Bedtime Indoctrination

If I were still a Christian I’d ask you to pray for me about this. How ironic considering that I’m concerned about my 7-year-old son praying.

This is currently my son’s favorite book. Super cute, no?


This is a book I gave to my son a couple of years ago, when he was first learning to read, and now it’s his favorite.

When tucking him in last night he asked me,

“Mom, do you like this book?”

“Well…” I replied, “it’s not my favorite…”

I didn’t know how to continue the conversation or explain why so I said, “But it’s good to know that you have people out there who really care about you and take care of you. Like, your Mommy and Daddy, your sister, your grandparents…lots of people love you and look out for you.”

My son declared with a sleepy smile,

“Yes…and my God. My God looks out for me too. Right, Mom, right?”

I changed the subject. How could I break his little heart? I decided to not confuse him at bedtime. After all, I’m the one who bought him the freakin’ book and told him all about Jesus the Shepherd. Damn.

I know, you might be thinking, what’s the big deal? Just look at the inside of this book:

I know, super cute and cuddly, right?

But what happens when you set up a kid to expect to hear from God and people claiming to have authority from God come across his path? They may claim that they are there to Shepherd him and lead him into spiritual truth. In the “name of God” they can get him to think and do all sorts of things that may not be good for him.

I want my kids to recognize people who provide actual proof that they really do “listen”, “hear”, and “keep” him.

19 thoughts on “Bedtime Indoctrination

  1. Not to be arch, but 7-year-olds believe in a lot of things they can’t see: Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and yes, sometimes God. To me, the key moment is not at that age, when acceptance is the norm. The key moment comes when your son, on his own, begins to ask searching questions about that acceptance, as we all do, eventually. When he begins to push back against the acceptance–“this doesn’t make sense”–that’s your cue to be honest with him, to encourage him to question. Not to just tell him doubting is normal, as if that is either an answer or an explanation; to explore with him what doesn’t make sense and why, and let him know it’s okay if he decides to take his journey in his own direction.

    Granted, I speak as one who has no children and has no desire to have, but I also speak as one who was a child, and a teenager, and a questioning adult, and who has noticed that, suspiciously, the answers he got as a child haven’t really altered that much to suit a higher maturity level. What bothers me isn’t what my parents told me (or allowed me to believe) as a child; it’s that they never acknowledged my growing intellectual and spiritual sophistication, or respected my need to make choices for myself on these issues. It strikes me that parents like you are better prepared for that sort of thing, because you’ve already grappled with the questions and doubts and learned to think through them for yourselves.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Toad,

      You make an excellent point about 7 year olds believing in a lot of things they can’t see. There is a lot of imagination and fanciful thinking there. I will say that my kids are like me as a kid: asking questions about what’s real and not from a very early age. They are little philosophers just like their momma.

      I just want them to be able to think critically. My son is not quite ready to do that yet obviously so the urgency isn’t there yet. I’m just concerned…

      “What bothers me isn’t what my parents told me (or allowed me to believe) as a child; it’s that they never acknowledged my growing intellectual and spiritual sophistication, or respected my need to make choices for myself on these issues.” Bingo Toad! That is my concern for my kids. I want to help them make decisions for themselves.

      Thanks for your comment. I appreciate your input, as usual. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    2. I think my concern is what if the child is like me…a person who DID NOT question religion at all. I was sucked into the cult (catholicism) at birth and stayed there until I was 41, and only then did I start to critically think about religion. It’s great if you have a kid who has a questioning mind…but if you don’t, you might be in for trouble.

      Quixie, this must be a real bitch to know how to handle. I thank my lucky stars I deconverted when my son was three…he was too young for me to have indoctrinated him yet with horrid dogma. I have no idea how I would handle a child’s questions like that.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Were you a child like that naturally or because you were encouraged to be? With me, it was definitely the latter. Which is why it took me so long to come out of it myself: I was taught that doubting was both natural AND a sign of insufficient faith (a bit contradictory, but hey!). So mostly it never bothered me enough to look into it any further, and if it did, I simply pushed it down and waited for it to pass, so as not to compromise my “faith.”

        There are things parents can do to encourage their children to explore (especially if they can get over their fears about “eternal consequences”). Of course, the caveat here is that a child/teen/young adult may legitimately choose a Christian identity because they believe it is the best way to go. My sister has done this, even as I have gone in the other direction. If we are to encourage children to explore and decide for themselves, the risk is always that they’ll choose the route we hope they won’t.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I was naturally a non-inquisitive child…I trusted my devout catholic family and it never really dawned on me to question anything they said.

