I haven’t written about this subject before, because it is something I never took seriously, even as a child. So this one will be short…
I’ve had to pay attention to this subject recently because it seems that it did affect my son. He seems to have reacted to religion quite differently to myself, and one of the questions he asked (several months ago) was if I thought he was a good person, because he didn’t want to “go to a bad place” after he died. I was furious, not with him but with whoever allowed him to believe that, and that was the defining moment when I knew that nobody, not my brother or anyone else, would ever talk me into taking Josh to church.
It is truly despicable to instil in a child, the fear of eternal torment. It’s abuse. To have an eight year old child worrying if they will be punished for all eternity after they die, is sick.
This forced me to change my approach when dealing with religion. Before that, I’d encourage him to think critically and explain that I don’t believe in god because there is no evidence for any god. After the realization that he had been threatened with this kind of nonsense, I made the subject of god into a joke. Whenever it comes up, I remind him that “god isn’t real”. Not only that there is no evidence for god, I tell him straight that the god they talk about at school or wherever he hears about god, does not exist.
I also tell him that nobody goes to heaven or hell, and that there is no evidence of any kind of afterlife. To anyone who thinks that eight years old is too young to understand that, consider this… As I have suggested recently, even adults do not understand death. There is no right or wrong age to explain it, because our inability to comprehend our own mortality is probably at the root of belief in the supernatural anyway. With that in mind, it is better to explain reality to a child sooner rather than later. They understand more than you think they do.
Before my son came back to me, he lived in a house where every dead hamster, every dead budgie… was replaced without the children knowing. I find that despicable too. One of the most important lessons for all of us to learn is the inevitability of death. And the best way to learn that is through the loss of a beloved pet. Replacing dead pets without telling the children is a way of stealing that valuable lesson from them. Anyway, their dog eventually died, and that death was more traumatic for those children than it perhaps should have been.
But I digress… I don’t know why I never had any fear of hell. They did mention it in Sunday School, but I never took that shit seriously, not even as a child. I wasn’t an atheist, but I think I realized that it didn’t make sense. Some of the rules about sin were such obvious nonsense, that to me, they made as much sense as saying, “Don’t eat cheese after 7PM or you will be punished until the end of time”… Wooo, so fucking scary.
I wish my son had the same mindset as myself. It would make my job as a parent that much easier.
Oddly, I have seen threats of eternal torment raised by theists in online debate groups. I don’t think those people realize how absurd such threats are. I’m sorry, but if you are an adult and you threaten me with your belief in a physical Hell, I have no choice but to point out how fucking stupid you are.