Parenting Beyond Belief & Answering Your Child's Questions

by What Now? 5 Replies latest watchtower beliefs

  • What Now?
    What Now?

    Hello all!

    Looking for a bit of advice...

    In my journey away from Jehovah's Witnesses, surprisingly, I have ended up in a place of non-belief. I intend on living, and raising my children without god and without religion. Books such as "Parenting Beyond Belief" and "Raising Freethinkers" have been very helpful in this regard.

    We have been completely inactive for almost a year and a half. We have zero contact with former witness friends; for the time being, our families continue to associate with us. For the most part, they keep quiet about our inactivity, however on occaision, they attempt to "sneak in" witness related things, ie insisting on praying before meals (we respect their right to do so in their own home, not in ours), telling our son how it's important to "thank Jehovah" for our food, trying to show him the Caleb and Sophia cartoons, trying to give us new releases etc.

    Unfortunately, we have had to carefully control the time our kids spend with our family. They have never been asked to babysit, and we are careful that our children are never left alone with them. There have been a couple of occaisions, such as when I unexpectedly went into labor with our second child, that we have left my son with my parents, and there is no doubt in my mind that they made sure he said prayers before he went to bed, before he ate breakfast, etc. My mom has told him that "Jehovah will protect him from bad guys", my in laws have made comments about Jehovah creating things, Jehovah doesn't like stealing, etc.

    For my fellow Ex-JW's that have found themselves in the same position ... what kind of things do you say to your young children to counteract your witness family?

    When my children are older, it will be easier for them to see religion for what it is ... but when they are young and impressionable (My son is only 3 and a half), it's hard to know what to say.

    What do you say when your child asks "Who is Jehovah?". I've been likening him to a character in a book that is just pretend. Any other ideas?

    Or when they say that we need to pray before a meal? I've been telling him that his grandparents are talking to an imaginary friend and that it's kind of silly; instead we make a point of acknowledging that our food comes from the earth, and thanks all the people involved in getting it to our table.

    What about when your child asks "Who made me?" or "Who made the earth?". At less than 4 years old, my son is not going to understand the concept of evolution, and without the easy answer of "God did it", I'm at a loss sometimes.

    And yes, I realize I can explicitly tell our familes not to discuss god or religion with our children. At this point though, I don't want to disrupt the delicate balance with them that we've managed to achieve.

    I also recognize the importance of religious literacy. However, you and I know that the aim of witnesses is not to encourage a broad religious education for the purpose of understanding our fellow humans, but indoctrination.

    I'm interested in your experiences...thanks in advance!

  • DesirousOfChange

    WOW! What a difficult path to walk. Like stepping on eggshells.

    No good advise here, as I'm glad my kids are already thinking on their own.


  • What Now?
    What Now?

    It is DOC ...

    It's quite a dilemma with our family. On one hand, it wouldn't be fair to deprive anyone of the grandparent/grandchild relationship ... but ultimately, we have to protect our children and they need to respect the way that we have chosen to raise them.

    I would rather that our children had never known them at all, then to shunned by them when they are old enough to remember them.

    It's sad, but it's the truth.

  • Apognophos

    I wouldn't worry too much about 100% proofing your child against religion or even just the JWs. He's going to change his views on the world many times as he gets older There's plenty of time to explain evolution to him when he's older. Just let him know that, just because someone tells you something, that doesn't mean it's so. You need proof to believe in things. You could make a simple analogy. I might do this:

    (holding out closed hands) "Tell me which hand I have a candy in and I'll give it to you."

    (child picks a hand)

    (I open it to show there's no candy.)

    (he picks the next hand)

    (I open that one too. There is no candy in it.) "You see, you shouldn't have believed that I had a candy. Why did you believe me? You didn't see me pick up any candy, did you? That's why you need to see proof of things before you believe them." (Optionally give the child a candy at this point to make up for lying to him )


    Another approach would be to simply repeat your statement about imaginary friends. Let your child know that it makes someone feel good if he pretends their imaginary friend is real. That's why they want him to believe in "Jehovah" too (the point here is that you are placing the emphasis on it being a problem on their side for believing in him and wanting other to share their delusion). Compare him to other mythical figures like Santa Claus (I presume you're not lying to your child about Santa Claus if you want to raise a rational child, right? ).

  • What Now?
    What Now?

    That's true Apognophos - that's what I mean about being "religiously literate". I think we'll always have to live with religion, and our children will be exposed to it more as they go to school with children of different faiths, see events on the news with religious overtones etc. I think the best defense against indoctrination into any one religion is to be exposed to a variety of religions, and treat them all equally (equally ridiculous?), without one being superior over the others.

    Unfortunately, Jehovah's Witnesses don't allow for that reasonable approach. I know exactly what they are trying to do - trying to "sow seeds of kingdom truth" into my son's heart, hoping that one day they'll reach it and want to become a JW. Or, they think that since we aren't properly doing our job as parents, it's their responsibility to teach him about Jehovah.

    I think we're on the right track with treating "Jehovah" as an imaginary friend... it makes him laugh!

    Oh and we have been celebrating holidays, in a completely secular way. We talk about Santa Claus as representing the spirit of Christmas, rather than a jolly old guy delivering presents ;)

    I know that one day we will probably have to have a "respect our choices or you will not see them" kind of discussion.

  • Apognophos

    I think the best defense against indoctrination into any one religion is to be exposed to a variety of religions, and treat them all equally (equally ridiculous?), without one being superior over the others.

    Yes, good point. We certainly didn't get a real education about other religions as Witnesses. The Society would offhandedly mention other religions with a dismissive blurb here or there, though they did also publish Mankind's Search for God, but I don't believe it gave fair treatment to those religions it considered. As a result of this message of "You don't need to know about those other religions" (insert Jedi hand gesture here), Witnesses don't even know that their religion can be categorized right alongside others using words like "dispensationalist", "millenarian", "creationist" and "fundamentalist" (the latter two of which the Society explicitly denies as labels, to my perpetual amusement).

    I think we're on the right track with treating "Jehovah" as an imaginary friend... it makes him laugh!

    That's good to hear. Of course you realize that your child is not you, and when his personality is fully developed, there's no guarantee that he'll reject religion in all its forms. But few religions are as personally destructive as our former religion, and without the grounding in those beliefs from childhood, and the hook of getting baptized young, it's unlikely he'll ever be interested in the Witnesses.

    Unfortunately, as you know, children have a lot of natural anxiety about their environment, which served an important purpose in prehistoric times. Nowadays it usually manifests as "the boogeyman under my bed" or "that monster I saw in the movie last night". So children are going to be vulnerable to adults intentionally instilling them with reasons to be afraid of invisible boogeymen like demons. But since you are already being careful not to leave him alone with family, I think you're doing all that you can. And a mother is in the best place to soothe her child and nullify any fears that others may have placed in his head.

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