wrote:

If your sister is the middle child, pretty sure she is bound to become a sociopath


Technically...that would be me, number 3 of 6.
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Posted 3/8/14

rikuoamerocrunchyroll wrote:

My situation is that I'm in my mid 20's, moved out, she's with the mother, there is no father to speak of (less said about him the better, scumbag is too nice a word for him). As for whether or not they know about my atheism, I doubt it. I kept to myself when younger. I only ever discussed religion with a few friends and teachers, never with family.
I am a little worried because I've got another younger sister who in the autumn period is starting at the same primary school I went to, which is staunchly Catholic. I remember at that age being taught the story of Abraham and Isaac, and being told that God commanding Abe to take a knife to his son's throat is a good thing, so there is the worry in the back of my mind about how to head this off.


OK, then, that changes many things. In the end, if you are dependent on your parents, shifting the household around too much can have profound consequences. It sounds cowardly to say "don't rock the boat", but until you get off onto your own launch, you shouldn't really.

I think it's important to be honest with everyone, to the point you feel you can. That may sound mealy-mouthed, but there it is. It's impossible for anyone on a forum to say from a couch. There are skeptics/atheist organizations in Ireland. I strongly recommend reaching out for people there. Try searching on "skeptics in the pub". I don't know how deep "inside" you are, of course, The closer you would be to Dublin or Cork or another city, the better for that, but at least you could find other people, it will help to bounce ideas off face to face.

As for the terrible OT, you won't be able to protect them from stories forever. They will hear them, and really, I think they will be OK. You heard these stories, didn't you? At that age, it might cause unease but what happened 5,000 years ago in another country is far, far away. It will roll off them. I wouldn't be sure if they haven't heard it, it might have come up in a mass during the readings or as a side bar. I can recall hearing that when I was very small, it didn't phase me. It sounds a terrible story, but it's not going to be real to a child until they reach and age, when they will start to think it over on their own. That's how people grow.

You should see what's on the TV screen for kids today.

In the end, the best thing to do is to live your life, and be someone they can admire. Learn about religion and counter-apologetics. If I can suggest, I like listening to the "Human Bible", which is a great podcast about biblical criticism from a strictly humanistic/historical perspective, since that sparks your interest. It's far from the only one. There are so many resources now, honestly it's not like when I was a kid. Which, was a long, long time ago. You probably don't need me to tell you to google.

But I would be honest with everyone, without trying to change their minds, be clear in what you believe and WHY you believe it. Be someone who they will want to listen to, and they will listen to you. They'll sort the rest out as they will. In the end, love them as you may, they are not you. It's something every decent parent learns.

There is nothing more convincing that a person who lives a convincing life and is honest in conviction. Atheist or theist, being a full person who has their own act together is the place to start from. I believe love is best earned and granted at the same time, and so is people's trust. I'm sure you already know that, from what you said above.

So, then, if you have all that in order, be as honest as you can, or at least as you think is wise. You can think about that with others, but the choices will be yours. It's the goal I'd suggest.

I wish you all the best. That's my best answer, hopefully it doesn't ramble too much. If I can help more, hopefully this was helpful, just ask anytime.
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Posted 3/8/14

crypticcrunch wrote:


rikuoamerocrunchyroll wrote:

My situation is that I'm in my mid 20's, moved out, she's with the mother, there is no father to speak of (less said about him the better, scumbag is too nice a word for him). As for whether or not they know about my atheism, I doubt it. I kept to myself when younger. I only ever discussed religion with a few friends and teachers, never with family.
I am a little worried because I've got another younger sister who in the autumn period is starting at the same primary school I went to, which is staunchly Catholic. I remember at that age being taught the story of Abraham and Isaac, and being told that God commanding Abe to take a knife to his son's throat is a good thing, so there is the worry in the back of my mind about how to head this off.


OK, then, that changes many things. In the end, if you are dependent on your parents, shifting the household around too much can have profound consequences. It sounds cowardly to say "don't rock the boat", but until you get off onto your own launch, you shouldn't really.

I think it's important to be honest with everyone, to the point you feel you can. That may sound mealy-mouthed, but there it is. It's impossible for anyone on a forum to say from a couch. There are skeptics/atheist organizations in Ireland. I strongly recommend reaching out for people there. Try searching on "skeptics in the pub". I don't know how deep "inside" you are, of course, The closer you would be to Dublin or Cork or another city, the better for that, but at least you could find other people, it will help to bounce ideas off face to face.

As for the terrible OT, you won't be able to protect them from stories forever. They will hear them, and really, I think they will be OK. You heard these stories, didn't you? At that age, it might cause unease but what happened 5,000 years ago in another country is far, far away. It will roll off them. I wouldn't be sure if they haven't heard it, it might have come up in a mass during the readings or as a side bar. I can recall hearing that when I was very small, it didn't phase me. It sounds a terrible story, but it's not going to be real to a child until they reach and age, when they will start to think it over on their own. That's how people grow.

You should see what's on the TV screen for kids today.

In the end, the best thing to do is to live your life, and be someone they can admire. Learn about religion and counter-apologetics. If I can suggest, I like listening to the "Human Bible", which is a great podcast about biblical criticism from a strictly humanistic/historical perspective, since that sparks your interest. It's far from the only one. There are so many resources now, honestly it's not like when I was a kid. Which, was a long, long time ago. You probably don't need me to tell you to google.

But I would be honest with everyone, without trying to change their minds, be clear in what you believe and WHY you believe it. Be someone who they will want to listen to, and they will listen to you. They'll sort the rest out as they will. In the end, love them as you may, they are not you. It's something every decent parent learns.

There is nothing more convincing that a person who lives a convincing life and is honest in conviction. Atheist or theist, being a full person who has their own act together is the place to start from. I believe love is best earned and granted at the same time, and so is people's trust. I'm sure you already know that, from what you said above.

So, then, if you have all that in order, be as honest as you can, or at least as you think is wise. You can think about that with others, but the choices will be yours. It's the goal I'd suggest.

I wish you all the best. That's my best answer, hopefully it doesn't ramble too much. If I can help more, hopefully this was helpful, just ask anytime.


Thanks for all the advice. No, I'm not dependent on the parents, haven't been in 5 years. I guess I was over-worrying, since for all the strength and presence of churches in Ireland that daily preach the Bible, and of schools that teach stories like Abraham and Isaac, it's been a while since I've heard in the news of someone attempting to emulate the stories. I am in Dublin and will look up skeptics in the pub. Thanks.
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Posted 3/10/14
I was raised Catholic, and outgrew it when I was miserable enough to get rid of it myself. This happened when I was 15 as a natural process.

Whenever somebody wonders if they should convert someone to a religion, or atheism, or any ideology - no, shut your trap. Speaking from experience, even if you were totally effective at the verbal warfare necessary to break down what they believe in, they won't trust you enough to replace it with anything else, even something better, unless they are completely miserable, ready for a change, AND see you as an authoritative figure on the subject they wish to be converted to. So basically if they're even remotely happy being ignorant, you'd be destroying their world for nothing, not even something better. Again, I say this from experience. Even Christians living in Israel were busted up by me personally. It's not worth it.
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