          I suppose at some age my son will be the one to choose which road he goes down, and if he chooses theism, I’m going to have to try not to die. I appreciate that my devout parents watching me become an atheist must be a similar horror to them.

          Liked by 3 people

          1. I can relate to your experience, and I know my parents are similarly horrified at my “apostasy.” I also don’t know if, even given the opportunity, I would have had the inclination as a teen to really explore other options. The older one gets, the more significant these transcendental questions become; I explore now, not necessarily only because I’m free to where before I wasn’t, but also because I’m just ready to. So I hesitate to saddle my folks with all the blame for the road I’ve taken (or not taken, as the case may be).

            At the same time, had they really encouraged me to find my own path, and not just follow theirs, that teenage apathy might not have been so pronounced. This goes beyond just faith; my parents were Southern Baptist missionaries, and I grew up with church activities at the center of their work as well as their personal lives. The implication was that any work to better the world must happen in the context of church, either directly or by association. Social justice, gender equality, poverty–all of the social issues that are at the heart of my being now, were either downplayed altogether or presented as mere symptoms of the greater evil, Sin. So, I ended up behind a pulpit, and stroked egos for a living, when I could have been out doing actual good. All this because of the underlying assumption–the Christian faith. So, I get where you’re coming from as well; I wish there had been a greater emphasis on personal discovery when I was a younger.

            Liked by 4 people

          2. Toad, I think this is where my concern for my kids come to play. Part of it might be projection on my part. As a teen I was a very depressed (it was more than the typical teen angst–I actually had clinical depression) and since my parents weren’t really involved in my life or exploring those questions with me the church found me and answered my questions. Instead of getting help for my depression I was told that feeling shame was normal because I was a sinner.

            Liked by 1 person

          3. To quote G.I. Joe, “Knowing is half the battle.” Your kid’s chances are greater than yours (or mine, for that matter) simply because you’ve been there and experienced that. In any case, I’m rooting for you (as in sports, not mushrooms…to be clear).

            Liked by 2 people

        2. Thank God my parents weren’t religious. I was naturally inquisitive and curious. It annoyed the hell out of them and they told me to stop being so serious. Boy, did that back fire!

          Liked by 1 person

  2. Yay. Bitstrips has praying hands. Or are you wai-ing? (That’s how you show greet people in Thailand).

    You could have pointed out that the book says God “listens.”
    “The book just says God listens, honey. If anyone tells you that God speaks to them, ask them for evidence, cause it’s probably not true.”
    That is, unless the next page is “The Shepherd Speaks.”

    This whole topic is just so confusing. My kids are a bit older, and two go to a private xian school. I definitely want them to think for themselves, and the school seems good at promoting critical thinking. I’m hoping that when they start questioning it for themselves, they’ll think, “Hey, maybe Dad is right.” Which is what my wife is afraid of.

    Even with my wife not wanting me to talk much about my atheism with the kids, I’ve been able to point out that there are a lot of really strange practices out there, a lot of controlling groups and churches, and the sorts of things to watch out for. Like, if you ask questions, and that is frowned upon, run. Another example is a church that was protesting an xian rock concert. We talk about stuff like that. Even without me pointing that out, they can tell that is silly. You can give them the skills they need to make the right choices, and then hopefully they’ll use them. If you can prevent their becoming fundamentalist, I think that is half the battle.

    But, really, it’s important to keep working through your questions. If there’s something you’re not sure how you’d explain, think, read, ask. That way, when they do ask, you can have a reasonable answer that you feel strongly about. And the more you work through your questions, the less often the “what if I’m wrong” thoughts will come. (Do you still have those thoughts? It took me over a year before I didn’t very often).

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks. This makes me feel less freaked out about the whole matter. I don’t really have “what if I’m wrong” thoughts. Ever since deconverting I’ve lost all my interest in the deep questions of life. I think I just needed a break from it all.

      Liked by 1 person

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About Quixie

Hi! I go by "Quixie." Quixie is a shortened version of "quixotic," which means: "exceedingly idealistic; unrealistic and impractical." It's how I described my evangelical Christian faith when I started blogging 7 years ago. Now I'm an agnostic atheist who is trying to find a balance between idealism and reality. I write about my mental health journey with bipolar disorder, my loss of faith (deconversion), parenting teens, reading, exercise/health, work-life, and my marriage separation/divorce.